Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of October 24, 2022

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of October 24, 2022

Black Adam
Rated PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, intense action and some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 39%
In Theaters

What was once planned as part of the next Shazam movie quickly evolved into its own adventure when DC saw the potential for a standalone project with Dwayne Johnson on board, and thusly flipped the script. Black Adam was very much seen as a villain, or at least an anti-hero, within the DC universe. In the context of this story, an evil organization corners a group of freedom-fighters in a fictional Middle Eastern country when one of those cornered accidentally lets loose the long hibernating ancient god into the world. While not necessarily the good guy, he goes after the really bad guys in super violent ways, inadvertently helping the people gain hope of a free country again. But when a group of heroes called the “Justice Society” learn of his power and potential danger, they step in to try to capture him in the hopes of reigning him in. Much of the film is a big loud mess, but in spite of its darkness, it manages to possess a sharp sense of humor, as would be expected in a film starring The Rock. The attempt to bring Black Adam into the DC universe clouds the story with a bit of overreach, but I understand the reasoning, even if I don’t agree with it. Overall, the film provides for a good enough genesis story for a relatively unknown comic book character and manages to propel him into the larger world of heroes within the chaotic and disjointed DC franchise. B-

Wendell & Wild
Rated PG-13 for violence, brief strong language, substance abuse and some thematic material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
Streaming on Netflix

This highly-anticipated stop motion animated flick from director Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline) stars comedy superstars Key and Peele (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele) as two demons who are brought down to Earth to assist a troubled girl haunted by the death of her parents. Wildly creative and with all of the hilarity you would expect from these two, the story is unconventional yet not too dark to find enjoyable. Selick has always excelled in the macabre, and this collaboration proves to be a successful use of his talents. Perhaps the biggest winner here is Netflix, which could very well win itself an Oscar for animation this year with three of the best-reviewed animated films of the year: Apollo 10 1/2, W&W and the upcoming Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio. They are competing with the mouse house in ways many of us didn’t see coming. A-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of October 17, 2022

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of October 17, 2022

Rated R for some language and brief nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
In Theaters

From writer/director Todd Field (Little Children, In the Bedroom) comes this unconventional drama starring Cate Blanchett as a famous female conductor who must deal with mounting obstacles as she prepares for a much-anticipated recording of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. To be honest, the plot doesn’t sound very compelling. If you think it looks and sounds like a pretentious arthouse movie, you would be mostly right. Blanchett’s character begins at the height of her career as a powerful conductor with a major German orchestra and right off the bat she is fairly unlikable and the film seems almost distant in its approach and ostentatious demeanor. When people think of obnoxious arthouse cinema – the first two acts of this film could pose as the poster child. But then the third act hits and you start to understand that the story knows what it is and aires needed to be put on for you to fully appreciate the unraveling. Not to give away major spoilers, but the third act is brilliant and all that bombastic pretentiousness beautifully gives way to a desperation you don’t see coming, unless you read reviews like mine. I’ve heard Blanchett’s name being mentioned as the front runner for Best Actress this year and for the first two hours I was convinced that her odds were grossly exaggerated. By the time the credits rolled I was entirely in agreement. Her performance is multidimensional and quite perfect. As is the writing and direction from Fields, who you think is about to bore you for three hours only to find out that you have wildly underestimated your tour guide. My only negative critique revolves around its score, or rather lack of one. For a movie about music to not really have any, or to only have a limited amount, was a strange choice. I know this was done on purpose, but it is noticeably absent and distracting. But even with that major piece missing, the film is both potent and memorable, and extremely relevant to what it means to wield power and influence in the modern world. A-

Halloween Ends
Rated R for gore, bloody horror violence, language throughout and some sexual references
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 39%
In theaters and streaming on Peacock

I believe that Halloween is ending as much as I believe that Elton John will stop touring, but for now we must put aside our bias and go along with David Gordon Green’s trilogy under the premise that this will be the last Halloween film and the end of Michael Myers. I think most of us would agree that it is about time and this film gives hope that not only will we get some clarity about who Myers really is but also see him go down in a manor he deserves. The first film in this trilogy started out well enough only to be almost ruined by the second film, Halloween Kills, which was purely laughable. So while I wanted to see how they would pull this off, I wasn’t really looking forward to a masterpiece. With expectations firmly in place, the film didn’t impress, but it didn’t let me down either. If it weren’t for the cash grab that three films provides vs. two, I think that this storyline would have been better served up as two much more palatable projects, but since this whole thing is basically a cash grab anyway, I guess we are lucky to not have to wait for a fourth and fifth bad storyline. The best that can be said is that I didn’t hate it. It’s a serviceable slasher film with a high enough production budget and a more than decent cast. The story at least had my interest peaked more than it had my eyes rolling, so for that alone it doesn’t suck as bad as I thought it would. And the hope that we will finally get some closure on this incredibly long-running franchise is comforting. C+

Arsenic and Old Lace: The Criterion Collection
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
Available on Disc and Streaming on The Criterion Channel

In 1944 Frank Capra directed this dark comedy which stars Cary Grant as an author who returns home on Halloween to announce his new marriage to his aunts. But upon the celebratory announcement, he discovers the home is full of dead bodies, setting up a screwball turn of events. To bring more horror to the night, his serial killer brother shows up with sinister plans. This hilarious madcap comedy looks better than ever with Criterion’s new 4K digital transfer, typical of their impressive restoration work. I forget that some of these old films have a real edge and this story is truly as dark as it is funny, and surprisingly not as dated as you would think. A

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: 40th Anniversary Edition
Rated PG
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%
Available on Disc and Digital

It’s hard to believe that 40 years have flown by since Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi masterpiece hit theaters. Telling the story of a young boy who befriends a lost alien, E.T. holds a major place in the hearts of film lovers everywhere. And with arguably the greatest film score ever written, it is likely that the music by John Williams is floating in your head even as you read this. This new edition includes over 4 hours of extras including a new retrospective of the film and its legacy, as well as a new conversation with Spielberg discussing the making. A+

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of October 3, 2022

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of October 3, 2022

Rated R for strong sexual content, some drug use and language throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
In Theaters

From writer/director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Neighbors) and Producer Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin) comes this highly lauded raunch com being touted as the first ever mainstream gay romantic comedy. The story places co-writer and star Billy Eichner as a lonely podcaster living in New York City who falls in love with a seemingly boring hunk, played by Luke MacFarlane. Getting past a series of hilarious mishaps and fails, a sweet relationship blossoms, allowing them both to get past their own insecurities and reservations. In that description, it seems like a traditional hetero romantic comedy. But the whole nature of the film makes you quickly understand why it is not, and what makes it unique and special. I would go as far as to say that this is a gay romantic comedy designed for a hetero audience. It’s a movie meant to tear down walls and shows that love stories of all kinds are important, no matter who is in love. As I’m reviewing this a few days after its opening, it’s also obvious that this is a film that is having a tough time finding an audience. Part of that is opening in October, when good horror films are finding huge success. But part of it is also that audiences might not be ready. I hope the second part is wrong, but with a $5 million dollar opening in spite of huge publicity and phenomenal reviews and word of mouth, this might not turn into the hit that Judd Apatow and Nick Stoller are used to. Still – it’s worth a go. It’s a terrific date movie whether you are gay or straight and if you venture to take a chance, regardless of your comfort level, you will find yourself laughing hysterically while also having your heartstrings plucked. A-

Rated R for sexual content, graphic violence and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
Streaming on Hulu

Earlier this year, Hulu released the spectacular Predator film Prey, giving a stale franchise a lift. With their new Hellraiser reboot, they hope to follow suit. This new take on Clive Barker’s 1987 haunter follows a young woman (Odessa A’Zion) dealing with addiction who finds a puzzle that brings around a host of evil beings called Cenobites every time it finds fresh blood. The Cenobites, led by a new female Pinhead, attempt to get her to do their bidding by bringing them fresh souls to torture in exchange for her choice of gifts. As someone who doesn’t really like what I call torture porn, this movie isn’t my cup of tea. But this one doesn’t necessarily follow the slasher model and instead presents itself as more of a super violent inter-dimensional monster movie. For its creativity alone, I found it watchable. The story is a vast improvement upon its predecessors, as it tries to actually present a plot rather than just scaring you with creatures to haunt your dreams. Is it bound to revive the franchise? I actually hope not as I do find it a bit too disturbing for my comfort level. But for those that really love this type of flick, it might scare up a big audience while simultaneously bringing on lots of new nightmares. B-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of September 26, 2022

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of September 26, 2022

Rated NC-17 for some sexual content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 51%
Streaming on Netflix

Based on the bestselling novel by Joyce Carol Oates, Blonde follows the story of Norma Jean, i.e. Marlilyn Monroe, from the traumatic first memories of her life to her tragic death that shook Hollywood. Being that it was written and directed by Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), I was quite excited to see what could be done with this story. Then I was both shocked and intrigued to see that it got an NC-17 rating. After all, I hadn’t seen an NC-17 motion picture since Showgirls, and we all know how that turned out. As for the story itself, it is a fascinating warning of what Hollywood is capable of. It very accurately portrays Monroe as a victim of the worst kind, without a friend to help her along the way. It is sad and horrific watching her progress through her career. Regardless, the performance by Ana de Armas is riveting and courageous, showing off her impressive skillset as an actress. What is not riveting, unfortunately, is the directing by Dominik, which switches style and palate like a schizophrenic. If these mood alterations worked I could give him credit, but instead they serve as a distraction as you try to, unsuccessfully, figure out what the heck he is doing and saying. As for the NC-17 rating, while there is a preponderance of nudity and sexual material, it is not sexy. Rather the movie uses the explicit material to build empathy for the victim as you watch her, over and over again, get used and discarded in spite of her fame and notoriety. Ultimately, this film is not for everyone, especially at an almost 3 hour run-time. And while I don’t suspect that anyone would expect to feel good after watching, this film is certain to, by design, make you feel sick and disgusted by the end. C

The Munsters
Rated PG for language, scary images, macabre and suggestive material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 23%
Available on Disc and streaming on Netflix

Based on the 60’s television show of the same name, The Munsters tells the origin story of how Herman and Lily Munster met and what brought them to the U.S. Told from the vision of the rocker and horror filmmaker Rob Zombie, who apparently spent decades developing it, the movie does have a unique look and feel. Unfortunately there is the story, or lack of one, which is so bad that it feels like it is setting its aims on a Golden Raspberry rather than a future franchise. From beginning to end, the movie meanders pointlessly as it attempts to make you roll your eyes rather than laugh out loud. This project is such a shame. I would have loved to have seen what Zombie could do with this one had he taken a more adult approach. Sure it is now kid-friendly, but why? What was he hoping to accomplish? This disaster of a film should come in dead on arrival. F

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
In theaters and streaming

This post-apocalyptic sci-fi pic from IFC shows us a world where the Earth’s ecosystem has collapsed and a young girl named Vesper struggles to survive and possibly use her bio-hacking skills to change the future. What most consider to be sci-fi are sci-fi action flicks. Good ol’ summer blockbusters. But every once in a while we get a gem like this that shows us a dark and desolate universe which, for the most part, replaces action with story and vision. While it won’t be a huge box-office draw, if you consider yourself a fan of the genre, you should definitely check this one out as it pushes the limits on imagination and keeps you on your toes. It doesn’t have the budget or the cast of something you’ll see on Disney+, but it more than makes up for it as you sit in fascination navigating the dangerous world through Vesper’s eyes. A-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of September 12, 2022

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of September 12, 2022

Confess, Fletch
Rated R for drug use, some sexual content and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90% at time of writing
In theaters and available on demand

Based on the second book from the hit Fletch series by Gregory McDonald, Confess, Fletch stars Jon Hamm (Mad Men) as the former journalist turned goofy hero, all set in the modern day. As he returns from a trip to Italy back to the states, he finds himself to be the chief murder suspect when a girl is found dead in the apartment he is staying in. So in addition to investigating a stolen art collection for his new Italian girlfriend, he must now also try to solve the murder to get himself off the hook. If you are like me, you probably reflect fondly on the 1980’s Fletch films starring Chevy Chase. I don’t know if you’ve watched them lately, but while I loved them back in the day, now I wonder what the heck I was thinking. They really aren’t that great. So if you are worried about Jon Hamm carrying the torch – don’t be. He’s terrific in this film, and much better for the role than Chase ever was. The fact that he doesn’t try to turn on the comedy makes it that much funnier, and his turn at the iconic figure is kind of perfect. His style takes a second to get used to, but once you warm up to him, you really start to appreciate it. And when you add in Greg Motolla as writer/director (Superbad, Paul), along with the really well-cast group of supporting actors including Roy Woods, Jr., Kyle MacLachlan, Marcia Gay Harden and John Slattery, you get a whopper of a comedy. Newcomers Lorenza Izzo, Annie Mumolo and Ayden Mayeri also manage to steal every scene they are in, helping the ensemble to really shine. There are some moments when folks are trying too hard and a gag here and there might fail, but for the most part the movie is so quick and lovable that you forgive and forget easily. I really hope this film becomes a hit so that we might get to see more of what Hamm can do with McDonald’s multitude of Fletch novels. A-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of September 5, 2022

Rated PG for peril, scary moments, some language and rude material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: None at time of writing
Streaming on Disney+

This fall we are getting two new versions of Pinocchio, the story of the wooden puppet who becomes a real boy. In December we will get Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion animated vision on Netflix, but first we get this new live-action version from Oscar winner Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Back to the Future) and Disney. This week’s version attempts to follow the original 1940 Disney masterpiece in much of the same story outline and beats, but rather than the gloriously animated dark epic that that version was, we get a world where the humans are humans and the puppets and creatures are CG. In this case, the character of Pinocchio looks almost identical to the original. Technically, this film is excellent. A lot of great artistry went into this project and it really shows. The film has some major issues, though, when it comes to it wanting to look like a real live-action picture. This vision of the story just doesn’t lend itself well to this style of filmmaking and the melding of the two worlds (live action and CG) feel like two puzzle pieces that don’t fit well together. At times it looks too bizarre, and at others it’s just creepy, and not in a good way. The lonely old man who wants a real boy makes sense, at least a little, in an animated fairly tale. But in real life it’s more than a little uncomfortable, even with the legendary Tom Hanks trying to make it seem as normal as possible. And then there’s the part of the script that is trying to make the film as relevant to today as possible in regards to children and their attitudes to the world around them. I get what they are trying to do, but it is a stretch to say the least, especially in the way it comes across here. A couple of Disney’s straight to streaming choices this year didn’t make sense at all, but this one totally does. In theaters it would have gotten slammed, but on this platform it might just find a more suitable audience that is less demanding and far less vicious in its reception. C+

Mo: Season 1
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Streaming on Netflix

I know we are slammed with material to stream right now, but if you can carve out four hours of your time, I highly recommend you check out this comedy gem from creator and star Mo Amer. Taking place in Houston, the story follows a young hustler named Mo Najjar, a Palestinian refugee struggling to make his way in a society where he can’t hold regular employment due to his immigration status, but nonetheless proves his worth to society through his personal relationships and entrepreneurial ambitions. The eight 30-minute episodes follow him through his crazy adventures, while at the same time helping you understand and empathize with his plight and his and his family’s difficulties trying to make it in America. While last week I had no idea who Mo Amer was, between this show and his new standup special, which also just launched on Netflix, I feel like we have a new underdog hero on our hands and I can’t wait to see what he is capable of as he is quickly gaining a wider and wider audience. A

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of August 22, 2022

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of August 22, 2022

Rated R for violent content, some language and bloody images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 66%
In Theaters

After the death of his wife, Idris Elba and his two teenage daughters visit South Africa to spend some time with his friend, played by Sharlto Copley, a wildlife biologist who manages a safari park. Everything seems to be going fine when they run across an angry man-hungry lion that wishes to kill any human in its path. Trapping them in the wilderness, the family attempts to use every resource at their disposal to make it out alive. It’s easy to see this heart-pounding thriller as Jaws in the Jungle, and it has many of the elements you’d expect to make that story come to life. What got me to come along was the attempt to give the Lion a story. In the opening moments of the film you see a group of poachers kill off an entire pride of lions, except for a male lion that gets away. If anything, the Lion has a just cause and any human in its way deserves to be there. Of course you don’t want the hero and his daughters to die, but you would certainly understand if they did. This gives a fascinating dynamic to the film that wasn’t even there in Jaws, which just happens to be one of my favorite all-time films. While the family’s story is well-crafted and its easy to gain empathy for them, the script is paint by numbers. It’s dangerous and frightening, but it is certainly not overly imaginative. The characters do some smart things – and then they do some horribly stupid things to further imperil themselves. But by the end you get a really fast-paced 90 minute adventure that keeps you on the edge of your seat just enough to take your mind off the silly moments and keep your eyes on the critical predicament of the protagonists. B

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of August 15, 2022

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of August 15, 2022

For All Mankind: Season 3
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Streaming on Apple TV+

Theatrically speaking, this summer has been a bit of a bummer, especially in August. And it probably ain’t gonna get better until after Labor Day. But good news – TV is on fire. This week saw two huge shows finish up and one get started. My favorite is this Apple TV+ series that explores an alternate reality where the space race between the U.S. and the Soviets never ended. In this spectacular third season, the old cast of characters, along with some new ones, race to Mars in the mid 90s. What I like most about this show is how believable it is in its storytelling. And with that authenticity comes a relevance that can’t be ignored. And since much of the show takes place in Houston – it has a strong community tie for us also. If this show isn’t on your radar – it is time to fix that. All three seasons are streaming on Apple and you will be hooked from episode one. A

Better Call Saul: Season 6
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%

One of the biggest events of the week is the series finale to one of America’s favorite shows, Better Call Saul. If you aren’t familiar, Bob Odenkirk played a corrupt lawyer in the legendary crystal meth gangster drama Breaking Bad. As a spinoff, AMC and the fans liked him so much that they gave him his own show which has evolved into its own iconic universe. Honestly, I didn’t give the show much of a chance at first. But recently I relented and started watching again from episode one, and I am happy to admit I was wrong. I couldn’t put the thing down and it was a total binge experience for me. In this 6th and final season, Saul spends a lot of time in the present, living on the run as a Cinnabon manager in Nebraska. The artistic choice was made to film the past in color and the present (or flash forward) scenes in black and white, so you are never confused at what point in time the story is taking place. Also, filming in black and white helped them more easily make Albuquerque look like Nebraska, since they kept all their filming in New Mexico. But I digress. The show isn’t the Godfather-esque epic that Breaking Bad was, but it is nonetheless a stellar crime drama with an equal amount of dark comedy and nail-biting thriller thrown in. The acting is authentic and the writing is some of the best you will find in modern television. And just like Breaking Bad – visionary creator Vince Gilligan gave Saul a marvelous send-off worthy of the time it takes to get through six exhilarating seasons. A

The Sandman: Season 1
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Streaming on Netflix

For years filmmakers have planned on bringing Neil Gaiman’s iconic comic book to life only to see the projects fizzle away due to the complexity of the story and lack of the right vision. But pulling together the right creatives and throwing a ton of money in its direction, Netflix has now brought out the first season in grand fashion. The story follows an old man who attempts to capture Death after his son dies. His hope is that Death can bring his son back upon negotiation. But accidentally and unknowingly he captures Morpheus, the god of sleep and dreams, holding him in captivity for 100 years. Upon his escape, he attempts to set right the chaos and disaster that has befallen the planet during his absence, as well as rebuild his former kingdom. This is one heck of a great fantasy piece, and way different than I thought it would be. The story is indeed complex, with lots of turns and diversions, but it comes together nicely, making sense by the end. The last few episodes aren’t as strong as the first two thirds of the show, but due to their importance to the overall narrative, that ends up being a forgivable flaw. Definitely binge-worthy, Sandman Season One quickly proves itself to be one of Netflix’s biggest shows they’ve ever created. A-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of August 8, 2022

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of August 8, 2022

Day Shift
Rated R for language, strong violence and gore
Rotten Tomatoes Score: None Yet
Streaming on Netflix

Jamie Foxx is just your mild-mannered blue-collar worker pretending to be a pool guy while his real job is focused on finding and exterminating vampires for cash. When his ex-wife puts pressure on him financially, he attempts to rejoin the vampire-killers union where he is assigned Dave Franco as an observer. But when he attracts the attention from the wrong vampire, he and his family find themselves in extreme danger. Taking bits and pieces from various cult classics like Zombieland and John Wick, Day Shift strings together enough blood, gore and style to keep you engaged. And with two talented actors like Foxx and Franco, the buddy flick aspect works well enough, even though enough time is not dedicated to that dynamic. The writing isn’t as clever as it thinks it is and not nearly as funny as it tries to be, but it does have some decent action and who doesn’t love the idea of Snoop Dogg unloading on a hive of the undead. Speaking of the vampires, apparently when you become one, you turn into a weird Cirque Du Soleil contortionist because practically none of them looked normal when they battle. Ultimately, its a big-budget brainless thriller with potential that never materializes. C+

Thirteen Lives
Rated PG-13 for some strong language and unsettling images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Streaming on Amazon Prime

As I’m sure most will recount from a few years ago, twelve boys and their adult soccer coach got stuck in a cave in Thailand, leaving the deadly job of saving their lives to a team of Thai Navy Seals and a group of international cave dive rescuers. It always sounded like a movie waiting to happen and here Director Ron Howard takes on the project, leading Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell and Joel Edgerton into the dangerous waters to show the world how it all went down. Were it not for the familiar faces, you might think this was a documentary as it feels authentic and doesn’t come across as Hollywood at all. The performances from the three leads are excellent as you would expect and the rest of the cast is as good as you can get given the lack of experience on set. The film is appropriately paced even when it gets down in the minutiae, helping you relive the danger and understand the tough choices that had to be made to rescue the kids, as well as comprehend the repercussions that could happen should anything go wrong. Overall, it is a really good representation of a relevant true story, handled the right way. A-

Event Horizon: 25th Anniversary Edition
Rated R
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 29%
On Disc and Paid Streaming

It’s hard to believe that this cult classic sci-fi horror film is having its 25th birthday this summer. I remember being both thrilled and very freaked out and what I considered to be one of the scariest movies I had ever seen. The story follows a small group of space explorers who attempt to find a lost ship, called the Event Horizon. But upon locating the vessel, things start to go horribly wrong. While I had fond memories of this film that came out when I was half my current age, I just can’t seem to appreciate those same qualities today. There are two great moments in the film and a lot of junk. First, the moment when Sam Neill tries to explain wormholes is an iconic moment that was even copied and quoted in the latest Thor outing. Then there’s the found video that is still pretty terrifying but short-lived. Everything else is just mediocre, including the acting by the stellar cast. The movie tries so hard to be The Shining in space. But unlike The Shining, this thriller just doesn’t hold up. C+

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of July 25, 2022

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of July 25, 2022

Rated R for some violence, bloody images, and language throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
In Theaters

With his films Get Out and Us, writer/director Jordan Peele has proven himself to be a modern day Hitchcock, providing creepy films with multiple meanings and metaphors. With his new film NOPE we are definitely getting much of the same, but this time with an alien adventure. For many the title NOPE is simply something that is comically repeated throughout the film as the characters face their fears. But on a deeper level, it is possibly an acronym for Not Of Planet Earth, which leads to the story. Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer are siblings who work on their family’s historical Hollywood horse ranch when a strange alien presence shows up to haunt and hunt in the remote area. Rather than leave or call in the authorities, they decide that they need to be able to show proof and possibly get rich off it. Just as in his previous outings, including the recent Candyman which he produced, the film hits creepy but never gets to scary. I firmly believe this is by design. Much of the audience will spend so much time trying to figure out what the film is actually about that they don’t have time to get frightened. That being said, there were some clever jumps before the film turned from potentially terrifying to just really interesting. In his various interviews, Peele has admitted that the film is about our reaction to spectacle. Some get caught up in it to their own demise (like the Trump cult) and some just want to sit back and watch in shock or disbelief. Personally, I think the film could have been better if it had less hidden meaning and just went all out for the scare-fest, but regardless, I couldn’t take my eyes or my mind off of it, and it is still sticking with me as I attempt to process what I just watched. B

Drive My Car: The Criterion Collection
Unrated but would be an R if rated
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

On Criterion Disc and streaming on HBO Max
Last year’s shocking Oscar surprise came when this 3 hour long Japanese drama popped nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, while winning Best International Feature and countless other critics groups awards. While it is currently streaming on HBO Max, if your curiosity makes you want to explore this quiet phenomenon even further, this Criterion Collection version provides tons of supplemental material including new interviews, a making-of doc and more. The story follows a theater director who suffers from a tragedy and then shortly after moves on to begin working on a new play. While he prefers to drive his own car, the theater company requires him to use the young female driver they have hired, forcing him to see his world from a different vantage point, deeply affecting his life and his art. If you have the time to invest, this is a really lovely and meaningful film with a rich storyline and an unconventional flow. It might be a bit on the artsy side for some audiences, but many will find it magical and perhaps cathartic. A

The Gray Man
Rated PG-13 for strong language and strong violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 48%
Streaming on Netflix

Billed as Netflix’s most expensive original film to date, The Gray Man, directed by the Russo Brothers (Avengers films) casts Ryan Gosling as a hitman working for Billy Bob Thornton and Rege-Jean Page who is pitted against another hitman played by Chris Evans when he comes across a flash drive full of stuff he shouldn’t have. If you like a massive amount of violence and action with just enough blood to not get an R rating, complete with loads of mindless action with characters you really don’t care about – then this one is for your. They try to make you feel slightly empathetic to Gosling as he is trying to protect Thornton’s teenage niece, but basically all the characters are bad guys that you wouldn’t mind seeing get a good death. The most interesting feature is Evans as the most villainous villain. His goofiness and sense of humor, along with his lack of a conscience and maybe even a soul, makes him the most memorable character in this largely unnecessary movie. C+