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The Predator

A thrilling waste of potential

© Twentieth Century Fox When 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.
     When a predator spaceship crash-lands in Mexico, intrepid Captain Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook: Boomtown) falls victim to a devious government containment plan.
      The crash landing is a dream come true to ruthless government alien investigator Traeger (Sterling K. Brown: Hotel Artemis). While his team studies the aliens, they hunt humans. 
      Before his involuntary commitment to a military asylum, McKenna has mailed home proof of the alien encounter. His plan goes awry when son Rory (Jacob Tremblay: Wonder) opens the package, unwittingly activating a homing beacon that draws the predator to his hometown and family.
      To save his son, McKenna assembles a motley team of mentally ill soldiers and a biologist eager to study the predator species.
     The latest in the Predator film franchise is overly clever and convoluted. The disappointment is worse because the film squanders real potential. Director Shane Black (who acted in the first Predator film) is a legend of the action genre, writing films like Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout. Here he drops the ball. Despite snappy dialogue and his brisk pacing, whole plot chunks are either stupid or boring. He has also made a bad bargain in abandoning Predator’s gritty action roots for fight sequences full of CGI creatures and battles better suited to a superhero movie.
      The film lacks weight and reality, which makes the threat of the predator seem silly. This is especially egregious during the final sequence, which looks like it was animated on an iPhone.
      Saving the movie from disaster is a plucky cast that excels at Black’s signature quippy dialogue. Brown is especially fun as Traeger, a gleefully foulmouthed villain. As the self-proclaimed Loonies, the group of military misfits are the best part of the movie. Trevante Rhodes, Thomas Jane, Keegan-Michael Key and Augusto Aguilera are both comic relief and the action driving the film. The movie works when they’re onscreen, but that’s only about two-thirds of the time.
Fair Action • R • 107 mins. 
 
~~~ New this Week ~~~
A Simple Favor
     Mommy-blogger Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is immediately impressed by the mother of her son’s new best friend. Emily (Blake Lively) is effortlessly cool, stylish and smart, everything Stephanie has always wanted to be. Visiting Emily’s large house, watching her with their kids and chatting about their lives, Stephanie finds herself infatuated.
     When Emily disappears, oddity stretches into a full-blown mystery — and Stephanie investigates. 
      Director Paul Feig, who has a deft hand with timing and action, is known for his comedies. Expect plenty of twists and turns as he moves to a Hitchcockian thriller. For fans of whodunits, this should be worth the ticket.
Prospects: Bright • R • 117 mins. 
 
Unbroken: Path to Redemption
      A former Olympian who survived brutal internment as a prisoner of war in World War II, decorated hero Louis Zamperini (Samuel Hunt) couldn’t shake the trauma.
       Alcoholism challenges his happiness and his family. Can he now overcome addiction?
      This sequel of sorts to Angelina Jolie’s film Unbroken continues the remarkable true story of Zamperini, whose extremes of heroism and devastation are nearly too amazing to be true. Still, Zamperini is an inspiring figure, and Laura Hillenbrand’s book about his life (on which both films are based) is a great read. Will this movie take us any further? That’s the question.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 98 mins. 
 
We the Animals
      Manny (Isaiah Kristian), Joel (Josiah Gabriel) and Jonah (Evan Rosado) are formed from chaos. Their mother and father are a volatile pair offering extremes of love and explosive drama. As they stumble to keep the family together through poverty and domestic abuse, the three boys raise themselves.
     The youngest, Jonah, sees how threads of the love and violence form his brothers. As he discovers his sexuality and his inclination toward living in an imagined world, he grows distant from his siblings.
     A lyrical film in the vein of Moonlight before it, We the Animals is a series of vignettes about the boys’ childhood. It should be beautifully acted and powerful. 
Prospects: Bright • R • 94 mins. 
 
Where Hands Touch
       In 1944 German, Leyna (Amandla Stenberg) stands out. A bi-racial teen in radicalized Nazi Germany, she is an affront to the Fatherland. Fearing Leyna will be taken, her mother moves the family to Berlin in hopes of hiding in a big city.
     There, Leyna meets Lutz (George MacKay), a prominent Hitler Youth and the son of an SS commander. Lutz is taken with Leyna’s beauty, and the pair begin a romance that could destroy them.
     This historic teen drama with lots of angst built into its premise might be enjoyable for the middle- and high-school crowd. But the notion that Nazis are good people if they find attractive minorities to love is hard to swallow.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 122 mins. 
 
White Boy Rick
     In the midst of the 1980s’ war on crack, Rick Wershe (Richie Merritt) is a poor kid looking to help his family. He becomes a police informant. But he is a little too good at his job, and while still a teenager becomes one of Detroit’s biggest drug dealers.
      This true story about the rise and fall of one of America’s youngest drug kingpins could be tense and dramatic — if it can rise above its writing clichés and lack of nuance.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 110 mins.