Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of December 14, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of December 14, 2020

Tenet
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, action, intense sequences of violence, some suggestive references
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%

Available on Disc and Streaming
After months of theaters practically shutting down from Covid-19, Warner Brothers decided to experiment with reopening by launching this highly-anticipated action/thriller from Christopher Nolan (Inception, Interstellar) in September. Holding their breath, Hollywood was hoping that it was still possible to release their slate of tentpoles and this was the ultimate litmus test. Unfortunately, the film did not do well, Hollywood pulled back, and theaters were left to struggle until the country can get vaccinated. Does this lackluster box office have anything to do with the film? Not really. But this is 2020 and this context is one of the most important stories of the year.

As for the film, Tenet (notice the palindrome) follows John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman) as he is brought into a secret government organization which manipulates what is called “inversion” to thwart a mastermind criminal (Kenneth Branagh) who is set to destroy the entire universe with its principals. Inversion essentially uses time travel on a controllable scale and welding it has its plusses and minuses. Along with Washington’s suave sidekick Robert Pattinson (Twilight), the pair do an excellent job of making the whacky premise come alive and seem believable. Even if all of the movies meant for theaters this summer had actually made it, this would have still, most likely, been the biggest and loudest of them all. It is a bombastic force, full of humongous set pieces and intense, sometimes crazy action sequences. It is most certainly a lot of fun to experience. But it is also incredibly confusing and strange. Once in, you will understand what inversion is, but the very concept is so ludicrous that you question its validity in a film. But boy do they go for it and that must be respected. They set up an insane central concept and as long as you don’t ask a lot of questions, you’ll be fully engaged as you go on the adventure. Nolan has done this over and over, so no surprises there. But if you thought Inception was hard get your head wrapped around, Tenet blows it away. Still, the film must be appreciated for what it is and even more so what it tried to do, as the world attempted to put back a glaringly missing piece of its existence. Yes it missed the mark, but I’m going to guess that it will at least recoup a much bigger chunk of its cost now that it is entering American homes. B+

The Wolf of Snow Hollow
Rated R for violence, bloody images, some drug use, language throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
Available on Disc and Streaming

From writer, director and star Jim Cummings comes this unexpected critical hit about a stressed-out police officer who must solve a string of murders which have convinced the entire town to be wary of a giant werewolf on the loose. Darkly funny and filled with some great performances from its largely unknown cast, the movie is a fun little jaunt that is built more to entertain than to scare. In one of his very last performances, Robert Forrester plays the town sheriff and steals the show in line after line. If you are in the mood for a fun little indie with several great surprises, you can do no wrong here. B-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of December 7, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of December 7, 2020

The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone
Rated R for violence and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93% at time of writing
Available on Disc and Streaming

When the Godfather Parts I and II came out in 1972 and 1974, respectively, they each slew at the Oscars and to this day are considered two of the finest movies ever made. But upon its release in 1990, Part III was met with a golf clap and a lot of people wishing for a vastly different film. At close to three hours in length, it seemed like it had decent bones, but it sorely needed a big edit as the pacing wasn’t great, with some scenes famously dragging on for what seemed like forever. Thirty years later, director Francis Ford Coppola and Paramount are re-releasing the film with a brand new edit and the original title that Coppola and writer Mario Puzo intended in the first place. Many of the scenes are there, but rearranged, with a different feel that, while at roughly the same length, is fresh and more appropriate for the franchise. Where the original feels rough, this one feels right. Could it have beat Dances with Wolves to give the franchise the Oscar trifecta? Probably not. But at least now there is a more fitting end to this legendary saga. A

Popeye
Rated PG
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 60%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Forty years ago, Robin Williams, fresh off his mega success on his new series Mork and Mindy, made his theatrical debut as the infamous Popeye the Sailor in Robert Altman’s strange little musical about an odd seaman who happens upon a weird little town only to steal the eccentric Olive Oyl (Shelley Duvall) from her fiancé and town bully, Bluto. I remember seeing this when I was 8 and I instantly fell in love with not only Williams, but the style of the movie and its eclectic but fitting musical numbers. Because it was built to look out of place and time, the movie still holds up quite well. And in his squinty little eyes, you can see the legend to come as Williams looks ready to take on the world as a budding young comic in his late twenties. Having not seen in it in decades, I was worried that I had outgrown it, but happy to know that I could still really enjoy both its unique vision and the trip down memory lane that it gave me. A-

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of November 23, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of November 23, 2020

(from left) Phil Betterman (Peter Dinklage) and Grug Crood (Nicolas Cage) in DreamWorks Animation’s The Croods: A New Age, directed by Joel Crawford.

The Croods: A New Age
Rated PG for peril, action and rude humor
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 76% at time of writing
In Theaters

This sequel to the 2013 animated film follows the continuing adventures of the Croods, a prehistoric family in search of a better life consisting of food, shelter and safety. Lucky for them they discover a beautifully walled-in single-family commune with a more evolved family, named the Bettermans, who have figured out a much more sophisticated way of living. While at first the Croods are welcomed, the two families’ differences quickly cause problems that escalate into a big feudal mess. While I wouldn’t say the movie is a big evolution from the first one, it’s actually still a lot of fun and crazy creative. Originally slated for a 2017 release, the studio changed the story direction by hiring Dan and Kevin Hageman (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark) to re-craft for a much later release this Thanksgiving. Is it worth venturing into theaters during Covid? Not sure about that one. But it is a fun little comedy with some big laughs and a welcome familiarity. Sure its more like theatrical comfort food than fine dining, but sometimes that is okay. Whether in theaters or in what I’m sure will be a relatively fast trip to home entertainment, kids will obviously enjoy, as I’m sure many of the adults will too with its wacky, random humor and nicely-paced story. B

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Rated R for some sexual content, language and brief violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100% at time of writing
Available on Netflix

Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman put on an acting masterclass in this film from Netflix based on the play by August Wilson and produced by Denzel Washington. The story follows a famous black singer named Ma Rainey (Davis) and her band as they attempt to record some new songs at a studio in Chicago in the 1920’s. Tensions flair as a young trumpet player (Boseman) and the rest of the band argue and fight over the direction of their music and their lives as black musicians in white America. The movie very much feels like a play as it moves between its music and its narrative. And while the story itself isn’t overly compelling, the stories of the characters, along with the fantastic ensemble cast playing them, give the film a memorable and satisfying journey as you learn about each of them and what has gotten them to that moment. And depending on when we actually see awards for this year, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Boseman and Davis were both major front-runners for best actor and actress when we eventually do see the trophies handed out. For Boseman especially, his potential posthumous win will be an emotionally charged campaign to reward the great talent which we lost way too soon. A-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of November 16, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of November 16, 2020

Hillbilly Elegy
Rated R for some violence, language throughout and drug content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 29%
In theaters now, on Netflix November 24

Director Ron Howard takes on the novel by J.D. Vance which explores the life of a young man whose grandmother (Glenn Close) raises him while his mother (Amy Adams) struggles though her drug addictions in rural Kentucky and Ohio. From the get-go, this film takes you into the darkness of white rural America as you authentically witness a timeline back and forth between now, then and wayback in order to try to help you better understand not just how our storyteller got here, but how America got here. In the story, in spite of severe obstacles in his way, author J.D. Vance arose from his humbling circumstances to eventually get into Yale law school and a thriving career. But it’s a story that most kids don’t recover from and much of America deals with every day. Here it feels real and Howard carefully moves through the narrative in a way that explains the world J.D. is in without exploiting it. Of course it helps to have actresses like Glenn Close and Amy Adams who very realistically inhabit their characters in a sensitive and empathetic way. The end result is a tough film to watch, but one worth watching nonetheless. Why it’s getting bad reviews I have no idea. Perhaps many critics just don’t want to visit this part of our country’s failure. But personally, I have been there and deem it important to show the nature of the beast, and the hope of eventually getting past it. A-

The Last Vermeer
Rated R for violence, some language, nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
In theaters

After WWII, many important works of art surfaced after being acquired or hidden by the Nazi party. During the year following the war, artist Han van Meegeren (Guy Pearce) was arrested and tried for selling unknown Vermeer paintings to high ranking members of the Nazi party and this movie explores that complex and dangerous relationship between doing what it takes to stay alive during a tumultuous period and profiting from it. While a little hard to get into, the movie quickly turns interesting as you follow its subject down his dark path and possible road to salvation. Using the soldier responsible for the journey as the catalyst is a bit boring, but ultimately the narrative is compelling and extremely fascinating. It might not be for everyone, but if you are an art or history lover – this movie will hold your focus hard, not only for its historical significance, but also for its largely unknown consequential magnitude upon the art world. B+

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of November 9, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of November 9, 2020

Freaky
Rated R for sexual content, language throughout, strong bloody horror violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79% at time of writing
In Theaters

Blumhouse loves to experiment with genre-crossing and in this newest fright fest, writer/director Christopher Landon (Happy Death Day) fools around with the classic Freaky Friday switcheroo. In this case, a high schooler named Millie (Kathryn Newton) changes places with a serial killer (Vince Vaughn) when he attempts to murder her. Waking up the next day in the others’ bodies, they each have to find a way to cross back over without getting themselves killed in the process. With quite a lively sense of humor throughout, the extreme violence, while at first unsettling, quickly turns to fun as you get into the meat of the story. And while it is a fairly predictable tale, with Vaughn pretending to be a high school girl for much of the film, you become much more interested in the comedy than the direction of the plot. Vaughn is a riot here, and I can’t imagine more perfect casting. B

Fatman
Rated R for bloody violence/language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 38% at time of writing
In Theaters and On Demand

In this newly imagined Christmas film, Mel Gibson plays Santa Claus and things are getting bad for him in the North Pole. Kids are losing their belief in him and the military is stepping in to change his business and to take advantage of his hard-working elves. And when he puts a lump of coal in a nasty rich kid’s stocking on Christmas, the kid hires a Santa-hating hitman (Walton Goggins) to take him out. If this sounds dark, that’s because it is. Don’t get any thoughts in your head that this might turn out to be a heart-warming tale that will leave you feeling fuzzy in the end. While it does have dark comedy undertones, you probably won’t be spending much time laughing here. That being said, there is humor in the characters’ nastiness, which is on full display here. And its edginess makes it interesting enough to keep you engaged and satisfied. It probably won’t go down as a holiday classic, but it ends up being entertaining enough to be worth a watch during the upcoming Christmas season. B-

Spontaneous
Rated R for Bloody Images Throughout, Teen Drug and Alcohol Use, Language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%

In this very timely high school horror/comedy, a young couple in love try to treat every moment like it could be their last, especially since many of the kids in their graduating class keep inexplicably blowing up. With equal amounts of funny and gory, the film is original and thought-provoking in a perverse yet sweet way. For the first half of the film, I thought this might end up as one of my favorites of the year. But unfortunately the premise wears thin and the story loses direction in the third act as it just doesn’t know where to go. But its a great attempt for what it is and the first hour is worth getting invested in the movie, in spite of its late flaws. B+

Schitt’s Creek: The Complete Series
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
Available on Netflix and DVD

One of the most watchable television series in recent years is this lovable comedy about a formerly wealthy family who lose everything except a deed for the town of Schitt’s Creek, which was bought as a joke. But they begrudgingly move to their new home in the hope of starting over and doing it better than they did before. What begins as a frivolous little one-note comedy evolves over six seasons into a masterpiece of love and laughter. My friend who got me into the show originally described it as her “happy place”, and I can’t agree more. With all of the drama and darkness in the world right now, these short little episodes serve as a bright light to remind you of all the good that is still out there. After you’re all done with the final season, or if you want to better understand what all the buzz is about and why the show took home so many Emmys this last year, check out the documentary “A Schitt’s Creek Farewell” which goes into great detail about all of the brilliant little details that you might have overlooked. A+

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of October 26, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of October 26, 2020

Spell
Rated R for disturbing/bloody images, violence, language
Available on video on demand

In this relatively low-budget black horror film from Paramount, wealthy lawyer Omari Hardwick (Being Mary Jane) and his young family make a trip to his father’s funeral in rural Appalachia in their private plane, when an intense storm brings them down. When he awakens, he discovers he is in a small remote town and being held captive in the attic of a not-so-normal older woman. And worse, he is about to be the victim of a voodoo ceremony. For what it is, the movie turns out to be a moderately creepy tale with an excellent cast and creative team. Imagine if Jordan Peele recreated Misery and that’s what you’ll get here. At 91 minutes, it doesn’t possess a lot of exposition and character building, but honestly, it doesn’t need it either. It would have probably been a profitable hit in theaters, especially considering its budget, and it does the trick if you just want a short Halloween scarer. It would have certainly elevated the film to take a deeper dive into the unusual world on display, but its production and style can still lure in a thrill-seeking audience if it is marketed right. B-

Host
Unrated – but would easily be an R
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Available on the Shudder horror streaming service

After noticing its perfect Rotten Tomatoes score, I felt compelled to request a screener for this new original horror film from the new streaming service Shudder. Taking place in our current Covid world, the story follows a group of friends on Zoom who schedule a group seance. But when they fail to take it seriously, they accidentally invite in the wrong spirits into their homes. With the entire film taking place on Zoom, the movie ends up being a relevant and creative way to tell a story that should attract enough people to take a closer look at Shudder’s service and offerings. And I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it inspires aspiring filmmakers who come to the realization that they can make a decent movie with a platform they know all too well and without much of a budget at all. At just under an hour, it’s not really a full-length feature narrative and the film definitely lacks the dialog and character development that might have helped to round it out in a way that could have benefited its popularity and marketability. But as is, I was still happy with its rather scary, hair-raising brevity. B

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of October 19, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of October 19, 2020

On the Rocks
Rated R for some language and sexual references
Available on Apple TV

It looks like all of the big streaming platforms this week have a high-profile title coming, which should have played on big screens but were forced to opt for the small. The first of these is writer/director Sofia Coppola once again teaming up with Bill Murray. The story follows Rashida Jones, a young married working mom whose husband, played by Marlon Wayans, is starting to show signs of cheating. When her womanizing father (Murray) learns of this, he moves in to help his daughter uncover the truth. While not nearly as strong as their previous team up, Lost in Translation, the film turns out to be a refreshingly surprising script that is only seemingly predictable. What I liked most was that while the story is fairly simple, the script is rather complex because of it. It meanders through its morals, and lack of them, while all the time telling a grander tale. And of course you can’t beat the cast. Murray here is allowed to be his classic self, and there is nothing subdued about him, but he manages to shape that into a rather unique character, even for him. Jones on the other hand warms into the role as she shows us just how unfocused and uncomfortable she is with her current situation, and possibly even how dissatisfied she is as she contemplates where her life has ended up. And while I don’t want to give away too much information here, I will say that I was grateful for the ending I got, especially considering my fear of disappointment during the course of the movie. B+

The Witches
Rated PG for language, thematic elements and scary images/moments
Available on HBO Max

From the mind of Roald Dahl comes this reimagining of his book where a group of witches (led by Anne Hathaway) descends upon a hotel in Alabama to move forward their plot to destroy all children around the world, or at least turn them all into mice. But when a young boy and his grandmother (Octavia Spencer) are thrust into their plan, they attempt to put an end to their evil intentions. Years after the first film adaptation came out in 1990, Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron had plans to turn this book into a stop-motion animated version of the story. But when that was going nowhere, Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump) jumped in and del Toro joined in as producer. The film has a truly eerie sense to it for a PG film, with some rather creepy moments throughout. But even as creative as it is and with far more advanced special effects, it still doesn’t seem to have the energy and inventiveness of the 1990’s Jim Henson version. Also, the human characters for some reason don’t gel well with their animated counterparts, which at times puts out an awkward feel for such a big-budget movie with actors who are usually extremely convincing in these types of roles. That being said, it’s not bad, and kids will probably enjoy themselves while camped in front of the TV, but it certainly isn’t the brilliant hit I was expecting. B-

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Rated R for graphic nudity, strong crude and sexual content, language
Available on Amazon Prime

The last film heading straight to the small screen (which would have probably been huge in theaters) is the sequel to Borat, most likely to try to take advantage of the election, or maybe to try to have some influence on it. 14 years after the events of the first film, Borat has been promised a tortuous death from the Kazakstan government unless he delivers a prized gift to vice president Michael Pence. But his plans change when he sneaks his daughter into the U.S. and, while getting to know her, begins to explore the craziness that is 2020 America. While much of the film seems too fake to be real, the fact is that much of it is absolutely real and this could very well spell trouble for one very big influential political personality who has been bragging for a while on how he avoided the trap (which he very much didn’t). While it was no where near as funny as the original, there are some big laughs that will leave you breathless as you sit and ponder on how he could have gotten away with what he did. Even with its ginormous sense of humor, it unfortunately still paints a sad portrait of our country and the sickness of racism and sexism that still exists. Luckily for most of his victims this time around, he shows them to be real humans who, while maybe flawed, are still capable of showing love and friendship to strangers and even gasp deranged foreigners. B+

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of October 12, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of October 12, 2020

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Love and Monsters
Rated PG-13 for action/violence, some suggestive material and language
Available on Demand

With its plans foiled for a theatrical release, Paramount is lunching this relatively low-budgeted action monster romance straight to homes on October 16. The story takes place seven years after the “Monsterapocalypse” destroys most of humanity when gigantic monsters start terrifying the planet. Our hero (Dylan O’Brien) is the runt of a group of survivors living underground, who is respected not for his fighting and survival skills, but only for his ability to make soup and mastering the radio. But when he discovers that the love of his young life (Jessica Henwick) is still alive dozens of miles away in another colony, he sets off by foot to reconnect with her. Along the way he runs into a veteran monster-killer and his child protege (Michael Rooker and Ariana Greenblatt) who attempt to teach him about his monster predators and how to stay alive along the journey. With its romantic element, it ends up being being like a cross between Zombieland and Say Anything where the chance of a reunion kiss is as important as living through a giant frog attack. At times it is quite creative and others it feels way too familiar. While the monsters’ very presence and actions don’t make a lick of sense, they are at least uniquely conceived, even if the supporting characters are many times an unnecessary formulaic rehash. If this were premiering on Netflix, it might have had a decent chance of gaining an audience, but without a notable cast and a sudden release on demand, it might quickly find its way to obscurity. B-

Kingdom of Silence
Unrated
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Available on Showtime

The first of two high-profile documentaries being released this year about the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Kingdom of Silence attempts to show its audience about Khashoggi’s life and lasting impact on journalism, while also painting a picture of the world events that led to his brutal murder at the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey. While the murder was a well-covered historical event, this film does an excellent job of providing a primer for the why’s and not just the how’s. Some might find it offensive as it heavily implicates Trump’s complicity as one of those why’s, using the premise that they wouldn’t have gotten away with it under Obama, thus placing Trump and the U.S. as central characters. But ultimately it tells a convincing story of the unchecked power of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, a man who many consider to be a ruthless dictator, able to use his corrupt relationships with many world powers in order to very literally get away with murder on the world stage. It is a much more political documentary than I expected, but it never feels like it is straying from the truth. Instead it helps us better understand why our leaders need to represent the high ideals of our country and when they stray, bad things can and will happen. A-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of September 28, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of September 28, 2020

John Lewis: Good Trouble
Rated PG for thematic material, some racial epithets, smoking and violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Available on Disc and On Demand

This new documentary by CNN Films follows the life and struggles of Congressman and Civil Rights hero John Lewis. From his early days with Martin Luther King, to his final days which ended earlier this year, the film attempts to show his character, his perseverance, his strategies and the legacy he is most obviously leaving behind. There is no doubt of the greatness of this man. While this film doesn’t show him as perfect, they do portray him to be one of the best, which most would agree with. Unfortunately, he deserves a better documentary than this. I’m guessing that the film changed directions with his death in July. But way too much time was spent in the modern day, with him and his colleagues just doing their thing. The meat of his legacy is what he did over the last 60 years and while some of the focus was spent on that, it needed so much more. I’m sure the point was to show that there was important work then and there is still important work now. But here that message is drowned out with a reality TV-style look, following the man around hoping something might happen. Well something did happen in his past and we would have come away with so much more had they shown us more of that. B-

The Silencing
Rated R for language, violence and some disturbing images Rotten Tomatoes Score: 16%
Available on Disc and On Demand

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) plays an alcoholic hermit who has secluded himself on a game preserve after the disappearance of his daughter. But when he becomes aware of a serial killer of teenage girls, he sets out to track down the killer in the hope of either finding his daughter or at minimum the revenge for her death. At least I think that’s what it is about. Honestly, it’s a sloppy film with a horrible script and a mess of a production. The movie ends up with not much of a mystery and the big reveals are completely underwhelming, and worse – unbelievable. The hard part is that Nikolaj is just so likable in any role, even when the material is this bad. He has the look and talent of an A-lister but is filling his resume with B-level projects. I very much hope that he finds material much more worthy of his abilities and potential so we can stop settling for junk like this. D

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of September 14, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of September 14, 2020

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Antebellum
Rated R for disturbing violent content, language, and sexual references
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 33% at time of writing
Available On-Demand

There are two very distinct movies here with Antebellum: the one advertised in the trailers and the actual 105 minute narrative. The trailer tells the story of a highly successful black woman in modern times who somehow gets whisked away to a slave plantation where she must use her courage and wit to find a way back to reality. From the brief minutes spent watching, you can tell that this could very well be a sci-fi horror classic, in the vein of Get Out or US. Then there is this film, which contains some of the same elements, but in different order, with a cruel and bitter tone, and practically void of the theme it is begging to have standing firmly behind it. The film opens with said successful woman (Janelle Monáe) who is a slave, both physically and sexually, on a plantation in Louisiana. She is victim and witness to every sort of cruelty given to slaves in that day. And once that most dangerous of situations is firmly established, we see the same woman in the modern day, on top of the world, with a loving family and a booming career. Where it goes next is probably well-known to anyone even slightly familiar going in. To further the description would be to give the whole thing away. I don’t want to elude that every movie should be a longer version of the trailer and that I wished it was like most movie advertisements today in the way it ruins the narrative power of the picture. I hate it when I see a concise two minute version of the movie with all of its best scenes. That typically means that the film being marketed lacks substance or quality. But in this case, the trailer is quite brilliant in that it conveys a potentially powerful tale that promises to be eye-opening, compelling, and possibly, if we are lucky, mind-blowing. But here we aren’t lucky. The story we end up with is ugly, deceitful and sadly predictable, rather than intelligent, poignant and frightening. It is stripped of any kind of grander purpose it was more than capable of possessing. It’s like being promised fine dining only to discover a bag of stale fast food. The funny thing is – I still want the film I expected to see. If there was a way to retool this clunker, I would be back in a minute. C-