Popcorn Perspectives – Week of April 15, 2019

Popcorn Perspectives by Danny Minton

Week of April 15, 2019

Disneynature: Penguins
Rated G
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
In Theaters

You have to admit that Disney has really stuck to its commitment to keep the Disneynature brand alive and kicking. Nearly every Earth Day, Disney has put together a fantastic narrative based on animal footage their wildlife photographers capture in the wild. In this case, years of fieldwork in Antarctica has led to a story of an Adelie penguin named Steve who joins millions of his fellow penguins swimming, fishing, nesting, mating, and raising babies. If it sounds a lot like March of the Penguins, it kind of is – just more Disneyfied. While March was a much more substantial film, Penguins tries more to be cute and cuddly. Much of the narration by Ed Helms is more corny than it should be, and sometimes beneath the level of the production, but the images captured on film are at times absolutely magnificent, making up for any rolls of the eyes you will inevitably give up. I never grow tired of experiencing the wonders of God’s universe and this documentary is a prime example of just how strange and beautiful even the most remote parts of our planet can be. B+

Rated PG-13 for violence including some bloody images, thematic elements, and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 37%
Available on Disc and Streaming

At the end of M. Night Shyamalan’s last film Split, we discovered that James McAvoy’s multiple personality villain was part of the larger superhero universe with Unbreakable’s Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis. When all three are brought together in an insane asylum, each tries to take their place in said universe in the hope of a major showdown. I’m sorry but I just don’t get it. I think McAvoy’s performances in this and Split are absolutely fantastic, but the story here is just plain stupid. And to make the stupid worse – it takes itself very, very seriously. The cast of talented actors really put themselves into their roles, but the script is a waste of all of their abilities, and its audience’s time. It’s almost as if Shyamalan has become so focused on the surprise that he’s forgotten how to craft a narrative worthy of one. D

The Kid Who Would Be King
Rated PG for fantasy action violence, scary images, thematic elements including some bullying, and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Loved by critics but ignored by audiences, The Kid Who Would Be King follows a young British school student who stumbles upon a sword buried in a stone, and upon removal discovers he is more important than he could have ever dreamed. With the help of the legendary wizard Merlin (Patrick Stewart) he helps take on the evil enchantress Morgana in order to save England from disaster. This one was a really nice surprise. The story was stronger than I could have imagined and the acting was very good from this relatively unknown cast (with the exception of Stewart who is both known and apparently infallible). The film is much darker and even scarier than I could have expected, so I wouldn’t necessarily feed it to the youngins, but your older children will eat it up for sure. B+

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of April 8, 2019

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of April 8, 2019

On the Basis of Sex
Rated PG-13 for some language and suggestive content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%
Available on Disc and Streaming

While critics liked this docudrama about the rise of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, it basically fizzled at the box office, probably because of its being released into a crowded field of better films, and possibly because a movie about law and politics is just too much for most audiences right now. But regardless, Bader Ginsberg is a fascinating subject, and the case that would eventually land her in the Supreme Court is still relevant today, maybe even more so. While it plays much like a made-for-TV movie, its A-list cast, including Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer, and terrific production elevate it to a film suitable for a theatrical release, but it might have received a better audience and awards consideration at HBO or Netflix. But it does make for a good drama, and an educational one at that which will probably give it legs as future students learn about our government and its many evolutions. B

Rated PG for thematic elements including some scary images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Available on Disc and Streaming

This Oscar-nominated animated film from Japan tells the story of a bratty young boy who discovers a magical garden where his baby sister, now in older form, takes him on a journey through space and time to uncover his family’s long-winding story. Simply put – this is a lovely story which is well-told and beautifully animated. Its creative rhythm might leave some audiences scratching their heads, and it does get a little weird and even disturbing at times, but it turns out to be a movie where you tend to drift off on your own journey as you try to place yourself into the boy’s. A-

A Dog’s Way Home
Rated PG for thematic elements, some peril and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 62%
Available on Disc and Streaming

So apparently several cities in Colorado have a pit bull ban and this story follows the life a stray pit bull puppy who is discovered in Denver and taken in by its rescuer. But when the city threatens to put it down, the dog is sent far away where it escapes and attempts to travel through the wilderness to find its person. It’s a familiar formula, and just like any movie in this sub-genre, it is a manipulative tear jerker. But at least the film gives us enough of a change to become watchable and even, at times, likable. I especially enjoyed the relationship with the cougar, which from the trailer looked stupid, but made sense within the context of the actual story. While I wouldn’t want to subject myself to a film like this too often, now and again I can handle it – especially if my kid is loving it. B-

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of April 1, 2019

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of April 1, 2019

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
In Theaters

With DC trying to fill out their theatrical comic universe, it was a great shock that Shazam! was going to get the big screen treatment, but the studio brilliantly came up with a tongue-in-cheek plot to make up for the cheesiness of its subject. Here a young boy living in a foster home finds himself mysteriously whisked away to a hidden cave where a wizard turns him into an adult and gives him super powers. Not knowing what to do with those powers, or even the extent of them, he does what many a fifteen-year-old would do: buy beer and go to a strip club. But when a super villain comes along to steal his powers and possibly harm his foster family, he grows up and faces the challenge head on. When I heard that this was one of the most talked-about films at Comic Con this past year, I thought it was a joke, but sure enough – Warner Brothers and DC took a huge chance and I think it will pay off big time. The movie is thrilling, funny, juvenile (in a good way) and warm-hearted. I think the trailers make it look a lot more kid-friendly than it actually is, but even its scary nature is more like Scooby Doo or Ghost Busters than Dark Knight. The movie is quite literally an unexpected blast! B+

Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
Available on Disc and Streaming

This Transformers prequel lays out the story of Bumblebee’s introduction to Earth as he escapes the planet Cybertron and hides out in a junk yard until a young girl (Hailee Steinfeld) takes him home in the hopes of fixing him up. Of course the two make friends and all is well until a couple of evil Decepticons find him and attempt to destroy him before he can accomplish his mission. To me, this is a real head-scratcher. While it did fairly well world-wide, in the US it had a relatively poor showing. And yet this is easily the best Transformers movie we’ve been given to date, with a fun retro-style story, better than decent acting, a plot that at least makes sense and a reasonable running time. It’s the film we’ve been waiting for since the franchise started – and yet few folks went to see it. Perhaps its audience is a bit burnt out due to the overlong and mediocre offerings we’ve been given so far. But hopefully a larger audience will get to watch it now that it’s hitting living rooms. B+

The Mule
Rated R for language throughout and brief sexuality/nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score 70%
Available on Disc and Streaming

This latest adventure from director and star Clint Eastwood follows a retiree with familial regrets who is offered a job from a Mexican cartel to carry drugs across the country in his inconspicuous truck. Seeing an opportunity to buy his way back into his family’s lives, he does more and more trips, each with increasing danger. In the bones of this project is a decent movie with an interesting story, but unfortunately, for every good decision in the process, a bad one exists also. The film feels sloppy at times, showing the mark of a director who just wants to do one take and move on, rather than get the scene right. Also, the family moments feel contrived and messy, showing signs of bad writing throughout. Finally, and I’m sure I’ll get roasted for saying this, but Eastwood might not have been the best choice to star here. He has some great moments, but there is inconsistency in his acting, just as there is in his directing. Like he just wants to get though with the damned thing and call it quits for the day. C

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of March 25, 2019

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of March 25, 2019

Rated PG for peril/action/some thematic elements, and brief mild language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 48%
In Theaters

Having grown up on Disney’s 1941 animated classic, I was quite excited to see what director Tim Burton could do with a live-action version. In this new version, gone are the songs we know and love, as well as the talking animals. Instead, Dumbo is just a baby elephant with big ears and the ability to fly. When it gets out that he can fly, a sinister villain steps in to exploit the magical creature. On its own, without the existence of the original, this might not be such a bad film. I was disappointed with the lack of any kind of emotion from the children, and, honestly, the poor acting from the very talented cast, but the special effects and storytelling at the very least make the movie interesting and somewhat engaging. But this film doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and even though the classic is now 80 years old, I would bet there is hardly a kid alive that didn’t enjoy and cherish it during their childhood. So with so many fond memories from so many people, I just don’t see why they had to mess with it so much. If an elephant can fly, why can’t animals talk? And sing? Sure there are some scenes that might need changing, like the racist crows or the drunken dreams, but a more faithful recreation with some creative enhancements would have been a vast improvement from this production. And with one of the most imaginative minds in Hollywood directing, I’m disappointed that we didn’t get a much more enchanted experience. C

If Beale Street Could Talk
Rated R for language and some sexual content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Available on Disc and Streaming

I have to admit that I was shocked when this stunning film from Moonlight director Barry Jenkins didn’t make the final cut for an Oscar nomination for best picture, but I was thrilled when they at least gave Regina King the well-deserved trophy for best supporting actress. The story, set in 1970’s Harlem, follows a young couple in love (KiKi Layne and Stephan James) who are about to start a family when a corrupt cop charges James with a rape that he couldn’t have possibly committed. So instead of focusing on their life together, Kiki and her mother (Regina King) must sacrifice their lives in an attempt to clear his name. The story itself is authentically crafted, providing a sense of empathy for its audience as they start to understand the gravitas of what many in our country have had to struggle with for decades. But equally important is the artistic presentation that flows like visual poetry as the cinematography, storytelling and music weave their way into your heart. A

Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 65%
Available on Disc and Streaming

While we’ve seen Jason Momoa as Aquaman twice before, Warner Brothers and DC decided to finally give him his origin story. Starting from the moment of conception onward, we find out everything we need to know about little Arthur Curry and how he becomes king of the sea. Thanks to HBO’s show Entourage, Aquaman for a decade has been more of a Hollywood joke than a possibility, but The Conjuring director James Wan took on the challenge and the results brought in big-time bucks at the box office. The film does have its problems, especially in its lame human villain Black Manta, who comes off as a boring Lex Luther wannabe. Also, due to a quest Aquaman must go on to achieve his destiny, the film meanders into unnecessary directions. But due to the charismatic and extremely fun-to-watch Momoa, the movie turns out to be rather enjoyable. While it isn’t nearly as good as the Wonder Woman genesis movie, both have proved to be a vast improvement over the Justice League flicks we’ve seen so far. B-