Popcorn Perspectives: Week of February 26, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of February 26, 2018

Rated R for violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
In Theaters
This heavy sci-fi piece from Ex Machina writer/director Alex Garland stars Natalie Portman as an ex-military scientist who leads an all-female mission into an environmental disaster zone in order to try to uncover what happened to the all male team that preceded them. Once there, they discover a world that defies logic as well as the laws of nature. With a feel much like that of a cross between Arrival and Alien, you at once try to figure out both the importance of the characters as well as their mission and the extent of its danger. But once you are in the zone, you can’t help but be sucked into the secrets of the crazy and strange world on display. It is scary, thrilling, fascinating and beautiful – all at the same time. This is certainly some hardcore sci-fi, and thus not for everyone, but many will find this a weird and exhilarating adventure. B

Rated PG for thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Available on Disc and Streaming
About the only Oscar that is a sure-thing this year will go to this Pixar hit about a young boy who enters the world of the dead on an adventure to find and gain the blessing of his grandfather. While Warner Brothers beat Pixar to the screen with its Dia de los Muertos-themed The Book of Life, Pixar one-upped them with this spectacular musical fantasy that simply blows the competition away with its storytelling and artistry. It is a true masterpiece that is equally enjoyable for both kids and adults. A

Darkest Hour
Rated PG-13 for some thematic material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
Available on Disc and Streaming
There is so much to love with this remarkable film about Winston Churchill that it is hard to know where to start. The standout here is the brilliant performance by Gary Oldman, which is quite inspiring. It is also a product of one my favorite director and composer teams (Joe Wright and Dario Marianelli – Pride and Prejudice, Atonement), with work on par with their previous projects. But what will stick in your brain is the terrific story of how Churchill came to be the prime minister during WWII and the events that led up to the evacuation of Dunkirk, a story that so few Americans have a clue about since it took place before the U.S. entry to the war. It won’t win Best Picture this year, but it is surely deserving of its nomination and makes a great primer to watching one of the other great Best Picture nominees: Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. A

The Florida Project
Rated R for language throughout, disturbing behavior, sexual references and some drug material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Available on Disc and Streaming
One of the most under-appreciated films this year was this little indie about a precocious six year-old girl who lives in a hotel with her struggling mother who pays little attention to her as she plays and gets in trouble with her friends. I went to see this film without a hint to what it was about and I felt lucky because of it. I was most fascinated that I was 60 minutes into the movie asking myself “what is the story?” until I finally realized that I was already neck-deep into it. It has a modern-day 400 Blows feel to it and the little girl, played by newcomer Brooklyn Prince (winner of the Critics Choice Award for young actor) pulls off the role magically. But the best part of the film is the amazing performance of Willem Dafoe who plays the hotel manager and only thing protecting the children when their parents are no where to be found. A-

Murder on the Orient Express
Rated PG-13 for violence and thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 58%
Available on Disc and Streaming
Sure it has one of the most amazing casts assembled in recent years (Branagh, Cruz, Depp, Dafoe, Dench, Gad, Pfeiffer and Ridley) and a lush production, but ultimately the story gets bogged down as a mystery, as it is arrogantly solved by writer/director/star Kenneth Branagh. I was so annoyed by the ego-driven performance and distracted by the horrible mustache that I wished someone would have simply pushed him off the train as they were traveling through the mountains. I rather liked the story behind the mystery but hated having to watch it unfold. C-