Saturday, October 3, 2009


(Despite the title and timing, this post has nothing to do with Roman Polanski.)

If you take a look at Hollywood's offerings over the last, say, three years, and take away all the remakes and sequels, you thin out the herd pretty substantially. If you also remove adaptations, which began fairly earnestly with novels and short stories but which now include television shows, comic books and even video games, you aren't left with a whole lot.

As much as I lament the dearth of original ideas making it to the silver screen, I'm clearly part of the problem; I loved last year's Iron Man and Dark Knight films, and I have to admit to also getting guardedly excited about the upcoming Predators movie from producer Robert Rodriguez.

As a director, Robert Rodriguez is one of my favourites, and not because of his visual style or skill, but rather because of his attitude. After making El Mariachi on a shoestring budget, he was given Tinseltown money and equipment to shoot the sequel, Desperado. I had a wonderful photo of him on my desk at work at the time, courtesy of Premiere magazine, with him wearing baggy shorts and a cameraman's vest, the pockets bulging with lenses and light meters. He is carrying (or rather, wearing) the steadicam he taught himself to use, and he has a bandana on his head to protect him the sun. There is a bandage across his nose, making look like a boxer due to an eyepiece crashing into his face while shooting a scene, and a flaming car provides the backdrop.

In the accompanying article, he talks about the gap between his studio watchdogs and his guerilla filmmaking crew. At one point, he spies a better shot and discusses setting it up. The studio reps are bemoaning how long it is going to take to pull up the dolly track, and how they are losing light, and how the shooting schedule will be impacted if they have to do it tomorrow, when Rodriguez cuts them off and says, "Look, just get me a shopping cart and a steadicam, and I'll do it myself."

So it is with mixed feelings that I am mostly looking forward to his upcoming Predators movie, which will revisit the alien hunters first seen in the Schwarzenegger classic directed by John McTiernan. The mixed feelings are entirely appropriate, since I also had them going into the original film. It was always a crap shoot with Arnie: were you heading into Terminator 2 or Commando? Kindergarten Cop or True Lies? At any rate, I loved the first film but have been underwhelmed with the sequels, starting with Danny Glover in Predator 2 and right through to Aliens Vs. Predator, which cartoonist Scott Kurtz summarized succinctly as '30 minutes of awesome wrapped in 90 minutes of suck'.

I think one of the strengths of the original film is the ensemble of great characters and character actors, many of whom went on to do some impressive things. Obviously, there aren't too many action flicks that can boast that not one but two of their cast members went on to become state governors (what, you forgot about Jesse 'The Body' Ventura already?), but you have also got Bill Duke who became a respected director, and Shane Black (as the comms officer, Hawkins) who wrote a number of successful screenplays including the first Lethal Weapon.

Not a whole lot is known about the new film, but some rumours are suggesting they could be heading towards ensemble country again. According to sci-fi blog io9,a number of tough guy tropes are brought to the Predator homeworld for some Most Dangerous Game style action, including:

* Cuchillo A Mexican enforcer from the drug cartel, who is Danny Trejo's character.

* A Russian named Nikolai with a four barrel gas powered rotary machine gun....close to The Body's weapon.

* The token female role goes to Isabelle, a "tough as nails" lady who can speak French and carries a sniper rifle.

* A possible skin head convict, who is armed only with a prison made knife, is also in the group.

* Plus a Japanese enforcer who appears to be carrying a samurai sword,

* a member of the Sierra Leone death squad,

* and a small "unassuming" man named Edwin who was on the FBI's most wanted list.

I love ensembles, so if Predators heads in that direction, I will be happy. The news that Rodriguez regular and general hombre machismo Danny Trejo has been cast, is also very encouraging. Many people are listing their dream cast for the other roles, and it does seem like a good opportunity for some under appreciated actors to gain some exposure and possibly make a breakout. Still, you have to think the bar has been set pretty high as far as the cast from the first movie goes, don't you? Maybe guessing which cast member will hold public office in the future can be part of the marketing...

No, probably not.

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UPDATE: has an article about Adrien Brody joining the cast, and apparently Topher Grace from "That 70s Show" is in negotiations as well... come on ensemble!

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