The Phoenix

Movie Review: ‘The Predator’ disappoints and ‘A Simple Favor’ surprises

The Predator 

I want to preface this review by stating that I love the original Predator. I consider it to be action movie perfection; its a bombastic mix of Commando and Alien. Its got everything you want from an 80s action movie: memorable characters, fantastic action, and hilarious one-liners from Arnold Schwarzenegger. From “Get to da Choppa” to “What’s the matter the CIA got you pushing too many pencils” every line out of Arnold’s mouth is pure gold. Despite paper-thin characterization, each actor’s immense charm makes the characters memorable. Stan Winston’s creature effects are mesmerizing and still hold up to this day; Alan Silvestri’s pulse-pounding score is memorable and iconic.

I would also like to say that I love the director of the newest predator film, Shane Black. His impact on action cinema, buddy cop films especially, is profound and often goes unnoticed. Black is the writer of multiple buddy cop films including, Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and Last Action Hero. His mystery films are fantastic as well, as The Nice Guys is one of my favorite films of all time. Black’s ability to write witty back and forth banter is unmatched, and it saddens me to say that The Predator is a terrible film.

The story picks up when a regular predator crash lands on earth after being chased by a bigger, more evolved, and more dangerous predator. A ragtag group of PTSD soldiers must band together to stop them.

One of the few good aspects is the action setpieces. The predator is a perfect killing machine and watching it tear through everyone in its path is great action cinema. The film is a visceral bloodbath that feels like it belongs back in the 80s; the direction and editing of each sequence are commendable as well.

The only other praiseworthy aspect is the creature effects. The regular predator is a practical suit, and it shows onscreen. It looks terrific onscreen and in action scenes. However, the bigger predator is mostly visual effects, and it doesn’t look as good. An aspect of the film that deserves no praise is the script.

The Predator has an incredibly messy script; it throws a dozen different ideas at the wall, and none of them really stick. It mentions ideas about evolution and humanity’s impending doom at the hand of climate change, but the film never takes the time to develops these ideas. The narrative lacks cohesion and feels disjointed. The narrative stumbles through what feels like a six-act structure; leading to a horrible studio-mandated ending that blatantly sets up a sequel that will most likely never see the light of day. The dialogue is horrible as well. I usually love Shane Black dialogue because he can balance witty banter and substance like no other, but the dialogue here is horrendous. The dialogue mainly consists of edgy, unfunny, offensive quips that don’t build character or progress the story.

Speaking of bad aspects, the characters in The Predator are terrible. They aren’t memorable, or funny, or interesting. All the characters lack the charm that the original characters had. I didn’t care about any of them when they were facing off with the predator. None of the actors bring these characters to life, but they were not given much material to work with. Each actor does their best, but the ultimately fail. Even the always hilarious Keegan Micheal Key is completely unfunny here.

Being a massive predator and Shane Black fan, The Predator is a massive disappointment. Its couple okay aspects aren’t enough for me to recommend it.

A Simple Favor 

A Simple Favor is a mommy mystery thriller. The film opens on a mommy vlog run by the main character of the film Stephanie (Anna Kendrick). Her vlog teaches others to be a great mom; from brownie recipes to DIY friendship bracelets Stephanie is a perfect mom. Or is she? Shortly after, Stephanie meets Emily Nelson (Blake Lively) a cold and distant mother whose bigshot fashion job is often the talk of the hilarious background characters.

The two form a friendship and get to know each other over 2 o clock martinis. These conversation scenes are where A Simple Favor shines; Kendrick is perfect as the bubbly, overachiever mommy while Lively shines the vulgar, no-nonsense mother. Their chemistry is off the charts and the two are given mostly great dialogue to work with. Not long after, Emily calls Stephanie asking for a simple favor, and she goes missing the next day. Determined to find out what happened to her, Stephenie uncovers dark secrets about Emily’s past.

The first act of A Simple Favor is the best portion. Kendrick’s peppy yet awkward attitude is a perfect foil to Lively’s stone cold persona. The second acts turn into a murder mystery and this portion is very interesting as well. Watching Stephanie sleuth around Emily’s dark past is engaging, and the constant twists will keep the audience on their toes. However, the third act goes off the rails. The story builds and builds to a lackluster ending that stretches believability. Despite the vapid ending and some predictable twists, A Simple Favor maintains its sleek style the whole way through because of the stars, the narrative, and the terrific French soundtrack

A Simple Favor was a big surprise for me. I saw the trailer and was intrigued, but not excited. The film exceeded my expectations. Director Paul Feig did a fantastic job merging a classical mystery narrative with modern technological elements. This is by far the best film to come out over the weekend; if you enjoy mystery thriller, do yourself a simple favor and go see this movie.

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