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K. Harris "Film aficionado" RSS Feed (StudioCityGuy33 at Yahoo dot com)
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You And The Night
You And The Night
DVD ~ Kate Moran
Price: $19.27
18 used & new from $9.95

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I Came For An Orgy And I Can't Even Get A Cocktail? A French Provocation That Tries Too Hard To Be Meaningful, October 16, 2014
This review is from: You And The Night (DVD)
Upon reading the description of the French indie "You and the Night," it was a film I simply could not pass up. It sounded absolutely bizarre, dazzling, and provocative. And, indeed, the experience is unlike any other film I've seen in recent days. However, this difference does not make the experience wholly successful either. This surreal odyssey reminded me of the avant garde and experimental filmmaking of the seventies, and yet it maintained a distinctly eighties vibe. In music, mood, and color palette, this melancholy look at human connection in an age of anonymous sexual pairings has a loose connection to reality at best but still wants to address fundamental issues about the human condition. More dreamlike than urgent, the film benefits from a great deal of visual panache and interesting performances, but it takes itself far too seriously in the long run. In many ways, I feel like I'm the ideal audience for such an oddity, but the movie constantly bludgeons you with its self-awareness and self-importance when a lightness in approach would have benefited the screenplay immensely. I suspect some will embrace the movie's aloof appeal, but it simply tried too hard for my taste.

"You and the Night" is centered around the world's most unorthodox orgy. A young couple and their cross-dressing maid invite a collection of character archetypes over for a night of sensual revelry. These participants don't have real names but are, instead, referred to by their positions in the sexual spectrum (Star, Teen, Stud, and one the site censors would surely not appreciate). Sounds hot, huh? But if you're expecting titillation and provocation, the characters are more content to share their stories than to engage in much action. Each relates a personal tale, a dream, or something else relevant to their journey to this spot in time. The movie's description references "The Breakfast Club" for this reason, each has a turn at the public confessional. And through it all, no one even has a refreshing cocktail! How rude of the hosts! Of course, there is a little sex and nudity thrown in for good measure (fans of footballer Eric Cantona, for example, are treated to a glimpse of a prosthetic appendage and the young lady whose name I dare not mention dances amongst nude men). All in all, though, this is the most disappointing sexual escapade you can imagine. Such a downer. I can't believe no one wanted to leave!

While there are a few amusing bits and the personal tales even bend to the supernatural, "You and the Night" is still struggling to be overtly meaningful. This group of disparate souls are inextricably connected by need and tenderness. As the evening draws to a close, it's become an outright love-fest. While this unexpected sweetness is nice, it isn't really earned by the screenplay either. I never felt real emotion in "You and the Night," which was content to have more style than actual substance. You feel the underlying sadness at every moment, but most of the characters remain ciphers throughout. It was nearly impossible for me to take anything seriously as the movie drew to a close. It was all so deep, so fraught with meaning, or at least that was the attempted goal. I liked many of the performances including Kate Moran and Niels Schneider as the central couple left to do most of the heavy (or heavy-handed) lifting. And I think director Yann Gonzalez showed a knack for visual flourish. In the end, though, the experience seemed a little too self-important for my taste. I think some will love this little film, others will hate it, and very few will fall into the middle ground. I liked the effort, but it just didn't work for me. KGHarris, 10/14.


Butterfly Skin
Butterfly Skin
by Sergey Kuznetsov
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.29
61 used & new from $7.19

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This Russian Novel Presents An Interesting Approach To The Serial Killer Genre, But All The Characters Speak With The Same Voice, October 16, 2014
This review is from: Butterfly Skin (Paperback)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Thank goodness for serial killers! Without these elusive madmen and evil geniuses, where would popular entertainment be? If even a fraction of these fictional villains that inhabit the world of television, film and books populated the real world--we'd be in some serious trouble. And yet, for sheer entertainment purposes, there is no denying the appeal of a brilliant and murderous schemer. Once, however, you've read hundreds of novels centered on the topic--how do new narratives covering similar ground even hope to stand out? It's a tricky proposition coming up with some new hook or angle so that your piece doesn't come off as completely derivative. I was interested, therefore, to check out Sergey Kuznetsov's "Butterfly Skin" to see if (as the blurb on the cover indicated) it was really "Russia's Answer to The Silence of the Lambs." The short answer is "No." But it still has a stream of consciousness urgency that makes it a bit different from the pack. I liked the flow and cadence of the prose, but it consistently fell into rather repetitive patterns.

The book starts out with a lot of promise. We are oftentimes in the mind of the aforementioned serial killer as he goes about his acts of violence. We never really get to know him as a character, instead we're treated to seeing things from his perspective and world view. And that can be a pretty scary place! Most of the book, however, is not about the killer but about the young journalist with a fascination for his murders. Our young heroine has a penchant for pain and release and that makes her a compelling crusader in tracking down the murderous fiend. We meet the ambitious Ksenia just as a fear starts to descend over Moscow. She has an inspired idea to revitalize Internet reporting by creating a site devoted to the current crop of deaths and the culprit behind them. Of course, the idea is met with skepticism as well as success. Might the killer be charting his own fame threw Ksenia's eyes? As she embarks on a lusty online romance, one can't help but wonder where it will all lead.

At its most successful, "Butterfly Skin" paints an interesting portrait of contemporary Russia and particularly the role of the modern woman in society. Other principle characters include two of her female best friends (at different stages of career and home life) as well as the married employee who is progressively fixated on her. These personal stories are at the forefront of the novel, but there's always an imminent danger lurking just beneath the surface. "Butterfly Skin" is, indeed, creepy in vibe and presents original characters. My main reservation about the book may be from the original text or it might even be from the translation, there's no way for me to tell. As the chapters alternate between different characters and their specific points-of-view, everyone sounds remarkably similar. "Silence of the Lambs" is referenced by about everyone and several characters even comment about Sarah Conners from the Terminator series. The writing and the references all start to blend together. It is like only one person is telling the story, and that's not the intent of the novel. Otherwise a different approach, but the devil is in the details. And everyone can not speak with the same voice and thoughts. KGHarris, 10/14.


Norton Security (For 5 Devices)
Norton Security (For 5 Devices)
Price: $49.99
19 used & new from $42.45

45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intuitive Interface And Advanced Protection: A Solid Internet Security Suite From Norton, October 16, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have, quite literally, used every well known brand provider of Internet security over the last twenty years. McAfee was the first product that I ever bought to protect my home computer, but since then I have fluctuated primarily between them and Norton. Changing security software every year has become something that I really dread. Whatever system you have wants you to renew (usually at an exorbitant cost) and the yearly reviews are reliably mixed. There is always the potential for horror stories. If you read comments for any product, there will usually be glowing five star accolades interspersed with dire one star warnings. So I always think that this'll be the year that I wreck my computer! However, this year I just updated from 2014 to 2015 under the Norton brand. There is no direct upgrade, however, if you already have Norton. You have to buy a new suite but, of course, you can just wait until your current subscription expires.

What's different? The name change, for one. Now it is simply Norton Security. And it is an all-encompassing configuration for PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets. Improvements include advanced protection which is largely behind the scenes. The new interface is nice and I liked that now I could have browser protection without installing plug-ins. The system is also supposed to aggressively combat threats in real time, but I haven't noticed a lot of operational change.

Installation: I switched over to this Norton Security 2015 on my laptop, tablet, and desktop units. All are relatively modern (within a couple of years) with two utilizing Windows 7 and one on Windows 8. In each case, the installation was a relatively smooth process and the initial scan seemed comprehensive. Initially, I uninstalled Norton Internet Security 2014 which affected my wireless Internet connections. This became an immediate issue as I needed to access the Internet to continue the process. That's not Norton's issue, though, as I would have done the same procedure when installing any new security software. Despite having the disc, I still had to find and grab content off of the Internet to make things happen. If you aren't particularly computer savvy, I can imagine this would be a bit of a pain. If you have a malware-infested system, the process is considerably more problematic.

Usage: One of the primary reasons I was concerned about this Norton was that I was concerned that it might sap a lot of resources and processing speed. I, for one, have not noticed anything of the kind. Of course, I opted out of a lot of the choices that would have Norton more intricately involved with day-to-day operating systems. Perhaps if I had not, the presence would be more noticeable. As for scanning and other menu options, I find the Norton fairly intuitive to use if you have familiarity with security protocols. For the most part, it runs unobtrusively in the background.

Functionality: Norton has alerted me when it has blocked a potential threat. It seems very good at blocking potential website threats and the spam filtering is effective. As a home user, I have little idea how accomplished it is from a technical standpoint. For now, though, everything seems to be on the right track. I've had it installed for a number of weeks with no major issues (aside from a couple of slight inconveniences when installing). If anything untoward occurs or my observations change, I'll update review status. But I'm pleased in the immediate term. KGHarris, 10/14.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 3, 2014 9:18 PM PST


Hangmen Also Die (bluray) [Blu-ray]
Hangmen Also Die (bluray) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Brian Donlevy
Price: $22.99
17 used & new from $18.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Uneven Effort By Fritz Lang, This Anti-Nazi Propaganda Still Features A Truly Great Walter Brennan Performance, October 16, 2014
One of the more remarkable aspects of Fritz Lang's 1943 war drama "Hangmen Also Die" is its timing. There is nothing particularly unusual about Hollywood producing anti-Nazi propaganda in that era, but Lang had an unusually close perspective of the subject. Lang had just left Germany in 1933 as the movement was on the rise and his story collaboration with fellow German refugee Bertolt Brecht brought an unexpectedly urgent and timely message to this noir thriller. Loosely based on the 1942 assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague, Brecht's screenplay tinges history with melodrama to a somewhat uneven result. The movie boasts a truly fine performance by Walter Brennan and still features many scenes of potency and power. That being said, many in the principle cast lack Brennan's gravitas and this causes much of the movie to feel stilted and unnatural. It's a shame, really, as parts of this movie experience are exceptional. Obviously, I'm still going to give "Hangmen Also Die" an enthusiastic recommendation for any number of reasons, but it's not quite the enduring classic that I might have hoped.

Set in German occupied Czechoslovakia, the film begins as a political thriller. As a young lady (Anna Lee) goes about her daily routine, she accidentally becomes embroiled in an assassination plot. She witnesses a man (Brian Donlevy) fleeing and being pursued by German soldiers, and she instinctively misdirects the soldiers away from their prey. She has no idea who the man is or what he has done, but she'll soon find out. He seeks refuge from the young lady and she discovers that he has just assassinated a high ranking official in the SS. The town is on high alert and the Nazis round up prominent citizens until the culprit is served up by the people. Unfortunately for Lee, one of those rounded up is her father (Brennan), a politically active ex-teacher who holds much sway with the community. Every day that the assassin remains at large, those held in captivity will be executed. What to do? Although Lee is content to give up Donlevy, there might be a mutually beneficial solution to pin it on a collaborator (a great Gene Lockhart).

"Hangmen Also Die" is a well structured and well paced thriller. Any scene with Brennan is worth the price of admission alone. He underplays the role with a quiet dignity that makes the actions presented all the more devastating. Lockhart, on the other hand, opts for a big and bold performance. And that, too, is a vital part of the movie. Unfortunately, the movie has Donlevy and Lee at its center and neither are as intriguing or as believable as these peripheral characters. Donlevy never displays much in the way of emotion and Lee doesn't hit a real emotional chord throughout. Lee would become matriarch Lila Quartermaine on "General Hospital" many years later, and I loved her there for decades. But here, she is the least convincing aspect of this endeavor. Sometimes harrowing, "Hangmen Also Die" may not be Lang's best work. But it is a solid entry into the genre and one worth discovering. KGHarris, 10/14.


Play Hooky
Play Hooky
DVD ~ Samantha Kulish
Price: $12.99
23 used & new from $7.79

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An Underground Found Footage Cheapie That Lacks The Cleverness Or The Scares To Support Its Short 74 Minutes, October 16, 2014
This review is from: Play Hooky (DVD)
I am a big supporter of underground and independent cinema. Having been a Las Vegas resident for many years, I am also quite familiar with the Pollygrind Underground Film Festival which has been showcasing strange and eclectic works by burgeoning auteurs since 2010. It's a great venue for the unorthodox and a terrific place to cut your teeth as an amateur film maker! Perhaps one of the more notorious pieces to be featured at Pollygrind is the surreal Disneyland horror show "Escape to Tomorrow." Many of the films featured in the festival over the years have secured independent releases, but now Pollygrind is debuting its own DVD label with the premiere of "Play Hooky." (Note to Pollygrind: please give me a DVD version of Julian Grant's musical nightmare A F*&kload of Scotch Tape)! I was eager to check out "Play Hooky" to support the Pollygrind brand. Everyone associated with the DVD seems quite pleased with its selection as the first official release, and there's even a DVD introduction and write-up detailing just how special the movie is.

I appreciate the effort of making a movie with two nickels and willing volunteers, I really do. In the Pollygrind Film Festival environment, you are engaged with others that share your appreciation for the absurd and oftentimes primitive nature of these films. But when asking a mass market to purchase a DVD of one of those films, I have to look with a more critical eye. And truthfully, "Play Hooky" isn't really a movie that will satisfy the uninitiated. If you view the DVD box and description expecting something a bit sexy and a bit scary, "Play Hooky" really doesn't fulfill those criteria. Using the increasingly prevalent found footage narrative, the film details the events that transpire when a group of five (very old) teens enter an abandoned psychiatric hospital. Rather than actual characters, you've got a few real archetypes including a butch girl, a sexy school girl, a wannabe lothario and a totally obnoxious nerd. For some reason, an unseen character is wearing a camera hat to record the day's festivities but it never makes much sense. Rarely has cutting school seemed so dull.

That's my inherent problem with "Play Hooky." There is so much build-up. At 74 minutes, more than half the movie goes by before they even get to their destination. And the screenplay simply isn't clever or funny enough to maintain your interest through mundane activities. When they get to the hospital, it's tiny and uninteresting. When misfortune befalls one of the girls, the others scramble to figure out what is going on. The "action," such that it is, takes up about 15 minutes of the film and is nothing you haven't seen before many times and always better. The final scene is so amateurish and laughable, it simply provides no payoff. I won't spoil any of the plot. Let's just say that if you think comedian Patton Oswalt is horrifying, you might like the resolution of "Play Hooky." Again, I appreciate true rogue filmmaking and "Play Hooky" is that. But the movie will only work for an audience that understands those limitations. Its screenplay just isn't clever or fun enough to make much of a mark.

More interesting are the two shorts on the DVD:
The Bet (3 1/2 stars), an intriguing puzzle, and Kuriosity Kills (3 stars), an amusing but poorly paced psycho showdown. KGHarris, 10/14.


Venus in Fur
Venus in Fur
DVD ~ Mathieu Amalric
Price: $16.38
25 used & new from $10.18

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smart, Literate And Funny: Polanski Scores With An Unusual Play-Within-A Play Narrative, October 16, 2014
This review is from: Venus in Fur (DVD)
I wasn't really sure what to expect from Roman Polanski's "Venus in Fur" before I watched it. I didn't know much about it and perhaps this lack of preconceptions served my viewing experience well because I absolutely loved this mischievous little film. As a two person chamber piece, "Venus in Fur" is completely reliant on dialogue and characterizations to maintain your interest. But despite its confined setting and lack of outside stimuli, the screenplay keeps the pace lively and the action moving. Adapting a work by David Ives, which was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Play of 2012, Polanski has reset the piece in a small European theater. The unique and appealing play-within-a-play narrative is amusing and effective. As a lifelong fan of Polanski's work, I've never used the word lighthearted to describe one of his films. But the verbal interplay between the two leads of "Venus in Fur" is smart, literate, wickedly funny, and always engaging. The text discusses serious themes such as gender and sexuality, but maintains an ease and froth that was quite welcome.

Mathieu Amalric (Polanski's Doppelganger if ever there was one) plays a distressed writer/director at his wit's end after a brutal day of auditions. As he gets ready to leave the deserted theater, another actress arrives to try out for the leading performance in his adaptation of Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch's controversial 1870 novella "Venus in Furs." The free-spirited actress, played by Polanski's real life wife Emmanuelle Seigner, won't take "no" for an answer and eventually gets her time in the spotlight. As the evening wears on, the character dynamic shifts considerably between the author and his muse. We get to know about them as they work on the text of the play. But just who is this woman? And is the director closer to his material than he'd like to admit? The audition becomes both a collaboration and a game of sexual politics. Is it playful or serious? I simultaneously felt like I knew exactly where we were headed, but I was also consistently surprised by the journey. That's a rare compliment. It is a compelling piece, very funny, and acted impeccably.

I remember first seeing Seigner in Polanski's 1988 "Frantic" and not being swayed one way or the other by her talent. As the years have progressed, however, she has achieved a real down-to-earth quality that absolutely works here. She fully inhabits this character and you can't turn away from her. Amalric has the less showy role, but is no less effective. The film would not work if you did not believe in these two characters and their evolution through the night. Both are absolutely great. Combine two solid performances with a terrific script and an interesting narrative device and you've got a real winner in my estimation. Geared toward an adult audience that appreciates smart verbal interplay, "Venus in Fur" was one of the more pleasant surprises I've encountered lately. I was afraid it might be a chore, but I was very wrong. I simply didn't expect it to be so much fun! KGHarris, 10/14.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 22, 2014 7:45 AM PST


Johan Falk: Season 1
Johan Falk: Season 1
DVD ~ Jakob Eklund
Price: $22.99
6 used & new from $18.49

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Johan Falk Returns With Six More Movies, But Joel Kinnaman All But Steals The Show In A Star-Making Performance, October 16, 2014
This review is from: Johan Falk: Season 1 (DVD)
With "Johan Falk: Season One," you get six Swedish made-for-DVD features that attempt to reprise and continue the saga of stalwart hero Johan Falk which began in a series of three feature films. Between 1999 and 2003, Swedish filmmakers used big budgets, impressive action sequences, and a Hollywood flair to introduce the Johan Falk world to everyday moviegoers and it was an enormous commercial success. Zero Tolerance (1999), Executive Protection (2001) and The Third Wave (2003) are those films and are currently available on DVD with The Johan Falk Trilogy (The Johan Falk Trilogy). It was even suggested that "The Third Wave" boasted the highest budget ever for a Swedish movie! As I said, the trio of films was quite successful from a financial standpoint and I guess interest has never really waned. As the world has become more fascinated with Scandinavian noir, it has allowed these pictures to be distributed worldwide and now we are starting to get the follow-up set. This series of six movies was released in 2009, another six dropped in 2012 and another set has been commissioned for 2015. So if you love Johan Falk, keep your eyes peeled for future releases.

The films included in this 3-disc set (2 movies per disc) are:
Special Operations Group
Brothers in Arms
National Target
Leo Gaut
Operation Nightingale
The Outlawed

The Season One films introduce Falk as he returns from his assignment at Europol to his Gothenburg home. Reuniting with old friends and joining an elite unit designed to fight organized crime keeps Falk relatively mellow in the introductory film, Special Operations Group. But if you know Falk, he has a tendency to do things his own way and that can rub people the wrong way. As played by Jakob Eklund (who originated the role in the first three movies), it becomes clear that coloring outside of the lines is never a real problem as long as one gets results. But this strategy tends to isolate Falk from his colleagues and superiors. With these six films, some resonate more than others and they do lack the visual flourish (and even some of the bolder plot twists) of the preceding movies. But if you like crime drama, I think these represent a nice effort even if the storylines can feel somewhat familiar.

In an unexpected twist, though, one other character really does stand out and completely steals the show in my opinion. Joel Kinnaman, from the American iteration of The Killing, is absolutely spell-binding here. I hesitate to give away too much about his character, but I think the product description has already spoiled much of the surprise. Kinnaman is easily the most nuanced and conflicted person in the series as he tries to balance between two worlds. It's a dynamic performance and a particularly complicated one to pull off effectively. It's no wonder his star is continuing to rise internationally. In this series, it sometimes seemed like the criminals or the crimes themselves were somewhat superfluous. The show is about these primary characters. Falk, although the principle, is more predictable in his unpredictability. For me, though, Kinnaman's Frank Wagner is the most unique and compelling aspect of these six films. When he wasn't as present, neither was I. Overall, this is a nice set of films. Not groudbreaking, but solidly entertaining, with a real star turn by Kinnaman. KGHarris,10/14.


Spin Master Games - Moustache Smash
Spin Master Games - Moustache Smash
Price: $10.79
66 used & new from $8.85

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Channeling My Inner Hipster, This Silly Matching Game Appealed To Both Kids And Drunken Adults, October 15, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm really into low tech options for kid's games these days. I guess as I've gotten older, I remember some of the more social aspects of getting together with friends and families to engage with one another. The primary goal of these get-togethers was to encourage interaction, camaraderie, and competitiveness and I think that some of the more sophisticated entertainment choices on the game market today don't always feed into these elements. In many ways, Moustache Smash reminds me of something I could have played when I was young (in fact, it is still fairly rousing for adults if an active bartender is at work)! I mean that as a compliment.

This game is for 3-6 players ages 7 and up, and it requires little initial set-up and almost no time to grasp the rules. Each player gets a terrific wacky moustache on a stick. You don't even need to play the game to enjoy parading around with the moustaches over your face. I, personally, love to put on my hipster airs! This is basically a fast paced matching game utilizing a deck of 32 cards. You flip a card over onto the table and it will either be a Moustache card, a Smash card or a Pass card.

If the card shows a moustache that matches yours (either by color or style), you can slam your Moustache down on it to collect it. Did I mention that each moustache has a suction cup on it for just such an action? If the card is a Smash, the fastest player to grab it gets it. If the card is a Pass, everyone trades moustaches. If you have less than six players and no one can claim the moustache card, the next person who collects a card wins that one as well. Bonus! How do you win? Simple, whoever has most cards at the end of the deck.

We had a great deal of fun with this one. The suction cups aren't always great, but that feeds into the silliness of it all. The repetitive whacking actually added a laugh-out-loud component. As I said (and perhaps I shouldn't admit it here), I also played this with adults after a few cocktails and it was a winner. Simple and silly, a great combination. KGHarris, 10/14.


Spin Master Games - Shark Mania Board Game
Spin Master Games - Shark Mania Board Game
Offered by Yagoozon
Price: $15.48
67 used & new from $11.86

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Collect Gold Or Run For Your Life? A Quick And Ingenious Game That Calls For Decisive On-The-Spot Judgments, October 15, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
What kid isn't going to want a fast paced race-against time game called Shark Mania? Our fascination with the toothsome ocean dwellers seems boundless and, in a very simple way, Shark Mania capitalizes on the urgency of an impending shark attack! OK, it's not really that gruesome but it works surprisingly well.

There is some pre-play set-up necessary with Shark Mania. The game surface is a linear plastic track that simulates a wrecked pirate ship (it also reminded me of the highway to Key West). It will take about 10-15 minutes to get everything established for initial game play, but it's a rather nifty set-up overall. You do need more space than an average game would take due to this linear composition. Your pirate characters (up to four may play) are trapped in the back of the ship and must race across the ocean using debris from the shipwreck. The goal? Get safely to the island at the other end while collecting as many pieces of pirate gold as possible. Sounds easy enough, right? Not so when a hungry shark is headed your way.

This is a super fun, fast, and strategic game. And it is, literally, a race against time. YOU CAN NOT WAVER. EVERYONE must be ready to play quickly (some may hate this, I loved it). When the game begins, the shark is triggered by depressing the pirate chest. As it moves up the track, its fin tears apart the debris the pirates can walk on. And it even pops up its head at two stages! If he catches you, you're out. In the game, you roll the die and must make a rapid decision. Either move the number of spaces indicated or pick up the same number of associated gold coins. You can do one or the other, not both. So strategy and speed is essential. Only those that can outrun the shark count their treasure at the end, so it's no use being greedy if you're dead! The gold coins all have different values that are revealed to tally a winner.

Shark Mania is a great example of a low tech game option that still captivates younger children. Heck, I liked it as well. I liked the freedom of choice (move or collect gold) that will have your little ones making judgement calls on the spot. I'm not sure how many times one could play Shark Mania before getting over the initial excitement, but it's not a huge financial investment either. Liked it a lot, but can see how it would get repetitive as well. KGHarris, 10/14.


Sharknado 2 The Second One (Extended Version)
Sharknado 2 The Second One (Extended Version)
DVD
Price: $9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back Into The Funnel, SyFy Scores With A Delightfully Wacky Cameo-Filled Parody, October 11, 2014
It's Back!
It's Bigger! It's Better!
It's Even Sillier Than Before!

I don't think that the world was prepared for the original "Sharknado." Although it sounded like a bit of crazy fun, the experience swept the country as THE MOVIE EVENT of the television season and became a bona fide media sensation. The SyFy movie was so brilliantly bad, so riddled with continuity errors, and so filled with inane dialogue and situations that it was a Bad Movie Lover's delight! It was so spectacularly idiotic (I mean, genius), in fact, it qualified as Bad Movie Magic. To this day, I look at the more negative commentary on that film and have to ask the detractors: "What did you really expect? The movie was called Sharknado!" When approaching the sequel, however, I was a little skeptical that they could make lightning strike twice. But with "Sharknado 2: The Second One," the film makers and cast have upped the ante in every regard. And what makes the movie so fascinating is that everyone wanted a piece of the action this time! The movie is so loaded with celebrity (or pseudo-celebrity) cameos, catching them all is almost as much fun as the movie itself.

Here's the distinction between the two movies in my estimation:
Sharknado: A movie that was so bad, it was good.
Sharknado 2: A zany parody of disaster movie tropes. Yes, folks, this one is outright comedy.

What is remarkable about "Sharknado 2: The Second One," though, is how fully it rewards enthusiasts of the first movie. It is an effective sequel that is far more ambitious in raising the cool quotient and the laugh factor. It gave me what I expected, but so much more. If you're savvy in pop culture, the movie references so many in-jokes (both specifically and with casting) that it simply becomes shameless fun. For example, the movie opens up with Fin (Ian Ziering) and April (Tara Reid) headed to New York to promote her new book "How To Survive a Sharknado." The plane is piloted by Robert Hays (yes, of Airplane! fame), riffs on the famous William Shatner Twilight Zone (There's something on the wing!), and plays to all the airline disaster movie conventions that you love complete with famous or semi-famous cameos among the crew and passengers. This first segment, to me, is the absolute high point of the film--an exquisitely funny sequence that had us laughing out loud.

As our heroic couple head into the city, they must save Fin's sister (Kari Wuhrer) and her husband (Mark McGrath) and kids. That's no easy task when two deadly Sharknados are converging on the city creating the perfect man-eating storm. The movie is a race against the clock and across the city as the family try to reunite, each group meeting with unexpected obstacles. The movie utilizes landmarks to good effect, the Statue of Liberty isn't even safe. And with the help of a former flame (Vivica A. Fox), Ziering must once again embrace his chain-saw wielding persona. The plot, of course, is silly and even superfluous. You know you want to see the grisly deaths and the screenplay doesn't skimp on the cartoon carnage. Everything is bigger in this version and absolutely nutty. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

With the first movie, I proposed a drinking game to accompany the ever shifting continuity errors (one second a flood, the next dry). With this one, I'd suggest an equally intoxicating game called Spot the Cameo. I won't spoil all the surprises but a few of the larger roles include Judd Hirsch (a cab driver reminiscent of his Taxi days) as well as the invaluable news commentary from Matt Lauer and Al Roker. But just about every scene has plenty of recognizable faces in the background, so keep your eyes peeled. One of my favorites was entrepreneur Damond John from ABC's Shark Tank. But in this case, John isn't the biggest shark in the tank. The movie builds, has an epic finale, and is simply fun. It's not a great movie, to be sure, but it absolutely scores as a clever and entertaining parody. KGHarris, 8/14.
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