The Predator

The Predator (2018)

IMDB 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.

*Minor spoilers*

We’re all really here for the alien action, right? Who cares about anything but how pretty The Predator is? Well, lucky for us, he’s back and looking as buff as ever and that’s even before his big evolved brother rocks up. The rest of it is… not great.

Marry me

Let’s start with Casey Bracket (the lovely Olivia Munn), a ballsy scientist with a special investment in space animals. She’s pretty good and more than just a pretty face, thankyouverymuch. Her connection to The Predator is a little flimsy, something about a letter to the president when she was a kid and I couldn’t even work out if she was joking. Anyway, she’s there when the freshly captured Predator busts loose and is lucky when he approaches her butt naked, unarmed form and decides to let her live. Oooh, fishy…

Then there are our ‘heroes’. First up Quinn McKenna (the unbearable Boyd Holbrook) who witnesses the crash landing of the Predator’s space ship. First on the scene and still reeling from the slaughter of his mercenary colleagues, Quinn does what any sensible person would in the same situation. He steels alien hardware (a helmet and wrist cuff) and posts them back to his PO Box in his hometown. Well THAT won’t come back to bite him in the arse will it?

Riding in prison buses with boys

Add to the mix the rest of the gang – and in my opinion the most important part of the movie – and, well it’s a bit hit and miss I’m afraid. When Quinn is detained by the authorities, he meets Nebraska, Coyle, Baxley, Lynch and Nettles (Moonlight’s Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen and Augusto Aguilera respectively) – all bad (ish) men in trouble with the military – and admittedly, probably a good bunch to affiliate yourself with when shit hits the fan.

The Predator is exactly what you’d expect really. It’s a romp, it’s really stupid and it is enjoyable in places if you can suspend your disbelief. The rag tag bunch are fun if a little bit terrible (Nebraska is good but not the greatest stretch for an actor that moved me to tears in Moonlight).

The kids are alright

One of my main problems with it is that it feels like a kids film which doesn’t blend well with the hyper-gore (which I love). The focus around Quinn’s autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) is interesting but gives it an 80’s Flight of the Navigator tone that doesn’t work for me. I want Shane Black on acid, using all the special effects he can in the modern day and some of them are just shocking. I’m quite sure he’s kept them schlocky as a nod back to the 80’s though which might have been a mistake. Also, our super villain Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) needs to shut his mouth. Literally. (Dude looks like a cow chewing cud and it’s really distracting).

My Rating

3/5.

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Slender Man

Slender Man (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

In a small town in Massachusetts, a group of friends, fascinated by the internet lore of the Slender Man, attempt to prove that he doesn’t actually exist – until one of them mysteriously goes missing.

*Minor spoilers*

The Slender Man will always be a fascinating subject matter, ever since his conception on the horror forum Creepypasta (don’t fact check me, I don’t know his exact origin). There have been several films about his legend over the years – The Slender Man (2013) and the Beware the Slenderman documentary (2016) to name a couple – but so far none have been very good. Somehow, this seems to be one folktale that is difficult to get right.

Does Slender Man finally nail our boy in all his glory? Well, no. No it doesn’t.

Unfortunately, this movie’s main crime is that it’s boring and there’s not really any coming back from that. Our leads – Joey King and Julia Goldani Telles – really try to keep up their end and they are the best things in this but it still falls flat. That said, it is by no means the worst film ever made, there are parts that work, if only the makers had followed those through.

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My exact face when I found out there’s Slender Man porn

Our foursome, Wren (King), Hallie (Goldani Telles), Chloe (Jaz Sinclair) and Katie (Annalise Basso) are just like any friendship group. They’re slightly rebellious, have precocious banter in the school hallways and enjoy heavy sexual tension with the boys. When the same boys boast about a secret ‘project’ they’re doing together one night, the girls are naturally intrigued.

When they find out that the boys plan to summon Slender Man via a video on YouTube, they’re keen not to be outdone and impulsively watch it themselves. The video, reminiscent of the one from The Ring is a mish mash of dream sequence and bizarre symbolism featuring the skinny one. Although it makes little sense at this time, it is haunting and deeply effects each of the girls.

Katie seems the most spooked, staring out into the middle distance and being quieter than normal. Shortly afterwards she goes missing on a school trip (to a grave yard?). This leads her friends to dig deeper and try to make a bargain with Slender Man to bring her back. Well, you can imagine how reasonable a child killer compared to The Pied Piper of Hamelin might be.

slenderman
Got wood(s)?

Although a lot of the forest imagery becomes tiresome quickly (and the film is REALLY REALLY DARK all the time making it hard for 40 year olds with bad eyesight to follow), there are a couple of things I did like. Firstly, I should say that Slender Man is not revealed too soon which I really appreciate. When he is though the effects are questionable and I just think less is more when it comes to an enigmatic character like this.

While the girls are researching SM on a Creepypasta-esque website they stumble across a series of ‘real life’ sightings and these are really creepy and effective. Likewise when Hallie spies him in the trees at school, that’s a potentially iconic image.

There’s also a pretty tense scene in the library as Wren receives a visit which I thought was good. Ultimately though, a couple of cool ideas are not enough to see this one through and it loses steam about half way. As each of the girls experiences their own sighting, to varying degrees of horrible, their friendship is pushed to the limit. How are they going to stop him before it’s too late?

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Prank calling had suddenly got a whole lot more serious

As I type this I realise that I can’t even remember what happens to Wren and Hallie and that is not a good sign (I looked it up, oh yeah). I would say this is one that might be worth a look when it comes on Netflix but would probably piss you off if you’d spent £10+ on a cinema ticket.

Back to the drawing board I guess.

My Rating

2/5.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

When the island’s dormant volcano begins roaring to life, Owen and Claire mount a campaign to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from this extinction-level event.

*Spoilers*

I don’t mind admitting that I went into this with little expectation. I wasn’t crazy about the first Jurassic World and only signed up for Fallen Kingdom based on the trailer, in which a gigantic sea dwelling monster rises from the deep to chomp on some surfers. Call me shallow.

What I did get was a dinosaur heavy romp with a conscience, a fun ride that was worth my time even if some of the plot points are utterly ridonk. I got an evil Toby Jones too – and some remarkable side characters, including Zia (Daniella Pineda) and Franklin (Justice Smith) who kept the laughs coming. 

Bryce Dallas Howard is lovely as ever, though I half wished she’d been wearing high heels again to piss off the haters who critiqued her footwear in the last film. Chris Pratt is serviceable as Owen Grady but I don’t really love him (still haven’t forgiven Star-Lord for his brattish behaviour in Infinity War, sorry). Rafe Spall meanwhile, is dashing as Eli Mills, the mastermind behind all the madness. 

I have to mention that a definite highlight for me was Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine), the mercenary heading the dinosaur ‘rescue’ team. His stereotypical Trump-supporter solider was deliciously bad and when wronged by a female character he screams “What a nasty woman!” and I lol’d. Nailed it. 

JurassicWorld_Dino-FA

This movie got me right in the feels a couple of times with its message about whether these beautiful dinosaurs deserve the same rights as animals, or whether they should be left to become extinct once again. While nature takes care of some of the business, the conclusion leaves us in no doubt of where a sequel will take us – and if I’m right, it will be the best kind of sequel, with a fresh environment for our lizardy pals to run riot.

There’s also a massive clunker to address further down the line, the topic of genetic cloning so that should also be fun. I’m ready for them to bring it.

My Rating

4/5.

 

 

 

The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water (2017)

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones

IMDB Synopsis

At a top secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.

*Minor spoilers*

Hype is a dangerous thing, as Andy used to say – or something along those lines. But it is – and I’m not sure this beautiful, whimsical fairy tale quite lives up to it much as it pains me to say.

Elisa and Zelda are cleaners at a top secret government laboratory. They’ve been friends for years, comfortable and happy together in their familiar routine. Elisa lives alone, in a crumbling tenement block where she also adheres to her own rituals, everything just so. She also lives next door to her BFF, closeted Giles, a struggling commercial artist who she likes to take care of.

One day Elisa (Hawkins) and Zelda (Spencer) become inadvertently involved in some secretive goings on that change all of their lives forever. There are goodies and baddies here, spies and monsters – but above all there is love and sometimes that’s all you need. Am I right?

The Shape of Water is lovely. Certain segments are pure magic and the performances are really something. That Sally Hawkins can convey so much without uttering a word is sensational. I’ve had a soft spot for her since she played Poppy in Happy-Go-Lucky. Octavia is also flawless and the women’s chemistry is touching.

Shannon is text book Michael Shannon and I liked it, though I found I was less impressed that I usually am. Perhaps because he can play a role like this with his eyes closed – or because I’ve seen him do it so many times before? In direct contrast, the nervous babbling of Giles (Jenkins) works so well. He’s a coward who takes a giant leap of faith because he loves his friend, he is flawed and he is understanding – and Richard Jenkins is adorbs too.

The story itself isn’t that complex and I’m not going to go into it too much. I think if you’re reading this you already have a gist of what it’s all about. I came into the viewing knowing not much about the plot which may have helped me – I just wanted to be wowed.

My issue is with the pacing, with the length of the film and with some of the more talky elements. I wanted to spend more time with Amphibian Man, marveling at his perfect fishy butt. We get a lot of fish man action, don’t get me wrong but I wanted less old white Russians sitting around tables discussing him and more HIM.

Fish Face for the record is beautiful (and opens quite the discussion about whether one would do it with a fish under the same circumstances). The monster work is brilliant in terms of makeup and aesthetic, while Doug Jones’ lanky (yet graceful) presence is as good as ever.

04_TheShapeofWater

Oh, and the opening scene is pure Jean-Pierre Jeunet. It could have been ripped directly from Delicatessen – which is a good thing, I’m not adverse to a little (or a lot of) homage. I was also pleasantly surprised that although this is all about the love story, it’s also pretty hot. For all the whimsy, it’s also sexy and there’s a distinct darkness too.

All in all, this experience was strong but not exceptional.

My Rating

3.5/5.