Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of March 20, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of March 20, 2023

John Wick: Chapter 4
Rated R for some language and pervasive strong violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
In Theaters

For most people, including me, John Wick has never been about the story, but rather about the glorious, artistic portrayal of graphic violence from a character who simply wasn’t okay with someone killing his dog. In this fourth chapter of the franchise, Wick (Keanu Reeves) is trying to defeat The High Table in any way possible, while hundreds of assassins chase him wherever he goes, always ending in their gruesome and quick demise. The ultimate villain in this new chapter is the Marquis, played by Bill Skarsgard (Pennywise from It). And since he isn’t exactly a fighter, he hires the best to protect him and go after Wick. Here that is martial arts legend Donnie Yen (Hero, Ip Man) who plays a former friend of Wick’s who must turn on him to protect his daughter. But again, it’s really not about the story. But you could say its about delivering a bigger, badder and certainly more ferocious killing spree that doesn’t have to make sense to be exhilarating. If that’s what you’re after, this film certainly delivers. Everything here is bigger as franchise director Chad Stahelski takes the adrenaline rush up a notch, to say the least. I find myself feeling a bit hypocritical since I am so vehemently anti-violent, but I can’t help myself when I sit down to watch these films. They are fun, funny, a bit silly, wildly entertaining and endearing. While almost three hours long (and longer with a ton of trailers up front) the film might hurt your bladder, but you don’t exactly want it to end as it just keeps getting crazier and crazier. At one point towards the end, Wick finds himself in a massive shootout as the camera raises through the roof and we watch the action as if it takes place through a glass ceiling. And with hardly a cut made. It’s one of the coolest sequences I’ve ever seen in a motion picture and surely one that will be studied and emulated by film nerds and directors for years to come. One of the things I find most fascinating is how you really start to feel Wick’s pain as he keeps taking punishments that would send anyone else to the hospital. I needed 4 Advil just to sit there and eat my popcorn. The intensity is that palpable. Overall, its a welcome fourth chapter that will have you hooting and hollering until the moment you limp out of the theater with bruises you can’t explain. A-

Inland Empire: The Criterion Collection
Rated R for some violence, sexuality, nudity and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 72%
Available on disc

This 2006 David Lynch film starring Laura Dern and Jeremy Irons follows the tale of an actress and her on-set drama as she begins to realize that her movie is a remake of an unfinished film in which the original stars were murdered. Or at least that’s what I think it’s about. Like any Lynch film, and maybe even more so here, this one is just super weird. Serving as more of a creative outlet for Lynch, who apparently shot the whole thing with a camcorder, and wrote the script as they were filming. None of the actors knew what was going on until the day of the shoot, and it is very apparent. If you are sitting down for family fun night, avoid this one at all cost. But if you are into Lynch, there are hours of special features here that will help you forget about the movie and get a better understanding of what makes this extremely odd man tick. Rather than fill the extra content with stuff about the movie, which I would imagine would have been as bad as the film, you instead get a slew of material by and about the auteur. D

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of March 13, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of March 13, 2023

Rated PG-13 for crude/sexual references and strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 56%
In Theaters

From Dumb & Dumber and Kingpin director Robert Farrelly comes this sweet and sappy comedy about a semi-pro basketball coach who is forced to coach a team of adults with intellectual disabilities for community service after getting a DUI. Needing to get his own life in order, he begins to grow with the team as he makes them better players while at the same time making himself a better human. Much of the film is exactly what you think it will be from the trailer. It is sweet and corny and overly predictable. But thankfully there are many surprises thrown at the audience from the eclectic bunch of actors who manage to catch you completely off guard throughout. You can tell that he and the cast have a real heart for this special community and he does a superb job of creating both awareness and appreciation. While it’s not as shocking as many of Farrelly’s other films, and also not nearly as funny, it more than makes up for it in sentimentality. Much of the humor comes from sex and fart jokes, which aren’t exactly clever, but at least they come off as sort of humorous given the context. Unfortunately, some of the jokes are repeated again and again when they weren’t that funny to begin with. I really liked the effort and the attitude, but as a comedy it tends to miss the basket more than it hits. But it also manages to give enough of a feel good vibe that you find the faults to be forgivable. B-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of February 27, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of February 27, 2023

Creed III
Rated PG13 for some strong language, intense sports action, violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
In Theaters

This newest film in the Creed franchise begins with Adonis Creed’s (Michael B. Jordan) last fight as a professional boxer as he wins big and takes the belts. Of course it can’t end there, that would lead to a short movie, so of course he gets pulled back in. In this case, a childhood friend (Jonathan Majors) gets out of prison and asks for help with the chance of getting a title fight. When Creed discovers that his friend won dirty, he exits retirement to challenge him to a new fight to take back his titles. The story does have good bones. There is a believability that could have been developed and built upon in an organic way, giving us more of what made the original Rocky so great. But instead, we get too many inauthentic and unnecessary twists in order to get us to the final battle, which is good but not great. So even with a potentially strong story, the writing lacks the creativity required to give us something real. Here we get silly choices that lead to silly circumstances and an almost false pathway to the big set pieces. Also, distractingly missing is Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) who just happens to not be around any more. His presence might have given the film the needed gravity that it sorely lacks. That being said, the fighting, which is what we all go to see it for in the first place, is the highlight, making the film at least watchable, even if the directing, by Jordan, is extremely heavy-handed. Also, Majors is a formidable antagonist, chewing up every bit of screen time he is allowed. I almost wish they made him more likable so that the film would come across more like 2011’s Warrior than like a flashy boxing pic. In the end, most audiences will find it entertaining enough, but it really comes across as a film that could have been so much better. C+

Cocaine Bear
Rated R for language throughout, drug content, bloody violence and gore
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70%
In Theaters

This crazy tale follows the path of a bear who begins a cocaine habit when a drug runner drops bags of it out of a plane before meeting his own demise. High on the powder, the bear goes on a killing rampage, brutally murdering any human it comes across, hoping they have more blow. Meanwhile, the drug dealer whose cocaine was lost attempts to get back his stash. Directed by comedic actress Elizabeth Banks, the film is way more of a comedy than it is a horror film. This is surprisingly well-done. When the bear goes nuts and starts mauling folks, the audience was in stitches rather than disturbed. That being said, the film is flimsy. It is a one-trick pony and once you’ve seen the trick a time or two, it starts to get old. Thankfully there is a really great cast to make the tedium watchable. Keri Russell, Ray Liotta, Alden Ehrenreich, Margo Martindale and many other very recognizable performers keep the film entertaining enough to make it through the short 95 minutes. Funny enough, it is being touted as based on true events, which turns out to be comical on its own merits. Back in the 80s a drug smuggler did drop cocaine into the mountains where a bear ingested and overdosed from its discovery. So creativity points go to writer Jimmy Warden who pulled this “true” story out of thin air. B-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of February 20, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of February 20, 2023

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
Rated PG-13 for violence, action and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 48%
In Theaters

For the third Ant-man movie, marvel sends its heroes (Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer) down to the Quantum universe (the subatomic realm) where they encounter a strange new world and the ultimate baddie: Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). While there, their goal is two-fold: protect their new friends and somehow get back to the real world. This latest phase of the MCU is looking more and more like just a chaotic, pointless mess to me. I have liked a couple of the projects such as Shang-Chi, Thor: Love and Thunder and Loki, but much of it feels like they just don’t have a clear sense of direction and instead of a proper focus, they are just throwing a bunch of muck at the wall and hoping something sticks. This newest flick is very much in that category. While the new Universe shows signs of creativity and some nice special effects, the story makes little sense with plot holes that abound. The saddest part is that much of what we love about Paul Rudd’s Ant-man is largely missing here. The big personality and sense of humor pops out every now and then, but there is too little to keep the audience engaged and instead the movie is filled with huge set pieces and soulless green screens. It doesn’t help that Douglas and Pfeiffer seem wildly out of place and Lilly is practically phoning in her role. The only really likable aspect is Kang, but his role is so confounding at this point that I hope he doesn’t just morph into a giant annoyance by the Avenger’s finale, titled Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, whenever that will finally come out (listed as May 2, 2025 at this point). Marvel has shown us that you have to look at all these movies as individual puzzle pieces that will makes sense when they finally come together, but with too many of these misses, they will find themselves with an audience who used to care but has instead moved on. I need a movie or show that brings me back in, stat, or I will be part of that crowd. C

Rated PG-13 for thematic material, suicide and brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
French with English Subtitles
In Theaters

This winner of the Cannes Film Festival Grand Jury Prize and also Oscar nominee for Best International Film tells the story of two thirteen-year-old best friends whose bond is ripped apart by tragedy when when one of them starts to feel a separation in their friendship and isolation from the rest of the world. This film does a remarkable job at creating a huge amount of empathy for the main character, and you can’t help but understand the hardship of not being able to give what is being asked for in the relationship and then the sudden snap and strain of the guilt and pain that develops because of it. It’s a challenging film but also an important one, especially for parents who really don’t want to think their children are capable of such actions. It is certainly one that will stick with you. A-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of February 6, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of February 6, 2023

Knock at the Cabin
Rated R for violence and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%
In Theaters

M. Night Shyamalan’s latest horror flick follows a young gay couple (Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge) who are just trying to experience a little vacation at their lake cabin with their adopted daughter, when 4 strangers (including Dave Bautista and Rupert Grint) show up at their cabin demanding that they choose one member of their family to sacrifice in order to stop an impending apocalypse that would destroy the world. Based on the award-winning horror novel “The Cabin at the End of the World” by Paul Tremblay (which is a far superior title also) the film is a bit of a departure for Shyamalan, who is best known for his original, out-of-left-field twisty endings. While there are some interesting surprises, its kind of nice to have a film from him in which you aren’t just trying to figure out how he is going to fool you. What I liked most about this movie though is his masterful usage of suspense. I found myself literally glued to my seat and fully zoomed-in wondering what could happen next and how our heroes will escape, or even if they should. There is a little bit of cheesiness in regards to the events happening on the news and how those events are handled, but in the cabin there is a spirit of bleakness that is tangible. Thankfully, the performances, from Bautista down to the young daughter (wonderfully played by 8 year-old Kristen Cui), are just what this kind of story needed in order to make it both believable and effective. The narrative itself isn’t going to win any awards and the film isn’t the scariest of tales, but you do get an entertaining two hours and you won’t feel like you wasted your money when the credits start rolling. B-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of January 30, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of January 30, 2023

You People
Rated R for drug content, some sexual material and language throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 43%
Streaming on Netflix

Jonah Hill writes and stars in this romantic comedy from Netflix about a young Jewish man who falls for a young African-American girl (Lauren London) only to find that their parents (Eddie Murphy and Julia Louis-Dreyfus) make the arrangement incompatible. There is a lot to like about this film. There are moments of sweetness and tenderness that will make you tear up. There are moments of insight, especially about race relations, that will make you think. There are many moments of hilarity that will have you laughing out loud. Unfortunately, the film tries too hard to give you moments of cringe and discomfort that make you not want to be in the room. Some of that discomfort is fine. Dreyfus’s running commentary is extremely awkward, but it does give the film a funny edge. Murphy on the other hand is relentlessly mean-spirited and over-the-top, and while there might be a universe where this kind of attitude is a possibility, it seems very inauthentic here. Rather than giving the story fuel and providing the couple something to fight for, it takes the wind out its narrative sails. But as I’m a sucker for a romantic comedy, and most are way worse than this, I can barely recommend it, with an asterisk. Know that you are going into a film trying to get a rise out of you and be ready to talk yourself down. B-

The Last of Us
Rated TV-MA for violence, language and gore
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Streaming on HBO Max

This was supposed to be a review of Knock at the Cabin, but the screening was cancelled due to the ice storm. So instead, I decided to bring up my new TV obsession from HBO. This highly anticipated horror drama looks like a Walking Dead retread, but once you get in, you will find out how special it is. The series is only three episodes in, but unlike most shows on right now, which I would prefer to wait until done and then devour in a 10 hour binge, this one makes it worth being home on a Sunday night to catch as it comes on. Based on the award-winning video game, the story begins in Austin, twenty years ago, as our main character, played by Pablo Pascal, finds himself at the beginning of a deadly pandemic involving a fungal infection that turns its victims into horrific, hive-minded zombie-like creatures. Fast forward twenty years to Boston, and our hero is now living in a hard-core quarantine zone where he finds a young girl (Game of Throne actress Bella Ramsey) who is seemingly immune to the infection. Since the government would kill her on sight, he must try to find a way to bring her to the people that might be able to use her to find a cure or a vaccine. It’s a thrilling ride with a production worthy of its promise. HBO is the original provider of theatrical home entertainment of this quality, and with the recent House of Dragons and this new series, they show they are still the best as they keep releasing entertainment worthy of a Stay Home Sunday. Of particular note is the third episode which brings the audience back in time to the beginning of the pandemic, as Nick Offerman, who lives alone in a well-secured neighborhood he has built up, befriends a struggling survivor played by Murray Bartlett (The White Lotus). It finds a way to tap into the main storyline while also telling a complete tale, and it just might be the best episode of television in many years. While I don’t know what’s in store for the rest of the season, I can tell you I’m hooked very early and can’t wait to find out. A