NEW THIS WEEK
-- KEVIN JAMES IN ANOTHER THIRD-RATE FAMILY COMEDY:
"HERE COMES THE BOOM" PG -- "Here Comes the Boom" is a painfully weak and predictable "family" comedy that goes for every boneheaded gag and bad-teacher stereotype. Even so, kids 10 and older -- especially wrestling and mixed martial-arts fans -- will have fun watching star Kevin James get slammed around and seeing real wrestling stars in cameos. Scott (James) is a burned-out high-school biology teacher in Boston who arrives at school so late he has to climb into his classroom through the window. But Scott, who reads the paper with his feet up while his students do an assignment and who feels safe enough in his tenure to smartmouth the principal (Greg Germann), gets inspired. He learns that the music program will shut down for lack of funds, and that Marty (Henry Winkler), the mild-mannered music teacher, will lose his job. Scott feels a surge of his old idealism and blurts out an offer to raise money to save the program. He says it mostly to impress the school nurse (Salma Hayek), but now he has to deliver. A former high-school wrestler, Scott finds out he can earn thousands just for being defeated in a mixed martial-arts match. He enlists Niko (Bas Rutten), a martial-arts instructor who takes his evening citizenship class for immigrants, to train him. Soon Scott is getting pummeled and his shoulder dislocated for music education and love.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There is major mayhem in the fight cages and some of it looks painful. Scott projectile vomits while in the ring after eating bad apple sauce. There's discussion about Marty's 48-year-old wife getting pregnant. The film features mildly crude language, mild sexual innuendo and comic stereotypes of immigrants.
-- A SMART, FUNNY THRILLER THAT'S A TERRIFIC NAIL-BITER, EVEN THOUGH WE KNOW HOW IT ENDS:
"ARGO" R -- The fact-based story in "Argo," of how a CIA operative spirited six Americans out of Iran by posing them as a Hollywood film crew, makes for a crackerjack thriller under director and star Ben Affleck's sure hand. The brains, wit and tension that weave through the film will keep high-schoolers 16 and older as well as college film buffs totally engaged, and impart a slice of history along the way. Strong profanity earns the R rating. Affleck plays CIA agent Tony Mendez with a bearded poker face. The six Americans were foreign service personnel who escaped the U.S. embassy in Tehran just as Islamist revolutionaries scaled the walls and took it over in November 1979, holding Americans hostage for 444 days. The six who got out took refuge in the Canadian ambassador's (Victor Garber) home, but it wasn't safe for them to stay there long term. Mendez, an expert in getting personnel out of tight places, calls a Hollywood special-effects make-up artist (John Goodman) he knows. They team hilariously with a producer (Alan Arkin) and invent a fake sci-fi movie project called "Argo," based on an actual script. They hold a press event and take out an ad in Variety. Mendez then goes to Tehran under the guise of scouting locations. He brings fake identities for the six Americans. We know they made it out, but the plan is so risky and the camera work so nervous, you can cut the tension with a knife.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The script is riddled with strong profanity, reflecting the stress under which everyone operates. Characters smoke and drink a lot. One scene shows Iranian revolutionaries shooting a man in the street. Scenes depicting angry mobs and armed revolutionary guards bristle with tension. Both real and re-enacted footage of the 1979 takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran is upsetting to watch.
-- ULTRAVIOLENT, PROFANE AND HILARIOUS, THIS CRIME COMEDY IS FOR GROWN-UPS:
"SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS" R -- Too bloody and full of foul language for under-17s, "Seven Psychopaths" is nevertheless a riotous and ingenious criminal farce. It will delight college-age film buffs with its dark humor and bizarre characters, all played to perfection. Much-honored playwright Martin McDonagh is the director/screenwriter. He can use words like bullets, and the all-star cast is right at his level. Marty (Colin Farrell), a Hollywood screenwriter, has writer's block. He has a title, "Seven Psychopaths," but no script. He starts to borrow stories his eccentric pal Billy (Sam Rockwell), a struggling actor, tells him. Billy earns extra money helping an aging con man, Hans (Christopher Walken), kidnap people's dogs. They wait until a reward is offered, then return the dogs to grateful owners. But Marty and Hans make a mistake when they snatch a murderous gangster's (Woody Harrelson) ShihTzu. Marty starts to wonder why some of the stories he's putting in his script seem to move from fantasy into real life. And who is the masked "Jack of Diamonds" killer who only whacks bad guys? And who the heck is the weird old guy (Tom Waits) with the pet rabbit?
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film is full of bloody, up-close gun and knife violence. Late in the story, a re- enactment of a Vietnam War-era incident is used, in which a Buddhist monk sets himself on fire as a protest. In addition to steaming profanity, characters use racial and ethnic slurs, including the N-word. They also drink and smoke a lot. There is a brief, semi-explicit sexual situation and brief drug use. Hans' wife is in the hospital with terminal cancer.
(c) 2012, Washington Post Writers Group.