Pop Culture

Take a ride with ‘Hidalgo’

“Hidalgo”After many months shooting three installments of the “Lord of the Rings” series, you would think Viggo Mortensen might want to avoid any more time on horseback. But rather than be turned off by the clip-clop of equine hooves, Mortensen apparently became hooked.

In “Hidalgo,” Mortensen plays Frank T. Hopkins, one of the greatest long-distance riders who ever lived. After establishing himself as a legend in the United States by competing in over 400 endurance races, mostly in the late 1800s, Hopkins was invited to participate in an arduous 3,000-mile race across the Arabian desert. But his horse was a Spanish Mustang named Hidalgo, considered an inferior breed by the snooty Arab shieks who boasted their pure-breed steeds would send Hidalgo into a deep depression and eventually to the glue factory.

Mortensen is a little too minimalistic in his portrayal of Hopkins, barely showing a tweak of emotion even when his beloved horse is in danger. But the strength of this action-adventure tale — which never caught on at the box office — is in the rousing racing sequences and the moments of peril that both horse and rider encounter.

“Hidalgo” isn’t a memorable film, but it’s a fairly entertaining one that focuses on a unique slice of history. And the DVD matches that. The picture itself looks and sounds terrific. The short behind-the-scenes featurette, “Sand & Celluloid,” discusses some of the problems the filmmakers encountered while on location, including sandstorms and the horses’ unfamiliarity with camels.

But there is another extra called “Hidalgo: America’s First Horse,” which can be viewed only if you take the disk out of your DVD player and pop it into your computer. It touches on the history of the Spanish Mustang and the writings of Hopkins. But for convenience’s sake, it should have been easily viewable on the DVD instead of being put onto a DVD-ROM format.

“Hidaldo” is a wild ride nevertheless.

“Predator”

Long before Arnold Schwarzenegger won a recall election and became governor, he dealt with even more harrowing forces than California politicians. The “Terminator” series is well know, but “Predator” has always taken a back seat.

But it’s an over-the-top, sci-fi, action-adventure thriller that is mindless entertainment at its best.

In “Predator,” Arnold plays the leader of a squad of commandos who go into the jungles of South America to rescue government officials who have been kidnapped by bad guys. But while they’re there, they run into a lot more than monkeys and parrots. An alien force is present, invisible and insidious, and Arnold has to figure out a way to subdue the sucker before he and his comrades are reduced to jungle kill.

Check out this flick for a few reasons besides the cheap thrills. First, it’s rare when you find a picture that features two future governors, Arnold and Jesse Ventura. Second, it’s directed by John McTiernan, whose career took off the following year with “Die Hard.” And third, one of the actors is Shane Black, who became more famous as a high-priced screenwriter who created the “Lethal Weapon” series.

The widescreen collector’s edition two-disk set includes a cornucopia of extras, including commentary by McTiernan, a making-of documentary that was actually done in ’87 but freshened up for this DVD release, a bunch of outtakes and deleted scenes, and a look at “Predator” special effects.

Arnold may not have ever faced more terrifying foes than California legislators, but at least “Predator” helped prepare him for it.

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