Tag Archives: Shane Black

Monster Squad

The Predator

by Hope Madden

Shane Black loves him some Eighties, doesn’t he? The over-the-top machismo, the sentimentality, the tasteless and insensitive one-liners—the writer/director revels in every opportunity to splash those (and some blood and entrails) on the screen as he reboots The Predator.

This is the sixth installment, if you count the Alien vs. Predator films, so Black has his hands full finding a fresh perspective. First things first: a damaged, hyper-masculine male lead who uses humor to mask his pain. Enter Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook, Logan).

A US Army sniper, McKenna and his men are in Mexico after some baddies and some hostages when a predator ship crashes. McKenna faces off with the nasty before making off with some of his gear. Then he’s in a bar/post office in Mexico. Then he’s in custody.

How did he go from A to B to C? Nevermind that! There are predator dogs this time!

There are a lot of those odd gaps in action logic, but since when is narrative clarity the point of a Predator movie (or a Shane Black movie, for that matter)? In many ways, Black is the ideal candidate to reawaken the sport-hunting franchise.

He clearly loves it, and he should, having played the small role of Hawkins in the 1987 original. Black takes pointed but affectionate shots at the source material and celebrates much of what made it (and most of Schwarzenegger’s 80s output) so fun.

Holbrook is a serviceable lead that Black quickly surrounds with a team of soldiers (Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane). What kind of bunch are they? Rag and tag!

Olivia Munn jumps in as a scientist who drops f-bombs, Jacob Tremblay is inarguably cute, and Sterling K. Brown (characteristically mesmerizing) plays the villainous military dude.

The story touches on humanity’s path to extinction, as well as our own evolution. That last part leads to some questionably respectful commentary on folks on the Autism spectrum. (Folks with Tourette’s can expect the same level of respect you might find in an Eighties action film. Or a Norm MacDonald interview.)

The FX are good. Not War for the Planet of the Apes good, but way better than the Aquaman trailer that rolled pre-film. The action is fun and sometimes imaginative, but the rest of the film is largely lacking in imagination.

There’s a lot of coasting going on in The Predator. A lot of boxes being checked—sometimes checked with flair, but they’re still the same old boxes.

Nice Nice Baby

The Nice Guys

by Hope Madden

Tell me you’ve seen any of the countless trailers for Shane Black’s new action comedy The Nice Guys. Funny! I haven’t had such high expectations for a new film yet this year.

Ever since Black announced his presence with authority, penning ‘87’s iconic buddy cop action flick Lethal Weapon, he’s been one to watch. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, his directorial debut, suggested he might even be keeping his best stuff for himself. But after a while, his tics and tendencies grow tiresome.

The Long Kiss Goodnight, anyone?

And though his newest effort absolutely revisits most of the filmmaker’s by-now obvious predilections, his craftsmanship and casting have never been better.

Hey girl, guess what – Ryan Gosling is a hoot! No, no, I didn’t say he’s hot (as that goes without saying). He’s a hoot. And if you found his scene-stealing performance in last year’s gem The Big Short a refreshing and joyous change of pace for the award-bedecked actor, you will surely enjoy this masterpiece of comic timing and physicality.

Gosling plays Holland March, an alcoholic PI with questionable parenting skills who reluctantly teams up with muscle-for-hire Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe). What begins as a low-rent missing persons case snowballs into an enormous conspiracy involving porn, the government, and the all-powerful auto industry. (It is 1977, after all.)

Aah, 1977 – when everybody smoked, ogled women, and found alcoholism a laugh riot. Black puts this time machine quality to excellent use in a film that would have felt stale and rote during his Eighties heyday, but today it serves as an endlessly entertaining riff on all that was so wrong and so right about the Seventies.

A brightly lit (if smog-choked) Southern California noir-turned-buddy-action comedy, The Nice Guys does a surprisingly good job at finding its tone. All the lurid, twisty plot fodder could easily weigh the film down in gritty drama, but Shane’s heart is in the budding, unsanitized bromance.

Gosling’s impeccable hilarity is custom-made for Black’s machine gun fire dialog, but Crowe also manages to get comfortable in the script, allowing both the conversation and action to breathe and take shape. The pair’s chemistry is a joy to watch, and is aided immeasurably by Angourie Rice’s flinty, intelligent turn as March’s disappointed daughter, Holly.


Does this Suit Make Me Look Super?



by George Wolf

After making some really super friends last year, Tony Stark is flying solo again, reaching some pretty impressive heights.

With an infusion of hip from a slick new filmmaker and the continued excellence of its star, Iron Man 3 re-establishes the high-tech suited one as the anchor of The Avengers franchise.

Of course, Robert Downey, Jr. can go a long way toward making even weak films entertaining, but even he seems to have more pep in his step this time thanks to director/co-writer Shane Black.

Black, given the keys to this valuable engine from executive producer Jon Favreau, does not disappoint, filling IM3 with snappy dialogue, clever plot twists and intelligent subtexts addressing self-doubt and terrorism. Oh yeah, and plenty of the impressive 3D visual wizardry that’s required of a superhero blockbuster.

The story catches up with Stark enjoying his fame as usual, but also suffering bouts of insomnia and anxiety while trying to come down from the Avengers battle royale.  He stays up all night crafting more toys for his alter ego, only to be plagued by nightmares when he does manage some sleep.

It doesn’t help when an old acquaintance (Guy Pearce) shows up with a business offer and an eye for Stark’s love Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow), or when one of Stark’s old conquests (Rebecca Hall) joins the soap opera with some mysterious warnings of her own.

And then, as if Stark didn’t have enough on his mind, international terrorist “the Mandarin” (Ben Kingsley) starts blowing everything up!

Black and Downey Jr., re-teaming after the underrated Kiss Kiss Bang Bang from 2005, know that the best comic book- inspired stories turn darker as they age, and they both show good instincts toward how to best apply that formula to their story. They break Stark/Iron Man down mentally, physically and mechanically, while managing to keep the film smart, funny, and often spectacular.

There’s plenty to keep you engaged, and keep you guessing, with the impressive cast of actors providing downright gleeful performances.

Ironically, IM3’s biggest weakness comes from sometimes having too much of a good thing. With Patriot (Don Cheadle) by Stark’s side in the explosive finale, there might be one too many suits, near deaths and breathless escapes.

That’s nit-picking I know, and not enough to derail Iron Man 3 as a thrilling start to the blockbuster season.