Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of July 24, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of July 24, 2023

Rated R for Nudity, Language and Some Sexuality
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
In Theaters

A critical portion of the highest grossing weekend in years at the box office is this intense and epic biopic about the father of the atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer. Directed by Christopher Nolan (Interstellar) and starring long-time collaborator Cillian Murphy (Peaky Blinders), the film ambitiously takes on his story, from his beginning as a physics professor, to his running the Manhattan Project, to the government’s shameful mistreatment of him during the Cold War. Nolan here masterfully tells his story, moving back and forth in time almost cavalierly, but always with a plan to help you understand the story of the past, present and future, even while each is simultaneously occurring. It’s a story so few of us actually know, about a subject that is incredibly hard to understand, and told in a stunningly beautiful and unique manner that is impossible to take your eyes off of. With gorgeous cinematography by another long-time collaborator, Hoyte Van Hoytema and a breathtaking score by Oscar-winner Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther), the film literally explodes off the screen, especially when viewing it in an IMAX theater, which definitely should be the preferred format if you can get to one. And then there is the huge A-list cast, with countless scene-stealing performances from Robert Downey Jr., Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Alden Ehrenreich, Jason Clarke, Florence Pugh and Kenneth Branagh, just to name a few. In a year that has given us several great films, this one shines above the rest and is the strongest contender for the Oscar so far in 2023 (I know – a bit too early to discuss awards). I almost feel like a fanboy talking about it, but it really is that good, and I was thrilled to see theater-goers recognize it by filling up so many seats. A+

Rated PG-13 for Suggestive References and Brief Language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
In Theaters

The bigger part of our big weekend box-office this past week was this unconventional take on Barbie Dolls as the stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie) and her suitor Ken (Ryan Gosling) must leave Barbieland for the real world in order for her to learn what is wrong with her as she starts to get depressed, begins thinking about death, and suddenly is forced to walk flat-footed. Written and directed by the multi-talented and Oscar-nominated Greta Gerwig, the film chooses to be the most ironic of pictures as it takes a subject which many would consider to be anti-feminist and forms it into a sort of feminist manifesto. Sure its a little rough towards men, and portrays the message that men need women but women, most of the time, only need themselves, but I doubt most will be offended as the harshness is done in a loving and humorous manner that we men are not supposed to understand in the first place. We don’t have to agree with the message to understand its roots and motive. Truly a deep thinker, the film really presents itself to be surprisingly intellectual in ways you really don’t see coming. Watching the trailer, I was both shocked and curious, as it was the very antithesis of what we all thought a “Barbie” movie would be. Then to have even more surprises in the theater was a true joy. Could I have predicted that this would be the mega-hit it is turning into? No. But at the same time, I feel this success is well-earned and I am very impressed with what has come from what I considered to be a silly little brand. B+

Haunted Mansion
Rated PG-13 for scary action and some thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: None at time of writing
In Theaters

It’s been 20 years since Eddie Murphy scared audiences and critics away with Disney’s first attempt at bringing it’s iconic ride to life. So now Disney is giving it another go with Dear White People director Justin Simien at the helm, along with a very respectable cast. The story follows Rosario Dawson and her son as they move into a haunted house, only to drag LaKeith Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish, Owen Wilson and Danny DeVito along for the ride. While stuck in the house, they come across an evil ghost (played by Jared Leto) who needs to kill one more victim in order to make something happen. Actually, the plot was so insanely dumb, that I forgot to pay attention to it. The actors looked just as befuddled as they tried to make sense of it. By the end of the chaotic mess, it just melts into a forgettable puddle of Disney stew as its one goal of giving relevance to the ride flushes down the toilet. There might have been some decent plot elements that could have turned the film into something better, such as the loss of loved ones which was sloppily explored, but the stupid ghosts and monsters became more important, taking any chance away from developing a better story. D

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

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of July 10, 2023

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Part One
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, action, some language and suggestive material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
In Theaters

This seventh outing for Tom Cruise and gang finds Cruise’s Ethan Hunt on a new deadly mission to track down a set of keys capable of shutting down a weapon that could ultimately destroy mankind. Sounds like the plot of all the other films also, I know. But while the stories of all the films sound roughly the same, one after another, they keep pumping out big fresh action films, and this one is a really fun firecracker. Returning after his MI debut film with Fallout, is action-adventure director extraordinaire Christopher McQuarrie who just does a bang up job with both the writing and directing. Keeping you on your toes when you feel like you know most of the tricks is a hard task, and he is so good at it. What he is also good at is adding a big dose of humor, making the film that much more enjoyable. While I still don’t care much for the person Tom Cruise, there is no doubt that the movie star Tom Cruise has one heck of a screen presence and he truly puts his all into the picture. I can at least admire that. He’s always been known to do his own stunt work and the stunts keep getting bigger and bigger, culminating in a sequence like here that looks truly death-defying. But when studios make such a big deal about stuff like that, I always worry that the stunt is there to serve itself and not the story. But here the flying motorcycle scene works perfectly, and its context is not in the least misappropriated. Very clearly laying out that this is a part one, the film doesn’t leave you hanging too terribly bad. You know there is business left to finish, but you don’t feel cheated. Instead you leave the theater worn out from having a great summer movie take you for one hell of a ride. A

Sound of Freedom
Rated PG-13 for thematic content, sexual references, violence, sex trafficking, language, smoking throughout and some drug references
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%
In Theaters

This crowdfunded indie project from Angel Studios (The Chosen) is based on the true story of Tim Ballard (played here by Jim Caviezel), a cop who quit his job to rescue children from a sex trafficking ring in Columbia. While it plays out as a narrative, the film has one goal – generate attention to a major international problem that is not often focused on. In that, it does an admirable job. While it plays like a Christian film, it does so in a gritty fashion, giving the film more authenticity than many others in the genre. Caviezel, who is best know for portraying Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, turns in a decent enough performance to convincingly drive such a disturbing story. His character is a little one-note, but anything else might have distracted from the movie’s solemn goal. For some reason, Oscar-winner Mira Sorvino is literally thrown into a phone-in part as his wife, who merely encourages him to risk his life and family finances for a worthy, although dangerous charitable cause. It’s nice to have a big actress in a part, but she is unnecessary here and probably not nearly worth the money they had to shell out for her to be on the poster. Well-respected character actor Bill Camp, though, is fantastic as the Columbian contact driven to help him free as many kids as possible. He gives the film a fresh boost, just when the film needs a stiff wind in its sail. While the film isn’t great, it is truly memorable and does a really good job of getting its point across. I knew relatively little about child sex trafficking before this, and it truly served as an eye-opener. In that regard, I highly recommend. B+