Movie: Into the Blue 2 – The Reef

Into the Blue 2
Into the Blue 2

Clearly the makers of Into the Blue, a perfectly benign diving and treasure hunting movie, or some other third force, decided that the first effort did not contain sufficient nudity, and was too heavy on plot. Enter Into the Blue 2 – The Reef. It’s the same plot – down to fairly minute details such as the female protagonist breathing from an inflated lift bag on the bottom of the ocean – as Into the Blue, but features unknown actors whose main abilities involve wearing a wet t-shirt with aplomb and accidentally exposing their breasts while asleep in bed.

There really is a fair amount of (female) nudity and gratuitous focus on the female form (extended montages of beach volleyball, lapdancing in a club, and other activities requiring only small pieces of clothing and marginal acting ability) which shocked me each time it appeared because on all other levels the movie seemed to be something a child would enjoy. It distracts from the plot repeatedly (on second thoughts, this may have been a deliberate ploy).

The diving sequences are decent – the action takes place off Hawaii, and the water is beautiful. There’s not that much sea life on show, however, apart from beautiful turtles. And there’s lots of free diving… Surprise! Tony and I loved the scooters – I think that’s what they were. Looked like jet skis without the handles on top, and worked above and below the surface. The driver lay on top of the device and held on with both hands.

I mostly enjoyed this – it’s fluff – but got tired of being flashed with such regularity, and at the most unexpected times. I fully understand that many others will feel differently about this, and that this review may in fact have persuaded you that this is a MUST SEE. Each to his own, I guess!

If you really must, the DVD is available from or

Movie: Fool’s Gold

Fool's Gold
Fool's Gold

When we sat down to watch this, I warned Tony to concentrate because it’s a complex, demanding, nuanced film. Not. Set in the Caribbean, it’s an entertaining, fast-paced, TOTALLY undemanding and quite funny account of an underwater (and above ground) treasure hunt, which seems to be all that people do in that part of the world.

Fittingly for Valentine’s Day (apparently that’s sometime soon) there’s a love story in here somewhere too. Or a lust story – I couldn’t make up my mind.

The clarity of the water is unbelievable – top to bottom visibility – and even though the diving sequences are relatively brief in the overall arc of the movie, they’re entertaining. Curiously, the inimitable Donald Sutherland plays a fairly important role as a wealthy yacht owner, and the scenes in which he is taught to scuba dive (in a jacuzzi onboard the yacht) are priceless.

The film does perpetuate the myth that Hollywood stars are uniformly able to hold their breaths for upwards of three minutes, while performing complex tasks underwater and still looking attractive and put together. I choose not to believe this (and it’s not because I can only hold my breath for 30 seconds, and look like a deranged chipmunk while doing so). If I had a hot stunt double, I am sure I too could hold my breath long enough to anchor myself to a submerged cannon in a blowhole to prevent the rapidly incoming waves from washing me out of the top, and have a meaningful sign-language conversation with my significant other (also looking hot) while doing so.

There’s nothing challenging here, but sometimes that’s a good thing. After a weekend diving in two metre visibility at Long Beach, this reminded me that better days (and dives) are coming!

The DVD is available here. If you’re not in South Africa, you can get it here.

Movie: Thunderball


There is much to love in a quality James Bond movie, particularly one which starts with Bond having an extravagant fight with a man in a black dress, totally trashing a large regency-style drawing room in the process. This is one of Sean Connery’s early Bond films – released in 1965.

Two nuclear warheads have been stolen, and must be recovered. Bond travels to Nassau in the Bahamas where he does a lot of diving – some to find the warheads, some to flirt with the ladies, and some to fight with criminals underwater. One free diving episode features a lady diver holding onto the back of a clearly distressed turtle. As soon as she releases the turtle, it ascends for air. Poor dude!

Thunderball heavily inspired the Austin Powers movies, which adds an inadvertent element of humour when viewing them in retrospect. The villain, one Emile Largo, has an eye patch and a white fluffy pet cat, and throws failures and enemies into his pool of reef sharks, who obligingly eat them alive.

The aqualung had only been around for about 15 years when this movie was made, but it has some awesome underwater fight sequences (knives cutting air hoses, masks ripped off…), and features a huge orange sled/DPV capable of transporting up to six divers at once. The divers use harnesses rather than BCDs, the exhausts on their regulators are behind their heads, and they have no octos, but other than that look as good – or perhaps better, because their gear is a uniform basic black (including their cylinders) without bits hanging off – than divers today. Of course, they are a team of crooks, so they have to dress in matching togs.

When Bond eventually locates the sunken plane – incidentally containing his lady love’s completely undecomposed brother – he instructs his pilot to shoot one of the sharks milling around the site “to keep the others busy”. Nice.

The film concludes with an EPIC underwater fight scene – goodies in orange, baddies in black – involving perhaps 30 divers. There is hand to hand combat, lots of spear guns, knife fighting, and a lot of frantic finning. Nearly a quarter of this two hour movie was filmed underwater.

There is so much goodness here… The standard Bond misogyny – women swooning over him and being used and discarded in short order, very short shorts on unashamedly hairy men, a young Sean Connery… and a boat called the Disco Volante. The underwater scenes are very well done, and plentiful. What’s not to love?

The DVD is available here if you’re in South Africa, otherwise click here.

Movie: Sanctum

I don’t often wish I lived somewhere else, and to say that recent events made me wish I lived in the USA would be a bit of an exaggeration… But I did have a passing pang of wistfulness when I received an email from a lady called Jennifer, the publicist for a new movie produced by James Cameron – he of big budget extravaganzas such as Titanic, Avatar, and some other stuff. He also happens to be a keen scuba diver.

The movie’s publicists are using the blogosphere (how I hate that word) to drum up excitement and publicity for the movie. One of the bloggers we follow, Duane Johnson of Precision Diving based near Chicago in the USA, has already gotten busy!

This is pretty new to us, being bloggers of relatively recent vintage and attracting a fairly narrow range of readers… We don’t get offered freebies! More mainstream bloggers get given all sorts of goods from cases of wine, to jeans, to dresses, iPhones and handbags… In exchange for blogging about their virtues. Granted none of those items would interest Tony and only a few would interest me (except for the iPhone, which would interest both of us)… But it’s the principle of the thing. So I was kind of happy to be contacted by Jennifer.

We were invited to participate in various regional events planned for the film’s launch and to blog about the movie in exchange for free bits and pieces to give away to our reader(s). But the promotional events are all happening over in the USA. And apparently the market defined by “readers (a couple) of South African scuba diving blogs (one so far)” is too small to warrant the film company shipping shirts, caps and pen lights out to our shores. Boo hoo!


Anyway, the movie is called Sanctum, and it sounds pretty cool. (And I said that without being given even a single ballpoint pen for free.) The plot synopsis/excited promotional material reads as follows:

The 3D action-thriller Sanctum, from executive producer James Cameron, follows a team of underwater cave divers on a treacherous expedition to the largest, most beautiful and least accessible cave system on Earth. When a tropical storm forces them deep into the caverns, they must fight raging water, deadly terrain and creeping panic as they search for an unknown escape route to the sea.

Master diver Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh) has explored the South Pacific’s Esa-ala Caves for months. But when his exit is cut off in a flash flood, Frank’s team—including 17-year-old son Josh (Rhys Wakefield) and financier Carl Hurley (Ioan Gruffudd)—are forced to radically alter plans. With dwindling supplies, the crew must navigate an underwater labyrinth to make it out. Soon, they are confronted with the unavoidable question: Can they survive, or will they be trapped forever?

Shot on location off the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, Sanctum employs 3-D photography techniques Cameron developed to lens Avatar. Designed to operate in extreme environments, the technology used to shoot the action-thriller will bring audiences on a breathless journey across plunging cliffs and into the furthest reaches of our subterranean world.

I think Cecil will enjoy it, for one! Here’s the official website for the movie. There’s also a youtube channel that might be worth checking out (after Tony’s, of course).

The film opens in the USA tomorrow. I hope it comes to cinemas here, otherwise we’ll have to order the DVD directly!

P.S. The poem quoted repeatedly in the movie is called Kubla Khan and it’s by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. You can find the complete text here.

Movie: Waterworld

I used to be the biggest Kevin Costner fan this side of the Atlantic. I watched all his early movies, Robin Hood being a particular favourite. Somehow I never got around to seeing Waterworld… Tony’s prompting, and its presence in the bargain bin at Look and Listen, caused me to remedy this recently.

Waterworld starring Kevin Costner
Waterworld starring Kevin Costner

The premise is that the earth has been covered with water, and almost all memory of dry land has been lost. Not much is made of this, but it appears that some humans have started to evolve gills that enable them to breathe underwater. Costner’s character, a nameless mariner/drifter, is one such individual.

The film was made with an insanely large budget – a fact which becomes apparent early in the movie – and was panned by critics. Despite that, I enjoyed it immensely, and it wasn’t just Kevin Costner in his half ponytail and dangly earrings!

There are some spectacular action sequences, both in the floating cities that the inhabitants of Waterworld congregate in, and on the open sea. No marine life is featured except – I think – a basking shark, that is caught and eaten.

I was disappointed that there wasn’t more underwater footage. At one point the Mariner takes Jean Tripplehorn’s character down to see the sunken remains of a city, using an open-bottomed diving bell. Apart from that, and brief views of the Mariner swimming like a dolphin, the rest of the action is on the surface.

Tony was particularly taken with the gadgets and contraptions that the Mariner has rigged up on his ship. All of it is put together from found objects, looks very scrappy, but works like a charm. The Mariner’s vessel is a three-hulled craft that he pilots at great speed. I think this made Tony nostalgic for his sailing days!

We were amused to see that the ship the villain was using as his base was the Exxon Valdez, the remains of the enormous tanker that ran aground off Alaska in 1989 and caused one of the most environmentally devastating oil spills in history.

You can get the DVD here if you’re in South Africa, otherwise click here. It’s entertaining and action-packed, if that’s what you’re after!

Movie: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

This is my favourite movie – I can’t believe I didn’t think of it earlier in the category of “ocean movies”! It has an incredible cast – Bill Murry, Angelica Huston, Cate Blanchett, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe and Jeff Goldblum. The humour is not laugh out loud funny, but – in true Bill Murray style – the kind that makes you chuckle or smile to yourself.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Steve Zissou is an underwater researcher like Jacques Cousteau (even down to the Speedos and little red caps). The film traces his attempt to track down the jaguar shark that ate his partner, and his reunion with his illegitimate son. The sea life is rendered using computer graphics or giant puppets – most of the creatures shown are fictional, but beautiful nonetheless. My favourite part of the movie was the Belafonte, Steve’s ship. The actual ship used in the filming was a former South African minesweeper. but a huge cross-sectional model was also constructed.

I also loved the soundtrack – very quirky, with some tracks specially designed by Mark Mothersbaugh to sound like they were produced on a Casio electric keyboard.

There are many things about this movie that make me laugh when I think about it.

  • Steve getting covered in leeches while wearing his ridiculous shiny blue wetsuit
  • Willem Dafoe’s character’s gift for choosing TOTALLY random Bible readings for funerals
  • Alistair Hennessy’s (Jeff Goldblum) very gay crew, with impeccable fashion sense, when contrasted with Steve Zissou’s ragtag bunch
  • The female crewmember on the Belafonte who is gratuitously topless most of the time
  • The Adidas tracksuits and branded sneakers
  • The number of people squeezed into the submersible at the end, when they’ve found the jaguar shark (far more than it’s rated for)

Aside from the comic element, the film is very moving indeed. The final scene when the crew walks down the jetty over the credits is beautiful, as is the exit from the awards dinner with Steve Zissou carrying a little boy on his shoulders. The music at that point was perfect.

The DVD is available here if you’re in South Africa, otherwise here. If you liked the soundtrack, including some David Bowie performed in Brazilian Portuguese on an acoustic guitar, you can get it here or here.

Gift ideas for Christmas

Anyone who’s had the misfortune to set foot in a shopping mall lately will be aware that Christmas decorations are out, and Christmas shopping is in full swing.

If you have a diver, or potential diver, in your life, getting them something to do with their hobby as a Christmas or Hannukah gift is a good idea. Lucky for you, Learn to Dive Today has suggestions for all budgets!

Under R300

Check out the bookshelf category for book ideas, and the movies and documentaries categories for DVD gift ideas.

Under R1000

What about a Discover Scuba Diving gift voucher from Learn to Dive Today? The Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) experience is designed for people who have never dived before, and want to try it out – perhaps before committing to a full Open Water course, or perhaps just for the experience.

Discover Scuba Diving voucher
Discover Scuba Diving voucher

You’ll meet at the beach, have a short briefing explaining the gear and basic dive principles and safety, and then go in the water. Tony will teach you a couple of essential skills – very basic things like mask clearing – and then you go for a dive. That way you get to experience what it’s like to be a diver, first hand, to see if the bug bites!

If you enjoy the dive and want to take it further, you can get the cost of the DSD credited towards your Open Water course.

If you want to order a voucher, email Tony.

Over R1000

Can I get on your Christmas list?! You might find possible gifts in the Gadgets and Gear category – from dive gear to cameras…

Any budget

Have you considered making a donation to the organisation of your choice – Reach for  a Dream, the NSRI, or SANCCOB for example – on behalf of your gift recipient? This is a very special gift that has the potential to do a lot of good in this world that so badly needs it, and impacts more than just the people giving and receiving the gift.

Movie: Master and Commander

Set in 1805, during the Napoleonic wars, Master and Commander chronicles the pursuit by a British vessel – the Surprise – captained by Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) of a French privateer. Most of the movie takes place on the high seas, as the magnificent sailing vessels race around South America.

The skill and teamwork required of the crew in order to sail these ships is incredible. The battle scenes – loading and firing cannons and manoeuvering the ships – are terrifying, and one is reminded how brutal war is. There is a peculiar dignity in these battles, however, as the combatants can see each other and are evenly matched. Since they’re fighting at sea, there are no civilian casualties. There’s also a harrowing episode during which the doctor (Paul Bettany) has to perform surgery on himself, and one is reminded how far medical care has progressed in the last 200 years!

The Surprise stops in the Galapagos Islands, and there’s a beautiful interlude during which the ship’s doctor is able to indulge his love for naturalism before the chase begins again.

Master and Commander starring Russell Crowe
Master and Commander starring Russell Crowe

This is an epic (literally – it’s’ long!) movie, meticulously made. Russell Crowe gives an excellent performance as Aubrey, and the tall ships are almost characters themselves as they dominate the action to such an extent. They are filmed from above and also from the viewpoint of the crew, so their full scale as well as the detail on board is apparent.

The soundtrack is magnificent (both the captain and ship’s doctor play string instruments and derive much pleasure from duets together) – you may remember the trailer to this movie featuring one of Bach’s Suites for Unaccompanied Cello (Suite No. 1 in G Major), which captures the spirit of the open sea to perfection.

The DVD is available at or

Movie: Into the Blue

There aren’t many movies about or featuring diving, so perhaps my tolerance for poor quality is higher than it would otherwise be. This is an undemanding thriller set in the Bahamas.

Into the Blue
Into the Blue

A regular-featured cast, sunshine, clear water and an uncomplicated plot make this a crowd pleaser. The main character is a diving instructor and his girlfriend is a shark handler, and there’s a fair amount of scuba and free diving (which I find tremendously impressive… I can hold my breath for about ten seconds at a stretch). The film does demonstrate how quickly things can go wrong on a dive, as well as the use of lift bags, buddy breathing and a scene in which one of the characters takes breaths directly from the pillar valve of a cylinder while swimming into an aeroplane carcass ten metres below the surface of the ocean. All skills that it’s useful to have.

The Bahamas are riddled with shipwrecks, and you see a range of nifty gadgets for finding and recovering material on the ocean floor. The cast dive in board shorts and bikinis most of the time, testament to the balmy water temperatures in the region.

One doesn’t actually see that much marine life apart from some sharks – including an unfortunate shark attack which did not seem to be a factual representation of shark behaviour. Ah well. There’s not a lot to be seen in the way of coral, fish or sea plants. Most of the underwater shots are over a fine white sand bottom.

This isn’t high quality film making, but it’s reasonably entertaining. If anything, this movie will make you want to run away to warmer waters and become a treasure hunter. stocks the DVD, as do