Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of June 24, 2019

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of June 24, 2019

Rated PG-13 for suggestive content and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 64% at the time of writing
In Theaters

When I found out that one of my favorite directors, Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Millions, Slumdog Millionaire) and one of my favorite screenwriters, Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Love Actually) were making a film about my favorite band, The Beatles, I was more excited than you can imagine. The story follows a young failing singer/songwriter in England (the immensely talented newcomer Himesh Patel) who wakes up from after being hit by a bus to discover that The Beatles never existed. With dozens of the best songs ever written floating around his head, he chooses to introduce the world to the tunes, forced to claim that he wrote them. But when fame and fortune come knocking, he must decide what is most important in life. So did the movie live up to my very high expectation? Absolutely. I was able to very easily look past a bit of cheese, especially at the ending Ed Sheeran concert, to see the beautiful tribute to the music and musicians that have inspired millions of people worldwide, and in the most imaginative way to boot. It’s a lovely film where you will want to have a hand to hold while taking it in. While the film is not perfect, it is a true joy to watch and sure to be a huge crowd-pleaser once audiences start falling in love with it. A-

Rated PG for peril/action, some thematic elements, and brief mild language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 47%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Disney hasn’t been missing often lately, but one of its biggest losers this year was this live-action version of the 1941 classic, Dumbo, about a baby circus elephant with gigantic ears who is ridiculed until folks learn that he can fly. But rather than the expected visionary reimagining that everyone expected from the legendary director Tim Burton, we instead got a mediocre film with the basic elements of the first, but none of the magic. Part of the problem is the story went from one about an elephant, with talking and singing animals, to one about humans working with an elephant and other animals, none of who can talk or sing. Which brings me to the music – all of the great songs are basically gone. The soundtrack from Danny Elfman has some of the basic elements of those great tunes we all know, but why Burton chose to do it this way eludes me. The final nail in the coffin is the writing and acting. The characters were weak and the actors who are typically great (Danny DeVito, Colin Farrell, Eva Green and Michael Keaton) phoned in their roles while the children, who should have held things together, had zero charisma and seemed very miscast, like they were maybe children of the producers and not future movie stars. Overall, the movie was a huge disappointment that didn’t have to be. C-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of June 17, 2019

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of June 17, 2019

Toy Story 4
Rated G
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98% at time of writing
In Theaters

Many have thought of Toy Story as an unforgettable trilogy with the third one serving as its crowning achievement, leaving zero need for any more films. But Pixar saw a fourth adventure for Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz (Tim Allen) and their new human Bonnie, and now a new group of friends. As little Bonnie goes off to her first year in kindergarten, Woody plays protector-in-chief and helps her “make a friend” when she has trouble making friends. Her creation, using trash found in her class bin, is a spork named “Forky,” and seeing her love for her new toy, Woody makes it his mission to keep Forky safe from harm and by Bonnie’s side, even if by force. But the journey is ultimately Woody’s as he must make decisions and sacrifices he has never considered before. While Buzz is definitely left to be a supporting character, and the rest of the gang is only there for a few bits, the new characters Forky (Tony Hale), Duke Kaboom (Keanu Reeves), and Ducky and Bunny (played hysterically by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele), all prove to be great additions to the Toy Story universe. And then there’s a wonderful turn for Bo Peep (Annie Potts) who takes on a much larger part in this new adventure. The story is every bit as good as you’d expect from the brilliant story artists at Pixar and while I didn’t see anything extraordinarily new from the animation, the attention to detail in the world they created is staggering. So while I’m sure people will be overall pleased, they will also want to see this door finally closed. But I say if they can keep giving us heartwarming adventures that are this well-told, I’ll keep giving them a chance to impress me like they did here. A

Rated R for violence/terror, and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Writer/director Jordan Peele (Get Out) is back with another Hitchcockesque pic that from the outside looks like a straight out horror movie, but in reality is an arthouse intellectual thriller. The story follows Lupita Nyong’o and her family as they visit her childhood home, and namely a place of severe historical trauma for her. Once there, a family that looks exactly like them, begins to torment them. I was actually a little frightened going into this one, as the trailers are simply terrifying. But once I discovered that this was a social and political commentary, my brain quickly energized and I started to have a great time trying to figure out the deeper meaning behind each beat. If you can disengage your brain, you might find this to be just a weird scary movie, but I would highly advise taking the other path. Peele is proving himself to be a brilliant filmmaker with a much deeper thought process and vision than we could have possibly given him credit for from his comedic work. A-

Wonder Park
Rated PG for some mild thematic elements and action
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 34%
On Disc and Streaming

This animated box office flop follows a young girl who, along with her mother, dream up a magnificent amusement park, which her friends and her try to recreate in real life. But when her mom gets sick and goes to the hospital, she lets their creation die until one day she accidentally wanders into the park and must face the degradation the park has been through with her absence. Using her creativity she must try to bring the park back to vibrant life. Now don’t get me wrong – I love creativity. But there’s a point when things just get stupid and this film crossed that line. The characters aren’t well-thought out and the plot is moronic. And then there’s the whole mom dying thing, which could have gone in the direction of Guardians of the Galaxy or A Monster Calls, and instead forgets about the very premise of the mom being sick in the first place, leaving us a giggly girl who never really shows any emotion aside from excitement and so-called creativity. The whole thing turns out to be a lousy kids film hoping to fill a gap left by a vacancy of family films in theaters. D

Hotel Mumbai
Rated R for disturbing violence throughout, bloody images, and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 76%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Based on a horrific true story, Hotel Mumbai recounts the 2008 siege of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, India, where a group of Pakistani terrorists killed dozens of innocent people while holding the hotel in lock down for several days with little support from the Indian government. The movie looks at the sacrifices made by the hotel personnel and the guests in order to save as many lives as possible. While I had seen a blurb or two about this, I had no idea how horrible the event was, to the point that I spent a large chunk of time after going online just to find out how much really was true. It shocked me how relatively little information about it aired stateside. I was truly terrified watching the events unfold on screen and sickened by the senseless loss. While the characters were largely fictionalized, much of the drama was based on real stories and real people. My main problem was that while I’m sure this was a fairly faithful recreation, there was so much bloody violence that it almost seemed like a snuff film rather than a social and historical thriller. That being said, it’s a powerful piece of filmmaking that will bring you through a range of emotions including a great deal of empathy for the victims and a much larger amount of anger towards the terrorists. B+

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of June 10, 2019

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of June 10, 2019

Men In Black International
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action, some language and suggestive material
In Theaters

Gone are the days of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as the men wearing black suits, putting themselves in harm’s way to save the universe from deadly aliens. This time out respected MIB hero Chris Hemsworth takes on new recruit Tessa Thompson in order to thwart a deadly team of baddies from finding a hidden weapon that could deal devastation to Earth, or any planet it comes in contact with. Hemsworth, channeling his comedic side we saw in 2016’s Ghostbusters, isn’t quite as charismatic as Will Smith, but still manages to charm his way through the clunky action, making us smile along the journey. And while not a superstar, Thompson turns in yet another good performance as she continues to earn her Hollywood stripes by succeeding in bigger and bigger roles. This team certainly ultimately proves that there are multiple stories in the franchise worth telling and only the box office will reveal to us if a fifth one is to happen. The good news is that while I had very little hope of pulling out any enjoyment from this pic going in, I found myself mildly entertained by the end. B-

Captain Marvel
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief suggestive language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%

Available on Disc and Streaming
Marvel decided to throw in a last minute but pivotal piece to the Avengers saga this year by adding a new super hero to the End Game equation with mere weeks before the final chapter. To set up that piece though, Marvel needed an origin story for the most powerful superhero in their universe, and thus we get Captain Marvel. With a clever retro 80s spin, we find out where Captain Marvel came from and what her place is in the greater universe. Playing the part is Oscar-winner Brie Larson, along with supporting cast mates Samuel L Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn and Jude Law. There’s no doubt that the action and special effects are top notch, all of which steal the show at various times. While Larson is typically amazing, I can’t help but think they she overplays her confidence with a cockiness that does not become her. I also think that she has been made a bit too powerful. Still, I like what they did with the story and the setup for the big dance in End Game and I can’t wait to see what comes next for her. B

Captive State
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief language and drug material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 45%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Captive State takes place in a future world where hostile Alien forces have taken over the planet, using the government to control its citizens into submission. But when a small band of rebels attempts to fight back, their strategies are met with violent resolve. I have mixed feelings on this one. While I loved the horrifying world they created, I was completely confused by their character choices. They try to tie it all together in a neat little package at the end, but for the majority of the movie I couldn’t even tell who the main protagonist was or what the overall goal could be. And to make matters worse – I didn’t really care. My wish is that they could have provided a much stronger narrative in the exact same setting. C

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of May 27, 2019

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of May 27, 2019

Rated PG for some action/peril
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 58%
In Theaters

The newest addition to Disney’s live-action remakes is this take on Aladdin from Sherlock Holmes director Guy Ritchie. So far the remakes have been close to the originals (aside from the disappointing Dumbo), but still different enough to stand on their own. This time the similarities are the most noticeable with all of the classic songs present and only one big addition (sung in two parts). Where this one is different is Disney made the very wise decision to cast two relatively-unknown actors as Aladdin and Jasmine, with their casting based on talent rather than Hollywood status. After all, they were able to get Will Smith as the Genie, so landing two A-listers with less-than-stellar voices would have proved to be an unnecessary mistake that I’m glad they didn’t take. Ritchie’s action style is a bit much for some folks, but here I thought it to be a great attribute, adding a ton of visual flair to an already exciting musical. And Will Smith proves to be the perfect replacement for Robin Williams’s iconic genie, bringing to the character the same fun spirit, only with a different quirky personality. I was honestly a bit worried about this movie before seeing it, especially with how little buzz was out there. But I quickly fell in love, and while I know it’s only May, this is the most fun I’ve had at the movies in 2019 so far. A

Rated R for some violence and disturbing images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 59%
Available on Disc and Streaming

A sweet young woman (Chloe Grace Moretz) trying to make it on her own in New York City finds a purse one night on the subway and decides to track down the owner. Upon returning the purse to an older piano teacher (recent Oscar-winner Isabelle Huppert), the two become friends until the older woman’s secrets start to unfold. The story plays out like a strange little psychological thriller but never really gets scary enough as the turns are due more to the stupid decisions of the characters rather than an organic twist driven by a smart script. Both of the leading actresses do well with the material, but when the material isn’t great, that doesn’t help much. By the end, we are left with merely a forgettable Hitchcock wannabe. C

South Park: The Complete Twenty-Second Season
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75%
Available on Disc

Yes it’s been 22 seasons now. This season Matt and Trey again went out of their way to offend as they covered school shootings and other acts of conveniently ignore violence, as well as Amazon and a not-so-subtle take on global warming featuring Al Gore and Man Bear Pig. The show is still funny, more than two decades later, and while still pushing buttons, the buttons are more and more socially conscious than ever before. Not every episode is a hit this season, but the writing and subject matter is more relevant than ever. B+

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of May 20, 2019

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of May 20, 2019

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Available on Disc and Streaming

This final picture in the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy follows Hiccup and the village of Berk as they attempt to find a secret and safe world for their dragon friends when a new and ominous force threatens their very existence. Writer/director Dean DeBlois has been consistent with this franchise since its beginning nearly a decade ago. The characters have remained lovable and well-crafted and the stories have remained interesting and enjoyable, for both kids and adults. This new creation is no different. As Hiccup and his friends enter adult-hood, we have gotten to watch them grow and mature as we fully empathize with their plight. If I have one major criticism it is in their choice of Grimmel as the new villain. While I love that he came with a female Light Fury, I thought he was no more menacing than some of their other adversaries from the movies and Netflix animated series. But at the end of the day, the film proves to be a worthy addition and finale to what has been a terrific set of films from Dreamworks. A-

The Upside
Rated PG-13 for suggestive content and drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 40%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Based on the much-beloved French film The Intouchables (currently ranked #40 on the list of IMDB’s Top Rated Movies), Kevin Hart plays a recently paroled ex-convict who becomes the live-in assistant to Bryan Cranston’s paralyzed billionaire. Since it is such a remarkable true story, there is a lot to appreciate here. Cranston and Hart are both completely believable in their roles and their overall chemistry is solid. Where the film goes south is in the screenplay and directing, where both seem to struggle with story and pacing. The film falls apart, then comes together, then falls apart again over and over. It relies on some great little moments between the two characters, but those moments can’t hold the movie together. Ultimately, the film proves to be a pale comparison to its 2012 French counterpart. C

Les Miserables
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Available on Disc and Streaming

While many movies and even a mega-hit Broadway musical have tackled the subject matter of Victor Hugo’s story of criminal-turned-hero Jean Valjean, none until now have been able to capture the spirit of the 1862 novel in such a complete manner. The main problem is there is only so much you can put into a two to three-hour movie when there is so much content to cover. While this new PBS/BBC Masterpiece production still misses some key elements, it beautifully covers the original material over six lushly-produced one-hour episodes. In the leading roles are Dominic West as Jean Valjean, Lily Collins as Fantine, recent Oscar-winner Olivia Colman as Madame Thenardier and David Oyelowo as Inspector Javert. Each does a magnificent job bringing their characters to life and adding to their part of one of the greatest stories ever written. Of exceptional note is Adeel Akhtar as Monsieur Thenardier, whose evil presence looms menacingly over the production. While it has been 30 years since I first read the book, it still remains my favorite, and this new television series truly does it justice. A+