Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of June 14

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of June 14, 2021

Rated PG for some thematic elements, brief violence, rude humor and language
Streaming on Disney+

Since Disney purchased Pixar back in 2006, they have kept things fairly separated between the two animation houses. But their new film Luca is being billed as a true collaboration. Set in a lovely seaside town somewhere in the Italian Riviera, a merman child discovers that when he leaves the ocean, he becomes a human. Once on land he befriends a similar young merman and a human girl, all of which just want to enjoy a summer full of fun and friendship. The rub is that the human townspeople are deeply afraid of the merpeople, convinced that they are sea monsters out to get them. First off, I have to admit that I’m very surprised that Disney is not releasing the movie in theaters. I can only imagine that the profits are so much greater going to their streaming platform and that this is not a sacrifice. After all, this isn’t Disney or Pixar’s best work by far, but it is still a good film, filled with wholesome fun and it is truly easy on the eyes. The movie left me clamoring to fly to the Amalfi Coast and even had me looking at Vespa pricing. But while there is much to like about this project, it fails to overwhelm you like previous outings have done. The story is overly simple and completely predictable, lacking the depth of narrative that we are used to. The animation is strong and the story is sweet, but when Pixar films (and even some of Disney’s lately) fail to delivery a complex and rich project, then you can’t help but feel a little disappointed. It is truly adorable, but far from what most audiences will be expecting, and frankly, wishing for. B-

Rated PG-13 for some strong language and suggestive material
Streaming on Netflix

Kevin Hart’s latest pic, coming straight to Netflix, follows the comedian in a rather dramatic role as a young dad whose baby is born one day, only to have his wife die the next. But he decides to raise the daughter on his own, out of sheer will and determination, and of course, love. Much like the 2004 Bennifer vehicle Jersey Girl, the film takes on a sweet and sappy tone, filled with real-world scenarios and a sail-full of authenticity. It never really reaches a level you could call funny, although it makes many brushes with cute. But its best feature is its star, Hart, who is just plain likable and turning into a much better actor than I thought he could be. If you can get past the first 20 minutes without getting worn down by your tears, then there’s a nice little family film to enjoy here. B-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of June 7, 2021

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of June 7, 2021

In The Heights
Rated PG-13 for suggestive references and some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
In Theaters and Streaming on HBO Max

From creator Lin-Manuel Miranda (Broadway’s Hamilton) and director John Chu (Crazy Rich Asians, Step Up) comes this movie recreation of Miranda’s 2005 Broadway smash about a group of immigrants who have made their lives in the Washington Heights area of New York City. The complex story revolves around several central characters who all move through their day-to-day while trying to figure out how to make their dreams come true. Through love, loss, struggles and passions, we watch each character come to life in a vibrant way through song, dance and story. Let me preface this by saying that first of all, I was a big fan going in. This was the film I was most looking forward to seeing in 2020, and then also when it got pushed to 2021. I saw it five times on stage with each performance turning me into an emotional wreck. I walked into the theater thinking that this would be the Oscar winner this year and I left the theater even more sure of my prediction. There is so much to love in this production which will ultimately leave a huge legacy for Manuel and team. First off, I loved the changes they made from the stage production. While the songs are all great on stage, there are moments where the pacing could use an improvement, and it got that improvement here. They cut out a few songs and a supporting character, and then made huge changes with a couple of plot points, which will surprise fans, but not in a bad way. Secondly, I loved the performances. This relatively unknown cast is chock-full of talent and the producers didn’t see a need to add big stars for the marquee. Instead they mostly chose future stars that are going to get their start here. Lastly, I loved the relevance. The stage production celebrated heritage but left out the politics. But since 2005, immigration has become much more of a hot-button issue and they dive in head first making “dreamers” a major part of the story. This was smart as it doesn’t preach in your face but rather tries to make its audience empathize. Although this will be on HBO Max, I would highly advise you to watch it in theaters. This is an event that deserves a big screen. Plus, they make you wear masks in theaters so no one will be able tell how much you are crying (and you will cry loads throughout). I will leave you with this: stay until the lights go up. At my screening, I was the only one in the theater after the credits rolled and everyone else missed the big final musical number, which truly was the cherry on top of this amazing sundae. A+

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
Rated R for terror, some disturbing images and violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 59%
In Theaters and on HBO Max

This third film (technically) in The Conjuring franchise tells the story about a horrific murder committed by a young man, that upon being investigated by Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Stewart and Vera Farmiga), had them testifying in court that he was innocent due to certain demonic possession. While the opening of the film will definitely creep most audiences out thoroughly, the meat of the story starts to lose focus as the tale fades into and out of the reality of what the Warrens said they experienced here, and what the records show actually happened. What I loved most about the first two films was that much of the two stories were loyal to the source material and could at least be perceived as “based on a true story.” This one strays so far off the path that it loses what makes these stories so scary and instead relies on cheap thrills and pop out scares. By the end you get what is not really a bad movie, but a disappointing one that is not nearly as frightening as it should be. C+

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of May 31, 2021

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of May 31

Spirit Untamed
Rated PG for some adventure action
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 47%
In Theaters

In 2002, Dreamworks animation released a really well-made, hand-drawn animated film called Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, which placed Matt Damon voicing the inner thoughts of a beautiful wild horse and his dealings with humans in the old west, both good and bad. Now, almost 20 years later, Dreamworks is revisiting with a sloppily-crafted, computer-animated film with a similar looking horse who befriends a young girl new to the west. Rather than the thoughts of the horse, the story is all told from the point of view of the girl. And instead of Damon offering up insightful and interesting commentary, we have Jake Gyllenhaal as the girl’s father, in an inconsequential role. Much of what there was to love about the original Spirit is now gone, including the brilliant Texas-born director Kelly Asbury (who tragically died a few years ago) and the fantastic score by Hans Zimmer (replaced here by the forgettable score by Amie Doherty). Although it does have a more than decent voice cast, including Gyllenhaal, Julianne Moore and Walton Goggins, none of the characters jump off the page and the writing feels like its trying to get through a 90 minute project rather than telling a unique story that needs to be told. All-in-all, it feels like a straight to streaming knock-off that suddenly got a push from the studio when they realized there was an absence of family material in theaters. C-

A Glitch in the Matrix
Unrated but would be a solid R
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%
Available on disc and streaming

Director Rodney Ascher has made a career of taking interesting and conspiracy-laden subjects and laying out the details with tons of archival movie footage to see if he can get you to follow along and possibly believe. In Room 237 he taught us about Stanley Kubrick, lending credibility to countless conspiracy theories about secrets behind The Shining. In The Nightmare, he showed us extreme sleep paralysis where people can’t move, speak or react to monsters in their dreams. In this new documentary, he shows us a world where people think that we are all just simulations, as in the movie The Matrix, living futile, manipulated lives without meaning or consequence. Through interviews and archival movie footage, he tries to see if we will follow him down the rabbit hole to the sometimes strange, but also dark and dangerous ramifications of such a thought process. Rather than trying to get us to subscribe this time, he tries to introduce you to people who believe and what it has done to their lives. It’s crazy and haphazard, but also hard to take your eyes off of and even harder to shake off afterward. After watching Room 237, I was convinced that Kubrick filmed the moon landings. After watching this, I was just convinced that there are a lot of crazy people out there that I need to stay clear of. B-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of May 24, 2021

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of May 24, 2021

A Quiet Place Part II
Rated PG-13 for terror, bloody/disturbing images and violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
In theaters

This sequel to the unexpected 2018 smash follows the now fatherless Abbott family, now with a crying baby in tow, as they attempt to stay alive in the company of murderous alien monsters with severely acute hearing. But of course now they know that the feedback from their deaf daughter’s hearing aid gives the monsters a debilitating weakness, allowing for a bit of a chance to fight back. As they run into an old family friend hiding in an abandoned factory, they get wind of the possibility of a commune off the coast where they might finally be safe. Just as in the first film, there are loads of tension-packed scary moments worthy of gobs of popcorn and a hand to hold. I especially loved the opening sequence which tells the story of how it all started as they were all just trying to enjoy a small-town little league game. It was a great way to jump in, and as long as you’ve seen the first film, it will get you truly reinvested in the Abbott’s plight. With a strong screenplay and a much bigger budget than the first (I’m assuming) the film further showcases writer/director and star John Krasinski’s immense talent. And it helps to have his equally gifted real-life wife (Emily Blunt) in the lead role as well as veteran actor Cillian Murphy helping out. My biggest complaint is the length. While most films feel overly long due to poor pacing, the quick pacing on this one makes its 97 minutes zoom much too fast and it feels like you are about to hit the third act when you find out the film is over. It feels abrupt. I’m sure that is purposefully done in order to steamroll into Part III, whenever that comes out, but I would have liked the narrative to last a little longer. B+

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: None at time of writing
In theaters and on Disney Plus Premier Access

Getting her origin story told is famed 101 Dalmatians’ villain Cruella de Vil (Emma Stone), showing how she got her start in crime. The film begins with a child version of Cruella watching her mother get killed by a pack of Dalmatians. Then she grows up a mischievous orphan only to wind up working for the very woman who was talking to her mother when she was killed. But all the while, she attempts to show up her boss under her secret identity, first to get ahead and later for deeper intent. If artist Banksy was a 60’s female fashion designer, you’d have Cruella. The film has a nice underground tone with an impressive style and quite the incredible soundtrack which primarily uses classic old rock hits rather than an orchestral touch. And while they don’t downplay the evil nature of the character, they definitely try to make you forget that she’s going to one day attempt to kill dozens of puppies to make a coat. But at least here they make Thompson out to be even more evil and thus, Cruella doesn’t seem too bad. And while on the subject, both Emmas are tremendous in their parts. The casting is absolutely perfect. The film does have pacing problems throughout though, and it definitely runs a half hour too long, but overall it is a surprisingly likable live-action Disney feature. B-

Army of the Dead
Rated R for some sexual content, gore, language throughout, graphic nudity and strong bloody violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70%
Available on Netflix

Director Zach Snyder is on a roll this year after just releasing his historic new cut of Justice League and now this high-octane zombie flick. The story begins as a super zombie escapes from a military transport and manages to infect the entire city of Las Vegas. But when a mercenary turned fry cook (Dave Batista) is recruited for a highly profitable casino heist, he puts together a team which can hopefully get in and get a ton of cash before the deadline hits and the US military nukes the city. It’s an original enough story with fun new type of zombie that we aren’t used to seeing. But unfortunately the cast is sub-par and proves to be not up to the ambition of the project. Were it headed up by The Rock or Arnold, the film might have really worked, but Batista just isn’t the right actor to lead a film like this and the whole thing suffers from the casting mistakes. There are some good scares and nice action, but the production and creativity are just not enough to overcome the weakness of the main cast. C

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of May 17, 2021

New in Home Entertainment

Week of May 17, 2021

Those Who Wish Me Dead
Rated R for strong violence/language throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 62%
In Theaters and on HBO Max

From one of the hottest writer/directors in Hollywood, Tyler Sheridan (Wind River, Yellowstone) comes this action/thriller about a fire jumper (Angelina Jolie) who discovers a young boy on the run from assassins who will do anything to kill him and anyone else that might see their faces in the process. With the back drop of extreme forest fires and danger looming at every corner, the two must find a way to survive in the harshest of circumstances. There’s a lot to like here, including a solid actress in a live or die situation with no help and only an axe for protection versus two soulless hitman with a plethora of guns. It tells an engaging story against both a harsh human nemesis and even harsher natural enemy bent on absolute destruction. And yet it feels both rushed and incomplete, with a storyline that might not have been what Sheridan originally envisioned when beginning the project. It ends on a satisfactory enough note but the whole thing feels like it could have been something more than what we ended up with. B-

The Woman in the Window
Rated R for violence and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 26%
Available on Netflix

In this psychological thriller based on the novel A.J. Finn, Amy Adams portrays a woman suffering from agoraphobia who witnesses a murder from her apartment only to find out that what she thinks she saw is possibly just a delusion. Obviously inspired by Hitchcock’s Rear Window in both story and directorial style, the movie creates a unique atmosphere full of confusion and psychosis where you don’t actually know what is real until deep until the narrative. But in spite of a committed performance by Adams, the story goes limp, as if the the filmmakers and their talented cast lost interest half-way though. And then the big plot twist just sort of fizzles as it is exposed, due mostly to its absurdity and some to the fact that the story didn’t deserve a twist to begin with. Director Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice) is normally fantastic, but here his talents are wasted on material that tries desperately hard to be Hitchcockian while delivering a forgettable crime thriller. His visuals and style are creative, but they end up taking you nowhere. C-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of May 3, 2021

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of May 3, 2021

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse
Rated R for violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 44%
Streaming on Amazon Prime

One of Tom Clancy’s biggest titles not to hit the big screen until now is this story about a young Navy seal named John Clark (Michael B. Jordan) who goes on an international revenge mission after his pregnant wife is murdered. Teaming up with a fellow seal (Jodie Turner-Smith) and a potentially dangerous CIA operative (Jamie Bell), he slowly tracks down and eliminates anyone he thinks could have been responsible for his wife’s assassination. I remember reading this book when it was released back in 1993, sure that it would make a great movie, and Hollywood has tried for decades with no fruit to show. It’s an emotionally charged story full of espionage, pain and vengeance, and it reads very theatrically. But here they just took a big star and put him in an action pic that doesn’t play like it should. It has all the violence of the original story (although it deals with a completely new set of bad guys and a modern story line) but it doesn’t have the heart of the original tale. Ultimately it feels poorly directed and miscast throughout with some fairly unconvincing acting from its supporting cast and a focus solely on action rather than story. Being an origin film for John Clark, it seems like a failed attempt at creating a franchise when the filmmakers should have been more concerned with making the adaptation work. Perhaps this is the reason why Paramount chose to sell to Amazon Prime rather than to follow its original plan and release theatrically. C-

Demon Slayer – Kimetsu No Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train
Rated R for violence and bloody images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
In theaters in both subtitled and dubbed versions

While the American box office has been largely hurting, Asian movies are making bundles with this flick as a prime example. So far the little animated Japanese juggernaut has pulled in almost a half-billion dollars internationally, and with little domestic product to compete, it is doing rather well here in the states, taking up many of our country’s available screens. The story follows a group of young demon slayers who meet up with a powerful swordsman to take on a creepy demon who has possessed a train. At least that’s what I think it was about. Honestly, the whole thing was confusing and my memory of the experience is hazy at best. I’m guessing that if you haven’t seen the tv show, then you will be lost like me, but fans of the show seem to be very happy with it. I know it’s rated R, but honestly, it feels like a PG-13 and should be okay for kids who really love this kind of thing. The cultural and artistic aspects alone make it a good enough risk if you are on the bubble. But while it was beautifully animated and weirdly interesting, the fact that I just couldn’t connect makes this a miss for me. C+

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of April 26, 2021

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of April 26, 2021

Mortal Kombat
Rated R for some crude references, language throughout, and strong bloody violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 55%
In theaters and streaming on HBO Max

This uber-violent martial arts thriller, based on the classic video game, follows a group of chosen human fighters who must fight a group of fighters from the “Outworld” in order to prevent them from successfully invading and destroying Earth. In one after the other brutal fight, the seemingly underwhelming human fighters are made to find in themselves the power to take on the evil forces. Just as in HBO Max’s recent release Kong vs. Godzilla, the plot is practically unnecessary. Every word spoken is there just to get to the next action sequence. What little dialog there is tries to make sense of the world our heroes and villains are in to give them a reason to fight, and since the audience is only there for the macabre melee, it all works out. In a way it’s like fight porn. But if you work hard to ignore the lousy script and even worse acting, what you are left with is some pretty spectacular, although extremely gruesome, battle sequences. From start to finish, there is a level of excitement and energy that allows the movie to work in its own way. So for what it is, Mortal Kombat delivers exactly what it promises, and nothing more. C+

Four Good Days
Rated R for brief sexuality, language throughout and drug content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 46%
In theaters now and paid streaming on May 21

Mila Kunis has done rather well in comedy and sci-fi over recent years, but here she goes the dramatic route as a young heroine addict who needs the help of her mother (Glenn Close) to stay sober for the 4 days required to get a shot (literally and figuratively) at remaining drug free. While the movie is timely and relevant, it is still a hard one to watch, just like it’s eerily similar cousin Hillbilly Elegy, which also starred Glenn Close in almost the exact same role, sans the make up. As one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, Kunis gives gravity to the role showing that beauty and innocence can be decimated by drugs. She makes a convincing enough addict and Close is on point as the mom. I’m not sure if the story is realistic enough as it tries to display a life on drugs in just a matter of days, but as a morality tale, it sorta works. There are some nice scenes, like the one where she speaks to a classroom full of children which sums up the film nicely, even if set up under inorganic circumstances. But honestly, there is too much here to be overly critical about, so while they get through the script, it ultimately proves to be movie-of-the-week material with a few dirty words thrown in so they don’t categorized that way. C