Judge Patrick Naugle will never eat sushi again.
There's something in the water.
Ah, the open sea. Mother Nature has given filmmakers endless terrors to behold. Razor toothed mammoth sharks the size of Volvos. Killer whales that feast upon the flesh of man (and Richard Harris). Even giant crab monsters from the depths of the unknown. Yes, when it comes to the skies it's always about aliens from another world. But when it comes to the sea…the evil lurks just below the surface and is ready to wreck havoc on anyone foolish enough to dip their toes in the waters of the damned. And hopefully that has whetted your appetite for 2010's Piranha, now on Blu-ray care of Sony Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Producer's Pitch Meeting for Piranha 3D
(Thursday, 11:23 AM, August 4th, 2009)
Producer #1: "Whaddya got for me?"
HISTORY LESSON! Piranha started as a 1978 Roger Corman cheapo directed by Joe Dante (Gremlins, Innerspace, Loony Tunes: Back in Action), itself a rip off of Steven Spielberg's '70s summer smash Jaws. A few years later a little nobody named James Cameron got a chance to make his directorial debut with the sub-par Piranha II: The Spawning. After that the franchise (if you can call two movies a 'franchise') lay dormant for almost two decades until director Alexadre Aja (who also helmed the remakes The Hills Have Eyes and Mirrors) picked up the slack for this newer, slicker remake/sequel/reimagining. Which brings us up to…
The summer of 2010. This was, without a doubt, a tepid season when it came to going out to the movies. In fact, I can't think of a worse summer in recent memory that had so many lackluster 'blockbusters'. Iron Man 2 felt about as warmed over as a plate of two week old spaghetti. The A-Team was a jumbled Z-level mess. I checked out on about half way through The Sorcerer's Apprentice. The less said about Jonah Hex, Killers, Robin Hood, The Last Airbender, Sex & the City 2, the better. When the biggest moneymaker is the third entry in a kid's franchise, you know you're in trouble.
So for my money, the best film of the summer was the gut spewing, slime dripping, bikini ripping, blood pouring, monster chomping Piranha (or as it was known during its theatrical release, Piranha 3D). Here was a movie that had no pretensions about what it was—an unabashed, old fashioned monster movie. And while I've come to loathe the idea of churning out 3D movies by the barrelful (a process that, for this reviewer, works less than approximately 15% of the time), Piranha ended up being the perfect throwback for that particular process. My personal feelings are that 3D is a gimmick, so at least make the movie I'm seeing be…well, ya know…gimmicky. And Piranha was most surely that. But even without the 3D glasses Piranha is a goofy, fun movie that lets you check your brain at the door while the rest of your empty head is eaten by undersea creatures the size of Krispy Kreme donuts.
This movie easily has one of the most eclectic casts in recent history, including (but not limited to) Christopher Lloyd as a crusty pet store owner/fish expert, Ving Rhames as a sheriff's deputy, Elisabeth Shue as the town's law and order, Jerry O'Connell as a sleazebag, Adam Scott as a potential love interest, Steve McQueen's grandson, porn star Riley Steele and Richard Dreyfuss (in what appears to be an homage/total and complete rip off of his Jaws character). You couldn't get more diverse if you dipped your hand into Spago's and pulled out ten people at random. While I can't say that anyone in this cast is a stand-out (although Jerry O'Connell's coke snorting "Girls Gone Wild"-esque producer comes pretty close), everyone gives what is required of the script: scream in terror, yell loud instructions to one another, show their hooters or end up as piranha chum. Most of the actresses—save for Elisabeth Shue, whose agent must have been given a really shitty Christmas gift from her last year to offer an Oscar nominee this sort of movie—have more jiggle than a Jell-o pudding commercial.
Let's be honest…you really don't give a dog's ding dong about the actors, do you? If you've gotten this far you care about A.) the mutant, pre-historic piranhas and B.) how much carnage they can create. I can assure you that both are plentiful. I mean unbelievably plentiful. When the little razor toothed critters finally meet up with some spring break partiers the movie shifts from monster movie into full blown bloodbath the likes of which only Jeffrey Dahmer and the devil himself have seen. I swear to Shamu that half of the film's budget must have gone towards fake blood and entrails.
Piranha offers the viewer little in the way of surprises. Then again, if you're going into a movie like Piranha looking to be surprised, you deserve the disappointment. While the movie isn't perfect—the CGI effects sometimes show their limitations and after a while the nudity begins skirting the line between R-rated T&A into unwarranted softcore porn—it's a real gas with a six pack and a group of immature friends. Just make sure you see it as far away from a body of water as you can.
Piranha is presented in a great looking 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer in 1080p. For a film of limited budget (when compared to the cost of most summer blockbusters), Piranha looks excellent. Detail is wonderful (flesh tones are…well, fleshy because…well, there's lots of flesh) and the colors are vibrant and bright. Fans of this film won't be disappointed in how this transfer looks—there's hardly any marring of the image due to edge enhancement or grain. Overall this is a solid, well done picture by Sony.
The soundtrack is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless mix (in English only) and is sufficiently aggressive and rumbling. When we aren't hearing the attack and screams of the titular fish, there's the sonic boom of bass music being played at the lake party. Sony has produced a very bombastic, clearly defined soundtrack that will give your surround sound system a thorough workout. Also included on this disc are English and Spanish subtitles.
The extra features on this disc are enticingly meaty considering this film didn't include the words "Avatar" or "Iron Man" in the title. Here's a quick rundown of the two main goodies as well as the scattering of morsels left behind:
Audio Commentary: This commentary features director Alexadre Aja, producer Gregory Levasseur and producer Alix Taylor talking about the intricacies that go into making a film like this. Although this generally stays on the technical side of things (a lot is discussed about the special effects and shooting locations), it's still an informative listen for fans of the film.
"Don't Scream, Just Swim: Behind the Scenes of Piranha 3D": Wow! This documentary is over two hours long and offers a lot of behind-the-scenes information, interviews and footage of how the filmmakers got things done. It feels like just about every aspect of the film is covered, including discussions on why they converted the film to 3D for its theatrical release, the music from the film, and how they achieved some of the gore-tastic special effects. A must for fans of the film.
Finally there are five deleted scenes (Pet Emporium, Cheerleaders, Sand Island Ghost Train, The Kiss, Cliff Diver, Andrew's Death), some deleted storyboard sequences, a trailer and TV spots for the film, some BD Live content and a few previews for other Sony Home Entertainment titles.
I make no apologies for liking Piranha. While it won't be to everyone's tastes, Piranha contains a sort of connoisseurship for those of us who love "mother nature gone wild" monster movies. Sony has done very good job on this disc with a nice transfer, a rollicking soundtrack and a boatful of extra features.
Piranha is a hoot. Check it out.
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