Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of March 4, 2024

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of March 4, 2024

Kung Fu Panda 4
Rated PG for mild violence, martial arts action, scary images and some mild rude humor
Rotten Tomatoes Score: None at the time of writing
In Theaters

Jack Black is back as Po, the panda who knows Kung Fu, although the rest of his team are very noticeably absent this time around. When Master Shifu tells Po that he must now think of a successor, he is not ready to give up his Dragon Warrior title and the glory that comes with it. But as he is searching for that individual, a new baddie named Chameleon (Viola Davis) is working on a plan to steal the skills of all of Po’s past enemies to become the most vicious fighter the planet has ever seen. Together with a thief named Zhen (Awkwafina), Po sets out to take on Chameleon and her criminal plans. If I had to say what was good about the movie, it would be the short 94-minute runtime. And also, it is very benign for young children with a PG rating, which is rare, even in animated films nowadays. But man this is a bad experience overall. The writing is lazy and predictable and almost feels like it was written by AI rather than a real human. For adults it is a tedious watch that seems Scorsese long for such a short period. And because of the bad writing, the acting and energy were off kilter also. This should have been a straight to Netflix film, but I’m guessing the ability to take advantage of a relatively weak box office was more important than putting quality up on screen. D

Accidental Texan
Rated PG-13 for brief violence and strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: None at the time of writing
In Theaters

This Texas-made comedy stars Rudy Pankow (Uncharted) as a young hotshot actor whose car breaks down in rural Texas after a disastrous shoot in Lousiana leaves him driving back to California with his tail between his legs. Without a friend or family member who can help him, he develops a relationship with some of the locals (namely Thomas Haden Church, Carrie-Anne Moss and Bruce Dean) who need his help as much he needs theirs. Winner of the prestigious Texas Independent Film Award from the Houston Film Critics Society (under the name Chocolate Lizards at the time), the movie is a very good example of good local independent filmmaking, and the fact it is getting such a strong theatrical run only goes to show the quality of the work. While it can be a bit dry at times, there are also some good laughs and I especially enjoyed Church, who is always terrific in roles like these. If you’ve seen Dune two to three times (like many of us) this is a nice diversion from the traditional fare out there and it is much better than its biggest weekend competitor: Kung Fu Panda 4. B

Rated R for language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 50%
Streaming on Netflix

Every few years, Adam Sandler jumps into a dramatic role, and usually the result is dynamite. This time out he plays a Russian Cosmonaut on a long-haul solo journey to the edge of the solar system. But as he senses things aren’t right with his wife back on Earth (Carey Mulligan), he relies on a giant space spider to help him navigate his personal journey. I was greatly looking forward to this one upon learning they were making it, but you quickly come to the understanding that this is just a weird, almost whacky drama that might make way more sense if you are inebriated while watching than if you are not. Its lunacy is so distracting that it remains difficult to concentrate on the deep script. So this one will remain in the “not for everyone” column and I’m included in that group this time out. C

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of February 26, 2024

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of February 26, 2024

Dune: Part Two
Rated PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, brief strong language and some suggestive material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
In Theaters

Many of us were surprised upon seeing 2021’s Dune (based not iconic sci-fi novel by Frank Herbert) that the story wasn’t complete, and, if Warner Brothers would greenlight it, a second Dune would be on its way in a few years. Thankfully that happened, and now we have a finished storyline (kinda) about young Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and his mission to seek revenge for the near genocide of his people shortly after they arrived on the spice planet Arrakis. If you are even a bit fuzzy on the goings on of the first film, I would highly advise that you rewatch it before going to see part two, as this is an amazingly complex narrative that’s easy to get lost in. This sequel takes place immediately following the events of the 2021 film as Paul and his mother (Rebecca Ferguson) attempt to join the Freman (the name given to the indigenous desert dwellers) in order to try to create a strategy to take on the people known as the Harkonnen, who, through a massive sneak attack, have managed to take over the spice operations of the planet. As a reminder, without spice, the universe grinds to a halt. So whoever controls the planet, the only source of that spice, becomes all powerful. Joining with Freman leader Stilgar (Javier Bardem) and falling for a young Freman warrior named Chani (Zendaya), Paul finds himself moving up in power, mostly because his very presence and training fit a prophecy long held by the people, that a messiah is coming to help them take back their planet. Again, this is very complex stuff. But it is certainly worth the time and effort to try to understand. The film, once again written and directed by Dennis Villeneuve, is a masterpiece of storytelling, as he takes a novel that has eluded filmmakers for decades and creates a spectacular vision for it. While it is long, the time flies by and manages to be one of the fastest-paced epics ever devised. The acting is terrific, with an incredible cast filled with both well-known actors at the top of their game and many unknown actors keeping up with them admirably. The special effects alone are almost guaranteed to add several Oscars to the six the first film won. And the score by Hans Zimmer (who also won for the first film) manages to top what we heard three years ago. This, in my book, is a perfect film, and sure to be a monstrous hit at the box office, rescuing theaters from the abysmal two months they’ve just suffered through. And the icing on the cake (and something no one is talking about yet): this is part two of three. Something I didn’t know until researching after seeing. While it ends complete enough, Villeneuve plans on bringing Dune: Part Three, rumored to be based on Herbert’s book Dune: Messiah, to theaters in the coming years. And we, the audience, find ourselves in a very lucky place indeed. A+

God Save Texas
Streaming on MAX

Based on the book by Lawrence Wright, this new documentary miniseries, told in three parts, follows three filmmakers telling stories close to their hearts and close to their hometowns. In the first episode, Oscar-nominated director Richard Linklater (Boyhood) goes home to Huntsville to discuss the multitude of prisons in such a small area, and the many problems with the death penalty. Episode two follows Alex Stapleton (Corman’s World) as she visits her hometown of Houston and the effects of the oil and gas industry on her black community that live very close to the refineries. Finally, Iliana Sosa (What We Leave Behind) revisits El Paso to discuss the crisis at our border, from the point of view of the Mexican immigrants who have spent their lives in the U.S. Attempting to show the many facets of what makes Texas Texas, the series does a good enough job of hooking the viewer and getting its points across with these very specific subject matters. By the end of the series, though, it does feel a bit incomplete. Maybe HBO will foot the bill for a few more episodes, exploring even more facets of the state and the issues we all face living here. But for now, the show is very much worth the time invested, especially since much of it takes place in our own back yard. B+

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of February 19, 2024

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of February 19, 2024

True Detective: Night Country
Rated TV-MA
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Streaming on MAX

After the spectacular season one of True Detective on HBO, seasons two and three came and went with a thud. Quite honestly, I’m surprised a fourth season was even greenlit, but I’m so glad it was. Moving up to the desolate world of interior Alaska in the dead of winter, Jodi Foster and newcomer Kali Reis play two cops who risk life and limb to investigate a gruesome crime when a group of scientists is found frozen, naked in the ice, with looks of absolute terror on their faces. Much of the six-episode series is pure horror, harkening back to Foster’s greatest film, The Silence of the Lambs. Even Hannibal’s quid pro quo line is gently reused here to both pay homage and remind us of the horrors the world has to offer. The show does a phenomenal job of making you question if this is a job for detectives or priests, as the supernatural is ever-present, and incredibly scary to boot. There is so much to take in and appreciate here that I can’t help but think that this one will be taking home some major hardware come awards season next year. Obviously, Foster is great in everything she does, and this is no different, but the supporting cast, many of them whom are indignant actors, impress just as much. But what really stands out is the terrific writing from Issa Lopez, which manages to frighten as much as it fascinates, with just enough clues thrown out to keep you binging, which you can now do since the show ended this past week. Stop in the middle and you will lose sleep. Then again, you’ll lose a little if you bear through it to the end also. There’s some dark stuff here that will be hard to unsee, but the show once again puts HBO on top of the crime drama game. A

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of January 29, 2024

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of January 29, 2024

Rated PG-13 for strong violence and action and some strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: None at the time of writing
In Theaters

Throughout his career, director Matthew Vaughn has delivered some fantastic action films with a huge sense of humor. From Layer Cake to The Kingsman franchise to Kick Ass, there have been some very enjoyable adult films with lots of laughs and lots of great thrills. For his newest action comedy, he tones down the violence quite a bit, opting for a PG-13 outing about a spy novelist (Bryce Dallas Howard) who is swept into a dangerous adventure by real-life spy Sam Rockwall when she gets on a train to visit her mom in Chicago. Along with her cat, Alfie, the story goes through lots of twists and turns. So as not to spoil anything, I won’t mention those twists here, but it does make writing about the film more difficult since the big reveal is roughly half-way through the second act. But I digress. If you’ve seen the trailers and all the marketing, you might be like me and assume that the film is ultimately about a cat. It is not about a cat. The cat is cute and steals a couple of scenes, but he is mostly used as sleight of hand to keep you from knowing or guessing what is really going on. Before I go into the bad, the film’s most impressive feature is its strong A-list cast. Besides Rockwell and Howard, the film features Henry Cavill, John Cena, Dua Lipa, Bryan Cranston, Ariana DeBose, Catherine O’Hara and Samuel L. Jackson. I think it is absolutely insane that so many incredible actors would come together for this script. Ultimately the film ends up being almost exclusively style with very little substance. At no point does it seem believable, and it mostly comes off as just plain silly. What I also find confounding is that the marketing sells this movie as a fun family film. It is definitely not that. In fact, it is almost as violent as his other films, except with this one, there is hardly a drop of blood. This film would have been so much better as an R-rated feature, complete with the highly stylized violence Vaughn is best known for. Perhaps the greatest challenge the movie has is in its lead. Howard just seems miscast here in her role. For marketing purposes, it looks like her character would make sense, but in the meat of the film, she becomes a distraction. There’s a potentially interesting film here wanting to come out, but unfortunately, this isn’t it. C

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of January 15, 2024

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of January 15, 2024

Fargo: Season 5
Rated TV-MA
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Streaming on Hulu and FXNOW

Now that awards season is winding down, I finally get to enjoy what I’ve been missing in television, and I couldn’t wait to tear into the newest season of Fargo. While it states up front that the show is based on a true story, it is indeed entirely fictional. That being said, the story, once again, is truly fantastical. This time around, the narrative tells the story of a young woman (Juno Temple) who is arrested after accidentally assaulting a cop during a chaotic town hall meeting, only to find that her life is exposed to people who are looking for her. Thwarting kidnapping attempts and worse, she must find a way, to turn the tides on her aggressors. Full of great surprises and another bout of terrific writing by creator Noah Hawley, this season again proves to be very binge-worthy and almost impossible to stop watching once you dig in. With a memorable supporting cast, including Jon Hamm in a wickedly delightful turn as the main villain, the multiple nuances of the story are delivered in grand fashion by the ensemble. I especially loved Sam Spruell, who turns in the most eclectic performance as a hired gun with a strange history and an even stranger way of doing things. Enjoyable from the first minute to the last, Fargo Season 5 keeps up with its predecessors by providing what will be one of the most entertaining television shows of the year. A

Self Reliance
Rated R for language throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 72%
Streaming on Hulu

From Lonely Island Productions (Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping) comes this surrealist comedy written, directed by and starring Jake Johnson as a loner who is given the opportunity by Andy Samberg (playing Andy Samberg) to enter into a game where, if he can survive assassination for 30 days, he will get a million dollars. When he learns that the rules state that he cannot be killed if he is with someone, he attempts to have someone around him at all times in order to stay alive. While the movie never reaches the level of hilarious comedy, it does stay weird and different enough to remain both interesting and engaging, giving the audience a nice diversion, even if the project doesn’t really go anywhere special. Any hope of a deeper meaning to the film is lost on me, as I didn’t find it to be overly intellectual, as I had hoped. But at 90 minutes, it is a quick and painless trip through a strange little rabbit hole. B-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of January 8, 2024

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of January 8, 2024

Mean Girls
Rated PG-13 for teen drinking, strong language and sexual material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71% at the time of writing
In Theaters

Typically, January theatergoers are catching up on the holiday films they missed and the awards movies they want to see before and after the trophies are handed out. Rarely is there a good new release to be found until usually March and sometimes even April. So it’s understandable why I would immediately assume that the film I was about to see was not worth my time and effort in doing so. And in this case, I would have been wrong. Similar to The Color Purple (which you need to go see if you haven’t), Mean Girls is the musical version of the now 20 year-old comedy about a sweet new girl who gets accepted by the horrific popular girls, only to find herself turning into one of them. In 2017, creator Tina Fey turned the musical into a smash Broadway hit, and now, in 2024, we have this classic teen film’s modern evolution. While many of the great musical numbers are gone (the stage show was actually guilty of having too many songs, so I was okay with that) the ones left are really well-done and add a nice bit of guilty pleasure to the already campy movie. Acting-wise, there are some unexpectedly terrific performances, especially those of Reneé Rapp, who plays the queen bee Regina, and Jaquel Spivey who plays her secret close friend Damian. While our heroine Cady, played here by Angourie Rice, is a good enough actor for the part, her voice isn’t nearly strong enough for the role and is overshadowed by her cast-mates. But her crimes are easily excused as the film still manages to entertain, and at times really make you laugh, even with its occasional flaws. But what it manages to do best is point out how toxic petty hatred and meanness can be, and to help us better appreciate that we all need to, especially now, be better people. B+