Tag Archives: John Thomas

The Predator Holiday Special (2018)

At two minutes, The Predator Holiday Special runs long. The joke runs out. It starts as a rather fun riff on the original Predator movie, with the same music and some familiar action motifs, and the Rankin-Bass stop motion holiday specials. Sure, the stop motion isn’t great and the Predator appears to just be an action figure, but it’s only a couple minutes; it doesn’t have to do too much.

First it’s elf versus Predator, then reindeer versus Predator, finally Santa versus Predator. It’s all fine until it doesn’t end with Santa versus Predator and instead has a pointless, visually inert action finale. Worse, there’s a perfectly good send-off (which could almost save Holiday Special in the last moments), but doesn’t.

The stop motion animation just isn’t there. Given Holiday Special is literally just an extended commercial for the home video release of The Predator, it’s kind of cute. But probably would’ve been a lot cuter at thirty seconds or a minute instead of a drug out two minutes. Better voice acting wouldn’t have hurt it either.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Based on characters created by Jim Thomas and John Thomas; aired by Comedy Central.


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The Last Days of Disco (1998, Whit Stillman)

I don’t know how to start talking about The Last Days of Disco. I was going to start with saying I first saw it ten years ago (I first saw it on video), but then I realized I probably first saw it eleven years ago and eleven doesn’t have the same ring. People do like things in ten. Then I was going to start with saying I didn’t understand why it isn’t better known or better appreciated, but I guess I do know why it isn’t better known or better appreciated. It’s an unabashedly superior film. It was the first Whit Stillman film I saw and I still don’t think either of his previous works suggest he’s capable of this level of filmmaking.

Where Stillman excels–in terms of the script–is in creating this self-aware (which really comes into play for a joke near the end) envisioning of the disco era. Because he doesn’t deal with any of the modern (in 1998) disco stereotypes, except to point out they are stereotypes, Stillman’s disco club really is, as one character puts it, the greatest club ever. It’s impossible not to think so, not to understand why the characters have to keep going back, even though they talk about never going back. They’re part of a phenomenon and Stillman makes the audience part of it too. In some ways, it really reminds me of the new Star Wars movies–really, it does–because whether or not someone can dance (just like in Star Wars they don’t have any discernible lightsabering skill) doesn’t even fit into it. Stillman fills his dancing shots with as many recognizable faces as possible and leaves it to the viewer to come up with the reason Kate Beckinsale and Matt Ross are dancing next to each other, even though Ross is there with Tara Subkoff. These little narrative tricks, ones Stillman did exhibit in his previous films, make Last Days of Disco feel like a confrontation experience. To say it’s a film requiring a lot of brain power from its viewer is an understatement–Stillman’s composition alone (or Mark Suozzo’s occasional, beautiful score) requires the viewer to pay very close attention.

Which isn’t to say Stillman makes Last Days of Disco particularly dense or heady. He just forces, with his composition, a kind of attention–I think the only thing I’d compare it to is Barry Lyndon. You have to notice the tree outside Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny’s apartment. You miss something if you don’t.

The acting is all spectacular. Seeing the film again, I remember when I had high hopes for Mackenzie Astin’s acting career. Sevigny gives an amazing lead performance. She’s quiet in so much of the film–most of the talking comes from Beckinsale (as a spectacular bitch–she’s just fantastic in making this dislikable character utterly compelling) and Chris Eigeman. I was talking about how good Sevigny is in the film… got sidetracked, sorry. She’s so quiet, just watching, looking, and then Stillman gives her these big–but quiet–moments and she nails all of them. The acting from her and Beckinsale is simply amazing, from the first moment they walk into the film.

Also great is Matt Keeslar, who I’ve longed supported (starting with seeing him in this film). He gets the closet thing to a male protagonist role in the film. He’s great–walking through it with a bemused look–but then Stillman throws all sorts of character revelations at him and he handles every one perfectly.

The supporting cast–Burr Steers, David Thornton (both have some great lines)–is excellent.

I think the first time I saw The Last Days of Disco, I watched it a lot and made other people watch it. I haven’t seen it in eight years, which is way too long to go between viewings.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written, produced and directed by Whit Stillman; director of photography, John Thomas; edited by Andrew Hafitz and Jay Pires; music by Mark Suozzo; production designer, Ginger Tougas; released by Gramercy Pictures.

Starring Chloë Sevigny (Alice), Kate Beckinsale (Charlotte), Chris Eigeman (Des), Mackenzie Astin (Jimmy), Matt Keeslar (Josh), Robert Sean Leonard (Tom), Jennifer Beals (Nina), Matt Ross (Dan), Tara Subkoff (Holly), Burr Steers (Van), David Thornton (Bernie) and Jaid Barrymore (Tiger Lady).


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Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007, Colin Strause and Greg Strause)

Surprisingly, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem does elicit some conversation. Or, at least the first forty or so minutes of it does. The rest might elicit armed revolt, I’ll never know.

The movie’s interesting for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s atrocious. From the incompetent direction–the Strause brothers apparently couldn’t handle a Doublemint commercial–to the cheap CG (maybe the worst I’ve seen in a theatrical release in years) to the totally unknown cast (picked from the finest Canadian used car dealership advertisements, I’m sure) to the script. But the script brings up the second point (but does not provide a convenient paragraph break apparently).

The script owes more to early B-movies than it does to either of the film series or anything else. It’s like a cheapie from 1938, complete with contrived story lines for a number of people (ex-con, soldier returning, teen in love). Instead of being in a bus depot, however, these people are in a small town–well, not so small, the aerial shot reveals its quite large. When Requiem started, I figured–given the cast of idiot teenagers–it was going to turn the franchise into a slasher movie. Unfortunately, it does not (the slasher take would be a lot more interesting). Instead, it’s scene after endless scene of these idiotic people leading their contrived, TV movie lives. As far as I can tell, there probably isn’t even the payoff of watching the aliens eat these morons.

And that sentence brings me to my final point (I can’t waste time doing a paragraph about the music). It’s boring. It’s a movie called Aliens vs. Predator and it’s boring. Nothing happens. There’s one Predator. Whoop-de-doo. They show the Predator planet, which should have been interesting, but instead is certainly not. The aliens never invade, which is dumb. Here they’re afraid of the light too, which makes no sense because they don’t have eyes. The Predator has this computer and it literally has a function for everything he could need.

The first movie’s no good, but it’s fun and cheaply imaginative. This one is putrid garbage of an inconceivable level. I think I kept it playing because I couldn’t believe someone would greenlight a movie called Aliens vs. Predator where most of the story plays like a soap.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Colin Strause and Greg Strause; written by Shane Salerno, based on characters created by Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett, Jim Thomas and John Thomas; director of photography, Daniel C. Pearl; edited by Dan Zimmerman; music by Brian Tyler; production designer, Andrew Neskoromny; produced by John Davis, David Giler and Walter Hill; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Steven Pasquale (Dallas), Reiko Aylesworth (Kelly), John Ortiz (Morales), Johnny Lewis (Ricky), Robert Joy (Colonel Stevens) and Ariel Gade (Molly).


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