The Predator movie review

THE PREDATOR

Director : Shane Black
Cast : Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Keagan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera, Yvonne Strahovski, Jake Busey
Genre : Action/Sci-fi
Run Time : 107 mins
Opens : 13 September 2018
Rating : M18

The-Predator-posterHunting season has come around again: in the fourth instalment in the mainline series of Predator films, the galaxy’s deadliest killers have returned to earth to stalk their prey.

Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is a former Army Ranger-turned mercenary who had a run-in with the alien species nicknamed ‘the Predator’ while on assignment in Mexico. Quinn salvages the Predator’s helmet and wrist gauntlet, which wind up in the hands of his young son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), unbeknownst to his mother Emily (Yvonne Strahovski). Rory has high-functioning autism, and decodes the Predator’s language, unwittingly summoning more Predators to earth.

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The authorities refuse to believe Quinn’s account, sending him to jail. Quinn is put on a bus with several other misfit veterans, including former Marine Nebraska Williams (Trevante Rhodes), Coyle (Keagan-Michael Key), Baxley (Thomas Jane), former Marine Lynch (Alfie Allen) and former Blackhawk helicopter pilot Nettles (Augusto Aguilera). The oddball bunch is waylaid when a Predator gets loose. Quinn and his new dysfunctional unit team up with biologist Casey Brackett (Olivia Munn). They must not only evade the Predators and ensure Rory’s safety, but also outrun government agent Will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown), head of the shadowy Stargazer operation.

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The Predator franchise has often had difficulty getting up and running. The original 1987 film is regarded well, while Predator 2 and the spin-off Predators have more or less gained cult movie status. With Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, the Alien franchise has gotten somewhat high-falutin’ with its philosophical musings. The Predator films have tended to embrace their B-movie roots, something which director and co-writer Shane Black keeps alive in this one.

Black was there from the beginning, having played Hawkins in the first film. He previously worked with co-writer Fred Dekker on Monster Squad. As is typical of Black’s work, there is an undercurrent of smartass-ness running through The Predator, with everyone quipping back and forth. At the same time, there’s a welcome scrappiness to the movie, which seems the right scale and doesn’t become as bloated or as production-line as it could’ve been.

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The Predator possesses a nervous energy about it, apt for a film in which the protagonists are being hunted. It is sometimes difficult to discern what’s going on in the action sequences, but there are several inventive chases and fights. Special effects suit designers Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis of Amalgamated Dynamics Inc have worked on previous incarnations of the Predator, and there’s a welcome tactility to the creature that balances out the other parts of the film that rely more heavily on digital visual effects work.

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Dutch’s crew in the first film is one of the all-time great movie ensembles. Black puts an off-kilter spin on that by making the heroes of this film a collection of troubled, often-goofy outcasts. It’s as if the whole team has been Hawkins-ified, to varying degrees. They generate excellent chemistry, and the pairings of Holbrook and Rhodes, and Key and Jane yield results onscreen. There is the danger that the overall humorous tone might undercut the stakes, but there is enough grimness and gore to remind us of the mortal danger the characters are in.

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Boyd Holbrook has a laconic charm about him. While the Quinn character isn’t as charismatic as some of his cohorts, as the leader types in action movies are wont to be, Holbrook lends the part enough of a haunted quality and a devil-may-care vibe.

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The inclusion of a child with high-functioning autism is one of the film’s few concessions to schmaltziness. Jacob Tremblay of Room and Wonder fame does a fine job portraying a sensitive, gifted child, who is key to the fight against the Predators because of his ability to decipher their language. It’s a plot point that is handled with surprising finesse.

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Olivia Munn throws herself into the scientist role but can’t help but come off as the weak link. Maybe it’s just this reviewer, but she has a tendency to come off as unlikeable and isn’t quite convincing as either a biologist who has cracked the Predators’ genetic code or as a gun-toting badass.

Sterling K. Brown has a healthy amount of fun with his untrustworthy G-man character, while Keagan-Michael Key works overtime to steal the show, succeeding on many occasions. Jake Busey makes a cameo as Sean Keyes, the son of Peter Keyes, the character played by his father Gary in Predator 2.

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The Predator has been described by other critics as “messy”, and while this reviewer will corroborate that, its messiness is not necessarily a bad thing – at least until the third act, which was hastily reshot after poor test screening results. There are moments when it feels like the story’s foundation is a little too flimsy to support some of the ideas at play, and there are also times when the wink-and-nod fanboy appeal gets in the way of the action and violence working on a visceral level. Its ending blatantly, clumsily begs for a sequel, but there’s enough in this instalment for long-time Predator fans and newcomers to the franchise to appreciate, if they can get on Black’s wavelength.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

 

Why Him?

For F*** Magazine

WHY HIM?

Director : John Hamburg
Cast : Bryan Cranston, James Franco, Zoey Deutch, Megan Mullally, Griffin Gluck, Keagan Michael-Key
Genre : Comedy
Run Time : 1h 51min
Opens : 29 December 2016
Rating : NC16 (Coarse Language And Sexual References)

why-him-posterIt’s every father’s nightmare: your daughter falls in love with (dramatic pause) James Franco. The father in this case is Ned Fleming (Cranston), who owns a printing company in Michigan. While studying at Stanford, Ned’s daughter Stephanie (Deutch) falls for Laird Mayhew (Franco), a Silicon Valley billionaire. Laird invites Ned, his wife Barb (Mullally) and their son Scotty (Gluck) over for the holidays. Ned is shocked by Laird’s over-the-top antics and lack of a filter, creating endless awkwardness. Ned flies into a panic when Laird tells Ned his plans to propose to Stephanie. As the rest of the family begins to warm to Laird, Ned takes drastic measures to prevent Laird from becoming his son-in-law.

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Why Him? is directed and co-written by John Hamburg, who co-wrote the Meet the Parents series of films. There’s not a lot of originality in the premise of Why Him?, which pits a strait-laced dad against a free-spirited, outrageous potential son-in-law. The film’s brand of humour is crass and unsophisticated, awash in scatological jokes and an abundance of coarse language. Why Him? also possesses several traits seen in many recent big studio comedies, such as falling back on celebrity cameos for laughs, and attempting to offset wanton ribaldry with sweetness. However, it is frequently funny, thanks to extremely effective casting.

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Cranston has proven to be a gifted performer in both comedic and dramatic roles. Even when doing as little as looking aghast or wringing his hands, Cranston is a thoroughly entertaining presence. Ned is a boring family man: to hammer this home, we see that his 55th birthday party is being held at an Applebees restaurant. He’s also expectedly protective over his daughter. The ways in which Ned and Laird come into conflict are mostly predictable, but Cranston doesn’t phone it in at all here.

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We’ll come right out and say it: Franco has a reputation for being at least a little weird. He’s an Oscar-nominated multi-hyphenate with a prolific list of credits both in front of and behind the camera, but he can’t help being the target of parody and accusations that he’s an attention-seeker. This seems like a part that’s tailor-made for Franco, and he has great fun with the goofy role. Franco and Cranston share palpable comic chemistry, and they power through the hackneyed jokes and toilet humour to deliver the laughs.

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Deutch is an exceedingly appealing actress, it’s just a pity that she’s popped up in so many cringe-inducing comedies as of late. As with Cranston and Franco, this is casting that just works. Deutch looks sensible and intelligent, so we’re meant to question “why him?” alongside Ned. Since the bulk of the movie is about Ned and Laird’s rivalry, it means that Deutch’s part isn’t as substantial as it should be. Mullally and Gluck are good as Ned’s wife and son respectively. Mullally gamely works her way through a scene in which Barb, high on marijuana, aggressively comes on to Ned (that’s not how weed works). Scotty is business-savvy and focused on self-improvement, but is swayed by the lavish trappings of Laird’s lifestyle all the same.

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Why Him? pokes fun at Silicon Valley excesses via Laird’s contemporary art collection, his parties deejayed by Steve Aoki, fancy-pants haute cuisine served up by Top Chef alum Richard Blais, and a Siri-like smart home system named Justine, voiced by Kaley Cuoco. While material like this is done much better on HBO’s Silicon Valley, there are still laughs to be had from the culture shock that Grand Rapids native Ned experiences when confronted with Laird’s California tech elite lifestyle. Keagan Michael-Key steals the show as Gustav, the German-accented manservant who springs surprise attacks on Laird so Laird can improve his self-defence skills.

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Why Him’s lowbrow jokes are punctuated with semi-inspired visual gags and even though some of the set pieces go on for too long, the acting is just enough to sustain in. The subplot of Ned’s I.T. guy Kevin Dingle (Zack Pearlman) having a creepy, perverse obsession with Stephanie that’s played for laughs is particularly distasteful.

Why Him? is far from the best use of its talented cast and its cynicism and crassness won’t sit well with some audiences, but it’s almost as funny as it is stupid. We mean this in the best way possible.

Summary: Inelegant and vulgar but entertainingly acted by its excellent cast, Why Him? showcases energetic performances overcoming a tired script and some tasteless jokes.

RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong