Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of March 29, 2021

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of March 29, 2021

Godzilla Vs. Kong
Rated PG-13 for destruction, brief language, intense creature violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
In theaters and streaming on HBO Max

With the previous Godzilla and King Kong movies leading up to this big event, Godzilla goes after Kong since, well you know, there can only be one alpha titan. With humans turning to Kong as their savior, they do what they can to protect him and turn the tide in his favor. But when humans go a step too far (I’m sure you’ll see it coming a mile away), the final battle, which is basically the back half of the movie, takes a turn to change the course of the titans. If you are looking for an awesome plot and invigorating dialog to set up the nonstop action, you’ve come to the wrong place. The plot is silly at all turns, just as it was in the previous films, leaving you constantly repeating the phrase “well that makes no sense!” But fortunately the set pieces are where the budget went and the fights are as big and intense as you would expect from such a franchise. And since most people will be able to watch with their already-in-place HBO Max subscription, you will get your money’s worth and then some. Honestly, even though I thought the film was mediocre, I might just pay to see it in a theater as I am fully vaccinated and dying to get my butt in a cushy seat to see a giant tentpole flick again. It’s not great, but honestly, at this point it doesn’t need to be. C+

Earwig and the Witch
Rated PG
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 34%
Available on Disc and Streaming

From Goro Miyazaki, son of legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki, comes Studio Ghibli’s first computer-animated feature film which features an orphaned witch living in an orphanage, only to be scooped up by another witch and a strange magical man named The Mandrake to tend their home. But being a stubborn and industrious little girl, Earwig does everything she can to figure out their secrets and mysteries. I’m sure Goro has been well-trained and possesses some of his father’s creativity, but there isn’t a lot of talent on display here. The animation is flimsy and disappointing, reminiscent of some of the lousy animation we see in many cheaply-made straight to Netflix toons. And the storytelling just isn’t up to snuff either. There are some nice moments here and there and the film is at least unpredictable. But it certainly isn’t worthy of the house it comes from as it feels incomplete and rushed, like the story-crafting and art took a backseat to the need to produce a computer-animated project. C-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of March 22, 2021

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of March 22, 2021

Rated R for language throughout, brief drug use, bloody images and strong violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
In theaters

Nobody stars Bob Odenkirk (Better Caul Saul) as a literal nobody who is seemingly afraid to even protect his family when home invaders break in during the opening moments of the film. He’s just a nice guy who is trying to shield his family from violence, until a switch goes off and then suddenly he can’t wait to stand up for himself and even hopes that someone will make the wrong move and cross him. Of course when this happens, he makes enemies with a Russian mobster that eventually puts himself and his family in eminent risk. For his entire career, Odenkirk has given us so many amazing performances as the average, sometimes goofy, dude next door. You might want to go have a beer with him, but you definitely wouldn’t ask him to come back you up in a fight. Until now. This 90 minute entertaining departure is super violent and yet amazingly fun, and funny. It is not designed to win awards or leave you intellectually stimulated. But rather it is custom built to give its audience a short burst of mindless excitement for, what will be for many, their first time back in theaters in a year. B

News of the World
Rated PG-13 for some language, disturbing images, thematic material and violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
Available on disc and streaming

After a relatively successful theatrical run, this innovative and relevant western directed by Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy) and starring Tom Hanks as traveling news reader in the old west, is finally making its way to disc. Taking place five years after the Civil War, retired Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Hanks) discovers a young orphan girl who doesn’t speak English on the trail near Wichita Falls, TX who desperately needs help to find her aunt and uncle in hill country. So traveling through both the somewhat civilized cities and the treacherous regions of Texas, he must find a way to keep himself and the girl alive while evading the scoundrels that mean to harm them. While the film appears to be on the level and works as a straight-out story to those who don’t want to put too much thought into it, ultimately the movie comes off as way more figurative and poetic than literal. This deeper meaning to the film gives it a less that subtle complexity that is well-driven by Greengrass and Hanks. While filmed in New Mexico, the story was that much more interesting for taking place in cities and towns (in name only) which most of us, as Texans, are very familiar with. While it had some story elements that seem a bit far-fetched, the many different facets make for an excellent movie-watching experience. A-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of March 15, 2021

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of March 15, 2021

Zach Snyder’s Justice League
Rated R for some language and violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78% at time of writing
Streaming on HBO Max

As Zach Snyder was deep into filming 2017’s Justice League, the death of his daughter forced him to quit the production and the studio hired The Avengers director Joss Whedon to finish the job. But as history shows, fans hated the film and what Whedon did with it. But when Zach Snyder expressed interest in completing his vision – the fans went nuts and HBO Max gave him a platform. With tons of reshoots and a story that is very different from the original, we now have more than just a new cut – but rather a brand new film with snippets from the forgettable first. At four hours in length, the story is much more complex and the villain Steppenwolf, while largely the same, has a new look and answers to an even worse baddie named Darkseid, who will most like make a future appearance in the universe. At this massive length, the film is certainly excessive and majorly indulgent. But then again so were the Avengers films, especially Endgame. So its flaws are largely forgivable. The improvements come in the way the film handled its villain, but also in how it created a completely different story arc for the one hero who got the shaft the first time out: Cyborg. This time out, Cyborg is the most important of the otherwise famous DC heroes, and his presence is most certainly welcome. While I’m not the biggest fan of the DC universe characters, I do enjoy the movies for the most part, and in this case I am very glad they made this move to try to correct a past sin. With everyone so fixated on “cancel culture,” some things need to be improved and this really did work out in their favor. One final note that I will mention only because it threw me off. I spent the first half hour trying to fix my TV since the screener was in 4:3 rather than widescreen. But Snyder apparently prefers 4:3, so no need to worry about why your aspect ratio isn’t correct. B

Promising Young Woman
Rated R for language throughout, drug use, sexual assault, some sexual material and strong violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Available on Disc and Streaming

Carey Mulligan has now risen to be an Oscar favorite with this dark girl-power flick about a medical school dropout who pretends to get drunk at bars only to teach the men that try to take advantage of her a big lesson. But what starts out in an almost a too-bleak-to-continue first act gets crazily complex as she learns to fall in love again with an old medical school classmate of hers played by Bo Burnham. By the end you get a surprising and disturbing psychological thriller that will leave you floored. Having just won the Critics Choice Award for best original screenplay, writer/director Emerald Fennell is on a roll, pulling an Oscar nod for picture and screenplay and even beating out Aaron Sorkin for scoring a directing nomination as well. While the film most certainly makes you feel very icky inside, it is also wildly entertaining as you try to figure out what is in our heroine’s head and what she plans on doing next. It is disturbing but you can’t look away. Mulligan’s performance is the epitome of electrifying and she deserves all of the credit she has been garnering. A-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of March 8, 2021

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of March 8, 2021

Chaos Walking
Rated PG-13 for violence and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 22%
In Theaters

In 2017, Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow) started filming this sci-fi flick with hot newcomers (at least they were then) Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming) about a boy on a strange planet who tries to protect a girl whose spacecraft has just crashed there. Making things awkward for the young man is the planet forces all males to have what is a called “the noise” where their thoughts are displayed as they are thinking them – and he’s never seen a girl. For years this project has been tinkered on due to poor test screenings, and at a price tag of $100 million it is finally hitting theaters this week. You can tell that a lot of work went into the project and it certainly has great ambition. Unfortunately, the content just doesn’t translate well on to the big screen as it comes across as more unintentionally silly and weird than serious. Holland and Ridley do a good enough job in their roles and the impressive supporting cast, including Mads Mikkelsen, Demian Bichir, Cynthia Erivo and Nick Jonas, all seem to be doing their best to hold it together, but the narrative and the noise both serve to annoy and distract more than thrill. In the end, you get a mostly forgettable sci-fi pic with Ridley’s awful clown-like hairstyle etched in your brain as its sole reminder. C

Coming 2 America
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language and drug content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 52%
Streaming on Amazon Prime

30 years after the events of the original Coming to America, Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall and gang are all back to further explore their lives and adventures. As Prince Akeem (Murphy) becomes King of the fictional African Kingdom of Zamunda, he is under great pressure to produce a male heir, and what he has is three daughters. But fortunately he discovers that during his trip to Queens 30 years ago, he inadvertently knocked up an American (Leslie Jones) who went on to give birth to his bastard son (Jermaine Fowler). Very quickly into the film, he brings back son and mother to Zamunda to begin grooming him to become a prince. Even though most of the movie takes place in Zamunda, many of the characters played originally by Murphy and Hall in the original come back to visit in various sequences. Honestly, much of that isn’t funny, but enough of the new stuff is. There are some cringe-worthy laugh attempts throughout, but pleasantly enough there are some big jokes and bits that also work well. A prominent critic friend of mine wisely gave me the advice to grab a drink or two (or three) while watching and it will be that much more enjoyable. That might be true for any film. But here it works especially well and by the end I was having a particularly good time. So take my advice and take advantage of your ability to watch at home… B

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of March 1, 2021

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of March 1, 2021

Raya and the Last Dragon
PG for some violence, action and thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
In theaters and streaming on Disney+ Premier Access

Originally slated for last fall, Disney Animation’s latest creation features a young princess who tries to bring together her kingdom after it is torn apart from years of war, greed and jealousy. Together with a strange dragon and a constantly assembling group of helpers, she desperately attempts to destroy the evil gripping her kingdom before it decimates all life. While technically a princess movie, it is very unique in its storytelling and presents itself as more of an action flick where the girl isn’t trying to find true love or prove herself to her friends and family, but rather attempts to save the world in which she leaves. It’s a little strange in its set up but rather watchable once you get in and is thoroughly enjoyable by the end. The animation is just plain exceptional with so many fine details that many will overlook. I especially loved the score by composer James Newton Howard which only adds to the film’s lovely aesthetic. It does feel a little political at times, although that might be because everything seems political nowadays. Overall the story of a hero trying to bring a country together (one which is afflicted by greed and misinformation) is both appealing and relevant. A-

Tom & Jerry
Rated PG for rude humor, cartoon violence and brief language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 26%
In theaters and streaming on HBOMax

Warner Brothers will be able to claim a small victory for this terrible new partially animated film based on the classic cat and mouse series in that its theatrical debut was the second biggest since the pandemic closed theaters a year ago, although that will be short-lived once Raya opens this weekend. In this new adventure, the humans and landscape are all real, while Tom, Jerry and all of the other animals are presented in their old-fashioned hand-drawn style. When Jerry the mouse hides in a fancy hotel, Tom the cat makes friends with a new hotel employee (Chloë Grace Moretz) in order to try to take out the mouse and stop scaring the guests. I’m sure some kids might get into it, but with a ludicrous plot and lack of any source of humor, the film is just one silly chase scene after another with plenty of horrific dialog by the humans in order to fill in the action-less gaps. It was a film I just couldn’t wait to stop watching. D

The United States Vs. Billie Holiday
Rated R for drug use, domestic violence, language, nudity and mature themes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 55%

This highly uneven biopic by director Lee Daniels stars R&B performer Andra Day (in a role that just won her a Golden Globe) as the legendary jazz-singer Billie Holiday as she attempts to press political buttons with her music while at the same time succumbing to her addiction to heroine. Very similar to last years Judy Garland film starring Rene Zellweger, the film contains a riveting performance contained in a narrative not worthy of the talent on display. Day is just fantastic to watch but the film is kind of miserable and depressing. I loved the story of her song “Strange Fruit” and its power over audiences, haters and the U.S. government. But the film basically spends too much time overemphasizing the idea that she would have a had a more lasting impact if she had just stayed away from drugs. Maybe true, but the legacy this film presents is way more about her flaws than her music or myth. In addition, so many scenes seemed completely unnecessary and redundant, where a tighter script and emphasis on pacing might have proved to be more powerful. C

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of February 15, 2021

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of February 15, 2021

Rated R for some full nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
In theaters and streaming on Hulu

This quirky and quiet little film stars Frances McDormand as a lost soul who has largely given up on the American dream, opting to trade it in for a van which she can travel around the country in, taking odd jobs when available and attempting to make friends when possible. Largely poetic in narrative, the film attempts, on a broader scale, to show the aftermath of the Great Recession and its deep effects on a largely growing part of the American population. Currently the odds-on favorite to win the Oscar for Best Picture and Best Director (Chloe Zhao), the film has really struck a chord with audiences thus far and for good reason. Its very subject is getting more and more relevant as so many in America keep getting forgotten as they wander aimlessly in a life that some may consider free, but might really be a life that is locked out. It’s a challenging film starring one of our greatest actresses in a role perfectly built for her unique persona and talent. But as strong as the content is, I still can’t count it as one of the best of the year. It’s a film that I’m glad I saw and one that will stick with me though, and for that I can fully recommend it. I am also open to the idea that it might grow on me. It reminds me of 2007’s Into the Wild, which I couldn’t really get into at the time, but now stands as one of my favorites. A-

The Mauritanian
Rated R for violence including a sexual assault, and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%
In theaters

From director Kevin McDonald (The Last King of Scotland) comes this true story of a Mauritanian man (Tahar Rahim) who was held without charge for over a decade in Guantanamo when he was thought to have helped carry out the 9-11 attacks. When an American lawyer and her assistant (Jodie Foster and Shailene Woodley) attempt to defend his rights as a prisoner, they unveil truths that would go on to send shockwaves through the Guantanamo prisoner program, showing the world that America isn’t always the good guy. While the film is a tad dry and at times unfocused, the performance from Rahim is terrific and makes the film worth the watch. It definitely has a bit of Hollywood slant, but it makes a good case that is hard to argue with as it tries to tear down what the U.S. military was doing there for so long. B-