Popcorn Perspectives – Week of June 18, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of June 18, 2018

The Death of Stalin
Rated R for language throughout, violence and some sexual references
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Available on disc and streaming
From Armando Iannucci, the creator of HBO’s Veep comes this dark comedy about the last days of Joseph Stalin and the aftermath that followed his passing. Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, Michael Palin and Jason Isaacs head up this amazingly talented cast of actors who drop the Russian accents and instead play themselves as the men desperately trying to take control of the country by any means necessary. Like Veep, the dialog is razor sharp and quick and if you didn’t know it was a comedy going into it, it might escape you that you are supposed to laugh. I loved the absolute dryness of the script and the amazing deliveries of the cast. It’s not a film for everyone, but for history buffs with a warped sense of humor, it will serve as a wicked and enjoyable satire. A-

Paul, Apostle of Christ
Rated PG-13 for some violent content and disturbing images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 46%
Available on disc and streaming
This lushly produced biblical epic follows the latter days of the Apostle Paul (James Faulkner) as he works with the physician Luke (Jim Caviezel) to put his story into writing while waiting for his execution. I certainly applaud the chance the filmmakers took with this unique story-telling method and its desire to concentrate on a short part of Paul’s life rather than focus on the immense life’s journey which would take much longer than two hours to tell well. And while Caviezel and Faulkner turn in some strong performances, much of the supporting cast and the convoluted timelines make for only a slightly better than average Christian film. While it is certainly leaps above the made-for-television movies which we have previously seen, it can’t compare to Passion of the Christ or even the recent Risen in terms of overall quality. And while I really wanted to love it, I found myself too judgmental about too many little things. B-

Rated R for disturbing behavior, violence, language, and sex references
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%
Available on disc and streaming
From director Steven Soderbergh comes this low budget indie about a depressed woman (Claire Foy) who accidentally commits herself after admitting to a counselor that she on occasion has suicidal thoughts. While locked up, things take a dark turn as the more she fights the deeper into the hole she falls. This is an interesting psychological drama that takes a dark and unexpected turn, giving the film an almost horror-like dimension. While it won’t blow your mind, it turns out to be quite a unique little picture with a subtle message about the state of our current medical system. B-

Pacific Rim Uprising
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action and some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 43%
Available on disc and streaming
This follow-up to the Guillermo del Toro monster film takes places years later as mankind once again fight giant inter-dimensional giant creatures by manning giant protector robots. While I loved the first film, this newest edition is just a hollow shell of a story, attempting to commit to a lower budget in the hopes of getting the same modest returns. John Boyega does an admirable job in the leading role, but the story is a mess and the plot with Charlie Day is as stupid as I’ve ever seen in a movie. The whole thing feels like a lame and unsuccessful attempt at a money grab. C-

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of June 11, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives by Danny Minton

Week of June 11, 2018

Incredibles 2
Rated PG for action sequences and some brief mild language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97% (at time of writing)
In theaters
Fourteen years have passed in our world since Pixar’s Incredibles blew us away the first time. But the Parr family, consisting of mom and dad Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl along with their kids Dash, Violet and Jack Jack, they pick up in the very second they left us, and unfortunately they cause more damage trying to stop The Underminer than if they had just left him alone. So now the worlds’ governments hate them more than ever. But thanks to an enterprising billionaire with great faith in their abilities and a talent for marketing, an attempt is made to try to put superheroes back on the street the right way – lady’s first – with Elastigirl leading the way. And of course things go great until a super villain pops up with the potential power to take all of the remaining heroes down. I went into this one with high hopes but no real expectations of comparing to the first film. I left having those expectations smashed. Pixar here does a perfect job of juggling story, thrills and laughs in a way that keeps you majorly engaged and entertained for two straight hours. The big reveal in the third act isn’t altogether that surprising, but it is easily overlooked as it ignites a non-stop action sequence which doesn’t allow you to think too much about that singular flaw. It is truly a film that everyone watching should enjoy, regardless of age or gender. And just like it happened in 2004, you should leave the theater having been absolutely blown away. A

I Can Only Imagine
Rated PG for thematic elements including some violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%
Available on disc and streaming
Faith-based films, while a very popular genre, are generally known for lower production values and poorer acting – but there are exceptions and this latest which tells the story behind the most popular Contemporary Christian song of all time is one of them. Set in Greenville, TX, the film follows Christian band Mercy Me frontman Bart Millard and the life experiences which led him to write the ginormous hit song. While the strong lead actor, J. Michael Finley, has been only known to Broadway in shows such as Les Miserables and Book of Mormon, the production landed Dennis Quaid in the pivotal role of Millard’s father and even Cloris Leachman and Trace Adkins to give the film a strong boost. And while there are some contrived, cheesy and manipulative moments, the film gives off real power and inspiration throughout rather than the forced preaching to the choir this genre is mostly known for. B+

Tomb Raider
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and for some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 49%
Available on disc and streaming
Even though the original Tomb Raiders weren’t exactly well-thought of, a reboot was inevitable I suppose. Filling the gigantic shoes left by Angelina Jolie is the young and beautiful Oscar-winning Swedish actress Alicia Vikander who goes on a secret mission to rescue her long-missing father. The fault of this disastrous outing is not hers (she obviously puts her all into it) but rather the plain ridiculousness of the entire project. The premise is nothing but silly and the execution of that premise leads to this unapologetically preposterous adventure which does nothing but waste two hours of your time. If you want to see this film for the same reason you saw the first two – to watch a total hottie wander around remote locales for hours solving puzzles amid almost certain death, then be my guest. If you are hoping the treasure map leads to a good movie – you are out of luck. D+

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of June 4, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of June 4, 2018

Rated R for horror violence, disturbing images, language, drug use and brief graphic nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93% (at time of writing)
In theaters
The buzz on this newest horror flick from A24 is humongous. People are touting it as the scariest film they’ve ever seen – or at least the scariest film in recent memory. I was quite impressed at the very arrogance of the marketing when they solicited audience members to commit to post heart rate results from their Apple Watches after the movie. They want you to know that this film will literally scare you to death. The story revolves around a young girl and her mother (or at least the trailers want you to think so and I don’t want to give too much away). The mother (Toni Collette) has just lost her mother and the family is coping with her death in their own ways. But when an incredible tragedy occurs, the mother gets advice from a new friend (Ann Dowd) which somehow brings about a new and unforeseen evil into their lives. Unfortunately for me, my heart rate never really elevated, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it – it only means that I didn’t find it overly scary. Don’t get me wrong – there are some great surprises and some decent jumps – but I really found the story to be more dramatically powerful and intellectually stimulating than biting-my-nails off frightening. It reminded me of 1968’s ‘Rosemary’s Baby’. The script was really well-written and the direction, production and acting were all absolutely first-rate. I think that on future viewings the film might grow on me, but I wish I wasn’t expecting a horror phenomenon as it really did have an effect my overall enjoyment. B

A Wrinkle in Time
Rated PG for thematic elements and some peril
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 39%
Available on disc and streaming
Yet another pic with a ton of buzz is this Disney version of the 1962 fantasy novel by Madeleine L’Engle which follows a young girl who goes on an existential search for her missing father with the help of three goddesses who want to set things right. With a stellar cast including Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Zach Galifianakis and Chris Pine, as well as a red-hot director Ava DuVernay, the project felt at first like a potentially gigantic hit. But unfortunately the movie never makes it off the ground as the screenplay confuses more than it excites and the dreamlike nature of the story excels at putting the audience to sleep. It wants to be ‘What Dreams May Come’ but just can’t get there. C

Rated R for language throughout, violence and sexual content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 39%
Available on disc and steaming
And speaking of tons of smoke but no fire, Gringo throws David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Amanda Seyfried, Thandie Newton and Sharlto Copley at the screen with a story that is hard to connect with and characters you can’t care about. The plot surrounds a low-profile businessman who gets a whiff of the despicable plans his boss has in store for their company and subsequently pretends to be kidnapped by a Mexican cartel in order to help salvage his own pathetic life. While there are some good performances and even some nice surprises, at the end the story leaves you so empty that you have to admit to yourself that the film wasn’t worth the time or interest invested in it. C

South Park: Season 21
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 58%
Available on disc and streaming
Coming off the brilliant season 20, South Park here continues to try to remain relevant as President Garrison (a fun mockery of Trump) commits to many off-color shenanigans while Cartman attempts to shame and belittle his newfound love in order to come off as more powerful to his friends. Unable to put together a season that feels conjoined in a perverse but wonderful way, this season plays out better on an individual basis but misses out the bigger-picture feel that I was actually craving after the last several seasons. I laughed a lot, but the I didn’t find it nearly as enjoyable as I had hoped given the dozens of episodes leading up to this series. B-

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of May 28

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of May 28, 2018

Rated R for violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Available on disc and streaming
This very risky Rated R sci-fi project stars Natalie Portman as a scientist who joins a military mission into a giant alien bubble that has appeared on Earth in order to both discover its contents as well as possibly find her missing husband (Oscar Isaac). Written and directed by Ex Machina auteur Alex Garland, the film is equally as trippy and fantastic as his freshman outing. It’s a beautiful nightmare of a film that will have you both in awe and biting your fingernails with every step forward. It’s a bit weird for some audiences but many will find it refreshingly horrifying. B

Early Man
Rated PG for rude humor and some action
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%
Available on disc and streaming
While theaters are noticeably vacant of good family films, this great little Aardman stop-motion animation pic will at least give you something great to watch at home. Here a group of neanderthals are stripped of their homeland only to find themselves in a soccer match with a more civilized group of humans in order to hopefully win it back. It is a charming, clever and frequently funny adventure that should get you by until some decent family fare hits the big screen again. B+