Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of March 23, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of March 23, 2020

Rated PG for action/peril and some mild thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Available on VOD now. Available April 3 on Disney+

Pixar made the unfortunate decision to release their first big animated film of 2020 right when America and the rest of the world were hunkering down. So as a way to reach an audience, they decided to release immediately on streaming platforms rather than wait for the normal three month or longer window. And if you subscribe to Disney+, the film will be available on April 3 as part of the subscription. The story takes place in a land where elves, trolls, fairies and all sorts of fantastical creatures co-exist, but in a world much like our own with technology, schools, neighborhoods, cars and restaurants. When two elf brothers (voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) discover their deceased father’s magical staff and instructions for bringing him back to life for one day, they go on a quest to see their dad once again. Overall, it’s a sweet story with a huge amount of talent behind it and a creative enough screenplay. But with all its creativity, it lacks the wit and cleverness we are used to seeing in Pixar films. It has an emotional punch that is quite nice, but not significant enough to make the film memorable. I will admit that this might have been a completely different experience had it been on a big screen for my first viewing, but I had to choose between seeing it in a theater or the Hawaiian vacation I was on, so small screen it had to be. That being said, I’m glad I didn’t have to wait months for Disney to release the disc, and while I could have waited until April 3 to see it free (as part of my Disney+ subscription), I decided it was worth $20 to purchase, just to support the industry while they are so desperately hurting. After all, had I taken my family to see it this last week in theaters (which I would have if we weren’t on lockdown), the film would have cost me several times that – so my mind was thinking “bargain!” And while it is not my favorite Pixar film in their growing universe, it is still a worthy addition that most families will thoroughly enjoy. B

Rated R for violence, some disturbing images, and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Available on Disc and Streaming

One of the best films to come out of 2020 is this WWI thriller which tells the story of a young soldier who is asked to quickly rush through enemy territory to deliver a message to his brother before his entire division makes a mistake in their attack. To make the already exciting story that much more thrilling, director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) decided to shoot the film is almost one long take, giving the audience the feeling of the story playing out in real-time. And what a story! With so few films about the first World War, an entry like this is incredibly welcome. And with its style and flow, this is the closest thing I’ve ever experienced (or wanted to experience) to being there in person. From the opening shot, I was glued to the screen and worn out, physically and emotionally, when the credits rolled. It certainly helps to have a first-rate pedigree in regards to the production team with the multi-faceted Sam Mendes calling the shots and Oscar-winning Roger Deakins as cinematographer. And then there’s the score by Thomas Newman (which should have won the Oscar) which provides a wonderful musical companion to the already harrowing journey. In a time where everyone is looking for a great film to watch while stuck at home – this is a no-brainer and also one where it is worthwhile to check out all of the special features in order to have a better understanding of how such a monumentally ambitious project is created. A+

The Grudge
Rated R for disturbing violence and bloody images, terror and some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 20%
Available on Disc and Streaming

In this attempt to revive the Grudge franchise, a detective must protect her family from harm after investigating the actions of a vengeful ghost, thus turning the spirit upon herself. I loved the original Japanese Grudge from 2003, which played as more of an art-house horror thriller than a traditional scarer. In a way – it was highly influential to many of the modern horror films of today. But then the American remake and its predecessors hit the screen, kind of ruining things. With this new addition, I was actually hopeful that the more than decent cast, including Demian Bichir and John Cho, could mean that the film was actually scary and not just confusing and goofy. Unfortunately, the plot here is nonsensical and incredibly hard to follow and the decent cast of actors completely waste their talents as you see in their eyes that they are angry at their agents for putting them in such an awful project. D

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of March 16, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of March 16, 2020

Richard Jewell
Rated R for language including some sexual references, and brief bloody images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 76%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Clint Eastwood’s latest biopic came and went with little fanfare late last year, but for the adults in the room, this is a great little film to catch up on as you are stuck at home. Taking place during after the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Richard Jewell is a wannabe cop who takes his park security job very seriously. Imagine Paul Blart: Mall Cop without the Segway. When he discovers a bomb at a well-attended concert, his swift actions saved hundreds of lives, but rather than getting the heroes reception he deserved, he became the FBI’s chief suspect, vilified by the media and the public alike. With a strong cast including newcomer Paul Walter Hauser as Jewell, Kathy Bates as his mother, as well as Sam Rockwall, Jon Hamm and Olivia Wilde, the film serves as an excellent example of representing an unsung hero that we might not have even known was a hero due to how they were portrayed on our TVs. It also shows us that no matter what side of the aisle we are on, sometimes the people we listen to are wrong. It’s not overly preachy, but it will hit you with a tinge of guilt if your memories of this event are different than what ended up the reality. B+

A Hidden Life
Rated PG-13 for thematic material including violent images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Based on real events, A Hidden Life tells the story of an Austrian peasant farmer who refuses to fight for the Nazis during World War II. Told from the canvas of filmmaker Terrence Malick, the film moves along like visual poetry rather than sticking to a traditional script, much like Malick’s other films such as The Tree of Life and The New World. At times the film is stunningly beautiful and puts you in a trance-like dream state. But at three hours long, it meanders without seeming purpose for too long, making it hard to finish in one sitting. The acting is fine and as long as you are comfortable with Malick’s style, the way the story is told should feel comfortable. But in the end, it just wasn’t a film I could love or rave about. So I would recommend to watch if you are one of Malick’s fans, but maybe skip out if not. B-

Charlie’s Angels
Rated PG-13 for action/violence, language and some suggestive material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 52%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Charlie’s Angels has always been a franchise based on girl-power, but in order to make it more of a “Me Too” statement, Actress Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games) turns to writer/director to push forth a new vision for the resourceful squad of fighting investigators. The ridiculous plot follows the girls chasing down an assassin and an evil corporation responsible for a…. never mind. It doesn’t matter what the plot is because it’s that silly. Here we get to watch Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska kicking butt while looking good, all the while we are getting preached at about equality. At times the film has a good sense of humor with some decent laughs, and the fight sequences are entertaining enough, but as a whole, the film fails from its very new concept of who the girls really are now and what their organization is about. C

Uncut Gems
Rated R for pervasive strong language, violence, some sexual content and brief drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Adam Sandler heads up this neurotic crime thriller from the Safdie Brothers (Good Time), which follows a New York City jeweler who, on the lookout for the next big score, works his way into problem after problem on his way to the hustle that will hopefully change his life. This is not a comfortable ride to say the least, but between Sandler’s brilliant and Oscar-worthy performance, and the strange nervous energy that pervades the entire film, the movie keeps you on anxious edge for the more than two hours until its final crazy moments. I have to admit that this film isn’t for everybody. If you are looking for whacky Sandler, he isn’t here. For those of you like me, who love to see the deep range of a talented actor, you might just love this project. A-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of March 2, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of March 2, 2020

The Invisible Man
Rated R for some strong bloody violence, and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
In Theaters

From the first commercials and trailers they showed for this low-budget horror film from Blumhouse, I was quickly turned off. It looked predictable, and worse, I felt like they showed practically the whole movie in a two-minute preview. So naturally I was shocked when strong reviews started pouring in. But then I discovered the filmmaker was Leigh Whannell, the mind behind 2018’s spectacular low-budget thriller Upgrade. So I decided to check it out and I am so glad I did. This version of the popular horror character stars Elizabeth Moss as a young woman on the run from her ex-boyfriend, a technology mogul who has held her prisoner in his mansion for years. But after it is reported that he killed himself, she starts to feel his presence in her life, following her around like a dangerous ghost. I still feel the trailer showed way too much of the plot, but there is more here than you expect and the scares and chills are frequent and effective. There are plenty of plot holes to be found if you think too hard, but they are easy to forgive and overlook. So unexpectedly, The Invisible Man becomes a welcome and excellent representative of the horror genre. B+

Queen & Slim
Rated R for violence, some strong sexuality, nudity, pervasive language, and brief drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith are a sweet young professional black couple on a first date when a racist cop (played by Sturgill Simpson) ruins their night, with events that turn them into a couple on the run from the law. This could have been a one-sided narrative designed specifically for black audiences, but due to the fantastic script by Lena Waithe and the masterful directing of Melina Matsoukas, the film turns out to be a memorable, powerful and relevant journey that can be appreciated by anyone who loves great movies. It also helps that Daniel and Jodie here have an amazing chemistry that is sexy, fearless and captivating. The movie captured my attention quick and didn’t let go for two hours. B+

Dark Waters
Rated PG-13 for thematic content, some disturbing images and strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Available on Disc and Streaming

In this based-on-a-true-story drama that really wants to be a thriller, Mark Ruffalo stars as a lawyer who leaves his cushy gig to take on DuPont after it is discovered that one of its biggest products, Teflon, is killing people. I have mixed feelings about the project. It does a very good job of telling the story about one of the most important consumer protection events of our lifetime, with great purpose and a sense of duty. But on the other hand, it very much has a movie-of-the-week feel to it that does nothing to elevate the story to greatness. So while this is a decent representation of a story that changed our world, it’s not told in a way that will call you to arms, which unfortunately is the only way a film like this works. B-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of February 24, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of February 24, 2020

Knives Out
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including brief violence, some strong language, sexual references, and drug material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Writer/director Rian Johnson (Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) continues his Hollywood hot streak with this A-lister mystery pic about a Southern detective (Daniel Craig) who is hired to investigate the possible murder of a famous author (Christopher Plummer), where every member of his family are suspects. Also starring Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Colette, as well as a star-making performance from newcomer Ana de Armas, the movie meanders through a web of deceit, lies and greed, making you feel comfortable in your whodunnit guesses until the very end where you realize how wrong you are. It is a fun, well-crafted comedic thriller with exceptional acting, all stemming from one of the biggest creative talents in the industry. A

Frozen II
Rated PG for action/peril and some thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%
Available on Disc and Streaming

In Disney’s latest princess musical, Elsa and Anna are happy and content in Arendale, when Elsa hears a mysterious call that leads her and her sister on a journey to discover the real truth about their parents and their past. As expected, the animation is gorgeous and much of the movie is fun and enjoyable. The music isn’t nearly as good as the first, but there are some decent songs, including a terrific 80’s style ballad ‘Lost in the Woods’ which could have only been better had Peter Cetera been the crooner. My biggest problem with the film is that I think I’m still a little Frozened out and I need to defrost. The first one was such a massive success which Disney has more than capitalized on, and this sequel feels like too much, too soon. It’s a quality show, but I wonder if it would have been more successful, both critically and financially, if they had waited a few more years. That being said, the kids don’t seem to mind too much so I’m sure it will be remembered fondly from the audience that matters the most here. B-