Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of September 9, 2019

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of September 9, 2019

Rated PG for some action/peril
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 57%
Available on Disc and Streaming

This year has been an excellent year for movie musicals, and this rehash of the original Aladdin from Disney is no exception. Part of what made this project so immensely difficult lies in replacing the irreplaceable Robin Williams as the genie. But in a genius move, Disney brought in an almost equally iconic actor in Will Smith to fill his pointy shoes and even though the rest of the cast is largely unknown, you’d hardly recognize that due to the superb job Smith does here. Sure the film isn’t entirely original and can even be a bit cheesy at times, but Sherlock Holmes director Guy Ritchie brings a frenetic energy to the movie that makes it play like the true action film it was meant to be, while the production team creates a magical world for the story to thrive. And in spite of its predictability (who hasn’t seen the original a hundred times before), the film still manages to surprise several times, putting me in my happy place while watching it. A-

John Wick 3
Rated R for pervasive strong violence, and some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Keanu Reeves has had a huge career revival with this strange little franchise about an assassin who is wanted by every other assassin on the planet after seeking revenge for the death of his dog. In this third installment, a price of $14 million has been put on his head and he crosses the planet to avoid getting whacked by the world’s greatest killers. Once again, the film is a fun exercise in extreme violence with countless creative ways to die popping up every few seconds. The story continues to be weird, and I’m not so sure we needed Halle Berry here (although she’s always welcome to the party), but by the end you feel lucky to be alive, since practically everyone else didn’t make it. I was kind of hoping that that this would be the last film in a trilogy, going out in a blaze of glory with some nice closure thrown in, but – spoiler – the movie does not end the series and there is more to come for sure. B

Rated R for strong sexual content and language throughout, drug use and drinking – all involving teens
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Every few years we get a great end of school party movie that doesn’t just revel in debauchery, but rather really explores the life of the modern teenager who is about to move on to their next major life-step. For me, the first film to explore this was American Pie. It gave me a view of the high school I wanted to be at and the party I would have loved to have attended to cap off my public school experience. Of course my own life was much more tame and would have made for a rather lousy motion picture – which is why we watch these types of films. So here comes Booksmart (20 years after American Pie) where we get to experience the night before graduation, as lived by two bold and ambitious, yet secretly insecure girls who figure out that their dedication to school could have been filled with parties and fun instead of brown-nosing and books. With a great script and a very fun cast, the movie shows us a night that I wouldn’t necessarily want to be part of, but at least one that is extremely fun to watch. B

The Dead Don’t Die
Rated R for zombie violence/gore, and for language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 54%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Famed indie auteur Jim Jarmusch gives us his take on a zombie film as he and his A-list friends take on the walking dead. In this American small town, Bill Murray and Adam Driver are cops who quickly discover that their city is getting overrun by zombies, while the town’s residents, including Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover and many other well-known figures fight off the invading horde. What starts off as a clever take on the genre ends up as a rather artsy self-aware morality tale that provides some twisted laughs, but lacks the content to provide a memorable film-going experience. C+

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of September 2, 2019

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of September 2, 2019

It Chapter Two
Rated R for disturbing content and bloody images throughout, pervasive language, and some crude sexual material
In Theaters

Based on Stephen King’s iconic novel and following up on 2017’s Chapter One, Chapter Two takes place 27 years later, once again in the town of Derry, Maine, as the evil clown Pennywise returns to once again wreak havoc. The group of friends from Chapter One, who lovingly call themselves the Losers Club, make good on their vow to return to Derry should Pennywise come back. Translating Stephen King stories for the big screen has plagued Hollywood for years, and while it has been done successfully several times, there have been a far greater amount of failures. But after the rousing success of the first part, there seemed to be great promise in this new installment. One of the reasons for the great success in Chapter One was that they made the movie about the friendship of the children, much like we have seen in Stranger Things, or even Stand By Me and Goonies from years ago. This turned out to be a brilliant choice, creating characters we could become deeply invested in. So now, 27 years later, the kids are still very present (this time in important flashback sequences) and the adults manage to bring us that same feeling of camaraderie and nostalgia. Of course it helps here to have some of the biggest actors in Hollywood as the leads, including James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain and Bill Hader, who all bring not only their amazing talent, but also a strong credibility to the project. Of course the film would be nothing without a great scary story, and this one literally kills it. The movie is both thrilling and absolutely horrifying, making you an absolutely nervous wreck as you follow their journey to take down the clown. I’ve had several folks ask me “is it better than the first one?” My answer is that the two chapters need be taken in as a whole. The films need each other in order to succeed, and this is done in beautiful fashion here. A

Rated R for violent/disturbing material, language throughout, sexual content, and for teen drug and alcohol use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 54%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Oscar winner Octavia Spencer plays a lonely middle-aged women living in small town America who tries to win over teenage friends by buying them alcohol and allowing them to use her house to “safely” party. But once the kids start to separate from her, she goes a little off the deep end, revealing hidden secrets and a frightening agenda. I really wanted to like this film, but while Spencer is great, the whole thing just doesn’t come together like it should. The overarching plot is a nice touch, but the logistics to get it there could have been delivered so much smoother. By the end, it simply lacks the goods necessary to create the kind of horror/thriller they set out to make. C

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of August 26, 2019

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of August 26, 2019

Rated R for language throughout, some drug use and sexual content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Right on the heels of Bohemian Rhapsody which chronicled the life and exploits of Freddie Mercury is this biopic fantasy about the life of the legendary Elton John, one of the most successful rock singers in history. Beginning with his childhood, the movie uses the star’s music in full-out singing-and-dancing-in-the-streets musical format, rather than making it a more organic rock drama. This risk pays off big as John’s life was and is most certainly theatrical, and a Broadway-style display just makes sense. Overall, the film works on so many levels. Foremost is the tremendous talent of the actors, namely Taron Egerton who perfectly personifies the icon. But also Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin, Richard Madden as the heartless lover and record producer, and Bryce Dallas Howard as John’s insensitive mother all make for an extraordinary ensemble. The production values are also off the charts, providing for a dreamy quality that almost puts you in a trance while absorbing. But the crafty way the songs are placed ultimately brings it all together in an unforgettable form that makes you want to relive it again right after you finish the first viewing. A+

Godzilla: King of Monsters
Rated PG-13 for sequences of monster action violence and destruction, and for some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 41%
Available on Disc and Streaming

In the hopes of pulling off what Disney has done with the Avengers, Universal here is attempting to create a huge overarching platform for their giant monsters with this third film in the franchise (I’m including the recent King Kong as it will soon play out in the series). In this newest installment, the world’s biggest monsters are coming out of hiding, and humankind must rely on the powers of Godzilla to save mankind, while Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah and many others head to a giant showdown to decide who really will be king. What is impressive is that they could assemble this massive cast including Vera Farming, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins and Kyle Chandler. Unfortunately they each phone in their parts as if they are happy to take the check but would rather not have their name in the credits. And while the special effects are good enough for the film, the story is just a pathetic attempt to build something bigger through a sloppy plot line that the filmmakers hope folks don’t try to overanalyze. Don’t get me wrong – I sometimes like a mindless summer movie, but this one just takes an enormous step too far. D+

The Secret Life of Pets 2
Rated PG for some action and rude humor
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 60%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Furthering the adventures of the dogs, cats and rabbit from the first Secret
Life, this new journey finds Max (now voiced by Patton Oswald after the fall of Louis CK) and Duke (Eric Stonestreet) as their family has added a human child followed by a trip to the countryside, giving them a new dose of anxiety. Meanwhile, Snowball the bunny (Kevin Hart) attempts to free a white tiger from a circus. Honestly, the plot is so thin that the whole project appears to be nothing more than a cash grab, hoping that kids remember enough about the characters to care about what kind of messes they might get in again. While the first film came out only a short time ago, I remembered next to nothing and I’m going to assume this new one will be as forgettable as the first. C-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of August 19, 2019

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of August 19, 2019

Rated R for horror violence/bloody images, and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 57%
Available on Disc and Streaming

This take on the super hero genre essentially asks the question: what if Superman were a monster? The story is set on a rural farm where a farmer and his wife (David Denman and Elizabeth Banks) long for a child and their wish is granted when a spacecraft carrying a baby crashes on their property. But as a pre-teen, the child starts to show evil tendencies and when he becomes aware of his powers, he uses them for horrible acts of violence and revenge against people he perceives have wronged or bullied him. Honestly, the premise itself is very interesting and there could have been a potential hit here, and possibly a franchise. But rather than steer the story in a serviceable direction, they formed here more of a B-movie horror flick, relying on violence and senseless gore rather than tension and suspense. I got bored with it very quickly and couldn’t wait for the 90 minute timer to run out. C-

A Dog’s Journey
Rated PG for thematic content, some peril and rude humor
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 49%
Available on Disc and Streaming

This sequel to the successful-enough “A Dog’s Purpose” finds an older version of Dennis Quaid who tasks his dog to protect his toddler granddaughter when the dog is on his deathbed. So the dog, voiced by Josh Gad each time, through various lives and breeds, follows the young girl around, giving her comfort and providing safety throughout her life. As a film critic, I found the movie to be over-the-top and an extreme mixture of cheese and manipulation. As a dog-lover, I found the film to be a well-made fantasy of what we would all love our dogs to really be like. It truly represents what makes our canine friends so special. And this time around, due to a much stronger narrative and better use of its reincarnation vehicle, the film at least feels fresher and more interesting than the first movie. B-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of August 13

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton
Week of August 13, 2019

Avengers: Endgame
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Picking up where Avengers: Infinity War left off, a few years have passed since half of the world’s population disappeared and now the remaining Avengers, led by Tony Stark, use stupid science to work out the time travel necessary to make things like they once were and find a redo for their battle to save their friends, and the rest of mankind. Endgame turned into quite the juggernaut at the box office, raking in $857 million in the US (now number 2 of all time domestically), and $2.7 billion world-wide, making it the top grossing film of all time. What impresses me most about this franchise is Disney’s commitment to a huge storyline and all kinds of new heroes and interrelated tales. It was an ambitious plan that paid off more than anyone could have dreamed. And while I liked this last chapter of this major storyline, I didn’t love it as much as some of the previous parts. My biggest difficulty with it was how flimsy the plot devices were and how indulgent the battle sequence was at the end, giving each hero their money shot, not thinking if any of it made sense. Ultimately, this made the movie way longer than it should have been, rolling in at just over 3 hours. That being said, the film was surprisingly entertaining, giving us such pleasures as fat Thor and smart Hulk. I found myself laughing way more than I thought I could given the severity of the state of their world. If the box office is any indication, this release will build even further on Disney’s riches, but at least fans get their money’s worth in the process. B+

Unrated – but equivalent to an R for violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Available on Disc and Streaming
In Mandarin with English Subtitles

From legendary Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou comes this martial arts epic about ancient kingdoms at war and the price that must be paid to recapture what is thought to be theirs. Quite honestly – there is a long and convoluted plot, and my synopsis is completely inadequate here, but since I got lost and still enjoyed it, I figured I’d leave it at that. You won’t really be watching this movie for its story, but rather its remarkable vision and spectacular battle sequences, which is what Zhang Yimou is best known for anyway. Once you get through the soap opera-like drama and into the meat of the story, the action will have you on the edge of your seat, waiting to see what crazy stuff will happen next. While Yimou’s films usually include a rich and beautiful score (it doesn’t get much better than the score for Hero by Tan Dun), the lackluster score here is sadly composed by Asian composer Loudboy, which does not do anything to enhance the tapestry of the project. B

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of August 5, 2019

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of August 5, 2019

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu
Rated PG for action/peril, some rude and suggestive humor, and thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%
Available on Disc and Streaming

We’ve seen a lot Pokemon in television and movies, but until now, quality was never seemed to be even a slight concern and the majority of the audience didn’t care. But this time out Warner Brothers turned to Goosebumps director Rob Letterman and superstar Ryan Reynolds, along with an accomplished production team, to bring a live-action Pokemon that would please the kids and hopefully not annoy the adults too much. The story follows a young kid who wants to investigate his father’s disappearance and fortunately gets help from his father’s Pokemon, Pikachu. There’s a lot that more than likely won’t make a lick of sense to most, included me, but they try to keep the plot to a minimum and honestly, it does’t really matter if you understand it by the end, because you can still manage to squeak out an entertaining experience. I was hoping for a bit more than I got, and I still have no plans of watching the original television shows, but I walked away with a smile and better appreciation of the weird world of Pokemon. B-

Long Shot
Rated R for strong sexual content, language throughout and some drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%
Available on DVD and Streaming

From 50/50 director Jonathan Levine comes this hilarious comedy about a passionate journalist who refuses to back down to injustice (Seth Rogan) who somehow finds himself in a relationship with a potential presidential candidate (Charlize Theron) after she hires him as a speech writer. It’s a movie that understands full well that the scenario is highly unlikely, if not impossible, but goes with the narrative anyway, down a sometimes raunchy yet always creative rabbit hole. And while it is very much a political comedy also, it allows for exploration of multiple points of view due to some very smart character writing. Overall, this is a wildly successful comedy that should leave your gut exhausted from laughter by the end. A

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of July 22, 2019

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of July 22, 2019

Alita: Battle Angel
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 61%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Originally, this sci-fi action pic, based on the graphic novel, was to be directed by James Cameron as his follow-up to Avatar. But as the comic Avatar franchise became more important to him, the reigns were given to Robert Rodriguez, with much of the original production team still on board. The story follows a young robotic girl with innate fighting ability yet no memory of her past, who is rescued by a doctor who tries to keep her away from her potentially dangerous history. I can see why this was a tempting story for James Cameron, especially from a special effects point of view. The visuals here are eye-popping and the world created offers up a chance for a big franchise. There is much to like about the story and the use of some of Hollywood’s best, including Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali, give the film both credibility and a richer palette. The only thing that I could have done without is the use of basically roller derby to drive the story along. To me it adds an element of weirdness that takes the film down a notch. Still, I’m excited to see where the story goes as I’m sure we are going to see more of Alita, and hopefully when we do, the roller derby will have just been merely a short-lived vehicle to get us to the larger narrative. B

Rated PG for thematic content including peril
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 59%
Available on Disc and Streaming

This faith-based film tells the true story of a teenager who submerged into an icy pond for 15 minutes and due to what can only be seen as a miracle, was able to walk out of the hospital in a relatively short period of time. Lionsgate pulled out the big guns with this one by assembling a great cast, way bigger than what is normally seen for this genre. Chrissy Metz (This is Us), Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama), Topher Grace (BlacKkKlansman), Mike Colter (Luke Cage), and Sam Trammell (True Blood) gather here not to pander to the material, but rather to elevate it. But while the film comes off with just about the right amount of preachiness, it still has an expected cheese factor. There is one unfortunate scene in particular involving an out of place candlelight vigil which almost manages to take the film down, but if you are able to easily forgive a little excess of indulgent filmmaking, then you should be able to find yourself happy and inspired by the end. B-

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Available on Disc and Streaming

This unexpected but very welcome hit tells the story of a young orphan who finds himself on the receiving end of a gift of super powers and an adult ripped body which he is to use to save the universe from a maniacal super villain. Even though Shazam will eventually be part of the larger DC universe, this origin story is far more comical than you would expect, while also tugging on the heart strings due to the back ground of the hero. But even with its tongue-in-cheek levity, it is also much darker than most superhero films, with some pretty scary moments that might be a little too much for some of the younger viewers out there. But overall, it turns out to be just a big ball of fun that will have you laughing, crying and cheering for two hours. A-

Not Rated, but equivalent to an R
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
Available on Disc and Streaming
Italian with English Subtitles

This highly-praised Italian film from Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah) tells the story of a simple dog groomer who must deal with the day to day ordeal of being bullied by a local mobster who is constantly abusing their “friendship.” Just like the main character, you feel like you are getting a beat down over and over again, praying that justice will somehow prevail by the end. It’s a simple and fantastic little tale which draws empathy and fear, both in an equally heavy way. And while it is at times a disturbing film to watch, it is also quite rewarding and thought provoking. A-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of July 8, 2019

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of July 8, 2019

Pet Sematary
Rated R for horror violence, bloody images, and some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 57%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Based on Stephen King’s frightening 1983 novel, this updated retelling follows a family who moves into a small New England town only to find out that there is a pet cemetery on their property which has the ability to raise animals from the dead. After a horrible tragedy in the family, the cemetery’s powers are put to the test on a young child. While the basic elements of the book are here, this new imagining has the same issues as the 1989 version. The book might just be too complex to be represented in a feature length film. Or maybe the words on the page just don’t work theatrically. Either way, while the book was and is still amazing, the movies based on the book have both been mediocre. Bringing in Jason Clarke as the father and John Lithgow as Jud give the movie strong acting credibility, but the script and direction just can’t deliver the goods here. The basic terrifying moments are captured, but the rich storytelling just doesn’t stand up. C

High Life
Rated R for disturbing sexual and violent content including sexual assault, graphic nudity, and for language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche star in this crazy weird sci-fi drama about a man who finds himself stranded and alone at the edge of the universe with his young daughter after a series of events has killed everyone else on their ship. While the film takes place in deep space, don’t expect eye-popping special effects or extreme action here. This is a slow burner that comes off as more of a psychological drama than the genre advertised. But that’s okay. This unique and creative story comes from a warped perspective, but it keeps you on your toes, especially if you have a love for twisted narratives from odd filmmakers. This certainly falls into the category of “not for everyone” but for the right audience, it is a bizarre adventure worth checking out. B-

The Professor
Rated R for language, sexual content and some drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 10%
Available on Disc and Streaming

This straight to video release stars former superstar Johnny Depp as an Ivy League professor who discovers he has six months to live and decides to take a new direction in his life. Honestly, Depp puts on a good performance here and there are some interesting and funny moments throughout. These kinds of films are excellent at drawing empathy as many people can put themselves into a “what would I do if I knew I was going to die” mode pretty easily. While some of the film is not exactly pleasant, I’m not sure the movie is deserving of its super-low Rotten Tomatoes score. It’s not great but it’s not horrible and I’m not upset that I spent time on it. This certainly does put Depp’s career into a challenging space as the film’s lack of a theatrical run is more likely due to his waning popularity from backlash on his personal life, but I would bet he’ll figure out how to revive himself soon enough. C+