Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of June 26, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of June 26, 2023

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
Rated PG-13 for language, action, sequences of violence and smoking
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 65%
In Theaters

Starting out at the end of WWII, a much younger Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford with the help of CGI) accidentally finds himself fighting to possess a legendary dial, created by Archimedes, which could potentially change history. After a dangerously fun intro, Jones finds himself in the 1960’s a soon-to-be retired and grumpy old man in New York City in a rapidly changing world that has left him behind. When a former Nazi turned NASA scientist (Mads Mikkelsen) shows up to try to steal the dial, Jones teams up with his goddaughter (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) to once again fight the Nazis and protect the world from sinister forces. I have to admit that I was not one of the few people who hated the last Indy. It wasn’t my favorite, but I couldn’t pile on it like everyone else, including my entire my family. But I was hoping for more with this film, and I think I got it. In my opinion, the point of Indy 4 was to create a new Indiana Jones in Shia LaBeouf and that experiment failed miserably. With a different actor, and a better script, we might have had a very different franchise right now. With that storyline leaving such a bad taste in fans’ mouths, it makes sense to bring Jones back for a decent final adventure. Missing here is Spielberg at the helm, although James Mangold (Logan) is an excellent replacement. Not missing is John Williams, who delivers another excellent score, worthy of repeat listenings. The movie kicks off in grand style with a younger Indy and action very befitting for the franchise. But as the 80-year-old Ford starts to play Indy as a senior citizen, the story takes on new dimension and complexity. The script here is good enough to make the film work and adding Waller-Bridge as a goddaughter and not a love interest, gives the story its much needed feminine presence without being creepy. And Mikkelsen makes a great Nazi villain, and his henchmen are solid baddies as well. The story does get long and begins to drag, especially toward the end of the second act. Fortunately the third act, when it eventually comes along, closes the loop nicely and provides for a finale that most will find redemptive and cathartic. In the end, you aren’t getting the best Indy film, but you are getting one that most fans will at the very least appreciate. B-

Asteroid City
Rated PG-13 for some suggestive material, smoking and brief graphic nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 74%
In Theaters

Wes Anderson’s latest creation is this bizarre little comedy about a group of radio actors telling the story of vacationers in a small desert town who are visited by an alien. At least that’s what I think it’s about. Starring pretty much half of Hollywood, the film is a showcase for huge talent in a weird tale that is just as quirky as the rest of Anderson’s movies. With Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Bryan Cranston, and many, many other A-listers on board, the movie is brilliantly acted as the players try to let you into their world that might be hard to understand, but at least it’s interesting enough to try. I think the film would have been much stronger and much more enjoyable without the black and white radio subplot. But that being said, it put a smile on my face for two hours as its oddity is also its delight. B

The Bear: Season 2
Rated TV MA
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Streaming on HULU

Dropping this past week on HULU is the entire season 2 of The Bear, one of the hottest new shows streaming. Season 1 followed a young chef from a top NYC restaurant who inherits a restaurant in Chicago after his brother’s suicide. With dreams of saving the hole in the wall eatery and turning it into a top dining destination, things looked hopeful for the future. Now in season 2, the group of chefs sets out to renovate both their location and their skills, as each goes through their own journey in the hopes of coming out on top. The drama this season is excellent, showcasing the extraordinary acting skills of both the old cast and the new additions, including major cameos from Bob Odenkirk, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sarah Paulson, John Mulaney, Olivia Colman and Will Poulter. It’s hard to believe that they could improve upon the former season (which also held a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score) but they pulled it off here in grand fashion with an amazing dining experience, sans actual food. I loved every minute and can’t wait to see what they do next. A+

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of June 5, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of June 5, 2023

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Rated PG for some language, animated action violence and thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
In Theaters

This sequel to the hit Oscar-winning animated pic Into the Spider-Verse continues the adventures of Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy as they continue to interact with other universes containing alternate spider-heroes with their own stories and own worlds. In this case, Gwen joins a band of narrative-correcting web-slingers that can move between parallel universes to accomplish their mission, but when Miles sneaks into the world he wasn’t permitted to enter, there is a great fear that he could destroy the canon from which all the heroes must abide by in their story-lines. When the first film of this particular franchise came out, I was incredibly skeptical since we already had the original Spider-man, the Amazing Spider-man and the new MCU Spider-man. I was worried that the field was getting too crowded and it would be hard to accept another new hero into the fold. Also, MCU was starting to wear the whole multi-verse thing out. But the film very quickly earned its keep with a fun-filled adventure told with great screenwriting and animation unlike anything we have ever seen before. Thankfully, this new chapter goes even deeper, with rich story-telling that is only heightened by its spectacular visuals. To make the experience even more intense, the film is packed with a multitude of creative new types of Spider-men (and Spider-animals) that add to the fun and enrich the journey. In a film that is basically about breaking the rules, the filmmakers seem to be also breaking those rules with screenwriting and visuals that bust through the norms, giving us more of what we are craving from this franchise. By the end, we end up thrilled and out of breath and a little bit frustrated that we have to wait until March of next year to finish the adventure with Beyond the Spider-verse. A

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of May 22, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of May 22, 2023

The Little Mermaid
Rated PG for some scary images, action and peril
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%
In Theaters

Disney’s latest live-action remake of their classics goes under the sea, bringing the famous musical The Little Mermaid to vibrant life. Loosely based on the Hans Christian Anderson novel, the story follows a young mermaid princess named Ariel (Halle Bailey) who dreams of living among the humans, in spite of having a father and king (Javier Bardem) who considers the land-walkers to be sworn enemies. But when the evil tentacled Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) makes a bargain with her, she is given the ability to possibly have her heart’s desire, although if she doesn’t get the prince to kiss her in a very short amount of time, she will forever belong to the villain. With most of the iconic songs from the 1989 Oscar-winning film in tact, and a story that was largely left alone, the movie is sure to be a crowd-pleaser amongst the many fans. But setting the film apart is it’s use of diversity, including an African-American Ariel and a multicultural cast of supporting characters. Also, in the original film, the prince is a two-dimensional character with little story and less to offer aside from his pedigree. But here they’ve made the prince a stronger character with a back-story and even a couple of songs to sing, all written by Lin Manuel Miranda, who added his talents to the project. Directed by Oscar-winner Rob Marshall (Chicago), the film is skillfully made with big set pieces and a lovely color pallete, and more importantly – a fast pace. While the human cast and the voice actors are all solid, it is McCarthy who steals the show as Ursula, a part that just might see her getting some nominations come end of the year. For the most part, Disney has done an admirable job with its live-action remakes and this one is no different. I didn’t much of an emotional hit with it, but aesthetically and artistically, the film pulls out all the stops and provides for a riveting and nostalgia-driven experience for the multitudes of major fans. A-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of May 15, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of May 15, 2023

A still from Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, by Davis Guggenheim an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Rated R for language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%
Streaming on Apple TV+

Since he came on the scene in the 80’s with Family Ties, Michael J. Fox has remained a lovable household name, producing hit after hit, until he came out to the world with his heartbreaking diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. This challenging yet life-affirming documentary from Oscar winner Davis Guggenheim (Summer of Soul), follows Fox’s journey from being a child actor to a megastar, to just struggling to possess some sort of quality of life from his progressive illness. To show someone’s life in a mere 95 minutes is a daunting challenge, yet Guggenheim does a masterful job of helping us understand what makes the man tick and what will keep him ticking. Beautifully presented with short snippets from his TV and movie career that seem to perfectly narrate his life, the film manages to be entertaining, informational and inspirational, even if a bit sad. But Fox here isn’t trying to put on a pity party. Quite the opposite. He is constantly showing how truly tough he is, with a sense of humor that cuts through the reality. A-

Sanctuary: Season 1
Not rated, but should be TV-MA for language and violenc
Streaming on Netflix

We get a lot of sports movies and shows to watch, but never has the world of sumo wrestling entered our living rooms, until now. I should know – years ago I wrote a Sumo comedy that almost got made, but ultimately was deemed too obscure for the majority of the world. So I was elated when Netflix released this entertaining series about a young wrestler who decides to do Sumo to pursue its fames and riches that only a few wrestlers are able to achieve. Over 8 episodes we see our young anti-hero (who is basically a huge dirtbag for most of the series) squeak his way through the world of Sumo in Japan until he is hit with massive adversity, only to find a way to Rocky through it. I have to admit that there are a lot of problems, such as a silly amount of over-acting and simplistic script choices. Plus, this probably should have been a couple of hours shorter, not needing 8 one-hour episodes to tell the story. Also, they completely leave out the well-documented presence of the Yakuza in the sport, which could have elevated the drama substantially. But overall, the series is entertaining and enlightening, helping an audience which is mostly or even completely unfamiliar with the sport come to a basic understanding and even appreciation for one of Japan’s most important cultural traditions. B-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of May 8, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of May 8, 2023

Rated R for language throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
In Theaters

For a large percentage of the 40+ population, the Blackberry (or “crackberry” as many of us called it), was a major stepping stone into our cell phone addiction. It was the first phone that allowed us to truly communicate with other devices and even access the internet, even if limited by today’s standards. In this new film by Matt Johnson, the filmmakers explore the rise and fall of the phone that got us to the iPhone. The story follows RIM creator and CEO Mike Lazaridis (How to Train Your Dragon’s Jay Baruchel) and cutthroat co-CEO Jim Balsillie (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Glenn Howerton) as they go from literally creating the hottest invention on the planet to complete implosion within just a matter of a few years. For those of us who lived in this time period, the film fills in the gaps of what happened to our trusted little best friend. But for many, it just serves as a great story about how to, and how not to, create an innovate product and keep it relevant. It is a frequently funny, but always interesting tale filled with some really great performances and a biting screenplay. Very reminiscent of the recent Air Jordan film, “Air,” the tale is filled with nostalgia but is also much more complex than you think it will be. And while the script is difficult to fact check, the ups and downs are completely believable and filled with schadenfreude. Ultimately, what you get is a terrifically entertaining film with nuanced performances from a talented cast, all with a ring of truth that will connect with many audience members who lived though that time as they tried to keep up with the hottest new personal technologies. A-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of April 17, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of April 17., 2023

Peter Pan & Wendy
Rated PG for peril, violence and thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 63%
Streaming on Disney+

Aside from being a Texas resident, writer/director David Lowery has built up quite a resume in Hollywood with well-respected titles such as The Green Knight and A Ghost Story. He’s even worked for Disney before in the underrated Pete’s Dragon remake. What I’m sure was originally slated for theaters, Disney has marked direct for streaming, probably due to an unknown cast, but certainly not due to quality. This retelling of the Peter Pan story isn’t exactly a remake of the animated classic, but it has many of the elements. Wendy (Ever Anderson) and her brothers are whisked away by a young Peter Pan (Alexander Molony) on a trip to Neverland where they confront great action and peril, mostly at the hands of Captain Hook (Jude Law) who will do anything to see Peter and his friends dead. It has a bit of a slow start, but it quickly gets going upon entering Neverland, with loads of action and some very unexpected plot twists. And quite honestly, those twists are what make this a special (or at least more special than it should have been) movie. This very much had the potential of becoming a dull retread, especially given how many Peter Pan movies we’ve had throughout the years. But instead, new life is breathed into the story as new depths are achieved. By the end, we get an enjoyable family adventure that might just bring a smile to your face and a tear to your eye if your’e not careful. B+

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexual content, sequences of strong violence/action
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 30%
Streaming on Apple TV+

In this action-filled romantic comedy, Chris Evans (Captain America) finds himself falling in love with a beautiful young stranger (Ana de Armas) only to find that she won’t respond to his dozens of texts after their hot and heavy first date. But when he shows up in London to surprise her, he discovers that she is really a CIA operative and he is now tied up in a dangerous adventure, whether he wants to be there or not. There are some moments where the film hits you with some comedic bright spots, especially the numerous impressive cameos from some really huge names, but unfortunately those laughs are quickly washed away from the bad writing, and subsequently the bad acting spewing from it. With so many great actors and Rocketman director Dexter Fletcher at the helm, it is quite shocking that the film manages to misfire so much. And while the script is serviceable, it manages to sputter by on fumes, when it should have been completely gassed up and ready to go. By the end, it turns out to be a film you really wanted to like, but one you know you should have ignored after the first date. C-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of April 10, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of April 10, 2023

Rated R for some drug use, language throughout, bloody violence and some goreRotten
Tomatoes Score: 58%
In Theatres

Nicholas Hoult plays Renfield to Nicolas Cage’s Dracula in this new dark comedy about Dracula’s titular familiar who has spent much of his life as a servant to the dark lord. Set in modern day New Orleans, Renfield gets tied up with local mafia as he tries to procure some fresh blood, and inadvertently falls for a local cop (Awkwafina) determined to bring down the mob. At just about 90 minutes, the film is a short and sweet Uber-violent comedy that delivers exactly what it promises in the trailer, and not much more. It is fun, funny, and as campy as you can get putting Cage as the famous Count. It also looked like it was a lot of fun to make, and never takes itself seriously. It might have been a better film had they taken it a little more serious, as the script isn’t nearly as creative as the premise or the production, but it’s hard to fault such paint-by-numbers writing since it obviously works to give the audience what it sets out to deliver. B-

Beef: Season 1
Rated TV-MA
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%
Streaming on Netflix

Beef, the hottest new streaming show on Netflix, follows two people (Steven Yeun and Ali Wong), a failed contractor and an unfulfilled entrepreneur, who get into a massive road rage incident when she honks at him in a parking lot and a crazy fight ensues. Over 10 darkly funny episodes, each in the 30ish minute range, the two go back and forth, never satisfied with any temporary resolution or an ability to let it just go away. Premiering at South By Southwest in Austin last month, it was apparent that Beef wouldn’t be your run of the mill episodic. And it most certainly is not. Yeun and Wong both put in fantastic performances and the script is just bonkers nuts, in a good way, giving them some really juicy roles to jump into. The supporting cast and the characters they play are a bit over the top, but still add interesting spice to the constantly boiling-over pot of gumbo that is the series. What makes the show so likable, though, isn’t the constant war, but rather the times of peace where you get to know the characters, what makes them tick, and finding out how absolutely human they are. In that way the writing is as big of a star as the two huge actors that chew up most of the scenery. Deeply bingeable, the show will be hard for you to stop watching once you start the first episode. A

Jason Isbell: Running With Our Eyes Closed
Rated R for language and substance abuse
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100% at time of writing
Steaming on HBOmax

New to HBO this week is an intimate look at Grammy-award winning singer/songwriter Jason Isbell as he explores the demons he is constantly fighting, all the while building his Covid-era album Reunions. Being that he is one of my absolutely favorite artists, I came in having a really nice personal connection to his story and his plight, through his music. And while I thought I knew all about him and his journey, I found my knowledge only scratched the surface. This film gives a deep dive into what makes Jason Jason, while also showing his process for song-writing and juggling work, life, and former addiction. But most importantly, the music is just fantastic with lyrics that really mean something and a superbly talented band to pull the tunes off. That being said, it does, at times, appear to be more of a commercial for him and his craft, but I kind of expected that. I’m not sure how it will come across if you aren’t familiar with him, but I’m guessing it will only win him over plenty of new fans. A-