Halle Berry and Olivier Martinez in "Dark Tide." (Joe Alblas / Lionsgate )
Shark movies have been suffering under comparisons to "Jaws" for more than 35 years, and with good reason: Steven Spielberg's 1975 waterborne frightfest remains a classic. "Dark Tide," directed with hopelessly flagging energy by John Stockwell, barely musters up enough interest to be thuddingly bad.
Halle Berry stars as a shark-loving, Cape Town-based marine biologist who's backslid into a life of guided tours since losing close friends to great-white attacks on one of her uncaged, communing-with-sharks excursions a year prior. But her estranged husband (Olivier Martinez, smarming it up) and a wealthy thrill-seeker (Ralph Brown) somehow convince her to host another date with deep-sea danger.
We see the crew guy throwing chum in the water to attract sharks, but there's little in the way of characterization, motivation or underwater action to entice moviegoers. The only palpable emotion from "Dark Tide" is sadness for Berry, treading water in dreary efforts like this.
"Dark Tide." MPAA rating: PG-13 for bloody shark attacks/disturbing images, and for language including sexual references. Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes. At Laemmle's Noho 7, North Hollywood; AMC Loews Broadway 4, Santa Monica.
Send 'Goon' to the penalty box
The monotonously lowbrow hockey comedy "Goon" stars Seann William Scott as Doug Glatt, a simple-minded bouncer with a knockout punch who's recruited by a minor league team to be their enforcer, the guy for whom fighting skills trump skating acumen.
But instead of a rousing, good-heartedly vulgar team-sports movie like "Slap Shot," we get a sloppy, unimaginative Cinderella story with more emphasis placed on profane locker room taunts than characterization or narrative or the details that make up a brutal sports culture. (The screenplay is by actor Jay Baruchel, who gives himself an obnoxious role as Doug's violence-enabling pal, and Evan Goldberg.)
As soon as Liev Schreiber's grizzled, veteran goon from another team is introduced, all you're doing is waiting for his rink showdown with Doug, and even that's anticlimactic.
Director Michael Dowse does exhibit a flair for the player-and-puck geometry of a fast-moving match, but any time the action stops for a blow-by-blow with "Raging Bull"-style slo-mo, the energy deflates.
Scott isn't bad: He sells the comedy of his character's ingrained politeness as much as the aggression. But "Goon" feels like a movie starring a gimmick, not a person.
"Goon." MPAA rating: R for brutal violence, nonstop language, some strong sexual content and drug use. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. At the Nuart Theatre, West Los Angeles.
An important conversation for women
The vital and enlightening documentary "Hot Flash Havoc" takes a detailed look at the under-discussed topic of menopause while unraveling its various medical, social and sexual ramifications. To call the film appointment viewing for women of a certain age is perhaps an understatement.
Director Marc Bennett, with the help of writer-narrator Marnie Inskip, effectively tracks the curious evolution of menopause — and female physiology in general — and the relatively recent strides made in the understanding and treatment of a key health issue that eventually affects every woman.
"Havoc" largely focuses on the upshot of 2002's U.S. Women's Health Initiative study that demonized the hormone therapies widely used to combat such menopausal symptoms as depression, lack of libido, memory loss, mood swings and, of course, the infamous hot flashes. The film posits that the government-sanctioned study misrepresented its results, causing panicked women everywhere to dump their estrogen-based medications thereby endangering their health and well-being.
A wide array of medical experts, professors and researchers, plus many women whose lives have been profoundly affected by menopause, weigh in on the sensitive subject with clarity, candor and at times humor. Even if the material doesn't always lend itself to scintillating filmmaking, there's no refuting the enormous value of the information shared here.
"Hot Flash Havoc." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.
Drawing strength amid the horrors
Bolstered by astute performances, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's artful and skillfully told new horror film "Intruders" trusts in the narrative richness of modulated creep. The darkness threatens, but it tells a story too, one you may find both nerve-jangling and, in its portrait of a terrorized family's inner strength, surprisingly moving.