Tag Archives: Kevin Peter Hall

Predator (1987, John McTiernan)

Predator has a lot going for it. Acting, directing, editing. But not usually all at once. The film opens with a quick introduction–Arnold Schwarzenegger and company are on a special mission in the jungle (after establishing an alien space ship in the first shot). It feels very macho and very forced, but the editing is so incredibly good, it doesn’t matter. Even when Mark Helfrich and John F. Link are cutting together Arnold and Carl Weathers’s male bonding moments, the film works great. It just moves.

Then, as the film brings in the rest of the supporting cast (Weathers or Shane Black give the worst performance and both of them are totally fine), director McTiernan establishes the film’s visual style. Predator doesn’t have much of an action style when the alien finally does show; McTiernan handles it matter-of-fact (cinematographer Donald McAlpine doesn’t appear to have the ability to do much else), so McTiernan instead stylizes the dialogue sequences with particular close-ups and, even more, how he shoots the actors in relation to each other and the jungle they’re in. Predator never looks flashy, but it’s always thoughtfully visualized.

There is one great sequence with Arnold and company running through the jungle before he goes mano-a-mano with the monster. That sequence has McAlpine’s best photography and McTiernan’s best action directing. It’s fast-paced, hectic, but comprehendible and rather sympathetic. The concept–these big muscle men terrified of the unknown monster–works. It makes a lot of Predator work. But only because of the actors.

In the supporting cast, Bill Duke and Richard Chaves are best. Duke’s got the most character arc while Chaves has near the least, but is just really good with it. Then there’s quiet, stoic Sonny Landham and he sells it too. McTiernan’s direction is really important for these performances. Jesse Ventura and Elpidia Carrillo are both good. And, like I said, Weathers and Black aren’t bad. They just aren’t doing anything special; however, given the silliness of Weathers’s character (super-buff CIA stooge), it’s impressive how much Weathers resists caricature.

Nice, memorable music from Alan Silvestri.

The movie falls apart a bit in the finale, which is a little rushed. But McTiernan and his editors turn it around satisfactorily. McAlpine’s photography, which is too flat–both for action and the locations–does contribute to the film’s success. Predator plays way too thoughtful. McTiernan takes it way too seriously. The story is never consequential enough, but McTiernan and the actors ably pretend otherwise.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by John McTiernan; written by Jim Thomas and John Thomas; director of photography, Donald McAlpine; edited by Mark Helfrich and John F. Link; music by Alan Silvestri; production designer, John Vallone; produced by Lawrence Gordon, Joel Silver and John Davis; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (Dutch), Elpidia Carrillo (Anna), Carl Weathers (Dillon), Bill Duke (Mac), Richard Chaves (Poncho), Sonny Landham (Billy), Jesse Ventura (Blain), Shane Black (Hawkins), R.G. Armstrong (Gen. Phillips) and Kevin Peter Hall (The Predator).


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Predator 2 (1990, Stephen Hopkins)

Predator 2 is a great looking movie all because of director Hopkins. Early in the movie, right after a heavily Robocop influenced shoot-out (the whole first hour is nothing but a Robocop rip), Danny Glover’s up on a roof with the LA skyline behind him. Hopkins and cinematographer Peter Levy turn the shot sequence–it probably lasts thirty-five seconds–into a beautifully simple cinematic moment. It just looks perfect. There are quiet a few of these perfect moments in the film, which is probably why Predator 2 gets away with being so lame.

The first hour is wasted with supercop Glover and his team of bad actors (Rubén Blades is actually just mediocre, but Maria Conchita Alonso and Bill Paxton are terrible) chasing the Predator. While I can understand the reasoning behind hiding the Predator for the first hour–for those unfamiliar with the first film–it’s absurdly unnecessary. Killer aliens are a sci-fi standard. Actually, it was probably budgetary. Anyway, Hopkins compensates with some good angry cops fighting against oblivious superiors shots and giving the whole first hour a horror feel. It’s cheap and deceptive, but he makes up for it in the end.

Predator 2 ends with a lengthy–around twenty minute–chase scene. Thirty minutes if you disregard a six minute break for Glover to find out all about the first movie (you’d think he would have seen it).

While Glover’s good in the leading role, the script’s so bad–he’s constantly making heated, macho movie man observations–there’s little he can do with it. His best scenes are the ones where some subtext is implied (given the movie has none). Producer Joel Silver opened his regular acting stable out for Predator 2–Gary Busey, Robert Davi and Steve Kahan–and, along with Glover, it feels like an attempt to remind people of Lethal Weapon.

Busey’s awful, no surprise, but the terrible supporting cast is a little bewildering. They should have been able to hire some decent character actors–Kent McCord is particularly bad and Adam Baldwin is laughable. Any movie where Morton Downey Jr. gives one of the better performances is trouble.

But those last twenty minutes make up for everything. It’s a chase scene across rooftops, beautifully directed. Hopkins really doesn’t get enough credit. The conclusion–with the various money shots (a dozen additional Predators)–is idiotic (what were all these other Predators doing while the main one was out hunting, watching Maury Povich?), but it looks kind of cool and Predator 2 doesn’t encourage any thoughtful consideration. In fact, it strives not to encourage that sort of thing.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Stephen Hopkins; written by Jim Thomas and John Thomas; director of photography, Peter Levy; edited by Mark Goldblatt and Bert Lovitt; music by Alan Silvestri; production designer, Lawrence G. Paull; produced by Lawrence Gordon, Joel Silver and John Davis; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Danny Glover (Harrigan), Gary Busey (Keyes), Rubén Blades (Danny), Maria Conchita Alonso (Leona), Bill Paxton (Lambert), Robert Davi (Captain Heinemann), Adam Baldwin (Garber), Kent McCord (Captain Pilgrim), Morton Downey Jr. (Tony Pope), Calvin Lockhart (King Willie) and Kevin Peter Hall (The Predator).


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Harry and the Hendersons (1987, William Dear)

Harry and the Hendersons has to be one of the most emotionally manipulative movies ever made. Amblin produced it (though Spielberg’s name isn’t on the credits anywhere) and it comes off as the finale part of the E.T. and Gremlins trilogy. Except in this one, it isn’t about a boy and his Bigfoot, it’s about John Lithgow and his Bigfoot, with Lithgow the hunter realizing maybe he shouldn’t be killing animals for the fun of it. (The movie’s on a lot firmer ground, reality-wise, than its predecessors). Maybe that message, the anti-hunting one, the humanization of animals one, is what makes the movie so damn effective.

It’s good it’s effective, no matter what the means, because it’s a really cheap movie. For instance, Lithgow’s only a hunting nut because his father never encouraged his drawing and continues to berate him for even having the interest. The movie’s also a narrative nightmare, with the family playing an important part at the beginning, but then falling off for the middle–when the movie’s mostly about non-speaking extras chasing Harry. Not to mention the son who goes from being important to not between the first and second acts.

The acting is all decent. David Suchet and Don Ameche are both wonderful and participants in two of the film’s three most emotionally manipulative scenes… the one with Ameche actually might not be a manipulation. John Lithgow is mostly okay. He’s believable as the sensitive guy, but not as the gun nut. Melinda Dillon’s unfortunately wasted. Joshua Rudoy’s somewhat irritating as the son. As Harry, Kevin Peter Hall does a great job–though I’m not sure what the puppeteers controlled.

Bruce Broughton’s score sounds almost exactly like the cute parts of Gremlins, which strengthens the informal bond. The technical aspects of the movie are unremarkable, with Allen Daviau’s photography, especially his outdoor photography, being an exception. As for William Dear’s direction… he has some good moments and some not so good ones. Actually, the good ones–when he fits the four family members in frame with Harry–are sometimes excellent.

But the realism, which provides the movie’s easily discernible message, is problematic. It’s just real enough for it not to make sense… it isn’t the existence of the Bigfoot, it’s–first–the reaction of the family (particularly the constantly unbelievable reactions of the daughter) and, second, the ensuing public panic. It just doesn’t make any sense after a certain point… much like the conclusion, which has a big fake ending followed by another set piece. With no real bridge between the two, it’s just another example of the cheapness.

The movie also makes the mistake of dumbing down for kids a little too much, but the positive elements make up for quite a lot.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by William Dear; written by Dear, Bill Martin and Ezra D. Rappaport; director of photography, Allen Daviau; edited by Donn Cambern; music by Bruce Broughton; production designer, James Bissell; produced by Richard Vane and Dear; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring John Lithgow (George Henderson), Melinda Dillon (Nancy Henderson), Margaret Langrick (Sarah Henderson), Joshua Rudoy (Ernie Henderson), Kevin Peter Hall (Harry), Lainie Kazan (Irene Moffat), Don Ameche (Dr. Wallace Wrightwood) and M. Emmet Walsh (George Henderson Sr.).


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