Welcome to the Rock

The Rock is the closest thing to a genuinely good Michael Bay movie there is. Every single movie he’s directed has a rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes except The Rock. Granted it’s just a 66%, but that’s still saying something for one of the worst directors working today. His movies have always been entertaining, but only if you’re willing to turn off your brain. The Rock actually has a good set up and the Bayhem isn’t the only draw. Which is of course just as loud, bombastic, and constant as all his later work. The Rock refers to the island prison Alcatraz. On it several hostages are taken by a group of rogue U.S. Recon Marines. Lead by Brigadier General Frank Hummel played by Ed Harris. His plan to release deadly rockets full of toxic gas unless he gets $100 million is pretty villainous, but his reason for doing it isn’t completely sinister. Chemical weapons specialist Dr. Stanley Goodspeed is tasked with defusing the weapon. He’s a desk jockey prone to the occasional Nicholas Cage outburst. Former Alcatraz inmate John Mason is also tasked with stopping him. Since he’s the only man to ever escape the island. He’s one of Sean Connery’s last good performances before retirement. Their mission takes them from the rooftops to the sewers with plenty of explosions in between. I may not have been able to completely follow The Rock the first time, but there’s no denying it’s one of the most action packed action movies of the 90’s.

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Mason and Goodspeed examine a chemical weapon

The Universe is Expanding

Men in Black: International is not the way you make a Men in Black movie. Since that 21 Jump Street crossover thankfully failed to materialize, a rebootquel was made instead. Something I barely followed because the idea didn’t interest me. You just can’t replace Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. The only returning characters are Agent O, Frank the pug, and the worms. J and K only appear in a painting. Although I will admit that Thor and Valkyrie themselves Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson did sound encouraging. Against all odds, Men in Black: International became yet another case of a movie solely banking on star power. Since the idea of a globetrotting adventure isn’t half as interesting as it should be. Aliens in foreign lands don’t really make for great comedy. Speaking of which, MIB: International shouldn’t even be labelled a comedy. There are jokes, but they hardly ever land. The story focuses on newly appointed Agent M (a position unofficially offered to Michael Jackson). She’s sent to work at London with Agent H. Their assignment is too needlessly complicated to remember. All I can say is that they end up in different countries, befriend a small alien, and fight many unimportant alien antagonists. The biggest problem by far is the overly long runtime. The original trilogy knew to keep things light, fast paced, and funny. Men in Black: International does practically none of that. I just wish I had a Neuralizer to forget the painfully dull experience.

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Agent H (right) and Agent M (left) take aim

Preceded by: Men in Black 3

Skills that Make Me a Nightmare for People Like You

Taken 3 took the series in too much of a different direction. After three of these movies, at some point you have to wonder if he’s just a bad parent. Aside from the last 10 or so minutes, Kim once again isn’t taken. In fact, nobody is taken. Taken 3 is more of a lesser version of The Fugitive. Despite being a very big deal in Taken 2, Bryan Mills’ ex-wife Lenore is callously killed off. With Bryan being framed for her murder. All the action takes place in America with the police acting as the primary obstacle. So no one is taken and there are no foreign locations. What’s the point of even calling it a Taken movie? Probably the most confusing thing about the sequel is the recasting of Kim’s stepdad. He was an older man before, but now he’s younger and suddenly villainous. Not even the inclusion of Forest Whitaker can make up for its lackluster story. Plus you can tell Liam Neeson is less into the action role this time around. Speaking of action, it’s nothing short of disorienting this time around. Really the only thing Taken 3 takes is your time.

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Bryan Mills goes on the run

Preceded by: Taken 2

Skills I Have Acquired Over a Very Long Career

Taken 2 took the series in pretty much the same exact direction. One of the problems with making a sequel to a title with a very particular premise is that they’re doomed to repeat themselves. Only Bryan Mills’ daughter isn’t once again taken like most people assumed. Instead Bryan and his ex-wife Lenore are taken while vacationing in Istanbul. The man responsible happens to be a devoted father himself. The father of the bastard responsible for the sex trafficking ring in the first movie seeking revenge. As a result of not being taken, Kim is given a much bigger role than before. She’s no action star like Liam Neeson, but she is somewhat capable. Although even though the takee is different, Taken 2 still plays out the same. There’s still a ticking clock, foreign enemies in a foreign land, and a determined Bryan Mills who kills anyone in his way. The action can be just a bit more difficult to watch. Due to a series of quick edits and shaky cam. Its percentage is much lower, but really I would put the sequel in the same boat as the first Taken. The only thing Taken 2 doesn’t have going for it is the surprise factor.

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Bryan Mills makes a call

Preceded by: Taken & Followed by: Taken 3

I Have a Very Particular Set of Skills

Taken has taken Liam Neeson’s career to new heights. Happy father’s day everyone! Today I thought I’d talk about one of the most badass fathers in recent memory. Taken was something I simply couldn’t ignore. Since it spawn a hundred memes and ushered in a new wave of Liam Neeson action roles. Despite his age, Neeson was perfectly capable of handling a role this physically demanding. Taken begins with father Bryan Mills getting his daughter Kim a birthday present. Bryan is divorced and retired from the CIA. All he has is his daughter and friends who were also in the CIA. While on a trip to Paris, Kim and her friend are taken as Bryan speaks with his daughter on the phone. This is obviously the most memorable scene in the movie. As the tension builds and Bryan’s experience shines through. He doesn’t know who they are or what they want. He can’t afford a ransom, but tells them that he has a very particular set of skill. And that if they don’t let her go, he will kill them. His very intimidating threat ends with a voice simply saying “Good luck.” I actually learned the entire monologue long before I even saw the movie. Bryan will stop at nothing to rescue Kim from a despicable gang of sex traffickers. Even resorting to torture. The action is fast paced with just the right amount of urgency to support its set up. Taken goes to show that a father’s love knows no bounds.

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Bryan Mills makes a threatening call

Followed by: Taken 2

The Hunt Has Evolved

The Predator is easily the dumbest thing to come out of the Predator franchise. Not even the full circle return of Shane Black as director is enough to keep it from being one bad decision after another. The Predator is also the only standalone Predator movie I saw in theaters. It takes its R rating to extremes by really going overboard with the gore. Even if some of it is fluorescent green. I really don’t get why these sequels think gratuitous blood shed is necessary. The Predator ties every movie together (even the Alien vs. Predator movies). That includes references, previously seen weapons, and Gary Busey’s son playing his Predator 2 character’s son. The Predator ended up being a mess because it couldn’t focus on one thing. The crew/cast this time is a group of military outcasts. What really annoyed me was all the forced humor injected into the movie. Actors like Keegan-Michael Key make jokes that don’t seem to end. Then there’s a plot point about Olivia Munn’s scientist studying the predators. There’s also an extremely out of place kid with autism played by Jacob Tremblay. Since they figured it worked for Aliens, but everything he does is unbearably cringy. Like using a predator helmet for trick-or-treating. There are two predators in this one. A classic predator kills one second and tries to save humanity the next. The other is a giant that’s supposed to be the next evolution. The predator dogs make a return as well. The giant predator’s reason for hunting is so stupid that it’s almost laughable. Forced comedy, forced exposition, and a forced message, The Predator fails because it represents the worst in some current franchise movies.

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A classic Predator meets the next evolution

Preceded by: Predators

Planet of the Hunters

Predators is the Predator franchises answer to Aliens. As they figure making it plural will make it better. They sort of succeed. After the abysmally bad Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, both franchises decided to go their separate ways. The first standalone movie to be made was Predators. Since I was still underaged at the time, I couldn’t go to see the movie. Despite not directing it, this is very much a Robert Rodriguez movie. The constant swearing, questionable leads, and brutal violence are very much his style. Predators takes the hunt away from Earth. Instead a crew/cast of Earth’s most deadly killers is placed on a planet that acts as a game preserve. Adrien Brody plays a mercenary named Royce. He may have gotten jacked, but he’s still not intimidating enough. Royce is joined by soldiers, inmates, gangsters, and a very out of place Topher Grace as a doctor. They eventually run into Laurence Fishburne as a soldier who’s been stuck on the planet for years. As the title suggests, there are several predators to deal with. Predators even introduces a different faction called Super Predators. Tracker, Falconer, and Berserker are much more intimidating hunters that have a blood feud with the classic predators. They also use dog-like aliens on their hunt. While it can’t compare to the original, Predators at least tries to recapture its testosterone fueled action. By returning to the basic shoulder cannon, wrist blades, and by doing a few callbacks. Predators is probably the closest thing to a good Predator sequel we’ll ever get.

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The Super Predator faces a classic Predator

Preceded by: Predator 2 & Followed by: The Predator

Whoever Wins… We Lose

Alien vs. Predator is the science fiction monster clash fans waited a decade to see. It brings both 20th Century Fox franchises together in one big crossover. By pitting the two vastly different alien creatures against one another. The animalistic Xenomorphs and the technologically advanced Yautja hunters. The Alien quadrilogy lasted from 1979 to 1997. The original was a big game changer and the sequel is one of the best ever made. The follow ups however were less than admirable. The Predator films lasted from 1987 to 1990. The first movie has great action, but the sequel couldn’t recapture it. So the only logical step was to bring both dying franchises together. Much like another major crossover film that was released just one year prior. The idea for Alien vs. Predator actually originates from a Dark Horse comic. Back when comic book companies used to do all sorts of crazy crossovers. The possibility for a movie only grew when a Xenomorph skull appeared at the end of Predator 2. Despite my age, I was fortunate enough to have seen most of the Alien and Predator movies before the release of the crossover. So I actually saw Alien vs. Predator in theaters. Which I was able to do since the movie got a PG-13 rating for some reason. Even though they’re both very R rated franchises…

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Xenomorph vs. Yautja

Alien vs. Predator could’ve had a stellar cast that included Sigourney Weaver and Arnold Schwarzenegger, but instead we’re left with a bland cast of nobodies. Even though the Alien movies were very much steeped in a futuristic outer space setting, AVP brings them to modern day Earth. Which is fine if the movie is non canon, but the inclusion of Lance Henriksen as Charles Bishop Weyland makes it a bit confusing. AVP follows a crew/cast of archaeologists in Antarctica. The only one worth mentioning is Lex. A guide for the team and the sole survivor. She’s no Ripley, but at least she’s the least 2 dimensional of the rest of her crew. Who are frankly just there to be killed off. Despite dozens of better settings in comics and video games, AVP settles for a pyramid buried beneath the arctic. Predators have apparently been here for thousands of years. They were responsible for building the pyramids and were worshipped as gods. The aliens were bred from willing hosts in order to give predators the ultimate prey to hunt. It’s a ridiculous set up, but I didn’t really care about plot too much when I was a kid. I was only in it for the fighting. My brother and I actually chose sides, since we were both slightly bigger fans of one more than the other. I was team alien and my brother was team predator. Regardless of the movies quality, that first meeting will always be the best part of any crossover movie. Three predators arrive at the pyramid named Chopper, Celtic, and Scar. An alien kills Chopper and the first showdown officially commences between Celtic and the alien. The fight is awesome well choreographed fan service. Ending with the alien on top. So one alien (now with a grid pattern) killed two predators. Leaving the much more capable predator Scar to fight off the rest. He forms an unusual alliance with Lex, and they both try to kill off the rest of the aliens. Including a queen alien that was forced to lay eggs. AVP ends with a showdown between Lex, Scar, and the queen. The queen kills Scar, is dragged to the bottom of the ocean, and an elder arrives to collect the predator. The final shot reveals that a chestburster was inside Scar the entire time. Considering a facehugger attached itself to him offscreen. Since an aliens form depends on its host, the chestburster has tusks. Paul W. S. Anderson has a great eye for visuals, but his writing is just as weak as ever. Still, Alien vs. Predator knows action is all anyone cares about.

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A Xenomorph sneaks up on Scar

Crossover of: The Alien and Predator franchises & Followed by: Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem

Super Ripley

Alien Resurrection resurrects the Alien franchise, but only slightly. Like Alien³, I didn’t bother seeing Alien Resurrection when I was younger. Even though it’s not nearly as bad. My parents simply told us it was icky. Alien Resurrection refers to Ripley. Who was annoyingly killed off at the end of Alien³. 200 years later, she’s cloned in order to bring back the Xenomorphs for military purposes. Since a queen alien was inside her. The process gives her superhuman abilities including strength, reflexes, acid blood, and a psychic link with the aliens. Don’t worry, it gets weirder. The crew/cast this time is a group of mercenaries recruited by the military. The only ones worth mentioning are one in a wheelchair and another played by Ron Perlman. There’s also 90’s mainstay Winona Ryder as Call. She’s revealed to be a highly advanced android. The aliens aren’t that much different than the original. They most notably kill their own in order to use its acid blood and swim around. Not that there isn’t another alien variation. The ickiness really kicks in when the also mutated queen alien gives human-like birth to a disgusting alien/human hybrid called a “Newborn.” Something Ripley’s bizarrely affectionate towards. Until she throws it into deep space in an overly graphic way. Sigourney Weaver’s unusual performance is fine, but she’s definitely not the Ripley we used to know. While the director isn’t noteworthy, Alien Resurrection was written by Joss Whedon. Proving that he wasn’t always a master writer. Alien Resurrection is watchable, but style is clearly more important to them than substance.

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Call encounters the Newborn

Preceded by: Alien³ & Prometheus

Concrete Jungle

Predator 2 turns up the heat for a sequel now set in an urban jungle. Unlike the first Predator, I definitely shouldn’t have seen Predator 2 at such a young age. My dad got us the movie on VHS and I think he didn’t realize how much graphic nudity was in it. Victims are stripped naked instead of skinned for some reason. Despite releasing in 1990, Predator 2 is set 10 years after the events of the first movie. 1997 Los Angeles is currently dealing with an increase in drug and gang activity during a heat wave. One that draws the attention of a new predator. Only this one is equipped with even more weapons. Along with the ones seen previously, the predator now has a spear, a net cannon, and a throwing disc. Kevin Peter Hall once again plays the titular hunter. Since Arnold didn’t want to return, Danny Glover now plays the lead. He’s up to the task, but not quite the same physical match. Glover plays a cop named Harrigan who crosses paths with the predator along with his crew/cast of fellow cops. Bill Paxton plays a cop that ends up getting killed by the predator. Meaning he bares the distinction of being killed by a terminator, an alien, and a predator. Gary Busey plays an agent with knowledge of the predator’s alien origins. Harrigan’s fight with the predator takes them all the way to its ship. Where a Xenomorph skull is seen (more on that later). The predator is killed and an elder predator comes to reward him with a trophy. Along with its over-the-top nature, my biggest problem with Predator 2 is that it just goes too far in a genetically gruesome direction.

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The Yautja looms over the city

Preceded by: Predator & Followed by: Predators