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Saturday, April 2, 2011

DINOSHARK -- DVD review by porfle



Compared to its follow-up, SHARKTOPUS, I found the highly-rated SyFy Channel fishfest DINOSHARK (2010) to be superior in just about every way.  Of course, that's like saying falling out of a two-storey window is superior to getting run over by a bus, but at least the first one is sort of exciting on the way down.

Eric Balfour, an actor I like for some reason after seeing him in Larry Bishop's bonehead biker flick HELL RIDE and the TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE remake, plays "Trace McGraw", who has returned to Puerto Vallarta to resume running a charter boat for tourists.  He meets a gorgeous blonde teacher named Carol Brubaker (Iva Hasperger), who joins him in the search when their mutual friend Rita goes missing.  Rita, of course, has been eaten by a dinoshark, and Trace and Carol end up going after the prehistoric beast themselves as it makes a beeline for its next beachfront buffet.

Lacking a big star like SHARKTOPUS' Eric Roberts, DINOSHARK benefits from the fact that some of the leads are actually pretty good actors (although Roger Corman is fortunate he didn't have to audition for his brief role as a fish expert).  And lucky for them, the script isn't nearly as dumb.  It does have its moments, though, as when Trace discusses his next course of action against the monster with friend Luis:

Trace: "So, what...we'll need explosives, right?"
Luis: "Yeah.  I'll try to get some from my friends at the army base."



Talk about convenient!  Nothing like having some pals at a nearby army base who don't mind lending you a few grenades and rocket launchers.  And then there's the helicopter scene, which is just plain goofy (but in a good way) and allows Balfour to intone a wry reference to JAWS.  Other echoes of the Spielberg classic abound, including a direct quote of its famous "DUN-dun DUN-dun" theme music as a hapless couple in a canoe try to outrun the toothy terror. 

The film is really pretty similar to a regular shark movie anyway--the Dinoshark isn't all that much bigger than Bruce, and it does pretty much the same things in the same way, aside from being able to leap out of the water to snag surfers and para-sailors in mid-air.  As co-producer (with his wife Julie) Roger Corman has said, you don't tease the viewer in a TV-movie the way you would for a theatrical film--you show the monster right away.  And sure enough, DINOSHARK isn't five minutes old before we get a gander at the head, the tail--the whole damn thing.  It isn't a bad-looking critter, really, resembling a cross between a shark and a big horned toad.

By being way less outlandish than its follow-up, this film's SPFX manage to be a bit more convincing even though they're still on the chintzy side.  The CGI guys aren't asked to overextend themselves as much, and manage to turn in some passable effects along with the more wince-inducing ones.  A big mock-up of the monster's head is used in several closeups of swimmers being chomped, but most of the attacks take place underwater and are digitally rendered.  The gore level is somewhat higher than in SHARKTOPUS, especially when Rita's leftovers are washed ashore.



Kevin O'Neill, whose only other director credit is this film's 2004 predecessor DINOCROC, is a visual effects veteran of films such as the FEAST and PULSE series and TV's "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys."  So in addition to being able to stage action scenes pretty well, he also knows where the SPFX are going to go later on.  The lush, scenic Puerto Vallarta locations are milked for all the added production values they can yield as the film breaks out into a festive travelogue montage at the drop of a hat.  The roving camera also manages to zero in on an abundance of frolicking bikini babes throughout the film. 

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  Besides a trailer, there's a commentary track featuring Roger and Julie Corman and director O'Neill.

The finale is pretty lively as the finny fiend makes its way to a heavily-populated resort beach where a sailboat regatta and a women's water polo match are being held, complete with a wide array of human appetizers bobbing around.  Balfour gets a cool final confrontation with Kid Din-o-Shark (I keep imagining J.J. from "Good Times" doing the play-by-play) and Iva Hasperger delivers one of those badass action-movie one-liners to top things off.  All in all, DINOSHARK is a pretty fun movie to watch, and not just in a derisive-laughter kind of way. 


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