14 September 2018


We have two very different releases dropping today, although there may be more linking them than you'd think. Mystery! Threats of violence! Action! Sort of. Suspense! One is a long-awaited hopefully return to form from a franchise that's been up higher and lower than most, the other is Gone Girl 2. I mean, uh, A Simple Favor (2018). Let's start with that one.

Right? This is like...totally just Gone Girl (2014), right? Sure it seems like the novelty of Anna and Blake's meet cute is different, and that relationship sure seems different than Ben and Rosamund, but the core premise is identical. From reading the greatest authority on these matters, YouTube comments, apparently the book source material is very different, so cool. I'll trust you, unbiased commentators.

The film is adapted by Paul Feig, in a pretty radical departure from his usual schtick which has become directing Melissa McCarthy vehicles. I'm very split on Feig. On the one hand I love a lot of his television work on all of the greatest comedies of the past ten years (The Office, Arrested Development, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock), Bridesmaids (2011) remains a landmark comedy film and I'm even a weirdly big fan of Other Space (there are dozens of us!). Lately he seems to have slipped into this female-driven comedy niche, which is fine, except that it's also kind of weird that a female director isn't championing the movement. There's also the simple fact that his latest films aren't all that good, which he refuses to take responsibility for, which to me deflates the whole movement.

To Feig's credit, there have been a lot of copycat films lately like Bad Moms (2016), Rough Night (2017), and Fun Mom Dinner (2017) that prove that it's harder than it looks to do what Feig does, which is namely, any kind of original comedy. To be fair, The Heat (2013) has grown on me and SPY (2015) is okay, but I wouldn't call either great, immortal comedies. At the same time, even when saying Feig on a bad day is a lot better than many other comedy directors, he's sliding into thriller territory, eh?

By all accounts the reviews so far are actually good. I feel like this flick hasn't had all that much buzz, despite having a pretty solid cast and director behind it. Maybe it's the genre shift or the fact that it feels so damn derivative. Or simply that it's a drama / thriller which seems more regulated to be a B-movie on the Lifetime channel than a major release these days. Not one superhero, Paul? What are you thinking? I'd suspect that this film doesn't really do well at all, but maybe it should.

Next we have The Predator (2018), the latest in a long line of franchises that we need to remember and differentiate by pluralization and definite articles attached. For the record:

Predator (1987)
Predators (2010)
The Predator (2018)

Got it? For the record we've also got Predator 2 (1990), Alien vs. Predator (2004) and Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007). These are all lesser movies than the previous ones listed, although I always have a soft spot for the insane things in Alien vs. Predator like the Weyland-Yutani Easter Eggs they tried to drop before Ridley Scott said fuck that with Prometheus (2012) and then the Predator / Human near kiss, which is the greatest sexual tension in movie history. Maybe I'm reading into things that aren't there.

Anyway, Predator is still one of the greatest action movies ever. I could rant about this for a long time. I already have! Predators is actually desperately underrated, with one of the greatest premises ever (and an incredible en media res opening). The cast is phenomenal and although Adrien Brody was definitely a little miscast (eight years on, even being a fan of the movie I had to double check to make sure he was the featured action hero. Like...really?), others from Danny Trejo to some early roles by the likes of Walton Goggins to Mahershala Ali really stand out. That's right - two Oscar winners in this cast.

Sure it doesn't match Predator in terms of sheer body mass or future Gubernatorial candidates, but how could any movie ever. It also doesn't quite match with dialogue, but how could any movie ever. Predator is great because it features a larger than larger than life opponent to fight Arnold, who is already larger than life. It spends the first half as Commando (1985) that everyone forgets about, then the second half as a largely dialogue-free Home Alone (1990) with the ugliest and most fearsome alien in movie history. It's a total treat.

That dialogue may return in The Predator thanks to Shane Black who slides in the directing chair after writing and being a supporting actor in Predator. The cast is also a who's who of current great actors from Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Sterling K. Brown, Olivia Munn, Yvonne Strahovski, and Keegan-Michael Key. It's hot, baby!

Apparently it sucks, though. That's crazy disappointing. Shane Black has had spurts of his career, but I'll be the first to say that The Nice Guys (2016) was actually surprisingly forgettable two years on down the road. He tends to have a lot of flash, style, and creativity, but not a lot of that sticks with you. Even Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005) I might dare say is an incredible time in the moment and a true screenwriting feat, but doesn't quite contain the pathos for sustainable cultural longevity.

Anyway, I suppose this franchise as a whole has a low bar to clear. If there are some iconic gruesome action scenes it'll all be good. Maybe we need another Predator equivalent, that is, a whole new action film that can drop and be as surprising, as well crafted, and as original as the original instead of continually coming up with Super Predators. Like, one normal Predator was enough for Arnold, why do we need a Super Predator to kill Jacob Tremblay? Anyway, I still hope to see it and get something out of it, even if it's just some wacky stupidness.

What do you think? Are you seeing the movie that looks terrible but may be good or the movie that looks great and may suck?

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