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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

It takes big balls to release a movie like Good Boys in today’s PC environment.

Kids in the film swear like sailors, unknowingly sniff anal beads and run across busy highways without looking both ways. It might just be the all-time cinematic winner for child-delivered profanity, topping the likes of the original The Bad News Bears.

Actually, I should delete the word “might”: It’s the winner for sure.

Jacob Tremblay, the cute little dude from Room, goes full stank-mouth mode as Max. He’s a member of the Beanbag Boys (they call themselves that because, well, they have beanbags), along with pals Lucas (a scene-stealing Keith L. Williams) and Thor (the wildly funny Brady Noon). Their junior-high social activities consist of bike rides and card games—but things are taken up a notch when they are invited to a party that will include, gasp, a kissing game.

The trouble then begins, involving the destruction of a drone owned by Max’s dad (Will Forte); a predicament that involves a stash of Ecstasy pills; and two older, meaner girls, Hannah and Lily (Molly Gordon and Midori Francis). The goal—to reach the kissing party unscathed, with a bottle of beer so that they look cool—is blocked by much tween drama.

This film announces it’s not playing around right away, with the Beanbag Boys unleashing a torrent of obscenities showing they’ve been familiar with these words for at least a couple of years. As a former adolescent, I can attest to this reality: Kids do curse, and they love to curse. Deal with it.

Hearing kids talk like this in an American movie is oddly refreshing. It’s also laugh-out-loud funny to hear these words coming out of Tremblay’s cherubic face. As the title of the movie implies, these are good boys, even though they curse like Samuel L. Jackson in a Tarantino movie. They have dirty mouths, but they are anti-drug and anti-bullying—so much so that the film belabors those points a little too much and too obviously.

It’s no big surprise that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the men behind Superbad, had a hand in producing this. The plot is very similar; in fact, Good Boys could almost qualify as a Superbad prequel or reboot, since the plot focuses on three kids trying to get to a party with alcohol in tow while cursing a lot. Jonah Hill’s Superbad kid kept getting hit by cars; Lucas also suffers grave, humorously depicted injuries along the way. It’s the same movie. It’s funny as hell, but it’s the same movie, just set in junior high rather than high school.

Director Gene Stupnitsky, making his feature debut, gets a gold star for getting kids to say this stuff with a straight face. (Lordy, there must’ve been a lot of takes.) The film sometimes feels a bit hollow, as if its only reason for existing is to show kids cursing a lot. Still, hearing kids curse a lot is hilarious.

Tremblay, Williams and Noon deserve a lot of credit for making this all so much fun. Tremblay, who has the most serious acting chops of the trio, is a natural, and he provides a great anchor for the madness. Williams is, at times, heartbreakingly sweet, especially when his character is dealing with the breakup of his family. Noon brings a pretty stellar singing voice to the proceedings, and it is put to good use on a rousing Foreigner track.

The summer needed a big blast of funny stupidity, and Good Boys provides it. It’s ripe for a sequel, where these kids are freshmen in high school. I think that premise is going to get the greenlight here real soon—and maybe McLovin will make a cameo.

Good Boys is now playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Well, that does it: After decades of trying, it’s become evident that nobody knows how to make a decent Predator sequel.

It’s not like the first film was a masterpiece. It was a goofy adventure pic featuring a superstar on the rise—who has been mysteriously absent from the sequels. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in fact, turned down a cameo in the new The Predator, a movie that simply needed to be just OK to keep pace with the 1987 original. Well, it’s not.

The Predator—technically the fourth Predator film (not including those Alien vs. Predator movies, which should be washed away from our collective memories)—had elements that were worthy of excitement. Shane Black, who actually played the first character to get killed in this franchise 31 years ago, is its director. This is the man responsible for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Nice Guys and Iron Man 3. That Iron Man 3 credit is the main reason to think Black would be a good pick to lead a beloved genre favorite back to greatness.

Nope. In fact, The Predator actually represents a step backward from the extremely mediocre Predators (2010), the prior installment that squandered a decent idea with a cheap-looking film. The Predator is a lumbering stink bomb through and through.

Boyd Holbrook heads a low-rate ensemble cast as Quinn McKenna, a special-ops guy in the middle of an assassination attempt—interrupted when a spaceship crashes nearby and spoils his fun. After a confrontation with the dreadlocked, reptilian-faced alien pilot, McKenna scoops up some evidence (a Predator arm gun, a Predator helmet) and sends them to his P.O. box back home so he has proof when the upper-level folks label him a whacko.

Because he didn’t pay the bill on that P.O. box, the nasty package is forwarded to his home and into the hands of his young, autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay). Naturally, the boy thinks it’s some kind of video game from his pop (and a Halloween mask!). He dicks around with the intergalactic toys and gets himself involved in an interplanetary war. If ever there were a film that declared the dangerous perils of video-game addiction, it would be this one.

Here's something that really bothered me: In an establishing scene, Rory displays a major sensitivity to sound. He actually crumples to the ground at the mild sound of an alarm, which makes him the taunting target of elementary-school meanies. Yet when Rory is involved in alien battles later in the film, with bombs and guns going off next to his head, he seems perfectly fine. Did he put in some ear plugs? Is his sound sensitivity specific to classroom settings? Is the screenplay for this movie a colossal mess? I’m going with the latter.

McKenna winds up with other misfit soldiers on a bus, including one played by Thomas Jane, trying to provide comic relief as a silly soldier with Tourette syndrome. Others jockeying for screen time include Keegan-Michael Key, Alfie Allen and Augusto Aguilera. Olivia Munn, the best thing about the movie, is also on hand as a wily scientist, as is Sterling K. Brown, as the maybe-he’s-bad-but-maybe-he’s-not guy.

They all run around in a haphazard, cheap-looking CGI shitstorm that turns up the gore factor to go with the inane dialogue, numerous plot holes and stupid-looking alien dogs. More than once, characters disappeared, and I wasn’t sure of their fate—a sign of bad editing.

There was a lot of confusion during production (including reshoots for a woefully tacked-on ending), and the movie looks like it was being shot as a potential 3-D offering. There is no 3-D, which is good news, because this movie is not worth the extra few bucks for 3-D admission. In fact, it’s not worth any of your money. It’s predatory garbage.

The Predator is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

A young woman (Brie Larson) and her 5-year-old son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), are held prisoner in a backyard shed. When Jack manages to escape, resulting in both of them being freed, mother and son must learn to cope with life outside of their prison walls, and reacquaint themselves with their immediate family.

While Larson is excellent in Room, Tremblay is the biggest reason to see this movie. His portrayal of a small boy who has only known one room in his entire life is revelatory; it’s a performance like none other. While Larson has picked up a Golden Globe and a much-deserved Oscar nomination, Tremblay was robbed.

Joan Allen delivers strong work as Jack’s grandma, a woman who is both dealing with the horror that brought him into the world, and loving him from the instant they meet. William H. Macy has a small but memorable part as Jack’s grandpa, a person who can’t get over what happened to his daughter.

Lenny Abrahamson, who made last year’s excellent yet relatively unknown Michael Fassbender comedy Frank, directs. Based on his work with these two films, he’s one of the industry’s most interesting directors.

The movie basically plays out in two parts: the imprisonment, and the aftermath. Larson delivers a performance deserving of the accolades, but it’s Tremblay who makes the biggest mark.

Room is now playing at the Cinémas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0430).

Published in Reviews