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Cinema Toast: ‘The Predator’ loses the scent

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A Simple Favor (R)

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Rupert Friend, Linda Cardellini

Directed by: Paul Fieg

After Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is widowed by her husband’s death in an auto accident, the suburban mother’s “friends” turn their backs on her and her son. So she seeks out the town’s patrician mystery woman, Emily (Blake Lively), to set up a play date with each other’s sons. Married to a handsome novelist (Henry Golding), the martini-sipping Emily appears to be everything that Stephanie is not, until the fateful day when she leaves her son at Stephanie’s house, and doesn’t return to pick him up. Within a short time, Stephanie becomes a grown up Nancy Drew sleuthing her way around local cul-de-sacs and traffic circles to discover what happened to her friend.

3 pieces of ‘Tongue-in-cheek suburban-mother-as-detective’ toast

White Boy Rick (R)

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Richie Merritt, Bel Powly, Bruce Dern, Piper Laurie, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Directed by: Yann Demage

This film, which is “based on a true story,” tells of White Boy Rick (Ritchie Merritt), an entrepreneurial 15-year-old Detroit kid who charms his way into becoming a dealer for local drug lords, and then signs on as an undercover snitch for the FBI. Rick Jr. learned his moves from his charmingly sleazy father, Big Rick (Matthew McConaughey), who tries to protect his son from the empowered invincibility that comes with being a teenager.

3 pieces of ‘Gritty, but not quite gritty enough to scare teens straight’ toast

Pick of the Litter (NR)

Starring: Patriot, Phil, Poppet, Potomac, Primrose

Directed by: Dana Nachman, Don Hardy Jr.

Real Guide Dogs - not those fake “service animals” that lonely people try to bring inside grocery stores and onboard airplanes - are a product of nature and nurture. We discover this as we watch a litter of very cute puppies compete with each other to “make the grade” and avoid a “career change” to becoming a family pet. The documentary film makers show that there is money to be made by betting on the right dog, and introduce us to shady characters called “puppy raisers” who bring a youngster into their home to “pre-train” the animal so they are more likely to be purchased for elite training. Think of this as a reality TV show starring dogs - each with its distinctive personality and “how cute” moments on the way to becoming a blind person’s invaluable protector and companion.

3 pieces of ‘How Guide Dogs for the Blind are made’ toast

The Bookshop (PG)

Starring: Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, Honor Kneasey, James Lance, Patricia Clarkson

Directed by: Isabel Coixet

This mild-mannered film is set in a small British village during the mid-1950’s, where the people don’t like to read. A widow decides to reactivate herself by opening a bookshop that offers volumes straight off the bestseller lists, including Vladimir Nobokov’s controversial novel “Lolita.” The local version of the scandalized “pick-a-little-talk-a-little” women we know so well from “The Music Man” musical, is headed by a rival intent on acquiring the bookstore property for her own pet project, and arts center.

3 pieces of ‘Savor this one in real time’ toast

The Predator (R)

Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Temblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Thomas Jane, Yvonne Strahvoski

Directed by: Shane Black

The latest installment in “The Predator” franchise appears (on the surface) to have everything going for it - a great cast, a director who appeared in the original film (and wrote “Lethal Weapon”), and a preview reel filled with one-liners, steamy close-ups, and massive action sequences. Trouble is, the full movie quickly extinguishes all that pizazz, and dampens down all the joie-de-vivre a film like this needs to make it work.

1-and-1/2 pieces of ‘Disappointing paint-by-numbers’ toast

(To view trailers of the above-described films, fo to Petaluma360.com, click on the A&E link, and find ‘“Cinema Toast.” Comments? E-mail gilmansergh@comcast.net)