Our critics choose between Predators, The Kids Are All Right, and Despicable Me.
SCOTT: Doesn’t it seem as though Predators should have been made about twenty years ago? After all, the Alien franchise had already shown how it’s done: simply add an "s" to the end of the title and you’re free to increase the number of slimy critters from outer space at will. Instead, the original 1987 Predator was followed by the unimaginatively named Predator 2, which not only lacked original star Arnold Schwarzenegger, but featured loudmouth talk-show host and ’80s relic Morton Downey, Jr. in a supporting role. Not exactly a movie designed to stand the test of time, but now — following two crossovers with the aforementioned Alien series — a new (and mercifully 3D-free) Predator movie has arrived in theaters. The premise is a sort of cross between The Dirty Dozen and The Most Dangerous Game, as a handful of our planet’s most lethal warriors are dropped into an interplanetary game reserve to be hunted by the titular beasties. The cast features such notable badasses as Danny Trejo, Laurence Fishburne, Walton Goggins, and… uh… Topher Grace, and the director is Nimrod Antal (Armored, Vacancy). Come on, Andrew, the director’s name is Nimrod! That’s gotta be worth something, right?
ANDREW: A name like Nimrod certainly inspires more confidence than a name like, say, Michael Bay… and it’s definitely a good sign that producer Robert Rodriguez is consciously emulating James Cameron‘s Aliens, one of the finest "disappearing character" movies of all time (i.e., the film-genre equivalent of Survivor, where a colorful group is introduced and then whittled down, leading to potentially interesting alliances and character combinations). Despite the cool creature design by the late, great Stan Winston, I’ve been pretty underwhelmed by the Predator movies to date, but the high-quality cast and the clever geek-bait concept of teaming bad-ass archetypes (from yakuza assassins to serial killers) against the eponymous alien beasties actually makes this one a pretty solid contender for my vote this week.
The Kids Are All Right
ANDREW: Complicating matters, however, is the fact my wife has already made it pretty clear that her Top One Movie of the Week is anything with Mark Ruffalo in general, and this family drama from indie darling Lisa Cholodenko in particular. Given the pedigree of the cast (including Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as lesbian mothers dealing with the fallout when their kids seek their biological father), and the glowing buzz from the film’s Sundance premiere, I’d say this one is actually a pretty solid contender for my vote as well.
SCOTT: So you’re telling me this isn’t a re-release of the classic rockumentary about The Who? In that case, this Kids is probably doomed to be my second-favorite movie of that title, but for the reasons you stated (aside from the fact that your wife is into Mark Ruffalo, which doesn’t really sway me), it’s a strong possibility for top honors this week. My biggest concern is that it ends up playing like one long "very special episode," but the trailers suggest that it’s funny enough to avoid that pitfall.
SCOTT: This one is unlikely to get the nod from me, through no real fault of its own. It’s just that Toy Story 3 is still in theaters, making Despicable Me look pretty weak by comparison. There’s certainly no shortage of comedic talent on hand (or on voice, anyway), including Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Kristen Wiig, Danny McBride, and Mindy Kaling, so this tale of a supervillain who finds himself saddled with three orphans even as he plots to steal the moon is bound to have some laughs in it… but since screenwriters Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul are also responsible for The Santa Clause 2, Horton Hears a Who, and the unwatchable College Road Trip, I can’t get too excited about this.
ANDREW: Them little yellow critters in the trailer seem pretty cute, but this news you’ve shared about the writers’ past credits is certainly unfortunate. Of course, even A-list screenwriters in Hollywood have a hard time getting their best work onscreen, so I’ll give Daurio and Paul the benefit of the doubt: maybe Despicable Me is their crowning achievement, and for once their brilliant wordcraft is finally making it to theaters unmolested. And maybe co-directors Chris Renaud (helmer of the Oscar-nominated short No Time For Nuts) and Pierre Coffin totally "got" the vision and made magic with their talented cast. But, unfortunately, even in the best-case scenario, I’d agree that Despicable Me simply doesn’t have the same indefinable je ne sais Pixar that lured me to Toy Story 3 (where, I’ll admit, I cried like a little girl by the end). And so My Top One Movie will have to be The Kids Are All Right… unless you’d care to join me for the sing-along re-release of Grease?
SCOTT: I suspect there’s an eternal Grease sing-along awaiting me in hell, so I’ll pass on that for now and join you in foregoing the alien-hunting in favor of unconventional domestic comedy.
The Top One Movie of the Week: The Kids Are All Right