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+

The Best and Worst Films of 2023 by Danny Minton

The Best and Worst Films of 2023

By Danny Minton

The year started out with a huge slump, as many years do, but once John Wick 4 hit theaters in late March, followed by Air shortly after, 2023 started churning out some really good fare, and overall, I must say it ended up being a good year. While the strikes in Hollywood pushed back a few projects (mostly due to promotional abilities for the films), this year wasn’t badly affected. That won’t be the same story we tell next year as 2024 will most likely really pay a price for the amount of time Hollywood was shut down. But there’s a lot of celebrating to do and this holiday there will be a lot of great films to catch up on for those in the mood to devour some terrific cinema. So without further ado…

1) The Color Purple (In Theaters). This isn’t necessarily a remake of the 1985 Spielberg film, but rather a recreation of the Broadway musical which more closely followed the book by Alice Walker. Produced by Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Quincy Jones, the film delivers some of the best talent stage and screen has to offer with Fantasia (from the original 2005 Broadway run) as Celie, the beaten-down and broken young black woman whose children are stolen from her by her father only to be sold off to an abusive husband (Coleman Domingo) who only wants her cooking, cleaning and taking his crap. But when her stepson’s wife (Danielle Brooks) and her husband’s not-so-secret mistress (Taraji P. Henson) come into her life, she begins to transform into a more beautiful and powerful version of herself. The film is directed by relative newcomer Blitz Bazawule, a filmmaker from Ghana who won the job when he made the bold decision to suggest that the film should represent Celie’s imagination, her only escape from her dreaded world. This change in the film’s narrative makes the movie come to vibrant life, giving the popular story a new dimension and soul. The story’s larger theme of searching for God in the presence of the evil in the world leads to a transformation of both the characters and the film, and by the end the audience is treated to a true religious experience.

2) Oppenheimer (Available on paid streaming). One of the most fun Hollywood moments this year came from the marketing of one of the biggest box office events in recent memory: Barbenheimer, where Barbie and Oppenheimer both opened on the same weekend, leaving most audiences no choice but to see both amazing films. While Barbie led the box office while still getting amazing reviews, Oppenheimer became the critical darling, giving filmmaker Christopher Nolan the edge when it comes to Oscar Odds. With a stellar cast and a fantastically written story and directing style, the movie gave us an aggressive narrative around the man responsible for the nuclear bomb.

3) The Creator (Streaming on Hulu). This is where I differ from many of my colleagues. Panned by many critics and thus ignored by audiences, this magnificent sci-fi film by Gareth Edwards (Rogue One) tells the story set in the near future where AI has been held responsible for mass destruction, and thus selected for extermination by the U.S. military. When a former special forces agent (John David Washington) is hired to kill a new AI weapon largely thought to take down the U.S. government, he turns from assassin to protector when he discovers that the weapon is an AI child with the power to end the war. Big and bold, the film is as exciting as it is thought-provoking. I hope that now that it has reached streaming, it will get the audience it deserves.

4) Saltburn (Streaming on Amazon Prime). Filmmaker Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) brings us this twisted and intriguing tale of a young Oxford student (Barry Keoghan) who is invited to spend the summer at his family’s sprawling estate by his friend and secret crush (Jacob Elordi). Having grown up poor, he is thrust into a world of excess and eccentricity like he’s never seen, giving him an intoxicating power over his new Uber-wealthy so-called friends. Starting out, you don’t really know what to think of the story, as it feels somewhat familiar, and possibly like a modern Jane Austen tale. But that familiarity quickly dissipates as you follow the hero’s journey into the depths of the wealthy depravity. And just when you think tragedy will lead to a depressing narrative, you are suddenly proven very wrong. Sure to be a divisive hit, I can’t wait to have deeper discussions around this one.

5) Killers of the Flower Moon (Available on paid streaming). Soon to be streaming on Apple TV+). Having grown up in Oklahoma, I was still completely unaware of some of the well-covered up atrocities relatively recently committed there in the early 1900’s. First, HBO’s Watchmen exposed us to the Tulsa Race Massacre where what was known as Black Wall Street in Tulsa was decimated in a raid by white supremacists and the government. Here, Martin Scorsese tells us the story of another horrible event in our past, taking place at almost the same time, where white men went into the Osage nation to systematically kill off the native population in order to lay claim to their rich oil land given to them when their tribe was displaced to their new land. The story itself is masterfully told with a heartbreaking script by Scorsese and Eric Roth (Forest Gump, Munich). Filming in Oklahoma gives the movie a real authenticity, with the help of a solid A-list cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Jesse Plemmons and newcomer Lily Gladstone, who is sure to be a favorite contender during awards season this year. Not only is this a great film, but it proves to be a really important one as well.

6) Poor Things (In Theaters). Writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite, The Lobster) gives us this sci-fi sexual fantasy starring Emma Stone as a young women who is pieced back together by a mad surgeon/scientist after she attempts suicide. Given the brain of a baby, the Frankenstein-like beauty quickly develops in movement and intellect, but becomes fixated with a new obsession when she discovers sexual pleasure. Told in a crazy, visually-stunning style, the movie manages to entertain with a dazzling look and gut-busting comedy, all wrapped up in an enthralling journey. It took me two viewings to fully appreciate the film, but it keeps growing on me day-by-day.

7) The Holdovers (Streaming on Peacock on December 29). Paul Giamatti re-teams with filmmaker Alexander Payne (Sideways) for this severely good dramady about a much-disliked boarding school teacher who is asked to stay over the holiday to watch the one kid (Dominic Sessa) left behind by his parents during the Christmas break. Beginning with authoritarian tension, the two quickly warm to each other as they get to know one another better. As you would expect from a Payne film, the movie is both hilarious and moving, with some of the best performances of the year from Giamatti, Sessa and Da’Vine Joy Randolph, the woman left behind to cook for the three of them.

8) Maestro (Streaming on Netflix). In this long-in-the-works project, Bradley Cooper writes, directs and stars in this biopic about the legendary composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. I knew his music well, but knew relatively nothing about the man before this story unfolded. Masterfully executed, Cooper proves to be impressive under all his hats on display here, giving us a beautiful, although sometimes painful story. The film is wonderfully cast, but it is Carey Mulligan, who plays his wife, Felicia Montealegre, whose commanding presence gives gravity to the film while simultaneously breaking our hearts.

9) Wonka (In Theaters). The charming and talented Timothée Chalamet stars as the infamous chocolate-maker in this musical prequel to the 1971 classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The story follows Wonka on his journey to create his chocolate empire as a poor dreamer who is oppressed by the town’s chocolate mafia: three businessmen determined to not allow any newbies to compete for their business. Playful and genuinely funny, the film is a joy to witness and has the potential to become as iconic as the original.

10) John Wick 4 (Available on Paid Streaming and Starz). While there were some excellent films competing for the last spot on my list, I couldn’t help but include this guilty pleasure, which puts an end to the story of the former assassin trying to survive after claiming revenge for the death of his dog. This nearly three-hour finale pits Wick against an old friend (martial arts master Donnie Yen) who has been hired to take out the man who just can’t seem to die. Thrilling from the first minute to the last, the movie is about as entertaining as a film can get, and a fitting tribute to the character we have grown to love over the last decade.

Honorable Mention (In alphabetical order): Air, American Fiction, Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret, Barbie, BlackBerry, Flora and Son, The Iron Claw, The Killer, Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Part One, No Hard Feelings, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse, The Taste of Things, The Zone of Interest

The Worst:

1) Haunted Mansion. Disney, once again, attempts to give a story to a ride, with resounding failure. It’s a shame there were so many great actors willing to bury their reputations in this graveyard.

2) Ghosted. This romantic action thriller from Apple TV+ about a goofy guy (Chris Evans) who falls for a secret agent (Ana de Armas) is as unbelievable as it is disappointing. After two hours watching, you kinda wish there had been an internet outage earlier in the day.

3) Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Disney has been having a really bad year, releasing lousy film after lousy film from franchises that should be able to deliver. By the end, you wish the movie had gotten so small that no one could actually see it.

4) The Marvels. Disney’s need to take successful franchises and turn them into women-driven flicks flops again with this unnecessary and confusing project with little saving grace.

5) Creed 3. Dropping Stallone and adding in now Hollywood Pariah Jonathan Majors proved to be a losing match for director and star Michael B. Jordan, who isn’t quite up to the challenge at hand here.

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of December 11, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of December 11, 2023

Rated PG for some violence, mild language and thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
In Theaters

The Christmas holiday season kicks off this week with this prequel attempting to tell the story about how Roald Dahl’s most iconic character got his start as a magician and chocolate-maker. Starring Timothée Chalamet in the title role, Willy Wonka immigrates to a new city where he intends to start his new chocolate factory, unlike anything anyone has ever seen before. Full of ambition and creativity, but no money, he gets himself into a bit of fraudulent debt, which only serves to propel him forward as he naively seeks his way out. But attempting to stop him at every turn are the chocolate cartel, three businessmen who will stop at nothing to keep new chocolatiers from gaining any traction in their town. From the opening moments of the movie, you discover this is actually a musical (much like the classic 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) with motifs from that movie floating around the lovely score by Joby Talbot, while a brand new set of musical numbers by Neil Hannon whimsically pop up to propel the story forward. Written and directed by Paul King, whose Paddington franchise represents a modern genius in family-friendly storytelling, Wonka has much the same feel. It’s sweet and uncomplicated with a sophisticated sense of humor, and thanks to the very nature of the lead character, a touch of magic. As for the cast, it is an exceptional group of actors, especially Chalamet, who proves again why he is the most charming young man working in Hollywood today. Special props also go out to both the casting and the performance of Hugh Grant who plays the original Oompa Loompa. He gives the film that extra something, sailing it over the top. It’s hard to imagine anyone watching this movie with anything other than a smile on their face and it should be, if my prediction holds, the biggest hit of the Christmas holiday season. A

Leave the World Behind
Rated R for some sexual content, brief bloody images, language and drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75%
Streaming on Netflix

This high-profile thriller from Netflix stars Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke as a married couple determined to take a short vacation out of the city, just to get away from it all. But when the owner of their rental house (Mahershala Ali) shows up to hide from what’s going on in the city, things start turning south with a hint that the world is potentially about to end. It’s hard to know what to make of this film until you really understand what is going on, which does’t happen until the very end of the film. Let’s just say that there is some very good tension and excellent acting, making the film work pretty well as a thriller. What makes the movie interesting is that the plot has its political motivations, but also its supernatural elements, and since the characters don’t actually know what is happening, it all works together, providing some nice scares and even better food for thought. While it does have its problems, for the most part it is well-paced and smart enough to make you try to figure it out. And even better, it might even spur some nice conversations as people see it and start to ponder upon its relevance. B

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of December 4, 2023

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of December 4, 2023

The Boy and the Heron
Rated PG-13 for some violent content, smoking and bloody images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
In Theaters

If you watched the recent 2016 documentary Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki, you would have thought that at 82, the legendary Japanese animator was done making feature films. But now, 10 years after his last creation, The Wind Rises, he is back with a brand-new story that feels very personal, and yet wildly creative. The story follows a young boy whose city is fire-bombed during WWII, losing his mother in the attacks, and thus forced to move away to the countryside with his father and new mother a year later. While there, a magical heron visits him, guiding him on a journey to a strange world, shared by the living and the dead, where he must find his new mother, all the while searching for signs of his dead mother also. At least I think that’s what it is about. This is a really weird one, even for Miyazaki. His films have always felt like parables, full of symbolism and magic. While this one follows that path, it was certainly a crazy one to try to figure out. I can only assume the film is about a boy trying to adjust to his new life, using this fantasy universe to sort out his horrific past, present and potential future. Either way, the film is absolutely beautiful to look at, as you would expect. The animation is surreal and very much feels like a two-hour dream. Along for the ride is long-time collaborator, composer Joe Hisaishi, whose score adds a wonderful and calming dimension to the madness. On first viewing, I’m not in love with the project, but I’m assuming that just like some of his other projects like My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away, this one will grow on me with inevitable future viewings. B

Poor Things
Rated R for gore, disturbing material, graphic nudity, language, and strong sexual content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
In Theaters

From filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite, The Lobster) comes this wildly imaginative tale about a young woman (Emma Stone) who is put back together by an unorthodox surgeon (Willem Dafoe), replacing her brain with that of a baby’s after her suicide attempt didn’t consume her body. As she develops and learns to live in her new world, she discovers sexual pleasure and attempts to explore every bit of it that she can. While there is more to her journey than just erotic indulgence, the film is, at its heart, a Frankenstein-like tale full of sex and imagination, and it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. To call it weird is an absolute understatement. Here, Lanthimos uses film as his palette to create some of the most visually creative art that is sure to stir up Hollywood with a ton of upcoming awards nominations. What stands out most, aside from a sexual side to Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo that we’ve never seen anything like previously, is its otherworldly production that will blow your mind, if you give it a chance. Cinematographer Robbie Ryan and production designers Shona Heath and James Price provide the visually stunning world which you will be difficult to wipe from your memory. And newcomer composer Jerkin Fendrix gives a score here that is as unusual as it is unsettling, providing the perfect soundscape for the bewitching universe. This is not a film for everyone, but it certainly will reward those looking for something incredibly different. A-

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-