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.

What If the Piranhas Were Tiny Sharks??? (Deep Blue Sea 2, 2018)

Deep_Blue_Sea_2_PosterSpielberg’s Jaws begot Joe Dante’s Piranha which begot more man eating fish movies.  One of the most fun of these films was the 1999 smart sharks thriller Deep Blue Sea.  A fun film starring Thomas Jane, Samuel Jackson, Saffron Burrows and LL Cool J, Deep Blue Sea has become a bit of a cult classic.  In spite of painfully dated (and weak) CGI sharks (though the mechanical sharks used in the film are quite impressive) the film still holds up as a solid b-movie thriller.

So, to capitalize on the success of the original, nineteen years later we have a sequel.  Shark conservationist Misty is hired by the billionaire Carl Durant to offer her expertise with his special project involving sharks. She is introduced by “loving” shots of her diving with sharks in a sexy wet suit accompanied by a theme song that literally contains the phrase “the Deep Blue Sea”.

Along with Misty is a scientist couple Leslie and Daniel Kim. Durant is using genetically modified sharks to try and create a powerful serum. The purpose of the serum are vague, and Durant is revealed to be injecting himself with the serum and it appears to be destroying his mind.

The plot is essentially the same.  The characters are trapped in a sinking research lab besieged by super smart sharks. Oddly, we do not see them deal with the sharks all that much as the main threat is actually the babies of the lead shark. The babies hunt in a big pack and behave like the piranha in the Piranha movies.

These changes don’t really make the film feel all that fresh…and the motive of Durant is laughable terrible.  In the original film, the obsessed scientists were trying to create a cure for Alzheimer’s.  It was a noble cause where you could totally understand the risks they took. But in Deep Blue Sea 2? Durant’s goal is to create a serum to genetically modify people to prepare for the coming robotic/AI takeover. He is trying to prepare for the arrival of Skynet.

The movie also has a lot of callbacks to the first film, but all they do is remind you how much better those scenes were in the original.  Probably the only area where the film has an improvement is the CGI sharks look better.

Deep Blue Sea 2 is a prime example of the “Unnecessary Sequel”. It fails to live up to the original and yet cannot even manage to be the realm of so bad it is good. It comes close to that edge, but never manages to fall over it.

Sharks Got Brains (Deep Blue Sea, 1999)

Deep_Blue_Sea_PosterScientists may have cracked the code for an Alzheimer’s cure. but they need to keep their funding.  Rich business man and adventurer Russell Franklin needs convincing, so he is visiting their research facility.  The facility is a floating fortress, with most of it being below water.  The reason for this is that the research involves sharks.

It is the weekend, so it is a bare bones staff of scientists, a shark wrangler, an engineer and the cook.  The shark wrangler, Carter, has a checkered past and this concerns Russell in the beginning.  As a storm approaches, they try and prove their success with Russell.  Russell (as well as Carter) is startled to see just how smart the sharks seem.  When a tragic accident forces the team to try and medivac out a scientist, the storm interferes and gives the shark an open.  In a freak series of events, the facility is heavily disabled.

The crew is forced to outwit the sharks and try to reach the top of the facility, which is sinking fast.  Russell is stunned when Dr. McAlester confesses they broke laws regarding genetic research and have genetically altered the sharks’ brain structure, making them larger and smarter.

The cast of characters are pretty stock characters, I mean, Samuel L. Jackson’s Russell Franklin is the type of guy you expect him to be.  Cause this is Sam Jackson.  He is quietly intense, but also loud and bombastic.  Carter (the Punisher’s Thomas Jane) is calm and smart, rarely rattled.  Preacher (the cook) is kind of the stereotypical Black Movie Guy.  Sarcastic attitude and brief comments about God (the character’s backstory includes being a failed pastor).  But LL Cool J has fun with the role.  At one point Preacher believes he may not make it and grabs a video camera to leave a legacy…it is not quite what you expect.

The sharks are a combination of digital and practical.  The mechanical practical sharks actually look really good.  The digital ones vary from scene to scene.

Easily one of Renny Harlin’s better films, Deep Blue Sea is a fun thrill ride of a film with a good cast.

 

Doling Out the Punishment (The Punisher, 2004)

Punisher_2004_PosterThere is a lot to like…and yeeet…

Created in the early 1970’s by Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru, he debuted in Amazing Spider-man # 129,  the first attempt at the Punisher was in the 80’s.  It starred Dolph Lundgren.  At the time the casting seemed like an obvious choice.  But then the movie came out.  It was really more like they had a Dolph Lundgren action movie and decided they should market it as the Punisher because…hey, why not?  He did not even have the skull as part of his outfit.

The Punisher was enjoying a resurgence thanks to the immensely popular series being handled by Garth Ennis.  Ennis brought a wicked sense of humor to the character combined with an over the top approach to the violence (certainly not a new formula for Ennis, but rather his stock and trade).

Certainly, the Punisher seems like an obvious character to adapt.  He is not special effects intensive and his costume is not that complex.  To accommodate the age of the actor (Thomas Jane) they opted to make him an Iraq War vet who is now in the FBI.  After a drug bust results in the death of drug lord Howard Saint’s (John Travolta) youngest son, Frank Castle finds his entire family dead.  In the comics, it is his wife and kids…in the film?  It’s at a family reunion.  So, like, the entire extended family is slaughtered.  Talk about raising the stakes.

Frank survives the attack, because boy would this be a short movie if he died… and goes out for revenge.  Frank hides out in a shabby apartment complex that also is inhabited by Joan the Mouse (Rebecca Romijn), Spacker Dave (Ben Foster) and Bumpo (John Pinette).  Joan is a nervous woman, hassled by an abusive boyfriend, while Bumpo is an overweight guy with a grand love of cooking.  Spacker Dave is just kind of a strange dude.  They are curious about their new occupant, who never seems to interact with them.

Frank has converted his apartment to an armory.  He kidnaps low-level employee of Howard Saint Mickey (Eddie Jemison).   In an odd torture sequence (done more to show how clever the Punisher is-as he never actually hurts Mickey) he coerces Mickey to be his eyes and ears and his informant.

Castle works his way through Saint’s men working up to Saint himself.  In the end, the Punisher leaves Joan, Spacker Dave and Bumpo behind (but leaves them a little gift) and gets ready for the Punisher 2.

I said there is a lot to like.  For one thing, the film has a terrific cast.  Jane is a credible Frank Castle and is able to make the character dark and brooding-while finding the humor.  Frank doesn’t crack jokes, but his actions can border on the comical.  During his torture of Mickey, he explains how a blowtorch flame is so hot, it feels cold as it cooks the skin… he then presses a popsicle to the sufficiently freaked out Mickey’s back.  When the session is done, he shoves the popsicle in Mickey’s mouth (causing Mickey to realize he was played).  The fight with the Russian follows the comic closely, with Frank taking a beating while his neighbor obliviously prepare a meal.

The film touches on the quirkiness in the Ennis Punisher run.  The inclusion of Joan, Spacker Dave and Bumpo was good, as it gives the Punisher some human interaction that is not fighting or killing.  The Punisher is a smart and clever man in the film, which is an important aspect of the character.

Romaijn is kind of odd choice for Joan.  In the comic, Joan is pretty plain… Romaijn is/was a Super model.  They end up making her Hollywood Plain.  She does a good enough job…but still…

The flaw of the film is Howard Saint.  Not because Travolta is bad in the role.  He chews the scenery in an entertaining way.  But he really is “generic mob villain.”  Welcome Back Frank (the clear inspiration for much of the film) featured a memorable mobster in Ma Gnucci and her sons… Ma survives an attack from the Punisher and is just as dangerous with no arms or legs.

To include over the top stuff like the Russian (Kevin Nash) and Harry Heck (country singer Mark Collie-the character is the answer to “What if Johnny Cash was a mob assassin?”) but then not go as over the top with the main villain?  It just keeps the film from being as good as it could have been.  The issue with the Russian is that he is silent.  In the comics he is ridiculously talkative.  Plus, they never use Detective Soap from the comics, who played for strong comic relief throughout Ennis’ run.

And in the comics, the Punisher punches a bear.  Why wasn’t that in this film?!

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑