Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of August 22, 2022

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of August 22, 2022

Rated R for violent content, some language and bloody images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 66%
In Theaters

After the death of his wife, Idris Elba and his two teenage daughters visit South Africa to spend some time with his friend, played by Sharlto Copley, a wildlife biologist who manages a safari park. Everything seems to be going fine when they run across an angry man-hungry lion that wishes to kill any human in its path. Trapping them in the wilderness, the family attempts to use every resource at their disposal to make it out alive. It’s easy to see this heart-pounding thriller as Jaws in the Jungle, and it has many of the elements you’d expect to make that story come to life. What got me to come along was the attempt to give the Lion a story. In the opening moments of the film you see a group of poachers kill off an entire pride of lions, except for a male lion that gets away. If anything, the Lion has a just cause and any human in its way deserves to be there. Of course you don’t want the hero and his daughters to die, but you would certainly understand if they did. This gives a fascinating dynamic to the film that wasn’t even there in Jaws, which just happens to be one of my favorite all-time films. While the family’s story is well-crafted and its easy to gain empathy for them, the script is paint by numbers. It’s dangerous and frightening, but it is certainly not overly imaginative. The characters do some smart things – and then they do some horribly stupid things to further imperil themselves. But by the end you get a really fast-paced 90 minute adventure that keeps you on the edge of your seat just enough to take your mind off the silly moments and keep your eyes on the critical predicament of the protagonists. B

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of August 15, 2022

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of August 15, 2022

For All Mankind: Season 3
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Streaming on Apple TV+

Theatrically speaking, this summer has been a bit of a bummer, especially in August. And it probably ain’t gonna get better until after Labor Day. But good news – TV is on fire. This week saw two huge shows finish up and one get started. My favorite is this Apple TV+ series that explores an alternate reality where the space race between the U.S. and the Soviets never ended. In this spectacular third season, the old cast of characters, along with some new ones, race to Mars in the mid 90s. What I like most about this show is how believable it is in its storytelling. And with that authenticity comes a relevance that can’t be ignored. And since much of the show takes place in Houston – it has a strong community tie for us also. If this show isn’t on your radar – it is time to fix that. All three seasons are streaming on Apple and you will be hooked from episode one. A

Better Call Saul: Season 6
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%

One of the biggest events of the week is the series finale to one of America’s favorite shows, Better Call Saul. If you aren’t familiar, Bob Odenkirk played a corrupt lawyer in the legendary crystal meth gangster drama Breaking Bad. As a spinoff, AMC and the fans liked him so much that they gave him his own show which has evolved into its own iconic universe. Honestly, I didn’t give the show much of a chance at first. But recently I relented and started watching again from episode one, and I am happy to admit I was wrong. I couldn’t put the thing down and it was a total binge experience for me. In this 6th and final season, Saul spends a lot of time in the present, living on the run as a Cinnabon manager in Nebraska. The artistic choice was made to film the past in color and the present (or flash forward) scenes in black and white, so you are never confused at what point in time the story is taking place. Also, filming in black and white helped them more easily make Albuquerque look like Nebraska, since they kept all their filming in New Mexico. But I digress. The show isn’t the Godfather-esque epic that Breaking Bad was, but it is nonetheless a stellar crime drama with an equal amount of dark comedy and nail-biting thriller thrown in. The acting is authentic and the writing is some of the best you will find in modern television. And just like Breaking Bad – visionary creator Vince Gilligan gave Saul a marvelous send-off worthy of the time it takes to get through six exhilarating seasons. A

The Sandman: Season 1
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Streaming on Netflix

For years filmmakers have planned on bringing Neil Gaiman’s iconic comic book to life only to see the projects fizzle away due to the complexity of the story and lack of the right vision. But pulling together the right creatives and throwing a ton of money in its direction, Netflix has now brought out the first season in grand fashion. The story follows an old man who attempts to capture Death after his son dies. His hope is that Death can bring his son back upon negotiation. But accidentally and unknowingly he captures Morpheus, the god of sleep and dreams, holding him in captivity for 100 years. Upon his escape, he attempts to set right the chaos and disaster that has befallen the planet during his absence, as well as rebuild his former kingdom. This is one heck of a great fantasy piece, and way different than I thought it would be. The story is indeed complex, with lots of turns and diversions, but it comes together nicely, making sense by the end. The last few episodes aren’t as strong as the first two thirds of the show, but due to their importance to the overall narrative, that ends up being a forgivable flaw. Definitely binge-worthy, Sandman Season One quickly proves itself to be one of Netflix’s biggest shows they’ve ever created. A-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of August 8, 2022

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of August 8, 2022

Day Shift
Rated R for language, strong violence and gore
Rotten Tomatoes Score: None Yet
Streaming on Netflix

Jamie Foxx is just your mild-mannered blue-collar worker pretending to be a pool guy while his real job is focused on finding and exterminating vampires for cash. When his ex-wife puts pressure on him financially, he attempts to rejoin the vampire-killers union where he is assigned Dave Franco as an observer. But when he attracts the attention from the wrong vampire, he and his family find themselves in extreme danger. Taking bits and pieces from various cult classics like Zombieland and John Wick, Day Shift strings together enough blood, gore and style to keep you engaged. And with two talented actors like Foxx and Franco, the buddy flick aspect works well enough, even though enough time is not dedicated to that dynamic. The writing isn’t as clever as it thinks it is and not nearly as funny as it tries to be, but it does have some decent action and who doesn’t love the idea of Snoop Dogg unloading on a hive of the undead. Speaking of the vampires, apparently when you become one, you turn into a weird Cirque Du Soleil contortionist because practically none of them looked normal when they battle. Ultimately, its a big-budget brainless thriller with potential that never materializes. C+

Thirteen Lives
Rated PG-13 for some strong language and unsettling images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Streaming on Amazon Prime

As I’m sure most will recount from a few years ago, twelve boys and their adult soccer coach got stuck in a cave in Thailand, leaving the deadly job of saving their lives to a team of Thai Navy Seals and a group of international cave dive rescuers. It always sounded like a movie waiting to happen and here Director Ron Howard takes on the project, leading Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell and Joel Edgerton into the dangerous waters to show the world how it all went down. Were it not for the familiar faces, you might think this was a documentary as it feels authentic and doesn’t come across as Hollywood at all. The performances from the three leads are excellent as you would expect and the rest of the cast is as good as you can get given the lack of experience on set. The film is appropriately paced even when it gets down in the minutiae, helping you relive the danger and understand the tough choices that had to be made to rescue the kids, as well as comprehend the repercussions that could happen should anything go wrong. Overall, it is a really good representation of a relevant true story, handled the right way. A-

Event Horizon: 25th Anniversary Edition
Rated R
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 29%
On Disc and Paid Streaming

It’s hard to believe that this cult classic sci-fi horror film is having its 25th birthday this summer. I remember being both thrilled and very freaked out and what I considered to be one of the scariest movies I had ever seen. The story follows a small group of space explorers who attempt to find a lost ship, called the Event Horizon. But upon locating the vessel, things start to go horribly wrong. While I had fond memories of this film that came out when I was half my current age, I just can’t seem to appreciate those same qualities today. There are two great moments in the film and a lot of junk. First, the moment when Sam Neill tries to explain wormholes is an iconic moment that was even copied and quoted in the latest Thor outing. Then there’s the found video that is still pretty terrifying but short-lived. Everything else is just mediocre, including the acting by the stellar cast. The movie tries so hard to be The Shining in space. But unlike The Shining, this thriller just doesn’t hold up. C+

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of July 25, 2022

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of July 25, 2022

Rated R for some violence, bloody images, and language throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
In Theaters

With his films Get Out and Us, writer/director Jordan Peele has proven himself to be a modern day Hitchcock, providing creepy films with multiple meanings and metaphors. With his new film NOPE we are definitely getting much of the same, but this time with an alien adventure. For many the title NOPE is simply something that is comically repeated throughout the film as the characters face their fears. But on a deeper level, it is possibly an acronym for Not Of Planet Earth, which leads to the story. Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer are siblings who work on their family’s historical Hollywood horse ranch when a strange alien presence shows up to haunt and hunt in the remote area. Rather than leave or call in the authorities, they decide that they need to be able to show proof and possibly get rich off it. Just as in his previous outings, including the recent Candyman which he produced, the film hits creepy but never gets to scary. I firmly believe this is by design. Much of the audience will spend so much time trying to figure out what the film is actually about that they don’t have time to get frightened. That being said, there were some clever jumps before the film turned from potentially terrifying to just really interesting. In his various interviews, Peele has admitted that the film is about our reaction to spectacle. Some get caught up in it to their own demise (like the Trump cult) and some just want to sit back and watch in shock or disbelief. Personally, I think the film could have been better if it had less hidden meaning and just went all out for the scare-fest, but regardless, I couldn’t take my eyes or my mind off of it, and it is still sticking with me as I attempt to process what I just watched. B

Drive My Car: The Criterion Collection
Unrated but would be an R if rated
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

On Criterion Disc and streaming on HBO Max
Last year’s shocking Oscar surprise came when this 3 hour long Japanese drama popped nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, while winning Best International Feature and countless other critics groups awards. While it is currently streaming on HBO Max, if your curiosity makes you want to explore this quiet phenomenon even further, this Criterion Collection version provides tons of supplemental material including new interviews, a making-of doc and more. The story follows a theater director who suffers from a tragedy and then shortly after moves on to begin working on a new play. While he prefers to drive his own car, the theater company requires him to use the young female driver they have hired, forcing him to see his world from a different vantage point, deeply affecting his life and his art. If you have the time to invest, this is a really lovely and meaningful film with a rich storyline and an unconventional flow. It might be a bit on the artsy side for some audiences, but many will find it magical and perhaps cathartic. A

The Gray Man
Rated PG-13 for strong language and strong violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 48%
Streaming on Netflix

Billed as Netflix’s most expensive original film to date, The Gray Man, directed by the Russo Brothers (Avengers films) casts Ryan Gosling as a hitman working for Billy Bob Thornton and Rege-Jean Page who is pitted against another hitman played by Chris Evans when he comes across a flash drive full of stuff he shouldn’t have. If you like a massive amount of violence and action with just enough blood to not get an R rating, complete with loads of mindless action with characters you really don’t care about – then this one is for your. They try to make you feel slightly empathetic to Gosling as he is trying to protect Thornton’s teenage niece, but basically all the characters are bad guys that you wouldn’t mind seeing get a good death. The most interesting feature is Evans as the most villainous villain. His goofiness and sense of humor, along with his lack of a conscience and maybe even a soul, makes him the most memorable character in this largely unnecessary movie. C+

Popcorn Perspectives: Week of July 4, 2022

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of July 4, 2022

Thor: Love and Thunder
Rated PG-13 for intense sci-fi violence, action, language, partial nudity and some suggestive material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%
In Theaters

It’s hard to remember back this far, but for Thor’s first couple of outings it was a struggling franchise, and aside from his appearances in the Avenger’s movies, his early solo adventures are not highly regarded. But then Marvel Producer Kevin Feige made an amazing decision, hiring New Zealander Taika Waititi to take the helm, and now Thor: Ragnarok stands as one of the fans’ most favorited title. Waititi scaled back the broody darkness to let in some humor and creativity, ultimately giving the Marvel Cinematic Universe a new style and direction. With Waititi’s second Thor film, that humor and levity are even more on display as Thor (still Chris Hemsworth) is forced to face Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), a vengeful being who seeks to destroy all other gods in order to get revenge for the death of his own daughter. Luckily Thor has a little help in Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and his former love Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) who, though a touching subplot, becomes a female Thor, able to aid in the battle. From start to finish, this Thor is a fantastic and chaotic mess that works better than you can possibly imagine. The incredible script by Waititi and relatively unknown screenwriter Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, brings laughter, tears and excitement in almost equal measure, ultimately creating a surreal joy. But it is Waititi’s special brush strokes that make this so unique and memorable. Sure, some will find it to be quirky, or even a bit whacky, but that kind of delivery is so much fun to watch that you manage to forgive the little flaws and you are able to float past the dark sadness of Gorr’s plight enough to gain empathy for the villain while still wanting to stop him from completing his task. Slightly out of place, but still very welcome is the constant use of Guns and Roses classics throughout the film. Now is where I make you feel old. The majority of the audience watching will probably be very unaware of the songs, since they are now officially 35 years old. Yeah – 35 years. I just assume that Taika wanted to introduce G and R to a new generation, and if that is the case, I admire him for it – and they do fit in nicely. Maybe all these little girls wearing Appetite for Destruction t-shirts will actually know a song or two from the album now. Regardless, most will love this new Thor outing as it is a solid addition to the MCU and a really fun way to spend two hours. A-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of June 27, 2022

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of June 27, 2022

Rated PG-13 for substance abuse, strong language, smoking and suggestive material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%
In Theaters

There are several movies I am looking forward to this year, but the one that had me salivating the most was this spectacular biopic of the King of Rock and Roll: Elvis. From the mind of the extraordinarily creative Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby) comes this sometimes uneven but alway exhilarating story of Elvis Presley, from his life as a poor boy growing up in Mississippi to his last days in Vegas and Memphis, all told with an intoxicating presentation, worthy of the showmanship that was always on display during his all-too-short career. Playing the King is newcomer Austin Butler who just went from nobody to Oscar front-runner overnight. He doesn’t just do an Elvis impersonation, but rather he becomes the legend in a way that you just can’t understand until you see it in person. Also on board is Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker, the man who started as Elvis’s manager and mentor and ended as Elvis’s puppet master. I really thought I knew a lot about the King’s life, after all, I’ve seen all of his movies and I’ve been to Graceland twice. I even had an Elvis anniversary celebration in Vegas with a young and old Elvis officiating the ceremony in front of our family and friends. But what I knew was his music and his legacy and not the struggle and suffering that went on behind the scenes. The film explores parts of his life that will forever change the way I think about my musical hero. Much of the film revolves around the Colonel and how he came to take Elvis under his wing only to keep him from his happiness and even subdue his success. I’ve heard from some that this is just a glossy and loud version of his life, but honestly, I see it as a primer and my curiosity has peaked enough to start really digging in. But as far as the movie goes, I couldn’t be happier with the end result. Baz sets the screen on fire with an innovative delivery and an engaging narrative that helps you understand Elvis’s world while still making it relevant to our own. And he does it in a way that captures the King in a way that I truly believe he would have loved. Sure it is extremely over-the-top, but who wants a strait-laced and accurate portrayal of how things went down when you can have a fast-moving electric circus to guide you through his journey. A