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

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of November 20, 2023

Rated PG for thematic elements and mild action
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 54%
In Theaters

For Disney’s 100th anniversary, Disney Animation tasked itself with a feature that embodies one of its central themes throughout the century: making dreams and wishes come true. In this case, Wish is based in a magical Mediterranean kingdom called Rosas where a powerful sorcerer allows people to live within its borders as long as they give up their main wish in life to him for safe keeping. In exchange they get safety, security and happiness. Also, several times a year he makes one of their wishes come true during a grand celebration ceremony. But when a young girl questions his authority, she is granted a visit by a powerful miniature star, capable of changing this pattern, and thusly putting her at war with the now dangerous magician who turns to dark magic to stop her. I have to admit that the trailer didn’t exactly interest me in the project, as I thought the story sounded cheesy and overly obvious. But I was surprised at how enjoyable it actually was. The animation style is different and interestingly complex, and the story is very serviceable. I didn’t find the new musical numbers to be up to snuff, but I said the same thing about Encanto and recanted shortly after, so I’ll give them some time to grow on me. Overall, Wish is the best family film for this Thanksgiving holiday weekend and should be a big hit amongst Disney fans due to it’s central theme and the subtle (and not so subtle) plethora of Easter Eggs. B

Rated R for sexual content, brief language, some grisly images and strong violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 67%
In Theaters

Ridley Scott, the master of modern historical epics, is back with this story that encompasses the life of Napoleon Bonaparte, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the terrible little general/emperor. Focusing on his rise to power to his ultimate embarrassments and demise, the film gives a visually arresting look at the major battles that earned him his status, as well as a window to his tumultuous relationship with his wife Josephine, played here by Vanessa Kirby. Having recently read a biography about Napoleon, I was satisfied with Scott’s envisioning of many of Napoleon’s main battles and how he handled Napoleon’s frustrating love life. What I was most disappointed in, though, was how rushed it felt, even at a runtime of just over two-and-a-half hours. The movie feels like a good Cliffs Notes version of his life, and you do get an accurate portrayal of the high points, but with Scott in charge, I felt that there was a lot more meat to flesh out. But I did love the performances of Phoenix and Kirby, who were smartly cast with great deliveries. I also loved the constant infusion of unexpected humor among the horrific violence of the fast and furious skirmishes. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s still quite good and worth the time invested. A-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of November 13, 2023

The Hunger Games: The Ballads of Songbirds & Snakes
Rated PG-13 for strong violent content and disturbing material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%
In Theaters

This long-anticipated sequel for The Hunger Games, based on the novel by Suzanne Collins, follows the plight of Coriolanus Snow, the future president of Panem. As a young man, he finds himself trying to do the best for himself and his remaining family when he is dealt with a task of mentoring a young woman named Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler) who has been selected by her District 12 to be part of one the earlier Hunger Games competitions, where children from the 12 districts fight to the death at the pleasure of the viewing audience. As he begins to mentor and guide the beautiful young heroine, he starts to fall for her, making his connection even stronger to the potentially doomed fighter, while also shaping his current life and his road ahead. As a fan of the original movies (no, I didn’t read the books, sorry), I did have a desire to learn how the whole thing started and led to where they were, many decades later. So seeing the origin story, or close enough to it, was a bit satisfying. It is also a great idea for a story, which was well-enough written here. The narrative, for the most part, really works here, and the film feels more complex than just a background tale. It helps that the cast is solid. Newcomer Tom Blythe makes for an excellent leading man and more than I would have ever expected for this character. But then there is Golden Globe winner Zegler (West Side Story), who basically steals the show as the doomed young ingenue who has simply accepts her fate, while at the same time realizing that there might be a chance to not actually die in the end. Rounding out the talented supporting cast is Jason Schwartzman as the host, Peter Dinklage as the professor and finally Viola Davis as the game master, who looks like she was simply having an absolute blast playing a twisted and wicked villain with a god complex. By the time the actually games are over, there is a sense of relief that is palpable. But then you have to come to the realization that the story is about Snow and his transformation. While I understand the need for this, it becomes a little anticlimactic and more like the longest epilogue we have seen since Return of the King. While the flow of the film suffers from this movement, it is necessary, even if a bit annoying. But overall, the film is well-crafted, well-acted and a welcome addition to the franchise. It doesn’t at all seem like a money grab, but rather a solemn attempt at giving us more of a world we want to see more of. B

The Killer
Rated R for strong violence, language and brief sexuality
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
Streaming on Netflix

From director David Fincher (Gone Girl, Fight Club) comes this thriller about a hitman (Michael Fassbender) who botches a hit, only to find his life and the ones he loves in danger after the miss. Rather than going on the run, he goes after the people who hired him to make sure he doesn’t end up on the wrong end of the gun. From the opening moments to the exciting end, this film sets itself up to be a very different hitman movie. Fassbender, with his constant inner narrative of what makes a successful assassin, provides a very different character of this ilk than we’ve ever seen on screen before, and one that might not give us empathy, but at least awakens our thoughts of what we would do in his situation and skill. It is truly an edge-of-your-seat thriller that makes you pay attention and rewards you for putting your phone down while staying as hyper-aware as our anti-hero. The acting is phenomenal, especially from Fassbender, but even some of the minor characters shine, such as Tilda Swinton’s in-over-her-head rich woman with real regrets of her involvement in this particularly shadowy underworld. For two exciting hours, I was completely enthralled. While not exactly an Oscar-caliber film, it is certainly one worth putting in your eagle-eyed attention. A-

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

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of November 6, 2023

The Marvels
Rated PG-13 for brief language, action and violenc
In Theaters

Through a series of inexplicable cosmic events, Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani) and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) find their powers and presences intertwined after a villain (Zawe Ashton) gains new powers through a newly discovered magical bracelet. Teaming up, the three superheroes attempt to take on the baddie before she destroys their universe in the spirit of trying to save her own. There’s a lot to like in the stories that lead up to this. Captain Marvel was a fantastic movie on its own and if you haven’t seen Ms. Marvel on Disney+, you are really missing out. But this new adventure is so full of plot holes and problems that the confusion alone makes it difficult to enjoy. First off, the villain has very little in the way of exposition or backstory. I feel that had they at least given her something, good or evil, this might have been a serviceable story to dig into. As it is, it feels like sloppy filmmaking from artists who know better, because they’ve done better. What is also confusing is Captain Marvel is incredibly overpowered. Even a tough villain is really no challenge for her, especially with 2 other heroes involved. And yet she struggles to fight her enemy as if she merely had basic fighting superpowers. This didn’t make sense in the least. Where the film succeeds is in its silliness. There is a strange sense of humor that pervades the film, making it more reminiscent of the recent Thor movies or the TV shows than your average Marvel movie. While this humor is rather out of place, like the whacky musical number or the kittens eating up the humans, those comedic scenes are almost welcome distractions from the rest of the movie. Overall, I didn’t hate it, but I certainly didn’t like it. It was serviceable had they fixed the script troubles, but it appears the project got away from them after it was too late to repair, giving Marvel even more issues to move on from as their latest phase keeps falling apart. I’m hoping something comes along as the glue to put it all back together, but with all their recent misses, it looks more likely that they might be forced to scrap the whole thing and start over. C

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of October 16, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of October 16, 2023

Killers of the Flower Moon
Rated R for some grisly images, language and violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
In Theaters

Based on the best-selling novel by David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon tells the true story of the Osage People in the 1920’s who were being systematically murdered for their oil money by a conniving group of white men who were able to take advantage of the lack of any investigations due to the crimes being committed in Indian Territory. The story follows Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio), a young soldier coming home from war to work for his uncle (Robert De Niro), a man who has profited greatly from the Osage Nation. While playing the game his uncle has set up, he falls in love with and marries Mollie (Lily Gladstone), a young Osage woman and heir to her family’s oil riches. But as her family and people are slowly killed off, suspicions start to rise until the point where the newly formed FBI comes calling to finally investigate the crimes known as the Reign of Terror. Directed by Martin Scorsese, and largely filmed on location in Oklahoma, the film has an organic grit to it that could only come from a director such as Marty who is arguably the greatest crime drama moviemaker of our time. Much like when Spielberg did Schindler’s List, Scorsese here succeeds in exposing a massive injustice in our relatively recent history in a way that is both important and impactful. We have only recently begun to understand the cruelties laid out upon the Osage and also the African Americans killed during the Tulsa Race Massacre, which happened about the same time, and which was also briefly addressed during this picture. With the far-right element of this country who wish these kinds of events were simply forgotten and laid to rest, it is vital that brave filmmakers show us these histories, so we won’t so simply forget or ignore them, chalking their excuses up to “critical race theory.” While not overly preachy with his project, Scorsese most definitely exposes the weaknesses in our justice system while also helping us understand how easy it is for these things to happen when seemingly good people turn a blind eye. My only complaints about the films would be that I wish the music fit the film better (a minor problem at best) and that he would have put a five to ten minute intermission in the middle, as I didn’t want to miss a single minute. But at 206 minutes, my bladder just simply wouldn’t allow me to watch the entire thing without at least one short break. Other than that, it is truly one of his bet films, filled with fantastic performances and a thrilling narrative. Lastly, I have to mention how happy I was that he included two of my favorite singer/songwriters Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson in some very meaty and impressive roles. Isbell especially competed evenly with DiCaprio as his smarmy brother-in-law, being judged and sentenced by DiCaprio’s warped sense of morality. A

Butcher’s Crossing
Rated R for brief sexual content, some violence/bloody images and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 67%
In Theaters

While Nicholas Cage has come out in recent years to give us some studio fare, the most common place for us to see him is in small independent films like Butcher’s Crossing. Here he plays an eclectic buffalo hunter who is hired to take a young rich kid on a massive hunt in the Colorado wilderness. While Cage’s character comes off as interesting and worth watching, the rest of the relatively unknown cast struggles with the material and the writing never really allows the film to progress from the idea of a group of barbaric westerners needlessly killing animals for money. Ironically, while the film never broaches this subject during its narrative, this is conveyed in the scroll at the end, with an out-of-place ecologic lesson learned. It’s unfortunately an odd film with bad acting and a script in need of a doctor. That being said, the production values were terrific with lovely cinematography and a feeling that you are seeing what it could have been like to be around massive herds of buffalo before they were wiped out by villains such as these. C

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of October 2, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of October 2, 2023

She Came to Me
Rated R for some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 52%
In Theaters

From the mind of writer/director Rebecca Miller (The Meyerowitz Stories, Proof) comes this adult comedy about an opera composer (Peter Dinklage) whose marriage to a beautiful yet distant psychologist (Anne Hathaway) has left him with a case of writer’s block. But when he experiences a quick indiscretion with a lovely but strange tugboat captain who has a “romance” addiction (Marisa Tomei), he is inspired to write an opera with a similar storyline, all the while trying to hide the true but embarrassing story of his muse. Dinklage is such a tremendous screen presence that I could watch him almost anywhere. While this is not his most impressive of projects, it was still entertaining to watch him in such a role. While the rest of the cast is impressive, and they do a fine job with the material they have, the story is all over the place and never seems to land a good hook. There are moments when you see one coming, but the film ends up being a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and never really gets around to the point. I liked the subplot of the 18-year-old stepson and his romance with his 16-year-old girlfriend which is viciously attacked by the girlfriend’s stepdad. But that almost seemed out of place and inserted merely because the main story couldn’t provide enough runtime to allow the film to qualify as a feature length movie without it. I’m glad they found a way to intertwine the two tales by the end, even if it was a bit odd. Overall, I think the film is okay, although ultimately pretty forgettable. C+

The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar
Rated PG for smoking
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Streaming on Netflix

While I normally don’t review short films, this is not your ordinary short film. In this 39-minute adventure, writer/director Wes Anderson tells the story, based on the tale by Roald Dahl, about Henry Sugar (Benedict Cumberbatch), a self-absorbed wealthy gentleman who discovers a fascinating way to make even more money, only to find it leaves him emptier inside. It’s a beautiful petite story told in only a way Wes Anderson can, with an incredible cast (including Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley and Dev Patel) and a few surprises up its sleeve. While it’s still his same quirky style, it turns out to be a magical experience with a great message, suitable for kids or adults of all ages. I’m a huge fan of Anderson’s and this kind of project only makes me love him even more. A

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of September 25, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of September 25, 2023

The Creator
Rated PG-13 for strong language, some bloody images and violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: None at time of writing
In Theaters

From writer/director Gareth Edwards (Rogue One) comes this epic sci-fi adventure that takes place several decades in the future after Artificial Intelligence is blamed for a nuclear blast that takes out Los Angeles and finds the U.S. in a war to exterminate all forms of A.I. This includes the thousands of robots walking the Earth, most of which live in New Asia, where A.I. has been fully adopted and integrated. Recruited to help take out a new weapon which has been developed to stop the extermination, Joshua (John David Washington) discovers that the weapon is actually a young A.I. child, and does everything he can to help her survive the onslaught. While Hollywood gives us a lot of sci-fi films, it is rare that we that we are gifted with brave and original movies from visionary filmmakers and studios willing to bankroll them. This is what makes films like Blade Runner, The Matrix and Interstellar so special. I think that it will become very obvious upon its release that The Creator will be accepted into that fold. Not only is the film relevant without being preachy, but it is also masterfully told with special effects that look almost too real not to be. It is an incredible motion picture filled with everything we love in big movies including a great story, superb acting and a burning intensity that doesn’t let up until the end. Hopefully this one will bring in a large enough audience, giving studios the confidence to take the chances necessary to give us more than just this kind of once or twice in a decade experience. A

Flora and Son
Rated R for brief drug use, sexual references and language throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
In Theaters and Streaming on Apple TV+

From Director John Carney (Once, Begin Again) comes this new story about a young mother who struggles in her relationship with her troubled son who seems to always be in trouble with the law. When she buys him a guitar, thinking music might help him clean up his act, he refuses it and she instead decides to start taking lessons herself. Allowing music to positively change her life, she starts to focus on what can help her son also. Carney is so good at telling these little slice of life stories that act as sort of a modern type of musical. The end result is a kind of magic with a strong emotional pull that is very impressive. While much of the film is about music, there isn’t a lot of it here, especially compared to his other projects. But it still manages to use what it has to give you a very special ninety minutes. A-

No One Will Save You
Rated PG-13 for terror and violent content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 76%
Streaming on Hulu

This alien attack film stars Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart) as a young girl living in her presumably dead family’s home by herself with seemingly no friends to speak of. But one night when an alien invades her home, she must find a way to survive what seems to be a violent invasion. This is such an interesting little indie horror film. You don’t get much time at all to enjoy the peace and quiet before the aliens come calling and when they do, it is quite scary. Also, there are only a few words spoken during the entire film, with just action to serve its narrative. While the CG wasn’t that great, and the ending is a bit odd, the visitors are still horrifying and the film turns into a really intense adventure. This is largely due to the terrific job by Dever, whose excellent performance makes the film work very effectively. B+