Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of December 12, 2022

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of December 12, 2022

Avatar: The Way of Water
Rated PG-13 for partial nudity, intense action, sequences of strong violence and some strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
In Theaters

Perhaps the most anticipated movie in several years is this sequel to the 2009 mega hit, Avatar. Written and directed by James Cameron, the film takes place years after the humans were kicked off of Pandora. Jake and Neyteri now have a full family, complete with rebellious teenagers, and even a human tagalong named Spider who was left behind on Pandora to live with the scientists, since babies couldn’t survive space travel. After the events of the first film, it was pretty obvious that the humans would come back with a vengeance, and this they do in order to obtain the precious elements on the planet, no matter what the cost. But revenge is also on the menu and a group of marine avatars are sent specifically to find and kill Jake. Not wanting to risk his people’s lives, he runs away with his family to an island chain, hoping to make new friends and survive peacefully. But that peace is short-lived when the new avatars do not give up on their hunt. Cameron announced that the Avatar universe would be expanding immediately upon the original’s success, but he needed to push the limits of special effects past what was available at the time, which explains the 13 year gap in this release. If this is true, then I would say that it was worth the wait. The special effects are truly the most amazing that have ever graced the silver screen. And to enhance those effects, his use of 3D makes me not want to give up on the add-on, like I had for the quite some time now with other films. So if you are seeing it for the visuals and the overall experience, you won’t be disappointed in the least. Just as in the first, if there is any weakness it is in the story and clunky dialog. As you expect with a Cameron film, there are lots of cheesy lines and retreads from his own and others’ works, but most audiences won’t notice and there’s so many spectacular things going on that these minor items are easy to overlook. The script here is not as ambitious in its messaging as the first, but you still feel the analogies to colonialism and environmental impact throughout. And while I’m always skeptical of films that clock in at over 3 hours, the story feels tight enough that your bladder might notice, but your brain might not. I have a feeling that this one will grow on me, especially given that he has announced several more sequels currently in play, that I can’t wait to see. Thankfully we won’t have to wait another 13 years as the next ones are already in the works and set to release every two years until the first part of the story is complete. A-

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Rated PG for peril, dark thematic material, brief smoking, some rude humor and violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Streaming on Netflix

Earlier this year we were cursed with Disney’s live-action Pinocchio, which should have been spectacular but ended up delivering a real stinker. This week, though, we are blessed with this visionary stop-motion production from the great Guillermo del Toro and co-director Mark Gustafson. In 1940, Disney’s Pinocchio, and all others since, have focused on the puppet who wants to be a real little boy. Here the story shifts its focus to Pinocchio’s father Geppetto who begins the film as a happy old woodcarver with a real son (named Carlo, after the book’s author) who, after a horrific tragedy, finds himself alone and miserable, and in great need of the companionship he desperately misses. Thus Pinocchio comes to life and sets them both off on an adventure. To take such a classic story and spin it on its head in such original ways is pure genius and this movie’s story really shines, in equality to its production. But one look and you will know the production is what people will be talking about. The artistry on display here is possibly the most impressive that stop-motion animation has ever seen, and that is quite a feat. From the vision behind the puppets to the hands that molded and moved them through the elaborate sets, the film is a wonder to behold. If there is anything even slightly negative to say, it would be that, for a musical, the songs are hit and miss. But after seeing the film twice and listening to the soundtrack a few times, even the misses are growing on me. Of course it helps to have the help of Oscar-winning composer Alexandre Desplat at the musical helm, laying his subtle yet lovely melodies down throughout. A big nod must go to Netflix who has really upped their animation game this past year. With 4 of the best animated pics of year in 2022 (Apollo 10 1/2, Wendell & Wild and The Sea Beast) are all potential Oscar noms in the category), they have managed to outplay Disney, Pixar and others at their own game. A