The Post’s critics highlight original movies that are being streamed and made available on demand. Here are this week’s picks.
The holidays are all about sharing. And nothing says sharing better than “Sharknado,” the SyFy channel’s schlocky summer hit, now available on demand and best viewed with a group of friends who appreciate the fouler things in life. Directed by proud hack television writer Anthony C. Ferrante (“Leprechaun’s Revenge”), the movie proved so popular that a sequel is planned, under the Twitter-nominated title of “Sharknado 2: The Second One.” (What was wrong, you might ask, with “Sharknado 2: The Sharkening”? Oh well, the people have spoken.)
The enjoyment of this deliberately dumb disaster movie — about a band of resourceful Los Angelenos who must cope with a freak tornado full of, yes, voracious airborne sharks — is directly proportional to the number of people in the room who can help you make fun of it.
Truth be told, though, the film needs no such assistance. “Sharknado,” which had a brief, post-cable incarnation in cinemas as a midnight movie, is all too eager to let you know that it’s in on the joke. Consider this line, penned by the wonderfully-named screenwriter Thunder Levin, and delivered by a school-bus driver and aspiring actor (Robbie Rist), just before he’s flattened by a flying piece of debris from the famous “Hollywood” sign: “My mom always told me Hollywood would kill me.”
Ian Ziering of “Beverly Hills 90210” fame stars as Santa Monica surfer and beachside bar owner Fin — ouch again — Shepard, who flees inland from the titular, global-warming-caused waterspout, along with his ex-wife (Tara Reid), their daughter (Aubrey Peeples), a barmaid (Cassie Scerbo) and a couple of barflies (John Heard and Jaason Simmons). Along the way to safety, the group is plagued by yapping, flapping sharks at every turn — along with continuity errors, lame dialogue and bad acting.
It’s bloody good fun.
“I can’t just sit back and watch this,” says Fin, who must stop every few miles to save some stranded children or to shoot a shark out of the sky. Maybe he can’t, but we sure can. -- M.O.
Unrated. Contains blood and shark guts. 86 minutes. Available through Amazon Instant, Hulu, iTunes and Netflix.
“Angels Sing,” an earnest holiday movie made in Austin, is a sweet-natured, starchily paced ode to Christmas cheer, featuring a cast that inspires at least a triple-take. It’s nice enough to see Harry Connick Jr. and Connie Britton paired as a Grinch-y history professor and his wife. But check out their supporting players: Lyle Lovett, Kris Kristofferson, Marcia Ball, Charlie Sexton, Willie Nelson. Asleep at the Wheel’s formidable Ray Benson even shows up as a barbecue pit boss. The combination of labored wholesomeness and fabulous musical interludes is akin to watching the hippest Hallmark “very special” Christmas episode ever made.
Connick plays Michael, a good guy and family man whose only character flaw is an ingrained loathing of all things Yule. His seasonal affective disorder frustrates his father (Kristofferson) and confuses his son, David (Chandler Canterbury), who longs for holly-jolly tradition and all the trappings, but gets only a bah humbug from his grumpy dad. Michael’s reasons eventually become clear, but once a few plot devices kick in — having to do with a red-headed stranger, a new house and a family tragedy — Michael learns to let go of his anger, let the love in and turn the lights on.
Those lights are the chief visual and symbolic motif of “Angels Sing,” which has been adapted from a story by Turk Pipkin by director Tim McCanlies (who wrote the screenplay for “The Iron Giant”), a conceit that eventually feels uncomfortably forced even by the heightened dramatic standards of the genre. Despite the story’s tenuous rigging and too-obvious sentimentalism, the actors give it grounding and warm appeal — and really, who couldn’t fall for the rictus-grinned Lovett playing the wacky Christmas-crazy neighbor?
“Angels Sing” features lots of Austin’s local musicians, who show up as coffee shop troubadours or cheerful door-knocking carolers. In between, viewers are treated to some choice renditions of Christmas classics, especially when Lovett sings “Christmas Time is Here” with Kat Edmondson and, during the closing credits, when Connick and Nelson harmonize on a lovely tune called “When I’m Home.” For mild-mannered family entertainment, “Angels Sing” is endearing, if not exactly heavenly; but music fans everywhere will definitely want the soundtrack (available next month from Sony Music) under the tree. -- A.H.
PG. Contains mild thematic elements and brief language. 87 minutes. Available via Amazon Instant and on-demand cable.
The small details are everything in “Redlegs,” Brandon Harris’s feature film directorial debut about three 20-something childhood buddies who reunite after the death of their close friend. With telling dialogue, strong performances and savvy camera work, Harris serves up remarkable insights during seemingly banal, sometimes funny interchanges.
The film opens on a homecoming as Marco (Nathan Ramos) returns to Cincinnati to find Aaron (Andrew Katz) and Willie (Evan Louison) waiting for him at the Greyhound station. They immediately head to the funeral of Ricky, who was murdered during a mugging in a bad part of town.
What unfolds from there is hardly action-packed stuff. The crew plays Frisbee golf and goes to a baseball game. They go cruising for girls and smoke a few joints. They reminisce about their old friend and fantasize about revenge. And, before you know it, three masterfully drawn portraits emerge.
The characters and their tribulations are at once familiar and fresh. Aaron is the hothead and Willie is the hapless easy target who can’t do anything quite right. Marco is the peace-keeper and Ricky was likely the clown of the group.
While the central theme revolves around the individual ways people grieve, the story also examines how easily we revert back to designated roles in relationships forged during formative years. Willie is still scared of the wrath of the bullying Aaron. And while the fact that Marco ditched Cincinnati to live on a farm hints at maturity, Aaron’s anger over the decision exemplifies his inability to let go of his alpha status within the group.
For all its straightforward scenes, “Redlegs” is anything but simple. At slightly longer than an hour, the movie comes and goes before you know it, but some of its scenes, both funny and achingly sad, won’t disappear so quickly. -- S.M.
Unrated. Contains strong language, drug use and sexual situations. 67 minutes. Available via Amazon Instant, iTunes and on-demand cable.