The Shallows

Man versus shark. Or, in this case, woman versus shark. Yes, you’ll think of Jaws, but The Shallows is different. As with Jaws, the chills and tingles come early and often.

Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) is a 20-something med school student from Texas. She is also a talented surfer. She is dropped off at an out-of-the-way beach in Mexico. It’s the beach that her late mother visited when she became pregnant with Nancy.

In the water, she chats with a couple of locals on their boards. They ride waves together. After the locals head in for the day, Nancy senses something is amiss. An injured whale floats nearby, victim of an attack by an enormous great white shark.

It is not a spoiler to reveal that the shark attacks Nancy. She survives and takes refuge atop the whale. Later she manages to move to a nearby rock, just a few hundred yards from shore. Here she uses her jewelry to close her leg wound in a scene that’s not for the squeamish.

Those of us who saw Jaws 41 summers ago knew—due to reams of advance publicity for the film—that Spielberg’s shark was a dummy. The shark in The Shallows (who gets significant screen time) appears more real.

Nancy spends the night on the rock, along with a bloodstained bird that managed to escape the shark. When the two locals return to surf the next day, she tries to warn them away but their outcome is not a happy one.

As she prepares to spend a second night on the rock with the shark nearby and the tide rising, she plots her next moves that might ensure her survival.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra (who directed the 2014 suspense thriller Non-Stop and last year’s Run All Night) keeps the tension level at a simmer between moments of terror. Prepare to jump a few times during the film’s compact 85-minute runtime.

Blake Lively does an admirable job of communicating her upset/horror of the situation without overplaying the role. She’s not the only human character in The Shallows, but it’s her film to win or lose and she wins.

 

 

 

 

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Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Popstar

You just know that the mockumentary Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is going to be funny. But will it be clever funny or stupid funny? Turns out it’s a bit of both.

You also just know that Popstar, with Andy Samberg in the title role of Conner, is going to have numerous SNL alums in the cast. But who? Well, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, Jimmy Fallon, Will Forte and Tim Meadows (who has a big role as Conner’s manager Harry).

One blurb for the movie called it a modern day This Is Spinal Tap. While that comparison is obvious, a few things have changed in 32 years since Derek, Nigel and David mocked the rock music world. Such as holograms, the internet and social media. Also, the good/bad taste boundary has moved, allowing Popstar to include a scene of male “graphic nudity,” as the MPAA describes it.

Speaking of which, the performer who collaborated with Samberg on SNL’s classic “Dick in a Box” song/video appears in the film in an uncredited cameo. I didn’t recognize him until well into the film.

Other real life music stars who populate Popstar include Carrie Underwood, Snoop Dogg, Adam Levine, Pink, Mariah Carey, Usher and in a funny bit involving wolves, Seal.

The plot has Conner, becoming the star within a musical trio and leaving his buddies in his dust. Those two are Samberg’s partners in the viral video group Lonely Island, Owen (Jorma Taccone) and Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer). Taccone and Schaffer are the film’s co-directors and (with Samberg) co-writers. When Conner’s newest album bombs, drastic action must be taken.

So how hilarious is Popstar? Much of it is laugh-out-loud funny. But some bits are merely grin-worthy. Credit goes to all involved for throwing a huge amount of “business” into the movie. Not everything connects, but the effort is appreciated.

Special mention must be given to the hilarious parody of the TMZ television show with Will Arnett as the Harvey Levin-type character.

My main complaint is that many of Popstar’s funnier bits are in the film’s trailers. (That’s why I included a poster instead of an embedded trailer at the top of this review.) Yes, it’s a necessary marketing evil in 2016, but it disappoints when the audience explodes in laughter while you just nod acknowledgement at the funny business onscreen.