Good Boys

Produced by comedian Seth Rogen and his producing partner Evan Goldberg, Good Boys is a well-done vulgar comedy that can be best described as a tween version of the 2007 comedy Superbad because it follows a group of adolescent boys going on ridiculous and cringe-worthy adventures involving very inappropriate subject matter, primarily of a sexual nature. The main characters are three sixth graders comprising of a relatively shy Max, played by Jacob Tremblay best known for his role in the critically acclaimed 2015 movie Room, wannabe singer and bad boy Thor, played by Brady Noon, and mama’s boy Lucas, played by Keith L. Williams. Their R-rated exploits begin with Max’s desire to attend a party hosted by the popular kids so that he can kiss his crush. Leading up to this anticipated party, the boys end up encountering high school girls looking for drugs and stealing alcohol while in pursuit of replacing a destroyed drone owned by Max’s father, played by Will Forte. Rather ironically, the actors who will obviously go on to promising acting careers would never be allowed to see the actual movie that they are stars in as a result of the risque material. Also, to my great surprise, there was actually a good message contained within the film: the special power of friendships and how such friendships evolve over the years as a result of the normal process of growing up. Even though close friends may grow apart, the bond they had at one time will always be a part of their lives and will help shape future good memories. Overall, it is definitely a movie that is not for everyone as a result of its ribald nature involving children, but it is a very entertaining and hilarious look at the things that a group of young boys experience as friends, albeit in an over-the-top fashion.

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Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

The ninth installment in the action adventure movie franchise Fast and Furious first started in 2001 and the first spin-off movie, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is a surprisingly entertaining action film deriving from a mostly cheesy and popcorn blockbuster movie series and is successfully able to set itself apart as a result of the charismatic rapport between the two main protagonist who themselves have starred in previous Fast and Furious movies. The plot follows the American government secret agent Luke Hobbs, played by Dwayne Johnson, and his one-time nemesis the British government secret agent Deckard Shaw, played by Jason Statham, who are forced to team up to fight a vast criminal organization and its new mechanically weaponized soldier Brixton Lore, played by the always terrific Idris Elba. They work with Shaw’s estranged sister Hattie, played by Vanessa Kirby, who is also a British spy falsely suspected of stealing a powerful biological weapon developed by the same evil organization that hired Brixton. All three team up to prevent the use of the deadly weapon known as Snowflake that could kill millions of people around the world. At the same time, they have to fight off the super powerful Brixton that is practically invulnerable because of the technology implanted in his body. Like the previous movies, there are elaborate car chases and spectacular action sequences that make it a typical action movie. The climax of the film takes them to Luke Hobbs’ home country of Samoa where he tries to reconnect with his estranged family in order finally defeat the threat posed by Brixton’s organization. What follows is a explosive battle sequence that involves traditional Samoan weapons instead of the generic gun battle. Overall, I found it to be a slightly more than just your stereotypical action flick that had elements of humanity all created by the terrific chemistry between all of the actors.

Brittany Runs a Marathon

Written and directed by playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo in his feature film directorial debut, Brittany Runs a Marathon is a hilarious comedy that has a surprisingly amount of dramatic depth as a result of its inspirational story of a young single woman living in New York City who decides to take on her overweight body by challenging herself to running the New York City marathon. Based on a true story, Brittany, played by the very talented and funny Jillian Bell, feels like she is at a crossroads in our life with the perception that all in her life is lost and she will forever remain without a boyfriend and with a severe lack of self confidence. After a doctor’s visit in which she is told that she must lose weight for her health, she joins a running group along with a recently divorced middle-aged woman and a out-of-shape thirtysomething gay father. Although they have almost always got along ever since becoming roommates, Brittany begins to have tension with her best friend roommate who is a skinny popular Asian girl with a good-looking boyfriend. The only place Brittany can find solace is when she is with her running friends who seem to understand what she is going through. With her newfound confidence, she also takes a new job as a housesitter for a wealthy couple where she meets the rather eccentric loud-mouthed Jern. Britney and her new lazy coworker have an unusual relationship that makes for some very funny moments between the two obviously talented comedians. Towards the end of the movie, Brittany does go through a depressed phase in which she thinks the marathon is hopeless and moves in with her sister and very loving brother-in-law back home in Philadelphia to distance herself from New York and her new friends. Overall, I found it to be a quite inspiring story of a person overcoming her own struggles in life in order to pursue a truly amazing achievement. However, it is not the sort of movie that is depressing and overly dramatic but rather engages the audience through its very entertaining comedy.

Blinded by the Light

Directed by British Indian filmmaker Gurinder Chadha best known for 2003’s Bend It Like Beckham, Blinded by the Light is a feel-good comedy drama that revolves around a story of a young British Pakistani living in an economically depressed town in England with his conservative Muslim family and is inspired by a real-life individual with similar circumstances. The protagonist feels very isolated from the rest of the English community that often bullies him for his ethnicity and has no creative or social outlet for his insecurities and desire to break away from his strict family life. After a chance encounter with a fellow British Pakistani at his school, Javed Khan, played by Viveik Kalra, the music of Bruce Springsteen whose lyrics closely resemble what he is feeling in his own life and feels inspired to spread the music of Bruce Springsteen whose popularity peaked several years prior. Set in the 1980s as a economic downturn greatly affects Great Britain, the film encapsulates the feeling of anxiety across the United Kingdom, especially with immigrants and the rise of the Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The movie is full of funny moments in which Javed’s sheer enthusiasm for Springsteen takes over parts of his life. The filmmaker also makes the creative and effective decision to superimpose the real lyrics of Bruce Springsteen as Javed is listening to the music on his Walkman. But, the movie is primarily a wonderfully uplifting story of a young man who is finally confident in his love for writing poetry and is able to find a British girlfriend, all because of an American musician who makes a connection with his own unique life living in an immigrant family. Overall, I found it to be a touching movie that shows the power of music and art to truly inspire people to do their best in life and is able to relay this message of hope while still being entertaining and creative.

The Peanut Butter Falcon

Winner of the 2019 South by Southwest Audience Award for a narrative film, The Peanut Butter Falcon is a heartwarming and quite beautiful comedy drama that has the feel of a Mark Twain adventure story that follows an unlikely friendship between two very different protagonists. The movie follows 22-year-old Zak, played by Zach Gottsagen, who has Down syndrome and lives at an elderly nursing home under the tender care of an employee named Eleanor, played by Dakota Johnson. Tired of his lack of freedom, Zak, with the help of his elderly roommate played by Bruce Dern, is finally able to escape and go on an adventure throughout North Carolina where he lives. Eventually, he meets a down-on-his-luck fisherman named Tyler, played by Shia LaBeouf in one of his best acting performances, who begrudgingly takes Zak on a wild adventure to meet Zak’s wrestling idol who lives in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Eleanor is desperately trying to find Zak who she worries is all alone and in need of help. Eventually, she finds Zak with Tyler and is convinced to join their journey on their makeshift raft floating in the Outer Banks. Throughout the course of the film, Tyler matures through his developing close relationships with Zak, and they both have wonderfully fun times together and encountering eccentric people, including a blind minister. Overall, I found it to be one of the best movies of the year because of its truly inspiring and uplifting story that is full of genuine love and joy. The filmmakers do an amazing of creating a film that does not take pity on Zak because of his disability but rather uplifts his story to be one of perseverance, courage, and normalcy.

Yesterday

Directed by Danny Boyle who won the Academy Award for Best Director for 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire, Yesterday is a very clever and endearing romantic comedy that is remarkable for its extremely creative story in which the protagonist is the only person in the world who has heard of The Beatles after a freak accident. We first meet Jack Malik, played by the talented British actor Himesh Patel best known for his role on the BBC television show EastEnders, struggling to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a successful singer-songwriter but is always encouraged by his childhood friend and manager Ellie, played by Lily James best known for her role on Downton Abbey. While riding a bicycle in his small seaside English town one night, he is involved in a freak accident after a mysterious worldwide power outage and soon discovers after playing a Beatles song to his friends that no one in the world has ever heard of The Beatles, it is as if they never existed. He decides to record as many of The Beatles songs that he can remember and pass them off as his own works, which eventually makes him a major musical star after he catches the attention of singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, played by himself. Over the course of the movie, Jack embarks on a whirlwind and quite entertaining journey to worldwide fame, all set to the greatest hits of The Beatles sung in a different way by the actor himself. However, his recording and tour schedule strictly dictated by his new Los Angeles recording agent Debra, played by Kate McKinnon, pushes him away from his beloved friend and secret love Ellie. Besides the wonderfully nostalgic soundtrack, the film has several moments of humor, including the overall premise of the plot and additional parts of our daily lives that also magically disappeared, as well as the buffoonery yet sweet nature of his roadie and sometimes assistant Rocky, played by the very funny British actor Joel Fry. After his experiences with the glamorous lifestyle of the famous, Jack gradually comes back down to earth, and the film becomes more of a romance after he realizes that he missed out on his chance for true love with Ellie and dedicates the rest of the movie to trying to win her back. Overall, I found it to be a light-hearted and joyful cinematic experience that has truly one of the more innovative and unique storylines and is perfectly set to everyone’s favorite Beatles songs.

American Woman

Directed by Jake Scott who is the son of acclaimed British filmmaker Ridley Scott, American Woman is a powerful drama following the troubled life of a young mother who loses her daughter and is marked by terrific acting performances and an emotionally intriguing script. The movie takes place over the course of 11 years, beginning in 2003 when we first meet the protagonist Debra, played by Golden Globe nominee Sienna Miller in one of her best performances, raising her teenage daughter Bridget and her grandson Jesse. One night after meeting with Jesse’s distant father Tyler, Bridget mysteriously disappears in their rural industrial town in Pennsylvania, and Debra is devastated and accuses Tyler of being somehow involved. Throughout the story, she is somewhat comforted by her close sister Katherine, played by Emmy nominee Christina Hendricks, who lives across the street with her kind husband Terry, played by comedian Will Sasso. The film continues several years later after Bridget’s disappearance is officially unsolved and the increasingly despondent Debra is in a abusive relationship while also supporting Jesse as he gets older. Later, another few years go by and Katherine encourages Debra to go out with Terry’s coworker Chris, played by Emmy winner Aaron Paul, who eventually becomes a part of the family and takes on the role of a father figure for Jesse who still does not know what happened to his mother. A very dramatic and often tragic story, the filmmaker does an excellent job of trying to understand the grief that a parent goes through when their child is missing, as well as the trials and tribulations of being a working-class single mother living in an economically-depressed town. Overall, I thought that Sienna Miller was brilliantly able to bring such a dynamic and desperate woman to life and, in turn, made the movie one of the more heartbreaking yet must-watch dramas of the year.