Black Adam (Review)

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Marwan Kenzari, Quintessa Swindell, Mohammed Ammer, Bodhi Sabongui, Pierce Brosnan
Certificate: 12A
Run Time: 125 mins

Black Adam is the latest in the DC Extended Universe and with Dwayne Johnson attached to play the titular character since September 2014, it’s taken quite some time to reach the big screen. The film was delayed for a number of reasons – Johnson was originally to star in a film opposite Shazam as his nemesis but DC decided to let Shazam have his own film first and then introduce Black Adam. The production was also not helped by the coronavirus pandemic and DC’s own inner turmoils surrounding their film slate. 

In the director’s chair is Jaume Collet-Serra, responsible for a cluster of Liam Neeson action vehicles and last year’s reasonably fun-in-the-moment yet utterly disposable Jungle Cruise

Black Adam opens with the titular character’s origin in 2600 BC before jumping ahead to the present day where he is awoken via a spoken incantation. The character was believed to have been the rescuer of the fictional country Kahndaq, which is now being oppressed by Intergang, an organised crime syndicate. University professor and resistance fighter Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) and her teenage son, Amon (Bodhi Sabongui) function as the audience’s insight to the country. 

The film also introduces the Justice Society team, consisting of Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) and Ant-Man rip-off Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) to take Black Adam into custody, as they believe him to be a societal menace. They are sent into action by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who was last seen managing The Suicide Squad, who has somehow been shoehorned into managing this team. 

Black Adam is a mixed bag and is generally pretty mindless and disposable, albeit reasonably entertaining. Despite a two hour run time, the film never takes the time to breathe and focus on developing its character, instead choosing to prioritise action sequence after action sequence. By the end of the a climactic battle towards the end of the film’s second act, it’s pretty derivative superhero fare but the third act somewhat reframes the first two acts in a more interesting light.

Crucially, Johnson’s great in the titular role and it will be exciting to see his anti-hero come face-to-face with other DCEU characters in the future. Of the other performances, both Shahi and Sabongui make for solid reference points to Kahndaq, and Mohammed Amer gets some rousing lines as Amon’s Uncle. 

The Justice Society are particularly problematic, saddled with poor dialogue and cliche-ridden. An eye-openly poor opening sees them convene after receiving orders from Waller to locate Black Adam and the manner in which they leave Doctor Fate’s mansion on a fighter jet is lifted straight from X-Men. Hodge puts in a good effort as Hawkman, both Centineo and Swindell fail to leave an impression and Brosnan is just here to pick up the cheque.

The visual effects are often ropey, considering its sizeable $200 million budget and the film is far too reliant on CGI. Despite sterling work on Joker, Lawrence Sher’s cinematography is also disappointing, resorting to quick cuts. Lorne Balfe’s score is certainly loud but not particularly memorable.

Collet-Serra’s direction is rather anonymous but the hallmarks of a more adult-oriented film are evident. Prior to the film’s release, the studio were required to make cuts to achieve a 12A / PG-13 rating – arguably, a 15 / R rating is just what the film needs to elevate it. 

There’s also a mind-boggling reference to Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in which Collet-Serra contrasts a Mexican standoff with Black Adam’s superhero ability, which is unforgivable. 

Black Adam isn’t the DCEU’s crowning achievement and it’s a shame it rarely strays from superhero convention. At least it takes a handful of narrative risks in its third act that make it worthwhile and whilst there are inklings of a more genre-progressive film, the framing of the titular character as an anti-hero is an inspired creative choice. Still, Black Adam functions in setting the foundations of the character with Johnson is clearly game in the role and the film is entertaining, even if you’ll forget it shortly after the credits start to roll. 

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Halloween Ends (Review)

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Director: David Gordon Green
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak, Rohan Campbell, Will Patton, Kyle Richards, James Jude Courtney
Certificate: 18
Run Time: 111 mins

Halloween Ends is the final film in the new trilogy directed by David Gordon Green and set after the events of John Carpenter’s original 1978 film. The series had previously experienced a rather rough life until Green’s innovative 2018 sequel that decided to ignore all that had come before and pick the story up forty years after the original. 

It was brilliant – both Green and comedian Danny McBride, who collaborated to pen the script, demonstrated a clear understanding of the elements that made Halloween (1978) work. Unfortunately, despite Green and McBride saying it was the plan all along, shortly after the success of Halloween (2018), it was announced they would bring two more films to form a trilogy. 

Halloween Kills, the first sequel, was a retrograde abomination, undoing most of the good work of its predecessor. The story, characters and script were all laughable and the film suffers badly from middle film syndrome. Naturally, expectations were rather low for this trilogy capper. 

Halloween Ends is set three years after the events of Michael Myers’ last killing spree in Halloween Kills, who has since vanished. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is living with her granddaughter, Alysson (Andi Matichak) while writing a memoir of her experiences. 

Green introduces a new character, Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), who is accused of murdering a boy he was babysitting, before being exonerated. As Corey reintegrates himself into society, he enters into a relationship with Alysson while being a victim of bullying. A chain of events culminates in the inevitable return of Myers, with expectedly grisly results. 

Halloween Ends is an interesting finale to the trilogy and is to be admired for trying to do something different. It has a promising first 45 minutes or so, in particular a chilling opening where Green introduces Corey and the fateful babysitting venture. He also deftly explores Corey’s pariah status, following his exoneration and introduces some thought-provoking themes such as how perpetuators of crime can come from mundane beginnings. 

That said, other elements such as Laurie’s newfound peace are delivered heavy-handedly and cliched. The multiple attempts at romantic encounters are also cringeworthy. 

Unfortunately, you can’t have a Halloween film without Michael Myers and the way in which he is integrated into the plot 45 minutes in is rather befuddling and the result is a decidedly mixed bag. 

The bloody violence staple to the slasher horror genre is for the most part, more muted and infrequent this time around. Despite Halloween Kills’ disaster status, it was certainly more mean-spirited than other films in the series in its gore and horror. That said, there is one kill involving a DJ that will surely go down as one of the best kills of the series. 

Green offers a more measured quality to his direction this time around over Halloween Kills, although returning cinematographer Michael Simmonds’ work isn’t as creative as his previous two efforts. The score is once again by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies and as you would expect, the trio conjure some memorable themes. 

Although Halloween Ends chooses to conclude the series in a decidedly different direction to what one would expect, it’s undoubtedly a significant step-up from Halloween Kills. I’d much rather see a filmmaker take a bold risk than stick to convention and despite the fact the result is a mixed bag, it’s a memorable way to end the series. However, both Green and McBride would surely have been better off walking away after the success of Halloween (2018) and leaving the series on a high note. 

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Smile (Review)

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

Director: Parker Finn
Starring: Sosie Bacon, Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner, Kal Penn, Rob Morgan  
Certificate: 18
Run Time: 115 mins

Smile is a psychological horror written and directed by Parker Finn, in his feature-length debut. Finn expands his 2020 short film called Laura Hasn’t Slept. The film follows a therapist named Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) who starts having increasingly disturbing experiences after witnessing the unexplained suicide of a patient. She starts to believe her experiences are supernatural. The marketing for Smile hasn’t seemed particularly convincing, but how does it fare? 

Smile is a surprisingly effective psychological horror that deftly explores the themes of trauma, grief and guilt through horror’s generic constructs. It’s not perfect – it overrelies on some classical horror tropes, particularly with its use of jump scares and there’s nothing here you’ve haven’t seen before. It’s also around 10 minutes overlong. 

That said, it’s impressive that it doesn’t fully reveal what is haunting Cotter right until the very end and as a result, it maintains its tension. There’s also a terrifically creepy yet awkward party and the atmosphere of the hospital Cotter works at is also well-realised. 

Sosie Bacon makes for a compelling lead as the increasingly frantic Cotter, who we learn is burying some past trauma of her own. Jessie T. Usher turns in an uncharacteristically sombre performance as Cotter’s uncaring husband. Caitlin Stasey is also excellent as the patient who takes her life in front of Cotter, having originally played the lead in Laura Hasn’t Slept.

The score by Cristobal Tapia de Veer is unnerving and anxiety-inducing, successfully getting under the film’s skin. It’s also well shot by Charlie Sarroff, with some effective Dutch angles.

Smile is ultimately much better than it has any right to be and is thoroughly entertaining and meaningful from start to finish. No, it’s not the most original example of horror but despite an over reliance on jump scares, it maintains a creepy tension throughout and there are some striking images. It’s another solid horror to add to the impressive 2022 collection and I’m looking forward to seeing how Finn’s career develops. 

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

Blonde (Review)

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

Director: Andrew Dominik
Starring: Ana de Armas, Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Xavier Samuel, Julianne Nicholson
Certificate: 18
Run Time: 166 mins

Blonde is the eagerly awaited fictional retelling of the life of Marilyn Monroe from director Andrew Dominik. Dominik is a terrific talent who hasn’t put a foot wrong from the chilling prison crime drama Chopper, the magnificent The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and the grim yet thrilling Killing Them Softly.  

The film is an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ 2000 novel of the same name, which takes more than a few liberties of Monroe’s life and career. Naturally,  Blonde has attracted controversy for this, as well as Dominik’s portrayal of Monroe, which many have labelled as exploitative. 

While the film may have rubbed people the wrong way, it’s best to go into Blonde not expecting a biopic that rigidly sticks to fact and is instead a mechanism to interrogate fame in a horror-like setting.

Blonde is a bold and electrifying piece from Dominik – a hellish, unrelenting account that deftly captures the descent of Monroe’s life. The film argues Monroe was used and abused at every turn, a child-like figure who couldn’t handle herself. Redefining the parameters of the biopic genre, Blonde indebted to the style of David Lynch and Darren Aronofsky in its hallucinogenic portrayal of Monroe’s gloomy life. Dominik also experiments with colour and aspect ratios and there are numerous sequences which feel like they have been lifted straight from the 1950s.

The opening twenty minutes is particularly startling, a young Monroe (brilliantly played by Lily Fisher) suffering abuse at the hands of her mentally unstable mother, Gladys (Julianne Nicholson). 

Dominik’s portrayal of the paparazzi and male gaze is also fascinating, especially how he meticulously recreates iconic images from Monroe’s career. The film is unflinching in its depiction of sexual violence and domestic abuse, thoroughly earning its 18-rating. 

Its last act is a disorienting Lynchian descent into drug-fuelled mania. A scene where Monroe is sleeping is shot as if from the angle of a voyeur and she awakens from her slumber to check her surroundings. DP Chayse Irvin experiments with shadows and figures and there is definitely someone in the room. 

Ana de Armas is terrific as Monroe, who disappears into the role of an individual that simply has no place in life. A scene where she watches her in-laws make pasta from scratch is particularly profound as she likens the technique to the writing of a script and how she can’t fit in. 

Of the rest of the cast, Adrien Brody also turns in a brilliant performance as the playwright Arthur Miller, as does Julianne Nicholson as Monroe’s unhinged mother. 

The score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis is breathtaking – a haunting and melancholic soundscape that is endlessly memorable and is the glue that holds the film together. It’s interesting that between Monroe’s childhood years, there is a lack of score until a polyamorous sexual encounter. 

Chayse Irvin’s cinematography is mind-blowing. On top of the experimentation in colour and aspect ratio, a scene of Bobby Cannavale’s Joe diMaggio threateningly walking up a set of stairs is particularly striking, as is a disorienting sequence of characters walking through a corridor, made to feel as if it is one shot.

Blonde is not for the faint-hearted but this is a fierce and muscular horror-filled biopic of Monroe. It’s directed with real vigour, backed up by committed performance and a technical crew on top of their game. The 166 minutes fly by and a second watch unlocks even more substance. This is one of the best films of the year and worth the uncomfortably long wait for Dominik to direct a feature-length film. 

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

The Forgiven (Review)

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

Director: John Michael McDonagh
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Jessica Chastain, Matt Smith, Ismael Kanater, Caleb Landry Jones, Abbey Lee, Mourad Zaoui, Marie-Josée Croze, Alex Jennings, Saïd Taghmaoui, Christopher Abbott
Certificate: 18
Run Time: 117 mins

The Forgiven is the new film by director John Michael McDonagh, brother of Martin McDonagh behind films such as In Bruges and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The lesser known brother has also had a very strong career, his first two films with Brendan Gleeson in the leading role, The Guard and Calvary were magnificent. I was less enamoured with War On Everyone, a black comedy with Michael Peña and Alexander Skarsgård and found it to be very uneven. 

Based on a 2012 novel by Lawrence Osborne, Ralph Fiennes plays David Henninger, who is travelling with his wife Jo (Jessica Chastain) around Morocco. Their relationship is clearly strained at the start of the film and David is a high-functioning alcoholic. They travel to a friend’s gathering in a castle-like villa and on their way, David hits and kills a young teenager holding a fossil. The Henninger’s turn up late at the villa and after contacting the authorities, the death is ruled as an accident. However, the teenager’s father, Abdellah (Ismael Kanater), who shows up on the doorstep with his cronies and David ends up accompanying him back for the son’s burial. The story splits into two and we follow both David’ journey to forgiveness and Jo’s experiences in the villa with its ghastly inhabitants.  

The Forgiven sees McDonagh mostly back on form, although it’s not a masterpiece like his first two films were. The film is uneven and after the opening sequence, it takes a good twenty minutes or so to find its stride. At first, I thought McDonagh had made a straight-faced adaptation without his trademark black humour but thankfully, there’s plenty of that to be found once the film finds its feet. McDonagh balances this satisfying mean-spiritedness with sequences of profundity. Like the rest of his filmography, it’s a cathartic experience and the narrative leads you down some unexpected but satisfying roads.

Fiennes is excellent in the lead role, a tired and pitiful individual with a pessimistic outlook on life and McDonagh’s characterisation of him is excellent. He’s given some cracking lines in the script, especially one sequence where he is riding a camel in the desert. Fiennes balances this initial pessimism with an individual who has to do his penance and accept guilt. 

Chastain is also excellent as the lumbered wife who’s never allowed to have any fun and at first, the death clearly affects her more than David.  Matt Smith essentially plays himself but I didn’t gel with Caleb Landry Jones’ portrayal of his lover, Dally Margolis at all. Though, this is arguably by design McDonagh intentionally tries to portray the rich as despicable and repugnant. 

Ismael Kanater is also excellent as Abdellah, consumed by guilt and rage. Kanater conveys his unpredictability convincingly and you’re never quite sure if he’s going to lash out at David or try to understand him. Wonder Woman star Saïd Taghmaoui also impresses as one of his bodyguards, who receives an interesting backstory and provides a window into the poorer communities’ outlook on life. 

The score by Lorne Balfe is interesting, who crafts some memorable themes, particularly in the opening sequence. It’s also lusciously shot by Larry Smith, who crafts some arresting vistas. 

Overall, The Forgiven is an uneven yet thought-provoking drama. At times, it’s a profound drama infused with black comedy but it can also come across as a slightly oafish hangout film. Ralph Fiennes makes for an excellent lead and McDonagh has ultimately crafted a mostly gripping adaptation of the novel. It’s definitely worth your time. 

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

Blackbird (Review)

⭐ (Terrible)

Director: Michael Flatley
Starring: Michael Flatley, Eric Roberts, Nicole Evans, Patrick Bergin, Ian Beattie, Rachel Warren
Certificate: 15

Run Time: 90 mins

Blackbird is a film directed, written, produced and starring Michael Flatley, best known for his Irish dancing in shows such as Riverdance and Lord of the Dance. The film was self-funded by Flatley (he says it was not a vanity project…) and Flatley not only directs, but also writes, produces and stars in the lead role. Blackbird was filmed back in 2018 and after terrible initial reviews, a UK release was unclear. Four years later, it’s finally with us. 

Flatley is Victor Blackley, an ex-MI6 agent who likes to wear a hat at all kinds of angles. A few minutes into the film, you know exactly what you’re in for with a hilarious, ill-advised flashback to a previous relationship with Flatley’s facial expression against a white background, akin to the Teletubbies sun. 

Blackley now owns a hotel in Barbados and has retired from espionage. That is until Eric Roberts’ villain walks in with his girlfriend, Vivian (Nicole Evans) who happens to also be an ex-MI6 agent from Viktor’s past.  We’re expected to believe that she is completely unaware of his villainous tendencies. Viktor’s friends repeatedly tell him something has to be done to prevent Roberts from unleashing worldwide catastrophe. 

Blackbird is expectedly terrible and is laugh-out-loud bad in places, particularly in its second half. Michael Flatley was not born to be an actor and his performance is all about his hat, that gets positioned. He has no charisma or emotion and his relationship with women is particularly wooden. 

The dialogue is ear-scraping and the story, if you can even call it that, perfunctory. Once you accept the film is an unmitigated disaster, it passes the time well enough and the unintentional laughs keep on coming, especially in the second half. 

And then there are the action sequences. Flatley imagines his secret agent as a superhero, who can take down henchmen twice his size in one blow. It’s quite extraordinary to witness. 

Blackbird is a train wreck and Flatley makes all of the wrong decisions in his filmmaking debut. But when categorised specifically as a ‘bad film’, Blackbird is pretty successful and there are consistent laughs or cringes to be had but I can’t imagine sitting through it again. 

⭐ (Terrible)

Beast (Review)

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Starring: Idris Elba, Iyana Halley, Leah Sava Jeffries, Sharlto Copley
Certificate: 15
Run Time: 93 mins 

Beast is a survival creature feature directed by Baltasar Kormákur. Kormákur is an excellent director – 2 Guns is very enjoyable and Everest is an awe-inspiring and harrowing account of the 1996 disaster. He’s also proved himself adept at leaner survival genre with films such as Adrift and The Deep

Idris Elba plays a recently widowed doctor, Nate Samuels, who travels to South Africa with his two teenage daughters, Meredith (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Sava Jeffries). Samuels reunites with his wildlife biologist and reserve manager friend Martin Battles (Sharlto Copley). He explains to Battles the trip is designed to reconnect with his daughters. When they visit Samuels’ wife’s home community, they discover most of the population is dead and a rogue, ferocious lion has wiped them out in a rage-fuelled attack. They quickly cross paths with the lion and what follows is a cat-and-mouse game of survival, with all of the characters having to use their instincts and strengths. 

Beast may have a rather simplistic set-up but Kormákur largely pulls it off. It doesn’t really have any surprises up its sleeve but it’s a competently made survival action thriller and it mostly maintains tension throughout. It also doesn’t outstay its welcome at a breezy 93 minutes and it’s well-paced. 

Elba is excellent in the lead role, and he’s able to balance both the physical requirements of the role and the pathos and parental instinct needed to communicate with his daughters. Both of the daughters begin the film as rather annoying, whiny characters and as you might expect, make some idiotic decisions. However, the character arc of the family is serviceable enough and it’s enough to carry the film when the lion doesn’t take centre stage. Copley is always a bright spot in whatever he’s in, with fun performances in Elysium and Chappie and he’s clearly having fun too, brings his upbeat energy. 

The film is impressively shot by Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them cinematographer Philippe Rousselot and there are surprisingly lots of long takes for a creature feature. This helps build tension and invites you to study the frame to work out what might be happening in the background. There’s also a thoughtful score from Steven Price, which is both melodic and intense. 

Ultimately, Beast is an above average entry for this type of film. It’s not particularly intelligent and the character set-up doesn’t break any boundaries. Idris Elba deftly carries the film and Kormákur leaves enough of a mark to make this an entertaining feature, even if it’s far from his best film. Sometimes, you need a film where a man punches a big cat. 

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Nope (Review)

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Director: Jordan Peele 
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Michael Wincott, Brandon Perea, Wrenn Schmidt, Barbie Ferreira, Keith David
Certificate: 15
Run Time: 130 mins

Nope is the third directorial effort from Jordan Peele, who so far is two-for-two with horror films Get Out and Us. Nope sees Peele branch out from horror somewhat, as his latest is also infused with science fiction, the Western and comedy. 

Daniel Kaluuya reteams with Peele in the lead role of Otis Jr “OJ” Haywood. He’s a quiet rancher who works with his father (Keith David), both descendants of the black horse rider in Eadward Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion

Unfortunately, OJ’s father is not in the film for very long due to a freak accident. OJ and his sister, Emerald “Em” Haywood, inherit the ranch. Em isn’t particularly bothered about the ranch but OJ is desperate to keep the business afloat and maintain his father’s legacy. OJ doesn’t think his father’s death was a freak accident and is concerned with a cloud that hovers near the house that doesn’t seem to move.  

Intertwined with the Haywood’s story is Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun) who runs a small Western themed park called Jupiter’s Claim. Jupe has a past of his own and buys OJ’s horses that he can’t afford to keep. 

Nope is an original but flawed third film from Peele. It’s a multi-layered story that explores themes such as spectacle, the media, fantasy and the art of filmmaking. It’s definitely a film to go in blind. Unfortunately, Nope doesn’t fully work with its splicings of genre and it struggles in its pacing – it’s probably around 15 minutes overlong and it never really hooks you in. 

However, Peele is certainly able to craft suspense and tension and there are some excellent, subversive scares in the film. There’s some really striking and arresting images, too, as we have come to expect from the director.

Peele attempts to emulate the sci-fi of Steven Spielberg at times, with particular references to Close Encounters With The Third Kind. Some of the imagery is also indebted to Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival.  

Peele’s flirting with the Western and comedy is less assured. Many of the gags didn’t work for me and save for the stunning vistas of the California setting against the valleys and the exploration of marginalised races, it lacks grit and Jupe’s storyline and theme park are clumsily handled at best. 

Kaluuya is reliably great as OJ, an introverted but principled rancher. Keke Palmer doesn’t fare as well and her character is grating, but that is arguably by Peele’s design. Steve Yeun made such a strong impression in Minari last year and he does the best with what he’s got, but Jupe’s story arc is very messy in terms of how it fits with the overarching narrative. 

The score by Michael Abels is typically strong, ranging from other-worldly foreboding horror riffs to Western infusions.  The film is beautifully shot by Hoyte van Hoytema, who captures the spectacle of the wide vistas, through to immersive blood-drenched, nighttime horror. 

Nope is an interesting watch and despite its shortcomings, it’s subversive and thrillingly original. After a first viewing, you’ll need to ponder the various meanings and storyline and it’s a film that’s designed to be rewatched. Having seen the film twice, it still didn’t flow quite as succinctly as Peele’s first two films and its mashings of four genres feels awkward. It lacks the visceral punch of Get Out or the tension of Us‘ home invasion. There’s certainly a lot of positives and many of the arresting images have stuck with me but Nope is ultimately a better film to discuss than it is to experience.  

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Ranking The Predator Films

Prey is currently playing on Hulu and Disney+ and has received acclaim for its back-to-basics, stripped-down approach.  As I have such a difference viewpoint on this series compared to convention, I thought now would be a fitting time to rank the films in the series so far. I would say that there is not much between the five films quality-wise – they’re all very solid and all pose some interesting ideas. However, the top three entries are a significant step-up from the films in fourth and fifth position and my ranking of them could interchange on any given day.
predator-movie-review-image-header 5) Predator This is probably where you completely shut off and disregard this list, but hear me out. The original Predator is still a great film, but it’s more a film of scenarios than a cohesive narrative and it’s a bit of a trudge to get through until we get to the now-classic Arnie vs The Predator fight which in itself is awesome. Director John McTiernan (who would later go on to make the perfect Die Hard) succeeds in creating suspense with numerous shots of the Predator watching on its prey but there isn’t all that much character development and because of the lack of a narrative thread, there are a few stretches where not much happens. The film also features a very memorable score that has carried through to the rest of the series from Alan Silvestri. Predator is still an enjoyable film but controversially, I don’t think it has aged all that well and the other films have taken the material in more interesting directions. predator_DF_12736_R_rgb.0 4) The Predator  The Predator is shambolically put together and its pacing is rather breakneck, but it is a really entertaining film and director Shane Black’s signature humour is put to good use here, through the characterisations of the PTSD-ridden soldiers who take on the mythical creature. The first half in particular has some really interesting ideas and some well-constructed action sequences, particularly one in a science facility. I also really liked the decision to have this film set more in the suburbs and the contrast of the Predator to the urban area is interesting. 3) Prey Prey is an excellent prequel and is just the gut-punch the series needs. Trachtenberg directs with flair and the film features some terrific performance among its almost exclusively Native American cast. The very fact Trachtenberg has opted to centre the film around an underrepresented community is to be commended, too, with the only exception to the rule being a group of French fur trappers Naru encounters. Amber Midthunder makes for a formidable screen presence and it’s great the film focusses on her humanity. She is portrayed as both a skilled hunter but also an individual who makes mistakes. Trachtenberg’s mirroring of smaller animals hunting each other and the Predator and anything that steps in its way is also an excellent creative stroke. predator-DI-2-1864x1118.jpg 2) Predator 2 Generally regarded as the worst in the series, Predator 2 is a very brave film in my opinion and is certainly not a film that would be made in this day and age. It’s a film that successfully expands upon the mythologies established in the first film and the Afro aesthetic puts an interesting spin on the character. Danny Glover is great in the lead role, a hot-headed policeman who wants justice but is afraid of heights, which he faces multiple times in the film. The film also features performances from Gary Busey as a shady DEA agent and Bill Paxton as a wisecracking new recruit. There isn’t a boring moment in the film and the final fight sequence is particularly satisfying, over multiple set pieces and sets up future films and cross-overs. predators-2010 1) Predators  Robert Rodriguez was a very interesting choice to reboot the series after Predator 2 failed to impress. Taking a producer role and having Hungarian director Nimrod Antal in the directors chair, Predators is the best in the series in terms of its ideas and narrative. The idea of setting this film on another planet also helps to further expand the mythology and the whole mystery of why specific people are chosen to participate in this game is compelling. The cast are uniformly great, with Adrien Brody solid in the lead and standout performances from Topher Grace, Louis Ozawa Changchien and Laurence Fishburne. Although its second half morphs more into a blockbuster, its first half is where the film really excels and poses its ideas. Although The Predator was a fine entry in the series following this film, what I’d really like to see are sequels / spin-off’s to Predators as there are a lot of interesting places you can take this concept. It’s a shame Predators didn’t do all that well at the box office and remains a very underrated entry in the series.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister

Prey (Review)

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Starring: Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Michelle Thrush, Stormee Kipp, Julian Black Antelope, Bennett Taylor, Dane DiLiegro
Certificate: 15
Run Time: 100 mins

Prey is the latest instalment of the Predator series. The series has experienced a tough life, with the Arnold Schwarzenegger original leaving a lasting impression on critics and audiences. However, none of the sequels have managed to capture audience and critics to the same extent. Director Shane Black tried to reinvigorate the franchise with The Predator in 2018 but it unfortunately achieved negative reviews. My experience of the franchise has been quite the opposite however, and Predator 2 and Predators are both highly underrated. 

Prey is directed by Dan Trachtenberg, his second major film after 10 Cloverfield Lane, which left a barnstorming impression. The film is strangely heading straight to Hulu or Disney+ in the UK, foregoing a traditional theatrical release. 

Trachtenberg smartly takes the series back to its roots, positioning the film as a prequel. The film is set in 1719 in the Northern Great Plains and centres around Naru (Amber Midthunder), a skilled Comanche warrior in a tribe. She dreams of becoming a great hunter like her brother, Taabe (Dakota Beavers). When a Predator makes its way to Earth and the tribe believe a lion or bear to have caused destruction amongst the local fauna, Naru knows from her experience the creature causing carnage is no lion or bear. What follows is an intense cat-and-mouse chase between the Predator and its prey. 

Prey is an excellent prequel and is just the gut-punch the series needs. Trachtenberg directs with flair and the film features some terrific performance among its almost exclusively Native American cast. The very fact Trachtenberg has opted to centre the film around an underrepresented community is to be commended, too, with the only exception to the rule being a group of French fur trappers Naru encounters. 

Amber Midthunder makes for a formidable screen presence and it’s great the film focusses on her humanity. She is portrayed as both a skilled hunter but also an individual who makes mistakes. Trachtenberg’s mirroring of smaller animals hunting each other and the Predator and anything that steps in its way is also an excellent creative stroke. 

Prey features a rousing score by newcomer Sarah Schachner, at times reminiscent of the sound of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis but not quite as memorable.  It is a shame she doesn’t revisit Alan Silvestri’s iconic original themes, though. 

The film is very well-shot by Jeff Cutter, who beautifully captures the Great Plain landscape. All of the action sequences are exciting and kinetic and Cutter doesn’t resort to quick cuts. The final climax is particularly gripping, as is an altercation between the Comanche, French fur trappers and the Predator. 

Prey is an absolute blast and it’s a real shame the film isn’t being released theatrically. I’ll need to rewatch it but it’s certainly up there with Predator 2 and Predators as the best in the series for me. Trachtenberg is two-for-two and I can’t wait to see both what he directs next and how this franchise continues to evolve, now that it’s been granted a well-needed breath of fresh air. 

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)