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Alexandre Aja
Richard Dreyfuss, Ving Rhames, Elisabeth Shue, Christopher Lloyd, Eli Roth, Jerry O'Connell, Cody Longo, Steven R. McQueen, Kelly Brook
Writing Credits:
Pete Goldfinger, Josh Stolberg

There's Something in the Water.

Every year the population of sleepy Lake Victoria explodes from 5,000 to 50,000 for Spring Break, a riot of sun and drunken fun. But this year, there's something more to worry about than hangovers and complaints from local old timers; a new type of terror is about to be cut loose on Lake Victoria. After a sudden underwater tremor sets free scores of the prehistoric man-eating fish, an unlikely group of strangers must band together to stop themselves from becoming fish food for the areas new razor-toothed residents. The film stars Jessica Szohr (Gossip Girl), Steven R. McQueen (The Vampire Diaries), Elisabeth Shue, Jerry O'Connell, Ving Rhames, Adam Scott, Richard Dreyfuss, Christopher Lloyd, and Kelly Brook.

Box Office:
$24 million.
Opening Weekend
$10.106 million on 2470 screens.
Domestic Gross
$25.003 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 88 min.
Price: $34.95
Release Date: 1/11/2011

• Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Alexandre Aja and Producers Gregory Levasseur and Alix Taylor
• Deleted Scenes
• “Don’t Scream, Just Swim: Behind the Scenes of Piranha 3D” Featurette
• Deleted Storyboard Sequences
• Trailer and TV Spots
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Piranha [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 10, 2011)

Since 1978’s Piranha existed as little more than a rip-off of Jaws, does that make the 2010 remake a rip-off of a rip-off? Or perhaps this is a situation in which two wrongs will make a right.

Whatever the case, I thought it’d be interesting to see where a Piranha remake would go. The Arizona town of Lake Victoria remains quiet most of the year, but it attracts tons of college kids looking to party every Spring Break. This means Sheriff Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue) contends with petty misbehavior but nothing too serious.

Until this particular spring break, that is, when an unusual threat develops. An underwater earthquake unleashes a horde of killer piranhas, and they immediately chow down on a drunken fisherman (Richard Dreyfuss). When Forester discovers this, she calls in a research team to find out what happened, but she doesn’t close down the lake.

Bad call, as the influx of Spring Breakers ensures a smorgasbord of young, juicy flesh for the ravenous piranhas. This includes her kids, as teenager Jake (Steven R. McQueen) takes a job as part of a “Girls Gone Wild”-style shoot on the lake, and twins Laura (Brooklyn Proulx) and Zane (Sage Ryan) go AWOL and find themselves stranded on an island. Chomp chomp chomp!

While the 1978 Piranha didn’t exactly attempt to hide its status as a Jaws wannabe, the 2010 version positively revels in this concept. It gets the concept out of the way immediately, as its opening scene shows Richard Dreyfuss as Matt Boyd, a character who dresses just like Matt Hooper from Jaws - and he sings “Show Me the Way to Go Home”, too!

That’s the first, last and only clever sequence in Piranha 2010. After that, the movie devolves into little more than a cheesy horror flick without much to say for itself beyond the standard roster of cheap scares.

3D cheap scares at that, though you’ll not dig them in this 2D version. Actually, I doubt they work very well in the 3D rendition, as they tend toward the “in your face” Dr. Tongue School of 3D. That means we get silly, gimmicky effects that could occasionally be fun but get annoying before long.

And that’s especially true in the 2D version. Is there anything less appealing than obvious 3D photography without the actual 3D imaging? Not much, so the effects do little more than irritate here.

I probably wouldn’t care if the movie wasn’t so cheesy. Yeah, I understand that it’s supposed to be cheesy. After all, this isn’t high art; it’s a tongue in cheek remake of a tongue in cheek rip-off of a summer action flick. One can’t realistically expect greatness from that.

But one can expect something more fun than this nonsense. When director Alexandre Aja reworked The Hills Have Eyes back in 2006, he did quite well with it. He took a poorly made horror flick and turned it into something pretty scary and effective.

Unfortunately, Aja couldn’t work the same magic twice. Ironically, Piranha is both less of a literal remake than Eyes and more of one. When Aja redid Eyes, he followed the original’s story pretty closely; the movie mostly improved due to better production values and a generally more competent crew. That was enough; Aja reinvented no wheels but he simply delivered a more professional film.

With Piranha, we get a much less literal remake in terms of story. The original featured genetically engineered fish, the military and various insidious plots, whereas the sequel just opts for ancient, cheesed-off piranhas who emerge at the wrong time – well the wrong time for the college kids, at least.

While the Piranha remake went with story changes, it hewed closely to the original in terms of tone. The 1978 flick opted for an awkward mix of comedy and gore, and the same occurs here. I’d say it pretty radically ups the ante in terms of graphic violence, though; the third act provides a nearly constant stream of bloody attacks.

Really bloody attacks, in fact – so bloody that the movie made me a bit sick to my stomach. Even with all the gore, the film still wants to play things for laughs, and fans of total gross-out material will probably enjoy it. The shots were too much for me, though, as the non-stop stream of horrifying material became almost overwhelming. It’s one thing to have a much-gnawed dude declare “the fish ate my penis”, but it’s another to see two piranhas fight over the dismembered member.

Ugh. This all falls in line with the tone of the first movie, as it also opted for rampant chomping in place of an actual third act. However, the original flick wasn’t nearly as graphic. Like I said, I have no problem with onscreen violence, but Piranha just goes way too far and it becomes nearly unwatchable due to all the nastiness.

This is the part of the review where you might expect me to say “that’s a shame, as the movie’s good until it becomes so graphic”. But I can’t say that because it’s not true. Piranha largely stays in neutral for its first half, as very little actually happens. We see the characters put themselves in position to be eaten and that’s about it; there’s little real exposition to be found as the film builds toward the inevitable mayhem.

So that makes Piranha half boring and half nauseating. I prefer the boring part, and the movie does toss in some really hot nude shots of Kelly Brook and Riley Steele. Otherwise, this is just a tedious gross-fest with little to redeem it.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio A-/ Bonus A-

Piranha appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Most of the time, the image looked good, but some mild exceptions occurred.

Sharpness was usually quite solid. However, a little softness interfered. At the 31:00 mark, I saw a weird double-image that looked like 3D viewed without the glasses, but that wasn’t more than a brief glitch. Again, most of the flick appeared positive. I noticed no signs of jaggies or shimmering, and edge haloes were absent. No signs of source flaws appeared in this clean transfer.

Colors took on somewhat stylized tones. Despite the sunny setting, the hues tended toward either a bit of a bluish or amber tint. Neither overlay was heavy, though, and the colors usually came across as fairly robust. Blacks were deep and tight, and shadows were decent, though some day for night shots seemed a bit dense. Overall, this was a good image but not a remarkable one.

More consistent pleasures came from the consistently aggressive DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Piranha. From start to finish, this was an active affair that used all five channels to positive effect. In particular, scenes with attacking fish mustered a lot of dynamic material; they swarmed all around the room and filled out things well. Other scenes showed nice involvement as well, so the track presented a dynamic sense of place.

In addition, audio quality satisfied. Music appeared full and rich, and effects followed suit. Those elements came across as dynamic and accurate, with good, tight bass response. Speech always seemed concise and natural. I felt consistently pleased with this terrific track.

The Blu-ray provides a moderate collection of extras. We open with an audio commentary from producer/director Alexandre Aja and producers Gregory Levasseur and Alix Taylor. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific view of adapting the original film, cast and performances, sets and locations, effects, music, and other aspects of the shoot.

Though the thick accents of Aja and Levasseur require some interpretation – “Joes” means “Jaws”, for instance – the track manages to provide a fairly robust look at the film. The three participants mix well and cover a good variety of topics. They don’t take the movie too seriously, and they cover it well.

Six Deleted Scenes fill a total of seven minutes, 37 seconds. These include “Pet Emporium” (1:37), “Cheerleaders” (1:15), “Sand Island Ghost Train” (0:49), “The Kiss” (2:02), “Cliff Diver” (1:05) and “Andrew’s Death” (0:49). “Pet” and “Cheerleaders” introduce some secondary characters that otherwise just kind of appear, while “Train” and “Kiss” develop some roles a little better. “Diver” offers another death scene, and “Death” – well, it does the same, though at least it follows a character we know, while “Diver” goes with some anonymous schmoe.

Should any of these clips have made the final cut? I’d say that “Pet” and “Cheerleaders” probably would’ve been good adds since they helped flesh out some secondary roles, this is especially true for “Pet”, which would’ve better grounded the Christopher Lloyd part. “Andrew’s Death” would’ve been a nice addition as well, if just because it shows us what happens to that character; otherwise he just vanishes. (It’s also hilarious to see Paul Scheer acts out an attack; “Death” lacks visual effects, so he has to pantomime the fishy assault.)

We can view the scenes with or without commentary from Aja. He tells us a bit about the sequences and lets us know why they got the boot. He continues to be informative and engaging. He also refers to a director’s cut; I don’t know if the Blu-ray was originally supposed to include an alternate version of the film or if he discusses a future release.

Next comes a 10-part documentary called Don’t Scream, Just Swim: Behind the Scenes of Piranha 3D. All together, it lasts a whopping two hours, nine minutes and 38 seconds as it features notes from Aja, Levasseur, Taylor, producer Mark Canton, screenwriters Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg, director of photography John R. Leonetti, location manager Denton Hanna, key assistant location manager Kevin Foster, director of underwater photography Pete Zuccarini, production designer Clark Hunter, picture boat coordinator Mike Anderson, KNB makeup special effects Greg Nicotero, Mike McCarty and Jake Garber, , special effects supervisor Matt Kutcher, special effects coordinator Caius Man, composer Michael Wandmacher, creature designer Neville Page, visual effects supervisor Derek Wentworth, special effects technician Tom M. Baltazar and actors Christopher Lloyd, Paul Scheer, Jerry O’Connell, Adam Scott, Steven R. McQueen, Elisabeth Shue, Sage Ryan, Brooklynn Proulx, Jessica Szohr, Kelly Brook, Riley Steele, Eli Roth, Ashlynn Brooke, and Cody Longo. “Scream” looks at the remake process, how Aja came to the project and aspects of story/characters/tone, cast and performances, sets and locations, photography and visual design, effects, music, the depiction of gore, stunts, using 3D, and a few other thoughts about the flick.

Never would I have expected such a substantial documentary about such an insubstantial film! ”Scream” really does dig into the film’s creation well, as it goes over a broad array of subjects with satisfying detail. Oh, it’s not perfect, but the combination of details with ample behind the scenes footage makes it a very good program.

Under Deleted Storyboard Sequences, we see segments for two unshot scenes. These cover “Billy Burger Shack” (3:10) and “Mini-Van” (8:02). The former shows a piranha attack on a floating restaurant, while the latter depicts a couple whose vehicle slips into beast-infested water while they bone. Both segments actually have some potential, but we don’t get main characters in either, so they’d be superfluous; the movie already contains more than enough mayhem.

The disc opens with ads for Game of Death, Resident Evil: Afterlife, Sniper: Reloaded, The Virginity Hit and Ticking Clock. These also can be accessed under Previews. Finally, the disc tosses in the film’s trailer as well as four TV Spots.

After a good remake of The Hills Have Eyes, I hoped director Alexandre Aja could give us a fun reworking of Piranha. Unfortunately, this failed to occur, as the movie becomes nothing more than a bad combination of boredom and nauseating gore. The Blu-ray offers mostly strong visuals, excellent audio and a solid array of supplements. While this is a top-notch Blu-ray, the movie itself usually flops.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1.5538 Stars Number of Votes: 65
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