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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Stephen Hopkins
Cast:
Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Kevin Peter Hall, Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, Bill Paxton
Writing Credits:
Jim Thomas, John Thomas

Tagline:
Silent. Invisible. Invincible. He's in town with a few days to kill.

Synopsis:
This electrifying action sequel unleashes the deadly invisible Predator in another jungle - the urban jungle of Los Angeles. Danny Glover stars as a lieutenant who mistakenly concludes that mangled bodies found by the police are the work of feuding gangs. Instead, he finds himself confronting a savage alien who has come from a distant world to hunt humans for sport. Gary Busey and Ruben Blades co-star in this suspense-packed, high-tech thriller.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$30.669 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Spanish DTS 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 108 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 6/9/2009

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Stephen Hopkins
• Audio Commentary with Writers Jim Thomas and John Thomas
• “The Hunters and the Hunted” Documentary
• “The Predator Goes to Town” Featurette
• International Featurette
• “Creating the Ultimate Hunter” Featurette
• “Evolutions” Special Effects Development Clips
• “Weapons of Choice” Weapons Analysis Clips
• Trailers
• TV Spots
Hard Core Full-Length Mock News Reports


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Predator 2 [Blu-Ray] (1990)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 18, 2009)

When discussions of sequels that top original flicks occur, we mostly find the usual suspects: The Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, Terminator 2, and The Godfather Part II readily spring to mind. Many will disagree, but I’d add 1990’s Predator 2 to the mix. I thought the 1987 original offered some good action, but it always seemed like a disappointment that didn’t live up to the potential of its premise.

On the other hand, I felt its sequel took better advantage of the possibilities. Whereas Predator was set in a jungle, Predator 2 relocates to Los Angeles circa 1997. A place seven years in the future when they made the film, this LA suffers from a relentless heat wave and some horrific violence between drug gangs. The film starts with an incident between the LAPD and Colombian baddies; the latter injured some cops and the former want to rescue them but can’t get past the barrage of gunfire.

Renegade officer Lt. Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover) storms into the situation and helps rescue the cops, but he finds his hands tied when he wants to enter the building that houses the Colombians; Deputy Chief Heinemann (Robert Davi) orders them to stay put until the feds arrive. However, bullheaded Harrigan leads his team into the place to track down the baddies. Oddly, when they find the Colombians, they discover someone else beat them to the punch, as all the drug-runners have been slaughtered.

The cops suspect that competitors did these nasty deeds, and DEA Special Agent Peter Keyes (Gary Busey) states that he’s there to stop King Willie’s voodoo gangs from taking over the whole west coast. However, we can tell he has another agenda, just as we know the predator killed the Colombians.

But we’re ahead of Harrigan and his crew. We meet his coworkers Danny (Ruben Blades) and Leona (Maria Conchita Alonso) as well as a new teammate, hotshot “Lone Ranger” Jerry Lambert (Bill Paxton). The predator stages its own assault on the gangs while the authorities try to keep up with the mayhem. In the meantime, Harrigan suspects that Keyes knows more than he’ll tell, so he gets Jerry to tail the DEA agent. Eventually, matters become more personal between Harrigan and the predator, which sets the cop off on a vendetta. This leads to a long series of action sequences that pit man against alien on the streets of LA.

While I can’t say these scenes totally live up to the potential of the piece, I think they come much closer than the original flick did. Actually, Predator 2 seems like two different movies to a certain degree. The first half offers more of a mystery, at least for the film’s characters. We know exactly who’s responsible for the various killings, but Harrigan and the others remain ignorant. That means the movie drags somewhat during its initial half. We need to wait for the participants to catch up with us, and that takes quite a while.

Actually, our main protagonists don’t get to the audience’s level of understanding until well past the midway point, but at least they become more involved in the action. Since the first half concentrates so much on the investigation into the culprit, we don’t see much action that features the predator. While the movie starts with a major shoot-out, the predator’s sequences go by pretty quickly, and he doesn’t turn into a real factor until a big scene on a subway train.

Once that part of the film occurs, however, the flick turns into a pretty substantial blast. Prior to this part, the movie seems somewhat uninspired, but director Stephen Hopkins stages the action on the subway in a stimulating manner, and he keeps up the pace for most of the remaining running time. The flick exhibits a great sense of style and offers some terrific fight pieces.

As for the actors, they struggle to make their barely-one-dimensional characters come to life. Alonso and Blades fail, as their roles remain wooden and lifeless. Paxton does better, mostly because he adopts a more broadly comic personality and doesn’t take things too seriously. Lambert doesn’t ever become as endearing as Hudson from Aliens, but at least he exhibits a little spark.

Though he relies too much on Eastwood-style mumbling, Glover brings somewhat more depth to Harrigan than we normally expect from this sort of role. Clearly he’s a much better actor than we usually find in this kind of flick. While he doesn’t deliver a very well rounded performance, he remains better than average for the genre. In addition, it’s very nice to see an African-American hero whose race never once becomes a topic of conversation. (Give Predator 2 its PC props, as it integrates two Latin characters as good guys too.)

Not for a second will I refer to Predator 2 as a classic, and it definitely falters at times. Its first half plods moderately, and it seems too derivative of other movies. However, it develops enough of its own personality to work, and it provides some excellent action set pieces. Chalk it up as a fun and lively little flick.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Predator 2 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Overall, the transfer looked very good.

Sharpness seemed fine. The movie came across as accurate and distinct. I noticed no issues related softness or fuzziness during this tight and well-defined presentation. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, but I discerned some light edge enhancement at times. As for print flaws, I noticed a little grit and some specks, but in general, the movie looked nicely clean and fresh. Some light grain also cropped up at times.

Predator 2 presented a lively palette, and the disc replicated those tones well. It handled some scenes with red lighting nicely, and the other hues came across as tight and vivid. Black levels seemed deep and dark, and shadows were appropriately clear. Lose the mild source flaws and this would be an “A”-level transfer; most of the time, it looked great.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio of Predator 2 demonstrated some issues related to its era, but it mostly was very satisfying. The soundfield presented an involving affair, though it appeared a little too active at times. Audio from the forward channels worked well, as the music showed good stereo presence and effects blended together neatly and cleanly. Material seemed well placed and elements moved smoothly between channels. Surround usage appeared somewhat excessive and artificial at times, but the rear speakers usually provided good reinforcement of the front speakers. Too much music came from the back channels, but effects became nicely engrossing and lively.

Audio quality seemed quite good. Speech sounded natural and distinct, and I noticed no issues related to intelligibility or edginess. Music appeared very strong, as the score consistently came across as bold and dynamic, with solid clarity. Effects also seemed clean and accurate, and they packed a serious punch. Low-end material appeared tight and deep; elements such as helicopters and the predator’s heartbeat presented tight and deep bass. Overall, the mix for Predator2 worked nicely and earned a “B+”.

How did this Blu-ray release of Predator 2 compare to the quality of the Special Edition DVD from 2005? I thought both discs featured virtually identical audio, but the Blu-ray provided stronger visuals. Though I’d bet that both used the same transfer, the movie looked tighter and smoother here. I felt very pleased with the image.

Almost all of the same supplements from the 2005 DVD repeat here; the Blu-ray drops a photo gallery but retains everything else.

We find two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Stephen Hopkins. He offers a running, screen-specific piece that covers logical subjects but never catches fire. Hopkins goes over story issues, the cast, locations and sets, visual and practical effects, the movie’s look, MPAA ratings concerns, and music.

All of these make perfect sense, and we learn a fair amount about the movie. However, the conversation usually remains fairly superficial and doesn’t deliver a rich examination of the topics. For example, Hopkins briefly mentions that they originally wanted to pair Danny Glover with Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the latter chose to work on T2 instead. And that’s that - no more detail about how the film would have differed in that incarnation or anything else. A moderate number of gaps interfere, and the track generally remains low-key. It comes across as average.

For the second commentary, we hear from writers Jim Thomas and John Thomas, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. When they speak, the brothers offer nice reflections. Unfortunately, they chime in too infrequently and leave quite a lot of dead air.

Nonetheless, I learned a fair amount of good information from this chat. We get notes about the original plans for the story and various changes that occurred along the way. They also discuss limitations placed on the filmmakers as well as anecdotes from the shoot. They elaborate on issues that didn’t get enough coverage in Hopkins’ piece; for example, we hear more of how a P2 with Schwarzenegger would have worked. As I mentioned, when the guys talk, they prove useful. It’s the gaps that make this a less scintillating commentary than I’d like.

Next we go to a new documentary called The Hunters and the Hunted. In this 35-minute and 38-second piece, we get the usual mix of movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. We hear from Hopkins, Jim and John Thomas, Stan Winston Studios’ John Rosengrant, executive producer Michael Levy, stunt coordinator Gary Davis, creature creator Stan Winston, and actors Bill Paxton, Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Maria Conchita Alonso, Ruben Blades, Morton Downey Jr., and Kevin Peter Hall.

”Hunted” goes over the basic concept behind the sequel, the characters and actors, the design and execution of the predator, filming on location in LA, stunts, sets, the movie’s climax, and finishing the flick. One disappointment: most of the interviews come from 1990. The only new comments are with Hopkins and Rosengrant; everyone else was shot during the making of the movie. Those kinds of chats don’t necessarily have to be less useful, but they lack perspective and they tend to be fluffy and without much substance, as they mostly exist to promote the film.

Much of “Hunted” suffers from that tone. Especially in the program’s first half, it fails to deliver many interesting notes as it stays with superficial elements like basic character information or praise for the actors. The program improves in its second half as it gets into the technical aspects of the predator creature and actually shooting the movie. Despite those better elements, the documentary remains lackluster.

A section called Evolutions offers some special effects development clips. These pieces last a total of eight minutes, 25 seconds and cover four scenes: “Main Title”, “Something on the Roof”, “Enemy in the Alley”, and “Subway Showdown”. In these, we see effects elements at various stages of completion while we hear commentary from visual effects supervisor Joel Hynek. He discusses the material and lets us in on the methods used to execute the elements. I like the rough footage, and Hynek’s remarks present a nice discussion of the work.

For a look at the predator’s arsenal, we head to Weapons of Choice. This offers “weapons analysis clips” that take a total of seven minutes, 51 seconds. They cover “Gauntlet Knives”, “Self Destruct”, “Plasma Cannon”, “Net Launcher”, “Smart Weapon” and “Telescoping Spear”. We hear remarks from Hopkins and (mostly) Rosengrant. They get into the design of various weapons and how they were made to seem real in the flick. The show goes through the bits awfully quickly, but it develops the topics with reasonable detail to make the show informative.

Within the “Promotional Gallery”, a number of components appear. We discover three theatrical trailers. Five TV Spots also pop up in this area.

Three featurettes fill out the “Promotional Gallery”. The Predator Goes to Town runs a mere three minutes and three seconds. It features remarks from Jim and John Thomas, Hopkins, Levy, Alonso, Glover, Busey, and Paxton. We also get some goofy comments from Californians on the street. The filmmakers go over basic story issues and not much more. Some of the footage from the set is fun to see, but there’s no useful information here.

We get a 1990 international featurette that runs five minutes and 41 seconds. Mostly it shows movie clips in addition to some behind the scenes snippets and interview tidbits from Hopkins, Glover, Busey, Alonso, Blades, and Paxton. A few of the shots from the scene seem decent, but the interviews lack substance and the featurette exists as nothing more than a glorified trailer.

Another promotional program from 1990, Predator 2: Creating the Ultimate Hunter lasts three minutes, 40 seconds. However, at least this one tries a little harder to divulge filmmaking information. We get the same mix of materials as we learn about the creation of predator vision, urban camouflage, and the predator’s weapons. The piece names none of the participants, so while I recognized Hopkins, Winston, Glover, the Thomas brothers and Downey, I couldn’t name any of the other technical personnel. The material from the set seems moderately useful but not deep, and the details about the effects also fail to tell us much. Like the prior featurette, this one remains very oriented toward hyping the film, so don’t expect to learn much from it.

For a fun addition, we get two Hard Core segments. These are the clips created for the fictional tabloid news show seen in the movie. “City at War” lasts three minutes, 17 seconds, while “From Penthouse to Slaughterhouse” goes for three minutes, 47 seconds. Some audio elements fail to appear; no narration can be heard, and Pope’s reports lack a lot of the necessary sound effects. Nonetheless, it’s cool to get a closer look at these pieces.

A lively and generally exciting little action flick, Predator 2 doesn’t do anything to redefine the genre, but it works well as a whole. It seems consistently more satisfying than the disappointing original movie, and it contains enough solid thrills to make it a success. The Blu-ray offers very good picture and sound as well as an intermittently involving roster of supplements. I like the movie and think the Blu-ray provides enough of a visual upgrade to recommend it over the prior Special Edition DVD.

To rate this film, visit the original review of PREDATOR 2