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  • The kids are all right - ‘Good Boys’
    The kids are all right - ‘Good Boys’

    I was always going to like “Good Boys.”

    Few comedic conventions sit as squarely in my wheelhouse as children cursing. What can I say? There will always be a part of me that remains eternally 13, just as there will always be movies that speak to that part of me. Much of the appeal is the juxtaposition against the relative innocence of childhood, of course, but I wasn’t prepared for how genuinely that innocence was going to be treated.

    That sense of genuineness is what allows “Good Boys” to be something more than simply crass. There’s an underlying sweetness to it, one that focuses on the reality that no matter how much the world around them may change, there will always be certain things about being 12 years old that never will.

  • I ain’t a boy, no I’m a man – ‘Blinded by the Light’
    I ain’t a boy, no I’m a man – ‘Blinded by the Light’

    A young person’s outlet for self-discovery can take many forms. One never knows what outside influence will inspire a whole new outlook and a whole new path. Sometimes, those influences make perfect sense. Other times, they are more of a surprise.

    “Blinded by the Light” gives us the latter.

    The film, based on a true story, explores the life of a young Pakistani teen in Thatcher-era Great Britain. He’s left to deal with the realities of life in that place and time – economic unrest, anti-immigrant prejudices, cultural expectations – while struggling with finding his own place. He wants to be his own person, but he’s not even sure what that means.

    Until, that is, he hears the music of Bruce Springsteen.

  • Dog days of thunder – ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain’
    Dog days of thunder – ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain’

    Full disclosure: I love dogs. I am a bordering-on-weird dog person. I recognize this about myself and own my lack of objectivity regarding dogs and their feelings fully. That said, I am able to manage enough separation to recognize when a movie isn’t actually all that good, even if it has no problem pushing the appropriate buttons to elicit the desired emotional responses from someone like me.

    “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” based on Garth Stein’s best-selling 2008 novel of the same name, is far from great cinema. On its face, it is an over-plotted and underdeveloped family drama with a whiff of Nicholas Sparks about it. We’re kind of on a road to nowhere, driving aimlessly and never actually getting anyplace.

    But there’s a dog with an inner monologue who has thoughts and feelings and engages with the thoughts and feelings of people, so what am I supposed to do? I’m not made of stone.

  • Mob wives – ‘The Kitchen’
    Mob wives – ‘The Kitchen’

    While their position in the zeitgeist has ebbed and flowed over the decades, there’s no denying that mob stories are a fixture in our popular culture. The framework of organized crime allows for loads of violence and sex to go with interpersonal drama – it’s like the whole enterprise was invented for the stories (and plenty of it was).

    Here’s the thing about popular stories – it’s tough to find new and successful ways in which to tell them.

    That’s perhaps the biggest problem faced by “The Kitchen,” a 1970s-set mob movie that tries to venture down some different and interesting paths, but other than a few flashes, winds up largely bogged down in the clichés and tropes of the subgenre.

    Based on the comic book series of the same name, “The Kitchen” tells the tale of three women forced by circumstance to team up and fill the void left by their absent husbands, who have been sent to prison. The leading trio is wildly talented, as is much of the supporting cast, but it isn’t enough; first-time director Andrea Berloff – directing from her own script – can’t seem to avoid the pitfalls of returning to such thoroughly excavated territory.

  • Bod couple - ‘Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw’
    Bod couple - ‘Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw’

    Remember “The Fast and the Furious”? The movie that was about illegal street racing?

    Those days are long past, of course; as things currently stand, these movies exist in a physics-defying universe of impossible stunts, ridiculous fistfights and cornball dialogue. Notice I didn’t mention plot or character development, because that is very much not what these movies are about.

    And never has the franchise been as fully all-in on the nonsense as it is with this latest iteration. This new installment – the first in what will almost certainly end up being a cavalcade of spinoffs – is “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” (for the sake of brevity, we’ll go ahead and just call it “Hobbs & Shaw” moving forward – no one will have any trouble remember the connection to “F&F”).

    This one leaves behind Dominic Torretto and his street-racer-turned-international-superagent “family” to focus on later arrivals Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw, allowing for an expansion of the franchise into a whole new realm of lunacy.

    And expand it does, offering audiences a spectacle even sillier and more outlandish than the extremely silly and outlandish stuff we’ve seen in the most recent “F&F” films. There’s no narrative cohesion to speak of and a lot of what happens doesn’t really add up, but let’s be real – you’re not coming to this movie for the story. What you ARE here for is the action – and there’s a LOT of that, with set pieces that lean into the big, dumb and ultimately loving embrace of the franchise.

    It doesn’t make much sense, but hey – it doesn’t have to.

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