Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dinoshark


I’m back. Possibly. Anyway. On to Dinoshark, starring Eric Balfour. When I saw that it was starring Balfour (and to me, he is only “Balfour”), I got really excited. Then I realized that, if asked, I could not cite a single movie or show he’s ever been in. Even after checking his IMDB credits and confirming I have seen some of the shows, I have absolutely no recollection of his presence. But that excitement is why Balfour embodies the blog’s name.

There are two kinds of C-list actors: the ones who were famous back in the 80s or 90s, and the ones who are famous but you can’t name a single thing they’ve been in. Sure, there are the A-list actors who are slumming it, but where would a SyFy channel original be without at least one C-list actor?

I can tell you this much: Dinoshark needs Balfour. In fact, there isn’t enough Balfour, as far as I’m concerned. The movie’s biggest weakness is that the female lead’s subplot is much more Dinoshark-related than Balfour’s. His plot is mostly about his run-ins with the harbor patrol. She’s the one who actually researches the Dinoshark.

The one thing that sets this movie apart from the others is that is has more filler shots than any movie I’ve ever watched. Which is surprising, given what rich material they have to pull from. I mean, this is a movie about a prehistoric shark terrorizing Puerto Vallarta. And yet, for every character who is devoured by Dinoshark, there is at least a minute of stock footage leading up to it.

No, seriously. This is an actual scene from the movie.



I love that the Dinoshark doesn’t strike until you start to wonder to yourself, “Okay, what’s the point of all this stock footage?” He lulls you into a state of mild confusion and boredom – or, as I like to call it, the Dinoshark’s wheelhouse. Then there’s the fact that the cheery surf music suddenly switches to foreboding surf music. I didn’t even know foreboding surf music existed until this movie. Thank you, Dinoshark composers, for introducing me to this subgenre. I know what I’m adding to my workout mix.


So, a glacier calves and unleashes a baby Dinoshark. Three years later, it eats a guy diving up in Alaska, then heads south to terrorize Puerto Vallarta. Why Puerto Vallarta? Because it’s Balfour’s home town, and he’s just returned to live on some guy’s boat. Balfour’s triumphant return is celebrated by his friends Bar Owner, Rita the Hussy, and Bar Owner’s ladyfriend Carol, who kind of looks like Audrina from The Hills. But, more importantly, her acting is about on par with Audrina’s.

Unfortunately, Carol’s subplot has way more to do with the actual Dinoshark than Balfour’s does. It all starts with her creepy, sexual harassment-y boss who keeps asking Carol out, and at one point goes into the girl’s locker room of his hotel, checks out a teenage girl in a bathing suit as she’s leaving, then claims he can be in the locker room because, “I own the joint.” I’d like to think that, in addition to his date with Balfour-destiny, the Dinoshark is targeting Puerto Vallarta because he can’t stand blatant sexual harassment. Unfortunately, Dinoshark never eats Michael the Creepy Boss, because Balfour kills the Dinoshark first.

Carol has a creepy lunch with her Creepy Boss. He tries to convince us she’s actually a compelling or interesting character by way of blatant exposition: “You are one intriguing woman. Diving champ, Biology major, Princeton grad. It does beg the question, how did you end up working here?” See, you know she’s not going to be eaten because he uses more than one adjective to describe her.

He asks Carol out for a drink after the upcoming regatta, then claims he’s totally not sexually harassing her, he just wants to offer her a job as the hotel’s social director. Yes, because that’s what a diving champ, Biology major, and Princeton grad wants to do. This is his second brilliant idea – his first was his suggestion that, for the upcoming regatta, they hold the girls’ water polo match in the channel outside the marina. Carol’s main argument against it is that the channel’s not “suited” for water polo. She doesn’t bother to mention the strong currents, that the water’s too deep to stand in, or that they have to beware of Dinosharks. Diving champ, Biology major, and Princeton grad FAIL, Carol.



After telling her water polo team about the new developments in the match – inexplicably, none of them yell “Are you out of your mind?” and quit the team – Carol goes looking for her friend Rita the Hussy. Why do I call her the Rita the Hussy? Because that is the entirety of her character. In one of her two scenes, she sits there coquettishly then invites Balfour to “catch up on old times” despite having a boyfriend. So yeah, one adjective to describe her. Can you guess whether or not she bites it when she goes swimming alone?

Someone alerts Search and Rescue to the presence of the Dinoshark (because of the Worldwide Dinoshark Tracking System, I guess), and S&R heads out toward the reef where Rita the Hussy was eaten. Balfour happens to be in the same area, and he sees the Dinoshark take down the Search and Rescue boat.

We do get one last glimpse of Rita the Hussy – or, at least, Rita the Hussy’s upper body, as her top half has washed up on shore, complete with entrails. Remember: if we don’t see the entrails, they’re not really dead.

Balfour drinks with Bar Owner, who insists that Balfour just saw a shark. Balfour dead-eyes that “A shark does not eat a lifeguard boat. A shark does not have horns.” Okay, a) Goblin sharks have horns, and b) Sharks totally eat boats. Watch Jaws so you know what you’re dealing with, Balfour.

Carol shows up, worried because she can’t find Rita the Hussy. Fortunately, the TV wants to help, so it airs a story about the fatal shark attack deaths of two lifeguards and Rita the Hussy. Balfour says he’s going to find the thing that killed his friend, and Carol decides to go with him so as to fill the role of hussy left vacant by Rita the Hussy. They find an emergency beacon from the guy in Alaska. “Alaska? That’s a long way!” Carol surmises. With dialogue like that, I can’t imagine why the writers would need to tell us that she’s a diving champion, Biology major, and Princeton grad.

At home, Carol researches on the internet while dramatic music plays. She looks very intense, because thinking is hard. Not as hard as chewing gum and walking, but pretty hard. She finds the webpage of a Dr. Reeves, who has an entire page devoted to the Dinoshark, complete with a picture. Sometimes I exaggerate, but seriously, this is exactly how the scene goes down: Carol sees the picture, stands up dramatically to stare at the screen, then without looking away from it, pulls off her top to reveal a black lace bra.

I don’t even want to know.

Carol tracks down Dr. Reeves, conveniently located in Puerto Vallarta. He has an awesome office: one wall is a window into the dolphin tank, so dolphins are swimming in the background. Man, I’d never get any work done. I’d just taunt them with fish or pretend to throw a ball to see if they’d swim after it. Oh, right, Dinoshark - Carol shows Dr. Reeves the drawing from his website of the Dinoshark, and says it’s what her friend saw. Dr. Reeves says it’s just an artist rendering. This confuses Carol: “But it’s on your website.” So it must be real! Just like Bonsai Kitties.

Meanwhile, Balfour’s boat is being searched by harbor patrol or something and seriously, this has so little to do with prehistoric sharks, I just can’t bring myself to care. Several scenes later, he calls Carol to tell her the Dinoshark is in the canal. Yes, the very same canal that leads to the channel where the girls are playing water polo. Does it occur to Carol, at this point, to warn the water polo team? No, of course not. Instead, she and Bar Owner head off to help Balfour kill the Dinoshark, because that always ends so well.

They plan to corral the Dinoshark using pontoons, because sharks can’t jump out of the water. And even if sharks can’t, are you really going to hold Dinosharks to the same standard? This works about as well as one might expect, with the Dinoshark easily clearing the jump and eating a harbor police helicopter. Balfour and Carol take off after it. Of course, despite the head of harbor patrol knowing that there’s a shark in the canals, he still doesn’t pull a Chief Brody and close down the waterfront.

A family hikes along, and the little boy asks to play by the water. His parents warn him not to get wet, but no one thinks to warn him not to get eaten. The boy is playing by the shoreline when a crocodile surfaces. I was being facetious about the getting eaten thing before, but apparently “Don’t get eaten” actually needs to be stated. Or, parents, maybe don’t let your kid play by the crocodile-infested water. Fortunately, the Dinoshark eats the crocodile, because kids don’t get eaten in monster movies.

Balfour, Carol and Bar Owner cruise down the waterway, the actors doing their best to look concerned. So, they kind of look a little perturbed, like they just remembered they forgot to tell the PA “no onions” when he took their lunch order. They see an empty kayak with a bloody, severed head floating next to it. I can’t say for sure that the head is dead, though, because there aren’t any entrails. Balfour observes that, “At least they got their wildlife adventure.” Guys, Balfour’s kind of a dick.

It’s not until they realize that the Dinoshark is swimming straight toward the polo match (gee, y’think?) that any of them feel any sense of urgency. It still doesn’t occur to them to actually call and stop the match. The Dinoshark pulls one of the goalies under by her head – see above “Fail” graphic. The girls flee the water, and Carol jumps in to try to help. Bar Owner follows suit to … I don’t know, distract the Dinoshark? He quickly realizes this may have been an error, but before he can get out of the water, the Dinoshark eats him. You’d think that after eating half a water polo team, Dinoshark would be full, but this is the movie’s climax.

Carol gets a call from Dr. Reeves, who has determined that Dinoshark’s only weakness is its eye. Well, that and a good camembert. She and Balfour race off after the Dinoshark, who has headed out to sea again to feast upon a windsurfer, a boat full of tourists, and a jet skier. Among the tourists in the boat is the family whose son almost was eaten by a crocodile. Apparently, the Dinoshark was actually just biding his time, because not only does the Dinoshark flip the boat, but he eats the little boy’s parents in front of him. I think we just saw the origins of a new James Murphy, Cryptozoologist.

Balfour jumps onto the now-unoccupied jet ski and, with some rockin’ synth music playing in the background, heads to his showdown with the Dinoshark. The Dinoshark jumps out of the water, and Balfour flips the jet ski back to face it. He launches himself off the jet ski toward the Dinoshark and hurls a grenade at it.

No, seriously.


The jump.


Balfour-eye-view.


The aftermath.

Balfour and the Dinoshark fall back into the water, and Balfour resurfaces, victorious and in slow-motion. He swims toward the little boy, and just when you think it’s the end of the movie, the Dinoshark reappears, gnashing his teeth. Carol, from a nearby speedboat, grabs a harpoon gun. She cocks it, aims, and takes her sweet time shooting it in the eye, because everyone else gets clever one-liners, dammit, and now it’s her turn to shine.

“Welcome to the endangered species list, you bastard.”

And with that, she slays the beast and it’s all over – or is it? We see the same shot as in the beginning, with the glacier of doom calving, and more baby Dinosharks swim toward the camera and into the arbitrary rating system.

ARBITRARY POINTS SYSTEM:
Starring a true C-List actor: +25
Usage of entrails to show they’re really dead: +9
It’s called “Dinoshark”: +12
I was hoping for more dinosaur-ness: -14
Because “dinoshark” implies it’s part dinosaur, and not just “ancient shark”: -6
Way too much stock footage: -9
Even though the first time, it's used in an unintentionally hilarious way: +3
Having the Dinoshark eat a boy’s parents in front of him: +11
Creepy Sexual Harassment Boss doesn’t get eaten: -5
Probably faces at least a dozen lawsuits following the water polo attack: +16
Carol takes off her top upon seeing the drawing of the Dinoshark: +26
Dr. Reeves helps me design my dream office: +8
Sets up a sequel: +2
Really, I think that one Dinoshark movie covered it: -3
The girl doesn’t want to kill the monster: -1
The girl is also a scientist, so she wants to anesthetize and study it: -1
She changes her mind after it jumps a pontoon and eats a helicopter: +7
No one suggests nukes as a way to kill it: -4
Balfour jumps off a jet ski and hurtles through the air, grenade in hand: +10
No, seriously, that’s his big plan: +12
And it kind of works: +2
But not really: -10
A new origins story for James Murphy, Crytpozoologist: +4
Puerto Vallarta, not Chicago: -60

Total: 44 out of 100

Best quotes:
Carol: This creature has been extinct for 150 million years.
Balfour: Well, I guess it didn’t get the memo, because that’s what I saw.

“Welcome to the endangered species list, you bastard.” – Carol, giving Dinoshark the memo.

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