Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of October 19, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of October 19, 2020

On the Rocks
Rated R for some language and sexual references
Available on Apple TV

It looks like all of the big streaming platforms this week have a high-profile title coming, which should have played on big screens but were forced to opt for the small. The first of these is writer/director Sofia Coppola once again teaming up with Bill Murray. The story follows Rashida Jones, a young married working mom whose husband, played by Marlon Wayans, is starting to show signs of cheating. When her womanizing father (Murray) learns of this, he moves in to help his daughter uncover the truth. While not nearly as strong as their previous team up, Lost in Translation, the film turns out to be a refreshingly surprising script that is only seemingly predictable. What I liked most was that while the story is fairly simple, the script is rather complex because of it. It meanders through its morals, and lack of them, while all the time telling a grander tale. And of course you can’t beat the cast. Murray here is allowed to be his classic self, and there is nothing subdued about him, but he manages to shape that into a rather unique character, even for him. Jones on the other hand warms into the role as she shows us just how unfocused and uncomfortable she is with her current situation, and possibly even how dissatisfied she is as she contemplates where her life has ended up. And while I don’t want to give away too much information here, I will say that I was grateful for the ending I got, especially considering my fear of disappointment during the course of the movie. B+

The Witches
Rated PG for language, thematic elements and scary images/moments
Available on HBO Max

From the mind of Roald Dahl comes this reimagining of his book where a group of witches (led by Anne Hathaway) descends upon a hotel in Alabama to move forward their plot to destroy all children around the world, or at least turn them all into mice. But when a young boy and his grandmother (Octavia Spencer) are thrust into their plan, they attempt to put an end to their evil intentions. Years after the first film adaptation came out in 1990, Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron had plans to turn this book into a stop-motion animated version of the story. But when that was going nowhere, Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump) jumped in and del Toro joined in as producer. The film has a truly eerie sense to it for a PG film, with some rather creepy moments throughout. But even as creative as it is and with far more advanced special effects, it still doesn’t seem to have the energy and inventiveness of the 1990’s Jim Henson version. Also, the human characters for some reason don’t gel well with their animated counterparts, which at times puts out an awkward feel for such a big-budget movie with actors who are usually extremely convincing in these types of roles. That being said, it’s not bad, and kids will probably enjoy themselves while camped in front of the TV, but it certainly isn’t the brilliant hit I was expecting. B-

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Rated R for graphic nudity, strong crude and sexual content, language
Available on Amazon Prime

The last film heading straight to the small screen (which would have probably been huge in theaters) is the sequel to Borat, most likely to try to take advantage of the election, or maybe to try to have some influence on it. 14 years after the events of the first film, Borat has been promised a tortuous death from the Kazakstan government unless he delivers a prized gift to vice president Michael Pence. But his plans change when he sneaks his daughter into the U.S. and, while getting to know her, begins to explore the craziness that is 2020 America. While much of the film seems too fake to be real, the fact is that much of it is absolutely real and this could very well spell trouble for one very big influential political personality who has been bragging for a while on how he avoided the trap (which he very much didn’t). While it was no where near as funny as the original, there are some big laughs that will leave you breathless as you sit and ponder on how he could have gotten away with what he did. Even with its ginormous sense of humor, it unfortunately still paints a sad portrait of our country and the sickness of racism and sexism that still exists. Luckily for most of his victims this time around, he shows them to be real humans who, while maybe flawed, are still capable of showing love and friendship to strangers and even gasp deranged foreigners. B+

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of October 12, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of October 12, 2020


Love and Monsters
Rated PG-13 for action/violence, some suggestive material and language
Available on Demand

With its plans foiled for a theatrical release, Paramount is lunching this relatively low-budgeted action monster romance straight to homes on October 16. The story takes place seven years after the “Monsterapocalypse” destroys most of humanity when gigantic monsters start terrifying the planet. Our hero (Dylan O’Brien) is the runt of a group of survivors living underground, who is respected not for his fighting and survival skills, but only for his ability to make soup and mastering the radio. But when he discovers that the love of his young life (Jessica Henwick) is still alive dozens of miles away in another colony, he sets off by foot to reconnect with her. Along the way he runs into a veteran monster-killer and his child protege (Michael Rooker and Ariana Greenblatt) who attempt to teach him about his monster predators and how to stay alive along the journey. With its romantic element, it ends up being being like a cross between Zombieland and Say Anything where the chance of a reunion kiss is as important as living through a giant frog attack. At times it is quite creative and others it feels way too familiar. While the monsters’ very presence and actions don’t make a lick of sense, they are at least uniquely conceived, even if the supporting characters are many times an unnecessary formulaic rehash. If this were premiering on Netflix, it might have had a decent chance of gaining an audience, but without a notable cast and a sudden release on demand, it might quickly find its way to obscurity. B-

Kingdom of Silence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Available on Showtime

The first of two high-profile documentaries being released this year about the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Kingdom of Silence attempts to show its audience about Khashoggi’s life and lasting impact on journalism, while also painting a picture of the world events that led to his brutal murder at the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey. While the murder was a well-covered historical event, this film does an excellent job of providing a primer for the why’s and not just the how’s. Some might find it offensive as it heavily implicates Trump’s complicity as one of those why’s, using the premise that they wouldn’t have gotten away with it under Obama, thus placing Trump and the U.S. as central characters. But ultimately it tells a convincing story of the unchecked power of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, a man who many consider to be a ruthless dictator, able to use his corrupt relationships with many world powers in order to very literally get away with murder on the world stage. It is a much more political documentary than I expected, but it never feels like it is straying from the truth. Instead it helps us better understand why our leaders need to represent the high ideals of our country and when they stray, bad things can and will happen. A-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of September 28, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of September 28, 2020

John Lewis: Good Trouble
Rated PG for thematic material, some racial epithets, smoking and violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Available on Disc and On Demand

This new documentary by CNN Films follows the life and struggles of Congressman and Civil Rights hero John Lewis. From his early days with Martin Luther King, to his final days which ended earlier this year, the film attempts to show his character, his perseverance, his strategies and the legacy he is most obviously leaving behind. There is no doubt of the greatness of this man. While this film doesn’t show him as perfect, they do portray him to be one of the best, which most would agree with. Unfortunately, he deserves a better documentary than this. I’m guessing that the film changed directions with his death in July. But way too much time was spent in the modern day, with him and his colleagues just doing their thing. The meat of his legacy is what he did over the last 60 years and while some of the focus was spent on that, it needed so much more. I’m sure the point was to show that there was important work then and there is still important work now. But here that message is drowned out with a reality TV-style look, following the man around hoping something might happen. Well something did happen in his past and we would have come away with so much more had they shown us more of that. B-

The Silencing
Rated R for language, violence and some disturbing images Rotten Tomatoes Score: 16%
Available on Disc and On Demand

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) plays an alcoholic hermit who has secluded himself on a game preserve after the disappearance of his daughter. But when he becomes aware of a serial killer of teenage girls, he sets out to track down the killer in the hope of either finding his daughter or at minimum the revenge for her death. At least I think that’s what it is about. Honestly, it’s a sloppy film with a horrible script and a mess of a production. The movie ends up with not much of a mystery and the big reveals are completely underwhelming, and worse – unbelievable. The hard part is that Nikolaj is just so likable in any role, even when the material is this bad. He has the look and talent of an A-lister but is filling his resume with B-level projects. I very much hope that he finds material much more worthy of his abilities and potential so we can stop settling for junk like this. D

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of September 14, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of September 14, 2020


Rated R for disturbing violent content, language, and sexual references
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 33% at time of writing
Available On-Demand

There are two very distinct movies here with Antebellum: the one advertised in the trailers and the actual 105 minute narrative. The trailer tells the story of a highly successful black woman in modern times who somehow gets whisked away to a slave plantation where she must use her courage and wit to find a way back to reality. From the brief minutes spent watching, you can tell that this could very well be a sci-fi horror classic, in the vein of Get Out or US. Then there is this film, which contains some of the same elements, but in different order, with a cruel and bitter tone, and practically void of the theme it is begging to have standing firmly behind it. The film opens with said successful woman (Janelle Monáe) who is a slave, both physically and sexually, on a plantation in Louisiana. She is victim and witness to every sort of cruelty given to slaves in that day. And once that most dangerous of situations is firmly established, we see the same woman in the modern day, on top of the world, with a loving family and a booming career. Where it goes next is probably well-known to anyone even slightly familiar going in. To further the description would be to give the whole thing away. I don’t want to elude that every movie should be a longer version of the trailer and that I wished it was like most movie advertisements today in the way it ruins the narrative power of the picture. I hate it when I see a concise two minute version of the movie with all of its best scenes. That typically means that the film being marketed lacks substance or quality. But in this case, the trailer is quite brilliant in that it conveys a potentially powerful tale that promises to be eye-opening, compelling, and possibly, if we are lucky, mind-blowing. But here we aren’t lucky. The story we end up with is ugly, deceitful and sadly predictable, rather than intelligent, poignant and frightening. It is stripped of any kind of grander purpose it was more than capable of possessing. It’s like being promised fine dining only to discover a bag of stale fast food. The funny thing is – I still want the film I expected to see. If there was a way to retool this clunker, I would be back in a minute. C-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of September 7, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of September 7, 2020

First Cow
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Available on disc and paid streaming

This unusual fable tells the story of a skilled baker living on the frontier in early nineteenth century Oregon who makes friends with an ambitious Chinese immigrant looking for a business partner. When the town’s wealthiest man imports the region’s first milking cow, the two sneak out at night to secretly milk the cow in order to make their fortune selling biscuits to the local trappers and townspeople. Largely a visual picture, with much of the action taking place in the dark or in seemingly gloomy weather, the film turns out to be an immensely interesting drama with an extremely unique narrative. Accomplished director Kelly Reichardt does an excellent job here of making this slow-burn story rich with detail about life on the western frontier. What truly makes the film work though are the complex performances from John Magaro and Orion Lee, whose quiet and synergistic relationship drives a highly unconventional yet simple story into unexpected territory. The major fault of the film is its dark palette, making many scenes rather difficult to see, especially in the nighttime sequences. It was an artistic choice I could have done without as it gets in the way of the storytelling, rather than enhancing it, which I’m guessing was the goal. B+

Rated R for disturbing violent/sexual content, language throughout, and some nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
Available on disc and paid streaming

If you normally judge a book by its cover – or in this case a movie – it would be in your best interest to take a deeper look into this one before making the plunge. From the poster, which features a rugged-looking Orlando Bloom carrying a large wooden cross, one could easily surmise that this is some sort of faith-based drama with a big star, but the opening moments would prove you wrong. Here, Bloom is an Irish ex-con whose literal job is to tear down churches in Ireland. But when he discovers that the priest who abused him as a child has moved back into their town, his life goes down an angry path of vengeance. I definitely have mixed feelings about the movie. Part of me is deeply empathetic for his character and understanding of his hatred and the need for revenge. I also think the filmmakers take the story to such a dismal place that it is distracting. But even with such disturbing material, Bloom is quite good in the role, which really shows off his acting chops. That being said, it is a dark path you must follow (maybe too dark for many) in order to make it to the powerful and unexpected ending. C+

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of August 31, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of August 31, 2020

Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence
Available on Disney+ Premier Access

Based on the 1998 Disney animated movie, Mulan follows a young Chinese girl with great fighting ability, who pretends to be a boy in order to join the military. But instead of following the path of its predecessors Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, with big musical numbers throughout, Mulan skips the songs and silliness to present an all-out action flick with a tremendous unknown talent (Yifei Liu) leading the way. Fighting alongside her (and against her) are some of martial arts greats legends: Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Gong Li and Jet Li – and there abilities are put to great use here. But personally, I miss the songs here. While Matthew Wilder’s music wasn’t the best of the big Disney musicals, a couple of the tunes are noticeably absent here – especially the song “Reflection” which only shows up in this version during the credits. But artistically that is not what they were going for here and I can appreciate that. I can only imagine how hard it is to find a young actress capable of this kind of action role, who can also sing her brains out. But for what the film misses in its Broadway feel, it more than makes up for in pure intensity. The action sequences are big and bold with lots of creative choreography and impressive stuntwork. Also, the production is out of this world with sets and costumes that are sure to garner some nominations when awards season finally hits. The film doesn’t have the emotional punch that I expected, but it certainly satisfies throughout and provides for at least one big epic film we get to enjoy as summer winds down. Originally slated for a theatrical opening on July 24, Disney obviously grew tired of pushing it back, and instead opted to make it their first movie for a new tier of Disney+ called Premier Access, where you can watch at home for an additional $30. B

Bill & Ted Face the Music
Rated PG-13 for some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%

Available in theaters and paid streaming
It’s been almost 30 years since Bill and Ted (Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter) graced the screen and advanced the story where their music would ultimately be responsible for saving the world. But now, decades later, the future has come back to them again, and this time they are under the gun to write that hit song which will ultimately be the savior of the universe. But with only an hour and change to write it, they opt to visit future versions of themselves to try to find out more about the song. After all – its not stealing if you are stealing from yourself. And as they are on their journey, their daughters (also named Bill and Ted) travel through time to put together the greatest band in history. As in both of their previous outings, the film is stupid and silly – but good stupid and silly. It takes a bit of effort to get through the beginning, especially the weird and out of place wedding scene, but once it does, it manages to be a funny and refreshing comedy. I’m guessing that this movie exclusively belongs to its fans, meaning that if you haven’t seen or didn’t like the first two – this might not exactly entertain you. Fortunately there are enough of us who love Bill and Ted, making this a most welcome return of our time-traveling heroes. B+

Rated R for language including sexual references
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 40%
Available on Blu-ray ray and paid streaming

Former Daily Show host John Stewart wrote and directed this political comedy about a Democrat political consultant (Steve Carell) who discovers a potential goldmine candidate in a small farm town (Chris Cooper), thus sweeping in to sign him up for the town’s mayoral race. But when his arch nemesis Republican consultant (Rose Byrne) discovers his plot, she comes in to start a circus by throwing big money behind the opposing candidate. The story seemed like a winner, as did the cast with three huge names at the top of the ticket, but not having seen it until now, I was confused about all the bad reviews. The problem with the film is that it works way too hard to try to fool you. Rather than being a sweet predictable comedy about a super relevant issue, it forgoes that pathway to pull a Fight Club, which winds up to be unwelcome rather than mind-blowing. It’s interesting how Stewart tries to tie it all together during the credits, but that’s just not enough to cast the shadow of relevancy needed to rework the narrative in your head. C

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of August 25, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of August 24, 2020

The Personal History of David Copperfield
Rated PG for thematic material and brief violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
In Theaters

So I only thought I knew Dickens. Upon thinking back, I have never read the novel or seen any of the seemingly dozens of film and television adaptations that have been popping up since the dawn of film. The story, based on the classic book “The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery” by Charles Dickens, follows the life of a little boy who goes on his journey to manhood through fun adventures and horrible struggles, from having money and love, to losing everything and being sold into childhood labor, to rising above it all and finding romance. And in this new version, all is done in grand fashion. Writer/Director Armando Iannucci (creator of Veep, Avenue 5 and 2018’s brilliant The Death of Stalin) is the star of the show, even with an immensely talented cast. Due to the masterful writing and directing, the film turns out to be a vibrant, punchy and charming comedy with huge laughs and a great heart. Before watching this, I could only imagine stuffy performances by a heavily-accented white English cast. But in full Hamilton mode here – the cast is blaringly multicultural with the handsome Dev Patel in the lead role. And the typically stuffy English types are instead played by a fabulously eclectic gang including Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi and Tilda Swinton. Just as in Ianucci’s other works, this is some seriously great ensemble storytelling where the multitude of interesting characters and their individual stories only help to bring the main tale to life, rather than detracting from it. As a final note – this makes for a terrific family film, and it happens to be the only new family film in theaters, for those in the need of braving the experience. Your kids might not be begging to go see it, but I would almost guarantee that the entire family, from young to old, will have a great time watching. And you might just end up with some new Dickens fans in your house. A