The Meg (2018)

The Meg

Of all the creatures kids can relate to, The Meg is not one of them.

I don’t know how many movies have tried to replicate Jaws since it was released over four decades ago, but it is pretty much not possible to find anyone who thinks any of those were better than the Spielberg masterpiece. Now, in 2018, we have The Meg, which I decided to write the review for not only to tell you how bad it is, but because it is so forgettable I may have forgotten to write about it.

It is not too hard to imagine the planning behind this movie: basically say that the long extinct Megalodon (which some do think still exists) comes back to terrorize anything in the deep of the ocean. It is actually there where the movie begins, as a research facility has discovered that the ocean floor is really just a layer of…um, ok, I forgot. Basically, the ocean is deeper than previously thought, so the scientists go down even deeper before they are attacked by an unknown giant being (no points for knowing who it is).

They decide to call in Jonas Taylor (who acts a lot like Jason Statham), who lost friends down there before but needs to be called in years after the incident because his ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee) is among the crew. It takes the first third of the movie (give or take) for this rescue to occur, before the characters even realize the Megalodon is still alive.

We also get the head of the station Zhang (Winston Chao) as well as his daughter Suyin (Bingbing Li). Suyin’s daughter Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai) is the smartest character in the movie, which is not really a surprise, since all children are smarter than most of the adults in these movies. Others include talents like Cliff Curtis and Rainn (Dwight Schrute) Wilson that round out this chum bucket flick.

The shark effects, thankfully, are not too terrible. There are some rather wonderful images of what looks like a truly terrifying giant shark. It is only in the last twenty minutes or so that the film actually starts to possibly get interesting, but all hope was lost like bait on a hook.

Parents, the film will probably scare kids, but middle school and above is okay. Nothing sexual or anything, but if your kids see this before seeing Jaws, you should be ashamed.

Will I remember this movie? If I do, not for any good reasons. The biggest bit of entertainment came at one jump scare (which involved a whale) that let out a great exclamation of some kind a few rows behind me. That this was more entertaining than the movie as a whole should show the filmmakers needed a bigger boat.

Okay, I feel this review was kind of lazily written, but so was the movie.

Overall: One Star *

The Post (2017)

The Post

Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) and Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) discussing the possible future of The Post

 

I went into Steven Spielberg’s The Post with one question (well a few, but one that stood above the others): Is it possible for the movie to be watchable without thinking of the politics we are bombarded with 24/7 these days? I guess it depends on where you stand politically. All I am here to do is to say if the film is entertaining or not, and my answer is a resounding yes.

Set as almost a prequel to the king of all newspaper movies All the President’s Men (1976), The Post tells the story of the leaked Pentagon Papers, and how President Nixon (as well as previous ones going back to Truman) lied about the Vietnam War. The pages are delivered to the Washington Post (as well as the New York Times), but the latter publishes it first. Still, more papers are delivered to the desk of Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), who is firm on publishing the documents. Of course, it is up to the owner of the paper, Kay Graham (Meryl Streep).

It is clear that when you have a movie with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, the acting will be rock solid. Hanks does have more of the showier role, but that does not steal any thunder from Streep (to be fair, who could do that to the actress?). They and the rest of the cast (including Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Bradley Whitford, and Alison Brie) have a palpable electricity in the air for the whole run time.

It occurs to me that movies that have to do with news media have to be have more truth than most any other film genre (if not, film critics would tear the film apart). I have never worked at a paper, but there does seem to be a lot of authenticity in the movie (even when Bradlee’s daughter is selling lemonade while everyone is sorting the papers). The film may not have been exactly how it all played out (it is an original script by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer), but it would not surprise me if it did play out that way.

Parents, the film is PG-13. There is about five minutes at the start of the film that shows some action in the war (nothing too graphic) and there is also some swearing (none that stood out to me). I would say any middle schooler would be fine seeing this film.

The film is not completely in the league of Spielberg classics like Jaws, E.T., or Schindler’s List. Still, the film is a wonderful thriller for those tired of mindless action CGI effects that want thought and drama at the core. On that standard alone, The Post is a treasure of a film.

 

Overall: Four and a Half Stars **** 1/2

Jaws (1975)

Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider, and Richard Dreyfuss go after "Jaws".

Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider, and Richard Dreyfuss go after “Jaws”.

Note: This review will contain spoilers. If you have not seen the movie by now, stop reading and see it.

Sometimes, I can remember where I was when I first saw a movie. At the age of seven or so, I was watching TV, and two guys were out fishing with a big slab of meat on a chain hook. They threw it out to sea. Moments later, something big took not only the meat, but half the dock and one of the men with them. Later on, I would ask my parents to see Jaws from the beginning.

At that point in my life, I never really knew what a shark actually looked like, but I was learning what a shark could do. I watched the film, eagerly waiting until I could see the shark. Well, right after Chief Brody’s (Roy Scheider) eldest son Michael is confronted by the shark, I had to go some where, and did not get to see the shark at a later date.

Only years later would I learn how great a tactic this was. The main factor of this masterpiece of celluloid is not showing the shark in flesh, but the shark’s actions and the results of those actions.

Another key in the film is the music, supplied by the legend John Williams. This film shot him to the status of icon in movie music (he would later reach another level of excellence two years later when he composed Star Wars). The theme of Jaws is one of the most recognizable, simple, and terrifying of all movie scores (second only to that of Psycho).

The film also has some outstanding editing by Verna Fields (who won one of the film’s three Oscars; the others were Best Sound and Score). Some of the best examples are during the action scenes at sea, but also the ones of the chief looking out on the beach in search of the shark before the second shark death.

There are also moments when Spielberg plays with our minds. Consider the scene I just mentioned. It starts off with a rather overweight lady going out to the ocean. We then see (a rather skinny) Alex Kinter leaving the ocean. We may not admit it, but we think “Surely, a shark would go for an overweight person instead of a skinny little boy?” How wrong we are!

The acting in the film is, in my mind, overlooked. Everyone is perfect in their roles, but the scene stealer to me is Robert Shaw as Quint. His monologue is easily the best scene in the film. It plays in your mind as he tells it, and there is not a hint of acting so much as recalling a horrible moment in this man’s life. It is beyond chilling stuff.

Parents, it should be noted that while this film is PG, it came out before the PG-13 rating, which is probably what it would get. It is possibly the most violent PG movie ever (along with another Spielberg classic, Raiders of the Lost Ark). When I saw the film, I admit I was a tad surprised to see some young kids there, but I did not hear a lot of kids screaming wanting to go home. It is a good type of scary film (though there is a little nudity at the beginning, it is obscured from shadowing.) This a film that, if I have kids, I will be blessed to show it to them (I will probably wait till maybe age 9 or so).

Jaws is one film you can’t live life without seeing.

Overall: Five Stars *****