What’s In the Box?! (Bird Box, 2018)

bird_box_posterOne day, the monsters arrived.  People seem to be taken by a force and then kill themselves. If that sounds familiar, you actually remember 2008 M. Night Shyalaman film the Happening.  That film had people committing violent suicides and people trying to flee the city and solve the mystery.  The twist was that it was the trees that did us in.

Oh, sorry…spoilers.

The Happening is (for good reasons) not fondly remembered. It does have a couple very well done freaky moments. But it just becomes laughable.

Here, the problem is that…well…if you see the monsters…you are toast. And so, the only way to survive is to keep your eyes closed. For artist Malorie, this situation is even more troubling as she is pregnant.

Malorie soon joins a group of survivors in a house. Blocking the windows, they find themselves finding inventive ways to survive. But as the months tick by, they find that they must take bigger and bigger risks.

The film is focused on Malorie and her children and her detachment from life. The children are born after the event and simply named Boy and Girl.  The three are trying to take a boat down river to a sanctuary. Using flashbacks, we get to see how the relationships within the house grow and break down…where trust becomes hard to come by.

The “keep your eyes closed” part is the most gimmicky, and yes, does evoke last year’s wonderful a Quiet Place. Unlike a Quiet Place, we do not share in the characters’ experience. With Bird Box, although there are a few brief moments seen through the blindfolds of characters, the camera remains in third person.  Admittedly, forcing us to be blind whenever the characters are would get pretty obnoxious.

One of the really nice tricks is the film never tells us what the monsters are. We know people see them and then also seem to see loved ones… but we only see or hear the effects of their movement, not the creatures themselves.  There are some really interesting artist renderings at one point, but really, who knows if this is really what the creatures look like or merely what the artists saw in their heads.

Bird Box is, thankfully, a much more effectively done take on a general idea like the Happening.  The film has a really good cast and some really effective sequences.

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.

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