The Reef (2010) Review


The Reef (2010) is our final film dedicated to our shark month of July. The Australian Film, based on the true story of Ray Boundy, hits a lot of terrifying moments but left us feeling indifferent.

Please be aware, there is a slight spoiler for a specific scene in this review.

The film’s tagline “Pray that you drown first” is spot on. Five individuals head out on a boat trip along the Great Barrier Reef. Without spoiling too much, the boat capsizes and leaves the five passengers to figure out a way back to a small island. Four go in the water and one remains behind, terrified of what is underneath the surface. Along the way to the island, they realize a Great White is following them.

Will they make it to shore? You’ll have to watch the film to find out. Suffice it to say that, the film does a good job with character development so we feel an emotional connection to each one. Be aware, they don’t hit the water until about 30 minutes into the film. They really do set things up. This might be a turnoff for those looking for a quick action shark thriller.

The editing uses real life shark footage that adds to the film’s tension. That being said, there is one instance of a CGI shark that is so fake it made us laugh. Specifically, a Great White shark jumps over the shoulder of a female character. The character wasn’t harmed at all. Her body barely moved or registered the closeness. The way the shark jumps her (not jump the shark LOL) the power should have forced her under, forward…. something. Additionally, wouldn’t the pectorals have hit the back of her head? Maybe it would have knocked them unconscious? Literally, she was just terrified. It felt like a cheap jump scare that was unnecessary.

Overall, The Reef is a film that makes you keenly aware of the ocean’s top predator. It is a reminder that while we enjoy playing within those waters, deadly creatures do inhabit them. It uses our fear of the unknown and potentially becoming prey to its advantage.

Several reviews have compared this film to Open Water (2003), a film done with no budget and the actors surrounded by real sharks. In fact, looking at the trivia on the IMDB page, the actors wore chain mail under their wetsuits in case the Caribbean Reef Sharks bit them. Thankfully, no one had a negative encounter. The film, also based on a true story, came out years before The Reef. Yet, their movie posters look eerily similar. Click on their links to see for yourself.

While we can see some comparisons between the two, each is unique in the emotional context. Open Water is a slow descent into the acceptance of death. There is no hope. There is no way out. There are only the sharks, the vast ocean and you. That in and of itself is more terrifying than anything else. The Reef, while scary in its own right, has hope. There is land. They can get there. You hold on to that glimmer as they swim, because you saw the reef earlier in the film. To compare the two seems an injustice to both.


NOTE: We truly believe sharks are not the man-eating monsters movies portray them to be. Remember, we kill more of them daily than they do us. The Inertia reports that humans kill closer to 100,000,000 sharks per an average 10 shark attack fatalities annually. Padi even lists 18 things more dangerous than sharks. While these films might be fun, they are also dangerous to the perception of shark encounters. No one wants to have one, but we have to understand and respect that when we enter the oceans, we are entering their domain.

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47 Meters: Uncaged (2019) Review


47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019), the sequel to the original Mandy Moore led film 47 Meters Down (141 feet down), tries to scare us with cave diving and sharks. While some jump scares were effective, it was more the idea of being trapped that made our hands sweat.

According to the summary on IMDB: “Two sisters diving in a ruined underwater city quickly learn they’ve entered the territory of the deadliest shark species in the claustrophobic labyrinth of submerged caves.”

We’re scuba divers so this film and its predecessor were right up our alley. The first film has us on the edge of our seats with the oxygen sensors beeping. We know what that feels like and the film nailed it. In the sequel, they’ve upped the ante with cave diving, no guide rope, low oxygen, and, of course, sharks.

First, cave diving requires additioanl skills and training to navigate the dive. In one entrance to a cave at Devil’s Den in Florida (we did not go in – just stayed around the opening) we saw a sign with the Grim Reaper warning of death. These signs are posted for a reason. So when these characters admit they’ve never done this before was rather irritating. Second, why doesn’t anyone in these films follow the “Plan Your Dive. Dive Your Plan” rule? They’d know this system was out of their ability, but that film would never sell.

47 Meters: Uncaged’s dark footage makes death feel inevitable and survival helpless. One by one, characters are picked off by the sharks or drown. One death scene flashed Kimberly back to the classic shark film, Deep Blue Sea. Beyond that, nothing stands out about the fate of these characters. In truth, we’re not given enough information to care about who dies or when. Then again, if we’re watching this film, do we expect to care? Aren’t we watching it expecting them to die?

It’s not a perfect film, but it kept our nerves on edge. There’s a reason we don’t cave dive and this film, sans the sharks, is it. So, make some popcorn, grab a drink and just enjoy it for what it was, an entertaining horror film.

A real sign from Devil’s Den.

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The Meg (2018) Review


In honor of Shark Week 2021, our blog reviews will cover two shark based films this month. We’re also choosing films we hadn’t seen before. First up, The Meg!

The Meg (2018) preys on our fear of the deepest parts of the ocean we’ve yet to discover. The film is a fun escape and has some bite to it. 

The film has been out for a while, so why did it take so long for us to watch it? Truthfully, we can’t really say. Sometimes you plan on seeing something, in theaters or on streaming services, and things just happen. Doesn’t mean the film is horrible; just that life sometimes gets away from you. Now that we’ve seen it, would we have spent the money in theaters? No. Is it worth streaming, buying a digital copy, etc? If you like shark films that don’t take themselves seriously, yes.

The Meg starts off like many other films in the same genre. A science facility funded by an uber-wealthy man tries to prove that the bottom of the ocean as we know it… well, isn’t the actual bottom. The cast of characters are as follows: the headstrong scientist, his colleague who also is his daughter, his innocent granddaughter, the sacrificial lamb who only lasts a few minutes, an expert who looks different than the protagonists expects, the drama of an ex-wife and new love interest, the tortured hero and even a dog that we screamed “PIPPIN” referencing Jaws at the screen. The dog in The Meg, also named Pippin, is an homage of sorts but please filmmakers just stop. Please leave our furry friends on DRY LAND! They didn’t ask for this… but we digress.

Considering all the above, why do we give it three stars? Because it never claims to be anything other than a cool, campy-esque type film. When the facility’s submersible proves that the mapped ocean floor isn’t the true bottom, they’re immediately attacked. Enter Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) as the ONLY person who could ever mount a rescue at that depth. He grabs the second submersible and heads down. Before we can cheer that the Megalodon still lives, their meddling opened the doorway for the fish to hit the upper layers of the ocean. Now the race to save the oceans and all the potential victims is on.

The action sequences showcasing the massive Meg with smaller sharks in the water or the beach with humans are done well and add to the fun factor of the film. The CGI doesn’t feel cheap in any of these scenes. The final battle feels too short, but maybe the budget couldn’t handle more at this point.

Nothing will ever come to the level of Jaws, and many films have failed trying to duplicate it. The Meg (2018) is simply a fun film. There is violence and some scares here and there, but overall it never takes itself too seriously. So, if it’s on streaming or you want a fun rental, go for it.

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Fantastic Four (2015) Review


Fantastic Four (2015) streaming on Disney+ should have launched the reboot of the series brilliantly. Instead, we ended up looking back at the 2005 film and its sequel Rise of the Silver Surfer in 2007 for the quality we missed. While those two films fared better in reviews and box office, that isn’t saying much. In both cases, the storylines were thin, the acting seemed forced and some of the dialogue was flat. 

We understand that any good reboot needs a proper origin story. There must be a balance of development, action, and drama to blend into a film that resonates with the audience. You’ll have detractors no matter how you present it, but you aim for the common denominator. One only needs to look at the success of Captain Marvel (2019) to see how the formula works. True, Fantastic Four was released three years prior, but Marvel was successfully launching origin stories of Iron Man (2008), Thor (2011), and Captain America (2011) before this. Captain Marvel was the first female led film, and it proved, decisively, that even controversial casting, film topics, etc, can become blockbusters with the proper execution of said formula. 

This film seemed to miss the superhero film workshop. It is slow. It has so much development going on before the action actually begins that by the time it does, you no longer care. You have a young, engaging cast that can’t liven up dialogue that is flat and meaningless. The entire execution from start to finish lacked anything viable to make this a successful film.

All one has to do in the 2015 reboot is look at the last scene of the film. Ben (Jamie Bell) says “it was Fantastic” and Reed (Miles Teller) immediately jumps on the word for their moniker. It was a throwaway line that summarized exactly what this film became… an opportunity thrown away by lackluster execution.

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The New Mutants (2020) Review


The New Mutants film has been on our radar for a very long time. Between delays and COVID-19, this film felt doomed from the get go. With a cast of young stars: Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit), Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things), Henry Zaga (13 Reasons Why), Blu Hunt (The Originals), & Alice Braga (Queen of the South), it seemed the film would be a hit. Sadly, the Box Office won’t have a say in the matter, since the film went straight to HBO Max in 2020.

The trailer (below) lays out an action based film with thriller undertones. When we first saw it, it immediately intrigued us. Yet, once again we face promotional materials that present one thing when the film is another. Let’s start at the beginning.

We open right in the middle of action. Dani Moonstar’s (Blu Hunt) father wakes her up and drags her away to safety. After that bit of hair-raising, we’re in the primary location for the rest of the film – a hospital. But this is no ordinary hospital. It’s one for young mutants to come into their powers and learn how to control them. 

This becomes the film’s strength and weakness, all in the same breath. The unique location, it’s history and creepy feel, lends to setting the mood throughout. The fact that patients cannot escape from the grounds is a parallel within their inability to escape their powers. Yet, while the trailer shows us the location and action – it doesn’t show you the spaced out scenes, slower pace or delve too far into the unique history of the building. We’re only shown snippets of what the hospital really is. 

If the film dug deeper into the background, instead of abstract hints, we might fear those who run the hospital. The tension might be more palatable. Instead, we are left to fill in the gaps while the story hurriedly moves on.

Thus begins the biggest issue with this film. It all feels like a psychological study of emerging mutants. There are elements of group dynamics and developing relationships – all interesting to watch. Yet, for someone coming into the film looking for action/adventure similar to previous mutant films – they will feel cheated. The film puts pressure on these characters to provide the continuity of story without the explosions or fear inducing moments to pull your attention away from thin sections. 

One thing that stuck out and was the continuity thread throughout the film was Dani’s proverb about the bear. She says: “Inside every person there are two bears, forever locked in combat for your soul. One bear is all things good: compassion, love, trust. The other is all things evil: fear, shame and self-destruction.” She asks which one wins out. Her father answers, whichever one you feed. 

It’s a beautiful proverb that they utilize throughout the story. We don’t want to spoil one of the better parts of the film, suffice it to say we really enjoyed this underlying theme.

Overall, this is a fun watch with a much deeper psychological element. If you are looking for explosions and action sequences filling most of the runtime – this is not your film. This lays the foundation for additional entries. If Disney picks this up for a sequel, it would be very interesting to see how they would proceed.

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Army of the Dead (2021) Review


Army of the Dead (2021) dropped on Netflix on May 21, 2021. With Zack Snyder being not only the director but also part of the writing staff, given that his “Synder Cut” of Justice League received great reviews from fans, Army of the Dead should be winner… right?

Well, that depends. If you are looking for a heist film in the vein of The Italian Job or Oceans 8, 11, 12, 13, it’s not that. If you are looking for a 24 Days Later, or a Resident Evil-esque fun Zombie film, it’s not quite that either. It feels like the film smashed two things together and tried to make them blend. Sadly, neither one is fully developed to be truly successful.

The rundown of the film seems simple enough. The military envoy is transporting a secret package. After an accident the package, an alpha zombie, breaks free, slaughters everyone and walks over a hill to see the bright lights of Las Vegas. The city becomes overrun and the government seals it off with shipping containers. Scott Ward (Dave Bautistsa) creates a team to go into Vegas, empty a casino vault and split the money with the owner and his party. 

But we all know it isn’t that simple. There’s a lot of betrayal, lies, and senseless death. It’s a zombie film but we’ve all seen this before. The characters are thin; the story has plot holes that looks like Swiss cheese. Zombie bites affect different people in different ways with no explanation. 

Basically, the film is fun if you just don’t think about it. Sit back on your couch, have a bowl of popcorn and just laugh at the absurdity of it all. There’s no genuine connection to any of the characters. When one dies, it more about the fantastic slow motion or the blood splatter. If that was the whole point, then Snyder and his team score much higher than our rating.

After watching the trailer, marketing once again led us astray. We wanted… we expected more from this film. There were so many excellent plot points the film could have explored further, but seemed to just let the opportunity slip away. If there is a sequel, maybe they will circle back to all of that.

In the end, the film is okay even if it is a bit too long for what they’re presenting. Like we said earlier, if you want a mindless film to laugh at while stuffing popcorn in your mouth, go for it. Otherwise, skip it.

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Things Heard & Seen (2021) Review


Things Heard & Seen, based on the best-selling novel by Elizabeth Brundage, is a 2021 film released on Netflix. According to the summary on IMDB: “An artist relocates to the Hudson Valley and begins to suspect that her marriage has a sinister darkness, one that rivals her new home’s history.” It seemed like the basis for a classic scary movie.

The film starts like most in this genre do: a seemingly happy couple moves to a small town into a house that just needs some TLC. Neighbors watch the new owners from a distance. It’s a good setup that sort of keeps the charade of a haunting ghost story for a little while. Somewhere along the line though, it stops being about the ghosts and becomes something more akin to a bad drama about greed, desire, and philandering.

While one could have attributed these behaviors to the ghostly inhabitants of the house, the film isn’t clear about it at all. There are still supernatural moments, but less of the scary variety and more of a cool roommates kind of way. 

After the first half of the film, the fear of the supernatural is gone and replaced with the disdain for a character you suspected from the beginning. The script falters and loses sight of what worked in the first half to leave you feeling cheated in the second. The cliches, predictable actions of characters, and an ending that made no logical sense… all combine to make this film fall flat and leave you wanting your time back. 

In this case, we will say we watched it so you don’t have to. 

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Stowaway (2021) Review

Stowaway (2021) Netflix


Stowaway (2021) was released by Netflix on April 22, 2021. The film stars an extremely talented cast with Anna Kendrick (Zoe Levenson), Daniel Dae Kim (David Kim), Shamier Anderson (Michael Adams), and Toni Collette (Marina Barnett). The director, Joe Penna, co-wrote this project with Ryan Morrison.

Now that we’ve got the important details out of the way, let’s get right into the Stowaway review – warning mild spoilers ahead.

The film jumps right into the action of liftoff and right off the bat, we’re expected to believe that the face shields being up is normal. Sheila wasted no time in pointing this out and giving me examples of why this wouldn’t be the case – like sudden depressurization for one. We’re then shown the beauty of space and Earth… after a poor CGI necklace slipping out of Zoe’s neck. We’re not even 30 minutes in and the film has already knocked us out of it with simple missteps.

Sadly, these continue throughout the film. While the actors bring in performances that shine – Anderson standing out among them – there is only so much they can do with a thin script. The premise of a stowaway is already a flawed one. The added weight should delay the flight as it risks losing the ship, its crew and mission. While the writers expect us to believe a greedy company would not delay things and put money over people, in this case it would be more detrimental to the organization. Should they lose them en route, their actions would be scrutinized and investigated on a global scale. It just doesn’t feel like a logical leap in this situation.

Add that to other little things: not being clipped onto climbing wires while out in space, one item that brings down the entire ship does not have a redundancy system, no one worries about food or fresh water while the entire story goes on. Even if they did manage to survive the oxygen concerns, how long would food and water last? The entire mission is a bust, but yet they still continue forward? Why can’t they turn around? We’ll never really know.

Overall, this is not a horrible film. It’s okay, but the potential was there for a much better project. After the trailer, I wanted more. Much like Prometheus, this was a letdown – despite the names behind it.

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