The last season of this space opera is coming and you should get caught up.
It’s the future, but not one of the super bad ones. The Solar System has been colonized and mankind has finally found complete and total peace. Kidding, we’re still fighting over stuff. The Earth, Mars, and the Outer Planets Alliance (Mostly Jupiter and Saturn’s moons) are all constantly at odds, leading Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) to try and keep the peace on behalf of the UN. As the series starts, Mars and Earth are basically on the brink of war and a woman named Julie Mao (Florence Faivre) has gone missing. An investigator, Joe Miller (Thomas Jane), is hired to find her. At the same time, an ice freighter is destroyed by a cloaked ship, resulting in the survivors forming their own crew: James Holden (Steven Strait), the captain; Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar), the pilot; Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), the engineer; and Amos Burton (Wes Chatham), the mechanic. Now together aboard the ship Rocinante, the group has to navigate through the solar system as war breaks out and the universe keeps getting just a little bigger.
Until being asked to write this review, I didn’t fully consider how much happens in this series. While we are mostly following the Rocinante, we constantly are having season-long B and C plots that seem unrelated until they end up colliding with our main characters. Main characters in some of the seasons die only a few episodes in. Some characters that are central to one season will become irrelevant immediately afterwards, even if they don’t really disappear. And throughout all of it, we are constantly told about the state of planetary politics, usually through the eyes of Avasarala. While Firefly was the perfect embodiment of the Space Western and the “final frontier” aspect of space travel, this show better represents the Space Noir, and the kind of 1930s-esque political intrigue that is associated with it. It throws back to one of the darkest parts of humanity, that even when we finally can seem to have everything, we still want to fight to keep more of it than the other guy.
As you might expect from a show like this, a lot of the focus is on character development, since it’s cheaper to shoot people talking than to show a space battle. Fortunately, even though a lot of the characters fit into some of the typical molds, they’re all given a lot of traits that make them feel more real than some shows would. The crew of the Rocinante, for example, are given the general philosophical foursome traits: James is an optimist who will try to live up to his morals, Naomi is more focused on the practical (like all engineers), Amos is all about survival over ethics, and Alex just wants to fly the ship. However, their personalities and histories, as they are explored over the series, show why they each are the ways they are and why they believe what they do, and it’s often more interesting than you would think.
The worldbuilding is fantastic and the sets and action sequences are much better than I would have expected for a show that began on SyFy. It helps, however, that the two showrunners are Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, the writing team behind the film Children of Men. If you have not seen that film, it is a hallmark of managing to do a ton of worldbuilding efficiently without a ton of exposition.
Overall, just a great show. If you haven’t been watching it, the fifth season just came out and they’re hopefully going to finish the final season this year. Perfect time to check it out on Amazon Prime.
Patton Oswalt plays a blue flying unicorn and Christopher Meloni plays an alcoholic hitman. This is truly the Golden Age of television.
Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni) is a former police officer who is now a hitman trying to drink himself into the grave. After killing a number of members of a mob family and learning a secret that puts him in danger, he’s approached by a small, blue, winged unicorn named Happy (Patton Oswalt) who tells him that he’s an imaginary friend to a girl named Hailey (Bryce Lorenzo) who was kidnapped by a man dressed as a Very Bad Santa (Joseph D. Reitman). Together, Nick and Happy deal with the mob, child abductors, and a psychotic Santa in order to rescue the little girl.
This show is so bananas is every way and it works perfectly.
Meloni may be best known for playing the angry, aggressive Det. Stabler on Law and Order: SVU, something he draws on at points for Nick Sax’s character, but he also has done a ton of solid comedy work when given the right script. He plays Gene in Wet Hot American Summer and Freak Show in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, for example. This show perfectly blends his talents together by having his character be angry and cynical, but also just a little insane at all times. Unlike many other series, his character really does change from episode to episode, either growing or regressing, but still maintains all of the traits that make him so interesting.
Happy, similarly, changes quite a bit over the series, mostly because he starts as a completely innocent creature thrown into one of the darkest corners of the world. Patton Oswalt was, therefore, one of the best casting choices you could make. Oswalt’s voice constantly seems to be slightly inherently upbeat, but can also deliver a tone of being beaten down or overwhelmed when he needs to. In contrast to the cynical Sax, Happy is a perpetual optimist that is slowly tortured by reality (and occasionally actually tortured). He’s constantly being dragged down by Sax, because that’s the only way he can get Sax to help Hailey, the girl he loves.
The show involves a lot of interesting hidden worlds which are contained within the secret rooms of the normal world, ranging from the obscure to the supernatural. A lot of the humor in the series comes from characters from each area being forced to interact and watching how they respond to each other. The portrayals of the supporting characters are pretty great all around.
The writing is superb and it really needs to be to successfully maintain such an oddball premise. It was written by Grant Morrison, the comic book author famous for doing a lot of very imaginative adaptations such as All-Star Superman and a lot of meta-writing where he appears in the work such as Seven Soldiers. He’s also slightly off-kilter, believing that he once died and saw the fifth dimension and learned the true creation of the universe. Basically, he’s perfect for this series.
This is a dark comedy, about as dark as it gets and about as funny as it gets. I’m not going to pretend that it’s for everyone, but if you like the first 20 minutes, it only gets better from there. The first season is over and now available on Netflix, but there’s a second season on the way soon, so check it out!
In the pantheon of vs. media, this movie will always hold a special place, for much like Jem, this film is truly, truly outrageous. Unlike Freddy vs. Jason or Alien vs. Predator, this movie doesn’t waste time with “set-ups” or “emotions” or “logical character arcs,” it just shows us what we came here for: A Sharktopus fighting a Whalewolf.
So, this is the third Sharktopus movie. In the first movie, the government asked a mad scientist (Eric Roberts) to build a bio-weapon. He combined a shark and an octopus to create it, making a monster which can walk on land or swim through the sea, and also has spines and sharp clawed tentacles for reasons I can’t remember and don’t want to look up. The movie ended with them blowing up the monster.
The second movie, Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda, involved a scientist finding Sharktopus’s egg and regrowing it, while another mad scientist (Robert Carradine) combines a pterodactyl and barracuda DNA to create another monster. At the end of the movie, Sharktopus makes its way into the Caribbean.
10 seconds into the movie, Captain Ray Brady (Casper Van Dien VI) shows up to a funeral, on his own boat, that he is too drunk to attend or remember agreeing to host. Within 30 seconds, Sharktopus attacks the boat. It is now clear that this movie doesn’t believe in foreplay. It’s here for the f*ckin’, so grab the back of the couch and get ready for a ride. Sharktopus eats the coffin for the funeral, then the widow, resulting in Ray asking if they already paid.
It then cuts to Ray in jail for boating while intoxicated and losing the widow at sea. Apparently, the police in the Dominican Republic don’t accept the “Sharktopus got her” excuse after the last three guys made it. Of course, the arresting officer is his ex-girlfriend, Nita (Akari “I played a completely different character in the last movie and no one cares” Endo), who is immediately tasked with tracking down a doctor who has been conducting illegal experiments in the Dominican Republic, Doctor Reinhart (Catherine “I’m literally a princess” Oxenberg). We see Reinhart and her assistant, Nurse Betty (Jennifer Wenger), performing procedures which really seem to be overboard for the Dominican Republic. Hell, they seem overboard for Chechnya in the early 90s. The only person to turn her down is an aging baseball player named Felix Rosa (Mario Arturo Hernandez).
Rosa goes to a bar to hit on two young women but gets shot down and humiliated, leading to him drunkenly returning to Reinhart for her experimental procedure to make him great again. Unfortunately for him, the doctor is, in fact, a mad scientist (which happens a lot in this universe), who decides to mutate his DNA. After the first treatment, Rosa feels great, but quickly demands another, giving himself a blast of radiation, seemingly killing him. Meanwhile, the two young women run into Nita, who watches them get killed by Sharktopus, because that thing can appear out of nowhere.
Ray is bailed out by his first mate, Pablo (Jorge Eduardo De Los Santos), who borrowed the money from a voodoo priest named Tiny (Tony Almont). It turns out that Tiny wants the Sharktopus’s heart in repayment, not because it contains any mystical powers, but because the Sharktopus is trending on social media and Tiny thinks he could absorb its popularity to get laid. Yes, this is an actual thing in a movie that exists and was said by an actor who was paid to say it.
Reinhart kicks Rosa’s dead body into the water, where Rosa begins to mutate. Reinhart takes him back to her lab, where his body is now decayed-looking, having claws with flipper-like webbing instead of hands. Reinhart realizes that the mutation needs another stimulus and, being a mad scientist, decides that it’s the full moon. She exposes him to the full moon, but we don’t see the result.
Ray and Pablo are preparing to kill Sharktopus, but they’re joined by Nita, who forces her way onto the expedition. Back at the lab, Nurse Betty returns to find Reinhart passed out on the couch. Reinhart then reveals that she gave Rosa some blood, but that he needs more, specifically Betty. Rosa appears, now a combination of a killer whale, a gray wolf, and a man, a Whalewolf, and chases Betty through the town and into the ocean, where he eats her. Ray, Pablo, and Nita find the Sharktopus and attack it with a harpoon gun, but this just annoys Sharktopus. It attacks, knocking Nita into the water. When it attempts to kill Nita, however, it runs into Whalewolf, briefly skirmishing, allowing the crew to get away.
Ray returns to the dock to treat Nita and fix the engine that they blew in the escape. The group watches a parody of The Bachelor which is hilariously poorly scripted, and ultimately attacked by Sharktopus, which eats the winning girl. Nita heads to the show’s filming site. At Reinhart’s lab, the doctor tries to housebreak the now lupine-brained Whalewolf, but finds it impossible, so she releases it into the city. At a nearby Rec Center, two gangs are fighting, but are interrupted by Sharktopus and Whalewolf, who start eating the gang members and brawling until Nita and another officer detonate random gas tanks nearby, engulfing them in explosions.
Ray and Pablo are trying to avoid fixing the boat and finding Sharktopus, but Tiny uses his voodoo to force them to go back to work. They apparently try to build a weapon out of household objects, but find that they’re too incompetent to make anything useful. Meanwhile, the Bachelor parody has started filming again, miles away from the last site, but neither of the remaining girls wants to win, based on what happened to the last girl. They believe the winning flowers are cursed. The director grabs the flowers and lectures the girls about being foolish, but is eaten by Whalewolf. Whalewolf returns to the lab, where Reinhart says she’s leaving, because her experiment was to create the perfect human, and Whalewolf isn’t human.
Nita and her partner decide to investigate Reinhart, who is trying to flee the country. She tries to have the local animal shelter adopt Whalewolf, but Whalewolf realizes what’s happening and attacks her. Nita arrives to find a dying Reinhart before being attacked by Whalewolf. Ray gets attacked by Sharktopus and Pablo saves him by cutting off one of Sharktopus’s tentacles. They bring the tentacle to Tiny, hoping that it will suffice, but Tiny instead banishes them from the town, which I guess he can do.
Ray calls Nita to say goodbye, but finds Nita wounded on the other end of the line. They head to the clinic and rescue her from Whalewolf, but it pursues them in a loose Jurassic Park parody. Eventually, they run into Sharktopus as well, resulting in the two monsters battling again, destroying property and killing crowds of people. Nita and Ray make it to the hospital, where they start to look for a way to get rid of the monsters. It’s revealed that Tiny might be able to gain some level of control over Sharktopus using the tentacle which Ray brought, so Ray plans on having Tiny get the two to fight, but it turns out Tiny plans on controlling both of them to take over the island. Tiny tries to have Ray killed, but Ray steals the Sharktopus voodoo doll and escapes using his “Drunken Nut Punch Kung Fu Juju,” which is exactly what it sounds like, if you think it sounds like pretending to be in a martial arts movie and hitting people in the balls.
Nita realizes that, since Whalewolf used to be a baseball player, he’s going to head to the baseball diamond, where she and Pablo set up a giant electrified net and call in a airplane bombing run. Tiny pursues Ray, until Sharktopus arrives and eats Tiny. Thinking he’s controlling Sharktopus, Ray tries to befriend it, but it turns out that he hasn’t figured out how to work the idol and is attacked by the monster, who for some reason is now acting like a cartoon hunter pursuing wabbits rather than the unstoppable killing machine from earlier. It chases Ray to the baseball stadium. Meanwhile, Nita finds Whalewolf drinking out of the stadium toilets and lures it onto the field. The two fight, resulting in Whalewolf throwing Sharktopus into the net, killing it. Ray distracts Whalewolf with a pitching machine until the jets arrive and blow up Whalewolf. Ray and Nita kiss because they can. The last shot is of another voodoo priestess resurrecting Sharktopus from its leftover tentacle.
This movie doesn’t mess around. From start to finish, almost every scene is Sharktopus or Whalewolf killing someone or trying to. Most monster movies believe in a slow build-up, but not this movie. One minute in, it’s got a Sharktopus, 15 minutes in, it’s got a Whalewolf, and they fight for the first time 10 minutes later. The rest of the movie is just humorous set-ups for the two to fight or murder random people.
It reminds me of one of those trends in modernist poetry -or maybe post-modernist- where the poem has all of the extraneous words removed from the lines, causing it to jump directly from image to image. This movie just goes straight to the next scene, often with a jump-cut, and doesn’t try to do establishing shots or anything to give the audience time to adjust. While that doesn’t make the movie very emotional or give any stakes to the scenes, it tries to keep the interest by just keeping almost every scene intense throughout the movie, basically, there’s no rise and fall, since all the scenes that don’t feature the monsters are too short to really allow the audience to relax.
This doesn’t really work as well in film as it does on the page, but it still is at least a pretty interesting way to go about it. Honestly, it might work if the movie was, well, better than Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf. I think it’d be a very interesting structure for one of the more over-used horror models, like an alien invasion or a kaiju attack, but keeping the monsters constantly on the offensive from minute one would be really expensive if you don’t want them to look like crap.
Also, I’m not sure if it’s a reference, but Casper Van Dien’s character is named Ray Brady, which sounds like a play off of ROY Scheider as Martin BRODY from Jaws. Also also, despite the fact that they’re never on-screen together, Van Dien and Oxenberg were married at the time of filming, but got divorced after it aired, which I just find interesting. It wasn’t THAT bad, you two.
Look, this isn’t poetry, and it isn’t even quite as good as Sharknado or Lavalantula, but it still has its good points. Plus, it has Casper Van Dien cockshotting 6 guys in sequence, which is the natural follow-up to playing Johnny Rico in Starship Troopers (kidding, I love that movie). I won’t say it’s worth your time, but if you enjoy SYFY movies, this is definitely one of the more entertaining ones.