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

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of April 20, 2020

The Gentlemen
Rated R for violence, language throughout, sexual references and drug content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 74%
Available on Disc and Streaming

The extremely versatile writer/director Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes, Aladdin) is back to his British gangster film roots with this new highly stylistic crime thriller/comedy about an American Marijuana kingpin in London (Matthew McConaughey) who wishes to cash out his business. But this sale triggers all sorts of vile plots from the people of the London underworld. With a great script and Ritchie’s unique style of filmmaking, the movie proves to be a hilarious dark comedy with lots of surprises and unexpected enjoyment. But what really makes this film shine are the juicy characters, played by a terrific cast. With Charlie Hunnam, Colin Farrell, Hugh Grant and others you’ll instantly recognize, all who fully inhabit their weird little violent world, you tend to get lost in the urban jungle, dying to see who will get it next and in what crazy manner. This is definitely one of the bright spots of 2020 so far. A-

Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and terror, and for brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 48%
Available on Disc and Streaming

This Alien knockoff starring Kristen Stewart and Vincent Cassel follows a group of underwater researchers who uncover scary monsters after an earthquake damages their deepwater laboratory. The plot of a small group of people stuck in a small space far from home with creatures trying to get them is still quite popular. Dozens of films have attempted to recreate this scenario, from 1989’s Leviathan to 2017’s Life. But even the decent ones still have a tough time capturing an audience, and this new one definitely busted a pipe. Here the actors are good enough and take the material seriously, but the movie comes across as too dark yet insufficiently scary, with too many been there, done that moments throughout. And while the budget was fairly high, the creature effects were surprisingly underwhelming. It’s one saving grace is that it is PG-13, so fairly benign for teenage audiences. C-

Like a Boss
Rated R for language, crude sexual material, and drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 21%
Available on Disc and Streaming

This new raunch-com stars Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne as two BFF’s whose friendship is put to the test as they prepare to sell their cosmetics company to a giant corporation run by Salma Hayek. Haddish is hit and miss with me, but Byrne is usually rock solid, providing an anchor to the comedic material she attaches herself to. But in this misfire, hardly a thing is funny, believable or enjoyable. The raunch doesn’t provide any humor and only seems to serve as shock value or possibly just a way to elevate the movie to an R rating, which might have hurt it. By the end, this feels like a group of amateurs got lucky with an A cast and didn’t know what to do with them. D-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of April 13, 2020

Trolls World Tour
Rated PG for some mild rude humor
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%
Available for streaming

Several movies recently have decided to forgo theatrical runs, or at least head to streaming early, but this sequel to the very popular Trolls film is the first major tentpole to do so and they are counting on a very large audience shelling out $20 to rent from home. Will it work? Who knows. But is it worth it? That’s what I’m here to discuss. The story takes place after the events of the last film where Princess Poppy discovers that there are five other Troll tribes, all with differing types of music from her pop (funk, country, techno, classical and rock). So she goes on a journey to find the princess of rock to make friends. But the rock princess wants to take over the other tribes and make all music rock, forcing a weird war of color and musical variety. First off, this has the look and feel of a big film, which is strange to watch first at home, but it is the times. The animation is absolutely mesmerizing to look at and admire. Also, the story is whacky and unpredictable, sometimes in a good way and sometimes in a way that feels like they are making it up as they go along. But at least the jokes are frequently funny and the voice talent is top notch. That being said, the plot around the six strings is ridiculous and while the very heart of the story revolves around music being different and the need for acceptance and appreciation of different musical cultures, in the end, all of the music is pop. It’s one thing to play Ozzy Osbourne (who also voices the king of rock), but if it sounds like Kidzbop – something went wrong. Then again – the main audience is kids so not only will they not care but they might just be singing along with you in the car next time you turn on Crazy Train or Barracuda. So in my mind, it is well-worth the $20 rental – but do it right. Turn off the lights, put away the phones, get a ton of soda and popcorn and make an evening out of it! B

Just Mercy
Rated PG-13 for thematic content including some racial epithets
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
Available on Disc and Streaming

One film that should have been an awards contender last year is this true story about a talented young Harvard-educated lawyer (Michael B. Jordan) who moves to Alabama to defend wrongly-condemned prisoners who were not afforded proper representation. When he discovers a death row inmate (Jamie Foxx) who might be innocent, he puts his practice and his very life on the line to give him the defense he deserves. If you are into legal dramas or films about social injustices, this is a great one. From start to finish, the story is riveting as it makes a great case for reform within our legal and correctional systems. On top of that, the A-list cast is tremendous as is the storytelling. My only guess on why Warner Brothers dropped the ball on promoting was that it was too busy touting Joker and Richard Jewell and Just Mercy was unfortunately the odd man out. But whatever the reason it got overlooked, this is an important story worth checking out now that you can watch at home. A-

The Rhythm Section
Rated R for violence, sexual content, language throughout, and some drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 28%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Blake Lively stars as a woman on the road to self-destruction after her family is killed in a plane crash. But after she discovers that the crash was a terrorist attack, she trains to be an assassin, determined to kill the people responsible. I have to admit that I’ve been impressed with Blake lately and she has proven worthy of headlining material like this. And with a supporting cast including Jude Law and Sterling K. Brown, the acting is obviously isn’t the problem here. What doesn’t work is that the story proves to be one let down after another as you meander until the bitter end. It just doesn’t capture the attention to the level needed, and by the end it is just too easy to become apathetic. It was a good try, but a failed shot. C

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of April 6, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of April 6, 2020

Rated PG for some action, rude humor and brief language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 15%
Available on Disc and Streaming

For years I’ve been waiting for a remake of one of my favorite childhood movie musicals: 1967’s Oscar-winning Doctor Dolittle (I’m not quite that old, but discovered it when I was young). It’s been begging for a special effects-driven adaptation and upon first hearing of this project, I thought we would actually get it. But alas I was wrong again. In this newest attempt to bring the doctor back, Robert Downey Jr. stars as the 19th century veterinarian who can somehow talk to animals, and has many of them as his best friends. For some strange reason, he is summoned to the bed of the young Queen of England who is dying of an unknown illness, forcing him to go on an adventure to find the one thing that might cure her. The plot doesn’t make any sense, but the actual story of the adventure somewhat works. The problem is that there is nothing here for adults. The story seems to only works for kids, who also tend to lose attention from what I noticed. You couldn’t ask for a better director than Stephen Gaghan, and the voice cast, including Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Ralph Fiennes and many others, is so loaded that you would think that it was too big to fail. But it does fail with a lack of energy that is surprisingly low. It looks beautiful and ambitious from the outside and once in you realize how empty and hollow it truly is. But while this one fails to deliver the product promised, I’m still holding up hope that some day I will get to see the 60’s musical version get the modern treatment it deserves. For now I’ll just continue to be disappointed in flailing attempts like this. C-

Little Women
Rated PG for thematic elements and brief smoking
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Available on Disc and Streaming

From writer/director Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), comes this adaptation of the classic Civil War era novel by Louisa May Alcott about a family of girls with ambitions that far outweigh their place in society, while they must also deal with life, love and the expectations placed on them. Having never read the novel, I really thought that was going to be one of my favorites of 2020. After all, I have an affinity for Jane Austen, and when you gather such a stellar cast, including Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet and Meryl Streep, how could you go wrong. But what I learned quickly was that because this was one of the earliest stories of its kind, it didn’t fit into the modern formula, and as much as I like unconventional, it doesn’t give me the pleasure of the formula. For example, Jane Austen excels at the “meet cute” where the romantic leads discover each other’s existence in some fun and unusual way. Here you discover the pseudo romantic leads as long-time friends feeling out something deeper. That kind of element just doesn’t pull you in the same way. It’s not wrong, but it’s also not as effective. That being said, the writing and directing are academically fantastic and the acting is a flat-out masterclass. In addition, the score by Alexandre Desplat is one of the best of the year and demands to be listened to sans film. So while I can’t say it delivered on my expectations, it still delivered a fine film that is highly enjoyable and equally thought-provoking. B+

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of March 30, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of March 30, 2020

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 52%
Available on Disc, Paid Streaming and Disney+

The official final chapter of the Skywalker Saga got a pounding from critics, making it the worst reviewed of the nine films on Rotten Tomatoes, but audiences disagreed, not allowing critics to keep them away from seeing their heroes reach the finality of their struggle. In this ninth chapter, the emperor (who we thought we lost way back in Return of the Jedi, is back and stronger than ever as he prepares to launch an attack from a major fleet of star destroyers. With Rey believing she is the only one who can stop him, she sets off on a quest to discover his whereabouts, with Kylo Ren hot on her trail. Just like the last chapter, this one has a bit too much going on, making it somewhat hard to figure out. But while that might require folks to watch it a few times to fully get it (something fans don’t seem to mind doing in this universe), it doesn’t take away from either the ambitious storytelling or the fun and excitement. Just as most of us had hoped, the movie provides for an audacious and thrilling adventure that turns out surprisingly easy to enjoy. Could J.J. Abrams and crew made different choices that would have been more popular with the fans? Sure – but I’d rather see what the characters do – not what I want them to do. A-

Sonic the Hedgehog
Rated PG for action, some violence, rude humor and brief mild language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 64%
Available March 31 on Paid Streaming. Available May 19 on Disc.

Getting a huge jump on its summer disc release, Sonic is getting a jump on home digital download this week. The story follows the lightening-fast space rodent from the Sega video game franchise as he, along with the help of his new-found Earth friend Tom (James Marsden), try to escape the clutches of the villainous Dr Robotnik (Jim Carrey) who wants to capture Sonic to use his powers to help him take over the world. The movie had a bit of a hiccup in production when fans were creeped out by the creature’s looks and the studio demanded a do-over. But with a much more cartoony-looking character, as well as Carey’s over-the-top villain, the movie turns out to be a mindless yet fun action-packed family film that at least the kids will enjoy while you take a short and much-needed break from your new homeschooling adventure. B-