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Notes from the back row

The most dangerous game



We are at the top of the food chain. Sure, lions and tigers and bears could easily dispose of anyone in a fair fight, not to mention sharks, man-o-war jellyfish or any number of bastardly venomous spiders, but mankind has used our superior brains to truly become the most dangerous killers on earth. We're the kings of this world, or at least we think we are. Which is why it won't surprise me if spiky, hinge-jawed alien predators show up any day now and tear us all a new shitter.

Predators opens this Friday at the Village 8. Movie fans of a certain age will remember the original Predator from 1987 - a killer sci-fi survival tale that starred two unlikely future big time U.S. politicians, Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger, thrashing around a South American jungle while battling an elite alien hunter. After a lesser sequel and two half-assed spin-offs involving Aliens, the most evolved killers in our galaxy are back in a sequel that mirrors the original's tense awesomeness and ignores the later films in the Predator series.

This is because Robert Rodriguez, one of the most innovative American filmmakers of the digital era ( From Dusk till Dawn, Spy Kids 3D, Planet Terror), had been sitting on a Predator script since the mid-1990s, before the spin-offs ever existed. Credited as the producer on Predators, Rodriguez handed the directing over to Nimrod Antal ( Armored ) and the result is a really good sci-fi actioner in the classic '80s B-grade style. Adrien Brody stars as the leader of a band of warmongers, criminals and walking clich├ęs (I guess Danny Trejo is gonna play a drug cartel hitman for the rest of time now) stranded on an alien planet to be hunted as game by Predators, both the classic variety and a new breed.

The acting is pretty solid. Rodriguez and Antal tried to make each character at least somewhat unique, and Larry Fishburne even channels a little Apocalypse Now -style Marlon Brando. Combined with solid action and quality effects, Predators is a hundred and six minutes of jungle-set ass-kicking as the lines between hunted and hunter are blurred while the prey, being somewhat predatory themselves, refuse to go down without a fight. Predators is a good summer movie, and also a cautionary tale of sorts, warning us that Mother Nature could be getting pissed at us.

Also opening this week is yet another animated feature, playing in 3D everywhere but Whistler. Despicable Me stars Steve Carrell as the voice of Gru, a trying-to-be bad guy who can't get a bank loan from the evil bank to finance his latest venture, a plot to steal the moon. Then, one day he opens his door to find three little orphan girls entrusted to him. Maybe they can help him steal the moon.

More kid-oriented than Pixar's Toy Story 3, Despicable Me stands out as one of the better films of the summer (which is not saying much this year) and by all reports it features some of the best integrated 3D effects we've seen thus far, including an epic roller coaster ride that will get the kids amped (if an entire box of Milk Duds doesn't do the trick).

Animated features, especially with the inflated 3D ticket prices, are ruling Hollywood these days and making more money than almost anything else. As far as Hollywood is concerned our kids are at the top of the food chain. Well, them and the Twilight fans.



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