Movie Review – One of the Best Movies I’ve Ever Seen, and “Predators”

Let’s get this out of the way first: “Predators” is a perfectly fine summer movie that most people will have a decent time attending.  You read that and probably come to the conclusion that I’m lukewarm on the movie, and you would be correct.  The movie is an entertaining reboot/continuation of the Predator franchise, a saga that is linked with the far superior Aliens series due to two terrible “Aliens vs. Predator” movies.  Luckily, no Aliens in the new Predators movie, but we do get a buff Adrian Brody, which is, well, something I guess.  To tell you the truth, I probably wouldn’t have seen this if it weren’t for my two friends, Wheel and Giles, who are 80’s action movie savants and capable of quoting long stretches of dialogue from such classics as “Commando” or “Delta Force.”  To tell you the truth, I envy their ability to enjoy without irony some of the worst movies of all time (I’m looking right at your appreciation of “Rat Race”, Wheel).  So, when I got the call about a screening with these two, one of whom can recreate the Predator vocalization, I couldn’t wait for the experience.

So, what was enjoyable? First, sneaking in beers to a multiplex was surprisingly easy and fun throw back to teenage years.  Second, the “Machete” trailer (an upcoming Robert Rodriguez action splatterfest), which led to the best moment of the movie: at the beginning of “Predators,” we meet the cast of characters as they encounter each other while walking through a foreign jungle and the camera comes upon gun-toting Danny Trejo, who happens to be the star of “Machete.”  Giles, recognizing Trejo, enunciates Ma-chet-te, getting several of the audience to laugh.  Third, the overt nods to the previous Predator movies were especially satisfying, especially connections to Arnold’s original character (Brody’s mud covered homage of “Come on! Kill me! I’m here!” was particularly awesome). 

For the most part, the movie isn’t that bad.  The acting is fine, with Topher Grace properly slimy, Adrian Brody effectively mercenary-ish, and Laurence Fishburn delightfully bat-shit.  The action is decent, though a bit subdued for a sequel-type movie: I actually wanted more elaborate set pieces, something as memorable as Jesse Ventura’s kill sequence (the production attempted an equally epic samurai showdown, but the battle was a bit of a letdown).  The plot, the dialogue, the everything else of the movie left me with a distinct flavor of “mehhhh,” a watery nothingness that wasn’t unpleasant.  The only disgust – leaving out the best shot from the trailer…read this explaining Rodriguez’s decision to film a scene that was never intended to be a part of the finished film.

Watch this movie if you are a fan of the Predator movies or if you want a mindless summer escape (this movie has got to be 10 times better than A-Team or crap of that ilk).  Other than that, skip it for the movie below.

“Predators” gets a 2 1/2 out of 5 for me.  Check out a matinee if you want.  I would nominate this film for Best Series Resurrection After Some Bad Sequels (the honorary “Dark Knight” after “Batman and Robin” Award), Best Movie Made Better By Beer, Best Machete Tie-In, and Best Unexpected Reason to Have a Debate on Evolutionary Divergence (Two Species?!!).

By now, you’ve heard about this little $60 million weekend box office smash film called “Inception.”  There’s so much going for this film (A-list writer/director Christopher Nolan, A-list actor Leonardo DiCaprio, A-list ironic pregnant teen/pedophile killer/commercial star Ellen Page, A-list martian Joseph Gordon-Leavitt) that going into the screening, I have to admit some nervousness.  The last movie I went into knowing little about the story yet shrouded with high expectation was James Cameron’s “Avatar,” a visually stunning but ultimately forgetable movie — “Inception” had a possibility of being a looker with a terrible story.  Thankfully, Nolan delivers a genuinely great film, a satisfying story told with great acting and mind melting cinematography.  There are points in this film where I literally was at the edge of my seat with a smile from ear to ear, enthralled by the evidence on screen of the audacity of Christopher Nolan’s imagination.  There are scenes that will make you fall in love with movie making again — the rotating hallway fight sequences are seminal shots that will be studied by film students from this point on.  The entire dream-within-dream concept is dizzying, yet surprisingly clear in the editing.  There’s no way around it, I have to simply say that I love this film — just give it the Best Picture award right now.

That said, there are some serious problems with the movie.  First, if your idea of summer entertainment doesn’t include using your brain, then you will want to skip this picture.  As we were walking out of our screening (which at one point had ~25% of the audience asleep; in their defense, it was midnight), we overheard several people expressing confusion or disinterest in the plot.  Admittedly, the first half of the movie can be confusing as there is a lot of (necessary) plot exposition the occurs before the main caper begins, and the film does drag a bit for the middle 30 minutes.  Yet, the payoff (the last hour) is well worth the investment of your attention, if you have the desire and/or ability.  For those of you who don’t want to think or find science fiction elements in a story nerdy or boring will not like this movie — you can always wait for the eminently more accessible Bourne-lite “Salt” opening this Friday. 

This is not a perfect movie (holes in the plot are easy to find) but this is a thrilling, inventive, excellent film.

“Inception” is a Five out of Five — this will be the best picture winning for 2010.   I nominate this film for all of the top awards at the Oscars, plus Best Easy Paycheck Role for Michael Caine, Best Method to Revive Interest in M.C. Escher, Best Way to Make Hummers Cool Again, Best Sarcastic Use of the Word “Darling.”


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