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

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of December 7, 2020

The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone
Rated R for violence and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93% at time of writing
Available on Disc and Streaming

When the Godfather Parts I and II came out in 1972 and 1974, respectively, they each slew at the Oscars and to this day are considered two of the finest movies ever made. But upon its release in 1990, Part III was met with a golf clap and a lot of people wishing for a vastly different film. At close to three hours in length, it seemed like it had decent bones, but it sorely needed a big edit as the pacing wasn’t great, with some scenes famously dragging on for what seemed like forever. Thirty years later, director Francis Ford Coppola and Paramount are re-releasing the film with a brand new edit and the original title that Coppola and writer Mario Puzo intended in the first place. Many of the scenes are there, but rearranged, with a different feel that, while at roughly the same length, is fresh and more appropriate for the franchise. Where the original feels rough, this one feels right. Could it have beat Dances with Wolves to give the franchise the Oscar trifecta? Probably not. But at least now there is a more fitting end to this legendary saga. A

Rated PG
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 60%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Forty years ago, Robin Williams, fresh off his mega success on his new series Mork and Mindy, made his theatrical debut as the infamous Popeye the Sailor in Robert Altman’s strange little musical about an odd seaman who happens upon a weird little town only to steal the eccentric Olive Oyl (Shelley Duvall) from her fiancé and town bully, Bluto. I remember seeing this when I was 8 and I instantly fell in love with not only Williams, but the style of the movie and its eclectic but fitting musical numbers. Because it was built to look out of place and time, the movie still holds up quite well. And in his squinty little eyes, you can see the legend to come as Williams looks ready to take on the world as a budding young comic in his late twenties. Having not seen in it in decades, I was worried that I had outgrown it, but happy to know that I could still really enjoy both its unique vision and the trip down memory lane that it gave me. A-

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of November 23, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of November 23, 2020

(from left) Phil Betterman (Peter Dinklage) and Grug Crood (Nicolas Cage) in DreamWorks Animation’s The Croods: A New Age, directed by Joel Crawford.

The Croods: A New Age
Rated PG for peril, action and rude humor
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 76% at time of writing
In Theaters

This sequel to the 2013 animated film follows the continuing adventures of the Croods, a prehistoric family in search of a better life consisting of food, shelter and safety. Lucky for them they discover a beautifully walled-in single-family commune with a more evolved family, named the Bettermans, who have figured out a much more sophisticated way of living. While at first the Croods are welcomed, the two families’ differences quickly cause problems that escalate into a big feudal mess. While I wouldn’t say the movie is a big evolution from the first one, it’s actually still a lot of fun and crazy creative. Originally slated for a 2017 release, the studio changed the story direction by hiring Dan and Kevin Hageman (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark) to re-craft for a much later release this Thanksgiving. Is it worth venturing into theaters during Covid? Not sure about that one. But it is a fun little comedy with some big laughs and a welcome familiarity. Sure its more like theatrical comfort food than fine dining, but sometimes that is okay. Whether in theaters or in what I’m sure will be a relatively fast trip to home entertainment, kids will obviously enjoy, as I’m sure many of the adults will too with its wacky, random humor and nicely-paced story. B

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Rated R for some sexual content, language and brief violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100% at time of writing
Available on Netflix

Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman put on an acting masterclass in this film from Netflix based on the play by August Wilson and produced by Denzel Washington. The story follows a famous black singer named Ma Rainey (Davis) and her band as they attempt to record some new songs at a studio in Chicago in the 1920’s. Tensions flair as a young trumpet player (Boseman) and the rest of the band argue and fight over the direction of their music and their lives as black musicians in white America. The movie very much feels like a play as it moves between its music and its narrative. And while the story itself isn’t overly compelling, the stories of the characters, along with the fantastic ensemble cast playing them, give the film a memorable and satisfying journey as you learn about each of them and what has gotten them to that moment. And depending on when we actually see awards for this year, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Boseman and Davis were both major front-runners for best actor and actress when we eventually do see the trophies handed out. For Boseman especially, his potential posthumous win will be an emotionally charged campaign to reward the great talent which we lost way too soon. A-

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

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of November 16, 2020

Hillbilly Elegy
Rated R for some violence, language throughout and drug content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 29%
In theaters now, on Netflix November 24

Director Ron Howard takes on the novel by J.D. Vance which explores the life of a young man whose grandmother (Glenn Close) raises him while his mother (Amy Adams) struggles though her drug addictions in rural Kentucky and Ohio. From the get-go, this film takes you into the darkness of white rural America as you authentically witness a timeline back and forth between now, then and wayback in order to try to help you better understand not just how our storyteller got here, but how America got here. In the story, in spite of severe obstacles in his way, author J.D. Vance arose from his humbling circumstances to eventually get into Yale law school and a thriving career. But it’s a story that most kids don’t recover from and much of America deals with every day. Here it feels real and Howard carefully moves through the narrative in a way that explains the world J.D. is in without exploiting it. Of course it helps to have actresses like Glenn Close and Amy Adams who very realistically inhabit their characters in a sensitive and empathetic way. The end result is a tough film to watch, but one worth watching nonetheless. Why it’s getting bad reviews I have no idea. Perhaps many critics just don’t want to visit this part of our country’s failure. But personally, I have been there and deem it important to show the nature of the beast, and the hope of eventually getting past it. A-

The Last Vermeer
Rated R for violence, some language, nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
In theaters

After WWII, many important works of art surfaced after being acquired or hidden by the Nazi party. During the year following the war, artist Han van Meegeren (Guy Pearce) was arrested and tried for selling unknown Vermeer paintings to high ranking members of the Nazi party and this movie explores that complex and dangerous relationship between doing what it takes to stay alive during a tumultuous period and profiting from it. While a little hard to get into, the movie quickly turns interesting as you follow its subject down his dark path and possible road to salvation. Using the soldier responsible for the journey as the catalyst is a bit boring, but ultimately the narrative is compelling and extremely fascinating. It might not be for everyone, but if you are an art or history lover – this movie will hold your focus hard, not only for its historical significance, but also for its largely unknown consequential magnitude upon the art world. B+

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of November 9, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of November 9, 2020

Rated R for sexual content, language throughout, strong bloody horror violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79% at time of writing
In Theaters

Blumhouse loves to experiment with genre-crossing and in this newest fright fest, writer/director Christopher Landon (Happy Death Day) fools around with the classic Freaky Friday switcheroo. In this case, a high schooler named Millie (Kathryn Newton) changes places with a serial killer (Vince Vaughn) when he attempts to murder her. Waking up the next day in the others’ bodies, they each have to find a way to cross back over without getting themselves killed in the process. With quite a lively sense of humor throughout, the extreme violence, while at first unsettling, quickly turns to fun as you get into the meat of the story. And while it is a fairly predictable tale, with Vaughn pretending to be a high school girl for much of the film, you become much more interested in the comedy than the direction of the plot. Vaughn is a riot here, and I can’t imagine more perfect casting. B

Rated R for bloody violence/language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 38% at time of writing
In Theaters and On Demand

In this newly imagined Christmas film, Mel Gibson plays Santa Claus and things are getting bad for him in the North Pole. Kids are losing their belief in him and the military is stepping in to change his business and to take advantage of his hard-working elves. And when he puts a lump of coal in a nasty rich kid’s stocking on Christmas, the kid hires a Santa-hating hitman (Walton Goggins) to take him out. If this sounds dark, that’s because it is. Don’t get any thoughts in your head that this might turn out to be a heart-warming tale that will leave you feeling fuzzy in the end. While it does have dark comedy undertones, you probably won’t be spending much time laughing here. That being said, there is humor in the characters’ nastiness, which is on full display here. And its edginess makes it interesting enough to keep you engaged and satisfied. It probably won’t go down as a holiday classic, but it ends up being entertaining enough to be worth a watch during the upcoming Christmas season. B-

Rated R for Bloody Images Throughout, Teen Drug and Alcohol Use, Language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%

In this very timely high school horror/comedy, a young couple in love try to treat every moment like it could be their last, especially since many of the kids in their graduating class keep inexplicably blowing up. With equal amounts of funny and gory, the film is original and thought-provoking in a perverse yet sweet way. For the first half of the film, I thought this might end up as one of my favorites of the year. But unfortunately the premise wears thin and the story loses direction in the third act as it just doesn’t know where to go. But its a great attempt for what it is and the first hour is worth getting invested in the movie, in spite of its late flaws. B+

Schitt’s Creek: The Complete Series
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
Available on Netflix and DVD

One of the most watchable television series in recent years is this lovable comedy about a formerly wealthy family who lose everything except a deed for the town of Schitt’s Creek, which was bought as a joke. But they begrudgingly move to their new home in the hope of starting over and doing it better than they did before. What begins as a frivolous little one-note comedy evolves over six seasons into a masterpiece of love and laughter. My friend who got me into the show originally described it as her “happy place”, and I can’t agree more. With all of the drama and darkness in the world right now, these short little episodes serve as a bright light to remind you of all the good that is still out there. After you’re all done with the final season, or if you want to better understand what all the buzz is about and why the show took home so many Emmys this last year, check out the documentary “A Schitt’s Creek Farewell” which goes into great detail about all of the brilliant little details that you might have overlooked. A+

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of October 26, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of October 26, 2020

Rated R for disturbing/bloody images, violence, language
Available on video on demand

In this relatively low-budget black horror film from Paramount, wealthy lawyer Omari Hardwick (Being Mary Jane) and his young family make a trip to his father’s funeral in rural Appalachia in their private plane, when an intense storm brings them down. When he awakens, he discovers he is in a small remote town and being held captive in the attic of a not-so-normal older woman. And worse, he is about to be the victim of a voodoo ceremony. For what it is, the movie turns out to be a moderately creepy tale with an excellent cast and creative team. Imagine if Jordan Peele recreated Misery and that’s what you’ll get here. At 91 minutes, it doesn’t possess a lot of exposition and character building, but honestly, it doesn’t need it either. It would have probably been a profitable hit in theaters, especially considering its budget, and it does the trick if you just want a short Halloween scarer. It would have certainly elevated the film to take a deeper dive into the unusual world on display, but its production and style can still lure in a thrill-seeking audience if it is marketed right. B-

Unrated – but would easily be an R
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Available on the Shudder horror streaming service

After noticing its perfect Rotten Tomatoes score, I felt compelled to request a screener for this new original horror film from the new streaming service Shudder. Taking place in our current Covid world, the story follows a group of friends on Zoom who schedule a group seance. But when they fail to take it seriously, they accidentally invite in the wrong spirits into their homes. With the entire film taking place on Zoom, the movie ends up being a relevant and creative way to tell a story that should attract enough people to take a closer look at Shudder’s service and offerings. And I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it inspires aspiring filmmakers who come to the realization that they can make a decent movie with a platform they know all too well and without much of a budget at all. At just under an hour, it’s not really a full-length feature narrative and the film definitely lacks the dialog and character development that might have helped to round it out in a way that could have benefited its popularity and marketability. But as is, I was still happy with its rather scary, hair-raising brevity. B