Tag Archives: Shane Black

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.

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.

The Nice Guys (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh

THE NICE GUYS

Director: Shane Black
Writers: Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi
Stars: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice

An enthralling, mismatched buddy, action comedy from Shane Black. The Nice Guys is set in the seedy, underbelly of 1977, Los Angeles and follows the bungling antics of Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and the slightly more competent Jackson ‘Jack’ Healy, as they attempt to solve the mystery of a pornstar’s death and also track down the elusive Amelia Kuttner (Margaret Qualley), a nutty activist whose disappearance may provide some answers.

And it’s the death of the pornstar, Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio), that strikingly opens the film. An extended, funk heavy, opening theme pans down to a house and we see a young boy sneak into his parents bedroom to steal his fathers smutty magazine. At the exact moment he’s looking in silent awe at the centrefold model, we see a car careen down the embankment from the mirror over his shoulder and crash straight through the house. The whole sequence is somehow morbidly amusing, though even now I’m not entirely sure why? Of course it’s only the same model from the centrefold that appears before the boy, her dress ripped from her in the chaos of the crash. She only has time to mutter the seemingly gibberish line, “How d’you like my car, big boy?”, before succumbing to her injuries.

We’re then introduced to our leading pair in the form of several synchronous noir scenes narrated by both. Flashing back and forth between the two to provide the audience with a brief backstory before diving into the main story. These scenes do an insightful job of getting the two very different personalities across. March is the forlorn looking, struggling private eye, who is earning his cob doing investigative work for old ladies. Jack takes a more hands on approach to his work and the beating he dishes out to March in their first meeting perfectly encapsulates this. This first meeting between the pair is not entirely indicative of the blooming bromance that’s about to unfold with the latter’ inability to stop grasping for his gun earning him a potential “left spiral fracture” and a darkly humorous ear piercing scream. The parallel focus on both characters briefly continues. March follows up the beating and warning about tracking a potential lead in the Amelia case by going to the grandmothers house to inform her that he’s ending the investigation. His interesting father and daughter relationship is then somewhat perfectly summed up by a quick little chat between the two. “Tell me the truth and don’t take it easy on me because I’m your father. Am I bad person?” He asks her with a reply of “yes” coming back within a split second. Jack at this point has already been assaulted and taken as a prisoner by Blueface (Beau Knapp); the moronic villain of the piece, who earns his name by getting covered in dye. It doesn’t last long though and he soon turns the tables on his assailant.

Jack then tracks March down to a bowling alley where his daughters birthday is being held and after a funny standoff involving a toilet cubicle, they decide to join forces to investigate the disappearance of Amelia together. Shortly afterwards the pair of them end up at a seedy, surreal party, mingling with pornstars and all manner of other craziness, joined by a gate crashing Holly (Angourie Rice), March’s barely pubescent daughter. We see the trio go about fishing for details. Becoming progressively more drunk as the night goes on and even taking a dip with a pair of mermaids at one point. March develops a penchant for falling from heights and takes a tumble off a balcony into a wooded area only to stumble across Amelia and a dead porn director. Gosling’s facial expressions and reaction to the corpse are genuinely hilarious, as is the non-plussed manner in which he tells Jack about his earlier swim. Holly, meanwhile, talks herself into trouble and a flurry of action erupts. Several fights, a drunken car chase, plus a hit and run later and Blueface is lying dead whilst Amelia has made a run for it. They’re then introduced Judith Kuttner (Kim Basinger); the secretary of justice and mother of Amelia. After giving a believable version of events, she hires the pair to find and protect her daughter.

The next day March is nursing a hangover though still drinking and a small slip of paper found at the party by Jack is the only lead they have. After a moment of seeming, logical, clarity by March, the self confessed worse detective in the world, the duo head for an apartment block in Burbank only to find it’s been demolished for two years, crushing his new found hubris almost immediately. They then end up running into a path of destruction at an airport hotel and a hitman going by the name of John Boy (Matt Bomer). Initially fleeing the scene before turning back, Amelia then falls onto their car and ends up back at March’s house, where she admits to starring in a porn film involving Misty, so she could help bring attention to a air pollution conspiracy involving her mother and Detroit cars. Following, a dream sequence that resembles what I’d imagine an LSD trip to be like and yet another car crash, it quickly becomes evident that they’ve been betrayed by the secretary. A shootout with John Boy then follows and an escaping Amelia makes her last dash into the crosshairs of the hitman. After yet another eureka moment from March, this time he’s on the money, the focus turns to airing a duplicate reel of the film found in Amelia’s, grandmothers house in an attempt to gain justice and expose the whole conspiracy. Many shootouts, chase scenes, falls from height into pools later and a bitter Judith is put away. The car company ends up getting off scot free however, but the new bromance is solidified with the ‘Nice Guys’ investigative agency being formed.

The leading pair of Gosling and Crowe deliver two tremendously entertaining, funny performances. The former playing the bumbling, drunk with sorrowful undertones to perfection. The latter playing the rather portly, brute with a sensitive side equally well. They both appear to have great on and off screen chemistry and it really helps the film and their performances. Angourie Rice almost steals the show though as the young daughter with a mental maturity well beyond her years. Her characters presence acts as the glue which binds March and Jack together. She should be commended for such an assured performance at a still relatively young age. I couldn’t discuss the acting performances without giving high praise to the banter and deadpan delivery of humour between the three, which at times was absolutely hilarious.

Having missed this during its summer 2016 release, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. It did a good job of sprinkling in dark humour with some fairly violent moments and it had a decent little story which kept me intrigued throughout. I’d highly recommend giving it a watch.