‘The Predator’ Review

Director: Shane Black

Writers: Shane Black and Fred Dekker

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

Synopsis: When a young boy accidentally triggers the universe’s most lethal hunters’ return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Predator is one of my favorite movies of all time, and is definitely one of my favorite action movies of all time too. The movie starts off as a action movie and then goes into sci-fi horror monster movie, and it works perfectly. Not only that, the movie introduced us to, now, one of the most iconic movie monsters of all time. Then the sequel came out and, while defenders exist, it wasn’t all that great. The franchise then branched off to the comic world and brought in the aliens, or Xenomorphs, from Alien giving us Alien vs. Predator movies – which are better not talked about, especially you Requiem.

We waited years for another movie, and then we got Predators, which I got to watch recently again, and still didn’t hate it s much as others do (although, the problems are there). Then rumors came out that Fox was working on another Predator movie, and finally Shane Black himself joined. For those who don’t remember, or just don’t know, Black was in the first movie in a supporting role. So, for me, having him come back to the franchise was actually a pretty great move since we know that he’ll treat the property with respect.

All that said, The Predator has had a rough road to its release. There was the reshoots to change up the final act, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it happens all the time. However, right before the release of the movie, it was revealed by Olivia Munn that a scene was cut with actor Steven Wilder Striegel, because she found out he was convicted of sexually pursuing a 14-year-old female relative. The move has been drawing some lines with people, but I’ll let you decide where you fall in that. Of course, the important thing here is whether or not The Predator has been worth the wait. So let’s get to it.

The Predator opens up setting the overall threat of the movie as a Predator ship is trying to get away from another, bigger Predator ship. The former manages to get away as it jumps to Earth and crashes. The crash interrupts a mission lead by sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) who then has the first face-to-monster-face with the Predator as it kills his men and sends him running away with some Predator gear. A special government agency eventually catches up to him, and he’s put in the crosshairs of special agent Traeger (Sterling K. Brown), who wants something from the Predator ship. Quinn is then sent to an institution and ends up on a bus filled with ex-soldiers with their problems.

Meanwhile, Traeger sends to get Dr. Casey Bracket, a biologist who could them and their secret Project Stargazer, figure out more about The Predator. There’s also Quinn’s young son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), who is on the spectrum, who ends up getting Quinn’s contraband Predator gear and activates it, accidentally bringing the new upgrade Super Predator to Earth. What follows is a balls-to-the-wall action comedy, yes, you read that right, action comedy as humans go up against not one, but two Predators.

Again, being a huge fan of the first Predator, I was really looking forward to The Predator, so I was just a tad disappointed with the final outcome. The movie is a mixed bag of these that work, things that don’t and things that could have used some more time to flesh out.

What definitely worked, at least for me, was that classic Shane Black humor. It’s not even forced humor either, when the characters are spitting out jokes or being smart asses it makes sense. Most of the humor comes from the group of ex-soldiers Quinn meets on the bus. We have “Nebraska” Williams played by Trevante Rhodes, the jokester Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), Baxley (Thomas Jane) who has tourettes, Lynch (Alfie Allen) and Nettles (Augusto Aguilera). The dynamic of the group is easily the best part of the film, and most of them have their moment to shine – Allen gets the shaft on that end – but anytime they’re all together it’s great.

Someone else who clearly looked like he was having fun is Sterling K. Brown. Brown’s Traeger chews up a lot of his scenes, and while sometimes I feel like he goes just a bit over the top, having him as the human “villain” was a nice touch. Olivia Munn also gets to have some fun, and has a strong showing here, but seeing her bounce off the ex-soldiers and Holbrook’s straight-man character. Trevante Rhodes, from Moonlight, is arguably the standout as Nebraska, who essentially becomes the co-leader of the soldiers, and is one of the more fleshed out characters. Rhodes is definitely a name you should try to remember because this man is going to be huge.

When it comes to the things that don’t work too well, that comes when it tries to explain some of the science behind the Predator. Sure it’s fun explore the mythology and expand on that on the big screen – the comics have done that to great success – but it comes out as clucky and comes at weird moments in the movie that it comes off as weird. Secondly, like I mentioned, Alfie Allen gets the short-end of the stick in the main group ensemble, and he’s not alone, Yvonne Strahovski, who plays Quinn’s ex-wife and Rory’s father, doesn’t really do anything in the movie. Also, Jacob Tremblay could have done a little more in the movie, considering how important he becomes in the grand scheme of things.

Third, some of the CGI is also dodgy, with the Predator dogs coming off just a tad bit rubbery and some scenes rely a bit too much on CG blood which kind of lessens the fun on the gore factor. Speaking of which, the action and gore in this are up there. There are a few scenes that will make fans happy on both fronts, however, I will say the anticipated Predator vs. Super Predator fight is very underwhelming – at least for me – but that said, it does show you how lethal and dangerous the new Super Predator is, but still, I would have loved to see more of a throw down. Finally, and very quickly, the last scene isn’t all that great and I feel was a last minute addition and it shows.

All in all, The Predator is a lot of fun, but it is a very mixed bag. The humor works, and doesn’t become annoying, which it easily could have and the action and gore are fine when it’s allowed to be practical. The Predator isn’t Predator, and if you think it will be, I’m telling you right now, lower that expectation and you’ll enjoy the movie for what it is.

The Predator

3.5 out of 5

Mini-Reviews: Masterminds, Deepwater Horizon, Storks, & The Girl on the Train

Hey everybody!

Welcome to the third edition of Mini-Reviews. This time, it’s more of a mixed than it was last time. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Masterminds

Director: Jared Hess

Writers: Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer, and Emily Spivey

Cast: Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Ken Marino, and Jon Daly

Synopsis: A guard at an armored car company in the Southern U.S. organizes on of the biggest bank heists in American history. Based on the October 1997 Loomis Fargo robbery.

 

Yes, Masterminds is based on a true story. Of course, I’m sure the film takes some liberties, but for the most part the film tells the story of David Ghantt (Galifianakis), an armored car guard at Loomis Fargo who wants to do more in his life. He gets the chance when his co-worker Kelly (Wiig), under orders of the town small-town criminal Steve (Wilson), convinces him to rob Loomis Fargo. David, of course does it thinking he has a chance with Kelly, even though he’s engaged to Jandice (McKinnon). The good news is that David gets it done and is convinced to go down to Mexico to hide out, the bad news is that the FBI is on to him and Steve wants to cut loose ends.

Masterminds was set to come out two years ago, until it got pushed back to this year, and even then its release was in question thanks to Relativity Media’s bankruptcy. It also didn’t help that the film had a pretty descent cast, so it’s a shame that after all this, the film didn’t turn out as good as it could have been. I will say it does seem hard to make a comedy based on a true story, since you can’t really force funny moments in true stories, but if you have the right cast I assume you could. Masterminds is sadly not one of those.

I will say I’m not a huge fan of Zach Galifianakis, but he does okay here as a somewhat lovable and gullible David, who gets fooled into robbing $17 million. Kristen Wiig is reliable as always, and is arguably the heart of the film. Owen Wilson has his small moments, but doesn’t stand out as much as Jason Sudeikis’ hitman character Mike McKinney. His part of the film is rather odd, and at times will probably make you cringe-laugh, but he goes all in for this. Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are put on the backburner for the most part. Jones plays a detective for the FBI hunting down David, while McKinnon plays David’s soon-to-be wife Jandice as an odd and cliché trailer park women, who has only one big moment.

All in all, Masterminds is a wasted opportunity to let all these great comedic actors to cut loose. There are some genuine funny moments in the film, but overall Masterminds fails to really connect, and make you laugh the way I think they thought it would.

Masterminds

2.5 out of 5

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Deepwater Horizon

Director: Peter Berg

Writers: Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Kate Hudson, Douglas M. Griffin, James DuMont, Joe Chrest, Gina Rodriguez, J.D Evermore, Ethan Suplee, Dylan O’Brien and John Malkovich

Synopsis: A dramatization of the April 2010 disaster when the offshore drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, exploded and created the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

 

Peter Berg has become a “based on a true story” film master. Friday Night Lights, Lone Survivor, the upcoming Patriots Day – based on the Boston Marathon bombing – and this. Berg has a way to really make the people in those films more important than the event itself sometimes, and Deepwater Horizon is another prime example of that. Not only that, he makes the film feel like a horror film at times, which is what the people onboard the actual rig probably felt like they were in on that fateful day.

The film mostly follows the Deepwater Horizon rig’s chief electrical technician Mike Williams (Wahlberg) and installation manager Jimmy Harrell (Russell) or Captain Jimmy as the crew calls him, on the day they arrive on the Deepwater Horizon along with a few BP company men and control room operator Andrea Fleytas (Rodriguez). However, when they arrive they find out that BP management, lead by Donald Vidrine (Malkovich) on the rig, want the crew to start drilling right away because they are behind schedule. Of course, Mike and Jimmy aren’t having any of it because the safety of the crew is at risk, Mike lets them know that the rig isn’t running at one-hundred percent, but Vidrine pushes them and they start drilling. What follows is the Deepwater Horizon suffering massive failure and an explosion that sets the rig up in flames. The crew then tries to survive and escape the rig at all costs.

Berg does a great job of setting everything up. He even goes into the technical side of things even though he probably knows not all the audience is going to know what the hell they’re talking about – we can get the gist considering we know what happens and they make it sound pretty bad. We also get a descent sense of these characters, so when the rig goes up in flames we care for these characters. And while most films would tip-toe around the situation, Berg tackles it head-on and does lay some – arguably all – of the blame on BP for forcing the rig workers to keep going.

The other great thing Berg does is make us, essentially, part of the crew. When the Deepwater Horizon goes up in flames, you can feel the horror that these men went through. This isn’t your typical escapist disaster film, this was a man-made disaster that isn’t filled with your typical Hollywood hero. Wahlberg or Russell don’t make big speech to comfort everyone, they get hurt and are equally affected by the rig explosion like everyone else. 11 men lost their lives that night, and the way Berg makes the event look, it’s almost hard to believe that not more people died.

The cast holds their own. Wahlberg gives one of his finest performances to date, and one that pays off at the end. I know Wahlberg may make people think of the film a certain way, but when he’s given the right material with a great director like Berg, he always turns in a great performance. Russell is as reliable as ever, Gina Rodriguez and Dylan O’Brien have their moments, but are scattered throughout the film and only really pick up during the events of the explosion. Finally, Malkovich seems to be enjoying himself playing a sleazy BP official, and while maybe that’s not how the real life Vidrine was, it does give us the general idea of greed and not caring about the consequences.

All in all, Deepwater Horizon is a very effective thriller that sometimes feels like a horror movie. Peter Berg knows exactly what to show and what kind of story he wants to tell, and instead of focusing on the oil spill – which got the most attention in the news – this highlights the people actually onboard the rig. I’ll even admit that by the end of this film, I was in tears. Something not a lot of films can make me do, and make me admit.

Deepwater Horizon

4.5 out of 5

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Storks

Director: Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland

Writer: Nicholas Stoller

Voice Cast: Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer, Anton Starkman, Ty Burrell, Jennifer Aniston, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Stephen Kramer Glickman and Danny Trejo

Synopsis: Storks have moved on from delivering babies to packages. But when an order for a baby appears, the best delivery stork must scramble to fix the error by delivering the baby.

 

I didn’t really expect anything from Storks when I first read about it. However, that all changed when I watched the film, because I really liked Storks. The film follows Junior (Samberg), who works at Cornerstore.com which is where storks now deliver packages instead of babies because delivering babies became too much of a problem. Junior is not in line for a promotion from his boss Hunter (Grammer), but before he can take the position he has to do one thing: fire the only human worker at Cornerstone, Tulip (Crown). Junior doesn’t really do so and instead puts her in a building by herself.

However, that only complicates matters as Tulip gets a letter from Nate Gardner (Starkman) who wants a sibling, and accidentally makes one. Junior already thinking he’d be in trouble with Hunter decides to deliver the baby on his own with Tulip tagging along. Of course, a grand adventure ensues.

I had a lot of fun with this movie more than I thought I would. The film never loses steam and the jokes are top notch, so much so that I was still smiling or laughing way after they were delivered. The stories are also very touching. On one end you have the human story of Nate, an only child, who wants a sibling to play with because his parents (voiced by Burrell and Aniston) are always busy with their real estate business. On the other end you have the two stories of Junior wanting to be more than a delivery man, and Tulip trying to find her own place in the world, and wanting to really help. The two stories perfectly blend together near the end that makes the finale all the more touching and heartwarming.

The rest of the voice cast is filled with Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele playing Alpha and Beta Wolf, who are one of the many highlights of the film, and Danny Trejo as Jasper, a stork that comes into play in the second half of the film. Finally, another highlight of the film is Stephen Kramer Glickman as Pigeon Toady, who will leave you laughing for sure.

All in all, Storks is a ton of fun that takes a while to bring its core theme out, but the ride is so much fun that it doesn’t matter. Storks will leave you laughing out loud and leave you wanting a bit more.

Storks

4.5 out of 5

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The Girl on the Train

Director: Tate Taylor

Writer: Erin Cressida Wilson

Cast: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez, Laura Prepon, Allison Janney and Lisa Kudrow

Synopsis: A divorcee becomes entangled in a missing persons investigation that promises to send shockwaves throughout her life.

 

Based on the popular and one of the fast-selling novels of all time by Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train is being labeled as the possible next Gone Girl. A comparison that doesn’t really help any film since Gone Girl was vastly different animal that some people haven’t seen before. While the film does show shades of that, The Girl on the Train is a completely different animal altogether that is a less effective thriller and drama than Gone Girl.

The Girl on the Train follows alcoholic and divorced Rachel (Blunt) who rides the train every morning. During her rides, she always stops and spots the house of a couple who she doesn’t know but pretends to give them names and jobs. However, one day the woman, Megan (Bennett), ends up going missing and the day she did she noticed Megan with another man. What follows is Rachel trying to figure out what happened to a woman she’s made an unnatural connection to, but her obsession also becomes a problem for her ex-husband Tom (Theroux) and his new wife Anna (Ferguson), who she has been harassing them.

Going more into detail will probably lead me into spoiler territory which is something that I obviously don’t want to do. The film does jump back in time – a few months – so we get enough scenes with Haley Bennett’s Megan before she goes missing. The film also spends some time with Rebecca Ferguson’s Anna, who shines more near the end of the film than in the beginning. All that said though, this movie belongs to Emily Blunt. I’m okay with saying Blunt is one of the best actresses working today, and this film proves it. The rest of the cast, while they have their moments, kind of fall to the wayside. Edgar Ramirez and Laura Prepon are underutilized, especially Prepon, and Allison Janney, while her character was meant to only be small, would have been nice to see more of her.

The characters are probably going to make some people not like the film. There are times when you probably want to go into the screen and smack one of them around, which is what makes the film a little more relatable – to the characters anyway. It also helps that these characters are in the thriller genre, so their actions will make us question where they fall in line to the case. Although, there are times when the film gets bogged down in its own drama.

All in all, The Girl on the Train is held together by Emily Blunt’s great performance, along with Haley Bennett. The film gets bogged down a bit by its own drama, and while some things from the book don’t carry over, they make up for it by telling their own story. The Girl on the Train isn’t the next Gone Girl, but its effective while watching.

The Girl on the Train

3.5 out of 5

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‘Vacation’ Review

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Dir: John Francis Daley & Jonathan M. Goldstein

Writer(s): John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein

Cast: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Chris Hemsworth, Leslie Mann, Catherine Missal, Charlie Day, Ron Livingston, Keegan-Michael Key, Regina Hall, Beverly D’Angelo, and Chevy Chase

Synopsis: Rusty Griswold takes his own family on a road trip to “Walley World” in order to spice things up with his wife and reconnect with his sons.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

The Vacation movies have always had a loyal fanbase and in some cases have a special place in people’s hearts. To be honest, I was never a hardcore fan of the movies – I’ve actually only watched two – but I could see why they are well liked. So when Vacation was announced, I wasn’t up in arms like most people. In fact, I wasn’t really anticipating much from it. So, does Vacation really stand on its own like Rusty claims in the trailer? For the most part yes, yes it does.

 

Vacation follows an adult Rusty Griswold (Helms), who sees that his family is in a funk, and doesn’t want to take them on their annual vacation spot, which happens to be a cabin, decides to take them and recreate his trip to Walley World. So he rents a foreign car, that is truly outrageous once we see all its “features” and tells his wife Debbie (Applegate), oldest and a bit nerdy son James (Gisondo) and youngest who actually picks on his older brother, Kevin (Stebbins) to pack up and get ready for an adventure. Of course, in classic Griswold fashion, it all goes downhill from there.

 

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Writers and directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (who will write the new solo Spider-Man movie for Marvel and Sony) show that they do love and respect the original films with small references to the original movies, but never going over-the-top and hitting us over the head with them. Even if you didn’t watch the original movies, you’ll still enjoy, or at least hopefully enjoy, the movie. It never tries to copy the original beat for beat, which honestly helps the movie be its own thing. Of course there are obvious callbacks like the flirty beautiful girl in the convertible.

 

Vacation does fall into the more common raunchy joke territory that some comedies are doing, and while some work, others just fall flat or aren’t even funny. The movie also has some “dirty” (poop and puke jokes) humor that, again, work every now and then. In fact some of those jokes – at least to me – worked better than the raunchy jokes that felt thrown in just for shock value. Then again, comedy is subjective, so you may find more jokes funnier than I did, but I will say I laughed a lot watching this.

 

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However, the jokes wouldn’t be funny without the delivery of the cast. Thankfully the cast works together. Ed Helms, who I’m not the most huge fan of, is relatable as Rusty here. All he wants is to get his family together and try to have a fun experience, but he’s funnier reacting to the situations that are going on around him. Christina Applegate isn’t the overbearing, non-supportive wife but has her moments to shine and holds her own. The brother dynamic is flipped on its head as the older brother is actually getting picked on by the younger brother. Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins work really well off each other and are given great material to play out. The great thing about the family is that they are all given different personalities and we can see them as individuals instead of just being a family unit. I know that probably sounds dumb, but sometimes we just know a family in the movie because they all act similar to each other, here, we know each character separately, which helps when they’re paired off with each other or have their own moment to shine.

 

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The supporting cast is also pretty great, but also feels like some opportunities were missed over just passed over. Chris Hemsworth looked like he enjoyed himself playing Rusty’s brother-in-law and full of himself TV weatherman Stone Crandall, who is married to Rusty’s sister, Audrey played by Leslie Mann. Hemsworth’s extended cameo adds some great laughs to the film, while the always reliable Mann is underused to the point that it feels like they wanted another big name to the movie or are hoping that sequels are announced so she can have a big role. There is another part to two that is merely touched upon that I kind of wanted to see more of, but seeing that movie is about Rusty and his family, it makes sense that they are not a focus.

 

There are some other cameos like Charlie Day’s water rafting guide, which is actually a better scene than I would have thought. Keegan-Michael Key’s scene happens early on in the movie and is just okay. There are two other cameos that I didn’t even know was going to happen so I’ll just leave you to enjoy them. However, the “big” cameos are from original stars Beverly D’Angelo and Chevy Chase as Ellen and Clark. Unfortunately, this element of the movie is lackluster. Chase feels like he’s trying to hard in the small amount of screentime he has and D’Angelo is barley seen. The scene is near the end of the movie and it actually derails the movie. Again, the movie is about Rusty and his family, but these two character of Clark and Ellen were what started all this, and to see the two characters essentially pumping the brakes on a movie that is for all intent-and-purposes a continuation of the legacy they paved.

 

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All in all, Vacation works on most levels. The main cast is great and gel really well together while delivering their lines to almost perfection. Some of the humor works better than others, but for the most part you’ll be laughing with your theater. There are some missed opportunities here and there, but overall, Vacation is worth the watch.

 

 

Vacation

3.5 out of 5