Film Review: GOOD BOYS (USA 2019) ***

Good Boys Poster

Three sixth grade boys ditch school and embark on an epic journey while carrying accidentally stolen drugs, being hunted by teenage girls, and trying to make their way home in time for a long-awaited party.


Gene Stupnitsky

Right on the heels of Olivia Wilde’s incredibly smart BOOKSMART arrives the male gendered version of kids trying to be cool while keeping their friendships intact.

The three kids in the film are ironically, never referred to as GOOD BOYS but as BAD BOYS (two other films have already used that title) and other names.  The trouble starts when the three are invited to a kissing party, though they have no idea how to kiss.

The film begins, with 12-year old Max caught watching porn on his lap top in his bedroom by his father.  Instead of being chastised, his dad is proud that Max is coming of age and tells the mother.  It is a funny situation that makes a good start for a pubescent comedy about growing up.

After being invited to his first kissing party, 12-year-old Max (Jacob Tremblay, a Canadian who is also 12 years of age, best known for ROOM) is panicking because he does not know how to kiss.  Eager for some pointers, Max and his best friends, Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams), decide to use Max’s dad’s drone, which they are forbidden to touch, to spy on a teenage couple who are making out. But when things go ridiculously wrong, the drone is confiscated by two teenage girls.  Desperate to get it back before Max’s dad gets home, the boys skip school and set off an odyssey of epically bad decisions involving some accidentally stolen drugs, frat-house paintball, and running from both the cops and terrifying teenage girls.

GOOD BOYS prides itself as being an adult film about kids.  Thus, as expected, there is quite a lot of swearing, even coming out of the mouths of the 12-year olds.  Director Stupnisky seems desperate to elicit laughs at any cost.

GOOD BOYS contains a few unforgettable segments involving the growing up process like trying to drink one first beer (remember how awful the first taste was?), trying to cope with adult problems like a parent’s divorce and bullying.  Director Stupniksy delivers a very funny ANANBELLE (as in the horror franchise) sequence.  Whenever the three boys are having a bonding moment, one of the younger sisters named Annabelle suddenly appears just as in the ANNABELLE movies to scare them out of their wits and invade their privacy.  Another has a kid character called Atticus (poking fun at TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD).  These two parts got the most laughs out of me.  The comedic set-up of the boys crossing a busy highway is also terrifying hilarious.

The kids parents are also given the token nod and not ignored in the film.  They are, thankfully, not treated as complete idiots as in many kid-oriented films.

GOOD BOYS, though funny enough is inferior, by inevitable comparison to BOOKSMART which contains funnier jokes, more inventive comedic set-ups with more cinematic surprises (the underwater swimming pool sequence).  Still, Stupnisky’s GOOD BOYS contains a few good memories about adolescence.


Film Review: THE PREDATOR (USA 2018)


The Predator Poster

When a young boy accidentally triggers the universe’s most lethal hunters’ return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race.


Shane Black

It is hard to keep track the number of PREDATOR movies.  So popular they have become that there are many social media groups just dedicated to those movies.  Counting the two ALIENS vs. PREDATOR spin-offs, this PREDATOR 2018 is the 6th in the franchise.  

The director Shane Black (IRON MAN 3, THE NICE GUYS) started off as an actor in the original Arnold Schwarzenegger 1987 film, his character killed off by the predator in that one, hired because he could also be standing in as an emergency scriptwriter for James Cameron.  In this film, it was reported that the script was occasionally written within 10 minutes in Black’s trailer before it being filmed.  It shows.  The story is crap, the narrative is weak and a lot of what transpires on screen make no sense.  It totally believable that the script was incomplete before the first shoot.  The story for what it is – centres on one man and his group of PTSD soldiers taking out invading predators.  The leader is an ex-soldier (Boyd Holbrook) aided by a biologist (Olivia Munn) who has to put up with quite a lot of male chauvinist bullshit. That is the extent of the plot – the rest is smart talk, or maybe improvised dialogue that if written done just before shooting.  It is all blood, violence gore and foul language.

Canada’s own Jacob Tremblay has the role of the little boy, the innocent faced son caught in the predator crossfire.  He accidentally mistakes the predator’s armour as a Halloween costume wearing it out trick or treating creating a few mega blow-ups.  The script requires the character to utter  the fuck word many times, which is done.  One assumes that it is someone else’s voice over the boy’s dialogue.  The boy is supposed to be a really smart kid, able to solve complicated chess puzzles and have a fantastic photographic memory.  The film never explains where the genius comes from, except that the kid is autistic, which does not mean this kind of intelligence.  One character in the film even asks the question:”Where did he get all this from.”  Of all the performances, Tremblay does the best stealing the scene from all the other adult actors.

The script contains lots of dialogue that would whizz past most of the audience.  Since the team of soldiers are supposed to be all suffering from PTSD, this might explain the reason their words don’t make much sense, just as the jokes don’t – just fast quick talk.

For PREDATOR fans requiring lots of action, there are tons of pyrotechnic blow-ups, mashing of metal and quick edit fights which should have them satisfied.  Most of the action takes place in the city as opposed to the jungle in the original PREDATOR, though the film’s beginning scenes are set in the jungle.

THE PREDATOR was chosen to open the Toronto International Film Festival Midnight Madness Section and should have got enough cheers from that brand of audience.


WONDER (USA 2017) ***1/2

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Wonder Poster

Based on the New York Times bestseller, WONDER tells the incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman, a boy with facial differences who enters fifth grade, attending a mainstream elementary school for the first time.


Stephen Chbosky


Stephen Chbosky (screenplay by), Steve Conrad (screenplay by)

WONDER is a family friendly film with just the correct mix of comedy and drama about a boy with a facial deformity, Auggie ( Jacob Tremblay).  The film follows his adjustment to public school, Beecham Preparatory School after being home schooled by his mother, Isabel (Julia Roberts).  His father, Nate (Owen Wilson) is supportive as well as his sister, Via (Izabela Vidovic) though she resents not being given as much attention by her parents.  WONDER is written by Steve Conrad based on the book of the same name by R.J. Palacio.

Despite the obvious message as announced via voiceover at the end of the movie: “Be Kind: You just have to look at people to see…”, there is another more important message found in the movie, as uttered by Via, Auggie’s sister when she angrily quips at her brother: “It’s not always about you.” This message is also echoed in the way the film’s story is brilliantly told – in 4 parts from 3 other points of view besides Auggie’s, showing that other people count.  The other views are from Auggie’s sister, Via, and from two of his friends, Jack Will (Noah Jupe) and Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell).  The other three are revealed in the script as individuals, just as important as individuals as being a character in Auggie’s world.

The film’s contains one mixed message in the way Auggie finds his first friend, Jack Will – by allowing him to cheat, copying from him, during a test.  He could have helped him or offered to help him study instead.

The big minus in WONDER is the filmmakers insistence on going for sentiment.  They should be more confident on the material and stop tugging at the heartstrings.  So be forewarned!  Bring plenty of Kleenex as director Chbosky chooses to milk every opportunity he can for tears.  This can be observed by the choice of music; Julia Robert’s perpetual sad look; the script’s dialogue (You cannot blend in if you are meant to stand out in the world); the fondness of close-ups of the actors’ faces.

The script could be trimmed to do away with the teen budding romance between Via and her new theatre boyfriend, Justin that does not do much with the main story.

The performances from the young kids are to be praised.  The best of these belong to Noah Jupe as Jack Will, Auggie’s best friend.  Jupe is a natural, the camera loving his every facial expression – a possible future star in the making.  Two screen veterans Mandy Patinkin and Sonia Braga lend their hands playing Mr. Tushman and Via’s grandmother respectively.

Chbosky’s film tries at making every set-up perfect.  It is therefore not surprising that the film’s best moment is a quiet and simple one – a close-up of Jack Will’s face at being happy once again at being Auggie’s friend.

The film ends with Auggie’s mom saying to Auggie: “You are really a WONDER, Auggie”.  Perhaps the film itself could have turned out a wonder if everyone did not try so hard.

But for all its flaws, WONDER is a film made about a subject that matters.  It is also good to see stars like Julia Roberts  and Owen Wilson putting their efforts in a earnest little movie for a change.



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Happy Birthday: Jacob Tremblay

jacobtremblay.jpgJacob Tremblay

Born: October 5, 2006 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Jacob Tremblay is a Canadian actor. His breakout performance was in Room (2015), for which he received critical acclaim.

Tremblay made his film debut for the live-action animated film The Smurfs 2.

In 2016, Tremblay played a supporting role in the comedy film Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie.


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