STREAMING WARS: Predator stalks Prey on Disney+ just in time for summer

Prey, newly added to Disney+, is just the summer movie I’ve been looking for.

The latest entry in the long-running sci-fi/thriller Predator series (with a shaky track record), Prey is a true comeback for the giant, invisible monster with its gurgling roar and rattling hiss.

In fact, in many ways it feels like Prey is more than just a Predator movie, it’s actually much better than that.

Set 300 years ago in the Comanche nation, Naru (played beautifully by Amber Midthunder), a highly skilled hunter and warrior, seeks to prove her worth to her tribe and to herself.

Amber Midthunder is electric as Naru, a woman from the Comanche Nation who faces off against the mysterious and dangerous Predator in Prey. – 20th Century Studios/Disney

She undergoes a sacred ritual, hunting an animal that also hunts her. Little does she know, there is another creature out there with a similar plan in mind – the huge and dangerous Predator; an alien whose main purpose seems to be to kill worthy prey.

Naru also has to deal with a group of French borderers, who have trapped and killed wildlife in a way that destroys the landscape and causes irreparable damage and proves to be another obstacle in his path.

Thanks to her tracking skills, she soon realizes that it’s not just a bear or a mountain lion that threatens her people, but something much worse.

Prey feels like more than just an entry in the sci-fi series, its quality, simplicity, and artistic vision go above and beyond and make it better than recent chapters. This is largely thanks to its setting and its characters which are treated with great care and love. It’s done so tastefully, you can feel that attention to detail throughout.

The Predator, an invisible stalker who destroys the animals and people he encounters, is a metaphor for the colonizers who arrived on the Great Plains with the disease and destruction that followed.

Yes, there are great Predator references throughout, including the regurgitation of some of the iconic lines and some really tense fight scenes between the Predator and its victims, both animal and human. But it’s the Comanche focus that makes Prey such a satisfying experience.

Expertly directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) and photographed (by Jeff Cutter), Prey is a wonderful surprise and definitely worth watching regardless of your interest in other Predator movies.

Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Chris Evans) and his ragtag band of budding space rangers work together to save their home from a mysterious alien threat in Lightyear, now streaming on Disney+.  -Disney/Pixar
Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Chris Evans) and his ragtag band of budding space rangers work together to save their home from a mysterious alien threat in Lightyear, now streaming on Disney+. -Disney/Pixar

To infinity

Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear is back in a feature that I don’t know who really wanted, but it exists, now on Disney+.

Lightyear begins with a message connecting the spin-off to the original series, saying something like Andy had a Buzz Lightyear toy when he was a kid, that’s the movie the toy was based on.

I mean, of course?

We see Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear (played by Chris Evans – NOT Tim Allen, who voiced the character in the Toy Story movies) stranded on an alien planet as he tries to develop a new fuel to get them back into space.

There are time travel issues and a new alien threat that seeks to thwart their efforts.

Lightyear enlists a bunch of misfits to help him, trusting people he wouldn’t normally trust with a potato gun to complete the mission, including the hilarious and lovable SOX (Peter Sohn) , an AI cat toy with an impressive arsenal, which ended up stealing the show from me.

Chris Evans voices Buzz Lightyear in a new origin story about the Toy Story character.  -Disney/Pixar
Chris Evans voices Buzz Lightyear in a new origin story about the Toy Story character. -Disney/Pixar

What hurts Lightyear the most is that it’s a movie that I’m not sure needed to exist.

The magic of Toy Story and its sequels is the imagination and connection children make with the toys, not their branding or story; it’s the stories we tell about them that matter. Lightyear tarnishes that innocence by saying, no, that’s real Buzz Lightyear canon.

But I probably need to calm down, because the movie’s charms will definitely appeal to who this movie is really for: kids. It’s a perfectly fine-grained, beautifully animated space adventure, and that might just be all it needs.

I miss Tim Allen as the space ranger though, no offense to Chris.

Respect, starring Jennifer Hudson as the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, hits all the obligatory musical biographical notes and is streaming now on Crave.  - United Artists
Respect, starring Jennifer Hudson as the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin, hits all the obligatory musical biographical notes and is streaming now on Crave. – United Artists

You make me feel

Continuing my summer movie spree, I decided to watch the recently released Respect on Crave on streaming, starring Jennifer Hudson as legendary singer Aretha Franklin.

Jennifer Hudson’s incredible voice is on full display here, almost meeting the emotional resonance of the Franklin originals, but the rest of the film, sadly, falls short.

The biopic starts out strong, with a look at Franklin’s childhood and growing up with separated parents. One, a bright, progressive but controlling Reverend CL Franklin (Forest Whitaker), deeply rooted in the civil rights movement. And her mother Barbara (Audra McDonald), who inspires and nurtures her daughter’s inherent talent for music.

Things slide into cliché as we see Aretha enter the next phase of her life, chasing record deals, dealing with alcoholism, abuse and conflict with what she wants and what the world expects her.

These are elements that, admittedly, are based on Franklin’s life, but could be taken from almost any artist’s biopic to parody.

I will emphasize again that Hudson’s incredible voice is on full display here, as she navigates the different levels of Franklin’s repertoire and the development of her unique sound.

That aside, the drama of Franklin’s life is played up to almost soap opera levels of overacting and mediocre writing. There’s a moment when a gun is fired at a character, almost incomprehensibly, which elicits an involuntary laugh. There is also a real ghost. Respect, says Grey’s Anatomy, they want their cheese back.

When I heard that Hudson played Aretha Franklin, I was thrilled; she has the voice to reach it. Sadly, almost every other component of the movie falls short. Such disrespect.

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