Popcorn Perspectives – Week of September 3, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of September 3, 2018

Won’t You Be My Neighbor
Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%
Available on Disc and Streaming
This incredibly successful documentary follows the life of Fred Rogers, the creator and star of the hit children’s show Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood, a show that ran for decades and left a positive impact on pretty much everyone who ever watched it. In the very cynical world we live in, it’s a breath of fresh air to sit back and appreciate the life of such a good man whose heart was truly in the right place, where hardly a misstep was taken. The film is made up of interviews with the people who knew him best, along with many of his greatest television moments, and you get the honest sense that his life was truly spent in the service of others and those who knew him were even luckier than the folks like me who just grew up watching him. When I was a child, I didn’t even realize he was trying to explore adult issues in order to help me grow up to be a better person. To me he was just educational entertainment that I loved to watch. But that’s the magic and the brilliance behind this legendary figure for whom I now have an extraordinary respect for. A

Rated R for disturbing content, language and some sexuality
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Available on Disc and Streaming
This low-budget but well-received British indie follows a young girl who wants to escape from her family but can’t seem to find the courage. But when she meets a young loner and falls in love, her dreams of escape are bashed when he is arrested as the leading suspect wanted for a series of grisly murders. What makes the film so intriguing is that it is hard to get ahold of. It starts out like a forbidden romance but moves into thriller territory, only to confuse you into thinking you might have it wrong. The leading couple are atypical but talented leading actors, which only adds to the mystique. I wouldn’t say that it’s a film for everyone, but it certainly is a decent little indie for folks who love to explore the stranger and darker side of cinema. B+

Rated R for horror violence, disturbing images, language, drug use and brief graphic nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Available on Disc and Streaming
This indie horror/drama follows a truly messed-up family that undergoes an extreme tragedy which puts their life through a horrific nightmare. Thanks in part to a phenomenal trailer and a promising cast, the film hit with incredible buzz and even better reviews from press who loved its novelty and creativity. And while the box office was relatively strong compared to its budget, audiences didn’t quite know how to take it. It doesn’t help that you are convinced, before going in, that the story follows a strange-looking girl with mysterious, possibly satanic powers. But then you find out that the film is about her brother and it almost feels like you were sold a bill of goods. Please notice that I’m hardly going to tell you what the film is really about. How’s that for a film review? I would rather tell you that your expectations should be correct, so that you can better enjoy it. Instead of thinking you are about to see a film that will scare you out of your wits, you should expect to experience a psychological thriller that will creep you out more than it elevates your heart rate. It’s not a frightmare masterpiece as most critics have exclaimed, but it is a genre pic worth checking out. B

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of August 27, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of August 27, 2018

Rated R for strong violence, grisly images, and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
Available on Disc and Streaming
This Audience Award winner from SXSW follows a technophobe in the near future who loses everything when his wife is brutally murdered and he is left paralyzed from the neck down. But when an eclectic young billionaire offers to place a secret device in his body, he not only gains the ability to walk again, but gets some serious fighting skills as he sets off on a revenge-filled mission to take revenge on the guys who ruined his life. The film may lack stars, but it certainly doesn’t look like a low-budget indie. It is extremely well-written and produced, and the acting is unexpectedly strong for such a genre picture. But what stands out the most is the unique and creative fight choreography, which I can easily proclaim is the best that I’ve seen since The Matrix (which is almost 20 years old by the way). From the first moment when our hero starts his butt-kicking, I started getting not just excited, but almost giddy. What I thought would be a decent sci-fi indie turned out to be a massively entertaining thriller. A-

Rated PG for some thematic elements and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Available on Disc, Streaming and on CNN
Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the star and subject of this documentary which explores where she came from, how she got to the Supreme Court, and what pushes her to be the controversial figure that she is today. To some she is a hero and inspirational figure and to others she is a dangerous and subversive progressive who stands against the status quo. This film represents more of that hero point of view, and in fairness, it could use a bit of counterpoint to keep it balanced. But its message rings true and you definitely come away with the idea that her heart and her intentions are not only honest, but righteous as well. I rather enjoyed getting to know the notorious RBG and what makes her tick, and have a new-found appreciation for this great woman. B+

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of August 20, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of August 20, 2018

Deadpool 2
Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual references and brief drug material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
On Disc and Streaming
One of 2018’s bright stars is this sequel to the 2016 adult action comedy about a man (Ryan Reynolds) who is killed in an experiment, but brought back to life as a vigilante super hero who, very aware of the audience watching, cracks jokes while cutting off the villians’ limbs and heads with creativity and in expertly choreographed fashion. This time out, he has just lost the person most important to him and as an act of penance he commits to help a young mutant who is being hunted down by a hitman from the future named Cable (Josh Brolin). Just like the first film, the action is fast, as are the constant barrage of jokes, which almost always hit. When the first film came out, it was a risky venture and the studio capitalized big with their relatively small investment. This time though, the production has swagger, like it knows it’s going to be a smash coming out of the gate, and that confidence makes this an absolutely thrilling experience. And for this home release, we also get the new Super Duper Cut, which offers up almost 15 minutes more material which could not be shown in theaters. I would tell you it’s even more offensive, but honestly, the project has a great heart so it’s hard to not enjoy. A-

First Reformed
Rated R for some disturbing violent images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
On Disc and Streaming
In this indie, Ethan Hawke plays a solitary middle-aged priest at a small church in upstate New York, who turns empathetic to ecoterrorism after counseling a young couple in his church. This is a slow burn for sure, and not your average night on the couch watching a movie. The subject matter is extreme, and honestly hard to watch at times. But I was held captive for almost its entirety, waiting patiently for what would come next. Hawke’s performance was excellent, as is usual for his small-budgeted films, but unfortunately I found the ending to be way too unconventional for my taste. The story is basically straight forward until the last five minutes, which both confuses and distracts from the central message. I understand what writer/director Paul Schrader was trying to say but it certainly lacked coherence in relation to the overall narrative. B-

The Walking Dead: Season Eight
Rotten Tomatoes: 66%
On Disc and Streaming
Back for their eighth season is Rick and company as they battle Negan for control of their region and revenge for the murder of their friends, all while fending off the growing horde of zombies. There is still a lot to like about this franchise including some great action sequences and tons of gore for horror fans. But the eighth season has proven to be too much for many of its fans, and audiences are starting to die off because of it. When making a pizza, more ingredients and more time in the oven aren’t always the best solution, but that’s what we got here. A good storyline from the comics has been stretched too thin and gone on too long. If you’re in it to the end, like I am, you’ll try to ignore the plethora of problems, but unfortunately they are still there as the writing room tries to milk the Rick/Negan war for all it’s worth. C+

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of August 13, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of August 13, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians
Rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97% at time of writing
In Theaters
Based on the best selling novel by Kevin Kwan, Crazy Rich Asians follows a young NYU economics professor (Constance Wu) who is invited by her charming boyfriend (Henry Golding) to accompany him to a wedding in Singapore, where she will get to meet his family for the first time. Once the trip starts though, she is quickly made aware of a deep secret he has been hiding: his family is filthy rich – and worse yet – his mother (Michelle Yeoh) is highly protective of who gets to date her son. There is so much to like about this film. First you can tell that the source material is as rich as the family, with a plethora of multi-faceted characters, some lovable and many detestable, all of which are well-acted by the exceptional cast. These characters provide a springboard for comedy with some really big laughs throughout. The production is first rate, with a surprise turn for director Jon M. Chu, who until now has only been responsible for some really lousy pics in the G.I.Joe and Step Up franchises. Here he shows that there was talent just waiting to be seen. Also to like is the fantastic vacation that my mind felt I had in Singapore. I didn’t know much about the country before watching, but now that I’ve experienced this virtual travelogue, I now can’t wait to visit for real. But what is most to like here is the story and how it unfolds. You are Constance Wu as she experiences extreme culture shock, not of race, but of money. You feel the tension upon her first exposure and you can’t help but empathize with her fear, love, joy, confusion, heartbreak and determination. It is certainly one of the best romantic comedies in recent years and will go down as a classic in the genre. If the film has any fault, its in the occasionally cheesy moment or corny character that feels a bit inorganic – but fortunately those moments are forgivable and we are left with a pretty great and memorable love story. A-

Avengers: Infinity War
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
On Disc and Streaming
This first of a two-part Avengers mega story brings together all of the Disney Avenger casts to fight the evil Thanos as he attempts to collect all of the world’s Infinity Stones in order take over the universe and kill half of it off as a perverted act of mercy. While the film is fairly long, it moves along at a fast pace as it tries to include as much from the Marvel universe as possible in order to make the plot make sense. And while it is at sometimes ridiculous, it is mostly very fun to watch with not only great action sequences, but also some great comedy to take in as you catch your breath. It is a tad dark towards the end, but I have faith that Disney will make up for it by summer of next year, and any dread we may now feel will slip away. B+

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of July 23, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of July 23, 2018

Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Rated PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action, and for brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96% at time of writing
In Theaters
Tom Cruise teams up again with Rogue Nation writer/director for this sixth outing in the Mission: Impossible franchise. This time out, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and team (Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames) set out to stop the underbelly of anarchy from getting their hands on some stolen weapons-grade plutonium meant to create great suffering in the world. The one thing which all of these films excel at is their ability to create some fantastic action sequences that will impress your eyes and get your heart racing. This new project is no different and some of the set pieces are truly mind-blowing. The problem here lies in a script full of head-scratching plot points that depends on an audience not overthinking it. And it doesn’t help that the dialog is the cheesiest we’ve seen in this series. But quite honestly, you get your money’s worth as its hard to imagine someone not having a great time watching it. B

Ready Player One
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action violence, bloody images, some suggestive material, partial nudity and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%
Available on disc and streaming
It’s been a while since Steven Spielberg has made a film that actually feels like a classic Spielberg picture. So when he signed on to direct one of my favorite recent novels, which just happened to have a screenplay written by the original author, Ernest Cline – needless to say I was excited. And my excitement paid off big time without a hint of disappointment. The story revolves around a kid (Tye Sheridan) living in a future where a large part of the planet has chosen to forgo social interaction and instead live inside a single video game world called the OASIS, searching for hidden clues that would award the winner of the final puzzle complete ownership of the company. Rather than copying the book here, Cline created brand new puzzles for the audience to follow along with, and a newish adventure to cheer for. The reinvention of the story, along with a terrific cast and Spielberg’s incredible artistry as a storyteller and filmmaker, gives us one of 2018’s best movies so far. A

Operation Red Sea
Not Rated, but equivalent to a strong R
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
Available on disc and streaming
This follow-up to 2016’s Operation Mekong, follows the Chinese military as they attempt to thwart a Middle-East terrorist plot to obtain nuclear materials. While the thought of watching a modern Chinese military in action is very interesting, so little attention is paid to character building that the whole thing turns into a two plus hour action sequence with nothing to keep you engaged other than the next explosion. It’s an extremely well-produced film, and at times it is quite riveting, but had they just invested in a stronger character-driven screenplay, they could have ended up with the Chinese version of Blackhawk Down, rather than this more generic facsimile. B-

Super Troopers 2
Rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, drug material and some graphic nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 31%
Available on disc and streaming
The Broken Lizard boys are back and this time facing off with the Canadians once it is announced that part of Canada really is America, and they will be policing the change. This modern-day answer to Cheech and Chong is very much for the pot-smoking community and has a juvenile feel that can be quite funny if you are under the influence. I’m not a smoker, but I will admit that the film was much funnier than it should have been while drinking a couple of glasses of wine. It still isn’t great, and to give a positive review could greatly embarrass me later, so I’ll just throw out that at the right time, and under a bit of influence (please be safe), this film might just entertain you for a couple of hours. C

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of July 16, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of July 16, 2018

Isle of Dogs
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some violent images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Available on Disc and Streaming
In Wes Anderson’s latest eclectic stop-motion animation project, Japan has rounded up all of its dogs and sent them to live on a giant trash island off of its coast. When the Emperor’s adopted son sets off on a mission to reclaim his stolen pooch, a gang of rough and tough dogs decide to help him on his quest. While the extensive voice talent (including Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber, Bill Murray and more A-listers than you can shake a stick at) and the beautiful storytelling are enough to draw a big crowd, I found that the massive creativity is what made me fall in love with it. Any movie that can put me in such a state of awe and wonder is worthy of the term masterpiece. A+

I Feel Pretty
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, some partial nudity, and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 32%
Available on Disc and Streaming
Amy Schumer plays a woman suffering from low self esteem who takes a spill at her cycling class only to wake up thinking she has transformed into a beautiful woman. The hitch is that the rest of the world can see that nothing has changed, presenting the message that confidence trumps beauty any day of the week. Upon its release, the film was met with with a strong wall of critical resistance, claiming that the film was mean-spirited and shallow. But I would disagree. This is not new territory for Amy Schumer and the message feels very personal for her, but while many see the film in a negative light, those that have suffered from body image issues will not only identify with the story, but might just find the pic to be quite empowering. My biggest qualms lie in the humongous plot holes in regards to her work place movement, but those unfamiliar with corporation marketing will likely not have any difficulty with its gross simplification of the industry. Overall, this is a miss that probably should have been at least a modest hit. B

Rated PG-13 sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief language, and crude gestures
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 52%
Available on Disc and Streaming
I used to spend hours playing the video game with which this new Dwayne Johnson movies is based on. After all, what can be more cathartic than pretending you are an ape, wolf or reptilian monster, wreaking havoc on buildings and destroying cities. I can applaud the effort here which could have turned out to be an unwatchable mess. And were it not for Johnson it probably would have been. Instead you get a mindless but mildly entertaining monster movie that isn’t necessarily great, but at least doesn’t suck too bad. C+

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of July 2, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives

Week of July 2, 2018

Sicario: Day of the Soldado
Rated R for strong violence, bloody images, and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 63%
In Theaters
Shifting its focus from the war on drugs to the war on illegal immigration and trafficking, Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin return as an assassin and a federal agent who place their sights on disrupting the cartels by trying to get them to fight each other for something the US government is secretly instigating. What was most impressive about the original Sicario was how the third act changed the entire film’s theme and plot in a way that managed to thoroughly excite audiences, including me. Here we get quite the opposite. While the first act almost feels like an advertisement for Trump’s wall by creating a world where Muslim terrorists sneak in through Mexico to commit random and senseless violence in the U.S., it is still quite frightening and the story feels organic throughout. This leads to some seriously exciting set pieces pulled together by a script that gets you salivating for each subsequent next scene. The big change here is that while the end of the film once again changes its theme and plot, it does so in a way that steals from the momentum the rest of the film had going. Its a real disappointment to say the least. For ninety minutes I was thinking to myself that this is the best-written movie of the year so far. This twist actually converted the film from a great movie into a mediocre one at best. C+

Rated R for crude and sexual content, and language throughout, drug content, teen partying, and some graphic nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
Available on disc and streaming
Blockers takes the plot of American Pie and asks the question: what if girls made the same pact to lose their virginity on prom night? The big difference here is that the story is largely about the parents of the three girls, John Cena, Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholtz, as they attempt to do everything they can to stop their precious daughters from doing the deed. While there are some serious problems with the plot, namely the girls make their pact on the day of prom and two of them don’t even have dates yet and the logistics for everything are almost perfect, the story makes the many mistakes easy to forgive as it shifts from being about the girls to rather being about the parents who just can’t deal with the fact that their girls will eventually grow up. And while the film has a severely raunchy but very funny side, its sentimental side wins out by the end. Sure it suffers from a lack of originality, but it does so unabashedly, standing firmly on the legs of the talented cast, its funny jokes and gags, and its great big heart. B+

Rated R for language, some violence and a brief nude image
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%
Available on disc and streaming
From Rogue One and Bourne Identity screenwriter Tony Gilroy comes this state department drama that couldn’t find an audience in theaters, but that will hopefully fare better for home viewers. Jon Hamm plays a former diplomat from Beirut who is asked by the CIA to go back in order to help rescue a friend he left behind years ago. While Hamm hasn’t exactly pulled off the same success in theaters as he did on TV, this role is perfect for him and really shows off his chops. Honestly, the film is relevant, interesting and exciting. Unfortunately, it probably needed a bigger A-list cast to find its box office footing. B+

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of June 18, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of June 18, 2018

The Death of Stalin
Rated R for language throughout, violence and some sexual references
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Available on disc and streaming
From Armando Iannucci, the creator of HBO’s Veep comes this dark comedy about the last days of Joseph Stalin and the aftermath that followed his passing. Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, Michael Palin and Jason Isaacs head up this amazingly talented cast of actors who drop the Russian accents and instead play themselves as the men desperately trying to take control of the country by any means necessary. Like Veep, the dialog is razor sharp and quick and if you didn’t know it was a comedy going into it, it might escape you that you are supposed to laugh. I loved the absolute dryness of the script and the amazing deliveries of the cast. It’s not a film for everyone, but for history buffs with a warped sense of humor, it will serve as a wicked and enjoyable satire. A-

Paul, Apostle of Christ
Rated PG-13 for some violent content and disturbing images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 46%
Available on disc and streaming
This lushly produced biblical epic follows the latter days of the Apostle Paul (James Faulkner) as he works with the physician Luke (Jim Caviezel) to put his story into writing while waiting for his execution. I certainly applaud the chance the filmmakers took with this unique story-telling method and its desire to concentrate on a short part of Paul’s life rather than focus on the immense life’s journey which would take much longer than two hours to tell well. And while Caviezel and Faulkner turn in some strong performances, much of the supporting cast and the convoluted timelines make for only a slightly better than average Christian film. While it is certainly leaps above the made-for-television movies which we have previously seen, it can’t compare to Passion of the Christ or even the recent Risen in terms of overall quality. And while I really wanted to love it, I found myself too judgmental about too many little things. B-

Rated R for disturbing behavior, violence, language, and sex references
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%
Available on disc and streaming
From director Steven Soderbergh comes this low budget indie about a depressed woman (Claire Foy) who accidentally commits herself after admitting to a counselor that she on occasion has suicidal thoughts. While locked up, things take a dark turn as the more she fights the deeper into the hole she falls. This is an interesting psychological drama that takes a dark and unexpected turn, giving the film an almost horror-like dimension. While it won’t blow your mind, it turns out to be quite a unique little picture with a subtle message about the state of our current medical system. B-

Pacific Rim Uprising
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action and some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 43%
Available on disc and streaming
This follow-up to the Guillermo del Toro monster film takes places years later as mankind once again fight giant inter-dimensional giant creatures by manning giant protector robots. While I loved the first film, this newest edition is just a hollow shell of a story, attempting to commit to a lower budget in the hopes of getting the same modest returns. John Boyega does an admirable job in the leading role, but the story is a mess and the plot with Charlie Day is as stupid as I’ve ever seen in a movie. The whole thing feels like a lame and unsuccessful attempt at a money grab. C-

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of June 11, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives by Danny Minton

Week of June 11, 2018

Incredibles 2
Rated PG for action sequences and some brief mild language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97% (at time of writing)
In theaters
Fourteen years have passed in our world since Pixar’s Incredibles blew us away the first time. But the Parr family, consisting of mom and dad Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl along with their kids Dash, Violet and Jack Jack, they pick up in the very second they left us, and unfortunately they cause more damage trying to stop The Underminer than if they had just left him alone. So now the worlds’ governments hate them more than ever. But thanks to an enterprising billionaire with great faith in their abilities and a talent for marketing, an attempt is made to try to put superheroes back on the street the right way – lady’s first – with Elastigirl leading the way. And of course things go great until a super villain pops up with the potential power to take all of the remaining heroes down. I went into this one with high hopes but no real expectations of comparing to the first film. I left having those expectations smashed. Pixar here does a perfect job of juggling story, thrills and laughs in a way that keeps you majorly engaged and entertained for two straight hours. The big reveal in the third act isn’t altogether that surprising, but it is easily overlooked as it ignites a non-stop action sequence which doesn’t allow you to think too much about that singular flaw. It is truly a film that everyone watching should enjoy, regardless of age or gender. And just like it happened in 2004, you should leave the theater having been absolutely blown away. A

I Can Only Imagine
Rated PG for thematic elements including some violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%
Available on disc and streaming
Faith-based films, while a very popular genre, are generally known for lower production values and poorer acting – but there are exceptions and this latest which tells the story behind the most popular Contemporary Christian song of all time is one of them. Set in Greenville, TX, the film follows Christian band Mercy Me frontman Bart Millard and the life experiences which led him to write the ginormous hit song. While the strong lead actor, J. Michael Finley, has been only known to Broadway in shows such as Les Miserables and Book of Mormon, the production landed Dennis Quaid in the pivotal role of Millard’s father and even Cloris Leachman and Trace Adkins to give the film a strong boost. And while there are some contrived, cheesy and manipulative moments, the film gives off real power and inspiration throughout rather than the forced preaching to the choir this genre is mostly known for. B+

Tomb Raider
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and for some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 49%
Available on disc and streaming
Even though the original Tomb Raiders weren’t exactly well-thought of, a reboot was inevitable I suppose. Filling the gigantic shoes left by Angelina Jolie is the young and beautiful Oscar-winning Swedish actress Alicia Vikander who goes on a secret mission to rescue her long-missing father. The fault of this disastrous outing is not hers (she obviously puts her all into it) but rather the plain ridiculousness of the entire project. The premise is nothing but silly and the execution of that premise leads to this unapologetically preposterous adventure which does nothing but waste two hours of your time. If you want to see this film for the same reason you saw the first two – to watch a total hottie wander around remote locales for hours solving puzzles amid almost certain death, then be my guest. If you are hoping the treasure map leads to a good movie – you are out of luck. D+

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of June 4, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of June 4, 2018

Rated R for horror violence, disturbing images, language, drug use and brief graphic nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93% (at time of writing)
In theaters
The buzz on this newest horror flick from A24 is humongous. People are touting it as the scariest film they’ve ever seen – or at least the scariest film in recent memory. I was quite impressed at the very arrogance of the marketing when they solicited audience members to commit to post heart rate results from their Apple Watches after the movie. They want you to know that this film will literally scare you to death. The story revolves around a young girl and her mother (or at least the trailers want you to think so and I don’t want to give too much away). The mother (Toni Collette) has just lost her mother and the family is coping with her death in their own ways. But when an incredible tragedy occurs, the mother gets advice from a new friend (Ann Dowd) which somehow brings about a new and unforeseen evil into their lives. Unfortunately for me, my heart rate never really elevated, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it – it only means that I didn’t find it overly scary. Don’t get me wrong – there are some great surprises and some decent jumps – but I really found the story to be more dramatically powerful and intellectually stimulating than biting-my-nails off frightening. It reminded me of 1968’s ‘Rosemary’s Baby’. The script was really well-written and the direction, production and acting were all absolutely first-rate. I think that on future viewings the film might grow on me, but I wish I wasn’t expecting a horror phenomenon as it really did have an effect my overall enjoyment. B

A Wrinkle in Time
Rated PG for thematic elements and some peril
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 39%
Available on disc and streaming
Yet another pic with a ton of buzz is this Disney version of the 1962 fantasy novel by Madeleine L’Engle which follows a young girl who goes on an existential search for her missing father with the help of three goddesses who want to set things right. With a stellar cast including Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Zach Galifianakis and Chris Pine, as well as a red-hot director Ava DuVernay, the project felt at first like a potentially gigantic hit. But unfortunately the movie never makes it off the ground as the screenplay confuses more than it excites and the dreamlike nature of the story excels at putting the audience to sleep. It wants to be ‘What Dreams May Come’ but just can’t get there. C

Rated R for language throughout, violence and sexual content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 39%
Available on disc and steaming
And speaking of tons of smoke but no fire, Gringo throws David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Amanda Seyfried, Thandie Newton and Sharlto Copley at the screen with a story that is hard to connect with and characters you can’t care about. The plot surrounds a low-profile businessman who gets a whiff of the despicable plans his boss has in store for their company and subsequently pretends to be kidnapped by a Mexican cartel in order to help salvage his own pathetic life. While there are some good performances and even some nice surprises, at the end the story leaves you so empty that you have to admit to yourself that the film wasn’t worth the time or interest invested in it. C

South Park: Season 21
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 58%
Available on disc and streaming
Coming off the brilliant season 20, South Park here continues to try to remain relevant as President Garrison (a fun mockery of Trump) commits to many off-color shenanigans while Cartman attempts to shame and belittle his newfound love in order to come off as more powerful to his friends. Unable to put together a season that feels conjoined in a perverse but wonderful way, this season plays out better on an individual basis but misses out the bigger-picture feel that I was actually craving after the last several seasons. I laughed a lot, but the I didn’t find it nearly as enjoyable as I had hoped given the dozens of episodes leading up to this series. B-