The Shallows


If you’ve read some of my previous reviews or chatted with me for longer than 3 minutes, then you know my favorite movie is Jaws. So I don’t have anything against movies about jerk sharks that are attacking with reckless abandon. As a shark enthusiast, I know that the rogue shark — and territoriality — are Matt Hooper’s theories. I don’t work for the Oceanographic Institute or rock a Canadian tuxedo, but I feel confident in saying that nothing has been proven where territoriality is concerned. At least through this rube’s eyes. I suppose it’s plausible considering that 98% of shark attacks are accidental and consist of an exploratory bite before the shark realizes the blunder. Embarrassing!

Any time a new shark movie comes out, some ding dong is always going to make the Jaws comparison in some way. It annoys me more than it probably should, because it only goes to show that Jaws set the bar. Any juxtaposition is merely complimentary.

So there I was, ready to hate this movie for no dang good reason, and I was being smug about it, too. Facebooking to my friends that I had a 10-spot on falling asleep before seeing the shark. Well, movie, you got me. Not only do you see the shark early on, it’s not at all overdone or cheesy. I mean, outside of the fact that the cardboard cutout of a great white that I have in my bedroom is more realistic than the one in the movie.

Nancy (Blake Lively) is a surfer. She speaks poquito Spanish — adorably — and doesn’t take her jewelry off before she goes in the water, which seems like a good way to lose it if you ask me. On hiatus from med school, she’s off to the hidden beach her mother surfed in her salad days.


Learning that her friend is bogged down with the Irish Flu, Nancy’s gonna go it alone and catch some choice waves in this crystal clear, cerulean Xanadu. She makes some new pals and together, they three ride the dopest of waves. I don’t know surfer jargon, but I’m trying.

After her new bros determine they’ve hung enough ten for the day, Nancy stays to ride one last wave. Oh, Nancy, why? Meanwhile, Nancy’s friend who was too hungover to come to the beach is off with some boy. This information is sent in a text that Nancy will never get. Nancy’s friend is a prize asshole.

After putting herself in a rather precarious pickle, it happens; The Bite. The worst, most unrealistic and aesthetically pleasing shark attack in the history of the cinema. Quint will tell you that when you’re in the water, you can tell how big a shark is by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail. This one had to be a 20-footer. So the shark bites her leg and drags her down. Escaping, she scrambles atop a nearby rock to reveal the damage — a sizable gash.


No. No, movie. I’ve gone along with everything you’ve given me up until now. Her leg would’ve been gone. Or at least, the bite radius would’ve been much larger. Do you know what it’s like having to explain to your roommates why you were just in your bedroom shouting, “The bite radius! THE BITE RADIUS!”

From here on out, Nancy uses her cunning and her med school learnin’ to patch herself up and outwit the shark. She makes a little bird friend, Steven Seagull, and spends the rest of the film with the worst chapped lips I’ve ever seen. I literally could not focus on anything else. I went through an entire tube of chapstick on her behalf.



And, yes, the buoy scene from the trailer is delightfully similar to Brody on the sinking boat. I’m not even mad at it. I’m not mad at this movie at all. It’s actually quite good. There’s some laughs, some sweat, and the same feeling I get every time I watch the scene in Jaws where the fisherman is trying to outswim the shark and almost doesn’t get his foot out of the water in time. I love a small cast coupled with an isolated location and some hot cinematography. Watch it. Enjoy it. Shame on me for being so judgy. Even if that bite radius was as realistic as the shark itself.




Operation Avalanche


There are a lot of things I’m iffy on in life. UFOs, Bigfoot, Nessie; I’d like to believe they all exist and I can say with a modicum of certainty that I’ve seen one of those three with my own eyes. While we have shaky evidence that would suggest they are not completely farcical, outside of some blurry pictures always taken with the worst camera the photographer owns, they remain largely mythical.

In the interest of keeping this light, I’ll spare you my opinions on conspiracy theories. People have conflicting ideas about certain things. Are Elvis and Tupac still alive and kickin’ it somewhere in Cuba together? What’s up with Area 51? What are they even doing out there?  I’m pretty sure Paul McCartney is still alive since I’ve seen him in concert twice… or have I? And what really happened to the little duckies in the book President Bush was reading on that fateful day?

One thing I’ve never questioned is the moon landing. I don’t know why, but I’ve just always taken it at face value because so many people are on board. I guess my reasoning is flawed there. A great way to get bamboozled is to just believe something because someone else does.


When JFK promised America that we would get to the moon first, it boosted morale immeasurably. It gave people something to hope for; something to be excited about. It also skyrocketed — no pun intended — his popularity. Everybody loves a guy who makes big promises and follows through. JFK was no slouch, so folks were pretty confident that if he said we were goin’ to the moon, by god, we were goin’ to the moon. Bang zoom.

In Operation Avalanche, CIA agents Matt Johnson (Johnson) and Owen Williams (Williams) are sent undercover to NASA when there is hear tell of a mole. In order to capture their findings on film without facing interrogation, they’re calling themselves documentarians. Their mission: expose the informant and don’t get caught.

Johnson comes across as a bit of a buffoon at first — and he totally is one — but when it comes to the task at hand, he’s got his eyes on the prize. He’s wily and quite reckless and operates mostly under the idea that it is easier to apologize than to ask for permission.

His uptight counterpart, Williams, is the Frye to his Bueller. He is frequently a nervous wreck and always skeptical. When the two learn that Russia may be winning in the race to get to the moon, Johnson’s radical idea to fake a moon landing on television elicits a skittish response from Williams. Johnson is essentially left with his CIA-issued babysitter, Josh Boles (Boles), to carry out what is regarded by some as the greatest ruse of all time.


In their search for the perfect terrain to replicate the moon on film, Johnson and Boles track down Stanley Kubrick who also happens to be making a movie about space. Vital information is gained and the project soldiers on.

Lost in his own maddened state and obsessed with seeing his objective to completion, Johnson chooses to ignore the ominous — and not so ominous — red flags popping up all around him. He’s in the eye of the maelstrom and inadvertently taking everyone down with him.

Operation Avalanche masquerades as a light-hearted romp about a guy who wants to fool the whole world and then it leaves us completely breathless by end credits. Matt Johnson is a delight to watch; often a cartoon version of himself. Outstanding timing and a knack for making everybody a little uneasy, Johnson makes the most of every moment on-screen. Williams, Boles, and a generous smattering of largely unknown actors — plus some very neat camera work, some of which is reminiscent of Blair Witch handheld action — give this film a very real feel. That’s always important, but especially so for a faux documentary.

I’ve always thought my mom was a little funny for the fact that she doesn’t believe that we landed on the moon. She argues that if we didn’t have microwave ovens, how did we go to the moon? I don’t have the heart to tell her that we totally had microwaves before the moon landing. Don’t tell her. That said, maybe she’s onto something. Maybe Elvis and Tupac are on the moon right now.  After all, it’s not a lie if you believe it.