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

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+

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-