By Marc S. Sanders

Predator is not only my favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger film, but it also remains as one of the best action films of all time.

The main reason for my praise stems from its cast consisting of the Austrian headliner followed by Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura, Bill Duke and Sonny Landham. The cast is sensational because they take the science fiction material seriously by evoking their machismo gradually evolving into fear. Director John McTiernan displays all of this very well through quiet and covert close ups as each character sums up the possibility that they are being hunted for sport by an entity they are not familiar with.

McTiernan makes use of his setting to the point that the real-life dense jungle of trees amid thick humidity, within South America, is its own character. I don’t know how he did it but, in this film, McTiernan and his cinematographer capture flawless tracking shots of running over uneven grounds and roots, leaves and low hanging foliage. It’s really spectacular how it all moves fast without any chopped up quick cuts like a Michael Bay movie for example. In this movie, the chases are actual chases.

An outrageous Oscar crime is that this film lost its Visual Effects prize to Innerspace. That gnaws at me when you consider the vagueness of the Predator’s chameleon like invisibility shape. It leaves the viewer intentionally as confused as these expert Gung Ho military men are. They can’t quite make out what this thing is because McTiernan wisely follows Spielberg’s Jaws technique by not showing you the creature until all the cards are dealt. The viewer is left curious and aware but still in suspense. There’s a kaleidoscope of transparency in the figure that scopes these men but what is it, really? The best horror films present the horror by literally not showing you the horror.

I like how this rescue team is continuously displayed with their talents for covert sabotage, hand signals, caution and focus. The actors are actually setting up the booby traps and climbing and ground crawling.

It’s honestly a very well-acted piece most especially from, yes Schwarzenegger, as well as Bill Duke and his psychological trauma during the 2nd half of the film, and Sonny Landham as the Tracker Billy who can relay what transpired with a keen Native American sense of environment. It’s a great collection of characters all together.

Sadly, the majority of the follow up films in the franchise do not live up to what originated here. In the first installment, the story is condensed in an efficient 90 minutes that leaves enough time for one story of adventure and rescue before it gets to all its sci fi suspenseful showpieces. The follow up films never took advantage of the strengths used here from over 30 years ago.

Predator is a brilliantly edited, well shot, taut and a gripping yarn of imagination and fear.

From 1987, it hasn’t aged a bit.


By Marc S. Sanders

The third chapter of the armored superhero, Iron Man, is an improvement on the second installment. Still, that’s not much of a compliment.

Action director Shane Black takes the reins from Jon Faverau, and gives himself a writing credit as well. I’ve always liked Shane Black’s writing style. Like this film, a lot of his works take place during Christmas. Lethal Weapon is a well-balanced picture that over thirty years later shows a nice offering of character background and action. When the action occurs, you are already invested in the characters. So, suspense is capable of holding some weight to an action movie. I only wish I saw some more of that here with Iron Man 3. Oh well!

First, let’s get the most obvious problem out of the way. Once again, Gwyneth Paltrow is there to wear sharp looking ladies suits, carry a brief in her hand and yell “TONY” a lot. You could make up a drinking game around that bit. Just when the Marvel films got it right with Hayley Atwell as Agent Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger, they revert back to their old ways yet again. If you are going to have female characters in your films, give them something weighty to work with that is evenly matched with the guys.

Robert Downey Jr is another problem, I’m afraid. He is so cherished in the role of Tony Stark by now. The first Iron Man really offers a great performance by him with a good arc. The prior film in the MCU, The Avengers gives him some great play with the other titanic superheroes. However, the writing is not thoughtful in Iron Man 2 or Iron Man 3. The first installment left you feeling that Tony was open to accepting care and tenderness from other people. His cockiness became subdued following a traumatic capture and escape.

Then the cocky monster within seemed to resurface in #2 and #3. Did Downey (who improvises a lot of his material) and the writers forget where they left off? Black literally has Tony Stark give away his address on live television to the bad guys, headed by a mysterious terrorist known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). How stupid is this? Batman doesn’t give away where his Bat Cave is. Why would Iron Man do that?

From that point, we are treated to an attack on Tony’s ocean view, cliff side home from helicopters. Reader, Shane Black wrote a sequence like this twice before, in Lethal Weapon and Lethal Weapon 2. It’s been done before. The filming appears clunky in this centerpiece scene with camera shakes and uneven sound editing and lots of ceiling and wall dust. It’s a little hard to follow.

I’ll give credit to Black for throwing in a twist that comes out of nowhere. To my knowledge, this moment has left viewers very divisive. For me, I admire the effort but the development comes off wimpy. It involves Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin who promises to be a real threat to the film. Yet, the character’s motive turns out to be something else entirely. It’s odd, but it kept me engaged during the film. When the film ended, I was left wishing it was something else altogether. For the first two thirds of the film, Kingsley is very good with a hard, edged, roughly intimidating voice as he shares disturbing newscasts of threats to the President and the world. He was a different kind of villain that we hadn’t seen before, much like Heath Ledger’s Joker. Then the rug is pulled out on that attraction.

One really bright spot comes from Ty Simkins, as a kid named Harley that winds up assisting Tony when everything is against him. He is a fun, spunky kid who has some good exchanges with Downey’s well recognized, zippy delivery. He’s more fun to watch than Gwenyth Paltrow. That’s for sure.

Guy Pearce is another adversary who leads a team of baddies. Their bodies heat up to extremely hot and orange looking temperatures. (Forgive my poor English! That’s what comes to mind. Oh well!) Amazingly enough, their clothes don’t burn off while they easily can singe any Iron Man suit they come in contact with. Should I be focusing on that inconsistency? That’s one main problem with the film. It’s too apparent. I know this is all sci fi, but don’t make the fiction of the fiction so obvious, please. Pearce is fine in the role but he’s overshadowed by what his super villain powers are capable of. So, basically cast iron metal burns, but clothing fabrics do not. Got it! Check!

I’m not sure if Iron Man 3 is really worth a watch. Probably not, actually. Maybe so, if you want to marathon through all the Marvel films like I do. Yet, it really offers nothing significant to the films yet to come and shows nothing new to carry forward from the prior films. Much like Iron Man 2, it’s a pretty meaningless.


By Marc S. Sanders

Richard Donner, Mel Gibson and Danny Glover successfully triumphed in 1989’s summer of sequels with Lethal Weapon 2. It was a big box office smash thanks to the pairing of the two leading men making a memorable team with Donner expounding on the beloved humor that the first film provided.

The story is ho hum; South African drug dealers with diplomatic immunity. The top henchman, nick named “Adolf,” has a mysterious connection to kamikaze cop Martin Riggs (Gibson). Nothing so shocking though, and somewhat contrived.

The big star addition here is Joe Pesci as Leo Getz, the sleazy accountant who has embezzled half a billion dollars from the South Africans. Pesci is such a rare talent and he comes up with his own routine of comedy. He is as unique as any of the great comics like Milton Berle or Jackie Gleason or Jerry Lewis. Mind you this film was released before Home Alone and Goodfellas, and after Raging Bull. So, his addition to the franchise was a great surprise.

Getz is a fast talking material witness that Riggs with his partner Roger Murtaugh (Glover) are assigned to protect. However, with the cops’ nose for constant action, it’s not easy protecting the little guy when he won’t shut up or sit still.

“Lethal Weapon 2” is more an assemblage of fun set ups with run on gags. There’s Murtaugh’s daughter appearing in a condom commercial, much to his chagrin. There’s his wife’s new station wagon that is progressively getting wrecked thanks in part to Riggs’ crazy ways. Then there is Roger stuck on a bomb rigged toilet as another reason to damage his family’s home. The Three Stooges would be proud of this material.

There’s nothing new here really, but what makes it entertaining is the ongoing chemistry between Gibson and Glover, with Pesci. It’s apparent that these guys had to go off script at times from a screenplay by Jeffrey Boam, based on the characters created by Shane Black.

Donner does as expected with some great action scenes like a car chase to open the film and a careening tow truck that has Riggs hanging from the fender. There’s shootouts galore, as well.

The beautiful Patsy Kensit has a small romantic storyline with Gibson. It wouldn’t have been missed if it didn’t make the final cut, but it’s here and it’s serviceable.

Yeah, there are some contrived elements to Lethal Weapon 2 and the villains are not the greatest, but the heroes hold the film together, like a fun party on a Saturday night at your best pal’s place.


By Marc S. Sanders

THE Predator has got to be the worst movie of 2018. Writer and director all about killed the franchise allowing its new property owner, Disney, to never give the possibility of new stories another thought.

It’s terrible.

It makes zero sense. The action is clunky and indecipherable at times. The Predator creatures are not cool. They are ugly for the sake of being ugly, and I think they are pretty stupid as well, as stupid as their pet Predator dogs.

How does a writer of Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and Kiss, Kiss Bang, Bang, write a piece of crap like this where (get this!!!) Olivia Munn plays a JOHNS HOPKINS BIOLOGIST (yes…you read that right) who thankfully is an expert in hand to hand combat and machine guns???? I never knew Johns Hopkins offered military training with every biology major.

This movie is so dumb that it ends with the line “I hope that comes in a size 42.” BRILLIANT!!!

If anything, the sole redeeming quality of this shit is that it motivates me to keep on writing. If this idiotic garbage can get green lit by a major studio, then my material must be Oscar worthy.

SIDE NOTE: Olivia Munn did a last minute petition to have a scene deleted that she realized she performed with a registered sexual predator. Sadly, I think she did this guy an inadvertent favor. Now he doesn’t have to be included in this horrible bomb.