DVD Tuesday: ‘Predators’ and ‘Oceans’

by W. Andrew Powell

Adrien Brody and Alice Braga in Predators

Adrien Brody and Alice Braga in Predators

New this week on Blu-ray and DVD: Adrien Brody fights for his life on an alien planet in Predators; Disneynature documents life under the waves in Oceans; and a look at four re-releases coming out on Blu-ray this week.

Starring: Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, Danny Trejo, Topher Grace, Laurence Fishburne, Oleg Taktarov, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Louiz Ozawa, Walton Goggins
Director: Nimród Antal

Rated: 6/10

After 23 years, it looks like we finally have the Predator sequel the franchise deserved, even if it is just a little too familiar.

In director Nimród Antal’s Predators, a group of fighters and killers find themselves together in a dense jungle, and none of them know how they got there. Each of them was dropped in by parachute, and only woke up as they fell through the atmosphere, and now they’re trying to understand who brought them together, and why.

Adrien Brody stars as the group’s natural leader; a mercenary who eventually identifies himself as Royce. Royce seems to be the first among the killers to understand what is going on, and explains that he thinks they have been dropped in to a kind of preserve where something is slowly hunting them for sheer sport.

Thrown together by need, rather than friendship, the group includes all manner of killers and psychopaths, including an American murderer, a Yakuza killer, a number of elite soldiers from various countries, and one doctor, played by Topher Grace, who has no idea why he was picked up for this fight for survival.

Searching the jungle for answers, the group comes to the realization that they are definitely not on Earth any more, and they’re being stalked by large, vicious, and very well-armed aliens.

As Royce hunts for answers and ideas about how he can escape the planet, he becomes the inadvertent leader while a sniper named Isabelle, played by Alice Braga, tries to convince Royce to think of more than just himself. Meanwhile, they fight against the Predator’s alien pet dogs, discover a captured Predator in a ritual death camp, and inadvertently stumble into another survivor who has been on the planet longer than his sanity was able to withstand. They also uncover one hope for getting off the planet together, but they will have to survive the onslaught of three very determined Predators first.

Brody turns out to be a solid lead in this action film, and while he’s no Arnold Schwarzenegger, he is believable in the role of a fighter who has very little humanity left. The rest of the cast also provide acceptable fodder for the Predators, although I’m starting to wonder if Topher Grace can play an original character for a change.

Compared to all of the previous sequels, which sucked a lot of the thrills out of the Predator as an unstoppable foe, Antal builds at least a quiet level of anticipation and unsettled suspense. The story takes its time getting to the action, and even then, the battles between the humans and the Predators comes in jolts, but it’s an entertaining trip for the most part.

Predators is still just a bland photocopy of the original film though, and even a very entertaining appearance by Laurence Fishburne as a deranged survivor is little more than a break from the film’s turgid pace and rote action. The story follows all the points we expect from this kind of action-horror film, and does nothing to give us something new from the Predator as a villain, or as a long-time movie franchise.

After four sequels there is still something brilliant lurking inside of the Predator franchise, and Antal has done the best job of capturing that essence in years, but it’s still just a glimmer in Preadtors. Since he ends the film with a clear path to another sequel, I can only hope he brings a little suspense and ingenuity back to the franchise in another Predators movie.

Disneynature’s Oceans
Directors: Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud

In their first environmental documentary, Earth, Disneynature gave us a glimpse into the lives of three families of animals, surviving in very different climates. Released in time for Earth Day this year, Oceans takes a look at the scores of creatures living under water that most of us would never be able to see if it weren’t for this documentary.

Directed by French filmmakers Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud, Oceans is an awe-inspiring look at approximately 80 different species of life, captured over four years from dozens of locations around the world.

What makes this film quite different from Earth, aside from the obvious location shift, is the fact that Oceans is all about the visuals, relying almost completely on showing us the world under water, rather than telling us much. Without narration and the clear storylines that dominated the first film, Oceans relies on the audience to buckle in for a ride, although there is thought given to teaching children to respect the world around them.

Some critics have noted that, although Oceans is visually appealing to all ages, it still lacks a definite narrative, which can be a hard sell for younger children. The film has received strikingly positive reviews, however, from most of the major critics.

“While it may not plunge deeply enough,” Claudia Puig wrote for USA Today, “Oceans continues the worthy efforts of explorers such as Jacques Cousteau, reminding us to respect nature and preserve the myriad life forms that rely on the ocean to survive.”

And Rachel Saslow of the Washington Post makes an interesting point in her review, noting that “For all Oceans does to please the eyes and ears, it does nothing to engage the brain.”

Blu-ray re-releases…

Leading up to the impending holidays, which are actually closer than you might realize, there are a pile of films getting the deluxe re-release treatment on blu-ray this week.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the first heavy hitter is Alfred Hitchcock’s utter classic, Psycho, which comes with a pile of classic features, including newsreel footage from the release of the film, a feature on Hitchcock himself, and a making-of documentary.

Just in time for Halloween, The Rocky Horror Picture Show also arrives on Blu-ray for its 35th anniversary. The package comes with lots of goodies for fans, including a chance to sing along with the classic songs in Rocky-oke, plus an audio commentary, and a picture-in-picture feature called The Midnight Experience.

Finally, under the classic heading, it’s worth noting that Apocalypse Now also arrives on Blu-ray for the first time with piles of extras and new features, as well as alternate cuts of the film, and the famed making-of documentary, Hearts of Darkness.

Last, but certainly not least, Warner Bros. debuts their latest ultimate editions for the Harry Potter films: Harry Potter & Prisoner of Azkaban, Year 3, and Harry Potter & Goblet of Fire, Year 4. These special re-issues on Blu-ray come with goodies and a pile of features for the die hard Harry Potter fans, including extensive making-of featurettes, plus collectible cards and books.

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