Popcorn Perspectives – Week of November 27, 2017

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of November 27, 2017

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-