Movies

The Predator (2018)

This is one of those movies where you can clearly see studio interference. You can see where director Shane Black had his vision and where the studio told him to do contrary to his vision. The first 30 minutes do an excellent job of establishing the Predator mythos and immersing the viewer in the world. There’s clear worldbuilding at play with our mysterious organization that knows who and what the Predators are. And then something strange happens, the last half of the movie is tonally different than the first. And research will tell you that the movie needed massive reshoots to redo the entire last act because apparently, according to the studio, “people want action, not prolonged sequences of talking”. I would have infinitely preferred what Shane Black had in store over what we got.

And what did we get? We got essentially a video game masquerading as a movie. Nonstop action, and violence and gore. If characters are talking for a prolonged period of time, you can bet your butt that a Predator or some violence is about to burst on screen. In a way, it’s like a jump scare. It’s cheap, and tactless. When a director has a unique way of doing things (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, for example), you do not interfere with your gift horse. You let them create art for you, you don’t cripple it.

So let’s think, why did they do that? What message could this movie have, that they want to silence or at the very least, push down so that it seems insignificant. Off the bat, I can safely say this movie is anti-government. The main character, who is an assassin for the military, is immediately untrustworthy of his own government to the point he steals evidence and sends it home knowing how everything gets covered up. Even when being debriefed, he asserts these facts to the puppet masters behind the scenes. And as he expected, he’s going to be shut up and never heard from again. Shipped off to a mental asylum. Fortunately, his little gang of merry misfits are essential to the plot and his fate is not that of the mental asylum.

What I enjoyed most was when the main character’s son asked him, “Dad, what’s the difference between a killer and a soldier?” And he replies, “A killer likes killing. He enjoys it.” And then he tells his son he’s not a killer. Later on, he kills two individuals but not before saying “I hate that you’re making me lie to my son. I am going to enjoy this.” To me, this felt like a message regarding most of the armed forces. Most of them are there because of the opportunity to be. And therein lies a massive problem. Alas, the movie does not deal with it. It’s merely mentioned and moved on, pushed down like I said. I’d bet dollars to donuts, that Shane Black wrote a whole lot more on it, and had a couple more scenes fleshing that particular message out. But the studio immediately put its foot down.

Moving onto the good stuff. Acting is pretty darn top notch with the exception of Olivia Munn. Her character is merely plopped in without much explanation and somehow we’re supposed to believe she’s a top most biologist in her field. Yet half the stuff that comes out of her character’s mouth is idiocy. Her talents are wasted here, and if anything she’s the eye candy. Sexist, but that’s what her character boils down to. You could remove her character and the plot wouldn’t change. You could have a random doctor be like “oh hey this fluid is evidence of DNA altering” and that’s all you would need. The two I enjoyed most was the lead, Quinn McKenna played by Boyd Holbrook, and the head of the clandestine agency, Traeger, played by Sterling K. Brown. Both were quite believable in their respective roles, they carried bravado. The other various supporting roles were essentially critiquing how the system treats veterans. Thomas Jane as a vet with Tourette syndrome provided comedy relief, as did Keegan-Michael Key as a tortured vet who via friendly fire killed an entire friendly unit. While they are funny, at the same time it’s sad. Why are you making the ones with mental issues the brunt of the comedy?

To close, it’s worth a watch. Some parts are just unadulterated fun, while others drag. Not sure I liked the whole angle they went with the Predators, and especially that ending. What executive signed off on that? Spoiler, an armor set that makes a human look like a Predator for the purpose of killing Preds. We a video game now boys. Give it a go if you enjoy the world of Predator.

Movies

Extraction

This is how you make a movie about rival drug dealers kidnapping children and the attempt to save them without appearing that you have an agenda against them. Not Rambo Last Blood, a racist fueled exploitation flick. One should take notes on how to make violence tasteful without appearing, as I said, racist. Enough about Rambo Last Blood, this movie is called Extraction and it stars Chris Hemsworth as a mercenary with nothing left to lose. Who takes up a suicide mission to save a drug crime lord’s son from a rival drug lord. Story takes place in Mumbai and Dhaka. Scenery is chewed through by the explosive, frenetic yet easily followed action and set pieces. All the close combat action is well shot and easy to follow. And never did I feel that it was over the top, or that our hero had an extreme hatred for his enemies (ok last time I mention Rambo).

It was a well crafted story that managed to bring some layers to our otherwise static hero vs villain tale. All the characters in such a story are never given enough time to flesh them out and make them feel real. At most, we can identify with our main and see the layers unfold for them. Here we saw that not just our hero is layered, but that his enemies and allies are as well. They managed to make them human, like “somebody’s father” and that is what makes them more compelling to watch. I like knowing my hero’s story, knowing whether they’re tortured by their past, or that they love their son very much but cannot be there for them. I like knowing my villain is a true piece of work, who has no qualms about killing children to achieve his goals. These moments of humanizing the characters to be more than pieces on a chess board, is what helps elevate this movie beyond a simple action tale. There is a message here to be found, even if it may be masked slightly. And what I took away, is that a child’s life is worth saving even if the parents might not be. That although we may run away to escape our problems, eventually those problems will return to haunt us in another shape until we finally face it head on. Until we are free of our demons, and have learned to accept them, we cannot find peace.

Beneath the violence and action that encompasses this movie, there is a surprising humanity and soul to it all. I’d definitely recommend this movie for a watch. If nothing else, you’ll be left entertained. It reminded me of Tears of the Sun. Another movie well worth the watch.

Movies

The Platform

I was repeatedly sought to see this movie for it had a message akin to Joker or so I was so told. Joker was subtle and insidious. This movie beat you over the head every 10 minutes, and not kindly too. I would equate it to torture porn. Wholeheartedly unneeded, and left a bitter viewing experience. I had to mute and block much of the screen, reading only the subtitles at times.

The worst part is you could see the disgusting violence that was about to happen long before it did, therefore why would the movie continue to actually show it for such an extent? It can’t be to reiterate its message that the world is currently run in a such a manner that those who are wealthier leave naught but scraps for those that are poorer while both sets are led astray by the owners of such a system. To show extreme violence with the sole purpose of violence is unsavory. If you can heavily imply the violence, there is no need to explicitly show it. Unless you’re going for shock value; at which point, you’re devaluing your external message. This isn’t John Wick or some other revenge fantasy. This is one of those attempted allegorical art house films. Be tasteful with the gore and violence.

It felt like they were trying to make it feel like Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now with our main character’s descent from a moral and good man into madness and then a moment of redemption. Perhaps that was the purpose they sought with the movie, but I digress. It did not feel that way at all. It felt cheap. Somebody’s idea of prison torture porn.

I’d skip this movie. The amount of symbolism and beating you over the head repeatedly is off-putting, having the main bring the book Don Quixote with him is just… Why don’t you defecate in a character’s mouth while climbing to freedom to further iterate that everything is shit? You wait, you do. I feel bad having Joker even mentioned in this review, it doesn’t deserve such disrespect.

Movies

6 Underground

Wow! What an entertaining movie! The action kicks off from the start and doesn’t let down until the very end. It was quite humorous too, at times, and in contrast to the violence that would be occurring on screen. Director Michael Bay does what he does best: cars, guns, hot women, and explosions. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It reminded me of movies such as The Losers or Smoking Aces. Just pure fun. Not a whole lot of thinking needed; leave your brain at the door.

Ryan Reynolds is great as the wisecracking, enigmatic One. Mélanie Laurent is kickass as a former CIA spook, named Two. Corey Hawkins does a decent job at playing the honorable soldier and sniper, named Seven. Six was played by Dave Franco as the driver for the opening sequence: a car chase that sets the tone for the whole movie. Ben Hardy played Four, the parkour expert and former thief. Three was basically the secondary comic relief, and done well by Manuel Garcia-Rulfo. And Five was the beautiful yet deadly doctor of the team, played by Adria Arjona.

All of the actors did very well, you could tell they were having fun playing their roles. And they had such a great chemistry too. Many of their interactions brought me to laughter. The villain was also done well because you truly despised him, though that would be more a testament to the writing than the actor – Lior Raz. And speaking of the writing, the movie is quite political. You can clearly see the real life parallels that they tried to accomplish. I don’t like discussing that, so I’ll let you be the judge of what propaganda they are peddling. Outside of that, it’s a solid movie. Except for the cars blowing up upon crashing, but it’s Michael Bay; it’s to be expected.

I definitely recommend this movie to watch. Be advised the violence is quite graphic; in fact, the whole movie played like it was a comic book come to life. I would watch this again with my friends and family.

Movies

Rambo: Last Blood

I went into watching this movie expecting violence. What I didn’t expect were the levels of extremity that were shown. It is downright brutal; it is relentless. This is a bleak movie, with no redemption or satisfying end. It is a movie about loss. And frankly, a movie about the blackest of hearts; a movie about pure evil. The villains are the Mexican drug cartels/traffickers. A wretched hive of villainy, completely deplorable scum who, in this movie, deserve everything that happens to them. As John Milius said, “We need to go down there, kill them all, flatten the place with bulldozers so when you wake up in the morning, there’s nothing there. I do believe if you have a military, you use it.”

Rambo: Last Blood takes this idea to heart in its execution. Our titular hero ends up bringing the full weight of one cartel down upon his head, and summarily kills every last one of them. Though this was not without reason or cause: these villains kidnapped, raped, drugged and inevitably killed Rambo’s niece. It is a story about a man who has absolutely nothing left to lose and we are to be witness to his wrath and vengeance. His brutal killings are almost an artform at this point. And his final kill was actually, while gory and nasty, well deserving for its villain. Personally it was over too quick. But I can’t complain. Our protagonist lost his soul, and our antagonist lost his heart. Who really won? Nobody.

My other gripes are several characters are pointless and they only serve to further Rambo’s story. They have no ending or point to their own selves. Such as Paz Vega, a journalist who saves Rambo and provides him with the intel needed to complete his mission of wanton death and destruction. She herself gets no closure or even writes an article. She’s a journalist in name only. The other gripe I have is 70% of the movie is in Spanish. I thought only 20% of Arizona speaks Spanish, yet there’s a disproportionate amount here. Yea, I understand when they’re in Mexico. But why the need to do it in Rambo’s home. Even he, himself, has a look on his face at times that says “please stop speaking in Spanish”.

The start of the movie has Rambo attempting to save lost hikers from a sudden deluge that leads, somehow, to a river flow down a mountain. It’s supposed to serve as a way to illustrate that Rambo still has PTSD from not being able to save lives but just comes across as corny and laughable.

In short, I don’t recommend this movie at all. Take a hard pass. This is a twisted revenge fantasy that should have remained that, a fantasy.