Popcorn Perspectives – Week of October 16, 2017

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of October 16, 2017

Loving Vincent
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements, some violence, sexual material and smoking
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%
In Theaters (Currently at the Rivers Oaks Theatre)
How a story is told is sometimes much more important than the story itself, and Loving Vincent is prime proof. The film takes place after the death of Vincent Van Gogh as the son of one his friends attempts to discover the real cause of his death. This is great and all, and the story is interesting, but what is mind-blowing is that nearly the entire film is painstakingly crafted with oil paint. It is a truly extraordinary achievement and absolutely fitting for a project like this. With artistry that reflects that of Van Gogh himself, you not only get to know him better through his story, but also through the vision of the talented artist team recreating his world, frame by frame. If you allow yourself, you will be mesmerized for 95 minutes as your senses take in the surreal beauty. And might I suggest a nice glass of wine (or three) while you soak it in. I think you’ll find that that will accompany the film like it would with a fine meal. A-

Girls Trip
Rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, pervasive language, brief graphic nudity, and drug material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
On DVD and Blu-ray
I am honestly shocked at the success, both critically and commercially, that this movie has garnered. The film stars four friends (Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish) as they rekindle their close college friendship by embarking on a journey together to New Orleans. While there are some somewhat humorous moments and relative newcomer Tiffany Haddish sure makes a splash, I thought the story was rather stale and the crude comedy was both out of place and a real turn off. Now did I not enjoy it because it was a black film? It’s possible, but I hope that’s not the case. I do think that this was a film made for black females and someone not belonging to either one of those two groups will not connect with it like someone who who is. Then again, I doubt the filmmakers ever thought “I sure hope the 45-year-old white film nerds love this movie.” So kudos to them that according to Rotten Tomatoes, many of them did. C

God of War
Not Rated
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
On DVD and Blu-ray
I do love me some big Asian epics so I was ready to dive into this lavishly produced film about a 16th century war between Japanese pirates and the Chinese as the pirates attempt to invade the Chinese coastline. You can easily see right away that the film has the right look and as you’d expect, it has some pretty awesome fighting sequences, but unless the translation was incorrect, it also has a horrible, awful script. If you could just take out the excessive exposition in the dialog, you might actually have a decently paced movie that is thirty minutes shorte. Instead, the film plods along screaming “I”m dumb but at least I’m pretty.” C-

The Lure: The Criterion Edition
Not Rated – but contains graphic violence, sex and nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
On DVD and Blu-ray
This recent Sundance competitor from Poland uses The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen as its inspiration to create a horror/musical farce, telling the story of two mermaids who become strippers while trying to find their place in the world of the walking. It’s a super-weird pic that has more potential for a cult following than commercial success. And while I can’t recommend it, I did actually like it. It’s an off-kilter experience that you won’t easily forget, although many of you will wish you could. How’s that for a dare? B

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of October 9, 2017

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of October 9, 2017

Blade Runner 2049
Rated R for violence, some sexuality, nudity and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
In Theaters
I’ll be honest – I’ve never been a big fan of the 1982 original ski-fi thriller starring Harrison Ford as a cop whose job it is to hunt down Replicants: synthetic humans who have been made illegal due to instability. The events of that film took place in the year 2019 and now, thirty years later, we get the sequel starring Ryan Gosling as a modern-day Blade Runner looking for Replicants to “retire.” But unlike the original, this new project has a budget to match its ambition and the end result is a similarly complicated, yet vastly easier to understand thriller full of wondrous vision and mind-boggling special effects. While I still felt the need to watch the first one before-hand (and I still am not jumping on that bandwagon), I found this new project to be vastly superior in story, acting, score and overall production. And while it clocks in at almost three hours, I found the pacing sufficient for its run time and very much worth holding my bladder for the credits. A-

Baby Driver
Rated R for violence and language throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
On DVD and Blu-ray
Writer/director Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) gives us a Tarantino-esque thriller about a hot shot driver who is working off a debt with crime boss Kevin Spacey by serving as the best getaway driver in the world of bank robbing. What makes Baby Driver special (and still for me the best film of 2017) is the amount of surprise to be found. Each and every move and turn goes against formula and offers up a shock. And to make it even sexier, the cast is terrific both with its knowns and unknowns. Aside from the relatively little-known Ansel Elgort and Lily James, superstars Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm turn in two of the best supporting performances of this year. And although it is extremely violent and more than a little tense, the whole thing turns out to be an absolute joy to watch. A+

The Beguiled
Rated R for some sexuality
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%
On DVD and Blu-ray
Sofia Coppola unexpectedly won the best director prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for this remake of the original 1971 which featured Clint Eastwood. Colin Firth stars in the Eastwood role as an injured Union soldier in the Civil War who is taken in by a house full of lonely Southern women, determined to turn him in after he has healed. One by one, he charms Nicole Kidman, Kerstin Dunst, Elle Fanning and even the younger girls until the sexual tension builds into an event that ruins the hospitality. Although not a long film, it feels long as the slow burn never properly builds adequately to hold your attention. It certainly has an interesting turn of events, and the unexpected macabre nature seems to come out of nowhere, but aside from a jolt or two, there’s not much there to take the film from being more than just okay. Perhaps I expected too much due to Coppola’s big win, but I just didn’t think the film was worth the accolades it has won and will be a disappointment to many who are expecting something different and, frankly, much better. C+

Dreamgirls: Director’s Extended Edition
Rated PG-13 for language, some sexuality and drug content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%
If you missed this amazing 2006 musical starring Beyonce, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson (who pulled off an Oscar win for best supporting actress), and even if you didn’t, check out this latest director’s cut for a relevant and impactful celebration of R&B music. Ten years later, this film hasn’t lost a beat. A-

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of October 2, 2017

Popcorn Perspectives

Week of October 2, 2017

American Made
Rated R for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
In Theaters
In the 1970s and 80s, Barry Seal spent his time working privately for the CIA to provide reconnaissance in Central and South America, which lead to him running guns, and drugs and lots of other crazy illegal activity, all the while making him ludicrously wealthy and time putting him and his family in extreme danger. This amazing true story is told with Tom Cruise at the lead with a strong supporting cast and an equally strong production team including Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow) at the helm. I’ll admit that I really dislike Tom Cruise as a person and abhor his lifestyle, but man is he talented in the right role. But rather than giving him all of the credit, here the story reigns. It is sharply told and incredibly relevant, giving its audience a knowledge they might wish they didn’t have when it comes to the Iran-Contra Affair. And while it is hysterically funny and thrilling, it is surprising relevant. I’m sure in 20 years’ time we will be watching another hot actor (or maybe actress) show us a story of the nutty crap that is probably going on as we speak in the current administration. But until then, check out this terrific political/action/comedy/thriller and try not to get too depressed that our leaders would actually allow this to be done on purpose. A-

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Rated PG-13 for sequences of adventure violence, and some suggestive content
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Apparently, audiences will never get tired of watching Johnny Depp as a drunk pirate as, in spite of horrible reviews and bad PR for Depp’s personal life, this fifth installment of the franchise proved as it pulled in $172 million at the box office. In this latest journey, a dead naval captain played by Javier Bardem wants to kill all pirates on the sea, starting with Jack Sparrow. Apparently, just like one of the other summer tent pole franchise films, Transformers, Pirates apparently has run out of decent stories to tell. The plot is absurd and the lack of originality is astounding. Sure, Depp is fun to watch at times, but his actions are also tedious at others. And at 135 minutes, the film kills you with redundant thoughts and a complete disregard for the audience. But with the financial message sent at the box office, it appears that we will be forced to watch at least another mess of a film before they hopefully give up on them. D

A Ghost Story
Rated R for brief language and a disturbing image
Rotten Tomatoes Score 92%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Casey Affleck and his young wife Rooney Mara live in a fixer upper when Affleck dies and spends eons waiting for a last chance to communicate with her, all from inside his sheet with eyeholes cut out. I will tell you right now that most of you will not like this film. It was designed for academics and film aficionados and while I’m sure that many folks connected to it, the majority of people will find it just too weird and meaningless. It is slow yet methodical as it attempts to demonstrate the lack of an importance on time once you’re dead. Personally, I found it very interesting and potentially impactful to the right person, but I wasn’t in the mood when I saw it and I would predict that being engaged is vital to appreciating and respecting. C+

Churchill
Rated PG for thematic elements, brief war images, historical smoking throughout and some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 48%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
While he is one of the world’s great modern leaders, so little fiction is dedicated to him. That’s changing this year with this film and another coming out in two months, the much anticipated “Darkest Hour” directed by Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice). Unfortunately, this first film is a mess of a project, focusing on Churchill’s lack of support of D-Day which is not just creative license, but apparently an absolute falsehood. Having been to the Churchill Museum and the Cabinet War Rooms in London, I was intrigued by the presence of the man and his world, but even the excellent performance by Brian Cox as the iconic leader can overcome the script troubles and lousy supporting performances on display here. I just hope “Darkest Hour” can pull the WWII hero out of the funk that “Churchill” has put him into. C-

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+