Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of February 17, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of February 17, 2020

Jojo Rabbit
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, some disturbing images, violence, and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
Available on Disc and Streaming

From the brilliant mind of New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi (Oscar-winner this year for Best Adapted Screenplay) comes this irreverent yet fantastic film about a young boy living in Germany during WWII who struggles with being in the Hitler Youth while at the same time befriending a young Jewish girl hidden in his walls while taking advice from an imaginary Hitler who follows him around. The first part is pure slapstick until the gravity hits, converting this into a poignant and thoughtful fantasy. The cast is just perfect with Roman Griffin Davis and Thomasin McKenzie showing off their potential as the young heroes while Scarlett Johansson (Oscar-nominated here), Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson and Taika Waititi himself as Hitler, round out the amazing cast. And while it may look like it makes light of a horrifying subject, at its very heart it is a sober, thought-provoking story worthy of its many accolades. A

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Rated PG for some strong thematic material, a brief fight, and some mild language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Available on Disc and Streaming

When Tom Hanks signed on to make a film about Mr. Rogers, there was a palpable feeling of anticipation felt throughout the country. And while he really is simply amazing in the role, many were like me in that they wished this had been a biopic instead of a story about Mr. Rogers getting involved in a journalist’s life. But that’s the story this time out. Matthew Rhys plays the lead role as a cynical man with family issues who is sent to interview Fred Rogers for Esquire Magazine. The movie takes place like an episode of Mr. Rogers where our hero’s focus is on the troubled man. And it does work. It’s a lovely tale that is hard not to love. That being said, I wanted more Mr. Rogers and less of what I got, leaving me in a happy state but yet somewhat unfulfilled by the end of the movie. B+

Rated PG-13 for sequences of war violence and related images, language and smoking
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 42%
Available on Disc and Streaming

The Battle of Midway was an important and pivotal battle against the Japanese during WWII and it is very deserving of a big epic motion picture. But just as in the case of the 1976 Charlton Heston bomb by the same name, this film is a mess with a great cast and a bad script, with a director in over his head. Here, Independence Day director Roland Emmerich takes a lame and derivative war script, full of some of the worst dialog in ages, and throws in as much CG as they can possibly fit in, hoping you won’t know the difference. But you can see it in the casts’ eyes when they say their lines, that this film is an awful attempt to tell a story that needs to be told much better. My favorite is Woody Harrelson, who while playing Texas hero Admiral Nimitz, phones in his role looking like there is just enough pot to get him through the shoot. Ultimately we get one of the worst war films since Michael Bay took on Pearl Harbor almost 20 years ago. C-

Scandalous: The Untold Story of the National Enquirer
Not Rated, but would be an R
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Certainly one of the most interesting films of the week is this documentary that explores the history of America’s most infamous tabloid and how it eventually gave way to Donald Trump’s success in winning the White House. It truly helps you understand how when the man yells out fake news – it comes from expertise in the subject. It is a fascinating look at a group of “journalists” and businessmen figuring out how to make money with made up news and then make more money by gaining exclusives and burying the stories. It might make you a bit embarrassed to be an American at times, but it is who we are, whether we like it or not. And the ironic thing about this documentary is that the filmmakers work diligently to show the hard truth behind the fiction. A-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of February 10, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of February 10, 2020

Ford v Ferrari
Rated PG-13 for some language and peril
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Available on Disc and Streaming

One of the most underrated films of 2019, and winner of two Academy Awards, is this film based on the true story from the 60’s where the Ford racing team, lead by legendary car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and race car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) went head to head against Enzo Ferrari in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966. As far as racing movies go – it’s one of the best ever made with an equal amount of both great storytelling and action. And in 152 minutes, it zips by due to the masterful filmmaking of James Mangold (Logan) and his talented production team. As someone who cares little about these kinds of films, it made me want to care in ways I didn’t expect. A-

First Love
Rated NR – but would be R if rated
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Available on Disc and Streaming
In Japanese with English Subtitles

From prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike comes this peculiar, off-balance crime thriller about a talented and serious young boxer who, after a diagnosis of inoperable brain cancer, falls in love with a prostitute and gets swept up in a crazy drug-smuggling scheme over the course of one night in Tokyo. Just like this week’s Oscar-winning Korean filmmaker Boon Jong Ho, Miike has a unique style of story-telling that might seem unusual to American audiences, but is none-the-less entertaining. This film is a bit violent and scatter-brained, but I also found it to be hilarious and memorable. Sure the story is somewhat hard to follow, but it’s worth the attempt for sure. B+

White Snake
Rated NR – but would be PG-13 if rated
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 74%
Available on Disc and Streaming

From GKIDS comes this animation import from China about a young snake catcher from a small village who discovers a beautiful and mysterious young woman who has lost her memory. Together they go on a frightening journey to save the world from an evil power. Culturally, the film apparently has more meaning in its native China, but there is much to take in and appreciate here. The story itself is fairly hard to follow but no worse than what you’d find from Miyazaki. But what interested me the most was the spectacular animation. This is truly a beautiful film to look at and listen to, with a score that feels inspired by Tan Dun’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It’s a little rough for the youngsters with more violence than you’d expect as well as an abbreviated sex scene that is rare for animation. So pre-teens and teens, and especially adults, are the target audience. B-

Shutter Island: 10th Anniversary 4K SteelBook Limited Edition
Rated R for disturbing violent content, language and some nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Back in 2010, Martin Scorsese knocked it out of the park with this psychological thriller about a detective (Leonardo DiCaprio) who travels to a remote mental hospital to investigate the disappearance of woman who was admitted after murdering her three children. I am fully convinced that the only reason this film didn’t succeed to a much larger degree was that most folks only saw it once. Once just doesn’t do it. The story is good the first time around, but it just isn’t great. But watch it a second time, in close proximity to the first, and the film takes on a completely different personality and tone. It’s not even remotely the same film the second time you watch it. To me, that made the film truly special, and one of the most under-appreciated films in recent history. This complexity is mind-boggling at the very least and genius at its very base. With all of his accolades and notoriety for his body of work, this remains my favorite Scorsese movie to date and still one of my favorite films of all time. A+

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of February 3, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of February 3, 2020

Doctor Sleep
Rated R for disturbing and violence content, some bloody images, language, nudity and drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Stephen King’s followup to The Shining takes place decades later as young Danny (Ewan McGregor) is now an adult who discovers a young girl with his same gifts who is being hunted by a group of supernatural gypsies who want to feed off her “shine.” As a big fan of the book, the original movie, and even all of the controversy over the making of the original movie, I found this to be a fascinating project all over. First off, this is a well-made horror film with terrific performances by McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson who plays the perfect combination of sexy and scary as the main villain. The transition from the book was well-executed as it hits all the main notes with a smoothly flowing narrative that doesn’t seem to be skipping out on huge chunks, like we’ve seen with many other King adaptations. I’m not sure if the film would be super accessible for folks who haven’t seen The Shining, but if that’s you – you need to stop what you’re doing and watch it. For shame. And then watch this. For everyone else, this frightener is a welcome surprise worth visiting. A-

Rated R for language throughout, drug and alcohol use, some sexual content and brief violence-all involving teens
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Back in 2016, Austin-native Trey Edwards Shults made a little indie called Krisha with his family that won big at SXSW, and now with the much larger budgeted Waves, he has gotten national attention again during this awards season. The story follows a family in South Florida going through turmoil when bad decisions lead to horrific consequences. The narrative is unsettling as it comes off as two completely different films, one occurring after the other, and both only loosely connected by family bonds. But the performances are exceptional, especially that of Sterling K. Brown as the domineering but caring father trying to hold it all together. His performance alone makes the film worth watching. And while the end result is a strangely crafted film, it leaves no doubt that Shults is a talented young filmmaker with a big future. B-

Last Christmas
Rated PG-13 for language and sexual content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 47%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Emilia Clarke, aka The Mother of Dragons, plays a young wannabe West End actress who lives at various friends’ homes throughout London while working in a Christmas store, constantly dressed as an elf. But things change in her life when she runs into a charming young man, played by Crazy Rich Asians hunk Henry Golding. Director Paul Feig has been incredibly successful of late with smart female-driven comedies such as Spy, The Heat and Bridesmaids. But this one isn’t as clever as it thinks it is and comes off as rather cheesy until the gravity pull in the third act. Also, it’s affinity to George Michael is just strange and distracting, rather than the tribute I’m sure it was trying to be. I love me some George Michael – more than any straight man I know – but the way his songs are presented here make the movie seem more like a weird little juke box musical than a meaningful romantic comedy tearjerker, which it obviously had potential to be. C

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of January 27, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of January 27, 2020

Rated R for language, some violence and sexual content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Perhaps the biggest surprise of this awards season is the extreme popularity of Bong Joon Ho’s latest drama, Parasite. The story follows a poor but street-smart family in South Korea who manage to place themselves, one by one, as servants of a wealthy family not paying attention. But just as they are starting to enjoy their new lifestyles, an ousted employee unveils secrets that are bound to cause extreme complications. Since 2007’s The Host, I have been a huge fan of Bong Joon Ho. His tales are always unique, weird, engaging and unforgettable. This one is no different. And while it’s not my favorite of his growing resume, I am certainly glad he’s getting the attention he deserves. What really works here is the creativity of the storytelling and the eclectic production design. It also helps to have a fantastic cast who can pull off such a tale. Strangely enough, I thought the plotting was a bit contrived and way too convenient. But if you just follow him down the rabbit hole, you’ll have a great time watching what could surprise everyone come Oscar night. A-

Terminator: Dark Fate
Rated R for violence throughout, language and brief nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70%
Available on Disc and Streaming

This new chapter in the Terminator franchise takes place after T2, as if the other subsequent chapters didn’t even exist. Here, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), after the death of her son, commits her life to being a terminator hunter. When she meets a young woman getting her own special future protection, she decides to help the girl survive long enough for her to reach her potential. Quite honestly, this should have been a decent hit, rather than the disappointing flop it ended up becoming. James Cameron was back as producer. Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger were back in their iconic roles. And to round it off, Tim Miller (Deadpool) sat in the director’s chair with David Goyer (Batman Begins) as writer. It even had decent reviews. It’s a ginormous production with huge and impressive set pieces and even better special effects. My biggest problem with it was that the third act was a bit of a contrived mess, where everything happens just a bit too easy. But still, this is a big summer movie (which came out in November) and is worth a watch now at home. B

Rated PG-13 for thematic content throughout, violent material and language including racial epithets
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Harriet stars Broadway star Cynthia Erivo as the American hero Harriet Tubman, a runaway slave who in turn fights to help hundreds of slaves escape the South to freedom in the North. Though we’ve learned about Tubman in school, I’ve been dying to see her come to bigger than life in a huge Hollywood movie. Unfortunately, this time out wasn’t that dream film we were clamoring for. Cynthia Erivo is most definitely the perfect actress for the part, but the screenplay here is just too simplistic to deliver the goods. Kasi Lemmons is a really great director and writer, but the narrative was unsuccessful when it comes to presenting such a legendary tale. Perhaps it was too ambitious and needed more of an HBO mini-series approach, but most likely this needed a different set of filmmakers whose skillsets could have made this story shine like it deserved. Here you’ll get a small taste of what made Tubman great, but unfortunately we’ll have to wait for a better project to come around in order to really be hit hard by her history. This is definitely not the biopic this legendary American deserves. C

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of January 20, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of January 20, 2020

Gemini Man
Rated PG-13 for violence and action throughout, and brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 26%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Megastar Will Smith and Oscar-winning director Ang Lee (Life of Pi) team up here in this special effects extravaganza about an elite assassin who is targeted by a young, perfect clone of himself. And with a remarkable leap forward in technology, both parts are played by Will Smith. The film is truly impressive-looking, much more so than what we saw in the aging effects used in The Irishman recently. But the story here just doesn’t deliver. The relationship between villain Clive Owen and young Will Smith doesn’t gel and the third act is simply ridiculous. When Ang Lee has a solid script, he can work wonders, but when the screenplay suffers, as this one does, the end result is disastrous. So this might be one where you just watch the trailer to appreciate the cosmetics and call yourself lucky you didn’t waste your time with the rest. C-

Zombieland: Double Tap
Rated R for bloody violence, language throughout, some drug and sexual content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Set after the events of the fantastic 2009 zom-com Zombieland, the gang is back and still trying to survive in a zombie-filled world where the walking dead have evolved in crazy and scary ways. As is expected, the film is fun and fairly exciting, but lacks the originality many of us were hoping for. I dug the new zombie subtypes and the pacing is as fast as the script is witty – but by the end I was hoping for just a little more than the end product. B-

The Addams Family
Rated PG for macabre and suggestive humor, and some action
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 44%
Available on Disc and Streaming

From the 60’s television comedy to the 90’s theatrical releases, The Addams Family was known to provide a curiously weird and darkly funny entertainment experience. But with this new animated version, the family has now hit a new low. The narrative follows a home improvement celebrity who wants to do something about the Addam’s home, which she considers an eyesore, and the family must passively thwart her efforts. And if you think that description doesn’t make much sense – neither does the story which never becomes even moderately funny or clever. Even my nine-year-old found the movie to be a bore without a single laugh of enjoyment. It’s so unusual that a cast including the talents of Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz and Allison Janney would have found this a worthy script to take on, and even more strange that a studio could have pumped so much money into it. But the end result is a dud that will leave both you and your kids cringing. F