Third Monday Movie Day

Movie of the Month: The Reef (2010, Andrew Traucki)

I saw at least five very good movies this month. This wasn't one of them.

Ugh...okay. This one has gotten fair reviews, actually, and in some ways I can see why. It's unconventional. It's artfully shot. It's full of talented, though largely unknown, Australian actors.

The thing, though, is that there's not much that can be done with a movie predicated on four people attempting to make a very long swim while hoping not to get eaten by a great white shark that follows them for miles and picks them off one by one. There's a long scene where the four people swim, and there's some tension, or maybe a little comic relief. Then, there's another. And another. And that's it, because the only characters in the movie are the ones in the water. So, the vast open sea can occasionally be nice to look at, but you'll be looking at it for a long time.

Director Andrew Traucki mentioned that he's drawn to horror that's based on true stories (this one is, but don't take that too seriously; the changes were pronounced) because the tension feels so honest, and the enemy is so believable. That's great, but if I'm watching a horror movie, I can't get into a film where the enemy is a shark because he has no motive, and if I'm watching a drama I can't get into the film because the enemy is so completely unbeatable there's no reason to invest in the lives of the characters.

The worst thing, though, is that there's a protagonist but I can't figure out why. He's an experienced diver with model-looks who has a romantic backstory with one character, but as a protagonist, he can't provide much besides being the character with the most screen time. Spoilers abound starting here, by the way.

A film's lead character's job is essentially to drive the story forward, and there's literally no way for this character to do that. The complication arises, and the character convinces the others they have to swim because the boat, now overturned, will float further into the sea and they'll die of starvation. That decision is his only real contribution to the story. He never gets any licks in on the shark and he's powerless to do anything but swim a lot. The film tries to fool you into thinking he's driving the story by always focusing on his face when the shark's around, but he just dips his head underwater, watches for it, and that's it. There's nothing he can do. The shark might attack and easily grab one of his friends, or it might not. Not only does he do nothing about it, the film never even teases you by making you believe he could do something about it.

Almost everyone dies, so the one thing he did do - convince them all to swim - was a death sentence.

Then, in the end, the shark gets him as one horrified survivor watches him disappear into the sea, having never done anything particularly helpful up until the moment the shark kills him. My hero.

37 thoughts on “Third Monday Movie Day”

    1. I can't believe how tone deaf netflix has been on this whole streaming/dvd issue. I get it that their business model doesn't see mailing DVDs as a long term profit center but until netflix can provide a whole lot more movies for streaming (and I know this is a studio issue, not a netflix issue) people are going to want their DVDs. In the fact since you can't close caption streams, and miss out on all the extra and bonus features when streaming, I think physical DVDs are going to be here a long time.

      Obviously Netflix is positioning Qwikster (btw, hello Qwikster? Is this 2003?) for sale to some other entity but my feeling is that unless they can get studios to allow for more streaming of popular movies, Netflix is making some very strategic errors here.

      1. As soon as Netflix announced the new price structure, I think that some outside companies went after their contracts with studios. I'm interested to see how it goes, although I don't expect to move on from Netflix since I want to see absolutely everything. Hence, there's going to be plenty for me.

      2. Tin eared dumbfu@ks. The content that is available to stream is great for some things, but doesn't nearly cover my tastes. Having to manage two accounts for essentially the same service has me contemplating leaving netflix altogether.

        1. They have to realize they're in full-on damage control mode, and I have high hopes that they'll solve this problem in some way. They have to know the consequences if they don't. If they wait to see how many people they lose, it'll be too late. I'm not going anywhere, but casual movie watchers and those with very specific tastes could disappear in droves.

        2. The streaming is great for checking out TV shows that I missed the first time around, and catching up... Sci-Fi originals, I guess?

          This gets me particularly aggravated, because the wife and I left the internet company we were at for a new one so that we could get a higher speed connection for Netflix. I just don't know if it has enough to make me want to subscribe to it.

          Either way, our account is suspended until we can figure out what we want to do. Who knows if it'll get unsuspended?

  1. I didn't really watch a ton of movies this week, just The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

    I did, however, finally start watching Arrested Development. I have been missing out. (Also, I finally get the Steve Holm! thing.)

    1. Funny story. Long ago when I lived in Washington DC I was watching TGTBATU on TV during a rainy saturday afternoon. Got all the way through to the big stand off at the end, and who calls on the phone but my mother! Since I lived 1500 miles from home, she just wanted to chat, see how things were going and catch up on things. (This was way before facebook, email, skype, all that stuff oh, and DVRs). So of course since I am a good son, I missed the standoff and the end of the movie and visited with my mother over the phone. It was probably another 10 years until I finally got to see TGTBATU all the way through.

      1. I know I've done that same thing, where I missed a movie's climax for years.

        I saw The Shawshank Redemption in bits and pieces for so many years that when I finally got around to seeing it all at once, I knew it was awesome but it had lost all punch.

  2. My wife had a girls night out Saturday, so I got a pizza and the boys and I watched "Bedtime Stories." Adam Sandler was kept in check in this one, so it was more cute than stupid, although I could have done without his British sidekick, who tried way too hard to be a younger, taller version of Ricky Gervais. It's a decent kids movie, but I guess it doesn't say a lot for a movie when a bug-eyed guinea pig steals each scene it's in just by staring into the camera.

  3. Being jobless affords one more time to watch movies. Here we go.

    The Help Well-acted. Great costumes. Extremely manipulative. All the good people are too good. The bad people too bad. Meh.
    After Sex Another indie movie trying to say something enlightening about sex. It doesn't. A few laughs, but mostly a waste of an hour.
    Stardust Nice, but a few too many climaxes and contrived scenes for me.
    My Fair Lady Best picture, really? Over Dr. Strangelove? Some decent music, which is horribly dubbed (poor Audrey). Rex Harrison is funny. But it just goes on and on and on and the ending negates the entire second half of the movie. Bleck.
    Far and Away A very gorgeous movie, but that's about all it has going for it. Kidman wasn't really allowed to stretch her wings. Extremely silly contrivances. But I have to say I LOVE Colm Meaney. I'll watch anything he's in, even this.
    Iron Man One of the better superhero movies I've seen. Downey is excellent.
    Romy and Michele's High School Reunion I didn't laugh one time. Not once. I may have smirked.
    Contagion My favorite of the bunch here. Not a great movie; there's perhaps one too many plot lines. But I love how cold and unsettling the movie is. If you hated Outbreak, this is a good way to cleanse your palette.

    1. I had a different reaction to The Help. I'd read the "too manipulative" reviews, so I was expecting over-the-top good vs evil.

      Instead, i got a funny tear-jerker. Yes, it was manipulative. But how could it not be given the time constraints. The two black leads were great, Sissy Spacek was great. The newspaper editor was great.

      The Mrs. And I enjoyed it tremendously.

  4. I saw a lot this month.

    I finally got around to The Graduate, which is one of those movies that's been parodied so much that I felt I had seen practically every scene already. Hoffman's alright if a little bland in this one, but Anne Bancroft, in the conversation for my favorite actor ever, is incredible throughout. It's a good movie at all time, but the way the camera lingers at the end is unexpected, and makes it great.

    I saw a documentary called Following Sean. The filmmaker made a short film about Sean, a four-year-old kid, who was living in a drug out in Haight-Ashbury in the '60s, and he reconnects with the adult Sean to see where his life took him.

    Carriers was a sort of post-apocalyptic not-quite-zombie movie that really never went anywhere.

    I guess most of what else I saw was TV. Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Twin Peaks and Home Movies all got the mini-marathon treatment. Well, not so "mini" with Breaking Bad, since I watched 22 episodes in three days.

  5. Saw True Grit on Saturday night. Wife hated it... not surprised about that. I liked it, but I will say that there are a lot of movies I'd rather see than that one.

        1. Ack. The Duke version is great too. Time-bound, perhaps, but Wayne, Duvall and ?? (whatsisname) as the scoundrel murderer a young Dennis Hopper as Moon were good. [Oh, and add Strother Martin, and John Fiedler as Lawyer Daggett]

          The Dude version is different, and better suited to the times.

  6. Saw Kung Fu Panda II with Runner daughter at $1 night at Mizzou; totally by the book, but like the first one it's nice to see a Jack Black flic that isn't a Jack Black flic.

    Watched Angels & Demons; better than DaVinci IMO. Portable battery-driven anti-matter containment? I don't think so.

    My mindless lunchtime fare lately has been Cartoon Network stuff, mostly Adventure Time and MadTV (which is much better as animated than the SNL ripoff; more like Robot Chicken).

    Started on Almost Famous but haven't been able to finish it yet.

    1. I was just talking about Almost Famous with Beau yesterday. It's one movie I think I could watch monthly and never get sick of (for those who might ask, I don't think Kate Hudson is in it enough to ruin it).

  7. Finally got around to seeing Tangled and enjoyed it immensely. We've been watching far too much Yo Gabba Gabba for the edification of the little one, though for a show made for really young kids, its bizarrely entertaining.

  8. Watched Gamer and Zombieland. Both had more gore (Zombieland had more, duh, zombies) and grossout moments (Gamer on top) than they needed, but at least Zombieland had a plot and characters you could sympathize with and were interested in. Gamer is terrible, no-good and really, really not worth watching.

    1. I never doubted that Gamer sucked.

      Zombieland I had high hopes for, but couldn't get into. I didn't mind the gore at all - I think it was right at home in that kind of a broad horror-comedy - but I thought the writing was predictable at every turn. As soon as every scene started, I knew where it was going.

      1. I expected more from Zombieland than what it was, but at least it had some character development and humor, especially for a zombie movie. Still, Shaun of the Dead was a lot more enjoyable for me.

  9. O.k. I just got an e-mail from Netflix saying that Crossroads is ready to be shipped and I should receive it on Tuesday. Yes the Britany Spears movie. Turns out my daughter has hijacked our Netflix account and put a bunch of crappy movies in the queue as a joke. I reminded her that I control when $$$ go into her bank account and that watching stupid movies just may cause me to forget the password.

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