The Predator

The Predator

By: Kevin Jordan

Flipping stupid.

Eight years ago, I was only a fledgling movie critic.  At that time, I did not have press credentials, I was not part of the Denver Film Critic Society, and I was mostly writing as part of a podcast I co-hosted about reality TV shows (long story).  I was also not yet attending advanced screenings, which means I paid actual money to see 2010’s Predators.  After rereading that review, there are two things that I was very wrong about.  The first was declaring the Predator and Alien franchises dead.  The second was declaring I would never watch another movie featuring either creature again.  Granted, I gave myself an out by starting the declaration with “I’ll probably forget (conveniently) what I’m about to say…” and I definitely forgot.  Since putting my foot in my mouth, I have seen Prometheus, Alien: Covenant, and now The Predator.  I stand by the rest of that review though.  Predators was a shitty movie that should have been the end of the franchise.  Instead, Shane Black (with a writing assist from Ted Dekker) made The Predator thinking “no, this should be the end of the franchise.”

The first mistake made by everyone involved in the making of The Predator was thinking that the best way to revive a franchise – that is really only a franchise due to technicalities – was to double-down on the insipid idea of a mysterious government agency that knows all about the predator species.  Then, they all got drunk with Michael Bay and, the next thing they knew, they had already filmed a bunch of scenes with a ten-foot predator whose skin transforms into armor plating.  Finally, after the most epic game of flip-cup since the great Delta-Rho-Gamma tournament of 1993, they collectively thought “hey – remember how everyone loved the first Predator because it featured peak Arnold Schwarzenegger fighting the most wicked and lethal alien this side of a xenomorph?  What if we did the opposite of that?”

I AM THE KING OF FLIP-CUP!!!!

(SPOILER ALERT – flip-cup is a really fast way to get drunk.  Sorry to ruin the surprise.)

Holbrook plays Quinn McKenna, an Army Ranger sniper who is nearly squished by a crashing spaceship’s escape pod in Mexico during a mission.  And you thought this movie was going to be ridiculous.  Anyway, he manages to defeat the predator in battle using the predator’s own bracer, grabs the predator’s mask, and escapes into the jungle to avoid capture by the Mexicans.  Upon reaching a town, he mails the hardware home, then returns to his command for a debriefing.  Unfortunately, the mysterious agents, led by Will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown), have Quinn designated as a lunatic and throw him on a bus with other soldiers marked as lunatics (that are inexplicably at this same secret facility that Quinn is transferred to).  Meanwhile, Dr. Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) is called in to examine the captured predator.  All hell breaks loose – and by hell, I mean the predator – and Dr. Bracket and the loonies escape the carnage.  Mean-meanwhile (or is it meanwhile-while), the super predator lands on Earth to hunt down regular predator.  You still with me?  Here is where it gets stupid.  Also, take a drink.

Still smarting from their flip-cup loss, Black and Dekker came up with the greatest idea – take another shot of absinthe and start a line of power tools.  When someone pointed out copyright laws, they came up with a different really bad idea and retconned the motivations of the entire predator species.  Remember how the predators would rip the spines out of their prey like a trophy?  Right.  Awesome.  I know.  But, they were not actually collecting trophies.  They were collecting spinal fluid of formidable foes and genetically modifying themselves with that fluid to make themselves more awesome.  Right.  Not awesome.  I know.  Now drink.

Bwaaaa?

To make matters worse, after dispatching with regular predator, super predator warns everyone holding a gun that he is going to give them all a head start before he murders them all and collects young, autistic Rory McKenna (Jacob Tremblay) for his spinal fluid.  You read that correctly.  Young Rory was tinkering with the predator technology Quinn mailed home and quickly deciphered pretty much everything about the technology, while also triggering something that allowed the super predator to track down the gear.  Not knowing that Hollywood loves exploiting stereotypical autistic abilities, the super predator decides he simply must have Rory’s pattern-recognizing ability.  Forget about the fact that the predator race has solved faster-than-light travel, invented cloaking devices, and have helmets that allow them to see a huge range of the electromagnetic spectrum.  This kid is the key to finally being able to solve what humans call a Rubik’s Cube, a device that has bedeviled the predator race since first landing on Earth in the late 1970s.

The last piece of this shit pie is that regular predator was travelling to Earth to deliver a technology that would help the humans fight the predator race.  Wait, what?  Why!?  Climate change?  The predator cares about climate change?  Or the human race?  No.  NO!  At one point, agent Traegar explains that the predators are causing climate change to eliminate the human race and heat up the planet so they can move in.  And you thought I was kidding that the filmmakers all got drunk with Michael Bay.

Goddamn climate change deniers.

The craziest thing about The Predator is that the audience clapped at the end of the screening despite nearly everything about the film being objectively terrible and the film coming just short of being a parody of a Predator film.  I could not tell if it was ironic clapping because they were sad or honest clapping because they thought it was that good.  If it was honest, happy clapping, anyone who still makes movies for artistic or serious reasons should quit now.  You have lost.  If it was ironic clapping, it is because they all remember the original Predator and were dying inside after witnessing a tragedy.  The best explanation I have is because the film was stuffed with comedy and maybe they were just happy to hear such lines as:

“He kills people so you can be a mailman.” – Rory explaining to a mailman what his dad does.

“You are one beautiful mother fucker.” – Dr. Bracket paying homage to the original Predator while looking the captured predator over.

“If you don’t stop with this bible shit, I’m going to set you on fire.” – Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key) to fellow lunatic soldier.

If it was not those quotes or the ample amounts of blood and death, then they all must have had dinner with Michael Bay prior to the screening.  I hear he is a flip-cup master.

Rating: Ask for $58 back and we will see if I remember not to watch the inevitable next Predator film.

Office Christmas Party

By: Kevin Jordan

Jingle our bells.

ocp_poster

The best scene in a movie about an office Christmas party doesn’t actually occur at the party.  It happens in an airport lounge and is further evidence that Jennifer Aniston was horribly miscast for most of her career.  I’m not talking about starring in comedies, I’m talking about being cast as the good girl or heroine.  I get why it was done (Rachel from Friends), but it turns out she’s so much more fun to watch playing a villain, or at the very least, an anti-heroine.

For at least a few months (and maybe still going), Aniston was featured in a commercial for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, asking for help in fighting children’s cancer.  It’s a great cause and I love that she is helping with that effort.  In one shot, she’s literally holding two little girls with bald heads who are cancer survivors and your heart melts (as it should).  Try to remember that when you watch the airport lounge scene in this movie when (SPOILER ALERT) she confronts a little girl who ate Aniston’s Cinnabon by calling Santa to report the little girl, then tells the little girl “fuck you” while walking away.  Again, your heart melts a little bit.

And your little dog too.

And your little dog too.

While Aniston is doing her best to remind you that Horrible Bosses wasn’t a one-off for her, the rest of Office Christmas Party does it’s best to remind you that office Christmas parties used to happen and some might have even been fun.  I’m certain they didn’t happen like the one in this movie, but they used to happen when companies still cared about such things as employee morale.  For the record, I’ve worked for a major corporation for the past thirteen Christmases and there hasn’t been a Christmas/Holiday party thrown in the last ten.  Not that I mind all that much – they’re usually awkward and filled with people talking about work – but it’s the thought that counts.  Incidentally, the party in the movie starts off exactly like that.  My friend even commented that if we had an office Christmas party (we work for the same employer), that’s what it would be like.  This is both hilarious and depressing.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a plot beyond “out of control party,” this movie brings a surprisingly decent one.  Clay Vanstone (T.J. Miller) is trying to save his employees’ jobs from his sister Carol’s (Aniston) cutbacks (she’s about to be CEO).  His idea is to throw a raging Christmas party to convince a prospective client, Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance), to sign a deal with them.  Clay enlists his CTO, Josh (Jason Bateman), and top programmer, Tracey (Olivia Munn), to help win over Walter by the end of the party.  Hijinks ensue due to alcohol, cocaine, and fear of getting fired, but I won’t ruin any of that for you.  Let’s just say that Vance gets to play against his traditional typecast of quiet lawyer and Miller plays up his traditional typecast of stoned funny man and both are fantastic.  Munn is also very good, making us forget about whatever she thought she was doing in X-Men: Apocalypse.  Even Kate McKinnon (playing the Human Resources lady) shines in some moments, though still has a lot of work to do level up to Miller, Bateman, and Aniston.

Let it all out Courtney. You earned it.

Let it all out Courtney. You earned it.

What I like the most about the movie is that the party never blots out the plot, but is used to good effect to move the plot forward or give a minor character a quick little spotlight and extra bit of comedy for the audience.  Yes, the plot does get a little absurd, even for this kind of movie, but it never stops being funny.  There are also plenty of fun set pieces (an Iron Throne being my favorite) that get wilder as the movie progresses.  It was like watching a modernized Bachelor Party, but with gender equality.

Winter is here.

Winter is here.

Like The Night Before last year, Office Christmas Party is a good comedy for the holiday season that delivers laughs throughout its entire running time.  Yes, there are some raunchy jokes and nudity and depictions of drug use, so if you are the type of person who thinks there is a war on Christmas and takes the holidays way too seriously, lighten up.  It’s not about you.  Stay home and be dead inside and the rest of us will enjoy another hilarious entry in the Christmas comedy genre.  And if that makes you mad, Jennifer Aniston has something to say to you.

Rating: Don’t ask for any money back and enjoy your company’s party (if it still exists).