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Showing posts from March, 2016

This is dread, man. Truly dread.

Predator 2 (1990)
(SPOILERS) 1990 was a banner year for under-achieving sequels, illustrative of the problems that occur when studios decree product must be launched by any and all means possible. Arnie opted out of battling the alien hunter again, the baffling short straw going to Danny Glover. Director John McTiernan had moved onto bigger things, leaving Jamaican-born Stephen Hopkins to attempt to pass muster. Predator 2 duly made about half the amount of the original surprise hit, putting paid to franchise potential for another twelve years, when a whole posse of them squared off (and bulked up) against xenomorphs. Hopkins’ movie is a moderately entertaining one, but where McTiernan lifted B material into the territory of first-rate action, the sequel, with its clunky near-future setting, derivative plotting and leaky cast, is merely costly schlock.

The sheer weight of sequels jostling out of the gate during 1990 would give even the staunchest studio exec pause. There was definitely …

Hey, you’re that fella in the photograph. You’re dead!

The Avengers 2.22: Man in the Mirror
None of the Venus Smith episodes are exactly masterpieces (although School for Traitors is a cut above), but Man in the Mirror might be the weakest of a largely tepid bunch. In common with most of her appearances, Venus’ involvement in the case is somewhat hapless, this time even more so than normal, as Steed’s latest lure into some dubious business involves suggesting she takes snaps of his dog in an amusement arcade.

The Man in the Mirror is a government employee (a cypher clerk) believed to have committed suicide the week before (Steed found a helpful funfair ticket in his effects), one whose reflection shows up entirely accidentally – and entirely fortuitously – as Venus is snapping away in the hall of mirrors. From there, Steed investigates with the blessing of initially rather imperious new boss One-Six (Michael Gover, who would return for A Chorus of Frogs); when Steed arrives late for a briefing he is told he’ll be consigned to office duties, …

If we're going to be dragged into the Sun, it'll be summer all the way for all of us. Until we melt.

The Avengers 2.21: White Dwarf
Malcolm Hulke’s first solo contribution to The Avengers has a great “What if?” premise, running along more jaundiced lines than the apocalyptic The Day the Earth Caught Fire a few years earlier. An astronomer has forecast the re-entry of a white dwarf into Earth’s solar system, spelling destruction for the planet. When he shows up dead, Steed and Cathy are called into investigate, but rather than furnishing us with a classic doomsday scenario, Hulke offers a tale of greed via stock market manipulation.

Cathy: Do you know what the return of the white dwarf would mean? It would go for the Sun but it would take us with it.
It has to be said that Steed and Cathy seem remarkably cheerful and chipper in the face of imminent disaster, although Steed is assuming Professor Richter (Keith Pyott, Autloc in The Aztecs) was wrong, and that’s why he was killed. The government has kept a lid on things until the professor’s assessment can be confirmed, to prevent unnecessa…

There’s something out there waiting for us, and it ain’t no man.

Predator (1987)
(SPOILERS) The first time Predator caught my attention was via a box office report on pre-infamy Jonathan King’s BBC2 magazine show Entertainment USA. The movie had become a surprise hit during the summer of ’87 (beating The Witches of Eastwick to the top spot in their first week), and I was immediately enthused by the featured clip in which Arnie announced, in distinctive tones, "If it bleeds, we can kill it" Whatever it was, it promised extra-terrestrial thrills. The complete movie did not disappoint, and for a while there it ranked as one of my favourites of the era. Truth be told, it’s perhaps a little too rudimentary to hold the primal permanence of Alien (with it’s fantastic concept design and sublime atmospherics), or The Thing remake (with its undercurrent of apocalyptic paranoia), but it’s most definitely hatched from the same sci-fi horror/thriller DNA. Predator, like Alien, is what you get when a truly great director (and John McTiernan was undoubted…