Reviews

'Predators': The One That Got Away

Predators is, for the most part, a pedestrian, fanboyish rebooting of John McTiernan's prototypically efficient action pic.


Predators

Director: Nimród Antal
Cast: Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, Topher Grace, Laurence Fishburne, Oleg Takarov, Danny Trejo, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Louis Ozawa Changchien
Rated: R
Studio: 20th Century-Fox
Year: 2010
US date: 2010-08-09 (General release)
UK date: 2010-08-08 (General release)
Website
Trailer
This is sure enough a bizarre sight in the middle of all this shit!

-- Clean (Larry Fishburne), Apocalypse Now (1979)

"You talk too loud." The noisy humans roaring through Predators are startled to be so admonished: they’ve been running from predators, after all, stomping through jungle brush and firing automatic weapons awfully indiscriminately. Really, they've only paused now because they've run into a large figure with a predator's helmet and a predator's gun. Imagine how surprised they are when he takes off his helmet and -- whoa! -- it's Larry Fishburne.

No one has too much time to stand around, so Fishburne (playing a character called Noland) invites the group back to his place. Here he sort of explains how he's here, in an abandoned drilling facility that retains power enough for electric lights: like this new crew -- led, more or less, by the ex-special ops-now-mercenary, Royce (Adrien Brody) -- Noland was whisked from a war zone on earth to this other planet, essentially a game preserve where they're the prey (see: Most Dangerous Game and its many clones). Royce has already identified his contemporaries' origins: Isabelle (Alice Braga) is a guerrilla assassin, Mombassa (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) is RUF (Sierra Leone's rebel army), Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien) is yakuza, etc. Still, as knowing as Royce likes to act, he's taken aback when he finds out Noland was lifted out of the Vietnam war. To underline, Noland starts humming "Ride of the Valkyries."

The moment doesn't salvage Predators, a pedestrian, fanboyish rebooting of John McTiernan's prototypically efficient action pic. But it does reverberate. Here's the wondrous Fishburne, famously 14 years old when he and the other guys on the boat first listened to the Wagner in Apocalypse Now. Back then, he played Clean, and Clean was shot dead on the boat headed to Kurtz in Cambodia. But here, in a twisted alternate universe, Clean's been salvaged. "I'm alive," Noland informs the newbies, because he's kept out of the predators' infrared sight (again, allowing for the illogic of his generator). He's Clean made into Kurtz, or better, Dennis Hopper's wild-eyed photojournalist ("I wish I had words, man"). Or he's not Clean at all, but someone who looks a lot like him and saw Apocalypse Now before he was snatched.

However Noland got here, he's easily the weirdest, most compelling figure in Predators. First, he's straight-up Newtish (see: Aliens), having spent decades alone, scurrying from the monsters, killing "two, maybe three," and talking to an imaginary friend. Second, he's not nearly so predictable as everyone else Royce is working with, that is, a multiculti crew of professional killers, much like the guys who fought alongside Arnold in 1987 (a saga recounted here by Isabelle, which makes plain she's descended from Anna [Elpidia Carrillo], who told an earlier monster story for Schwarzenegger's Dutch). And third, he's got a personal thing going on with the predators.

Oddly and unfortunately, this last point isn't exploited in Predators. Instead, even after Noland offers details on the predators' habits and his own survival tactics (say, mud provides cover), no one pays much attention. Instead, the group persists in fighting amongst themselves, overkilling the film's "message," namely, that the humans are also predators. Of course, this is the same point made by the first film, from which this one quotes repeatedly. Both films drop their human teams into a literal jungle that's also metaphorical: before, it was CIA man Dillon (Carl Weathers) who manipulated Dutch's virtuous macho men while the predator picked them off like girls in a slasher film. Now, the crew begins as individuals, plummeting to the planet (most with working parachutes), landing hard and angry, alone and suspicious of one another.

No surprise, they learn to work together against adversaries who bigger, faster, stronger, and much better equipped (see also: Running Man, Con Air). Royce is the first to fall, the first to make a plan and the only one, apparently, to have read a book (he cites Hemingway: "Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter"). He also raises a worthy issue concerning patriotism and rationalization, telling Isabelle, "We both do the same thing: you just do it for a country so you don't have to admit you like it."

Isabelle narrows her eyes, impressed that he's self-aware. But even as Royce is differentiated from, say, the death row inmate/psycho-killer Stans (Walt Goggins, typecast as yet another version of his brilliant breakout role, The Shield's Shane), he's also like every other standard action hero who's not Arnold (or maybe the younger, less tire Noland, either), but might aspire to be. The film does make moderately clever use of Royce's smallness: no, he admits, he's not large and strong, but he is "fast," at which point he starts scampering around a lumbering predator, outsmarting it by virtue of being agile. Thne, when he slows for a breath, Royce is shot from below, so he looms. This image serves as a jokey stark contrast with the first movie's shots of Arnold looming: the mud-slathered Dutch was a veritable man mountain, all colossal pecs and titanic delts. Royce embodies today's military-mercenary model, less bulky, less moralistic, leaner and meaner.

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The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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