Popcorn Perspectives – Week of December 18, 2017

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of December 18, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
In Theaters
Picking up immediately after the events of 2015’s The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi finds the resistance on the run from the First Order and Rey trying to convince the hermit Luke Skywalker to either come back with her and save the galaxy, or at least train her. That sets up the story and I simply won’t give up more details than that since almost anything said further will be construed by someone as a “spoiler.” And that’s okay. I didn’t want to know a thing about the film that wasn’t in the trailer either. I very painfully had to miss the early press screening, and thus had to very carefully not listen to my friends and colleagues who had the luxury of attending. What I learned quickly though while watching the movie was that the hype was almost worse than the spoilers. I expected greatness. I expected that I would be putting Star Wars 8 at the top of my Top 10 list next week. I heard so many critics proclaim this new addition as the best Star Wars yet and much praise and worship was lobbed upon writer/director Rian Johnson. And the 93% Rotten Tomatoes score certainly helped that excitement along. I will quickly tell you that I did not hate it. But I likewise didn’t love it. There is much to enjoy here, such as the laugh-out-loud sense of humor, the new heroine Rose Tico and the adorable Porgs which inhabit Luke’s island. There are some great set pieces and beautifully creative action sequences. But I found myself endlessly annoyed at the constant long pauses for dialog and exposition. The film clocked in at 152 minutes and I feel they could have easily cut the thing to under two hours with no loss to the adventure and possibly a far better audience experience. There is plenty of action to be had, but the need to talk about the action and then assume that the other side is waiting for you to do so is ridiculous. I like the plot turns and the revelations – in fact I prefer them to what I predicted I would see – but the presentation was absolutely more boring than it should have been. So for lack of a better pun, my feelings for the Last Jedi are in deed lukewarm. B-

Victoria & Abdul
Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 65%
On DVD and Blu-ray
This true story from a royal pedigree of filmmakers tells the tale of the relationship that blossoms between the Queen of England, played perfectly here by Judi Dench, and a young Indian clerk who the queen commands to stop being her servant and instead teach her about the country she rules but has never visited. Directed by Oscar-nominated director Stephen Frears (The Queen) and written by Billy Elliot scribe Lee Hall, the film is lush to the hilt with both production and dialog. And like any good presentation of a true story, you have to check the internet after for authentication. While I’m sure there was a surplus of creative license, I found myself truly fascinated by what was absolutely true, and since the studio sent me a copy of the book by Shrabani Basu, I am intrigued enough that it might just become my next read. A-

Detroit
Rated R for strong violence and pervasive language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
On DVD and Blu-ray
From Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow comes this film based on the true story about the events that occurred at the Algiers Motel in Detroit in 1967 and what made Detroit such a powder-keg waiting to explode in the height of the Civil Rights Movement. With a tremendous young cast including John Boyega (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and Anthony Mackie (The Avengers), the film manages to create a spirit of anger that never really settles. There is not a doubt that the film feels organic and that the events of that night and those that surrounded it were horrible for those that suffered through it, but the ugliness is almost too much to sit through. The film is custom-designed to make its audience upset, and it delivers on that threat. I’m glad I watched it as sometimes you need to see the evil at work in this world to understand it better. But just know what you are getting into before jumping in because the film will get in your head. B+

Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Rated R for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout and some sexual material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 51%
On DVD and Blu-ray
British fashionistas turned super spies are being targeted by a new super villain set on controlling the world’s drug trade. With most of his colleagues dead, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) heads to America to enlist help from a group of cowboy spies. Just like the first, this is a fast-paced and funny action thriller with no decency filter. But while it is enjoyable at times, it wears you out at others with its nonsensical plot and silly characters. It’s a good enough guilty pleasure, but not nearly the quality of its freshman outing. C+

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of December 11, 2017

Popcorn Perspectives by Danny Minton

Week of December 11, 2017

The Disaster Artist
Rated R for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
In Theaters
In 2003, an unknown filmmaker and actor with seemingly endless financial resources named Tommy Wiseau created a film called “The Room” which has recently garnered a cult following as the worst movie ever made. More than a decade later, James Franco directs and stars in this movie which chronicles the making of that infamously odd film. I’ll admit that I have no desire to see The Room, but watching what could be considered a believable making-of documentary, is a really great experience. Franco is spot on as the eclectic filmmaker of unknown origin and his normal cohort of actors and friends, including his brother Dave Franco, Seth Rogan, Judd Apatow and Zac Efron, bring a credibility to both this film and its creation as you start to see what happens when talent is not a prerequisite for those in charge of the purse strings. But not only is the movie interesting – it is incredibly funny, providing some of the biggest laughs of the year. Overall this film, taken from the unlikeliest of inspirations, ends up being one of the most likable pics of the year. A-

American Assassin
Rated R for strong violence throughout, some torture, language and brief nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 34%
On DVD and Blu-ray
When a young man (Dylan O’Brien) loses the love of his life during a terrorist attack on a foreign beach, he trains himself to be a viable candidate for that same terrorist organization in order to infiltrate and destroy it. This brings him to the attention of the CIA which recruits him and sends him to one of their veterans (Michael Keaton) in order to complete his training and turn him into an even deadlier killing machine. The production is adequate but the script is laughable as it meanders through its weak plot points. And to make matters worse, an actor like Keaton can phone it in okay, but some of the other actors deliver their lines like it is their first independent movie. There probably is some potential here, but it ends up a silly and forgettable gun film with far more testosterone than brains. C-

Game of Thrones: The Complete Seventh Season
Rated MA
On DVD and Blu-ray
This short but powerful season of HBO’s mega hit gave fans exactly what they wanted as the many kingdoms prepare for their final showdown in season eight. Now that the show has had to go where the book has yet to take them (HBO couldn’t wait for George R.R. Martins final novel in the series), the creators went a little more predictable than I would have thought to be Martin’s direction for the series, but it all turned out well and good with some wonderful movement into very troubling waters. Honestly, I’m just blown away by the vision on display here and can’t wait to see how they close things out. That being said, I had best be patient as the last season is apparently a long time off in the distance. A

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of November 27, 2017

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of November 27, 2017

Coco
Rated PG for thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
In Theaters
For those of you who have it in your heads that Pixar is just trying to copycat the 2014 animated flick “The Book of Life” – well think again. Pixar has had its moments of retreads and spotty creativity lately, but they have completely resurrected themselves with this new adventure. Set in a small but charming Mexican town, a young boy named Miguel dreams of becoming a musician like his idol from the movies. But his grandmother will hear nothing of it, believing that music was what ruined her life and the lives of her family. But through a series of strange events, Miguel finds himself in the land of the dead, determined to learn his history and gain his grandfather’s blessing. Let me tell you, this film just works on every level. It’s Pixar, so its expected to have top-notch, eye-popping animation, and it most certainly does, but it also has a visionary tapestry of art and production behind it. It becomes quickly apparent that the spectacular animation is there for one purpose: to serve the story. The writing on display is smart, clever and thoughtful. Then you have the stellar voice talent by an almost entirely Latino cast (they had to add John Ratzenberger of course) and a score from the always fantastic Michael Giacchino. There’s so much more to complement but I am running out of adjectives, and besides – I’m sure you get the point. This is a family flick not to be missed. A

Logan Lucky
Rated PG-13 for language and some crude comments
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
On DVD and Blu-ray
In this wacky Steven Soderbergh heist film, Channing Tatum and Adam Driver are the Logan brothers, two down and out war vets with a mountain of bad luck who pull together a group of redneck bandits, including Daniel Craig, to rip off a big NASCAR event. The film itself is decent enough, but the antics work better than the heist, which I found to be a bit tedious. And while the film tries hard to be Raising Arizona, the story struggles under its ambition. But the film is not nearly as bad as its horrible, horrible title, which I single-handedly blame for its box office demise. Overall I just felt this could have and should have been better than the end result. C+

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of November 20, 2017

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of November 20, 2017

Justice League
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 40%
In Theaters
When Batman v Superman came out in 2016, moviegoers and fanboys alike dissed the outing for many good reasons: it was too long, too dark, too stupid and lacked both a soul and a sense of humor. So Warner Brothers and director Zach Snyder went back to the drawing board to try to fix these things for the impeding sequel – Justice League. So what do the fanboys (and fangirls to be fair) do again? The same thing: complain – but this time about other minutiae. The problem here is that they did an admirable job fixing all of the above problems. Justice League brings together Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg for a big battle against a world-ending evil. Yes the plot is way too similar to what is going on with the Avengers right now, probably because Avengers writer/director Joss Whedon wrote the script, but it is also lighter, full of humor, less than two hours has a lot more soul – and personality for that matter. Is it the best super hero film of the year? Not hardly – but its hard to compete against Thor and Wonder Woman in that category. What it is though is a solid entry for the League and I believe firmly that there is a piling on by critics merely because they think they are supposed to hate it when others do it. Sure it won’t blow your mind, but it is a better film that it is getting credit for and a fun way to spend two hours for sure. For that I have to recommend it. B

The Hitman’s Bodyguard
Rated R for strong violence and language throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 39%
On DVD and Blu-ray
Ryan Reynolds is a professional bodyguard whose career has seen better days. When his ex-girlfriend needs help getting an important witness/hitman to testify against an Eastern European war criminal, she asks Reynolds to bodyguard said witness, Samuel L Jackson, even though they are violent enemies. The film has a decent enough story and a good sense of humor, but goes way overboard on the action and plot points. Although just less than two hours, this would have made a better 90 minute film with a faster pace and without so many action scenes that just lose you because you get bored when they fill in the lack of depth with chases and fights. Still, if you like Reynolds and Jackson, and I certainly do, you can find a way to have fun with such a movie. B-

Brigsby Bear
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, brief sexuality, drug material and teen partying
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
On DVD and Blu-ray
For his film writing and acting debut, SNL cast member Kyle Mooney stars as a young man whose world revolves around a TV show his mom and dad have been making for him for his entire life. But when a brutal reality sets in, he attempts to cope with his past and present by recreating the show for his new world. Upon seeing the trailer, I thought the film would just be quirky for quirky sake. But low and behold – the film isn’t that at all. Instead it is rather sweet and authentic in a way you can’t possibly expect. And talk about a cast for a film without much of a budget. Mooney manages to wrangle in Mark Hamill, Claire Daines, Greg Kinnear, Matt Walsh and even Andy Samberg to go on his adventure. Brigsby Bear is a real winner, delivering a genuinely heart-warming story. A-

The Philadelphia Story: The Criterion Collection
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
On DVD and Blu-ray
Getting the Criterion treatment this month is George Cukor’s classic 1940 romcom starring Katherine Hepburn, who plays a socialite on the eve of her wedding, as she fights with her charming ex-husband (Cary Grant) and falls for a handsome reporter (James Stewart). Widely regarded as one of the best romantic comedies of all time, Criterion has given the classic a stunning new 4K restoration as well as a new documentary and several older special features, placed here for both a deeper dive and context. A+

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of November 13, 2017

Popcorn Perspectives by Danny Minton

Week of November 13, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express
Rated PG-13 for violence and thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 58%
In Theaters
Kenneth Branagh stars and directs this film based on the famous Agatha Christie novel about the world’s greatest detective who just happens to be on a train where a murder has taken place, and who must piece together the clues in order to find out who did it. While the film has some absolutely stunning production, what will prove to be most valuable is the all-star cast including Johnny Depp, Judy Dench, Daisy Ridley, Penelope Cruz, Leslie Odom, Jr., Willem Dafoe, Josh Gad and Michelle Pfeiffer. It really is an exceptional cast and it is mind-blowing that all of these talents would come together for such a mediocre film. The story itself is fantastic. In the third act when you learn the details of the murder, you can’t help but be drawn in and surprised. It’s an incredible story turn that you don’t get to fully absorb because everything is seen and moved by Kenneth Branagh as detective Hercule Poirot. Everything is viewed and judged by his morality, his ethics and his sense of justice. While I’m sure this monstrous ego is written into the stories he stars in, it is less than welcome here as it gets in the way of the juicy plot. This ego also slows things down too much when it can hardly afford it, creating pacing problems throughout the movie. So while the movie is impressive in many regards, it is overall a disappointment. C

Wind River
Rated R for strong violence, a rape, disturbing images and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
On Blu-ray and DVD
From Taylor Sheridan, the writer of Sicario and Hell or High Water (the best film of last year in my opinion) comes this terrifying and terrific thriller about tracker with the Fish and Wildlife Service (Jeremy Renner) and a young FBI agent (Elizebeth Olsen) who investigate the death of a young Native American woman on a secluded Indian Reservation in Wyoming. While there are many detective movies out there, when one comes along that is so unique and yet authentic, its hard to take your eyes of off it, even for a second. This is certainly the case here. While Sheridan is fairly new to the director gig, you wouldn’t know from this as it is masterful in both its scripting and directing, giving the audience a remarkable piece of fiction that feels more like a gut-wrenching window to a part of the world that most of us know very little about. Sure its a tough one to absorb and some of the scenes will knock the breath of out of you, but by the end you will understand that you just witnessed something great. A

Atomic Blonde
Rated R for sequences of strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 76%
On Blu-ray and DVD
Going for a sort of female Jason Bourne flick that takes place during the cold war, Charlize Theron takes on the role of the butt-kicking MI6 super spy who must take down an espionage ring in Berlin, right as the wall is about to fall. So I’m the one guy who didn’t really like the Jason Bourne films that much, but I had a giddy time here. I credit that to the superb fight choreography which is some of the best I’ve seen outside of Asian cinema. And when you throw in a cool plot and the user-sexy Theron who even looks great with bruises and cuts all over her, well – you end up with a fun and exciting movie diversion. B

Cars 3
Rated G
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%
On Blu-ray and DVD
After the last Cars movie drew in the worst critical ire of any Pixar film, its surprising that they can back for more. This time out they went away from the spy genre of the second pic and back to racing. As technology increases, the newer cars have an advantage on the track and Lightning McQueen is starting to think that his sheer skill might not be able to overcome this change to racing. It’s definitely the right direction for the franchise to move to and the artistry is top-notch. But even the vastly improved reviews didn’t make much of a difference at the box office as it pulled in a relatively low haul compared to its other Pixar counterparts. Personally, I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. B-

Popcorn Perspectives: Week of October 30, 2017

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of October 30, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
In Theaters
It’s Halloween week and the scariest thing about October is that we had the weakest box office in a very, very long time. But coming to the rescue is this wild and crazy Thor movie from Marvel and Disney. In his newest adventure, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) must face his sister (Cate Blanchett) who is determined to first take over Asgard and then the universe. It is common for big franchises to find unconventional directors with promise but in this case, Disney found Taika Waititi, a relatively unknown New Zealand director, more known for his work on the cult favorite Flight of the Concords than for his terrific but quirky independent films. But boy did they make the right move. The film is different in so many ways, giving Thor a much-needed facelift and giving the audience a big ball of fun to stare at for two hours. While not as hysterical as Deadpool or Guardians of the Galaxy, it is a blast to take in and that same quirkiness he infused into his own small projects blows up on screen, in a good way, with this mega-budget. A-

The Florida Project
Rated R for language throughout, disturbing behavior, sexual references and some drug material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
In Theaters
Like a modern day version of The 400 Blows, director Sean Baker (Tangerine) brings us a look at life across several low cost motels in Orlando who would love to bring in tourists needing a cheap stay for Disneyworld, but instead provide homes to extremely low income and desperate families. Of primary focus is a six-year-old girl who wants nothing more than to have fun and get in trouble while her mother struggles to keep a roof over their head. It takes a while for this pic to get going as you are trying to figure out if there is actually a narrative or if it is just one big slice of life movie. But the narrative does take hold before it wallops you over the head, leaving you with the notion that you just witnessed a pretty spectacular little film. One of my favorite things about the movie is the incredible performance by Willem Defoe as the superintendent. While he’s been nominated for two Oscars (last one in 2001 for Shadow of the Vampire), he just might come away with the trophy this year for his very human and heroic turn here. A

Annabelle: Creation
Rated R for horror violence and terror
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70%
On DVD and Blu-ray
After only one spinoff film, the scary doll from The Conjuring gets her own origin story as a group of orphan girls move into the house of a doll maker with a tragic and frightening past. While superior to its 2014 predecessor, the scares are just same old, same old as the girls one by one succumb to the threats and the jumps seem way too easy to predict. What frightens me the most about The Conjuring films is that they are based on real accounts, and they actually feel real. This Annabelle doesn’t even try to capitalize on that strength, probably because it can’t. It isn’t a bad film, and I can see how it can be popular with kids who don’t really know their horror films yet, but for the most part, this is a nicely-produced but generic scarrer. C

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of October 23, 2017

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of October 23, 2017

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power
Rated PG for thematic elements and some troubling images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%
On DVD and Blu-ray
A decade has passed since the predictions of the Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and here Al Gore attempts to explain not only how many of the prophecies have come true, but also to set up another warning that it will get worse if global action on climate change isn’t enacted immediately. What I like about Gore’s message to laymen and world leaders is that it is not condescending. I can appreciate that, although condescension is called for in my opinion. Yes he is a bit of a showman, but it is hard to doubt that his heart is in the right place and that he is genuinely passionate about his life’s cause. I find it sad that he is mostly preaching to the choir as much of the congregation likes to ignore science in order to opt in to a belief system set up by those wishing to destroy our planet for short-term gain, but you get the sense that justice will eventually be served if fighting for the right cause long enough. Overall, its another powerful message from one of the worlds great leaders, and if you watch and listen with an open mind, you can’t help but be stirred. A-

War for the Planet of the Apes
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, thematic elements, and some disturbing images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
On DVD and Blu-ray
For the third film in the reboot trilogy, the army of apes finds themselves in a war against a crazy military leader (played but Woody Harrelson) who wants nothing more than to use the apes as slave labor before ridding the planet of them. When his family is killed and much of his clan taken prisoner, Caesar takes a small band of allies to the camp in an attempt to rescue them. Who would have thought that such a cheesy sixties movie could spawn such thought-provoking and relevant cinema like this. This third movie is a remarkable ending to Caesar’s legacy and once again director Matt Reeves delivers a riveting epic adventure. A

Spider-Man Homecoming
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
On DVD and Blu-ray
Yes this is the third Spider-man refresh in a relatively short period of time and I know most of you are wondering why do we need another one? The answer is simple: Disney had to get involved with Sony in order to add Spidey to the Avengers, so a stand-alone film was, in their opinion, necessary. That being said, its not a bad movie. Tom Holland makes for a great Peter Parker and this is more like the Spider-Man in the comics than the others we’ve seen. Plus with Iron Man in the mix and a great villain played by Michael Keaton, the story swings along in a fun and enjoyable fashion. The language is surprising given its younger-skewing audience aim, but it is still fairly appropriate for the kids. B

Warrior
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense mixed martial arts fighting, some language and thematic material
Rottent Tomatoes Score: 82%
Getting the 4K treatment this week is one of the best films from 2011 that went largely unseen. Before they were big-named actors, Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy were estranged brothers, separated by time and torment, and scheduled to fight in a huge MMA championship tournament. Like the original Rocky, the film isn’t about fighting, although the fight sequences are breathtaking. Instead the film is about a family torn apart and reunited in the most heart-breaking of ways. And if you thought the tears were flowing at the end of Rocky, wait until the climactic sequence here with a box of tissue handy. It is an emotional and impactful film that deserves this 4K release – and another chance at gaining an audience. A+

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-