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-