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Predator 2

Predator 2

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Today’s feature is the urban jungle set follow-up to the action classic “Predator”: “Predator 2,” starring Danny Glover and Gary Busey.

“Predator 2” was written by Jim Thomas and John Thomas, the same duo that penned the original “Predator.” However, the screenplay went through a number of different forms, primarily based on the casting, which I will dig into a little bit later.

“Predator 2” was directed by Stephen Hopkins (“A Nightmare on Elm Street 5,” “Lost in Space”), after “Predator” director John McTiernan priced himself out of the production. The cinematographer for “Predator 2” was Peter Levy, who worked on other films such as “Lost in Space” and “Torque” over his career.

The music for “Predator 2” was once again provided by Alan Silvestri (“Predator,” “Forrest Gump,” “Van Helsing,” “Super Mario Bros.,” “Mac & Me”), who modified the original “Predator” theme to include new instruments to reflect the change of location and plot (such as drums to match the Jamaican voodoo gang).

The editing for “Predator 2” is credited to both Mark Goldblatt (“The Punisher,” “Dead Heat,” “Enter The Ninja,” “Super Mario Bros.”) and Bert Lovitt (“RoboCop 3,” “Days of Thunder”), likely because it had to be so extensively edited and re-edited to get the eventual R rating from the MPAA.

One of the producers on “Predator 2” was Joel Silver, who has produced such memorable action flicks as “Hudson Hawk,” “Lethal Weapon,” “Demolition Man,” “The Matrix,” “Dungeons & Dragons,” “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” “Commando,” and “The Warriors.”

The creature creation and effects in “Predator 2” were done by the Stan Winston Studio (“Jurassic Park,” “Lake Placid,” “Congo”), including the Predator’s new alien hunting devices. The production also featured special effects foremen Larz Anderson (“Small Soldiers,” “Smokin’ Aces”) and Albert Delgado (“Tank Girl,” “Scrooged”), as well as pyrotechnician Roy Goode (“Robot Jox”).

predator25The cast of “Predator 2” is headlined by Danny Glover (“Lethal Weapon,” “Saw”), with an accessory cast featuring Gary Busey (“The Gingerdead Man,” “Lethal Weapon,” “The Buddy Holly Story”), Bill Paxton (“Aliens,” “Twister,” “Slipstream”), Robert Davi (“Maniac Cop 2,” “License to Kill,” “Die Hard,” “In The Mix”), and Adam Baldwin (“Firefly”).

The story of “Predator 2” centers around a police officer investigating a grisly series of murders amidst a gang war and a record heat wave in Los Angeles. The further he digs, however, the stranger the case becomes: leading to an ultimate face off with an alien killing machine.

“Predator 2” features a famous throwaway Easter egg of a xenomorph skull (from the “Alien” franchise) in the Predator’s trophy room. This was meant partially as an homage to the popular comic book series that crossed over between the franchises, but it caused an immense amount of hype among fans, eventually leading to an “Alien vs. Predator” film franchise.

The Predator alien race wound up getting another film all to themselves in 2010’s “Predators,” which was directed by Robert Rodriguez (“From Dusk Til Dawn”) and stars Laurence Fishburne and Adrien Brody. It is a bit more loyal to the original concept of “Predator,” and was certainly better received than “Predator 2” by audiences and critics.

“Predator 2” features some interesting alternate casting trivia. Apparently, Gary Busey’s role was intended initially for Arnold Schwarzenegger to reprise his character from the first film, but he turned it down to do “Terminator 2.” Rumor has it that Patrick Swayze approached to play the lead, and that at least one producer pushed heavily for Steven Seagal to be cast.

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This could have been Schwarzenegger and Seagal. Weird.

The movie was filmed on site in some rougher neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Reportedly, human feces in bags were thrown at the cast and crew from windows above them while filming (something that also happened on “Daredevil” according to the director’s commentary), and a dead body was shockingly discovered at one of the filming locations.

The somewhat outlandish and ruthless Jamaican voodoo gang in “Predator 2” was apparently based on real crime organizations that existed in Kansas City and New York in the 1980s.

“Predator 2” marked the first acting role for Gary Busey after the traumatic motorcycle accident that nearly ended his career, and arguably marked the begin of his decline into b-movies and obscure features.

“Predator 2” was apparently the first film to get an NC-17 rating by the MPAA after it replaced the X rating in September of 1990. This resulted in further editing to get the film down to an R, as films with X / NC-17 ratings have historically struggled to receive significant theatrical distribution.

“Predator 2” had a worldwide theatrical gross of just under $60 million on an estimated budget of $35 million, which made it fairly profitable. However, critics and audiences weren’t particularly impressed with it at the time: it currently has a 6.2 IMDb rating, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 25% (critics) and 44% (audience).

“Predator 2” faced a significant amount of criticism for its depictions of violence, as well as the less than optimal lack of a Schwarzenegger-style action lead. People were mixed on the change of setting from the jungle to the city, but I’m personally a big fan of the change of backdrop and context.

Bill Paxton, as always, is a controversial comedy relief element. Some people love him, and others just can’t stand him. I think this is probably his best comic relief role next to “Aliens,” which I’m sure was no coincidence on the part of the casting.

predator24My biggest issue with the film is that the ending drags on a bit too long, and doesn’t feel particularly satisfying because of it. I generally liked the casting and performances, but there is no doubt that it lacks the staying power of the testosterone-fueled super-cast of the first “Predator.” The effects are probably the biggest strength to the film, but I feel like the cuts made to bring the film down to an R rating did it a bit of a disservice. The Predators still look great though, as do their weapons and gadgets.

Overall, I think “Predator 2” isn’t all that bad of a movie. I believe that it mostly suffers from the comparison to the original, which is by far more memorable and enjoyable. On its own, it is still a bit too slow paced for my liking, but it isn’t awful. Paxton and Busey both ham up their roles, which keeps things a bit entertaining. In general, I just don’t feel strongly about the film, which isn’t good, but also not necessarily bad. If you like the concept of the Predator alien, this is certainly one of the better movies to feature them. In comparison to those “Alien vs. Predator” flicks, it might as well be a lost Orson Welles film.

 

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Bargain Bin(ge) New Orleans: The Mushroom

Welcome to the latest installment of the Bargain Bin(ge), where I cover used DVD stores from around the country and the various movies I have plundered from them. This past weekend, I took a trip down to New Orleans: one of the most unique and interesting cities in the United States. Of course, I managed to take some time to dig into a couple of local used media spots between enjoying the cajun food and the sights.

nolaFirst up is an old haunt of mine from my college days at Tulane University: The Mushroom.

mushroom10The Mushroom is sort of an all-purpose alternative interest center: part head shop, part record store, part eclectic emporium. It sits on the corner of Tulane University’s campus, on the second floor of a building that houses both a college bar and one of the most delicious crepe restaurants in the country. Of course, the Mushroom also boasts a significant used DVD section, which I have spent a lot of time digging in over the years.

The most distinctive aspect of The Mushroom, much like New Orleans itself, is the atmosphere. Just check out some of the art on the exterior walls:

mushroom5 mushroom9 mushroom6Did I mention it is also a head shop? In any case, I love the unique flair of the place, both on the inside and the outside. The DVD section is specifically surrounded by t-shirts branded with classic horror and sci-fi movies, which is a nice touch. I picked up a Godzilla shirt there a couple of years ago that I absolutely love, and I was tempted to dig through to find another one. Maybe next time. mushroom8The DVD prices in The Mushroom could be a bit better. However, I came out with 5 dvds (6 movies) for about 15 dollars, which isn’t too bad. The biggest problem is that they usually know when they have something rare or obscure, and they mark them up accordingly. You aren’t going to find any steals here in general, but you will almost certainly find something interesting.

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Shocker / The People Under The Stairs

So, on to the movies I picked up at The Mushroom. First, there is a Wes Craven double feature of “Shocker” and “The People Under The Stairs.” Neither of these are exactly considered highlights in Craven’s career, but they both have fan followings for sure. Also, I haven’t seen either of them, nor did I have copies of them previously. I recently missed a screening of “The People Under The Stairs” at Gateway Film Center, so I’m going to specifically look forward to giving that a watch.
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Iron Eagle

The next find is a bit of a forgotten flick, mostly because of how overshadowed it was by a better film with a similar concept. Years before “Volcano” vs “Dante’s Peak” and “Armageddon” vs “Deep Impact,” there was “Top Gun” vs “Iron Eagle.” I think that this is the first time I have run across a DVD copy of this film, and this is another one I haven’t seen before. I might do a back to back of this and “Top Gun” as a sort of retrospective comparison. Speaking of which, I’ve been meaning to do that with “Catch-22” and “M.A.S.H” too. Keep your eyes peeled.

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How To Make A Monster

Here is a movie I considered early on as a possibility for Killer Robot Week, but I knocked it out partially because I couldn’t find a copy. So, I was understandably pretty surprised to find a copy of it in the wild. “How To Make A Monster” is a television movie from 2001 that surprisingly features effects work from the legendary creature creator Stan Winston, who certainly had no business working on TV that late into his legendary career. I’ll be interested to see if there is some reason for his involvement, but I’ll save that for a proper review. What is more important to note is that this is a television movie from 2001 about a killer video game, so it is bound to have awful CGI and dated references to controversy over violence in video games. Sounds like a good time to me! The writer/director, George Huang, also did the movie “Swimming With Sharks,” which is basically “Entourage” without the central cast or comedic elements (so, better). It features Kevin Spacey as the intensely abusive and reprehensible super-agent character, and you can just feel how much Piven pulled his character of Gold from the performance. I haven’t seen it in a few years, but I liked it on the initial watch.

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Predator 2

When it comes to sequels failing to live up to the potential of their concepts, “Predator 2” has to be towards the top of that list. Moving the stealthy alien hunter from the jungle into an urban environment sounds like a winner, but then again, so did the idea of combining Predators and Xenomorphs on screen. I haven’t seen this flick in years, but I don’t recall hating it when I saw it years ago. I was just…disappointed. I’ll be interested to see what this movie is like for me now, because it has been at least a decade since I last saw it.

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Virtual Assassin

Here a flick I don’t actually know anything about: “Virtual Assassin” or “CyberJack.” From what I can tell, it is a “Die Hard” knock-off with a sci-fi, high-tech twist. The director, Robert Lee, primarily works as an assistant director, and has been in the crew of such flicks as Uwe Boll’s masterpieces “House of the Dead” and “Alone in the Dark.” The film stars Michael Dudikoff, who is best known as Cannon’s “American Ninja.” He’s had one hell of a b-movie career, and his presence was enough to sell me on giving this thing a shot.

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