REVIEW: THE PREDATOR (2018)

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THE PREDATOR (2018)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Messy story has a Predator (Brian A. Prince) crash landing on Earth right in the middle of a covert operation by military sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook). His men are killed, The Predator is captured and eventually McKenna is taken into custody by a black ops unit, only after sending his autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) some of the Predator tech as security. Biologist Dr. Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) is brought in to examine the creature and discovers the species is using various collected DNA, including human, to improve themselves. What they don’t know is that their captive is a traitor and a massive 11 foot tall tracker has been sent to earth to eliminate it. When The Predator escapes, McKenna, a band of psychotic army inmates and Casey, must team up to evade slimy government operative Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) and get to Rory before The Predator…or the monster that hunts it…finds his son and ex-wife (Yvonne Strahovski) first…still with me?

Flick is directed by Shane Black (Iron Man 3) from a script he co-wrote with Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps, Monster Squad) and it is a bit of a mess…though a fun one at times. One basic problem is that the film jumps around a lot with no transitional scenes to give us the illusion that characters traveled from one place to another or learned something that they suddenly know at a later point. While Rory is a savant with the alien technology, other characters including his dad and Munn’s Casey, suddenly know their way around the Predator technology when necessity serves. Let’s just say Black uses a lot of conveniences to move his story along. He also doesn’t seem to take his own story very seriously, as there is an overabundance of humor and it seems to overshadow the more serious moments, keeping the movie from building some real intensity. On a more positive side, Black doesn’t shy away from the gore and there are some very enjoyable action scenes. There is also some fun character banter and it is entertaining to see Predators stalking the suburbs on Halloween night…though they could have made better use of that aspect, too. Still, the film starts to feel like it’s being made up as it goes along once the mega-Predator arrives. The second half especially feels like they are not following a story, but going from one scene to another. The flick also starts out fairly seriously and then seems to get sillier and sillier as it progresses, till it ends in a goofy climactic confrontation of clichés and SPFX. It just doesn’t seem like Black trusted his own material enough to play it straight and tough like the first classic. Even the AVP films took themselves serious enough to get us to buy into them, even if they ultimately disappointed.

The film has an eclectic cast which works even if the material is weak. Boyd Holbrook makes a fine enough hero, though it seemed like he needed a bit stronger screen presence. Olivia Munn proves, after impressing as Psylocke in X-Men: Apocalypse, that she makes a solid action hero and when not left out of that action babysitting Rory, she can kick ass with the boys. Sterling K. Brown is OK as the government bad-guy. It’s a cliché role, but he works hard to make him a good bad guy despite being two dimension-ally written. Tremblay gives another good performance as the bullied and autistic Rory who has a gift for understanding the alien language and technology. As McKenna’s back-up, Trevante Rhodes is good as the soulful Nebraska, Keegan-Michael Key is fun as the joker of the group Coyle, Thomas Jane is solid as a soldier suffering from PTSD and touretts, Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones, John Wick) is good as the Irishman Lynch and Augusto Aguilera is amusing as the weird but likable Nettles. Rounding out is Yvonne Strahovski as Rory’s tough and protective mom and Jake Busey in an amusing role as the son of Predator 2‘s Peter Keyes, who was played by his father Gary Busey.

Overall, this was a bit of a disappointment yet, not without it’s entertaining moments. There was some cool action, some solid FX and the cast of eccentric characters worked well together. Unfortunately the script is weak and the director favored goofy humor and allowed the film to jump from place to place, where it should have taken itself a bit more seriously and a smoother narrative would have made things flow a lot better. The second half seems to be made up as it went along and despite a cool new Predator, the film was more silly than scary. Your move.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 updated Predators.

 

 

 

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: NIGHT OF THE CREEPS and THE MONSTER SQUAD

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NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986)

Fred Dekker wrote and directed 2 of my favorite 80’s guilty pleasures, the underrated The Monster Squad (our second feature) and this B-movie blast, Night of the Creeps. A fun sci-fi/ horror that is not only a homage to the drive-in flicks of the 50’s, but is nostalgically 80’s now, too. Creeps starts out with a desperate chase inside an alien spaceship where a fugitive releases a tube from the ship carrying an “experiment” before being gunned down by his fellow crew members. The tube lands on earth in 1959 where two college students are on a date at a make-out point. The young man sees the tube land and heads into the woods to find it. His pretty date remains behind and is killed by an escaped ax murder while her date gets a face full of alien slugs when he finds the tube and it opens. We then move forward almost 30 years later where dorky college freshman Chris (Jason Lively) and handicapped bud J.C. (Steve Marshall) are desperate to join a fraternity, so Chris can impress beautiful sorority girl Cindy (Jill Whitlow). A little too anxious to accomplish an initiation prank they are assigned to carry out at the morgue, the two wander into the wrong room and wind up letting loose a frozen corpse from suspended animation…that of the young man infected by the alien slugs in the opening sequence. Now with fellow students being infected by the freed creatures and zombifying, the two team up with Cindy and a detective with a past linked to the 1959 ax murder (a great Tom Atkins) to try to stop the alien invasion from spreading through the entire campus and then the world.

Night Of The Creeps is a lot of fun. The whole thing is tongue in cheek from the campy dialog to every major character having the last name of a horror movie director. And, best of all, the audience is in on the fun. Dekker does take his material seriously to a degree so not to make a complete joke out of it and so it does have some suspense and tension, but in the spirit of the drive-in movies of the 50s, lets the deliberately absurd material, bathed with homage, deliver the fun. The cast also play their parts straight and are all good with Atkins’ cynical and grumpy Detective Cameron stealing the show with his one liners and our three leads giving us some very likable heroes and heroines to root for. Whitlow also makes for a fetching flame thrower wielding sorority girl. The entire cast seems to get the tone of the material and it really makes this work. The FX are really good too and there is some nice and abundant gore to go along with the slimy critters and their army of co-ed zombies.

A real fun homage to the sci-fi horrors of yesteryear, as well as, a great slice of fun 80s horror, too. How can you not like a movie with the line “I’ve got good news and bad news, girls… the good news is your dates are here…’what’s the bad news?’… they’re dead!”

MONSTERZERO NJ TRIVIA: Keep an observant eye out as Dekker gives a little shout out to his next movie The Monster Squad in a scene with J.C.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 infected aliens!

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THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987) 

Practically ignored when it first came out, this overlooked gem written and directed by Fred Dekker and co-scripted by Shane Black, is now recognized by many as a classic. I saw it when it was first released in 1987 and have loved it since and I am very proud to be among those that championed this fun monster movie from the very beginning. The film tells the homage filled story of group of young monster movie fans who call themselves ‘The Monster Squad’. They acquire a diary…at a garage sale no less…that is allegedly from none other than the great Dr. Van Helsing (Jack Gwilliam) who tells of an amulet that keeps evil at bay. But once every hundred years the amulet becomes vulnerable to harm and at that time the forces of evil may seek to destroy it…and that time is soon approaching. And evil does come looking for the amulet, which is stored beneath an old house in their very town. Now this band of monster movie fans must quickly become a band of monster fighters to do battle with the most famous monsters of all time as Dracula (Duncan Regehr) has come to destroy the amulet and unleash great evil upon the world. And with him are Frankenstein’s Monster (Tom Noonan), The Wolfman (Jonathan Gries in human form, Carl Thibault once transformed), The Mummy (Michael MacKay) and The Gill-Man (Tom Woodruff Jr.). Left on their own by disbelieving adults, can these suburban kids stop the greatest monsters in horror film history?

A lot of fun, the flick plays it serious when it needs to but, also provides plenty of laughs and has a genuine love for the monster movies it pays tribute to. The monsters are all well represented by Dekker, the make-up FX team (headed by the legendary Stan Winston) and the actors portraying them with Regehr making a very sinister Count, Gries a sympathetic victim of lycanthropy and Noonan a monster who may still have a heart when treated with kindness. Dekker also gets great work from his squad of wannabe monster fighters, with Andre Gower as leader Sean, Robby Kiger as his best bud Patrick, Brent Chalem (who sadly passed away in 1997) as the bullied fat kid, Horace, who wants to prove himself, Ryan Lambert as tough rebel Rudy, Michael Faustino as the young Eugene and Ashley Bank as Sean’s little sister Phoebe, who steal’s the Frankenstein monster’s heart. Round out nice work from Stephen Macht and Mary Ellen Trainor as Sean’s concerned parents and Leonardo Cimino as ‘Scary German Guy’ and you get a movie filled with endearing characters and fearsome fiends.

The Monster Squad is a very entertaining little movie made with a lot of heart and has far more warmth and charm then a lot of the souless blockbusters that pass as entertainment today. A fun nostalgic 80s blast that also gives a lot of love and respect to some of the most famous monsters of all time. Finally recognized as the classic it is. “Wolfman’s got nards!”

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 wolfmen complete with nards!

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REVIEW: IRON MAN 3 (2013)

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IRON MAN 3 (2013)

 

WARNING: SOME SPOILERS

As a fan of the first two Iron Man films and all the Marvel phase 1 films so far, this second sequel to Iron Man was highly anticipated…and therefor that much more disappointing. Iron Man 3 picks up after The Avengers with Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) suffering anxiety attacks and trying to escape his sleepless nights by constantly evolving his suits. Enter a terrorist known only as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and the sudden re-emergence of two scientists (Guy Pearce and Rebecca Hall) Tony met in 1999 and soon Tony’s troubles become far more difficult than sleepless nights.

Despite an interesting start, this is when the film’s plot gets completely convoluted as Tony provokes this vile terrorist and gets his home blown to smithereens and Tony becomes stranded in Tennessee, with nothing but a garage full of tools to try to get back in action again. Now add in some glowing and literally explosive super soldiers, product of some genetic hanky-panky by said scientists and Iron Man 3 becomes something resembling a Pierce Brosnan era James Bond flick and not one of the better ones. Seeing Tony out of the suit for most of the film is fine, but the film jumps from one scene to another with a very choppy narrative flow and some of the stuff just gets plain ludicrous and silly, with glowing assassin soldiers, mustache tweaking villains and Tony somehow buying lots of goodies to make gadgets out of, yet somehow keeping up the facade that he is dead. Does he carry that much cash in the event his home is blasted to pieces and he can’t use his credit cards? Tony becomes an anxiety filled Bond trying to take down this silly conspiracy involving war vets turned human bombs and rescue a kidnapped Pepper. Don’t get me started on the ridiculous plot twist involving The Mandarin. They took Tony’s arch enemy from the comics and simply ruin him for what basically appears to be laughs…although Kingsley was good in Mandarin’s various incarnations, but that is a testament of his acting, more than the script or direction. And while on the subject, writer/director Shane Black does give us some spectacular action and he also gives Robert Downey Jr. some really great dialog to chew on and some very funny scenes, but it’s just the story is all over the place and his attempts to turn this into some sci-fi/conspiracy thriller just didn’t work. The villains never really make their motivations clear, nor do we really get a decent idea of what exactly it is they are up to. What is the point of all this? Since we never really get a clear picture, we never really get involved. Instead we watch Tony go from one scene to another trying to get the bad guys without any real emotional investment, other then our amusement at seeing Downey take down bad guys without his suit…which he rarely ever puts on. And then there’s the spectacular yet unsatisfying climactic confrontation. Unsatisfying because we never really get to know Aldrich Killain (Pearce) well enough to truly make him effective as a villain and have no real emotional investment to want to see him taken down. At the climax, Tony is practically a bystander as his automated suits do all the work. And, that takes the soul out of the suit and then it just becomes random CGI robots battling random glowing super soldiers, who have even less personality than the suits. After all we have seen and all the characters have gone through, Black wraps it all up in a far too neat little bow. Everything fixed, all better now.

At least the cast are all good in their roles with Downey having a blast as an even more eccentric Tony, thought Cheadle and Paltrow really don’t have much to do till the last act and Rebecca Hall’s character could have been easily written out without much harm to the story. All in all, Shane Black does deliver some big action and gives Downey a lot of situations to do what he does best, but for an Iron Man film, it’s just too messy a plot and Iron Man himself has very little to do and in the end it doesn’t really feel much like an Iron Man movie. Not a complete loss, but when compared to all that’s come before it, it’s a borderline mess and a big disappointment. Stay after the credits for the most pointless Marvel flick post credits scene yet.

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) Iron Men, mostly for RDJ and some nice action.

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