Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of May 21, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of May 21, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence
In Theaters
Disney has made it a mission to both expand the Star Wars universe and fill in the gaps with a full slate of new movies and adventures. Part of the gap-filling is this new tale which essentially gives Han Solo an origin story. Here a young Han (Alden Ehrenreich) meets his future life-partner Chewbacca and sets off on a mission with fellow hooligan Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) to steal precious cargo worth a fortune for them if they get away with it. This is probably easy to predict, but this movie is exactly what you think it will be. And that’s not a bad thing. There was some concern when the original directors were fired and replaced with Ron Howard, but as one with a lot of faith in Ron Howard, my confidence in his ability proved valid. The film is a fast, light-hearted joyride with all of the great moments you knew would have to be there such as the Kesell Run and a memorable meet-cute between Chewy and Han. Ehrenreich does a completely competent job as Han but stealing the show is certainly Glover whose career is as hot as it gets right now. Overall this is a highly enjoyable addition to the Star Wars franchise, destined to be a hit and possibly even its own franchise starter. B+

Game Night
Rated R for language, sexual references and some violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
Available on Disc and Streaming
While this critical hit turned out to be a bomb at the box-office, it hopes to gain a little more attention for home viewing. In this adult comedy, Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are a young couple who love to host a frequent game night with their friends. But when his brother (Kyle Chandler) shows up trying to one-up their game night, things take a serious (yet still comedic) turn as truths start to materialize. While most of the twists and turns don’t make a lot of sense as you put thought into them, the writing and acting is strong enough to push you through and the crazy night ends up being fun to watch even in spite of the obvious plot problems. B-

Red Sparrow
Rated R for strong violence, torture, sexual content, language and some graphic nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 47%
Jennifer Lawrence has been picking some fairly unconventional projects lately such as Mother! and Passengers, and continuing that trend comes this film about an injured Russian ballerina who is forced into the life of a sex spy. The overlong film is a chore to get through as it is mostly boring, with a pervasive rapey vibe and loaded with torture. Sure the acting is decent but the film is as far from a sexy thriller as you can get. The whole thing is a lushly produced nauseating experience. C-

The Other Side of Hope: The Criterion Collection
Not Rated
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
In Finnish, English and Arabic
Available on Disc and Streaming
Finnish writer/director Aki Kurismäki takes on the refugee crisis as he tells this tale about a businessman who befriends and attempts to help a Syrian refugee who lands in Helsinki as a stowaway. Kaurismäki’s work is certainly not for everyone and this is no exception. While frequently funny and ridiculous, the director’s deadpan style makes the actors seem rigid and mundane, stealing away from the terrific story which gives life and empathy to the Syrian refugee crisis. I really wanted to like the movie, but its style is just too off-putting. C+

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of May 14, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives by Danny Minton

Week of May 14, 2018

Deadpool 2
Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual references and brief drug material
In Theaters
The foul-mouthed comic vigilante superhero Deadpool, aka Wade Wilson, aka actor Ryan Reynolds, is back in this much-anticipated sequel directed this time by John Wick director David Leitch. When the first film was made it was a risky venture to release an R-rated raunchy super hero flick. But as Deadpool points out early the film, the risk paid off and Deadpool was a smash box office hit. This new adventure is much less of a labor of love and much more like a bunch of friends having fun, full of confidence that their project will succeed. The story begins with our red dead super hero taking apart crime syndicates around the world, only to find himself determined to protect a young mutant who is being hunted by a hitman from the future named Cable (Josh Brolin). Just as in the first film, the humor is rampant and the violence is constant. But if you are used to it, it shouldn’t be offensive to most audience members. That’s not to say the material isn’t offensive. It is certainly not a film for everybody and most definitely not for kids unless you want them to get in trouble on their last days of school for repeating many of the new things they’ll learn. But for desensitized late teens and adults, it’s a wildly entertaining action pic that will make you laugh yourself silly. B+

Black Panther
Rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action violence, and a brief rude gesture
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Available on Disc and Streaming
Marvel’s mega-hit about an African king/superhero gets its home entertainment release this week, where it will no doubt grow it’s already legendary profitability. The nice thing about this box office champ is it has earned its stripes. Telling the origin story of King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and how he enters the world stage while protecting his own people in Wakanda, the film lets us know all we need to know while at the same time helping us see him in his place in the larger Marvel universe. It is a solid production on all levels. Written and directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) and with an amazing cast of talented actors, the film excites and thrills with tight pacing and a sense of awe. Black Panther is more than just an addition to the Marvel Universe – it is a reinvention if it. A-

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of April 30, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives by Danny Minton

Week of April 30, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
In Theaters
This much-anticipated franchise addition to the Avengers universe basically adds almost every character we’ve seen so far (minus a couple of ones no-one will miss like Hawkeye and Ant-man), in an ultimate battle against Thanos, an Alien invader who wishes to collect the full set of Infinity Stones in order to decimate half of the universe. If you don’t follow the plot, don’t worry, it’s a silly copycat of Lord of the Rings that Marvel has been pushing out for years. Chances are, most of the folks reading this review have already seen the movie. But if you haven’t, I’ll try not to give away any major spoilers that will upset you, although I bet your friends have already given everything away. What I can safely say is that the film is extremely funny and full of non-stop action. While there are plot turns that have the potential to make you mad, I can also declare that you will get your money’s worth here. I will also say that these plot turns are easy to see through and fairly easy to predict if you are familiar at all with their films past and what they have coming out in the future. While I don’t think the movie is worth repeat viewings, it is a solid piece of entertainment and a great addition to the series. It shows the progression of an impressive vision from producer Kevin Feige and Disney, and should thrill pretty much anyone who buys a ticket. Are there some major problems? Sure there are. I saw several opportunities for the story to just end and be set right. But these issues are easy enough to ignore as long as you are forgiving to the fact that Disney still has billions of dollars to earn off its audiences. B+

Rated R for strong violence, and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%
Available on Disc and Streaming
Christian Bale plays a decorated Army Captain who is tasked with escorting a dying Cheyenne war chief and his family back to their tribal lands, only to discover a woman (Rosamund Pike) who is the lone survivor from her family after a brutal Comanche attack. I have to admit that this film is really growing on me. The production is quite amazing with breathtaking cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi (Warrior) and a haunting score by Max Richter (The Leftovers). But most impressive is the directing and script by Scott Cooper, with a story both disturbing and relevant. Emotionally, it is a tough one to watch for sure, but worth putting in the time. A-

12 Strong
Rated R for war violence and language throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 54%
Available on Disc and Streaming
Based on the recently declassified true story about a group of soldiers sent in for a first strike on the Taliban after 9/11, Thor and General Zod (Chris Hemsworth and Michael Shannon) lead a small group of men who must learn to ride horses in order to navigate the treacherous terrain and confront the enemy. The story itself is interesting but the way it is told here is a let down. It is overlong and underwhelming, with great actors badly phoning in their parts. C

Mary and the Witch’s Flower
Rated PG for some action and thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
Available on Disc and Streaming
Written and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (former key animator at Studio Ghibli) Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a hand-drawn animated fantasy which follows a young girl who discovers a hidden world in the clouds where she is enrolled to become a witch in training, only to reveal secrets hidden by those she knows on Earth. The film is rich in both storytelling and artistry with a lush beauty you would expect from one with such a background. Personally, I found it to be the best animated film from Japan not to come from Studio Ghibli, which is still quite a compliment. B+

The Insult
Rated R for language and some violent images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Available on Disc and Streaming
This Oscar-nominated foreign film from Lebanon tells the story of a Christian and a Muslim, caught up in a battle over a careless insult that is thrown out during a stubborn and unwinnable argument. It is a fascinating look both at a different culture but also at a relevant situation given today’s chaotic political and religious climate at home. It is a bit preachy and a little full of itself in regards to its message and theme, but is still an important and memorable story worth watching. B

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of April 23, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives by Danny Minton

Week of April 23, 2018

Paddington 2
Rated PG for some action and mild rude humor
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Available on Disc and Streaming
Part of the above description should have given you pause. 100% Rotten Tomatoes score? Not one critic out of almost 200 (including me) didn’t recommend it? You read that correctly. This almost perfect family film beat out the first’s almost perfect 98% score in grand fashion. Based on the popular English stuffed animal, Paddington 2 continues the adventures of the lovable bear as he is falsely arrested for stealing a priceless pop-up book, only to find himself and his human family hot on the heels of the despicable real thief, played by the versatile Hugh Grant. Just like the first, the film is cuddly, cute, clever, funny and surprisingly smart. And if you have kiddos, it is one of the most family-friendly films you can enjoy with them without feeling guilty. The whole thing is simply an enjoyable way to send nearly two hours. A-

Den of Thieves
Rated R for violence, language and some sexuality/nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 41%
Available on Disc and Streaming
Gerard Butler plays a flawed and ferocious cop, hell-bent on taking down a ring of criminals determined to be the first to ever rip off a federal reserve bank. The film has a big-time Michael Mann vibe to it, but lacks the substance and talent, even though the attempt is admirable. So while Heat it ain’t, there are some respectable qualities. The premise itself is original and almost works, especially towards the end when the actual crime takes place. But where the film fails is the long, meandering path to get to the climax. It’s a slow burn with little reward or even justification as to why it takes so long to show us the money. Still Gerard Butler is believable as the sort of good guy and Pablo Schreiber is convincing as the street savvy gang leader ready to take on the biggest heist in history. I just wish the film didn’t waste so much of my time getting to the well-executed third act. C+

The Post
Rated PG-13 for language and brief war violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Available on Disc and Streaming
After watching this film in theaters last December, I felt certain that I had just seen the movie that would win Best Picture. After all, it had two of America’s most-loved actors (Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks), in addition to America’s most-respected director Steven Spielberg telling the most relevant of stories about the Washington Post in the 70s going against all odds to print a story that would eventually bring down a president. But while it brought in a slew of nominations, it didn’t win a thing and eventually fizzled. Still – this is a movie that needs to be seen, even if it will not be seen or appreciated by the audience most in need of its message and theme. It is a tale of caution and courage, meant for far greater ambitions than it was able to achieve. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is a masterful film worthy of America’s attention. A

Grease: 40th Anniversary Edition
Rated PG for adult situations/language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75%
Available on Disc and Streaming
Since this film came out when I was six, I was unable to see it in theaters and had to rely on VHS, TV, and eventually DVD for my limited exposure to it. But now remastered in this new 4K edition, the film looks pristine to the point where it’s almost uncomfortable. Since this musical, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John as two teenagers in love, relies more on its iconic nostalgia for its success rather than its art; this new and stunning-looking film might throw you off quite a bit. I’m actually anxious to discuss with fans of the film to see if they prefer this or the dirty, lower resolution version of the pic we are used to seeing. B-

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of April 9, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives by Danny Minton

Week of April 9, 2018

The Greatest Showman

Rated PG for thematic elements including a brawl

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 55%

Another victim/survivor of the crowded Christmas schedule this year was this musical produced by and starring Hugh Jackman as the infamous P.T. Barnum.  But even though it didn’t get much in the way of awards love (I didn’t even get to see it until after nominations were due), it went on to have a moderately successful box office, creating quite a fan base who went to see it again and again.  Well I have to admit that I am right there with them.  After seeing it the first time in early January, I couldn’t wait to go again.  I found the music (written by Dear Evan Hansen and La La Land scribes Benj Pasek and Justin Paul), to be catchy and addictive, with a soundtrack that now has regular play intervals in my car and home, especially when my young son has his choice.  Overall, I found the movie to be an excellent feel-good movie/musical and had I had the chance to see it before I wrote my Top 10 of 2017, it might have been a major player on my list.  A


Phantom Thread

Rated R for language

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%

Nominated for 6 Oscars including Picture, Director, Actor and Supporting Actress, Phantom Thread was quite the last-minute surprise from director Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights).  The story follows Daniel Day-Lewis as a high-end fashion designer in the 1960’s and his struggles to constantly improve his craft and his inability stay grounded in both love and life.  For much of the movie, it is possibly the most pretentious, snooty film I have ever seen.  But then the film takes a turn to bring it and its subject back down to Earth in a deeply surprising manner that actually excited my intellect and curbed my almost negative opinion.  I would not recommend this to anyone who isn’t a serious cinema fan, but I can see why the Academy honored it with so many high-power nods, and I look forward to discussing with other viewers once some people have actually seen it.  B


Molly’s Game

Rated R for language, drug content and some violence

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%

Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin makes his directorial debut here with this real-life story about an ex-olympic skier (Jessica Chastain), who created an exclusive high-stakes poker game until she became an FBI target.  With Sorkin on the script, the story is well-written and the talented cast keeps the words and action flowing.  Its only downfall is that the story, while interesting, isn’t two hours interesting, making you wish that there was something more worth watching.  It’ll pass the time on a rainy day, but I doubt it will stick with you.  B-