Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of June 29, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of June 29, 2020

Hamilton
Rated PG-13 for language and some suggestive material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100% at time of writing
Available on Disney+

In 2015, Lin-Manuel Miranda made Broadway history with this hip hop musical about the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton. Since it’s premier, it has gone on to become the most successful Broadway show of all time, both critically and financially, and while COVID-19 has slowed it down for now, up until March it was still selling out every show in New York and on tour with third-party tickets going for hundreds of dollars for bad seats and thousands for the good ones. Personally, I have seen it three times, once with the original cast, and I will freely admit that it is worth every penny and I would spend it again gladly when given the opportunity. In June of 2016 they decided to film the original cast over a period of several days, in the hope of releasing it in theaters. But the newish streaming app Disney+ wanted content and subsequently made a deal to launch this Fourth of July weekend, allowing the world to experience what life is like sitting on the front row of this epic show. And while there is nothing like the joy of seeing it live, this particular version is breathtakingly spectacular and captivating, allowing you to take in all of its greatness and raw emotion without having to take out a second mortgage on your home. It’s everything I was hoping it would be and quite honestly a generous gift to the starving patrons of live theater in need of some inspiration and pure pleasure. And for those of you who just can’t understand why the show has so many rabid fans – you are about to find out. A+

Summer of Spielberg: Week Five
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Rated PG (before PG-13 came to be)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Available on Netflix and paid streaming

In 1981, with a couple of hits under his belt, Stephen Spielberg knocked it out of the park with this mega hit, which he says was inspired deeply by the 1948 Bogart classic The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. When Tom Selleck was forced to drop out as the infamous Indiana Jones due to his conflicting Magnum P.I. scheduling, Spielberg and fellow creator George Lucas went to Harrison Ford, hot off his role of Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back, thus solidifying his name as arguably the greatest action/adventure star of the twentieth century. Here, the hero is sent by the government to try to discover and procure the lost Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis can get their hands on it. Loaded with almost non-stop action and an incredible script by Empire writer Lawrence Kasdan, it’s just a marvelous motion picture that is a blast to watch, no matter how many times you’ve seen it. And as someone who just watched it with a room full of first-time young viewers, I can attest that it still has a magnetic pull for the kids, even if it is as old or older than most of their parents.

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of June 22, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of June 22, 2020

Corpus Christi
Not Rated (But would be a solid R)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
On Disc and Streaming
In Polish with English Subtitles

This Oscar nominee for best foreign film follows the life of a young man, who upon leaving a detention center for committing murder, wants to be a priest, but is denied due to his criminal background. But when opportunity presents itself, he fakes his way into a small-town parish in a city that has just faced a horrible tragedy. At first glance you begin to think that this is going to be the Polish version of Sister Act without the humor, but it quickly shows you its true colors, allowing you to invest yourself more deeply in the main character’s flaws and strengths. At times, it is a very challenging and uncomfortable to watch, but it is hard to take your eyes off of it as the film takes a non-conventional pathway rather than conforming to its expected formula, which would have only served up a disappointment had they gone that direction. The end result is a disturbing film at times, but one that leaves you empathetic and interested in its hero’s plight. B+

South Park: Season 23
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 50%
Available on Disc and Hulu

This rather short and disjointed season of this Comedy Central staple tries to be as topical as previous seasons, but ends up with more misses than hits due to way too much time spent with the adventures of Randy and his Tegridy weed farm, which has more than worn out its welcome. But while there are some lame episodes here, there are some gems thrown in that are truly thought-provoking in their satire, like Mexican Joker which isn’t very funny, but uses the film Joker to show the real possibility of our recent border policy malfunctions. And then there is Shots!!! which is one of their all-time greats as Cartman turns into a squealing and elusive pig every time someone tries to give him his vaccinations. That one still has me in stitches. My advice – watch them all, but don’t expect too much and appreciate the good times when they pop up. B-

Summer of Spielberg: Week Four
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Rated PG for adventure action violence, some drunkeness and brief smoking
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 74%

Looking at his body of work, it appears that most of Spielberg’s movies are geared toward an American audience. But while Tintin, based on the comics of Belgian cartoonist Hergé, is an almost unknown character in the states, he is an icon in Europe, where the film launched months before it was introduced here, and took in the vast majority of its moderately large international box office haul. This collaboration between Spielberg and Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) follows a young journalist who, along with his faithful dog, follows a lead to a mystery that takes him around the world to stop a mad villain and discover a hidden treasure. For most of its 107 minutes, the film is a constant rollercoaster ride that barely lets you up for breath, and the action feels like it comes straight from the Indiana Jones franchise with dozens of close calls and convenient saves that, while highly unbelievable, offer up a gigantic amount of fun. While it is Rated PG, the film is way more violent than its rating, and also contains a surprising amount of adult-themed content, while still being fairly kid-friendly. If you are one who skipped this (and that is many of you considering its low U.S. box office), now is a great opportunity to catch up on one of his lesser-seen adventures.

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of June 15, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of June 15, 2020

Summer of Spielberg: Week Three
Minority Report
Rated PG-13 for violence, brief language, some sexuality and drug content
Available to stream on Netflix and Amazon Prime

Celebrating its 18th birthday this week is this seminal sci-fi detective flick where Tom Cruise plays the head of a police force called Precrime, responsible for arresting and locking up people who would have committed murder if it weren’t for the prediction that they would be committing it. But things go wrong when it is predicted that he will commit a murder, forcing him to escape his department’s clutches long enough to try to find out why they think he will do what he is predicted to do. It’s a real mind bender and Spielberg is in pure action mode with this one as there is hardly a moment’s rest to catch your breath. Based on a story by Philip K. Dick, the movie also does an admirable job at predicting, or maybe inventing, targeted advertising, self-driving cars and all forms of likely and believable future technology. And all this time later, it finds itself relevant due to our current exposure of the need for criminal reform. And while not among John Williams’s most notable scores by popularity, I urge you to find a more lovely melody than the main theme, which has a constant rotation on my movie scores playlist. While it might be a little rough for the little kids, I watched it with my family and they were glued for two-and-a-half hours without making me feel too guilty about the content.

Gladiator: 4K 20th Anniversary Edition
Rated R for intense graphic combat
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%
Available on Disc and On Demand

Until 2000, Australian actor Russell Crowe was just building up a nice acting resume when he was suddenly catapulted into superstardom with this role of a lifetime as Maximus, a Roman General whose life was all but stripped from him after the corrupt prince (Joaquin Phoenix) murders the emperor. But with his life still barely in tact, he becomes the slave that would defy an empire as he rises through the Gladiator ranks in his ultimate thirst for revenge and justice. Wining an Oscar for both actor and picture, the film now serves as a man cave favorite, with regular viewing whenever the urge comes over, which is fairly often. And while the movie is undeniably great, the character of Maximus is so fantastic that I even named my son after him. This new set comes with both the theatrical and extended versions in beautiful 4K, along with more bonus content than you could ever hope to watch.

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of June 8, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of June 8, 2020

The King of Staten Island
Rated R for language and drug use throughout, sexual content and some violence/bloody images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 74% at time of writing
Available On Demand

Comedian and SNL cast member Pete Davidson has been semi-controversial figure for years now as his personal life is almost better-known than his comedic abilities. But all of that is about to change, kind of. Two of the things Pete is best-known for, aside from his dating and break-up with Ariana Grande, is that he still lives at home with his mom and that his dad, a hero fireman, died on 9-11. So seemingly playing himself, Pete is now Scott, a young loser living at home with mom, constantly joking about his deceased dad. But then the story becomes so much more as the movie evolves into a carefully thoughtful comedy about our society, mental illness, millennials and complex relationships. The movie almost seems to be a therapy session for Pete as he tries to work out his own personal issues on screen. And in the end, regardless if it’s really acting or not, Pete is quite perfect for the part and the whole thing ends up packing a nice punch. When the credits roll, you want to give the guy a hug, and you might feel as if you just had. Of course it helps to have a director and co-writer such as Judd Apatow behind the project. Judd has done similar work Adam Sandler in Funny People and Amy Schumer in Trainwreck, where the characters play facsimiles of themselves to the point where we feel we intimately know them, even though their real lives are likely very different and we see what they want us to see. Real or fake, Judd is brilliant at making this kind of film, because he doesn’t try to exploit the characters, but rather helps us to understand their perceived strengths, weaknesses and flaws. Here in The King of Staten Island, the comedy is rich with huge laughs throughout, but the drama gives it a gravity you just don’t expect. And while I’m sure this film would have been a huge hit had it been released in theaters this summer, as I’m sure was the original intention, it’s the first film for adults this summer that I can heartily endorse as you consider paying a little more to watch what should have cost you a small fortune to see in theaters. A-

Summer of Spielberg: Week Two
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Rated PG
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
Available on Netflix and On Demand

Celebrating its 38th Anniversary this week is this most captivating of Spielberg’s films, and, in my opinion, the movie that made him an icon. It certainly was the film that created my love for movies, as it was for many of my fellow critics if you ask them, especially those in my age group. For those of you who skipped or missed the 80’s, here a young boy named Elliott discovers an alien in his backyard who has been left behind on Earth. Forming an inseparable connection, the two have quite the adventure until the government discovers E.T., threatening their relationship and their lives. It is a purely magical experience, and while I have probably seen the film literally more than a hundred times, it never gets old. Along for the ride with Spielberg again, towards the beginning of their long-lived synergy, is composer John Williams who created here, again in my opinion, the greatest piece of orchestral music since Gershwin’s April in Paris. My suggestion: buy a family size Reese’s Pieces, along with some hot popcorn, crank up the sound, and watch your kids get blown away as you bike down memory lane.

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of June 1, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of June 1, 2020

One thing that COVID-19 is hugely responsible for is limiting what a film critic can review. When films are delayed in theaters, that eventually spreads to home entertainment which leads us to finding something else to write about. Just as you are probably having troubles entertaining your brood – I’ve had to resort to history for mine. So starting this first week of June, I think it’s time to revisit the ultimate summer director: Steven Spielberg. Sure, this isn’t exactly looking to be a magical summer – but Spielberg is movie magic personified, so maybe for two or more hours at a time – it’s worth revisiting, or, even better, introducing your family to the magic we grew up with.

Summer of Spielberg: Week One
Jaws: 45th Anniversary Limited Edition
Rated PG (but not really since ratings weren’t what they are today)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%

It’s only fitting that the one movie that most people are comparing to the Coronavirus (since some of us are oh so cautious to get back in the water) is this classic about a great white shark that wants a piece of a small town in New England. 45 years ago started our fear of sharks that has only grown to this day. The great thing about this film is not what you see, but what you don’t. When the film was being made, the studio was sweating it because the mechanical shark was supposed to chew up some major screen time. But when the shark didn’t work correctly, day after day, week after week, it forced the filmmakers to sit around and rewrite a killer script that relied much more on suspense than violence, only helped by John William’s Oscar-winning score featuring two notes that live in our worst dreams. It’s a magnificent summer frightener that only gets better with age. And with it now in a beautifully-restored 4K release, its perfect for sending your kids to bed knowing they might not get the best sleep. I’m kinda kidding. But not really.

Top Gun: 4K
Rated PG (once again – ratings have changed)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 54%

Also now available in a new 4K cut is this high-flying action pic starring Tom Cruise from way back before we knew he was crazy. Here he stars as a young hot shot in pilot training who wants to be the best flier in the navy. With amazing aerial effects and an iconic soundtrack which seems way louder on this new version, it’s a perfect time to revisit this classic movie (can’t believe I’m saying that) before the long-awaited sequel comes out this December, after being pushed back from June 24. Sure its the not the critical darling you probably thought it was, and it is indeed super cheesy and contains tons of plot holes (ever wonder why there weren’t hundreds of pilots who would have graduated Top Gun Academy in the preceding decades that couldn’t have taken on the Russian threat), but that punch you remember it packing before is still there, and aside from the love scene that doesn’t seem very PG-rated, it is a fun one to remind the younglings that lots of big tentpole movies actually used to be quite entertaining back in the day when they didn’t need computers for effects.

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of May 18, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of May 18, 2020

The Trip to Greece
Rated NR (but equivalent to an R)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86% (at the time of writing)
Available on Streaming

Until a few months ago, I was going to be in Greece this summer, but, like most of you, my plans were suddenly cancelled. So as a consolation prize comes this fourth comedy in the series by writer/director Michael Winterbottom about two friends (Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon), playing themselves, who take a trip to Greece together to take in the food and the culture, while discussing their careers, lives and favorite movies. Having traveled with them to England, Italy and Spain, this new voyage is much of the same, which is a wonderful thing. Their vulnerabilities, passions and ego on full display, make us feel like we are not only just sitting at the table with them, but getting to know them as well, even if the film is scripted. And while they aren’t always likable, they most definitely come across as humans with a story that is believable, beautiful and heartbreaking. I loved this one as much as I did the first three, and hope to travel with them again in the future, hopefully when we are all traveling again ourselves. For now this will have to serve as an escapist fantasy. A-

Emma.
Rated PG for brief partial nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Having been done many times over, this Jane Austin classic about a young matchmaker who gets into many pickles while trying to manager her own love life, gets a vibrant facelift with this new adaptation. With an unknown director and writer (Autumn de Wilde and Eleanor Catton) and a relatively unknown cast including Anya Taylor-Joy as Emma and Johnny Flynn as George, the film had a long road to haul even without COVID-19, which killed its theatrical run. At first the film seems to shock the system when expecting a traditional Jane Austin flick. But the movie grows on you as the talent becomes apparent and the incredible production values start to shine. By the end, I liked the story, but I absolutely loved the costumes, sets and panache on display, to the extent that I will predict that the movie might just take home a couple of Oscars come next year. I found myself evolving in thought about the film, while I was watching, until I walked away smiling and feeling enriched. A-

The Way Back
Rated R for language throughout including some sexual references
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Once upon a time, Jack Cunningham (Ben Affleck) was a legendary high school basketball player with a bright future deflated. But when his former high school asks him to come back to coach their losing team, he must find a way to pull himself out of his alcoholic depression to not only save a team destined to be failures, but maybe save himself as well. Affleck reminds us here that there is substance to his ability while at the same time bringing a tremendous amount of empathy to a character he admittedly has a real-life connection to. But it helps to have a such a tremendous director in Gavin O’Connor (Warrior, Miracle), who knows how to tell a story using sports as merely a vehicle to put humanity on full display. Without a lot to show for 2020 thus far (this week is pretty awesome admittedly), The Way Back is still the best movie I’ve seen this year. A

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of May 11, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of May 11, 2020

The Photograph
Rated PG-13 for sexuality and brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%
Available on Disc and Streaming

When a famous photographer dies, she leaves her estranged daughter (Issa Rae) upset and full of questions. But when one of her photographs is discovered, it sets her off on a journey into her mother’s past, of self-discovery and a romance with a promising journalist (LaKeith Stanfield) covering her mother’s story. I had never heard of this film before, so going in blind, I didn’t know what to expect. But as I traveled through the story with Rae leading the way, I found myself moved and empathetic to all of its large cast of characters and their plights. It is a beautiful romance that might be more attractive to female audiences than male, but still worth a watch from anyone who in in the mood or those who enjoy the genre. While it might be a little on the quiet side, it is certainly not boring, but rather just incredibly thoughtful. A-

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, and some sexual and drug material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%
Available on Disc and Streaming

When we were first introduced to Margot Robbie’s version of Harley Quinn back in 2016’s Suicide Squad, I think most of us loved the actress and the character, but the material wasn’t exactly a great opportunity to shine. But with her new R-rated solo project, she is given the chance to prove there is something there worth watching. Here Batman villain Harley Quinn has just broken up with Joker and, telling the story herself, turns unlikely hero as she attempts to protect a young thief from the even worse villain Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) when he puts a target on her head. As expected, Robbie is exceptional as Harley Quinn. With a vibe much like Deadpool, she is a welcome addition to every scene, with a huge over-the-top presence that sparks joy. But while her character works, the other female fighters of her group pale in comparison with underwhelming abilities that only occasionally impress, and then only with the writing. The only teammate of hers I actually enjoyed watching was her pet Hyena. But still – there is a good time to be had here, even if it is fleeting. B-

Vivarium
Rated R for language and some sexuality
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%
Available on Disc and Streaming

In 2019 Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots teamed for the extremely weird indie “The Art of Self Defense.” Now they are back together in an even stranger drama, and if you didn’t know better, you would swear this tale came from the same writer and director. Vivarium tells the tale about a young couple who move into a nightmare cookie cutter house only to find out they are completely alone with nothing but the same house and view eternally stretching out in all directions. Along the way a fast-growing baby appears whom they must raise, along with questions of purpose, reality and sanity. At first this appears to be biblical allegory, much like Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” And while not quite as alienating or upsetting, Vivarium still comes off as almost too uniquely bizarre to be enjoyed by a wide audience. That being said, it is at least memorable and another nice showcase for the duo. I didn’t hate it, but at the same time I wasn’t exactly dying to tell anyone about it afterward either. C+

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of May 4, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of May 4, 2020

Bloodshot
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, some suggestive material and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 30%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Vin Diesel stars in this comic book adaptation about a soldier who dies in battle, only to wake up as a government super-solider who is almost unstoppable. The movie hit theaters with a thud in mid-march due to COVID-19 and immediately went to streaming for $20 a pop to try to help recoup its large investment. Technically the film looks great, with bigger than life set pieces and decent effects. It also helps to have a supporting cast like Sam Heughan and Guy Pearce. Where the movie ultimately fails is its inability to deliver a final product on footing with its dark tone. In order to make this a genesis story for a hopeful big franchise, the studio decided to make this a PG-13 picture, probably to pick up a younger audience. But it’s not PG-13 material and that really hurts it in the end. Also, it so desperately wants to be Iron Man (and even scored the Iron Man 3 villain in a similar role) that it becomes overly predictable throughout its entirety. But in the end, it almost works, and just might find an audience with such a small amount of competition out there. C

Extraction
Rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, language and brief drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%
Available on Netflix

We may not be getting a string of big theatrical releases priming us for a big tentpole summer, but Netflix surely threw out a surprise with its new big-budget actioner starring Chris Hemsworth as an Australian mercenary who is hired to retrieve a drug lord’s kidnapped son in Bangladesh. The film looks and feels like it could have been a moderate hit in theaters, as it is original and interesting enough to keep you engaged throughout. Personally, I loved the setting and the villains, as they both felt new and different from what we are used to, giving the film a novel edge, even though we’ve seen this story before many times. And you can’t beat the leading man as Hemsworth is perfect in this role, delivering a flawed hero worthy of spending two hours with. By the end, it is basically still a mindless and extremely violent action film, but one that many folks will enjoy, especially since they get to watch from the comfort of their own home. B

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of April 20, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of April 20, 2020

The Gentlemen
Rated R for violence, language throughout, sexual references and drug content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 74%
Available on Disc and Streaming

The extremely versatile writer/director Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes, Aladdin) is back to his British gangster film roots with this new highly stylistic crime thriller/comedy about an American Marijuana kingpin in London (Matthew McConaughey) who wishes to cash out his business. But this sale triggers all sorts of vile plots from the people of the London underworld. With a great script and Ritchie’s unique style of filmmaking, the movie proves to be a hilarious dark comedy with lots of surprises and unexpected enjoyment. But what really makes this film shine are the juicy characters, played by a terrific cast. With Charlie Hunnam, Colin Farrell, Hugh Grant and others you’ll instantly recognize, all who fully inhabit their weird little violent world, you tend to get lost in the urban jungle, dying to see who will get it next and in what crazy manner. This is definitely one of the bright spots of 2020 so far. A-

Underwater
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and terror, and for brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 48%
Available on Disc and Streaming

This Alien knockoff starring Kristen Stewart and Vincent Cassel follows a group of underwater researchers who uncover scary monsters after an earthquake damages their deepwater laboratory. The plot of a small group of people stuck in a small space far from home with creatures trying to get them is still quite popular. Dozens of films have attempted to recreate this scenario, from 1989’s Leviathan to 2017’s Life. But even the decent ones still have a tough time capturing an audience, and this new one definitely busted a pipe. Here the actors are good enough and take the material seriously, but the movie comes across as too dark yet insufficiently scary, with too many been there, done that moments throughout. And while the budget was fairly high, the creature effects were surprisingly underwhelming. It’s one saving grace is that it is PG-13, so fairly benign for teenage audiences. C-

Like a Boss
Rated R for language, crude sexual material, and drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 21%
Available on Disc and Streaming

This new raunch-com stars Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne as two BFF’s whose friendship is put to the test as they prepare to sell their cosmetics company to a giant corporation run by Salma Hayek. Haddish is hit and miss with me, but Byrne is usually rock solid, providing an anchor to the comedic material she attaches herself to. But in this misfire, hardly a thing is funny, believable or enjoyable. The raunch doesn’t provide any humor and only seems to serve as shock value or possibly just a way to elevate the movie to an R rating, which might have hurt it. By the end, this feels like a group of amateurs got lucky with an A cast and didn’t know what to do with them. D-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of April 13, 2020

Trolls World Tour
Rated PG for some mild rude humor
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%
Available for streaming

Several movies recently have decided to forgo theatrical runs, or at least head to streaming early, but this sequel to the very popular Trolls film is the first major tentpole to do so and they are counting on a very large audience shelling out $20 to rent from home. Will it work? Who knows. But is it worth it? That’s what I’m here to discuss. The story takes place after the events of the last film where Princess Poppy discovers that there are five other Troll tribes, all with differing types of music from her pop (funk, country, techno, classical and rock). So she goes on a journey to find the princess of rock to make friends. But the rock princess wants to take over the other tribes and make all music rock, forcing a weird war of color and musical variety. First off, this has the look and feel of a big film, which is strange to watch first at home, but it is the times. The animation is absolutely mesmerizing to look at and admire. Also, the story is whacky and unpredictable, sometimes in a good way and sometimes in a way that feels like they are making it up as they go along. But at least the jokes are frequently funny and the voice talent is top notch. That being said, the plot around the six strings is ridiculous and while the very heart of the story revolves around music being different and the need for acceptance and appreciation of different musical cultures, in the end, all of the music is pop. It’s one thing to play Ozzy Osbourne (who also voices the king of rock), but if it sounds like Kidzbop – something went wrong. Then again – the main audience is kids so not only will they not care but they might just be singing along with you in the car next time you turn on Crazy Train or Barracuda. So in my mind, it is well-worth the $20 rental – but do it right. Turn off the lights, put away the phones, get a ton of soda and popcorn and make an evening out of it! B

Just Mercy
Rated PG-13 for thematic content including some racial epithets
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
Available on Disc and Streaming

One film that should have been an awards contender last year is this true story about a talented young Harvard-educated lawyer (Michael B. Jordan) who moves to Alabama to defend wrongly-condemned prisoners who were not afforded proper representation. When he discovers a death row inmate (Jamie Foxx) who might be innocent, he puts his practice and his very life on the line to give him the defense he deserves. If you are into legal dramas or films about social injustices, this is a great one. From start to finish, the story is riveting as it makes a great case for reform within our legal and correctional systems. On top of that, the A-list cast is tremendous as is the storytelling. My only guess on why Warner Brothers dropped the ball on promoting was that it was too busy touting Joker and Richard Jewell and Just Mercy was unfortunately the odd man out. But whatever the reason it got overlooked, this is an important story worth checking out now that you can watch at home. A-

The Rhythm Section
Rated R for violence, sexual content, language throughout, and some drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 28%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Blake Lively stars as a woman on the road to self-destruction after her family is killed in a plane crash. But after she discovers that the crash was a terrorist attack, she trains to be an assassin, determined to kill the people responsible. I have to admit that I’ve been impressed with Blake lately and she has proven worthy of headlining material like this. And with a supporting cast including Jude Law and Sterling K. Brown, the acting is obviously isn’t the problem here. What doesn’t work is that the story proves to be one let down after another as you meander until the bitter end. It just doesn’t capture the attention to the level needed, and by the end it is just too easy to become apathetic. It was a good try, but a failed shot. C