"PREDATOR: ULTIMATE
HUNTER EDITION "
Blu-ray Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: **** (out of 5 stars)
    BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)

    Rated R
    Studio: 20th Century Fox

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
An elite group of commandos head into the South American jungle to save some Americans only to come face-to-face with an unseen enemy. They soon find themselves to be hunted by a terrifying and formidable alien being that kills for sport and is tracking the most dangerous animal on Earth.

WHAT I LIKED
Being a child of the 80s, I have plenty of love for not just “Predator” but the whole slate of Schwarzenegger action movies of that era. “Predator” was made when his career was in full swing, and we are treated to a very fit, very game Arnold. Putting him in the film with other muscleheads like Carl Weathers and Jesse “The Body” Ventura just made for a hell of a lot of fun and plenty of testosterone for this movie.

“Predator” starts out as an action flick and delivers all the explosions and gunplay you’d expect from a bunch of soldiers in the jungle. However, it soon turns into a cat-and-mouse horror movie with a mysterious monster that still looks freaky and fantastic to this day.

Made in the same era as the first “Alien” movies, “Predator” follows a very similar storyline, which has been seen in plenty of other movies like both versions of “The Thing.” The story is one of attrition that has a violent end to most characters and provides a kick-ass final showdown.

This movie is also what galvanized John McTiernan as a big budget director, which led him to some of his better films in the next couple years.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
With the film being 23 years old, there are some effects and scenes that don’t hold up 100%. However, considering how small the budget was and what it would cost to make the same movie today, “Predator” is one hell of an impressive effort. Let the cheesy 80s action dialogue go and enjoy the movie for what it was.

BLU-RAY FEATURES
This isn't the first time “Predator” has hit Blu-ray, and the image transfer isn’t fantastic. Still, if you can handle a look that at times appears to be a DVD blow-up, it’s a great film to revisit before “Predators” hits the screens later this summer.

Most of the special features come from the 2002 DVD release. These include McTiernan’s commentary and a text commentary by film historian Eric Lichtenfeld. Old featurettes include “Predator: Evolution of a Species – Hunter of Extreme Perfection,” “If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It: The Making of Predator” and “Inside the Predator.” There are several short special effects bits that show the evolution of the monster’s look and the camouflage effect. Additional features include short interviews with the cast and director, deleted scenes and outtakes and a photo gallery.

New features include a sneak peek at “Predators” plus its trailer, as well as “Predator Profile” which gives an overview of the title characters weapons and suit.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of the Schwarzenegger and the “Predator” films.





"GREEN ZONE"
Blu-ray Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)

    Rated R
    Studio: Universal

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
After two successful Bourne movies, director Paul Greengrass puts Matt Damon back on the front lines with “Green Zone.” Damon stars as a U.S. Army officer trying to track down weapons of mass destruction in the wake of the invasion of Iraq. However, he finds a host of dead ends, government lies and lots of people with guns trying to kill him.

WHAT I LIKED
I’ve been a fan of Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon as a cinematic pair since “The Bourne Supremacy.” While this isn’t a Bourne movie, it has the same feel and energy behind it. What makes “Green Zone” work is the style and passion that Greengrass brings to the project. This is a frenetic and powerful action flick that brings the fight to you.

Hollywood has struggled with their new batch of war films over the past few years, and this one isn’t perfect. But it’s a better effort than presenting the American soldier as a head-case coming home to find his life in shambles and his psyche beaten and bruised.

But the key to “Green Zone” is its action base. Like “The Hurt Locker,” this movie puts the audience at ground zero of the fighting, and that makes it definitely exciting to watch. In many ways, this also reminds me of “Children of Men,” which made me feel the intensity of battle. (Of course, having never been in combat myself, I’m making a lot of assumptions here.)

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
The first complaint people have with Greengrass’s films is his frenetic handheld camera movement, and it’s all over the place here. Fortunately, it’s easier to deal with in your home theater than watching the film on a screen 20 feet high. When I saw it in the theaters, I literally had to move to the back of the house to avoid puking up my popcorn. At least on Blu-ray and DVD, this movie is manageable to watch.

The other big problem with “Green Zone” is its preachy political bent. A lot of time is spent in the bonus material trying to convince us that there is no political agenda with the film, but it’s impossible to miss... especially during the resolution. If you can swallow the political pill with this movie and take it as an action flick, you’ll like it. But if you’re looking for a political fight, you’ll find that as well.

BLU-RAY FEATURES
The Blu-ray comes with a video commentary with Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass as well as picture-in-picture insight that runs through the whole film and has become a standard feature on most Universal Blu-rays. Additional features include deleted scenes with commentary from Damon and Greengrass (and Greengrass’s son for some strange reason) as well as the featurettes “Matt Damon: Ready for Action” and “Inside the Green Zone.”

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
People who want a Bounre-esque movie and don’t mind a political agenda.



"RIVERWORLD"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)

    Not Rated
    Studio: SyFy/Vivendi

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Based on Philip Jose Farmer’s classic stories, “Riverworld” follows Matt (Tahmoh Penikett) after he dies and finds himself resurrected on a strange world by a seemingly endless river. Matt soon discovers that Riverworld is the home to everyone who has ever lived and died in a purgatory. There are also mysterious beings known as Caretakers who seem to be controlling the fate of the people along the river. Matt must work with new friends along the river to overthrow a warlord that has taken over and find his missing fiancée.

WHAT I LIKED
My dad read the “Riverworld” books by Philip Jose Farmer back in the 80s, and I always thought they had an interesting concept when he told them to me. Having never read them myself, I can’t say if this was an accurate retelling of the stories, but the general concept seems to be there.

Overall, the story is intriguing, and I found the film to have some interesting twists and turns. Some of the actors were good, including Mark Deklin as Samuel Clemens and Alan Cumming as one of the Caretakers. There’s definitely a neat story underlying this film, and it does set itself up for a potential series. Considering how many of the SyFy network’s shows have been canceled (including “Battlestar Galactica” and “Stargate Atlantis”), I’d welcome this over “Stargate Universe” and pointless wrestling matches.

The bottom line is that “Riverworld” has potential, and I’d like to see some more.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
The writing of the scripts are the biggest problem of this series. While the film has a somewhat cinematic look at times with the background and grander special effects, “Riverworld” still feels like a TV movie. The dialogue is stilted, and the characters don’t always act appropriately. For example, early on, one character gets belligerent with a Conquistador, which results in his quick death, and this just didn’t play out like it really would.

Also, being a SyFy miniseries, it’s not surprising that some of the acting fell along the lines of the original movies that star has-been actors like Lorenzo Lamas. Tahmoh Penikett has some cache with sci-fi fans because of his work on “Battlestar Galactica” and “Dollhouse,” but he’s chews through the scenery in this series. Similarly, Romina D’Ugo and Laura Vandervoort deliver some achingly bad performances.

But fortunately the legacy and overall scope of “Riverworld” raises it above your standard SyFy Original Movie and makes it fun to watch at times.

DVD FEATURES
The only feature on the DVD is a behind-the-scenes bit with Alan Cumming as he gets into his blue make-up as a Caretaker.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of the SyFy original movies, but maybe not Philip Jose Farmer purists.


    

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