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The Predator (2018) Blu-Ray Review By D.M. Anderson

The Predator

and the Joy of Junk Food

Director: Shane Black

Writers: Fred Dekker, Shane Black 

Stars: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Olivia Munn, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera, Sterling K. Brown, Yvonne Strahovski, Jake Busey, Brian A. Prince.

Who doesn’t occasionally love a decadent snack of empty calories? That’s why I’m a little perplexed right now. Having seen The Predator twice now – once in a theatre and again for this Blu-ray review – I’m still left with this question: Did I watch a different movie than everyone else?

The movie may not have been a critical darling, but what surprises me is the overall negative reaction from audiences, especially longtime fans of the franchise. I’m not sure what they were expecting, but as tasty treats go, The Predator is easily the most satisfying of all the sequels. Much more than the insipid Predator 2 and the somewhat under appreciated Predators, this one has a lot of the same unhealthy ingredients that made 1987’s Predator such enjoyable junk food, right down to musical cues from original composer Alan Silvestri’s iconic score.

Maybe my expectations weren’t that high to begin with – we ain’t exactly talking the Star Wars saga here – but I found The Predator to be a lot of fast-moving, trashy fun. While the film certainly remembers – and acknowledges – the timeline and events established by its predecessors, it isn’t simply more of the same. It has the audacity to tweak with the formula just a bit, adding an alien agenda, of sorts (kinda like extra nuts & fudge on a sundae). It turns out that Earth is more than just the Predators’ favourite hunting ground. Without spoiling the snack, they’ve come to better themselves, so to speak, and need us – one character in particular – to become more efficient killers.

Some of the new ingredients are admittedly ridiculous (alien hunting dog, anyone?), but last thing this franchise needs is the original’s basic plot rehashed yet-again. Besides, the narrative moves along at such a frenetic pace that there’s no point trying to scrutinise it until later. That’s like regretting that sundae while you’re eating it. In the moment, The Predator is by-far, the most action-filled – and bloodiest – entry in the entire franchise, unbound by anything resembling restraint.

But what really sets this one apart from the sequels is its characters. Like the original film, squaring off against the title creature is an eclectic team, this time consisting of soldiers who’ve been relieved of their duties for a variety of criminal or psychological reasons. Self-dubbed The Loonies and led by super-sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), they are an intensely likeable and amusing bunch despite their sordid histories, making them more than just typical cannon fodder. Olivia Munn is also on-hand as Casey Brackett, the biologist who-first discovers the Predators are evolving, as well as McKenna’s autistic son, Rory (Jacob Tremblay). Refreshingly, Rory isn’t a token kid who merely exists to be rescued (though he eventually does need rescuing); his acute abilities make him integral to the plot (which I’ll concede is also a bit silly).

Writer/director Shane Black is definitely the right guy for the job. In addition to having a supporting role in the original, he did a lot of uncredited rewrites, most-notably the more humorous touches that later became one of his trademarks. Like other action-oriented films he’s since written and/or directed, The Predator is often very funny…even goofy on occasion. A healthy sense of humour has been missing from this franchise for a long time, though some viewers may feel Black tips the scales too much in that direction for their liking.

That being said, I enjoyed The Predator just as much the second time. Sure, it’s ultimately cinematic junk food, but so was the original, which didn’t take itself all that seriously either. In a way, the film plays a lot like a nasty variation of the Jurassic World films, more content with being big, brash popcorn entertainment than breaking new ground. Though some purists may balk at that, sometimes empty calories are just what we need.

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The Predator (2018) Movie Review By John Walsh

The Predator.png

Director: Shane Black
Writers: Fred Dekker, Shane Black 
Stars: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay

I was looking forward to this one for a number of months. I’m a big fan of the original ‘Predator’, a film that was the gold standard for all 80s sci-fi horror. The second was decent enough, but not a patch on the original and since then we’ve seen ever diminishing returns from the franchise, akin to the travesty that is currently ‘RoboCop’. Step forward Shane Black, a man who’s still a relative newcomer in the directors chair. He made his name through the late 80s to early 90s as a writer and an average actor, before taking matters into his own hands with ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ back in 2005. 

Since then he’s directed just five films in a thirteen year period, but despite all of that, he had me excited for a potential fresh take on this tired and ailing franchise. The aforementioned directorial debut was excellent, ‘Iron Man 3’ was solid and undeserving of the flak it received from some quarters and ‘The Nice Guys’ was one of my favourite films from 2016. The latter in particular blended brilliant humour, action, violence, snappy dialogue, interesting characters and the outright ridiculous to great effect. So for me, the question then effectively was, can he bring all of that to ‘The Predator’? The answer is yes and no. 

The characters in the Nice Guys were distinctly different, the brawn of Jack, the wackiness of March, the brains of Holly and even the two antagonists were interesting enough without major development. I felt like Black tried this here again, got close in some parts, but couldn’t quite replicate the magic. It’s a totally different world and genre, in fairness, but the characters felt a little 2D in the main. 

Quinn (Boyd Holbrook), was ok, but no powerful leading man in the vain of Arnie. Casey (Olivia Munn), was decent but underused for me and whilst I’m on the subject of interesting underused characters. Traeger (Sterling K Brown), had so much potential as the government official with insider knowledge on the Predators motives, with a real hint of ruthlessness. The ‘Loonies’ were like something out of the Dream Team sans the acting brilliance of Christopher Lloyd and Peter Boyle, though I did enjoy the banter amongst them, primarily from Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key). Finally, Rory (Jacob Tremblay), the son of Quinn, was arguably the standout, playing a shy, intelligent boy that comes out of his shell amongst the madness. 

Now for the story, perhaps the biggest disappointment of the entire thing. I spoke about it on this weeks Box Office Chat and made the admission that I wouldn’t have had a clue what was going on a more grander scale, if Traeger hadn’t delivered a lengthy bit of exposition, around the beginning of the final act, letting everyone know exactly what was happening.

What was happening? Well, the first Predator they encounter had went rogue, coming to Earth in an attempt to help the indigenous populace stave off his conquering race of sport killing, spine ripping, blood thirsty, aggressive rascals. Armed with the knowledge of global warming’s risk to humanity, they had started mixing their DNA with the human genome to make the settling in process all the easier. How does he know this? Well, he’s part of a government agency that had been watching and studying the aliens come and go since their first encounter back in Arnie’s day. Which is all well and good, but doesn’t really explain the unadulterated aggression the first chap seemed to have for the humans he was supposedly helping. 

Which brings me onto the next point nicely. You can slag this film off in the story department, in character development, the editing was a little off in the final act, even the CG went downhill towards the end too when the bigger Predator entered the fray. Hell, if you’re easy offended or PC gone mad, then there’s the Tourette’s suffering member of the Loonies that’s the butt of a few jokes. But you can’t criticise the action sequences. There’s some epic moments in there and none more so than when the regular joe Predator awoke in the lab and dished out a sustained ass whooping to everything in the room. It was sensational to watch and it showcased the power and ruthless nature that’s synonymous with these guys.

Before I Wake (2016) Movie Review By Darrin Gauthier

Before I Wake Review

Director: Mike Flanagan
Writers: Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard
Stars: Kate Bosworth, Thomas Jane, Jacob Tremblay

Plot:  A young couple adopt an orphaned child whose dreams – and nightmares – manifest physically as he sleeps.

Running Time: 97 Minutes

IMDB Score: 6.2

Why I Watched It: The trailers looked decent and I’m a huge Thomas Jane fan.

Random Thoughts: This was directed by Mike Flanagan who has built up a lot of good will and love from genre fans, he directed Oculus, Gerald’s Game and Hush, of those I think Hush is very good but what he’s done is embrace the horror genre and not try to go legit if you will, he’s one of those rare young directors who is having fun playing with the genre.

Like I said I’m a huge Thomas Jane fan, he’s an underrated actor and a very good genre actor, would love to see him finally breakout but he’s doing well but he deserves more.

What I like: This is a strange film at times cause it’s a borderline horror film, it’s more fantasy granted dark fantasy.  Now usually I don’t care too much for backstory and let’s be honest a couple dealing with a loss of a kid has been over used and sadly it’s often used as a plot point in horror but here the scenes with Kate Bosworth at her support group are good and you get a feel for her character and I think that’s a huge point cause often they use a tragedy as a character trait it’s not, we learn about Bosworth’s character and also that her husband Thomas Jane has stopped going to the group even though Bosworth would like him to. They even say everyone deals with death differently.  So as a director Flanagan does take the time o set up the characters.

Jane is very good here but he really doesn’t have much to do, Bosworth is the lead and in many ways it’s her story, Jacob Tremblay is also very good, he’s a very smart actor. Now I won’t go into to much of the plot but it turns into more of a fantasy than horror and also a mystery, some of that worked for me there’s a big twist in the film and then it’s almost all Bosworth trying to figure out about Tremblay’s dreams and what is the cause.

It’s a smart film and again a rare horror film that does take character beats and keeps the jump scares to a minimum.

What I Didn’t Like: The film is a little frustrating cause it’s well acted and directed but it doesn’t really work, the horror stuff doesn’t fit and the fact they never address how Tremblay’s dreams come to life, you would think that would be important but they call it a gift, alright well his gift kills people I might be splitting hairs here but that’s a problem.

The big thing for me is there’s death about mid way through and after that the film goes into the mystery direction and it fully work for me, the ending is too pat and what kind of bugged me was the tone was never right, either it’s a gift and people don’t die and he learns to control it or it’s evil and they have to get it our of him some how they play it down the middle and the film never really comes together. There’s an idea here, we’ve seen dreams and stuff like this explored before and I do think having a child makes it a bit different but the story doesn’t have a satisfying  third act. Also when the death happens they begin to rely on cliches and the smart writing went out the window.

Final Thoughts: Not a bad film and if you liked Mike Flanagan’s other films then by all means give it a watch.  It’s well done just didn’t click for me.

Rating: 5/10

Shut In (2016) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

 

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Director: Farren Blackburn
Writer: Christina Hodson
Stars: Naomi Watts,  Charlie Heaton,  Jacob Tremblay, Oliver Platt

Shut In is a movie that could have gone down the road of The Shining or What Lies Beneath but instead unintentionally goes down the Dumb and Dumber Too beaten track.

Now hold on, I’m not suggesting for a moment that the movie is an absolute hoot (although there are movie critics that would say the Farrelly Brothers long awaited sequel was hardly that anyway) but bare with me…..

The movie begins with an arial shot of the forresty landscape with the token house planted right in the middle of the area. This lets us know right away that at some point or another our characters are going to be isolated. Standing outside her door looking into the parked car is Mary (Naomi Watts) whilst her husband is packing in the back of the car, their son looks back at her angrily, disappointed, frustrated and angry again. In fact I’m sure one of those emotions are in there, it’s just that hard to tell with Stephen (Charlie Heaton) practically looking like this the whole time he’s in the movie.

Stephen is being carted off to boarding school having just been expelled from his previous school and the parents have had enough of his behaviour and convince themselves it would be best all round for him to leave. To be fair, Watts’ character does show signs of guilt and sorrow as her son is leaving and this is down to great acting on her part. As Stephen and his Dad are traveling down the road, he asks why he has to go and before we know it both of them are having a heavy debate whilst the car is traveling at a great speed. I feel the next sentence really shouldn’t be typed as I know, you know and everybody SHOULD know what happens next….. okay for anyone out there who may not see where this is going the car collides with an oncoming vehicle and the screen goes black.

We’re now 6 months later after those events and that isolated house out there in the woods is now covered thick in snow and at this point we don’t know if the father or son survived as we see Mary waking up and going downstairs for a cup of tea. The surrounding are quiet and empty leading us to believe for a moment that both of them died from the car accident. As I said, just for a moment until we discover tragically Stephen lying in his bed no longer able to mentally function and Mary looking after him now.

As the scenes unfold on what her daily life now involves we also discover that Mary is a  child psychologist and her office is basically the wooden lodge next to her house where she councils her patients whilst nipping back and forth to make sure her son (who we now discover is actually her stepson) is comfortable. We are introduced to a small boy Mary is counselling, who has behavioural and communication problems but who Mary is fond of disappears from her house, in the freezing cold winter in Maine.

With Mary now juggling looking after her stepson and helping looking for the missing boy, things start becoming a little weird in her household. Her confidant is Dr. Wilson played by the brilliant Oliver Platt who is in most of the key scenes in the movie who in turn is counselling Mary via Skype on night terrors she is experiencing. Dr. Wilson having checked a blood sample a few days later comes back with alarming results indicating Mary has been using non prescribed drugs and worse still taking Stephen’s dosage which he regards as putting both their lives at risk. Naturally Mary defends her corner denying taking anything for her night terrors and this is where she walks away from Dr. Wilson whilst on Skype. The Doctor not wanting the discussion to end so abruptly calls out for her at his end and is shocked when he sees a figure moving across the screen quickly that has a similar silhouette to her Stepson Stephen.

Now up to this point the movie was interesting, but only just, as I felt up to this point the writing and acting was very predictable and the movie was using every suspense and horror cliché going but the moment that figure appeared on the screen which was supposed to be a natural shock to the system came across to me as the point where the movie “Jumped the Shark” This then opened up a new debate…..did Stephen just pull a Lloyd Christmas on us? Was he really pretending to be in a vegetable state for SIX MONTHS? Did he defy and con medical professionals with neurological expertise into believing his brain was barely functioning? The answer to all these questions was a big fat YES.

The reason? Stephen didn’t want to share his stepmom with anyone else. Especially the little boy he kept locked up in the basement. OH COME ON. *sigh*

Shut In to be honest had little substance with a very under developed plot that made no sense at times and other times wasn’t consistent with its writing. The third act appeared lazy and predictable where this was heading and a particular scene when Mary is trying to escape with the young boy through a skylight that she smashes (and grabs the attention of mad Stephen who is searching for both of them from top to bottom) only for her to then inform the young boy they can’t escape that way? What? Why?

You would assume the performances from the established Watts and Platt would have saved this in some fashion but she is doing her best to keep everything above the water, and Platt is there to deliver the predicable exposition. Charlie Heaton as Stephen to be fair plays the role with a creepy intent albeit a little predictable….hold on I’m using that word again. That’s what this movie is though and where it falls flat. You can honestly see the set up of each scene and how it is going to unfold. Throwing in a few dream sequences doesn’t save this movie but just adds to what I can only call a predictable thriller (I’m cringing putting these two words together but that’s exactly how it comes across)

I wasn’t expecting Shut In to be laced with the writing of Stephen King, nor was I expecting it to stand shoulder to shoulder with Kubrick’s The Shining in directorial tones. The movie is a flat piece of disappointment and really is adding another nail in the coffin to a dying genre. If you haven’t watched this, I can’t recommend it. If you have, I am assuming like the character of Stephen we can only hope our state of vegetation isn’t really there and it was just the effect of this movie hopefully wearing off.