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Josh Reviews The Predator

I’m an optimist, and someday I hope to see a new, truly great Star Trek movie in the theatres.  Someday, I hope to see a new, truly great Alien movie in the theatres.  And someday, I hope to see a new, truly great Predator movie in the theatres.

This sure as heck ain’t it.

The original Predator, from 1987, is a bad-ass, violent action movie with a sci-fi twist.  It was directed by John McTiernan, in the era in which Mr. McTiernan could do no wrong.  (He also directed Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October, two nearly perfect films that I adore.)  I love Predator — it’s got great characters, great action, and a great villain.  It holds up pretty well.  And it has spawned a heck of a lot of sequels, though sadly none of them have succeeded in being more then a relatively pale imitation of that first film.  1990’s Predator 2 is a truly bizarre sequel, transporting the series into the future (an at-the-time futuristic 1997 Los Angeles) and replacing the action-star Arnold Schwarzenegger with a very hyper Danny Glover as the lead.  At the time, it was a disappointment, and it’s hard to argue that the film is all that good, but relative to the films that followed, I now consider Predator 2 to be somewhat underrated!  In a film-fan in-joke, a sequence inside a Predator ship in Predator 2 showed an Alien skull, from the Alien franchise, on the Predator’s trophy wall.  That inspired a wonderful series of Aliens vs. Predator comic-books by Dark Horse Comics, which owned the comic-book rights to both franchises, and that in turn inspired two Alien vs. Predator films in 2004 and 2007, neither of which really lived up to the potential of the premise.  Then, in 2010, Robert Rodriguez produced another straight-up Predator sequel, called Predators (a fun nod to the Alien sequel, Aliens), that was directed by Nimród Antal.  I enjoyed the film’s efforts to do something new with the Predator franchise (such as setting the film on an alien planet as opposed to here on Earth), but in the end I didn’t find it particularly memorable.

And so now here we are with yet another attempt to relaunch the franchise with The Predator.  When I read that Shane Black was writing and directing this film, I was ecstatic.  Mr. Black is an incredible talent.  He wrote and directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys, two films that I absolutely love.  (He also wrote and directed Iron Man Three, which was pretty great too!)  And he has a connection to Predator in that he appeared as an actor in the first … [continued]

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We’ve reached the end of my list of my Top Twenty Movies of 2016Click here for numbers twenty through sixteen, click here for numbers fifteen through eleven, and click here for numbers ten through six.

And now, my top five favorite movies of 2016!

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5. Hail, Caesar! I can’t believe how ignored this terrific Coen Brothers movie has been!  Set in Hollywood in the 1950′s, the film stars Josh Brolin as Eddie Mannix, a studio exec and “fixer” who is trying to locate his kidnapped star, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), before news of the star’s disappearance can make it into the papers.  Baird’s kidnapping, by a group of disgruntled Communist screenwriters, is only one of the many fires that Mannix has to try to put out as he tries to keep his studio afloat and all of his in-production pictures running smoothly.  Hail, Caesar! is a very silly film, which is a difficult tone to hit, but the Coen Brothers make it look effortless.   The film mines a lot of humor gently skewering the art of making movies and the pomposity of Hollywood egos.  The fall-on-the-floor hysterical scene in which director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) — whose very name is a subtle gag running throughout the film — tries and fails to give a line reading to the dim-bulb cowboy actor Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) could be the funniest single scene in any movie this year.  Josh Brolin is terrific as the serious man (see what I did there?) trying his best to wrangle all the Hollywood crazies surrounding him.  Tilda Swinton, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Alison Pill, Wayne Knight, Jonah Hill, David Krumholtz, Fisher Stevens, Fred Melamed, Patrick Fischler, Robert Picardo, and even Christopher Lambert (the original Highlander himself!) are all so great in their appearances in the film.  While Hail, Caesar! might not be one of the greatest Coen Brothers films ever (of a caliber with The Big Lebowski, Miller’s Crossing, Fargo, or A Serious Man), it is still easily one of the best movies of 2016.  (Click here for my full review.)

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4. Arrival —  When twelve extraterrestrial spaceships appear in different locations around the globe, linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is tasked with finding a way to communicate with the alien life-forms (huge creatures that the human scientists refer to as “heptapods”).  Arrival is a magnificent film, a gorgeous, original, cerebral sci-fi story.  The film has the visual splendor of a big-budget movie, but this is not an action-adventure film, rather this is an intelligent drama that is a fascinating exploration of language and communication.  I was enormously impressed by the way the film … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Nice Guys

Shane Black has been partially responsible for quite a few movies that I have loved (boy, twenty years ago I thought Lethal Weapon was one of the greatest movies ever made), but it was 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (which Mr. Black wrote and directed) that made me a forever fan of his work.  (And also of Robert Downey Jr.  And Michelle Monaghan.  It’s a pretty amazing movie and if you’ve never seen it you really need to go watch it immediately.)  I loved seeing Mr. Black working in big-budget-blockbuster land with the terrific Iron Man Three, but when I learned that he was working on another buddy-cop mystery/action flick, I was very excited.  The Nice Guys does not disappoint.  In fact, it is a triumph, a spectacular work of adult filmmaking that is thrilling and ferociously funny.

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In LA in 1977, a mostly drunk private eye named Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is asking around for a girl named Amelia, who has hired a thug named Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) to beat up Holland to get him off her trail.  And thus is a beautiful friendship formed.  March and Healy eventually wind up working together in an attempt to locate the now-truly-missing Amelia, while unraveling a bizarre multiple-murder case involving porn and politics and the automobile industry.

The Nice Guys is a delight from start to finish.  Mr. Black has long since proven himself as the master of the buddy comedy film, and in Holland and March he has delivered a wonderful new set of characters.  Both Mr. Gosling and Mr. Crowe are phenomenal, each perfectly cast and each moving out of their usual serious-dramatic personas to deliver some killer comedy.  I don’t believe I’ve ever seen either actor play a character quite like these two, and they are each so deliciously great.  The Nice Guys works because it is joyous fun watching these two bounce off one another.  Ryan Gosling is a riot as the nervous, cowardly, hard-drinking March, a man content to drift through life while making the least possible bit of effort towards anything.  And yet, March is a brilliant detective when he wants to be, and we can see that his love for his young daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) is real.  Mr. Gosling is given some incredibly juicy comedy bits throughout the film, and he nails each one perfectly.  He also — ably abetted by Mr. Black’s sharp script — paints a picture of the tragedy that broke Holland without ever overplaying that note.  Mr. Crowe, meanwhile, is equally perfect as Healy, a man used to using his fists rather than his brains, but who for some reason finds himself driven to protect the young … [continued]

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The Top 15 Movies of 2013 — Part Two!

Yesterday I began my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2013!  Click here for part one.

AP Film Review Iron Man 3

10. Iron Man Three Like Thor: The Dark World, Iron Man Three was a fun film that not only served as an effective sequel to its particular series, but also as a follow-up to The Avengers and a further expansion of the over-all Marvel movie universe.  More importantly even than that, Iron Man Three told an exciting action/adventure story that was deeply rooted in the stories of the characters, and that (after the somewhat disappointing Iron Man 2) successfully returned to the light, funny-but-still-telling-a-serious-story tone that the first Iron Man film nailed so dramatically.  As a fanatical fan of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, I was thrilled to see the reunion of Robert Downey Jr. with Shane Black, who directed and co-wrote this film.  There seems to be a wonderful magic that occurs when those two men work together.  Also, Ben Kingsley’s work as The Mandarin could be one of the best supporting performances in a Marvel Studios movie so far.  So great.  And the post-credits scene?  Perfection.  (Click here for my original review.)

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9. This is The End Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared made me fall in love with the work of Paul Feig and Judd Apatow, and with many of the tremendously talented young performers who have appeared over and over again in Mr. Apatow’s work, and also over the years in many other projects of their own.  These guys have been in a lot of great films, and also, occasionally, in some lesser films in which they have coasted a bit on the audience’s fondness for their characters.  This is The End takes perfect advantage of that fondness, resulting in an absolutely hilarious, madcap story of this group of friends (Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, and Craig Robinson, all playing themselves) attempting to survive the end of the world.  There’s a lot of energy at the start of the film from all of the famous cameos (including but not limited to: Michael Cera, Paul Rudd, Aziz Ansari, David Krumholtz, Mindy Kaling, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Martin Starr), and of course from the fun of watching all of those famous people die horribly.  But the film gets even better once we wind up with just this group of boys, trapped together in the ruins of James Franco’s house.  These guys have a lot of fun at one another’s expense, and the film continually surprised me with its crazy comedic digressions, from the Be Kind, Rewind-style home-made Pineapple Express 2 trailer to The Exorcism of Jonah Hill.  Other than … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Iron Man 3!

Iron Man was a magical film, a movie that caught a very specific, crazy sort of lightning in a bottle.  I remember seeing it in a theater that very first time and realizing immediately that it was something special.  It was intense and bad-ass but also incredibly funny and light-hearted.  The special effects were terrific, the character arcs were compelling, the ending was magnificent and the post-credits epilogue blew my mind, promising a whole new universe of possibilities (one that I still find it hard to believe came to such spectacular fruition with The Avengers).  Yes, I remember seeing Iron Man for the first time (click here for my original review), and I also vividly remember seeing it for the second time, about 24 hours later, because it was a movie I just had to see again, immediately.

The filmmakers stumbled with Iron Man 2, a listless film that seemed to re-tread a lot of the same ground the first film had covered, while at the same time promising us hints at other story-lines and characters (S.H.I.E.L.D., the Black Widow, Howard Stark) that would only come to fruition in future films.  (Click here for my original review of Iron Man 2.)  But I am pleased to report that Iron Man 3 (or Iron Man Three, as written in the closing credits — and good god do I love that) is a triumphant return to form, a thrilling, action-packed romp that is a true sequel to the first film and a rollicking, riveting start to the Marvel movie universe’s Phase Two.  It’s not as perfect as Iron Man — there are a bunch of niggling plot holes that bug me, which I’ll discuss at the very end of this review — but it’s a pretty terrific super-hero adventure film, one that I hope to see again very soon.

Although the heroes won the day in The Avengers, Tony Stark is shaken by how close he came to death during the big battle in New York City.  Faced with the existence of aliens, not to mention super-soldiers, gamma-irradiated behemoths, and Asgardian deities, Tony has had to face the brutal truth that he’s just a mortal human being in a metal suit.  He’s tried to find solace and comfort by building new Iron Man suit after new suit, trying to prepare himself for any eventuality, to give himself some sort of guarantee that he’ll be able to protect himself and Pepper, the woman he loves.  When his buddy Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau, returning to the role of Happy even though he’s no longer behind the camera as the film’s director) is injured by a terrorist attack by the mysterious … [continued]