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Special Effects Make-Up
A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
Have you ever seen a photo of the Canadian, Gull-wing, 1975 SV-1 Bricklin?
Extraordinarily beautiful car. Classic lines and classic look and a certain timelessness that, even today, stands out in a crowd of cars over 30 years younger. It still looks like something from the future. SV stood for Safety Vehicle and it wasn't. Safe that is. Those gull wing doors, at 100 pounds each, opened manually - manually - and despite the V8 engine, the car went from 0 to 60 in the same day. About 10 years later, the 1986 Nissan 300z would imitate its lines with superior performance and reliability and go on to greater sales.
You want to talk ridiculously slow, yet cool looking car? Let me tell you about the 1980 Corvette 305 "California". This is what I have to say about this 180hp engine "muscle" car. Don't buy it. Don't even let someone give it to you.
The 1981 DeLorean looks futuristic, but there was a very good reason John Z. DeLorean had greater success (for a limited time only) selling cocaine. The uber-egotistical John popped a hole-hearted Peugeot 2.8 liter V6 engine in the damn thing!
The stunningly cool looking 1982 Camaro Iron Duke had a 90hp - that's right - a 90 horsepower 2.5 liter 4 cylinder engine. A Prius can actually outrun it!
All of these were/are beautiful cars. None of them lived up to their looks or even pedigree. But this is a movie review so where am I going with this?
PREDATORS, directed by Nimród Antal (VACANCY), is allegedly based on an old script by Producer Robert Rodriguez and re-worked by two first-timers, Alex Litvak and Michael Finch. I say allegedly because while there has been much talk about the original Rodriguez story, his name doesn't appear in the writing credits.
With only a few cosmetic changes, the body of PREDATORS is pretty much the original PREDATOR. But you know what? I was entirely fine with that.
It is presented as a sequel to the first two not counting the ALIEN vs PREDATORS, and I'm good with that too. After two decades it's long established that the Predators like to hunt in jungle type settings, be it arboreal or urban jungle. They aren't for the flat wide open spaces of fields, meadows, oceans, or deserts. They prefer lots of hiding places that their cloaking devices - which render them almost, but not entirely invisible - can let them blend into.
The movie begins with a man falling out of the sky. He wakes up as he is falling, quickly realizes that he is falling, and frantically searches his body for a parachute. Finding none, he can only scream as he plummets to his death. But we see on his chest a timing device that fans will recognize as Predator tech. The lights and sound blink faster, faster, faster, until they go off in alarm and auto eject a parachute for the falling man, saving him from certain death.
The man doesn't have time to get his bearings before he sees people fall all around him. All are confused and ready to kill. Well, except for those whose parachutes didn't work.
The first man, played by Adrien Brody (SOLO, THE VILLAGE, THE JACKET, KING KONG ) soon comes face to face with another man, who we eventually learn is Cochilla (Danny Trejo: THE HIDDEN, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN [all], ANACONDA, THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, HOOD OF HORROR, GRINDHOUSE, Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN). This meeting is tense but soon interrupted by another drop in and the roll call starts now.Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov),
Isabelle (Alice Braga: I AM LEGEND, REPO MEN),
Mombasa (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali: THREAT MATRIX [TV], THE 4400 [TV]),
Stans (Walton Goggin: SWITCHBACK, THE CROW: SALVATION, THE BOURNE IDENTITY, HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES),
Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien: ROBOT STORIES),
Edwin (Topher Grace: SPIDER-MAN 3),
and Noland (Laurence Fishburne: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3, EVENT HORIZON, THE MATRIX [all]).
So far the movie is all good and I'm in 5 Shriek Girl territory. There is a slight stagger when the whole mess of folks stand in awe, as awe music plays, and they are all looking at something. When we finally see that something it is a simple stone object jutting out of the ground. It is not awesome and there's no reason to stand staring at it as if dumbfounded.
No problem though, they still have me in the zone.
We learn that nearly all of the folks who are here are high-tone military or criminal baddasses. Chochilla is a kidnapper from Tijuana, Mexico. If the ransom isn't paid, he sticks the hapless victim in a steel drum of gasoline and sets them on fire.
Hanzo is a hardcore Yakuza hitman who thinks nothing of going native and walking through the woods in bare feet. Everyone else are sundry mercenaries or soldiers. All were plucked out of the middle of, or the heat of, battle. All except one.
Edwin is out of place with this group. He's a doctor and he knows his toxic plants. He didn't arrive with weapons like the rest and nothing about the way he is dressed or behaves fits. Adrien Brody's character actually says this to Alice Braga's character, making Edwin the first act gun on the table. Moreover, Topher Grace plays the whole role the same way he played Eddie Brock in SPIDER-MAN 3 and even Eric Foreman in That 70's Show.
Adrien Brody goes through this movie talking in a gruff, throaty, Clint Eastwood voice. Hey, he's trying to extend his acting range. That's the least an Oscar winner can do. Topher, however, is not about to extend his acting chops. Eric Foreman he began and Eric Foreman he shall remain.
They all walk into a variety of traps in a very cool scene and even find who made the traps, which heightens the tension and the fear factor.
As they - now very carefully - trudge through the jungle, they try to figure out just where they are. Some of them have fought all over the world and yet they recognize nothing of this topography. It seems to be a little of every forest and jungle on earth in one place, but that can't be right. Braga's character makes a simple water compass. The leaf turns around and around, meaning they are on one of the earth's poles, surrounded by magnetized rock, or are on a world that doesn't have magnetic poles: Curiouser and curiouser.
Another thing, Brody's character notices that, though they've been walking for hours and are now out in the wide open, the sun doesn't seem to move.
Back into the jungle they go and in short order they are attacked by some creatures that are all spiny, tusky, and toothy. The varmints are hard to kill, but not impossible. They go through various adventures for the longest time and its all good. But the sun really does move and as it sets they come to another clearing. While they were in the jungle, the sky certainly changed. There are all kinds of moons or planets or what not. Earth this ain't.
All kinds of merry mishaps occur as the group is slowly picked off and I'm really enjoying this movie. I feel I got my money's worth. I also feel it's time for a
For the majority of PREDATORS, nothing happens that would realistically pull me out to say "Bullshit". We don't know the extent of Predator technology, we don't even know if the planets in the sky - one of which looks suspiciously like Jupiter - are real or just an artificial projection or hologram.
We've already seen that Predator technology allows for the bending of light, so an overhead sky projection is a piece of cake. Hell, we humans make sky projections right now.
This area is clearly one big WESTWORLD themepark for the Predators and we never really learn anything about it as a whole. I'm totally fine with all of that too. The story isn't about discovering new worlds but learning how to survive.
The problems begin around the last 10 minutes of the movie. This is the part I can't tell details about. For one thing, this HUGE reveal, presented as a surprise, happens and yet it was forecast in the first act of the movie - and not subtly either. Characters in the movie came right out and said, "Something's not right about X." So of course, everyone in the audience saw it coming from WAY the hell off and is onboard with it.
Now up until this time, you could hear and feel the audience reacting positively to PREDATORS. The yelps in surprise at the right time; the cathartic laughter at the right time. Then the reveal surprise, which is neither, happens. The audience gets all quiet. I didn't do a poll, but I'm guessing the dead quiet wasn't a good thing.
Then something else happens that seems like it will save the movie. But then something else happens that is flat-out stupid. Entirely dumb! There is no reason for it other than only one thing: If we have a sequel we want some of these actors to return.
The 100% thing about every single PREDATOR movie is this: the only ones who ever return are the god damn Predators!
PREDATOR is not predicated on the same characters coming back again and again to fight the Predators. The Predators are too big, too strong, too advanced. The only things that have ever saved the life of a human is their cunning, chance, and the Predator's own sense of honor or maybe sport (there's a whole lot of wiggle room there).
Make the sequels about returning human characters and the Predators stop being giant, powerful, deadly, and technologically advanced bad motor scooters. They become mere tricycles with safety stickers.
Up until the last ten minutes of PREDATORS, this is a 5 Shriek Girl movie, right? Yes, we're back in the jungle like the original PREDATOR. Yes we go through the jungle and down the waterfall as the Predator(s) pick off the humans one by one - but that's what is supposed to happen.
People turn into Vampires with a bite.
We don't want the Predators to go all ALIEN and have the humans come across a Mother predator laying eggs.
We don't want the Predators to go all TREMORS and start burrowing underground and coming out at us.
The Predators are already sort of like an ultra-bad ass version of a Klingon so I'm willing to grant some slack if that ever comes around. But when you make a Predator movie, you make a freaking Predator movie.
Now anyone who watched old 1980s creature features knows that, when a studio wanted their damn sequel, they would first End the Movie. The movie comes to an End. Then, AFTER the clear-cut end of the movie, they'd tack on the ten or fifteen seconds of "What if?", for the potential sequel.
The sequel ending IS the end of PREDATORS, transforming a hardcore, action-packed, gritty, wickedly cool, 5 Shriek Girl movie into a Hollywood Sappy Happy Non-Ending!
People who should have died are inexplicably not dead. And the reasons they are still alive are senseless and flipped out at the audience with - of all things - a Freddy Krueger-style glib quip "I missed my ride."
The last ten minutes of the movie senselessly betrays the logic and story of everything that went down before in this movie, and the way the Predators operate in every movie.
Anyone who would look at that and say, "Hey, duh..., it's just a movie!" has zero concept of entertaining cinema, holding an audience, and will never make a good movie in their lives.
In. Their. Lives!
I have seen and bought movies that I wouldn't give more than three Shriek Girls to: They aren't great, but they're good.
Rock solid good.
From beginning to end they were never in 5 or even 4 Shriek land, but they never dipped below it either. PREDATORS is an otherwise excellent movie with an embarrassing ending. Robert read the script before it was directed and he saw the final cut before it was released. For many, many years I've watched and greatly enjoyed Robert Rodriguez' movies. I've also watched the DVD extras of his film classes. So I know For A Fact that he knows better than to pull shit like this.
Rodriguez KNOWS film making way better than this!
What the hell, man. What the hell?
Two Shriek Girls.
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