If you feel the need to stare at hot, half naked people fighting: “Rocky III” on AMC
Let’s be honest: you’re not watching “Sharknado 2: The Second One” to engage intellectually with art holding great cultural merit. You’re doing it for a good dose of fun, and maybe for a little bit of the eye candy to boot. There will be — if we’re lucky — the occasional visceral rush when a shark falls from the sky into the bed of a half-naked couple whilst canoodling. That brief bit of laughable humor may lead to some funny tweets, but it’s not worth the two hours of your life you have to give up in order to understand them.
So save yourself the trouble of watching “Sharknado 2” and instead engage with a film providing the same visceral value, as well as a story everyone with American blood running through their veins is already familiar with: “Rocky III.” It’s not the first “Rocky,” which is simply too great a film to provide any kind of unintentional levity, or the fifth “Rocky,” which is cringe-level bad. This is “Rocky III.” You get to see Sly’s horrified face upon seeing his statue unveiled on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. You get to watch Mr. T act tough while wearing FEATHER EARRINGS. You even get to see Hulk Hogan throw Rocky like a rag doll into a group of incredibly lucky extras. Then there’s the training montage, running through water, and the “You ain’t so bad!” taunting that will forever be used when besting an opponent you once feared (for me, it’s usually during a game of checkers with my niece).
But aside from all that, you also get to see two men at the peak of their form dance around the ring a few times with flexing their muscles and glistening in fake sweat (though an argument could be made for Sly’s physical peak being reached with his ‘roided up bod in “Rocky IV”). Trust me. You’ll feel a lot better than you will after seeing Tara Reid sweat through her layers of makeup.
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If you want some believable science fiction: “Extant” on CBS
So perhaps your imagination craves a little additional stimulation — that doesn’t mean you have to settle for “Sharknado.” Instead, there’s CBS’s “Extant,” which isn’t the most showy of sci-fi programming, but is evolving into an interesting tale of the near-future, full of advanced technology and intrigue. “Extant” is an odd series, especially for a CBS show (there’s a distinct lack of mysteries being solved), but Halle Berry’s space pregnancy and robot son remain a lot more believable than literal sharks falling from the literal sky to squash New Yorkers.
If you want to be shocked and appalled by Andy Dick: “The Hebrew Hammer”
Torture is most bearable as fine blows: quick and to the point. No need to waste precious moments. If you’re looking to really get yourself sick on some Andy Dick, there’s only one film you can turn to and it certainly doesn’t involve watching him in a freaking half-baked cameo as some NYPD officer. I’m talking about the iconic debut film by your soon-to-be favorite director Jonathan Kesselman — “The Hebrew Hammer.” Oh, it’s bad. So, so bad you’ll love it. It stars Dick as Damien Clause, the son of Santa, who seeks to destroy Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, thus reserving December for Christmas alone. It’s a hoot and half. Dick continuously brings the heat, fighting against a snappily dressed half-pimp/half-Hasidic Jew, Mordechai Jefferson Carver (Adam Goldberg). Watch the entire film here. You know you want to.
If you want to see Ian Ziering at his best…
Even though it may not have been his intention at first, during the latter part of the thirteen year period in between “Beverly Hills, 90210,” which ended in 2000, and last year’s first “Sharknado,” Ian Ziering cultivated a career in dance. It all began with his stint on “Dancing With the Stars” back in 2007: Ziering was paired up with professional dancer Cheryl Burke, who had won the competition the past two seasons. The pair made it all the way to the semi-finals before being cut, and Ziering even received a perfect score for one of his two performances during the semi-final round.
Despite losing “DWTS,” Ziering’s career in dance was far from over. Fast-forward to 2013, when Chippendales, the famous exotic male dance troupe that performs at the Rio in Las Vegas, announces that Ziering would be joining them onstage as a celebrity guest star for a limited, four-week engagement. Ziering lost a considerable amount of weight in anticipation of appearing onstage with the Chippendales, and boy was he a hit! Audiences loved him so much that Chippendales brought him back again this summer for another limited engagement that ended just recently on July 20. Watch the video below — if Ziering isn’t proof that “old is gold,” then you might want to get your eyes checked.
If you’re going to be depressed by American television: “The Leftovers”
We’ve been pushing HBO’s dark drama on everyone for weeks now (with some positive results), but I don’t know if I ever took the time to say “it’s not for everyone.” Consider this that moment.
If the mere existence of “Sharknado 2: The Second One” as a real film with an IMDB page and everything is enough to make you start weeping, then save those tears for something cinematically rewarding instead. You will cry during “The Leftovers,” or at least feel your stomach deaden as the ever-darkening issues facing the citizens of Mapleton continue to stack up. But afterward you will at least be able to note the merit behind your remorse.
“The camerawork was excellent in those first two episodes,” you might say to your friend, who is also searching for positive elements of life to cling onto minutes after the credits roll. Or perhaps you’ll go with, “Wow. I can’t believe Justin Theroux had such a powerful, textured performance of controlled insanity and rage inside him this whole time,” in an effort to remind yourself it’s just TV, not real life. No matter what you say to bring yourself out of the funk, you’ll feel clean when it’s all over. With “Sharknado 2,” you’ll be running to the shower.
If you’re craving chainsaw action: “American Psycho”
There’s an art to wielding a chainsaw in the air, screaming something and getting a little messy. Sadly, you’re just not going to get that watching “Sharknado 2: The Second One.” It wildly misses out on the finesse of it all, reducing the once-great act to utter madness. It’s a depressing sight, one that makes you recall the golden days of “American Psycho,” where things were a little different. Mary Harron definitely understood how to craft a scene featuring a chainsaw-wielding maniac: The chase, the Bateman, the nudity, the build up, the tension and the howl. It was truly perfection.
If you must see Tara Reid in SOMETHING: “Josie and the Pussycats”
No one will ever say that Tara Reid is a great actress. But hell, every once in a while there’s a perfect marriage between material and actor, and “Josie and the Pussycats” (the movie) encapsulates that. The “Sharknado” veteran doesn’t make her case for Royal Shakespeare Company membership in “Josie,” but she is adorable, and likable, and clearly in on the film’s insider-joke-y-ness. For Reid actually has a pretty tough role to play in the film, as she mocks crass 1999 MTV ideals even while (at that point in time) in a relationship with MTV figurehead Carson Daly. The film itself is great, a perfect post-modern parody of teen consumer culture. The backstory on the key Reid-Daly fight sequence? Even greater.
If metaphorical sharks will satisfy you: “Swimming with Sharks”
This hit indie about characters named Guy and Buddy is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and while there aren’t any actual sharks, there’s more blood than you’d expect in a workplace comedy about movie making. So there’s that. This revenge comedy stars Frank Whaley (“Field of Dreams”) and Kevin Spacey in a roll that quite obviously foreshadows his turn in the 2011 similar film “Horrible Bosses.” Either way, if it is an exciting movie you are craving, why not plop down in front of Netflix to watch this exciting movie about the excitement of making movies?
If only real sharks will do: “Open Water”
Stand aside “Jaws.” “Open Water” is probably the most terrifying film about sharks, nay the most terrifying film about the ocean, that has ever existed. The fact that the scenario happened in real life makes it all the more horrifying. Writer-Director Chris Kentis’ film follows scuba diving enthusiasts Daniel and Susan, who are stranded in the open ocean after their boat leaves them behind. The story was loosely based on the real case of Tom and Eileen Lonergan, who went on a diving trip along the Great Barrier Reef and were left behind when the diving company failed to take an accurate head count before returning home.
Though their bodies were never found, diving gear washed up on a beach miles from where they left, and a diver’s slate was discovered with the message: “[Mo]nday Jan 26; 1998 08am. To anyone [who] can help us: We have been abandoned on A[gin]court Reef by MV Outer Edge 25 Jan 98 3pm. Please help us [come] to rescue us before we die. Help!!!” Freaking horrifying to think about, right? Well, throw in a circling pack of hungry sharks and you’ve got the psychological horror that is “Open Water.” Throughout their ordeal, the duo suffers through dehydration, disorientation, the stings of jellyfish and, oh yeah, the fact that sharks are slowly nibbling away at their flesh. This movie is a masterpiece in terrifying tension and a truly innovative way to vicariously experience the realistic terror of sharks. (But it doesn’t end well. You can probably guess why.)
If you need something to live-Tweet: “Australia” on FXM
Easily — easily! — the biggest draw to watch “Sharknado 2” for anyone with a social media account (and that’s everyone) is to read the funny tweets and Facebook posts coming out of it. You want to engage like you did last summer, taking part in a national event that keeps going for more than the two hours of run time. Everyone was in on the joke, and everyone enjoyed themselves (a little too much) — so why not do it again?
I’ll tell you why: Instead of mocking something, instead of tearing something down — especially something asking to be done so — why not spend your time re-evaluating a piece of sincere cinema like “Australia”? Take a second look at Baz Luhrmann’s gorgeous ode to the films of yesteryear, complete with multi-arc construction, star turns, and Hugh Jackman doing the best Clark Gable impression ever put to human eyes. Don’t eagerly rip it to shreds. Its flaws are ones of good will. You should be smiling and rolling your eyes out of your own ability to empathize with pure emotions, not sardonic ones.
Consider it an exercise in good-heartedness. If you can’t get behind that instead of a film that asked you to pay for its best scene, then what hope do we have for the future of the art?
Because magic will also make your time disappear: “Penn and Teller: Fool Us”
Look, if you’re even considering the concept of watching “Sharknado 2” tonight, you clearly have a high capacity for suspension of disbelief. In that case, why not check out tonight’s CW premiere of “Penn and Teller: Fool Us”? It’ll make you question your understanding of the physical world. It’ll astound you with the feats on display. And you’ll be on the edge of your seat as you watch the magicians on screen seek to stump two of the world’s greatest performers of magic. Will they succeed, and move on to perform in Vegas on Penn and Teller’s stage? The outcome is far less likely than whether or not Ian Ziering survives this latest shark attack.
(Casey Ciprani, Shipra Gupta, Brandon Latham, Oliver MacMahon, Liz Shannon Miller and Ben Travers contributed to this list.)