The Predator (2018)

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Did you not see the new Predator? It’s evolving. The universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species. Only a ragtag crew of ex-Marines (Keegan-Michael Key, Trevante Rhodes, Alfie Allen,Thomas Jane, Augusto Aguilera) led by renegade Army Ranger sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), whose autistic son (Jacob Tremblay) with estranged wife Emily (Yvonne Strahovski) accidentally triggers the Predator’s (Brian A. Prince) return to Earth, can stop the end of mankind.  With the help of kick-ass evolutionary biologist Casey Brackett (Olivia Munn) they launch an all-out attempt to tackle this new hybrid alien but also have to deal with treacherous Government agent Will Treager (Sterling K. Brown), director of The Stargazer Project ... Fuck me in the face with an aardvark. Part Four in the franchise and not just a sequel but a remake/reboot of the first one (1987) which was a rite of passage in the Eighties, one of the era’s defining films and auteur Shane Black was in it (in the supporting role of Rick Hawkins). And he brings to it his typical brand of smarts – witty dialogue, generic tropes souped up and remade faster and shinier while the Predator hunts and he himself is hunted. As we know from his other movies, Black likes kids and here he’s a bullied savant (upgraded with the very current condition of autism); instead of Christmas we have Halloween (bringing to mind E.T.); and the motley crew of mentally ill soldiers remind us of The Dirty Dozen except they’re not as nasty although that won’t save them. Beneath the message – re-design human DNA at your peril, appreciate the accidental genius Nature occasionally creates – it’s fast-moving, funny and most unusually for an actioner these days comes in at a trim 95 minutes. Bliss, of sorts.  Written by Fred Dekker & Black, from characters created by Jim Thomas and John Thomas. Nice reverse psychology. I can do that, too. Don’t go fuck yourself

The Nice Guys (2016)

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Oh boy. Finally a new release that I can TOTALLY love. Where to start? Maybe with writer and director Shane Black, adored by buddy movie fanboys everywhere, last seen helming the Christmas event movie (released in summer…) that was Iron Man 3, replete with brilliantly written roles for children, something we really see here in excelsis. Previously he made the other Brett Halliday-inspired neo-noir, the eccentric, puzzling, self-conscious and occasionally laugh out loud Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, with Robert Downey when he was on his uppers, helping him get his rep back – and isn’t Downey the most extravagantly talented actor of the past 25 years? We’re back in Halliday territory again with a noirish Seventies LA-set smoggy private eye fest with nods to everything from Chinatown to Boogie Nights, hilarious violent set-pieces, crazy dialogue, outrageous jokes, amazingly choreographed action and a brilliantly funny performance by Ryan Gosling, channeling everyone from Lou Costello to Buster Keaton. He’s the hard-up PI Holland March, hired to find Lois Smith’s niece, porn star, Misty Mountains, whom we’ve seen die in a spectacular car crash in the film’s first few minutes. He crosses paths with Jackson Healy (a pleasantly plump Russell Crowe) who’s been hired by a young woman Amelia (Margaret Qualley) NOT to be found and who soon mysteriously disappears. He sustains horrible injuries which make him go around LA trying to avoid being hurt and one of the big running jokes is how hard he is to kill – he literally falls on things you will not believe: he’s a dumbass who comes to believe in his own invincibility and ultimately, you have to admit he might have reason. But he’s a witless widower whose lack of a sense of smell caused his wife’s death. The men realise that these women’s lives have crossed in the porn world, which is when our mismatched protagonists decide to pool resources, with March’s supersmart kid Holly (Angourie Rice) watching them aghast from the sidelines as they are constantly on the verge of screwing up everything. Kim Basinger shows up (her first re-teaming with Crowe since LA Confidential) in a small but pivotal and appositely corrupt role connected with the Department of Justice and the motor industry. Meanwhile Healy has to avoid being killed by psychopathic hitman John Boy – and we’re not talking about The Waltons, though everyone here does – played by ridiculously perfect gay icon Matt Bomer. The entire sociology of LA seems to be critiqued along with American industry at the same time as the city is being held up as an ornament of wonder while the mysteries of masculine pathology are examined, trashed and given a right kick in the you know whats. What an astonishing part little Angourie Rice plays – Black may be the best writer of children roles, which is an astonishing claim perhaps but watch this and you’ll see what I mean. It’s a lateral reference to Tatum O’Neal in Paper Moon, one of the great films of the era. If you don’t love it you’re probably hidebound by PC-ness and a lack of humour. At last – this is one of the few films out there that isn’t dependent on selling you comics or live-action figures against a background of a 9/11 simulacrum minus the Arabs. Gosling is just great in a comic role and Crowe is absolutely on it as the enforcer who only ever felt good inflicting violence. The management of tone given the plethora of ingredients is astonishing. We end, unsurprisingly, at Black’s favourite time of year – really, has anyone thought of doing a study of Shane Black’s Christmas stories? The stunt choreographer alone should get an Academy Award and Oscar-winning Valli O’Reilly did the makeup. Black even got Warners to let him use their old Saul Bass-designed ‘W’ logo – so we know we’re in safe hands. And the soundtrack is, you know, to die for. Way to go young porno lady!!!! Film of the year!