The Hunter or the Hunted Pt 12 (The Predator, 2018)

The_Predator_PosterShane Black, writer and director of the terrific films Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and the Nice Guys returns to the franchise he was part of at the very beginning. Black played Hawkins…who told terrible jokes to Sonny Landham’s Billy that he constantly had to explain and Billy only finds funny once.

Predators did not reignite the franchise, and so eight years later we have an attempt to reboot the series.  This film is firmly set in the continuity of the films Predator and Predator 2, with references and imagery to them, but not in a way that would be confusing to someone going in blind. It never acknowledges the third film, but it makes sense that nobody is aware of those events as they took place on another planet.

The film opens on Quinn McKenna, a military sniper with PTSD. He is on a mission when he comes into contact with a predator. The military tries to silence him by sending him to a military psychiatric hospital. There he meets a group of troubled soldiers. Meanwhile Dr. Casey Brackett is brought in to help study a captured Predator. She wants to speak with Quinn, so the prison bus is routed and they arrive as the Predator is breaking out and…well, okay…so the film is a bit all over the place in the beginning.

By this, I mean they introduce a ton of characters and that means it takes awhile to get to the meat.  But when all the threads come together, the film begins to pick up.  The finale is crazily packed with action and violence.

I like Black’s attempt to deal with human situations like Autism and mental illness.  Admittedly, at times the conditions of the soldiers can feel a bit more like they are jokes, but I still found myself liking the characters enough that when the carnage starts, I wanted them all to make it out alive.

The film has a pretty solid cast. I always like to see Thomas Jane pop up and Olivia Munn gets to be pretty badass and have more character than her role as Psylocke a couple years back in X-Men: Apocalypse.

The Predator tries to give the Predators a larger goal than simply hunting people, and it is not terrible. It is good enough to work anyways. While it is a bit slow on the start, it eventually becomes a fun action sci-fi movie.

It is too bad that the film is mired in a controversy that was brought about by Shane Black. He skipped over traditional casting and gave his friend a small role hitting on Munn. What nobody, including Munn, knew was that he was a convicted sex offender.  He had attempted to “entice” (legal term) his 14 year old cousin into a sexual relationship. Black knew his friend was an offender. Munn petitioned the studio to cut the scene, which they did. Munn faced little support in the beginning (with Black and the rest of the cast backing out of a press junkett, leaving Munn to be interviewed alone).

The cast has, since stepped up and Black apparently had been unaware of the seriousness of his friend’s situation and has apologized. He has said he is working with Munn privately to try and repair the damage.  Considering the film clearly left open for a sequel, I would like to see Olivia Munn return. Black really dropped the ball with his actions, as he did not at least make cast mates aware.

That said, I still really did enjoy the film, and in spite of flaws, it is certainly an entertaining entry to the franchise.

The Hunter or the Hunted? Pt 7 (Predator, 1987)

Predator_posterPredator is from Arnold Schwarzennegar’s action movie heyday.  Directed by John McTiernan (Die Hard, Die Hard With a Vengeance and the Hunt for Red October) it is a capable action film.  It is a simple plot, a mercenary group hired by the government goes into the jungles of South America on a rescue mission.  Instead, they find themselves up against an unseen and unearthly killer.

Arnold is the leader, hired by an old friend (Carl Weathers) for the mission so the American Government can keep it’s hands clean.  At first they believe they are just up against warlords…but soon discover they are being hunted like animals.  The killer seems to be invisible and unstoppable.

We learn it is an alien, an intergalactic creature who lives for the thrill of the hunt.  There is nothing particularly unique, hunting humans is a longstanding plot for thrillers.  But McTiernan (who would direct Die Hard only months later) shows he has the chops for telling effect action thrillers.

The cast is pretty ideal for a testosterone romp through the jungle.  Along with Schwarzennegar, there is Jesse Ventura (who went on to be Govoner), Bill Duke and Sonny Landham.  The effects still stand today, as McTiernan does not try and get overly complex.

Predator is a worthy and minor sci-fi action classic that is a lot of fun to watch.

Burning Love (Iron Man 3, 2013)

Iron-Man-3-IMAX-poster

When they announced Iron Man 3’s villain there was concern  The Mandarin was a character with a rather troubling past.  An evil magical Asian.  Then they announced he was being played by Ben Kingsley.  He isn’t an example of Whitewashing exactly (Kingsley is not white).  But in the end, this was not the big concern for most viewers.  Favreau was out…Lethal Weapon scribe Shane Black was in.

Borrowing from the comic’s Extremis story-line, Tony runs into a guy trying to outdo his armor by creating soldiers who don’t need armor.  They are living weapons.  The problem is that they are volatile and prone to exploding.  Then there is the mysterious terrorist the Mandarin.  As Tony finds the situation escalating, he goes into hiding.  He is still struggling with Post Traumatic Stress for the alien invasion in the Avengers.  As it all comes together Tony discovers a few twists, including the possibility the terrorist organization does not even exist.

As usual, the cast is stellar, and Kingsley’s reveal is entertaining.  Though as the Mandarin he has this weird southern drawl that seems…out of place. But other than that, the performances  are quite good.

Of all the action sequences, there is a sequence where Iron Man saves people in freefall that is just great.

The effects are strong, though at times the powers seem arbitrary.  People with Extremis technology exhibit some really random powers (such as breathing fire). They do look pretty cool though.  Also, the ending seems to make no sense.  Tony destroys all his armor for…I guess…reasons?  It feels like they were trying to put a stamp of closure on the Iron Man franchise when we knew he would be back for another Avenger’s movie.

All in all, I found Iron Man 3 a bit of an improvement over the second film.  It has intrigue, action and humor.

 

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