Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sharks in Venice

To Do List:

1. Teach non-descript class involving Oceanography, deep-sea diving, and shark attacks at University

2. Find Medici treasure from the 8th Crusade

3. Expose shark conspiracy in Venice canals

4. Run afoul of the mob

5. Avenge father's death

If this sounds like some sort of hackneyed Indian Jones 'to do' list, you're right, in that it's Stephen Baldwin's 'to do' list in Sharks in Venice. See if any of this sounds vaguely familiar: adventurer professor Dr. Daniel Franks (Baldwin) is summoned to Venice from his cushy teaching job at University because of a 'propeller accident' involving his adventurer professor father. Upon finding dad's apartment in shambles from someone searching for the late Dr. Franks' notes on sharks and Medici treasure, Daniel sets out to find out who or what killed his dear old dad. Seems he has some of the same spirit.

However, it seems some stock footage of great whites is stalking the canals of Venice, put there by the mob boss Clemenza, so divers won't be tempted to look for the Medici treasure. Actually, it's a combo of stock footage and a plaster looking orca (for the close up attack shots) stalking the canals of Venice, if you want to get technical. And by Venice, I don't mean Venice, Italy, I mean, that hotel in Vegas that you can ride the gondola through, computer generated images of Venice, and a sound stage in Bulgaria.

As menacing as all this sounds, Daniel, being the great adventurer professor he is and like his father was, finds the Medici treasure no problem, of course attracting the attention of Clemenza. (The scene where Daniel finds the treasure is strait outta Last Crusade - complete with booby traps, cobwebs, triumphant music, the whole thing, but instead of being pursued by Nazis, Daniel is pursued by great white stock footage.) He takes a cheap looking emerald to prove he's found the treasure and jumps back into the water, barely escaping with his life.

At this point, I was a little disappointed because we are yet to be treated to giant CGI sharks attacking people in Venice or sound stage in Bulgaria, whatever you want to call it. (I guess Sharks on Sound Stage in Bulgaria isn't as compelling a title as Sharks in Venice.) I won't be disappointed for long, though, as the movie (sort of) delivers, with three or four cheap looking digital shark attack effects. I mean, seriously, this is why I watch these types of movies, for the cheap CGI, not for stock footage of great whites, which I can see on the Discovery channel. But where can you see a whole CGI city? There are some scenes of Venice exteriors that are completely computer generated. I think it would have been easier to just spring for the actual trip to Venice and then CGI the shark in, rather than the other way around. But I'm not a stickler; it really just adds to Sharks in Venice's cheapie charm.

Anyway, Clemenza offers Daniel two million bucks (Aren't they in Europe though? Shouldn't it be euros?) to go back in the shark infested canal and find the Medici treasure again. Well, being a mob guy, he doesn't really offer, he more tells him he has to do it or else he'll kill his girlfriend, medieval history professor adventurer Laura. Sparing you the details, Daniel follows through, natch - he's a great professor adventurer, and Clemenza gets fed to the plaster orca and everyone hugs and gives each other kisses and calls it a day It's all wrapped up nice and neat, we breathe a collective sigh of relief that the canals of CG Venice are now safe, credits appear, and then, BAM! a shark attacks a gondola! We're not safe after all! Stephen Baldwin failed us again! If I had a nickel for every time someone's said that....
I might not be a great professor adventurer like Stephen Baldwin, but anything involving giant CG sharks is at the top of my 'to do' list.


  1. Jenn: A completely computer generated "Venice" in which we find completely computer generated "Sharks?" Oh, hell yes, I'm in! Plus Stephen Baldwin? I say again: Oh, hell yes! Looks like it's straight to the top of my netflix cue for this baby. "Just when you thought it was safe to cheat the mob . . ."

    Cool review and cool blog! BTW: love that label "ANIMALS INVADING THE HUMAN SPHERE" -- Mykal

  2. i just can't get enough of the bigger-than-usual shark movies. mega shark/giant octopus had release "issues", but i managed to find a digital copy - so hopefully we can share in our killer toofed CGI harmony soon enough.

  3. Your review is better than the movie. I turned it off after the treasure scene.

  4. Even if it had a complete lack of sharks or Venice (even though I don't really have a thing for Venice but definitely have a thing for sharks), I still would have watched it based on the cover art and Stephen Baldwin's presence. Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus is at the top of my netflix cue - unfortunately there is a bit of a wait, but I think I'll survive.

  5. Darn you beat me to this one!! :)

    Its funny that this film, got such coverage seeing how it's really a glorified stright to DVD title, yet it was used as a sponser for TNA wrestling for a few weeks and actually got quite alot of people talking about it, which now seems to be happening more and more with Stright to DVD titles, with "Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus" being another example of this and I guess being further proof.

    Great review

  6. Darn you beat me to this one! :)
    It seems to be a running theme at the moment with Giant sharks, just seeing how many there currently are, especially on the direct to DVD market, though what was surprising about this film, was just how much money they spent promoting it, with the film being used in sponsership deals with TNA wrestling.
    Still "Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus" seems to be another example like this film, of a stright to DVD effort breaking the taboo, of being in such a market and not getting a cinema release, though I doubt that these films would be as much fun if they had.

    Another great review!

  7. Thanks everybody, for their awesome comments. Aaron, I'm glad the review entertains, I feel like I do that a lot, sometimes making utter crap sound like a brilliant masterpiece, or not, I won't get too ahead of myself :)

    I'm glad so many of you share my affinity (and others as well), it's truly why I do this in the first place, being as how none of my friends ever want to talk about this sort of stuff with me. (I need new friends!) So for that, I thank you. I won't get all teary on ya, but when I see how many of you folks want to talk about this stuff with gusto and intelligence, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

    As an aside, Danny Lerner is the dude that directed Sharks in Venice. He's apparently the go-to guy for CGI shark attack movies that go straight to dvd, because I have several others in my queue that are *ahem* subtle variations on this theme. Raging Sharks and Shark Zone are also part of his magnum opus. Well, those and Finding Rin Tin Tin.

    I still want to post my comments on Deep Blue Sea. I know it's a bit above the Sharks in Venice echelon, if that is possible :), but I think it totally has the making of a cult classic. Nothing, absolutely NOTHING, beats Samuel Jackson's let's kick some shark ass speech, only to have him get eaten two seconds afterwards! NOTHING!

  8. One more comment, before I really start drinking. Look at the haplessness of the gondola guy in the cover art for this fucking movie. It's like he doesn't even notice the huge shark looming in front of him. LOVE IT!

  9. Thanks, Jenn, now I'm gonna laugh every time I walk past this on the shelf at Blockbuster and see the guy completely oblivious to the shark on the DVD cover. I've never noticed that before. And I'm surprised you haven't reviewed Shark Attack 3: Megalodon yet. I haven't seen it but supposedly it's like the Troll 2 of shark movies.

  10. Aaron, you're quite welcome, I'll try to point out more stupid shit on covers from now on :)

    It's like, let me just stand here in my cliched outfit and gaze deeply into the gaping mouth of a great white. No worries. I'm sure I'll be fine. This, too, shall pass.

    Shark Attack 3: Megalodon is pure poetry. I have a Mastodon tshirt with a Megalodon on it, not because I'm a super huge fan of Mastodon, but the shirt reminds me of the movie.