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phonenumberofthebeast

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11 reviews in total 
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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A simple tale that conceals surprising depth and meaning, 19 October 2012
10/10

"Groundhog Day" is a rare case of audiences actually being ahead of the critics. When this superficially simple tale of a self-obsessed weatherman (Bill Murray) who is forced to relive the same day over and over again was initially released, most critics, even the best, completely missed this movie's subtle and intricate take on the vagaries of life. They followed only its simple premise, slapstick humour and the great, sarcastic shadow of Bill Murray, who, as always, dominates every scene. Audiences, however, immediately took to it. Despite being released (appropriately) in February, the famine period of the movie calendar, "Groundhog Day" went on to gross over $70 million and became a sleeper hit later on video. Soon, the phrase "It's like Groundhog Day" began passing from mouth to mouth as a descriptor for any number of human situations, and Groundhog Day was better recognised as a metaphor than as a holiday. Today, "Groundhog Day" is recognised by the AFI and the Writer's Guild of America.

That "Groundhog Day" works on all the levels it does is not necessarily due to conscious action on the part of the writers (Harold Ramis and John Rubin), who focus primarily on delivering a sharp and witty script that fully explores every comic (and later, tragic) outcome of its premise, but because its premise, so utterly simple, is also marvelously applicable to an almost endless array of life experiences. In that sense, it is like a fairy tale or a myth: a universal story that manages to capture something essential in the human experience. For example, there is very little overt religious symbolism in the film, and yet representatives of several entirely different religions have drawn parallels between the story and the tenets of their faith. Buddhists see Murray's character's dilemma as a representation of the cycle of rebirth, while Catholics see it as Purgatory. In truth, as the film itself notes, *everyone* feels trapped in an endlessly repeating cycle of identical days for at least part of their lives, and so is free to read it as applies to them.

Beyond this though, it really is quite astounding how perfect this little film is; how annoying characters we wouldn't give the time of day to in the street suddenly become fully fleshed out comic creations, simply because we took the time to see them properly. How every bland suburban street reveals turn-of-the-century architectural gems that our eyes would have passed over on first viewing, and how beautiful the sky can look on a cold February morning.

Dredd (2012)
5 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
A great Dredd movie is probably impossible, so I'll settle for this, 7 September 2012
8/10

Judge Dredd is arguably the only genuinely famous comic book hero to come out of Britain, a hinterland in a genre overwhelmingly dominated by the US, Japan and France. And even so, he still lacks the global reach of Naruto, Batman or even Asterix. There are many reasons for this; first, Batman and Superman are easy to pigeonhole, because their stories are largely about them. However, from his inception, Judge Dredd, both the man and the comic, have always been more about the universe he inhabits, which means that any depiction of Dredd outside his comic homeland comes saddled with a huge amount of backstory. Also, the comic, with its unrelenting mixture of misanthropic cynicism and fatalistic humour, strikes a uniquely British tone that is unlikely to appeal to foreigners, particularly Americans. Although I described Dredd as a comic book hero, he really isn't: he's a fascist; the unbending arm of a totalitarian regime. The tragedy of his world is that it makes him necessary. The true villain of Dredd is not Dredd, nor the perps, druggies, demons and robots he combats, but you, the reader, for settling into a cowardly state of ineffectual consumerism and letting your society dwindle to nothing. Not really a positive message to send to the wider world, and this movie wisely doesn't try.

After the disastrous Stallone vehicle in 1995, which blundered spectacularly by making Dredd a hero, studios were understandably loth to bankroll another one, meaning that this movie, whatever its intentions, would be hamstrung by its budget. Rather than a jupped-up take on Blade Runner's Los Angeles, Mega-City One now resembles present day Detroit with a few concessions to the future, such as mile- high city blocks, thrown in. By zeroing in on two Judges and their actions over a single day, this allows the producers to save on dollars and the writer (28 Days Later's Alex Garland) to ignore many of the comic's wider and more troubling implications: the Judges are treated as a simple police force, rather than a fascist police state; the people are treated as cowed innocents, rather than hedonistic dullards prey to every fad or scam that comes along. Instead, the movie focuses on pure action, and any allusions to the comic's moral message are made through the sets, cinematography, and unspoken communication, rather than histrionically preached in dialogue. This works, and as the Stallone movie amply showed, is the only way a Judge Dredd movie could ever work.

Given its financial limitations, the movie rises and falls on its storytelling, acting and direction, and on all counts, I give this a pass. Karl Urban is far too restrained to really capture Dredd's flamboyant personality; ironically, Stallone's over-the-top, overblown performance in the 1995 adaptation is in many ways closer to Dredd in the comics, though the comics play it for laughs, while Stallone wanted to be taken seriously. With laughs thin on the ground in this adaptation, Urban is forced to rein himself in, and so at times Dredd comes across as a simple honest cop, rather than the square-jawed embodiment of Law he is meant to be. I was not initially happy with the casting of bubbly, apple-cheeked Olivia Thirlby as the weary, hatchet- faced Anderson, but her character won me over, partly through writing (she is now a rookie one day away from washing out, rather than an experienced, accomplished Judge) and through performance (Thirlby showed a grit I hadn't seen before). Lena Heady, playing the crime boss Maw- Maw, is of course, note-perfect, as she can perform this kind of role in her sleep.

On a technical level, given its budget, the movie does pretty well. The CG shots of Mega-City One are seamless and the slo-mo and psychic effects are suitably trippy, without inducing migraine. The action scenes are well-choreographed and, miraculously in this post-Bay universe, easy to follow.

There is little I can say beyond this without spoiling what plot there is. However, it is a very competent action movie that manages to capture something of the spirit of Wagner's seminal comic. I can only hope it is a smash hit, and we are then granted a sequel with sufficient budget to bring us more of Dredd's vast world.

15 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
Perhaps not the best books to adapt, 23 December 2009
6/10

Vadim Jean's second adaptation of Terry Pratchett's longrunning Discworld series of comedic fantasy novels cannot compare to the first, though it is not really his fault. The series adapts Pratchtt's first two novels, The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, which together form a loose single narrative. Set on a typical fantasy realm, replete with trolls, dwarfs and demons, they are, effectively, a parody of the hero's quest, in that the hero, an untalented "wizzard" named Rincewind, has no intention either of being heroic or of going on a quest but ends up fighting monsters, riding dragons and trying to save the world anyway. He is assisted by his "sidekick" Twoflower, who seems only dimply aware that he isn't on a packaged holiday. And that, without mentioning specifics, is the entire plot. Along the way, several fantasy (or perhaps D&D) conventions, such as talking swords, scantily-clad, Heavy Metal-style warrior women, and raging loin-clothed barbarians, are duly referenced and lambasted.

After the relative success of Hogfather in 2006, Vadim Jean decided to take the series in a surprising direction: backwards. Correctly in my view, he chose perhaps the archetypal novel in Pratchett's canon to adapt first. Hogfather was Pratchett at his absolute height, mixing adventure with philosophical commentary and existential humour, the most mature expression of such Discworldly themes of imagination vs. reality, the power of myth vs rationality, and the dichotomy of "the falling angel and the rising ape". "The Colour of Magic" and "The Light Fantastic" were written 25 years ago, when Pratchett was still finding his feet as a writer. As such, they lack some of the sophistication one comes to expect from the series. The books' humour, which would eventually become character and situation-driven, here operates on the level of broad parody, lampooning the absurdities of many fantasy and fairy tale conventions. The characterisation, which would become far more complex in later novels, is as broad as a wall, with Twofower the naive Asian tourist and Rincewind the cowardly non-hero. In a move that was either very wise or bewilderingly silly, Jean decided to cast Sean Astin as Twoflower, even though in the books he is East Asian in appearance. Perhaps this was done to lessen the racial stereotype, but if so, that doesn't reflect well on the source material. His decision to cast the elderly David Jason as Rincewind, who in the books is a youngish man with a scraggly attempt at a beard, is less explicable, other than Jean was simply grateful that Jason wanted to do another series with him.

But if the plot is slight, the actors certainly give it their all. Astin plays Twoflower with just the right kind of naivete, while Jason, though miscast, creates a Rincewind that is suitably cynical and craven. For Pratchett fans, a number of pleasing retcons have been incorporated: The Librarian becomes an orangutan much earlier; Death is now his fully-evolved, pleasantly bemused self, and the Patrician is unquestionably Vetinari, here played by Jeremy Irons- a nod to Pratchett saying that a good actor for Vetinari would be "that guy from Die Hard", ie Alan Rickman.

In summary, I think Pratchett fans will find pleasure in it, but others should probably stay away.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Coninuation of the high-quality Ghostbusters brand, 16 August 2008
8/10

Usually, cartoon spinoffs of movies are a joke. They take whatever made the movie great and drain it dry for fear of upsetting the kiddies, leaving a pale husk behind that bears not even superficial resemblance to the original. "The Real Ghostbusters" was an exception to the rule. With a voice cast that included some of the best talents in the business (Maurice "The Brain" LaMarche, Lorenzo "Garfield" Music, Frank "Nibbler" Welker and, oddly enough, Arsenio Hall), lovely animation and some surprisingly mature and scary writing from future "Babylon 5" creator John Michael Strazynski, episodes of "The Real Ghostbusters" often rivaled their progenitor in terms of quality. But, by 1988, things changed. First Music and then Strazynski left, and the show was drastically retooled to make it more "kiddie friendly." The show went on for another two years, but it was no longer the show it had been.

Five years later, "Extreme Ghostbusters" showed up, pretty much out of the blue. The show was a direct continuation of the original series, though only LaMarche's Egon Spengler reprised his role, with the "pet" ghost Slimer now voiced by Billy "Stimpy" West. This show followed a "next generation" concept, with Egon taking on a group of neophyte grad students to replace the old team. Lasting only for a season, it was an attempt to bring back the old series' dark tone. For the most part, it succeeded; perhaps too well. Some of the story lines in this new incarnation were fairly horrific, including a group of creatures closely modeled on Hellraiser's Cenobites who mutilate children, a bridal ghost with no skin and a demon who removes the bones from its still-living victims. From the black-infused colour schemes to the apocalyptic goth-rock cover of the once-jaunty Ghostbusters theme, it was clear that this show was aiming for the same "young adult" market vacated by shows like "Batman: The Animated Series". The show wasn't quite good enough to reach those heights, perhaps because Strazynski had no hand in it, but it contained a number of episodes that held up well against the best of the first series. The show also suffered a bit from political correctness (the new team comprises a black, a Latino, a woman and a guy in a wheelchair) but, mercifully, these elements had little or nothing to do with the way the characters were portrayed. Given its often disturbing tone, I'm not surprised this show wasn't renewed, but it's a shame that there hasn't been anything since.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
I had to see it. I really did. I only barely made it out alive, 20 January 2008
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There are some movies, "Highlander 2" comes to mind, that are so bad you would seriously consider having your leg amputated in the wilderness without anesthetic before you would consider viewing them again. The mere act of watching becomes a trial, and one is genuinely afraid, not due to any efforts of the filmmakers, but for one's own life and sanity, pushed to the limits by the sheer awfulness of the production. The best thing I can say about AVPR, as we are now inanely forced to call it, is that it is not "quite" one of those movies. In some ways I wish it was; then at least it would be memorable.

I knew going in it would be bad, and that it would probably be yet another nail in the coffin of my favorite scifi franchise ("Alien" in my case, though I do enjoy the "Predator" films). I had seen the "redband" trailer, and stared in horror at its frenetic menagerie of 80s teen slasher clichés; I even watched the "exclusive" online clip of the film's first five minutes, and hoped that they had been edited down from a better-paced original (as it turned out, they had not). But even so, I gave the movie a shot. Why? I'm not sure. Perhaps because if a beloved artifice that one has admired for years is to be systematically dismantled and thrown on the trash heap, one should be there to watch it burn. At least, I thought, with my expectations this low, this movie's anonymous directors would have to try very hard to undercut them.

They did. I mean really, they must have tried hard. It takes some kind of effort to take two of the most durable mythologies in modern scifi and make them a backdrop to a pizza guy's coming of age. Seriously. That is the only discernible story-arc in this entire film. Truth be told I could forgive even that if the characters hadn't came pre-assembled right out of the teen movie stock barrel. Instead this film spends 40 minutes trying to make us care whether Smarmy Teen gets it off with Hot Blonde before Blond Bully Ex-Boyfriend finds out. Thank God he has Troubled Ex-Con Brother (who trumps in along with his buddy, Nice Cop) to help him out once the aliens (who arrive courtesy of "disturbing" evisceration of Happy Hunting Dad and his son, Curious Preteen) start to take out the population (such as Mumbling Bum Who No One Will Ever Believe and Stupid Cop Who Keeps Looking In The Dark After Everyone Else Has Left). They soon meet up with Screaming Bereft Mother and Military Chick, who saves her daughter Cute Little Girl after her husband Wussy New Man is vivisected in line with tradition.

Honestly, with this zoo of automated plot-bots to manage, how do the aliens and the predators (actually a Predator) get a look in? Well in truth, they don't. Very little time is spent developing either character (and let's face it, since neither character actually talks, that isn't surprising) and any tension built up between them is quickly dissipated as the film returns to the interminable "I Know What You Did Last Summer" slasher plot.

While many others on this page have done so, it's hard for me to criticize the flat pacing, the indiscernible closeup action sequences, the dark murky lighting and the nauseating jump-cuts, since these diseases appear to afflict every action film made today. Some have also argued this film destroyed its franchise(s). I disagree. Both franchises are strong enough and durable enough to survive even this. No, the cardinal sin committed by "AVPR" is that it is simply NOT SCARY. How could anyone forget that one vital component? Yes, it is gory, and yes, it has some elaborate death scenes, but none of them were particularly scary or even disturbing (the one scene that seems to have freaked everyone out, the "pregnant mothers" scene, was done better in the "Dawn of the Dead" remake). When people remember the original "Alien", doubtless what comes to mind is John Hurt's iconic chestburster sequence. What people may forget is that that was the ONLY instance of in-your-face, on screen carnage in the entire movie. Every other (human) death either occurred offscreen, or barely on it. The horrors were left to our imaginations. Although many remember "Aliens" as a nonstop action thriller, it too was fairly restrained in its use of gore, and was all the more effective for it. It seems odd that two directors with such lessons in patience and economy as their inspiration chose instead to go for all out gratuity with no tension at all.

8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
The oddest, most unexpected, and flat out best of a once-tired subgenre, 29 June 2007
9/10

"My Name is Earl" has some unlikely ancestors. It belongs to a genre of television comedy/drama best described as "Good works shows". Popular in the eighties, when "Highway to Heaven" and "Quantum Leap" topped the charts, these shows concerned a normal, everyday guy or gal who, usually at the inspiration of some amorphous Higher Power, travelled from place to place attempting to make things Right. These shows drew their audiences in with their optimism, their conviction and their reminder that, however bad the world may seem, we have it in us all to make it better. Naturally, once the 90s dawned, they withered on the vine.

So now we're in the 2000s. How do you draw an audience jaded by the horrors around them back to the form? By taking the its conventions and completely subverting them. Instead of your average whitebread middle class straight edge, ala Scott Bacula or Patrick Duffy, you have Earl, a scuzzy, scummy lowlife with the kind of handlebar mustache that always makes one think of dead wives in the cellar. One day, realising that his life sucks, he decides to go on a quest to right all the wrongs he committed in his life. This is, as you might imagine, a fairly daunting prospect. Instead of God or some other vaguely Judeo-Christian concept, you have what Earl calls "karma", though it has little to do with karma as Hindus or Buddhists would understand it. It's more like the stalking Death in "Final Destination", only armed with a custard pie and a hand-buzzer instead of a chainsaw. If Earl does something good, he, and usually hordes of other people through a complex Rube-Goldberg unravelling of events, is rewarded. If he does bad, karma ensures Earl has a suitably slapstick comeuppance. Initially it seems to only idly look in his direction. But once Earl takes up his quest, the gloves come off. He is, as he puts it, "karma's bitch." At one point, having decided to neglect his duties in favour of romance, he finds himself at karma's mercy, crashing through a seemingly endless series of pratfalls before falling victim to a swarm of bees.

What makes this show work is that, while it never loses its moral compass, it isn't preachy or condescending. The characters inhabit the world we know, not some idealised, processed version of it. Not everyone, even white knight Earl, is necessarily likable. Earl doesn't get all virtuous about his job; he does it because he thinks it's the right thing to do, even if it means helping his repugnant "family"- his loathsome ex-wife Joy (brilliantly played by Jaime Pressely), her layabout boyfriend and their two kids. Even Randy, Earl's endearingly dim brother, who acts as the Laurel to Earl's Hardy, ("I'm gonna ask the judge to smash this walnut with his judge hammer. I bet it explodes like a death star") is given to moments of selfishness.

The scripts are wonderfully creative and have a knack for undermining expectations. In one instance, decides to apologise to the mustachioed girl he made fun of in junior high who he hasn't seen in years. When she opens her front door, cliché demands she be heart-stoppingly beautiful. Instead she has a full beard. "I tried waxing," she says. That's what works. The characters are human. This show doesn't give us people to look up to; it gives us people we could actually be.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Two different movies, 9 June 2007
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film exists in two very different versions. The original British version, which is about three minutes longer, and an edited version released in the United States. The edit, which removed the original's ending, was, in my opinion, akin to castration. The final three minutes of this film are a shattering visual kenning that elevates "The Descent" from what would otherwise have been a very well-crafted but still fairly clichéd monsters-in-the-dark movie into a great horror film. It alone added at least one star to my rating. I understand that the original edit is now available on US DVD. If you live in the US and have never seen "The Descent" before, demand that you receive that version.

"The Descent" is not without flaws. The story is an anachronism that has existed in some form or other since Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians" and was given its first modern reworking by such films as "Deliverance" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." A group of headstrong individuals make their way to a lonely, isolated place, and are gradually picked off one by one by a malevolent, relentless force. In this case, the headstrong individuals are an all-female group of adrenaline junkies led by Juno (played by Australian rock star Natalie Jackson Mendoza), a slim, acrobatic Lara Croft-wannabe with guts of steel and an ego of titanium, and Sarah, (Shauna MacDonald) a fragile, haunted woman still recovering from a senseless personal tragedy. The isolated place is that ultimate of isolated places: a cave system somewhere under the Appalachians (one of several oblique nods to "Deliverance"). The force that ultimately forms their nemesis is a hungry tribe of carnivorous, batlike anthropoids waiting for them in the depths.

The group, all in the name of helping Sarah forget her pain, decide to take a day spelunking. Things start to get fishy when Juno very deliberately leaves the map of the system in the truck. When, miles beneath the Earth, they are trapped by a cave in, the girls soon realise that Juno has led them into an unknown system, and that they have no idea how to get out. Then the shrieks begin. At this point, suspension of a great deal of disbelief is required: genuine cavers will doubtless cringe at the characters' basic lack of knowledge of their supposed calling, and evolutionary biologists might puzzle over the creatures' plausibility. But these are nitpicks. The reason this film works (and works well) is because director Neil Marshall (who made the excellent "Dog Soldiers"), for all the lunacy of the concept, plays it absolutely, totally straight. There is not a knowing wink to be seen or a pithy catchphrase to be heard. These women are not superheroes, nor are they screaming claw-fodder. They are genuine people acting as people would in impossible and increasingly insane situation. The performances are committed, the setting as realistic as possible (the caves were entirely created in a studio set, but people have posted on this film's message board asking which system it was filmed in) and every chance is taken to evoke every possible human phobia (this movie plays the tension, grinding exertion, and sickening claustrophobia of its environment so effectively that the monsters are almost unnecessary).

This film's first act plays like a tragic domestic drama, as the girls meet and trade subsurface animosities during a night round the fireplace. Its second act plays like a subterranean version of "Touching the Void", as friendships break down and anger rises in the face of incredible physical hardship. The final act evokes all the best examples of this genre, from Chainsaw to Alien, and even Robert Wise's The Haunting. And like I said, the final scene elevates this movie to a higher level, and indeed, echoes the terrifyingly uncertain ending of the first of its kind, "Ten Little Indians".

The Others (2001)
4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Brilliant chiller, 13 August 2006
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"The Others" is a phenomenal ghost story brilliantly told by master filmmaker Alejandro Amenábar, who, since winning an Oscar for "The Sea Inside" a few years back, seems to have vanished into a ghostly netherworld.

Nicole Kidman, in what I consider her only enjoyable performance, plays Grace, a mentally frayed young mother driven to the edge of hysteria by her singularly impossible situation. It is the late 1940s on the isle of Jersey, one of the few regions of England to suffer under Nazi occupation during the war. Her husband, who went away to fight, has not returned, and she's been told to give him up for dead. She finds herself in lone charge of her vast, dusty old manor after the help suddenly disappear without warning. This is doubly difficult because her two children are photoallergic; they cannot tolerate any light brighter than that of a candle, or they blister, seize up and eventually die. No curtains can be left undrawn; no doors can be left open. The children's universe is a house-sized black cocoon. This has meant that Grace has spent most of her life alone; bringing them up in what she herself describes as a "prison of darkness." Not surprisingly, she suffers from migraines and cannot stand even the slightest sound.

With this ingenious setup, Amenabar creates an ideal horror atmosphere: an old house lit only by candles, kept in a state of near silence. It also allows him to orchestrate a series of situations governed by one of the all-time great suspense concepts: "Whatever you do... don't do that!" Usually in a horror film the darkness is to be feared; in this case it is sanctuary. It is the light, advancing like a predator, that is to be fled.

The children, brilliantly played by remarkable young actors, are left pale and ghostly by their lifetime of confinement. Their perpetual isolation has left them sullen, resentful and lonely, and the daughter in particular is beginning to rebel. Grace, realising that her control over them is slipping, literally puts the fear of God into them through her strict religious instruction. But the daughter has read her Bible, and can give as good as she gets.

If Amenabar had merely played this scenario as was, without a supernatural element, it still could have evolved into a superior Gothic domestic drama. But he's too in love with the fantastic to leave Grace's world unturned. At the film's beginning, a trio of housekeepers straight out of Emily Bronte show up her door, claiming to be answering an ad for help they could not have known about. Suspicious but desperate, Grace agrees to take them in. It becomes increasingly obvious that they have a hidden agenda, though what that agenda is is unclear. For a time, things go well. And then the Others arrive.

The children notice them first; the son claims to have spoken to them. They laugh invisibly in the halls, play the piano when the doors are locked, and, most disturbingly, draw the curtains and unlock the doors, leading Grace to conclude they are engaged in a war against her and her children. Under siege from a force she cannot locate, Grace begins to step over the edge she'd been skirting for years, and fall finally into madness.

This is an intricate tale, brilliantly constructed. Not a single scene or line of dialogue is wasted. Indeed, from a simple storytelling angle I would say it is superior to "The Sixth Sense," to which it shares many similarities, including a shocking, brilliant twist ending. However, although there are moments of pure terror and an overarching theme of dread and despair in this story, "The Others" isn't quite as scary as Shyamalan's masterpiece, mainly because Amenabar perpetually pulls the rug out from under the audience's expectations, so that the Others, unlike the Dead People stalking poor benighted Cole Sear, remain a complete mystery until the film's conclusion. Are they ghosts? Human intruders? Some plot by the new "help" to drive Grace mad? Or simply all in Grace's increasingly distracted mind? As such it is often difficult to know whether one is supposed to be frightened or not, and for the most part this film takes on the air of an old-fashioned Gothic mystery, rather than a horror film. But when the plot finally unfolds completely, nearly taking Grace's sanity with it, the audience is treated to a sustained climax of genuine fear that leads to a mind-bending conclusion.

9 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
Hans Christian Andersen must be rolling in his grave, 7 April 2005
5/10

There are many things I like about "The Little Mermaid"; the beautiful music, the lush colour and pageantry, the excellent voicework (though all would eventually be outclassed by later, better Disney efforts), and there's no denying that Ariel is someone your average adolescent girl can identify with. Indeed I could almost say it is great were it not for one simple (and catastrophic) error: a happy ending! The story of the Little Mermaid is a tragedy; she sacrifices her life to save the man she loves, even though he doesn't love her. It's a simple, cathartic tale, meant to raise a tear and redeem its audience. By giving the story a happy ending, the filmmakers have undone the very purpose for which it was originally written!

Predator (1987)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A concept as high as the Andromeda Galaxy, but you know what? It works., 10 August 2004

Someone earlier mentioned that this film was an unofficial remake of "The Thing From Another World", a comment which inspired me to write about it, because I think that person is absolutely right. "The Thing," and its various knockoffs, including John Carpenter's superior sequel, had one major logical flaw that rendered its story overtly ridiculous: Why would an alien advanced enough to travel light years across space make its way to earth just to snarl and tear humans apart?

This movie is essentially a two-hour attempt to answer that question, and it does it very very well indeed. The alien travels great distances to kill for the same reason we do: the fun of it.

I'm reminded of the white big game hunters of the 19th century, who tested their machismo by shooting tigers while safely on top of elephants. The Predator may have a Victorian notion of "fair play," but it isn't about to play fair.

Pitting it against Arnold, Jesse Ventura and a bunch of other testosterone- and BO-fueled punch-junkies was something like genius. The whole "ubermench" mystique of action movies is completely knocked for six by a creature whose ideas of machismo are far older and more potent than they could ever conceive.

This movie begins poorly, but, as the cast is gradually narrowed down to two, and the mono-a-mono interspecies smackdown commences, the story tightens, the pace slows down and John McTiernan delivers one of the great action climaxes in film history.


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