TIME Television

Sharknado 2: The Best and Worst Moments

Gory deaths, celebrity cameos, groan-inducing one-liners — The Second One had it all

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Syfy’s Sharknado 2 never aspired to be high art, but its titular plot device — massive tornadoes that cause sharks to rain down from the sky, which made last year’s original a viral hit — did all it could to get people tuning in and talking with one campy, ridiculous OMG! moment after another. Below, reactions from TIME’s television critic James Poniewozik and reporter Nolan Feeney.

JAMES PONIEWOZIK

  • Best Death (human): I’ve got to call an upset here and give this to a *non-shark* killing: the head of the Statue of Liberty flies across New York Harbor and takes out Shark Tank‘s Daymond John, Cloverfield-style. You gonna take that, sharks?
  • Best Death (shark): “This is for you, pops!” If you had “Richard Kind uses a souvenir baseball bat to knock a shark into the Citi Field scoreboard a la The Natural” in your Sharknado 2 pool, congratulations!
  • Best Celebrity Cameo: Far too many to choose from — maybe far too many, period — but my pilot’s hat is off to Sharknado 2 for saluting the mother of all disaster comedies, Airplane!, by putting Robert Hays in the cockpit.
  • Best Zinger: “Are we still live? Thank you for watching the Today show!” [Continues killing shark]
  • Best Emotional Moment: If I could be eaten by a shark so that the protagonist of a movie could tear the ring off my severed hand and use it to propose to the love of his life, I would know that my time on this Earth had not been wasted.
  • Best Improvised Weapon: Tara Reid. Has a rotary saw. Where her hand used to be. That is all.
  • Best New York City Moment: In the climactic scene, the citizens gathered in Times Square are able to fight back against the shark storm, because of course — fuggedaboutit! — everyone has a weapon in their car trunk.
  • Worst Cross-promotion: We get it, NBC Universal — you own a lot of other TV properties! I’ll give you the admittedly funny payoff of Al Roker and Matt Lauer stabbing a shark to death with an umbrella. But the repeated, shill-y placements for the Weather Channel? If you’re not going to give us Jim Cantore getting eaten by a hammerhead during a live shot, don’t even bother.
  • Worst Distortion of Reality: I will accept that this is a movie about killer flying fish. I will accept the convenient fiction that, in a city of eight million people, you can easily fetch the same cab driver later in the day because he gave you his card. Hell, I’ll even accept that, for some reason, the New York Mets are playing a game at like 9 in the morning. But the idea that all those New Yorkers in the final battle would have found nearby convenient street parking in Midtown? You lost me.
  • Worst NYC Geography: Moments after Lady Liberty smooshes Daymond John, somewhere in lower Manhattan, we’re in an entirely different, industrial neighborhood — Greenpoint, Brooklyn, from the street signs — and here comes the same head rolling down the street! (Actually, maybe the Liberty head is sentient and can fly about the city, killing at will? I smell a sequel — Libertynado!)
  • CGI: It looks like Syfy few a threw more pennies into the production this time out, but that doesn’t stop us getting images like the “hospital” that looks, pretty much, like a parking entrance superimposed on a row of brownstones.
  • Worst Pun: “But the next time you offer to lend a hand, don’t be so literal about it.” Ouch! Hey, if you can’t laugh when your soon-to-be-fiance has had her hand bitten off on an airplane by a flying shark, when can you laugh?

NOLAN FEENEY

  • Best Death (shark): Marvel at the chainsaws all you like, there’s something charming about the way Skye (Vivica A. Fox) kills flying sharks the old-fashioned way — with a sword.
  • Best Death (human): I’m sure that, for at least one actor in this movie, watching gossip blogger Perez Hilton get killed by shark while he waits for a subway train is a dream come true.
  • Best Celebrity Cameo: Andy Dick dismissing Fin’s overly dramatic storm speech with a sarcastic “Okay, I can see you’re upset” is probably the greatest thing Andy Dick has ever done.
  • Best Timely Cultural Reference: Selfies, which Mora (Courtney Baxter) takes a lot of while visiting Times Square and the Statue of Liberty. (Sadly, she does not take one with a shark.)
  • Best Improvised Weapon: Tara Reid’s saw-hand trumps all, obviously, but it’s only a matter of time before Matt Lauer stabbing a shark with an umbrella becomes the GIF of the week.
  • Best Unexplained, Improbable Science: In a movie about a shark tornado, why not have the hero ride a shark like a surfboard through the air after getting blown off the Empire State Building?
  • Best Inappropriate Public Display of Affection: “I forgot to give you something the last I saw you,” Skye tells Fin before — bam! — giving him a big ol’ smooch. Too bad he’s in the middle of reconciling with his ex-wife.
  • Best Pun: After Fin pulls an American Ninja Warrior over the sharks swimming in the flooded streets of New York, Martin (Mark McGrath) tells him, “You know what you did, don’t you? You jumped the shark.”
  • Worst Missed Opportunity: As the Sharknado hits Manhattan, strange weather patterns also bring freezing temperatures and threats of snow. The two meteorological phenomena don’t exactly clash, though, so viewers are unfortunately deprived of Sharksnowdo. (Perhaps the writers are just saving material for another movie.)
  • Worst Inappropriate Public Display of Affection: Skye gives Vaughn an unusually passionate good-luck kiss on the cheek before they swing to safety. It seems like an odd thing to do when, oh, I don’t know, she’s still trying to make out with his dad.
  • Worst Unexplained, Improbable Science: A weather reports notes that sharks are falling from the sky at a rate of two inches per hour. How do you even measure that?!
  • Worst Social Media Coordination: While the broadcast instructed viewers to use #Sharknado2, the Sharknado Twitter account was promoting #Sharknado2TheSecondOne. That’s going to be an awkward marketing meeting.
  • Worst Timely Cultural Reference: If you’re going to make joke about hipsters in New York City, you better at least show flying sharks ripping off the faces of mustache-sporting jort-wearing artisan-pickle-selling Williamsburg residents.
TIME Television

HBO Slated to Run 6-Hour David Simon Miniseries

Creator and executive producer David Simon attends the "Treme" New York Premiere at The Museum of Modern Art on April 21, 2011 in New York City.
Creator and executive producer David Simon attends the premier of Treme in New York City on April 21, 2011 John W. Ferguson—Getty Images

The six-hour miniseries will be based on the 1999 book Show Me a Hero by Lisa Belkin

HBO will reportedly air another production from the man behind Treme and The Wire.

The Hollywood Reporter says David Simon will write and produce a miniseries called Show Me a Hero, based on the 1999 book by former New York Times reporter Lisa Belkin.

Show Me A Hero will center on a late-’80s public-housing battle in Yonkers, N.Y. — clearly touching on common themes to Simon’s television work: race, government, class and community.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Oscar Isaac of Inside Llewyn Davis and Catherine Keener of 40-Year-Old Virgin and Captain Phillips will star. The show is slated to run for six hours on the premium cable network.

[THR]

TIME

Cinema Verite Documentarian Robert Drew Dies at 90

(SHARON, Conn.) — Robert Drew, a pioneer of the modern documentary who in “Primary” and other movies mastered the intimate, spontaneous style known as cinema verite and schooled a generation of influential directors that included D.A. Pennebaker and Albert Maysles, has died at age 90.

His son Thatcher Drew confirmed he died Wednesday morning at his home in Sharon.

Starting in 1960 with “Primary,” Drew produced and sometimes directed a series of television documentaries that took advantage of such innovations as light, hand-held cameras that recorded both sound and pictures. With filmmakers newly unburdened, nonfiction movies no longer had to be carefully staged and awkwardly narrated. Directors could work more like journalists, following their subjects for hours and days at a time and capturing revealing moments. Little, if any, voiceover was needed.

“Nonfiction filmmakers were afflicted by two problems, one technical, the other spiritual,” Drew once said. “Technically, they did not have the equipment to do the sort of work I had in mind. Spiritually, they didn’t care about the work because they’d been mistrained. They’d been mistrained because their equipment was so heavy and complicated that it made it impossible to shoot in situations where you could really capture reality.”

Drew’s dozens of films included “The Chair,” a 1963 documentary about a death penalty case in Illinois, and “784 Days That Changed America: From Watergate to Resignation,” winner in 1982 of a Peabody award. Many of his movies were edited and co-produced by his wife, Anne Drew, who died in 2012.

While a photographer and editor with Life, Drew formed Drew Associates in 1960 with the goal of applying his magazine experience to films. Among those joining him were such future directors as Pennebaker (“Don’t Look Back,” ”The War Room”), Maysles (who with brother David made “Gimme Shelter” and “Grey Gardens”) and Richard Leacock (“Happy Mother’s Day”).

“I wondered why documentaries on television were dull,” he told The New York Times in 2013. “I had no doubt we could make a lighter camera, and I started with that premise and started finding people who could do that.”

Their approach, called cinema verite, or direct cinema, also was used in feature films, by the American director John Cassavetes and the French directors Louis Malle and Agnes Varda. And the new style led to fierce and enduring debates about truth in movies, whether a fly-on-the-wall approach was any more objective than a narrative with a point of view worked out in advance.

Frederick Wiseman, the award-winning documentary maker, would call cinema verite “just a pompous French term that has absolutely no meaning.”

“Primary” is widely ranked among the most important political documentaries and in 1990 was entered into the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry for historic works. It follows presidential candidates and fellow Democrats Sen. Hubert Humphrey and Sen. John F. Kennedy as they campaigned in Wisconsin, a neighboring state to Humphrey’s Minnesota, for their party’s nomination, which Kennedy eventually received.

TIME Humor

Sharknado 2: Five Things Deadlier Than a Sharknado—And How to Survive Them

How to Survive a Sharknado
How to Survive a Sharknado Courtesy Three Rivers Press

Tuning into 'Sharknado 2: The Second One' tonight? A new guide has some critical tips on staying safe from the wildest of creatures in your wildest of dreams (or tele-movies)

1. MEGA PYTHONS

Let it try to eat you. Lie on the ground perfectly still, with your feet toward the snake. Do not struggle as it begins swallowing you. Its backward-curving teeth will scrape you, but it probably won’t bite down. When you are in its mouth up to your chest, pull your knife out and stab it in the eyes. You may not kill it, but you will distract and blind it while you make your escape.

Mega Python

2. FIRENADOS

Treat burns. Wash the burn with water for three to five minutes. Do not break blisters. Cover the burn with a moist sterile bandage or cloth. Seek medical attention. Do not apply ice, ointments, or home remedies such as egg whites and butter. Who does that anyway? Egg whites? Everyone knows you’re just supposed to use the yolk.

Firenado

3. BASILISKS

DON’T: Shoot it or try to blow it up. Conventional weapons can’t penetrate the beast’s thick body armor. It survived a fiery inferno in- side an exploding building, indicating it is also impervious to high temperatures. It’s either the Eye of Medusa or nothing if you want to stop a basilisk.

Basilisk

4. BOARICANES

Take a tip from T-Pain—get low. If you can’t reach shelter, you’ll need to protect yourself from flying debris. Get low to the ground. Curl into a ball. If a flash flood washes you away, you’ll roll to safety like a human tumbleweed.

Boaricane

5. DINOSHARKS

The best defense is a good offense—specifically, a harpoon gun. If you’re on a boat, your options are limited. Dinosharks can swim as fast as any boat, and strike a hole through the hull as well. While the Puerto Vallarta dinoshark measured twenty feet, adults can grow up to fifty feet—meaning it could easily punch a hole in a Regal Islands International cruise ship. Fight back, or become the next victim. According to McGraw, the creature’s ex- terior is resistant to gunfire and grenade blasts. The weak spots are its mouth and eyes. Possibly its genitals, though we don’t rec- ommend taking the time to look for those. A harpoon through an eye stopped the Puerto Vallarta dinoshark. That’s a difficult shot to make, even for an experienced marksman at close range. But we have faith in you. We’ll just be waiting right . . . over . . . here . . .

Dinoshark[1]

Excerpted from How to Survive a Sharknado And Other Unnatural Disasters: Fight Back When Monsters and Mother Nature Attack, by Andrew Shaffer. He is the author of humorous nonfiction and fiction, including Literary Rogues, Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love, and, under the pen name Fanny Merkin, Fifty Shames of Earl Grey. His writing has been published in Mental Floss, Maxim, The Daily Beast, and more.

TIME celebrities

How I Made My First Million: Richard Branson

The tycoon's journey to a million started from an unlikely source: The Exorcist

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British business tycoon Richard Branson is living proof that with enough money, the sky’s the limit. And sometimes not even the sky: his Virgin Group launched a business called Virgin Galactic, which plans to carry wealthy “space tourists” all the way into orbit.

Worth an estimated $5 billion, Branson has used his fortune not just to indulge in expensive hobbies but also to fund a host of humanitarian initiatives.

So how did he make his first million way back when? Believe it or not, there’s a connection to the 1973 horror film The Exorcist.

TIME Art

Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’ Returns to the Tate on Long-Term Loan

Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' To Be Auctioned At Christie's
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece My Bed on display at Christie's in London on June 27, 2014 Rob Stothard—Getty Images

The piece will be displayed there for at least 10 years

Contemporary art’s most well-known bed is returning to the site where it first gained notoriety.

Artist Tracey Emin’s controversial installation My Bed — consisting of an unmade bed surrounded by piles of discarded condoms, old liquor bottles and pregnancy tests — will be exhibited at Tate Gallery on a long-term loan from its most recent owner, the Tate said in a statement on Monday.

The 1998 work, which grapples with the aftermath of a difficult breakup, has been included in discussions about what qualifies as art. It gained renewed prominence in the past month when it was slated to be sold at a Christie’s auction in London. On July 1, the piece was sold to German collector and businessman Count Christian Duerckheim for approximately $3.77 million — more than 18 times the amount collector Charles Saatchi paid for it in 2000.

My Bed was exhibited at Tate Britain in 1999, the same year it was shortlisted for the prestigious Turner Prize. Now, new owner Duerckheim will loan the work to the Tate for a period of at least 10 years. Tate director Nicholas Serota expressed gratitude for Duerckheim’s gift, which will allow museum visitors to see “a work that now has iconic status.”

Emin, the artist herself, told the BBC, “I have always felt My Bed belongs at Tate. And now it will be.”

TIME movies

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar: Watch the New Trailer

Interstellar will launch in theaters this November

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A new trailer for Christopher Nolan’s upcoming deep-space epic, Interstellar, was released Wednesday.

The Batman director sends actor Matthew McConaughey, accompanied by Anne Hathaway, on a space mission to explore a newly discovered wormhole and to “surpass the limitations on human space travel.”

This new trailer offers more than sci-fi action scenes among the stars — the clip shows the movie’s soft side, focusing mainly on McConaughey’s relationship with his daughter, played by Twilight actor Mackenzie Foy. Actors aside — Michael Caine returns with Hathaway — the trailer has an eerie resemblance to the Dark Knight trilogy.

TIME Television

Contract Negotiations Stall Big Bang Theory Production

The Big Bang Theory
Sheldon faces a personal crisis after deciding he's wasting his time with string theory, on The Big Bang Theory. CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Production for the hit series, now in its eighth season, was slated to begin Wednesday

Production for the upcoming season of The Big Bang Theory has been postponed due to contract negotiations, Warner Bros. Television said Wednesday.

The nerdsploitation comedy series has consistently garnered high ratings for CBS, and has received Emmy love for star Jim Parsons and series regular Mayim Bialik. According to The Wrap, the actors who were still negotiating their contracts were Parsons, Johnny Galecki, and Kaley Cuoco. Warner Bros. would not comment past their statement announcing the production’s postponement.

The Wrap reports that network executives were confident contract negotiations would pan out during the Television Critics Association press tour earlier in July. No word yet about how this will affect the show’s scheduled return Sept. 22.

Perhaps Wil Wheaton is to blame.

TIME Television

“The Book Was Better”: Why Readers of TV Adaptations Need to Let Go

Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall, transported from 1945 Scotland to 1743 Scotland in Outlander. Starz

When your favorite read becomes a series, it no longer belongs to you alone. And that's fine.

The battle between books and TV used to be fought by bibliophiles proclaiming that they didn’t even own televisions. Today, the terms of battle have changed, as prestige TV has gotten enough cultural status that there is probably some counter-snob bragging, at a cocktail party somewhere, “Why, I don’t even own a book!”

But the latest point of contention is between readers and watchers of the same story, when an acclaimed, popular work of fiction (e.g., A Song of Ice and Fire) becomes an acclaimed, popular TV drama (e.g., Game of Thrones). If you read a franchise before it was adapted for the tube, is your fandom more true than a newcomer viewer? Does the TV series owe you a faithfulness to the original story? And do you suddenly have to clam up about “spoilers” you read a decade ago?

Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones recently weighed in on that last issue with a directness that would do her character Arya Stark proud, sticking book purists with the pointy end: “I’m so sick of going on the Internet and seeing all the book readers being snobby, spoiling it for other people, then saying, ‘Well, it’s not a spoiler. The books have been out for years.’ Like, couldn’t you just stop being mad for a second and let other people enjoy the show?”

Speaking as a reader of the books, she’s right–up to a point. If anyone that desperately wants to know what’s coming up in the books, nothing’s stopping them from reading ahead, so I’m not taking a vow of silence. On the other hand, I don’t have to be a jerk about it: in my reviews of GoT–which at this point has started diverging from the books in key ways anyway–I pointedly avoid book spoilage, at least without warning anyone. There are plenty of big forums for book readers to discuss the series with other readers–the AV Club has gone as far as publishing separate “newbies” and “experts” reviews.

There’s a similar dynamic going on with The Walking Dead (which has diverged even father from the source graphic novels, or so I’m told). And pretty soon we’ll have a new book fandom entering the TV-space: Outlander, based on a massively popular fantasy-romance-history series by Diana Gabaldon–involving war, sex, time travel and 18th-century Scotland–debuts on Starz August 9. And as with Game of Thrones, its loyal readers will be watching closely. Very closely.

Writing for Vanity Fair online, Joanna Robinson angered some of these Outlanderphiles Tuesday when she posted a critique of the credits sequence that Starz has put online, arguing that the misty-highlands music and the “Ren-meets-Lilith-Fair” visuals suggested that Starz was positioning and marketing the series as a genre romance in a way that might turn off a larger audience, especially men. It was hardly an in-depth review, but it was a legitimate enough subject for a short post about the marketing of a TV series–from a writer who has been an astute critic of series like Game of Thrones. (I’ve seen six episodes of Outlander, which I’ll review later. I think it has crossover potential, and I didn’t exactly think I needed to turn in my Man Card for watching it. But, to Robinson’s concern, the series itself is a good bit less gauzy than those credits and Bear McCreary theme song suggest.)

A slew of commenters, though, took Robinson’s critique of Starz’s marketing of the TV series specifically as an attack on the books, and their genre at large–on them. (Starz, she suggested, was making Outlander look like “Fifty Shades of Plaid,” in a way that might appeal only to “your dear old mum.”) What especially struck me, though, was a repeated refrain in the angry replies from fans: “If you have read Outlander, which I don’t believe you did, you would never make those silly comments.”

Robinson pointed out on Twitter that she actually has read Outlander. But suppose she hadn’t. So what? What’s really going on here is a larger, recurrent argument here about fandom and ownership.

Outlander the TV series is an adaptation, which Starz–like HBO or AMC or any other adapter–is making for an audience that, ideally, will be far larger than the readership alone. Can you not have a legitimate opinion on them unless you have read the source books–and unless you love the source books and are invested in a series you haven’t yet seen? Are the old fans the true fans, the authentic fans, the authoritative fans? Can you truly appreciate and understand an adaption without reading the source–or is it actually a handicap?

HBO’s Game of Thrones. HELEN SLOAN

I’ve been on both sides of this, and my strict rule about reading the source material is: there is no rule. I’ve read the A Song of Ice and Fire books and I love them–not without reservation–but there are times I wish I could watch Game of Thrones without knowing what’s coming or being tempted to compare. Knowing the general story lets me focus on Thrones‘ themes and characters without getting bogged down in plot speculation. On the other hand, I can never un-read the books and know what it would be like to watch the series from that perspective.

So when I heard HBO was adapting The Leftovers, I decided not to read the book, even though I’m a fan of Tom Perrotta’s other novels. I’ve never read The Walking Dead graphic novels, not because I care about being spoiled but because I don’t have enough interest. Outlander—that’s a lot of books to read in a little time, and I’d just as soon go in without preconceptions. On the other hand, I eagerly read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, long before the BBC announced its upcoming adaption of the fantasy novel, and I can’t wait to see it.

In other words, I’ve been a reader and a non-reader. One experience is not better, purer or more authoritative than the other. Neither experience makes judgment of the visual version of the story more or less legitimate. They are qualitatively different experiences–but they are just that, different, and it’s impossible to have both experiences at once. That’s why I’m glad, for instance, that I can read Game of Thrones reviews both by critics who have read the source and ones who haven’t–I find things in both that I can’t expect to get from the other.

People who came to Game of Thrones years after I read the books are not fandom gentrifiers. Our perspectives aren’t inherently better or worse than the other. And the same goes for books vs. their adaptations. As a reader of ASOIAF, HBO owes me precisely nothing–except in the sense that it “owes” me as a subscriber to make any TV series a good TV series. It doesn’t owe me a reproduction of my favorite scenes and storylines. Our default adjective for adaptations is “faithful,” but there’s no breach of faith inherent in changing a story for the screen. There are things I miss in Game of Thrones, but in many ways the streamlining of the vast, digressive story has been an improvement–and in any case, it’s better suited for TV.

But beyond that, HBO could have turned ASOIAF into a laugh-track family sitcom–That’s My Lannister!–with a wacky space-alien neighbor living next door to the Red Keep, and it would not diminish my reading experience one bit. It would change the larger world’s perception of the story, yes. Any TV or film adaptation is likely to have a much broader cultural reach than the novels it was based on–and there’s another reason for readers to feel anxious about adaptations. But in the end, what other people think of a story you love doesn’t matter. What matters is the individual, and inalienable, bond the story makes with you.

I don’t know how true Outlander will ultimately be to the books, but one way or another Outlander‘s literary fans will soon have to deal with all of this just as ASOIAF‘s have. (If my friend and colleague Lev Grossman’s The Magicians ends up becoming a series at Syfy, so will its readers.) And I recognize that this tension is especially strong among readers of genre fiction, who have learned to expect their favorites to be dismissed as silly stories for Dorito-stained fanboys or doily-clutching old ladies. That may be, for instance, why you don’t hear the same kind of outcry or policing among Perrotta fans over HBO’s Leftovers–literary-fiction readers just don’t have to deal with the same kind of insults. As a genre fan, you become protective. You are The Watcher–or rather, The Reader–on The Wall.

But in the end, the book is the book. The show is the show. I’m glad to accept that I’m going to get different things from one than from the other–and if one of them ends up sucking, it doesn’t diminish the other. It’s just one more reason that it’s a good thing to own both a TV set and a bookcase.

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