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(Ultimate Hunter Edition)

While maybe not the biggest or the best of Arnold Schwarzenegger's action spectaculars, PREDATOR ($30) is classic sci-fi entertainment than never fails to thrill fans of this particular genre. In PREDATOR, Schwarzenegger portrays Major Dutch Schaeffer, the leader of an elite commando unit that is sent on a rescue mission in the jungles of Central America to retrieve some diplomats who are being held hostage after straying into hostile territory. Also along on the mission is Dillon (Carl Weathers), an old comrade who now works behind-the-scenes at a government intelligence agency. Soon after landing in the jungle and taking an encampment of guerillas, Dutch learns that Ďthe hostages" was just a cover story to get him and his men to go and do a bit of dirty business for the government. Unable to do anything about his old friend who has played him for a dupe, Dutch and his men head for the pickup point on the other side of the border.

However, before the commando team can get very far, an unseen enemy begins hunting down and butchering these exceedingly well trained and well-armed military men. The commandos use every bit of skill and every weapon at their disposal to try and stop whoever is decimating their numbers, but eventually they come to realize that their enemy is definitely not of this Earth. PREDATOR is a fast paced, albeit gruesome science fiction outing that benefits from director John McTiernan's action packed staging. Additionally, Stan Winston's impressive designs for the alien predator serve to make this an unforgettable motion picture experience. In addition to Schwarzenegger and Weathers, the cast of PREDATOR includes Elpidia Carrillo, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham, Richard Chaves, R.G. Armstrong, Shane Black and Kevin Peter Hall.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made PREDATOR available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. When I reviewed the movie on DVD back in 2001, I stated that PREDATOR is a grainy and gritty looking movie- and no transfer is ever going to change that fact. Well, time and excessive DNR has certainly proved me wrong. In 2010, PREDATOR has been made to resemble a trip to the waxworks, instead of a motion picture shot on film in 1987. Every bit of grain has been digitally scrubbed out of the image, along with the almost all of the fine detail and texturing. What we are left with are people that resemble moving waxworks figures, which are fighting their way out a jungle made out of featureless plastic. Instead of resembling a movie shot on film, PREDATOR now appears artificial and video-like, which is certain to appeal to individuals, who have absolutely no concept of what film is supposed to look like. Now donít get me wrong, I have nothing against DRN, or even grain reduction, these are necessary tools for modern film to video mastering. However, these tools need to be applied like a scalpel with surgical skill, and not like a machete hacking its way through the jungle. Unfortunately, PREDATOR has been hacked with a machete. Colors are bright and vivid, with attractively toned synthetic flesh. Blacks appear to be right on the money, as are the whites. Contrast and shadow detail are fine for a presentation that has been so severely tampered with.

PREDATOR is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Considering that PREDATOR is a film from the Dolby Surround era, the sound elements have been effectively re-worked to maximize their impact on Blu-ray. Sure its not a modern soundtrack, but it still impresses. As expected, all of the discrete channels come to life during the action sequences, but they are more restrained at other times. Fortunately, there is action, gunfire and explosions aplenty in PREDATOR, which keeps all corners of the soundstage pretty active. Channel separations are more pronounced across the front, but the rears certainly hold their own. The lossless encode enhances Alan Silvestriís insistent score, which has never sounded better. Additionally, the bass channel is pretty pumped up and highly effective for a 1987 film release. French and Spanish 5.1 DTS soundtracks are also encoded onto the disc, as is an English 4.0 Dolby Surround track. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supllements. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with director John McTiernan. Next up is a Text Commentary by film historian Eric Lichtenfeld. Featurettes and other programs include the following: Predator: Evolution Of A Species: Hunters Of Extreme Perfection (eleven minutes) and If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It: The Making Of Predator (twenty nine minutes). More Featurettes fall under Inside the Predator and include: Classified Action (five minutes), The Unseen Arnold (five minutes), Old Painless (four minutes), The Life Inside (five minutes), Camouflage (five minutes), Welcome To The Jungle (three minutes) and Character Design (three minutes). Next is a group of Short Take Featurettes that include: John McTiernan On Learning Film (three minutes), Jesseís Ultimate Goal (two minutes), Stan Winstonís Practical Joke (three minutes) and Donít Drink The Water (two minutes). A couple of Special Effects Featurettes are also provided. A Photo Gallery, interactive Predator Profile, Deleted Scenes/Outtakes, a couple of Trailers and a Predators: Sneak Peak close out the supplements.

PREDATOR is classic sci-fi/action entertainment. Due to overaggressive DNR, the Blu-ray presentation of PREDATOR fails to transparently reproduce the film. Minus its gritty grain structure and fine detail, PREDATOR looks like a waxy, plastic shell of its former self. Unfortunately, Fox needs to go back to their baseline transfer, forego the excessive DNR and create a new Blu-ray master that maintains the filmís intended grain structure and fine detail. Hopefully, Fox will not repeat this mistake on future catalog titles- ALIENS is fairly grainy movie that I would hate to seen ruined in the same way.



Predator (Ultimate Hunter Edition) [Blu-ray] (1987)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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