FlixChatter Review: THE PREDATOR (2018)

John McTiernan’s Predator came out 31 years ago, it spawned 2 sequels and 2 spinoffs. The original film felt fresh when it’s released back in the late 80s and I think it’s one of the Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best films. The two sequels weren’t as good, both has its moments but quite forgettable to me. The spinoffs Alien vs. Predator were just awful. Yet somehow the studio folks at Fox never gave up the idea that it can turn into some profitable franchise for them. So, when Shane Black’s career got a new life after the success of Iron Man 3, he was offered a chance to write and direct a new solo Predator film.

While on a mission somewhere in in the jungle of Mexico, army sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) has an encounter with the Predator when its ship crash landed near his vicinity. McKenna decided to take a closer look at the alien spaceship but quickly realized he’s in danger when the occupant turns out to be hostile and killed all of his sniper teammates. But before he escaped, he’s able to grab some of the Predator’s equipment and sent them back to his house. After he escaped, McKenna was taken into questioning by a secret government agency lead by Traeder (Sterling K. Brown). Knowing he’s in danger with his own government, McKenna decided to keep his mouth shut and said he doesn’t know anything about what he saw but Traeder didn’t believe him and put him on a bus to take him to a more secure location for more questioning. While on the bus, McKenna got to know some weird characters ex-military men prisoners. Back at his home, the Predator’s items ended up at the hands of this autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), who studies them intently and accidentally sending a signal to another Predator who comes to earth for blood.

Traeder’s team was able to capture the predator and decided to call up a scientist named Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) to help with figuring out why the alien is back on earth. Of course, things didn’t turn out well and the Predator was able to free himself and killed a lot of people. It’s now up to Mckenna and his team of ex-military misfits to stop not one but two Predators from destroying the world.

Co-written by Black and his best bud Fred Dekker, the story is kind of mess. There’s no real focus on the plot, there are plenty of ideas being thrown around but Black and Dekker are only interested in delivering funny dialogs and on-screen violence. Also, by giving us more information about the Predator’s intention, it just took out the mysteries surrounding these creatures and made them less scary. To me, what worked in the first film was the lack of information about the Predator, it’s here to hunt people for sports and it kills for fun; that to me made the first film kind of scary.

Speaking of violence, Black intended to make this film as hard R rated as he could, so if you have weak stomach, you might not like the over the top violence being shown on screen. The most disappointing thing to me about this film was the lack of any signature action scenes. Sure, there are plenty of action in the film but most of them were badly-shot or ended way too quickly. Black is known for writing some of the best action films ever made, but as a director, he just doesn’t know how to execute his written words for the screen.

Performance wise, I think the supporting cast were pretty good. But I was never a fan of Holbrook and he’s not a strong leading man material. He’s the kind of actor who tends overacts and I never believe the character he’s portraying. Sterling K. Brown seemed to have a lot of fun, his character is combination of Carl Weather’s character from the first film and Gary Busey’s from the second. He overacts in a lot of his scenes, but I didn’t mind it too much. Just like other Predator films, Munn’s the only female character in the story and I thought she carried herself pretty well. I’m just glad they didn’t make her into another damsel-in-distress type.

I think this is a film that could’ve been a lot better with fresh eyes, but with Black having full control, he really wants to take the audience back into the old style of action films from bygone years. I personally don’t mind that at all if it’s well made but this latest sequel was just too messy and didn’t have a real focus. While I enjoyed some parts of it, I kind of wish they got a new crew to work on this one.

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So have you seen The Predator? Well, what did you think?

Weekend Roundup + Quick thoughts on ‘The Nice Guys’ (2016)

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Hello all! It’s been quite a whirlwind week for me, what with the TCFF gala on Thursday and also the MN filmmakers interviews on Saturday. But it was a good kind of busy and definitely excited for the 2016 TCFF lineup this year!

me_remyOne of the filmmakers I interviewed was Remy Auberjonois, whose film Blood Stripe, starring his wife Kate Nowlin who also co-wrote the film, will have its regional premiere at TCFF. The film won US Fiction Award at 2016 Los Angeles Film Festival this past June.

I’m excited to see the film, and it’s extra special for me to meet Remy because he’s also playing one of my fave characters of all time, Col. Brandon, in The Guthrie Theater’s 2016 adaptation of Sense & Sensibility! He’s still sporting the 18th century mustache for the role 🙂

Well, I was so busy this past week I completely missed The Magnificent Seven‘s press screening last Monday, which I could’ve gone right after my dental appt. Oh well, my hubby & I will hopefully see it this Friday. I did finally watch this one…

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Ted has already reviewed it here, and I think I’d agree with the 3/5 rating. I’m not going to review it again so this is just my It’s pretty entertaining but overall it’s not a wholly memorable movie despite the competent two leads. Shane Black is known for writing the Lethal Weapon movies and his directorial debut was Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, so he’s definitely got a knack for buddy action comedies. I have to admit though, this one isn’t as good as those movies.

Interestingly enough, this project was apparently proposed as a TV series but the pilot was going nowhere. I could see it working w/ the right script and cast, as buddy action comedies seems quite popular on TV at some point. Casting Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as a mismatched pair of private investigators is inspired casting, and this is perhaps the first comedic role I’ve seen Gosling do. I’d say he succeeded, though I still don’t see what the fuss is about him. I just don’t think he’s that special of an actor, both in terms of looks and talent. Crowe on the other hand, has always been a supremely talented and versatile actor, and I’d love to see him do more comedic roles!

Overall the movie wasn’t as funny as I had thought, perhaps because the funniest bits (like these below) are already in the trailer!

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The tone of the movie is very light with zippy dialog, though at times the scenarios are overly silly that it was like a spoof or something. There’s also a surreal scene involving a giant bug smoking and talking in the back seat of their car just seems weird and doesn’t work as well as it could. The shootout at the end is quite bombastic, featuring another interesting casting of Matt Bomer, sporting a giant mole and bowl haircut, as the hitman hired by Kim Basinger‘s character. Some of the scenes with him seems deliberately over-the-top. Speaking of Basinger, well it’s a rather thankless role and she barely made any impact in the movie.

That said, I’m glad I finally watched it. If you like this action comedy genre, it’s definitely worth a watch. Not a bad way to spend a Friday night!

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Oh, I also rewatched one of my guilty pleasures, the 1997 action flick The Saint w/ Val Kilmer & Elisabeth Shue. It’s preposterous and corny but I still enjoyed it 😉


So how was YOUR weekend? Seen anything good?

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FlixChatter Review: THE NICE GUYS (2016)

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Almost 30 years ago Shane Black made a name for himself when he wrote the buddy cop action comedy hit Lethal Weapon. He instantly became one of the most sought-after writers in Hollywood and one of the highest paid too. But when a couple of the big action films he wrote (The Last Action Hero and The Long Kiss Goodnight) tanked at the box office, his career stalled for a few years. After the big success of Iron Man 3, he’s now back on the good graces of Hollywood executives.

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Set in 1977, a private eye named Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is hired by a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) to get some goons off her back. One of the goons happens to be another private eye named Holland March (Ryan Gosling). March is sort of a multi-tasking investigator, along with stalking on Amelia; he’s also investigating the death of a porn star. This porn star’s death led the two private eyes to believe it has something to do with Amelia but before they could talk to her, she disappeared.

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With the help of March’s precocious young daughter Holly (Angourie Rice), the dual set out to find Amelia and got involved in deep conspiracy involving some powerful people. That includes Amelia’s mom Judith (Kim Basinger) and a ruthless hit man named John Boy (Matt Bomer). Those wondering about Crowe & Basinger’s reunion since L.A. Confidential, well Basinger has only got about 5 minutes of screen time here. Sadly she has become one of those actresses whose roles keep getting smaller as they get older, it’s unfortunate because she’s good actress.

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I enjoyed the script by Black and co-writer Anthony Bagarozzi, the dialog is witty. Even though the plot were kind of predictable, it’s still fun seeing things unfold as I predicted. Fans of Black’s other films such as Lethal Weapon and The Last Boys Scout will be pleased with all the f-bombs and shootouts. Black kept the tone of the film very light, though people are getting shot, beat up and every character loves to drop the f-bombs. The film definitely has the feel of a 70s flick. I also enjoy the beautiful cinematography by Philippe Rousselot, he really captured the look and feel of L.A. in the 70s.

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The performances by the two leads were quite good and their chemistry worked well together. Crowe gained some weight to play this out of shape but tough private eye. He beats and shoots people without hesitation. I wasn’t sure if Gosling can do comedy but he’s very funny as the bumbling and cowardly private eye. I’m glad they didn’t make his character into some kind of an action hero, he’s a weak man but very resourceful.

Despite my high praises, I still think it’s an average film. It’s an entertaining action comedy, just not a great one like I thought it’s going to be. If you’re fans of 70s flicks, buddy cop action comedy or the two lead actors, then I think you’ll enjoy this film.

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Have you seen ‘The Nice Guys’? Well, what did you think?

10 Reasons Iron Man 3 Exceeds My Expectations

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Truth be told, this is one superhero film this year I wasn’t really  looking forward to. I mean I LOVE the first film, and I didn’t even hate the second one even with its set of flaws. But I guess I’m just a bit worn out with the character of Tony Stark himself, his snarky cool edge that was so fun to watch before is just getting stale. But thanks to writer/director Shane Black, somehow he manages to win me over with his direction style. Here are just some things he did right:

1. Black and co-screenwriter Drew Pearce came up with a thrilling story that doesn’t dwell too much on the rich-billionaire syndrome. I mean we’ve seen all that, so no need to keep rehashing that fact. We see the frivolous party-animal part of Tony Stark in a flashback at the beginning, but shortly after that, he’s plucked out of his elements. It’s a fish-out-of-water story of sort, as Tony ends up being stranded in a snowy small town in Tennesse.

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Shane Black on the set with RDJ

2. The burning question for this particular superhero, perhaps more so than any other Marvel superhero is this: Does the suit make the man or the man made the suit? In the Film School Rejects interview Shane Black and exec. producer Kevin Feige, the interviewer said, “…you seem as interested in having Tony out of the Iron Man armor as in it”. Here’s Black’s answer:

I want the Iron Man stuff to have impact. And if he’s always in the suit doing stuff, it doesn’t have any impact. If every once in a while he gets just a piece of the suit and POW! he launches a bolt and somebody goes flying 20 feet through the air, but it burns him to do it, that has impact.

I think that’s a wise move right from the get go, having such a strong vision for the character and make him the primary focus once again. I think Black succeeds in creating that delicate balance of seeing both persona of Tony Stark, making the most of Robert Downey Jr.‘s undeniable screen charisma that seems to only get better with age.

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Now, THAT’s the money shot

3. Going back to basicsbut somehow makes the old feels new again. The reason I like the first film was because we see Tony as a real genius who’s seemingly thrive under even the most desperate circumstances with his ability to build something out of nothing. We see that MacGyver side of Tony here, how he somehow can still rise to the occasion outside of his state-of-the-art lab and without his loyal robotic butler Jarvis. Tony Stark actually has to shop at a Home Depot type of store like the rest of us, ahah. The ‘relationship’ between the hero and his Iron suit gets an even more amusing play here, which seems even more hilarious than ever before.

4. Shane Black is no stranger to buddy action-comedies. After all, he was the writer behind the Mel Gibson/Danny Glover action franchise Lethal Weapon. He’s also worked with RDJ in the wacky thriller-comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, where RDJ and Val Kilmer made a droll and quirky pair.

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Here RDJ still has a great rapport with General Rhodes (Don Cheadle), that whole bit about War Machine having a more nationalistic name Iron Patriot delivers some laughs. But when Rhodes is not always around to swap snarky banters with, Black cast a precocious whiz boy (Ty Simpkins) as his sparring partner. The 11-year-old Simpkins is able to hold his own against the veteran actor, and their banter is fun to watch. I love how Tony is still being Tony regardless who he’s dealing with, not allowing anyone—no matter how old—to wallow in self-pity, including himself. It was an unlikely duo that works in the story.

IronMan3_TheMandarin5. Surprising twist on the villain that I didn’t see coming. Having a more realistic ‘real world’ adversary with the terrorism angle works well here instead of simply having another suited-armor nemesis. But there’s more than meets the eye here about the eccentric psychopath The Mandarin that still hit me out of left field. I think comic readers might not necessarily appreciate the alteration but I consider it to be a pleasant surprise that’s sooo entertainingly zany.

Perfect casting of Sir Ben Kingsley in that role, stealing scenes whenever he appears on-screen. The scene of him, Stark and Rhodes is definitely one of the major highlights, but the less I say about the character the better for the sake of your viewing enjoyment.

6. Guy Pearce looking cool and hunky for a change, instead of looking like 200 years old (Prometheus) or some follicly challenged gangster (Lawless). He’s not the kind of villain that takes himself too seriously, Aldrich Killian is a pretty cool name and Pearce plays him as a charming baddie that could easily match Downey’s quick wits. There’s a scene towards the finale that somehow reminds me of his breakthrough role in Memento, I don’t think it’s an homage or anything, it’s just something I picked up on. Pearce seems to have had a good time filming this and it shows!

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7. Fun action set pieces but yet they’re not just some over-the-top and vapid bombastic shoot-em-ups (*cough* Die Hard 5 * cough*). The most memorable one, that you’ve likely seen in the trailer, is the relentless attack on Tony’s Malibu mansion. I remember marveling at that sprawling beach-front property in the first movie, and seeing it being destroyed to bits was wow, I’ve got to admit my heart sank a bit as I watched it.

The eye-popping special effects are to be expected. I still enjoy watching our armored hero shooting off to the sky, but this time, the flying sequence isn’t so much about Iron Man looking hip and cool on the air, but more about what he can do with that gift. Ultimately, it’s Tony’s sharp thinking that does the saving, not simply the power of that suit itself.

8. Robert Downey Jr.’s consistent dedication to the role is one of the main factors the franchise hasn’t lost its juice. Everything we’ve come to know and love about the character is all there, Tony’s flair for the theatrics, his nerdy obsession with his robotic toys, and his snarky prowess is still firing on all cylinders. Yet somehow under Black’s direction, it feels fresh, sprightly, and endearingly self-deprecating. I think the key here is showing the character’s vulnerability and contrast that with his larger-than-life billionaire antics.

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There are countless hysterical scenes where things don’t go according to plan for Tony. Even in the moment he needs it most, his invention can still let him down, and that sense that our hero isn’t always so invincible makes him more human, and in some ways more relatable.

9. But also not ‘too relatable’ as we go to see a superhero movies for escapist entertainment. Iron Man 3 is by no means a dark and gloomy affair (I don’t know why some reviewers equate this with The Dark Knight) as I don’t think it would fit the essence of Tony Stark if they go that route. There are dark moments to be sure, but the mirthful tone is intact and plenty of geeky gadgetry to keep the superhero geek massively entertained. Black & co. never forgets that at its heart, Marvel superhero movies are popcorn entertainment and on that front, it certainly delivers!

IronMan3_RebeccaHall10. The returning characters are given a bit more to do here. Retiring from directing duties (but still serves as exec. producer), Jon Favreau is quite amusing as the head of security of Stark Industries. I wish Rebecca Hall has more screen time but still, it’s nice to see her here alongside Gwyneth Paltrow (who’s not even the most beautiful woman in this movie, let alone the world, heh). That said, I kind of like that Stark’s love interest is not just a damsel in distress in this one which makes Pepper Potts a bit more interesting than in the previous installments.


Perhaps having a tepid expectations helps me enjoy this more than I otherwise would, as the movie is definitely not without flaws. Just to name a few, the motivation of the super-villain’s descent to madness is too much of a stretch and the loud clanging and bombastic mayhem of the third act can be quite dizzying. But overall, those who haven’t become too cynical or jaded by superhero movies would be hard pressed not to enjoy this one.

Though the iron suit sometimes run out of juice in this movie, thankfully the Iron Man franchise still has plenty of that in its third installment. I wouldn’t rate this as high as other stellar “threequels” like the Bourne Ultimatum, Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, or Toy Story 3, but it’s certainly a solid addition to the lucrative Marvel canon.


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What did you think folks? Does this one meet YOUR expectations?