Arnold Schwarzenegger -- indisputably the best-built member of the Kennedy clan, not to mention its only action hero -- returns to the big, big screen with the second in his "tor" series.
"The Predator," which is far outclassed by "The Terminator," is a sci-fi soldier story that pits Pecs R Us against a mean-spirited space monster with a hearty appetite for gluts and lats. (Frankly, scarier critters have checked into Roach Motels.) ) Nearly invisible in its 3-D camouflage, the monster stalks and picks off Schwarzenegger's band of rescue commandos, one by one by one.
In a script that cribs from "Aliens," the seasoned soldiers drop into Central America to rescue hostages and explode trees. After doing that for a while, they find themselves battling the invincible Predator for their very lives.
Noisy as these galoots are blasting their enemies into human tea strainers, the Predator does not hear them; he sees them through the heat-seeking retinas of his infrared eyeballs. Cheap special effects include the monster's blurry, blobby view of its prey -- a racially and ethnically balanced and well-built cast headed by Sylvester Stallone's old sparring partner Carl Weathers.
Weathers, as a government spy who tricks the troop into the CIA mission, glowers persuasively. And costar Bill Duke, actor and TV drama director, gives his comic-book character genuine heart and the movie a touch of true emotion. Otherwise, it's so much formula macho, with Schwarzenegger, his accent still thick as his neck, bending logs, firing off rounds and delivering drop-dead dialogue: "Stick around," he says to a dead guerrilla nailed to a post with a knife.
After most everybody else is eaten, Schwarzenegger tries to hold the screen with his massiveness. Covered with mud and armed with spears made of sticks, the hopelessly outmatched hero goes one on one with the Predator.
Since the stories are so similar, you can't help but compare Schwarzenegger's performance to Sigourney Weaver's in her soldiers-in-space thriller. She was fighting for her life and a child's; he was fighting for honor, to strut his stuff at the monster. She was acting; he wasn't. And I think she had a bigger gun, too. -- Rita Kempley
The Predator, at area theaters, is chock- full of violence and profanity. 'Salvation!'
Don't expect coherence from downtown New York director Beth B -- it's just not her thing.
She may be prescient, though. Her new movie, "Salvation!," plays as if B read the headlines about little Jimmy Bakker's escapades with Jessica in their Florida romper room and let her imagination run wild.
The result is a wild, heavy-metal fantasia on TV evangelism, sexual dementia, trailer-park life styles, and all-American God-craziness. Hurried into release to capitalize on the Bakker thing, the movie looks like it was slapped together from outtakes in a mad, overnight rush by bingeing leather freaks.
It stars Stephen McHattie, as the Rev. Edward Randall, a Bible-slinging televangelist -- he's like Oral Roberts but with a pesky, tail-swishing devil sitting on his shoulder -- who's blackmailed into having Rhonda (lead singer Exene Cervenka of X) join him as costar of his ministry.
The film's story line is darn near incomprehensible. But what good's a story line anyway -- it'd only break B's tone of hysterical high camp. There's no sign here that B, who broke into movies in the late '70s making super-8 shorts, can direct in anything other than the movie's video-slapstick style. But there are some zippy lines, and both McHattie and Dominique Davalos (late of the rock group Dominatrix) give full-bore comic performances. They, at least, give the movie some swank. -- Hal Hinson
Salvation!, at the Circle West End, is rated R and contains some objectionable language and suggestive material.
"Padre Nuestro," with Fernando Rey and Francisco Rabal, has the gloomy, God-filled look of a Gothic cathedral and the pace of a mass sung on a clear, dry Sunday, with the light creeping in under the door. It's slow, sonorous and thick with obscure questions of church and sex.
Rey plays a cardinal who, told of his imminent death, leaves the Vatican and returns to his Spanish village to put his affairs in order. And some affairs they were, too.
As a young man he fathered a child, who has become the town tramp to spite her papa; for a few dollars more she'll reveal her parentage. Spanish sexpot Victoria Abril has this spitfire's role.
The cardinal wants his daughter to inherit the family winery, but rather than scandalize the townspeople by acknowledging her, he persuades his brother Abel (Rabal) to marry her. Never mind incest.
Director Francisco Regueiro salutes both Luis Bunåuel and Orson Welles with references in this symbolically overloaded movie. He has stuffed it full of interrelated, if not necessarily plausible, happenings, including frequent cuts to a flock of lost sheep.
Finally, on his deathbed (this is not giving anything away since we know he's only got a year from the start), the cardinal is absolved long distance by the pope on a cellular phone. -- Rita Kempley
Padre Nuestro, at the Key, is in Spanish with subtitles. It is unrated but contains nudity and adult situations.