July 9th, 2010

Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

2004 Flashback: "Aliens vs. Predators" battle the Village

In the mid forties, Boris Karloff starred in two classic monster movies, "House of Frankenstein" and "The Body Snatcher." **House of Frankenstein** was a romp which featured all the classic Universal Monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, The Wolf Man**) and was a commercial success. **The Body Snatcher** was produced by Val Lewton, directed by Robert Wise and featured a literary script based on a book by Robert Louis Stevenson. **The Body Snatcher** has been studied by college film programs. Both films represent the variety of approaches that horror movie producers can use to lure their respective audiences.

**Alien vs. Predator** falls into the **House of Frankenstein ** camp. Like last years **Freddy vs. Jason,** this film combines two distinct horror franchises and combines them on a plateau of violence with a team of humans stuck in the middle. With **Alien** being a futuristic franchise and **Predator** being a more contemporary franchise, **Alien vs. Predator**does a fine job linking these two franchises with the fall of the Egyptian, Aztec and Cambodian cultures. Like **House of Frankenstein,** the myths and legends of these monsters remain intact.

The plot involving the humans is simple. wealthy industrialist Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) hires a team to investigate a temple found in the Arctic. Sparing no expense, Charles Bishop Weyland and his multinational expedition investigate the frozen wastelands and run afoul the ancient rivalry between the the hunter Predators and their prey, the Aliens.

Director Paul W.S. Anderson creates a Saturday Matinee thrill ride in the temple. Every ten minutes, the temple shifts and the humans are placed in new peril. Every ten minutes the humans do not know if they are facing Predators, Aliens or each other's machine gun fire. The fault of this movie is the darkness of the setting and the monsters. The battle sequences are disappointing because it is hard to see their combat techniques. The film could have had some wonderful set pieces, but they are lost in the darkness.

Light is an important theme played out in M. Night Shyamalan's**The Village.** Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the blind heroine who loves Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix) in a rural Village from the 19th century. Ivy's father (William Hurt) is a town Elder who warns the villagers about the monsters in the woods who abhor the color red. These creatures come out at night and torture livestock and scare children. When Lucius challenges these monsters and proclaims his marriage intentions to Ivy, he is attacked and severely injured. Ivy must venture into the woods to fetch a cure. Along the way, this blind girl sees more things than the Elders have ever confronted.

Though not as bad as the mainstream critics have claimed, **The Village** is a drawn out disappointment. Director Shyamalan has become a victim of his success and has fallen into the trap of having to top himself from five years ago with **The Sixth Sense.** His previous two movies (**Unbreakable,** **Signs**) had some memorable moments and interesting ideas, but have not lived up to Shyamalan's earliest promise. **The Village** reveals that Shyamalan has hit the law of diminishing returns, Perhaps this gifted director should try directing other people's scripts or working with a stronger script collaborator. One is reminded that the success of **The Body Snatcher** involved a collaboration between Producer Val Lewton, Director Robert Wise and the ensemble of actors lead by Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Henry Daniell.

From a purely cinematic standpoint, **The Village** does have some moments to keep things interesting. William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver reunite since their first movie from 25 years ago, **Eyewitness.** Adrien Brody has a showy role as the village idiot. Bryce Dallas Howard (Daughter of Ron Howard) makes the most of her interesting role. While her Ivy is a bit too superhuman given her handicap, Miss Howard does win audience rapport as she battles the red cloaked monsters in the woods. Unlike the safe commercialism of **Alien vs. Predator,** the fault of **The Village** is that it over reaches for deeper meaning.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

"Predators" is the best "Predator" since 1987

After watching the exciting previews for **The Expendables** and **Wall Street Money Never Sleeps,** one would think a let down would occur when the featured attraction, **Predators** began. Instead, the audience, along with the protagonist Royce (Adrien Brody), is plunged into a jungle from the sky with a slow opening parachute. Pretty soon, Royce is joined by seven other people who have no idea why they are in the jungle.

The eight people do have a checkered past, some people are mercenaries, some are serial killers and some happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. As the eight people begin to realize the depth of their danger, a new species of Predator begins using the humans as prey.

"Predators" is the best "Predator" movie since since the original flick, circa1987. The original film featured a great ensemble cast that included two future governors, Arnold Schwarzengger and Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Despite the camaraderie, **Predator** is remembered as a primal visceral experience that the three sequels had yet to capture. This new film returns to the classic dramatic conflicts of man versus self, beast and environment.

Between some well directed action sequences there are fast discussions about ethics. One individual makes consistently selfish choices, yet these choices lead to the survival of this multicultural group. Caught in the snare of a booby trap, these eight individuals harvest their cultural resources to defend themselves against the **Predators.**

**Predators** also acknowledges the anthropology of the fan base. Fans familiar with the **Predators** know what to expect from the title characters, but writer/producer Robert Rodriquez manages to throw some surprising curve balls to the science fiction fan base.

***Predator** works as a stand alone Saturday Matinee flick. Given the adjustments that Rodriguez has made, the door is open to continue this series on a more sinister level. (It is not explained who sentenced these people to the Predator Game Preserve.) Yet if the box office does not merit it, expect more cheesy **Predator** sequels in the future