Popcorn Perspectives – Week of September 25, 2017

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

September 25, 2017

Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Rated R for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout and some sexual material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 50%
In this sequel to the surprisingly successful Kingsman: The Secret Service, mens tailor and British super-agent Eggsy (Taron Egerton) must travel to America to work with his American allies to face the world’s biggest drug kingpin (Julianne Moore). As in the first, the film is highly stylized and extremely violent. The violence is kept tongue-in-cheek in order to provide a comedic feel, making the film closer to an action comedy than a true spy thriller. For fans of the first, there is a huge sense of humor with the ridiculousness abounding, but here they do tend to almost go too far and they gloss over some huge holes in the plot like they aren’t even there. And while Moore is quirky bad guy, she doesn’t come close to Samuel L. Jackson’s super-villain Richmond Valentine (safely disposed of in the first film). So for guilty pleasure purposes, the film provides a fun couple of hours, but ultimately fails to match its superior freshman outing. B-

Transformers: The Last Knight
Rated PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of sci-fi action, language, and some innuendo
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 15%
For their fifth installment, Michael Bay’s robot universe is back and this time a hidden history holds the secrets that could protect Earth from certain destruction. It is quite apparent that they’ve stopped trying to apply any sense of logic or reason to the stories, so the script feels like something a couple of kids on the playground would put together while playing with their plastic figures. Of course you get the sexy male and female leads with Mark Wahlberg and Isabela Moner, and Anthony Hopkins attempts to add some credibility (while stripping from his own), but once again we just get a loud, metallic mess with great special effects that you can’t wait to stop looking at. The one bright moment comes with Hopkin’s servant robot who provides some rather big laughs to help you take your mind off the senseless plot while they attempt to explain it to you. C-

David Lynch: The Art Life – The Criterion Collection
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Writer/director David Lynch (Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet) allows his life to be inspected in order to explore the pivotal moments that made him who he is today as an artist, a filmmaker and a person. With stock footage of his life growing up, as well as glimpses of him working in his art studio, the film gives, what I would consider to be, a very accurate look at the eclectic man. The film is weird for sure, but interesting for the right audience. But to say this isn’t a film for everyone is an understatement to rule all understatements. While sometimes you feel like you are peeking into the life of an artist, there are other other moments when you feel like you are visually eavesdropping on a madman. B-

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of September 18, 2017

Popcorn Perspectives by Danny Minton

Week of September 18, 2017

mother!
Rated R for strong disturbing violent content, some sexuality, nudity and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%
There will likely not be as divisive of a film this year as writer/director Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! The proof of this is in the relatively high Rotten Tomatoes critics score while having a rare F from the audience-driven Cinemascore. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play a young married couple who are trying to put their lives back together after a disaster took their house. But what has audiences angry is that it is not at all about that. In fact the narrative is completely metaphorical. It’s like a long, confusing parable where Jesus doesn’t stop to explain its meaning afterward. From what I could piece together, the story is biblical allegory from a twisted point of view. But it is so cryptic that it will take countless viewings and hours of study to fully comprehend and appreciate. Someday I might put in the time, but for now, for me, this pic is going back on the shelf to be opened at a later date when I have time to waste and I’m more in the mood. B-

The Vietnam War
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
For over 30 years documentarian Ken Burns has given us some of the greatest visions and classic storytelling of American history. In this new 10 part, 18-hour docuseries from PBS, Burns focuses on the large and small of the Vietnam War, from its causes and forces, to the people who fought in it (on both sides), to the families suffering at home while their loved ones were suffering and dying. While this terrible war has been looked at from many angles, this will no doubt be considered to be the most definitive and epic commentary on the war available to date. And while the length may scare some off, it is surprisingly binge-worthy as you process what you know from what you don’t and attempt to put it all together in your brain. A+

The Big Sick
Rated R for language including some sexual references
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
This autobiographical comedy from Pakistani actor Kumail Nanjiani tells his story about being a young stand-up comedian whose ex-girlfriend (Zoe Kazan) gets sick and goes into a coma as he and her parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter) draw close while hoping and waiting for her to recover. It is sweet and endearing while also being hysterical and thought-provoking. It is certainly one of the highlights of 2017 so far. A

Wonder Woman
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
After her first appearance in the rather lousy Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I was worried that this film would be equally bad. But director Patty Jenkins pulled off a minor miracle by giving the Amazonian princess a terrific origin story wrapped up in a fast-paced and well-made movie. Gal Gadot is perfect as Wonder Woman, in spite of my well-deserved concerns, and I actually look forward to seeing what comes next for her. A-

Captain Underpants: The Epic First Movie
Rated PG for mild rude humor throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
In spite of great reviews from both critics and audiences, as well as a large base of fans of their kids graphic novels, this animated superhero flick landed with a relative thud in theaters. But I can certainly understand why. From the outside, this tale of two elementary-aged friends who convert their mean principle into an underwear-clad caped crusader in order to fight a villain known as Professor Poopypants seems like a mindless onslaught of potty humor. And maybe it is a little. But it is also a wildly creative adventure with smart writing and great voice talent with Kevin Hart and Ed Helms as the best friends. With theaters so devoid right now of good content for children, the timing couldn’t be more perfect for this home release. B

Popcorn Perspectives – September 12, 2017

Popcorn Perspectives

September 12, 2017

It
Rated R for violence/horror, bloody images and for language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
The horror phenomenon from Stephen King finally gets its big screen debut, 31 years after its initial book release, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. It seems that the scary clown, most likely popularized by his original book, is scarier than ever, and in this case a group of young friends, looking for one of their members’ missing brothers, come face to face with Pennywise the clown, a monster determined to wreak havoc on the town of Derry, Maine. While the first few minutes are absolutely terrifying, the rest of the film is merely effectively creepy, which plays in its favor. Because of the great screenplay and even better casting of complete unknowns, the film has a feel much more like “Stand By Me” or “Stranger Things” than the nightmare-ridden story most of us are familiar with. In this case it works phenomenally well, leaving you thoroughly engaged rather than shaking in your boots. B+

Beatriz at Dinner
Rated R for language and a scene of violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%
Salma Hayek is a masseuse whose car breaks down at her client’s home, where she is invited to a big dinner with the very Trump-like John Lithgow, a greedy real estate developer with a very differing political, ethical and moral point of view from her own. With a quiet confidence, she attempts to take down and change the group until their darkness overwhelms her. Mike White’s screenplay doesn’t immediately let on to its dark undertones, but I mention them here as it was kind of an unwelcome surprise. Or maybe that was the intent. Either way, the dialog is riveting and the performances by Hayek and Lithgow are terrific. The arch of the story isn’t a letdown but it is unsettling, so I will be honest that my thoughts might change over time on this one. B+

It Comes at Night
Rated R for violence, disturbing images, and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Texas filmmaker Trey Edward Shults (Krisha) follows up his huge 2015 SXSW winner with this pseudo horror film about a post-apocalyptic world where husband and father Joel Egerton and family live safely in their well-protected home, hiding from whatever it is out there, until he allows a young family to seek refuge in their hiding spot. While not exactly terrifying, it turns out to be a nice little psychological drama, focusing on the interpersonal relationships rather than the boogeyman, whatever that might be. B-

The Mummy
Rated PG-13 for violence, action and scary images, and for some suggestive content and partial nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 16%
Universal Studios really wants to get this monster movie thing going again and in this case they throw a huge budget at The Mummy by bringing on Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe (as Dr. Henry Jeckyll). Unfortunately, the script is a mess and not worthy of the money backing it, leaving the audience with a confusing and less-than-entertaining tentpole. They rely on huge set pieces, when what they needed was a more convincing villain and a better sense of humor. This week “It” proved that audiences want monster movies. The failure of The Mummy proves that they want good ones. C-

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial 4K Ultra HD Edition
Rated PG for language and mild thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
Now that the studios are re-releasing our favorite films on Ultra-HD, I’m sure they fully hope that we go back and re-purchase our library in the latest and greatest format. I’ll admit that I have bitten for a few titles, but none so much as E.T., the film that is most responsible for my love of cinema. This is the same E.T. we have always loved, following the adventures of a young boy and his alien discovery. But this new version, as expected, looks and sounds more amazing than ever. So while I have promised my wife that I won’t start over on a brand-new movie collection, especially now that everything is going to streaming, this is a title I can’t resist. A+

New in Home Entertainment – September 5, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

September 5, 2017

Meagan Leavey
Rated PG-13 for war violence, language, suggestive material, and thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
Based on her true-life story, Meagan Leavey (played by Kate Mara) is a lost soul who joins the marines in order to find direction. That direction comes in the form of a German Shepherd named Sgt Rex. Completing more than 100 missions in the Middle East together, they bond in a way that makes their lives difficult when their time together is over. The story is fascinating and they put together an excellent cast of supporting actors including Bradley Whitford and Edie Falco in order to tell it well. While it succeeds in getting its points across, it does get overly sentimental and sappy. But it also honors an American hero in a way that will make you have greater appreciation for our dogs in service. B-

Disneynature: Born in China
Rated G
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
The newest project in Disney’s Earth Day nature documentary series goes to China to show the lives of pandas, golden monkeys and snow leopards. Like other films in the series, the narrator (this time out its John Krasinski) gives an ongoing story for each of the animals and their struggle to survive. While these stories come across as a bit cheesy, they should keep the kids engaged while you revel in the beautiful photography and stunning shots that I would have to imagine were more than difficult to capture. It’s an impressive film that is very easy to enjoy. B+

Daredevil: Season 2
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 74%
While The Avengers have been dominating the big screen, Netflix has given us some excellent Marvel heroes on the small screen as well. And if you belong to the small percentage of non-Netflix subscribers, they are releasing several of their shows this week on Blu-ray and DVD. While not as strong as the first season, this second season featuring the blind lawyer/crimefighter takes the complexity up a notch by adding in Electra and The Punisher as each attempts to clean up Hell’s Kitchen in their own way. While the overall story arch gets muddled with too many ingredients, and sometimes the script and secondary actors prove to be less than impressive, the action is thrilling and the whole thing is rather fun, if you are into this sort of thing. Note to parents, these new Netflix Marvel shows are not meant for young kids. While they technically aren’t rated, they would be considered a soft R due to violence, language and sexual content. B

Narcos: Season 2
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Also from Netflix comes this intense drama chronicling the rise and fall of the legendary drug lord Pablo Escobar. In this second season, life becomes increasingly more difficult for the kingpin as not only are the US and Columbian governments hot on his tail – now rival drug lords want to take him out as well. This is a brutal show loaded with great storytelling and a talented cast to tell it. And if you are wondering why you should buy the blu-ray when you have access to Netflix – they threw in some great special features including an intriguing documentary and an audio commentary. A-

New in Home Entertainment – August 22, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

August 22, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
Starlord (Chris Pratt) and his crew of misfits are back again and in a lot of trouble for stealing from the wrong aliens when his father (played by Kurt Russell) comes into the picture to save the day, or maybe make things worse. Just like most of the galaxy, I was blown away by the original Marvel film two years ago. It was fresh, funny, thrilling and surprising. But it also left some humongous shoes to fit into for any inevitable sequels. Here they try to keep the comedic spirit alive almost too much, but I do admire the attempt. Its tongue-in-cheek nature gets in its own way, but it only seldomly loses its charm. As for story – it’s way too long and full of itself, but it does give you a better understanding of Quill’s world from many angles. I was a little distraught that the first film was relatively kid-friendly, but this one takes the language and innuendo up a very large notch. But then they give us baby Groot to somewhat neutralize it. B-

Snatched
Rated R for crude sexual content, brief nudity, and language throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 35%
Amy Schumer plays an entitled and dense blonde who takes her mother (Goldie Hawn) to Ecuador on a vacation after her boyfriend breaks up with her and none of her friends want to go with her. Once there, they get kidnapped and must find a way to escape and safely make it to the embassy in Columbia. Unlike her first feature Trainwreck, this film is a real mess that doesn’t work either as a comedy or an adventure. The jokes are somewhat pathetic attempts at humor and while there are a few chuckles here and there, the picture fails over and over again. Schumer and Hawn should have never made this film and it could really end up doing damage to both of their careers. D

Baywatch
Rated R for language throughout, crude sexual content, and graphic nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 19%
Yet another failed Rated R comedy from the summer is this attempt at bringing the campy TV hit to the screen with the very lovable Dwayne Johnson in the lead and the also lovable Zac Efron right behind him. Just like Snatched, the movie fails as both a comedy and as an action pic. It is slow, boring, unfunny, and most unfortunately – not sexy. Unlike Snatched, the film probably won’t hurt the careers of Johnson or Efron as they’ve built up enough Hollywood capital – but they need to be more careful at what crappy scripts they pick or these kinds of projects can have the ability to put them in the toilet. D

New in Home Entertainment – August 15, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

August 15, 2017

Alien: Covenant
Rated R for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%
Original Alien director Ridley Scott brings us this Prometheus sequel/Alien prequel that follows a group of terraformers as they put off their mission in order to investigate an unknown planet. When they get there they discoverer the synthetic human David (again played by Michael Fassbender) alone in what used to be some sort of major civilization. I am very mixed on this film. It has really great potential and a highly intelligent theme. After all, the question of how we came to be and why has defined mankind since their existence on the planet. But there are so many stupid plot devices, just as we saw in Prometheus. Perhaps the sloppiest of these was the catalyst scene which shows the first infection. After all, these folks are on a mission that could not have been deviated by an interesting planet. And also, you wear a helmet not just for the oxygen, but to also keep away potentially dangerous pathogens from an unknown planet. Just because you can breathe doesn’t mean you are free to inhale the natives. And these folks would have known that. These types of flaws take me out of the film when they could easily be thought through and corrected. C+

Chuck
Rated R for language throughout, drug use, sexuality/nudity and some bloody images
Rotten Tomatoes Score 79%
In the seventies, boxer Chuck Wepner had a promising career, a loving wife and kid and and he was even Sylvester Stallone’s inspiration for Rocky. But between stupid life choices, like cheating on his wife and using (and selling) drugs, he managed to throw it all away. Here Lieb Schrieber portrays the could-have-been famous fighter as he unravels his life. The acting is quite good here with a tremendously talented cast including Schreiber’s real-life wife Naomi Watts, Jim Gaffigan and Elisabeth Moss. But the acting isn’t the problem here. Watching a man throw away his life has never been the secret to a successful box office. And while most of the writing is good, the third act throws away the fight as it loses momentum and can’t find a way to safely get from point B to point C without looking wimpy. The story tries to land a feel good punch at the end, but it is a little underwhelming to say the least. B-

How to Be a Latin Lover
Rated PG-13 for crude humor, sexual references and gestures, and for brief nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 38%
Upon first seeing this trailer I couldn’t believe that this film was actually hitting real theaters and that it was doing so with such a great cast including Salma Hayek, Rob Lowe, Kristen Bell, Rob Cordry, Rob Riggle and Michael Cera. The film, directed by Ken Marino, follows a once-suave Latino man (Eugenio Derbez) who is dumped by his much older and much richer wife. In an attempt to woo another rich senior, he enlists his young nephew who he must teach to be as sexy as he is. While the story is very flawed and entirely stupid, the amazing ensemble of actors put in their best and they look like they are having fun in the process. So while I would have normally hated this film, I found myself chuckling under my breath and surprised at my lack of harsh judgment. C+

New in Home Entertainment – August 1, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

August 1, 2017

Colossal
Rated R for language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
Anne Hathaway is a writer who has lost her way. When her boyfriend breaks up with her, she moves from New York City back to her small hometown where she is able to reconnect with an old friend (Jason Sudeikis). Then one day she wakes up to discover that a giant monster has attacked Seoul, South Korea, and to make matters worse, and weirder, she discovers that she controls the every move of this monster. The daring creativity on display is a stunning example of an imagination gone wild. Yes it’s a little crazy and sure you have to constantly ask yourself “what is this?,” but the further you go through the rabbit hole the better it gets. B+

Going in Style
Rated PG-13 for
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 46%
When three retired friends (Oscar winners Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin) discover they are going to lose their pension, they risk everything by deciding to rob a bank in order to safely make it through their golden years and stick it to the man. With all of this talent, including the usually great director Zach Braff, you’d think you were looking at a classic caper comedy. But instead you get a stale adventure that is way too light on laughs. It’s a great thought but poor execution. C+

New in Home Entertainment – July 25, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

July 25, 2017

Kong: Skull Island
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 76%
It was only 12 years ago when Universal gave us Peter Jackson’s terrific vision of King Kong, but in an attempt to rebuild a monster movie franchise, they are at it again. This time Kong is much bigger, and the bad guys are the humans trying to kill him, led by Samuel L Jackson. Meanwhile, the heroes, led by Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers) and Brie Larson (Room) try desperately to escape from Skull Island while at the same time keeping the giant ape alive. It’s a fun enough popcorn movie with tons of action and some really great effects. It also has an impressive sense of humor due to the antics of the always great and goofy John C. Reilly. Overall I’m excited to see what Universal does as they prepare to pair up Kong with Godzilla for a big monster mash up. B

Ghost in the Shell
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, suggestive content and some disturbing images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 45%
Based on the Japanese manga of the same name, Ghost stars Scarlett Johansson as a robot with a human brain who is programmed to be a leader in an anti-terrorist military unit. The film itself is beautiful to look at but lacks the screenplay and the vision necessary to pull it off. The actors are definitely well-chosen, but there is an awkward spirit to the film (no pun intended) that keeps it from achieving greatness. Perhaps its the PG-13 rating that holds it back from reaching its potential. Or maybe they just put too much emphasis on production rather than the substance of the story. C+

New in Home Entertainment – July 17, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

July 17, 2017

The Lost City of Z
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, brief strong language and some nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Based on the non-fiction best-seller by David Grann, The Lost City of Z follows the legacy left by British officer and explorer Percy Fawcett, as he attempts to discover a mythical city off of the unexplored Amazon in the early twentieth century. Charlie Hunnam turns in a solid performance as the adventurer, but Sienna Miller as his wife shines in a stellar supporting role. While the film is disjointed and largely unfocused, historically it has value and helps us better understand the lives of those who first explored South America. B

The Promise
Rated PG-13 for thematic material including war atrocities, violence and disturbing images, and for some sexuality
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 50%
Inspired by true events, The Promise carries a bad title but an impressive resume, as it tells the story of a sort-of love triangle between an Armenian medical student (Oscar Isaac), an AP journalist (Christian Bale) and a young woman caught in the middle (Charlotte Le Bon), all set against the Armenian genocide in the early 20th century. Written and directed by Terry George (Hotel Rwanda), the film plays like a big saga, but with little chemistry between any of its leads, and a story that lacks the emotional punch it should carry, you end up with an historical epic that is much better at the history part than the actual story-telling. It could have been, and should have been, great. C+

 

 

New in Home Entertainment – July 11, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

July 11, 2017

Okja
Not Rated but would be an R due to language and violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
Available on Netflix
With the success they have seen in television-style shows, Netflix has been pumping money into movies and Okja is one of their very high-profile projects of the year. Written and directed by South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercer, The Host), and executive produced by Brad Pitt, Okja is a story about a meat processing company who creates a super pig to meet the world’s meat demands and thus creates a worldwide competition for best pig to see which country comes out on top. In this case, a South Korean girl raises one of these pigs (named Okja) and over 10 years has become best friends with it. When the company tries to take Okja back, the girl, along with an animal liberation group, attempt to steal the pig from the corporation. This is a wildly creative story which is well-told with impressive CG effects. What I found most fascinating was the terrific cast. While half of the film is in Korean with unfamiliar actors, the English-speaking cast includes Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins and others. One final note – before you put this on for the kids, please note that this is not for them. Honestly, they could have made an ET-like version of the film with the language and some violence removed, but this project would be considered a strong R if rated. A-

The Zookeeper’s Wife
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, disturbing images, brief sexuality, nudity and smoking
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 61%
Based on the novel by Diane Ackerman, which is based on a true Holocaust story, Jessica Chastain is the wife a zookeeper in Warsaw who houses Jews in their zoo after the Nazis exterminate their animals. At its heart it is a remarkable story, but here it is poorly told. Director Niki Caro (Whale Rider) seems to be phoning it in and the narrative suffers as the film moves through its paces. This should have been a much better, much more emotionally exhausting piece, and instead we just have a better glimpse of an unfamiliar group of heroes. B-

Straw Dogs: The Criterion Collection
Rated R
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Back in 1971, this Sam Peckinpah film starring Dustin Hoffman as an American mathematician fighting off a group of crazed locals at his British cottage was considered an uber-violent thriller. And while it is still rather gory, by today’s standards it is not unsettling so. But still, I love its dark demeanor and Hoffman’s understated performance as the meek math geek who is competent and calm as he takes on the bad guys. That being said, the rape scene is a misogynistic nightmare that could never be filmed in the present and would have improved the original tremendously had it been omitted. With the typical amount of extras Criterion includes here, it is a great title for collectors and film aficionados, but might be out of place for the average audience looking to watch older films. B-