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DVD Review: Predator - Special Edition

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Studio: 20th Century Fox


Distributer: 20th Century Fox Home Ent. (Region 2 only)










A day in the life of Jay Spree:





Okay, I want to buy a ticket to Bath, but I don’t know the train times. So I go to the train station, and approach the rather bulbous woman in the information booth. "Excuse me, could you please tell me what times the train leaves for Bath on Wednesday morning?" She just stares back at me like I farted in a lift or something. "No, you need a timetable for that." Somewhat taken aback, but maintaining my courtesy, I reply, "Oh, um, okay. Where do I get one of those?" She then gives me a look like she’s just been asked to resurrect Christ or something. "Hmph. Well, I suppose I could give you one," she says, as she impatiently slams one down on the counter to me. "Thanks," I said, as I stand there awkwardly thumbing through pages of indecipherable tables and abbreviations. "No, take it away with you," she says grumpily. "Um, but I want to know what time the trains leave." "No," she starts, "take it away with you to do that." At this I am genuinely baffled. "Yeah, but I want to buy a train ticket." "Oh, well, when do you want it for?" She splutters. "I don’t know no-one’ll tell me when the train leaves."





The conversation continues along those lines for a short while longer until I actually receive some borderline useful information, and then my train tickets. I just could not believe the fucking lack of courtesy of this fat little fucking nomark woman. I mean, it’s a fucking train station I don’t think it’s entirely unreasonable to ask when the fucking train leaves. No wonder no-one uses the bastard things any more. Slag. Looking back, I could have made a real scene in the middle of the station, but then I probably wouldn’t have got my tickets, so it’s probably best I didn’t. Still pisses me off, though.





Oh yes, Predator. Classic action movie. Great DVD. What, you want more than that? You fucking people…













It’s the late eighties. Mindless action films reign supreme, and sci-fi has thoroughly established itself as cool and profitable. So what’s a Hollywood executive to do?





Commission a script combining the sci-fi and action genres, and attach the name of the hottest action star on the planet, Arnold Schwarzennegger. Oh, those were the days.





And so Predator was born, creating one of the most memorable movie monsters of all time. The film solidified Arnie as an action superstar and launched the career of director John McTiernan, who created perhaps the greatest action movie of all time, Die Hard (and would work with Arnold again on the somewhat less-successful Last Action Hero). It also gave us a young Carl Weathers, who would become a star in his own right as Apollo Creed, and a similarly young Jesse Ventura (whatever happened to him). Oh yes, and there was also a guy involved who went on to do one or two other little projects, one Joel Silver.





Pretty important film, then. And pretty good, too…













Ahh, when action movies were action movies. None of this George Lucas bluescreen nonsense just a bunch of steroid freaks with REALLY big guns, about a million rounds of ammo and enough squibs to blow up a small country. Throw in a badass monster and you’ve got money, baby.





The flick is probably best described as Aliens in the jungle. A team of kickass mercenaries led by Mr. Universe go into a jungle on a rescue mission. In what little though surprisingly entertaining plot there is, we learn that they have become involved in something far more sinister; a big game hunter from another world hell bent on hunting them down to add to his trophy cabinet.





Like Aliens, each of the soldiers shows an amazing amount of personality in the limited amount of screen time they actually see, thanks largely to their trademark weapons and one liners who wouldn’t mark out for a guy carrying a helicopter minigun? The beauty of having such strong characters is what I call the "anti-red shirt theory"; in Star Trek, there’s the cliché that the extra with no dialogue wearing the red shirt is the one who inevitably gets picked off, rather than the main characters with all the personality. In Predator (and Aliens), the fact that each one of the characters seem capable of carrying the film, there’s always that feeling that “no way can THIS guy die, he’s too important”. Yet that’s exactly what happens they all die one after the other. And in great fashion.





The special effects have held up incredibly well for a film that’s fifteen years old, and the action is just as adrenaline-pumping as it was when it was first released. The alien still looks terrific, and watching this film just makes you yearn for another action-packed sequel. And then you watch Predator 2. Oh well.






Movie Rating: ****



One of the best action films ever made, and perhaps Arnie’s greatest bullet-fest.













If you bought the original barebones Predator DVD, seriously, throw that piece of crap away it’s time to upgrade. This is the full theatrical cut (which has previously been toned down for home release), and has been given the full anamorphic/DTS 5.1 treatment. Both the picture and sound are awesome, although the print does seem a little bit dark and very occasionally grainy. No biggie or anything though.





The extras on the discs are as hardcore as the movie itself:






- Audio Commentary by director John McTiernan



- Text Commentary by film journalist/historian Eric Lichtenfeld



- DVD-ROM Aliens VS Predator 2 demo





- "If it bleeds, we can kill it" documentary (27 mins)



- "Inside the Predator" 7 featurettes (approx 23 mins)



- "Predator Special Effects" special effects test footage



- Deleted scene and Outtakes



- Predator text profile



- Photo gallery



- Easter Eggs





The McTiernan commentary has a few pauses, but is perfectly enjoyable and packed with information. His voice is kinda hypnotic, but he’s got some great stories and insight he is critical of a number of aspects of the film, mentioning that the only reason they shot at this particular location was because one of the producers was taking backhanders, and to make matters worse, the production crew didn’t bother to find out that they would be filming in the season where none of the trees had leaves, so they pretty much had to dress their own jungle even though they were shooting in one. He is also critical of some of the action sequences shot by the second unit, commenting that they were too A-Team-like. He also manages to take a shot at Predator 2, and lets slip that animals were harmed in the making of this movie (the scorpion) and that they perhaps weren’t as eco-friendly to the rainforest as they should have been. The only thing that lets it down is that McTiernan seems totally oblivious about Ventura’s extensive Hollywood career ("This might be his only movie"). Still a great commentary though.





The text commentary is cool enough, but I’m not really into them that much. It includes interviews with the special and visual effects people, the cinematographer, screenwriters and so on, so if you like text commentaries, you’ll probably enjoy it. It’s probably worth noting that both the audio and text commentaries are accessible as ordinary alternate language/subtitle tracks, so you can change them on the fly (something which more companies should do).





And, in what has to be the best DVD-ROM feature yet, Fox haven’t bothered putting on some trivia crap or a weblink to site that never gets updated they’ve included a demo of the PC game Aliens VS Predator 2. It’s only a one-player demo, although you can play as all three characters, and the demo completely installs to your hard drive, so you don’t have to keep the DVD in your PC to play it. A word of warning though, AVP2 is a pretty graphics-heavy game, so unless you’ve got a pretty decent PC, it’ll take twenty minutes to load and run like crap. But anyway, a really cool extra, and something that’d be cool to see on, say, the new Matrix DVDs.





The "If it bleeds, we can kill it" documentary is very well put together, and is a great little extra. It includes interviews with just about the whole cast and crew, and all-new interviews with McTiernan, Shane Black (Hawkins), Bill Duke (Mac), Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed -- I mean, Dillon), Stan Winston and John Davis (producer). There is a bunch of very cool stuff here it’s interesting to note that Shane Black is actually not an actor, but a writer (he wrote Lethal Weapon). They wanted him to redraft the film, but he wasn’t interested, so they cast him as an actor and hoped to get him to do a re-write in his downtime. Both Richard Chaves (Poncho) and Jesse comment on how the film brought back memories of their time in the service (Viet Nam and the SEALs respectively). There are some cool stories about Sonny Landham being required to have a bodyguard by the insurance company (to protect other people from HIM), and a REALLY funny story about a bet between Arnold and Jesse over who had the bigger biceps. Seriously, it’s worth getting the disc just for this story. Perhaps the highlight of the doc are stories, sketches and footage of the abandoned Predator costume, which looked like a very large, very crap beetle. Always interesting to see these abandoned shots and conceptuals. The documentary ends with each of the interviewees doing their impression of Arnie’s infamous "You’re one ugly muthafucker" line. Nothing is mentioned of the rumoured Van Damme involvement with the film, however.





The "Inside the Predator" featurettes are additional chapters of the documentary focusing on areas that didn’t really fit into the doc, each lasting between three and five minutes. "Classified Action" is a featurette on the stunts and choreography (and the stunt co-ordinator looks scarily like a Freebird-era Michael Hayes), "The Unseen Arnold" is an ass-kissing exercise for the crew (and features an Arnie line that is good enough for one of his movies: "VHERE IZ MY SCHTOGIE?"), "Old Painless" looks at Jesse’s minigun, "Camouflage" looks at the make-up designs and effects, "Welcome to The Jungle" lets us in on the difficulties if filming in the middle of a jungle, and "Character Design" looks at each of the characters in the movie.





There are a number of Easter Eggs on the discs that are pretty easy to find, and are pretty good too. The first is about Jesse, and sees The Body shooting on Hulk Hogan ("I won’t end up like Hulk Hogan... he’s a great wrestling personality, but that’s all he’ll ever be"). Another egg sees Stan Winston confessing to a practical joke he played on Arnold and his wife (think big fucking jungle bullfrogs), and the last one is just pure gold I won’t spoil it here, but some of those scenes where the guys are tiptoeing round grimacing with quiet intensity? Let’s just say that it was more than just intensity that was making them grimace and clench their sphincters…





The deleted scene "Fleeing the Predator" runs about 1:40 and is interesting as Arnie is running at the end of the movie, there are several occasions where the Predator has him in his sights, and could easily have killed him. However, he instead toys with him, shooting at the surrounding earth and temporarily blinding Arnie by shooting a tree right in front of his face. The outtakes are pretty interesting too. "Chameleon" is actually a short deleted scene, with Anna picking up a chameleon from some leaves, which I thought was a nice little homage to the Predator’s abilities. "Building Trap" is an assembly of all the footage shot of Arnold building the spike trap at the end of the movie. It runs a couple of minutes, and has just about every angle of Arnie carving and sharpening wood not that entertaining. "Sliding Down Hill" is an assembly of all the shots of Arnold sliding down the hill on a tea tray (before dropping off the waterfall), and is fun just to see how far Arnold can make his eyes pop out of his head.





The Predator Text Profile is a kayfabed look at all of the Predator’s weapons and gadgets (a la the Star Wars tech manuals and such) and isn’t that much fun, but the photo gallery is huge it must contain at least a hundred pictures and there are some awesome on and off-stage photos of the cast and crew, including some really kickass stills of Jesse firing old painless, and one of him getting off the helicopter wearing his boa. So fruity, yet so badass.






Extras Rating: *****



Overall this is just an awesome set of extras. The great commentary is just the start there are so many stories to listen to, nuggets of information to digest, and even a few Easter Eggs to find. This is a man-sized Special Edition well worthy of purchase.












Finally a classic film gets the treatment it deserves. Everything in this set has been done right, and is simply a must-have for action movie fans. However, the set is Region 2 ONLY at the moment. Like RoboCop: SE, it has been rumoured to get a US release for the longest time, but I reviewed Robo way back in February and there’s still no news on an R1 release for that, so if you’re interested in this set you may as well import it now as always, I’d recommend checking out Play.com.






Overall: *****



Awesome film, awesome DVD. GONNA HAVE ME SOME FUN TONIGHT~!








Jay Spree


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