Popcorn Perspectives – Week of December 3, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of December 3, 2018

Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Rated PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action, and for brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Available on disc and streaming
Tom Cruise is back again as Ethan Hunt as his IMF team is assigned to another deadly mission to save the world, this time from possible nuclear annihilation. While all of the previous 5 films have been strong in the action and plot department, this one seems to be especially on-point with another confusing-yet-fun script, humongous set pieces and some of the most spectacular stunts you’ve ever seen. The special features on the disc showcase the literally death-defying work by Cruise as well as the film’s focus on its beautiful backdrop of Paris. I’m still not a fan of Cruise, mainly due to his crazy off-screen personality, but once again he impresses me as an actor who does everything he possibly can to earn his impossible-sized paychecks. A-

The Nun
Rated R for terror, violence, and disturbing/bloody images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 27%
Available on disc and streaming
When the nun scared the daylights out of us in The Conjuring 2 (a well-respected box-office hit) it was a given that the studio would want to milk the nun for all she is worth, just like they had with the doll Annabelle from the first Conjuring. Here we get the origin story as the Vatican sends investigators to an Abbey in Romania where a young nun has taken her own life. Just as in the other spinoffs, the writing isn’t nearly as good as the stories lack the authenticity that the Conjuring franchise has blessed us with. The acting here is better than expected with Oscar-nominee Demian Bichir as Father Burke, but the film relies on stupid jumps and unnecessary carnage. There is little here to actually haunt your dreams, but lots to annoy you for wasting 90 minutes. C-

The Happytime Murders
Rated R for strong crude and sexual content and language throughout, and some drug material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 23%
Available on disc and streaming
When I first heard that Jim Henson’s son Brian Henson was making an R-rated muppet movie with Melissa McCarthy, I have to admit that I was very excited. These kinds of projects can be creative and fun and I had a very open mind. The story takes place in a world where man and puppet coexist, and when a series of heinous murders takes place, two cops – one puppet and one human (McCarthy) have to team up to solve it. Unfortunately the film just doesn’t work as a comedy, which is the only thing that could have saved it. It relies on a disgusting and degrading sense of humor that only on occasion can be misconstrued as clever. It’s such a shame that a great idea like this, as well as a talented cast of humans and creatures, was put to such a waste. McCarthy has since rescued her career with what will likely be an Oscar-nominated turn in “Can You Ever Forgive Me,” but hopefully irreparable damage hasn’t been done to the Hansen name and brand. D+

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of November 19, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of November 19, 2018

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Rated PG-13 for some sequences of fantasy action
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 44%
In Theaters
What started out as a side story for the Harry Potter series has taken on a life of its own in this second film of the Fantastic Beasts franchise. In this new adventure, the infamous pre-Voldemort baddie Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) has escaped from Azkaban Prison in the hope of going to war with the muggle world. Meanwhile, Newt Scamander and a younger Albus Dumbledore (Eddie Redmayne and Jude Law respectively) are doing everything in their power to stop him. I am impressed with the storytelling and ambition on display here, especially since it came under the guise of much more frivolous pretenses. And as you’d expect, the production values are top notch as the special effects keep improving and the imagination has stayed true to the original Potter vision. What sadly lacks here is energy. While it is directed by David Yates, who is on his sixth Harry Potter film here, and the screenplay is written by JK Rowling herself, the film has humongous pacing problems throughout and at times is just plain boring. I would still recommend it to fans as it will prove to be a necessary piece of the overall puzzle of its universe, but it’s certainly one of the least impressive films from this franchise so far. C+

Crazy Rich Asians
Rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Available on Disc and Streaming
I love a good romantic comedy (there are so few these days) so I was excited and surprised when this Asian romcom hit theaters this summer. Based on the best-selling books by Kevin Kwan, it follows a young NYU professor who finds out that her new fiancé comes from a super rich family in Singapore who is determined to break up their relationship once they travel there. With a clever screenplay that keeps you on your toes and an absolutely hysterical supporting cast, the movie turns out to be a winner on all levels. I’m not sure if the planned sequels will be able to churn out this much joy, but I’m glad to have this one for now. A

The Meg
Rated PG-13 for action/peril, bloody images and some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 45%
Available on Disc and Streaming
When the world’s greatest deep-sea diver (Jason Statham) is hired to rescue the crew of a submersible at the bottom of the Mariana trench, they come under attack, and allow the escape of, the thought-to-be-extinct 75 foot Megalodon shark, who just can’t wait to eat the oceans full of people. This is a true guilty pleasure with very little in the way of horror and only mild thrills to be found. The special effects are pretty cheesy but the actors pull it off, even when you can tell they hate being on set, which is apparently the case with Statham according to his rantings after the film’s theatrical release. That being said, The Meg turns in a mindless yet somewhat fun adventure. You won’t regret wasting your time on it but you certainly won’t consider two hours well-spent either. C

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of November 5, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of November 5, 2018

Incredibles 2
Rated PG for action sequences and some brief mild language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
Available on Disc and Streaming
They say that good things come to those who wait, and nothing could be more true since we’ve been waiting 14 long years to see what comes next for Pixar’s superhero family. Picking up right where they left off, superheroes are still considered the bad guys when a billionaire tries to help them reintegrate into society as the heroes they are, one at a time beginning with Elastigirl, leaving Mr Incredible to stay at home to take care of the kids. But when a new supervillain enters the scene with a plot to take over the world, it’s up to the family, along with Frozone, to set things right again. While not as good as the original, this is certainly a strong showing and still one of the best movies of the year. The plot is a bit predictable, but it is executed with style leaving the audience thrilled and out of breath. A-

Rated R for language throughout, including racial epithets, and for disturbing/violent material and some sexual references
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Available on Disc and Streaming
Possibly Director Spike Lee’s finest creation to date is this timely dramedy based on a true story about a black cop in the 70’s (John David Washington) who infiltrates the KKK in Colorado Springs to expose and stop them from carrying off a terrorist act. Using a fellow white cop, played by Adam Driver, they both risk their careers and their lives to do what they feel is right. The story is almost too crazy to be real, making the tale that much more enjoyable as you impatiently wait to see what can possibly happen next. And while hysterically funny at times, it is extremely sobering at others, ending with gut shot as Lee ties it all together with the recent onslaught of white supremacist activity seen in Charlottesville. A

Christopher Robin
Rated PG for some action
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%
Available on Disc and Streaming
Set years after Christopher Robin played with Pooh, Tigger and gang as a child, Ewan McGregor plays the iconic child as an adult who can’t even find time to play with his daughter any more. But when Pooh goes on a mission to find him in London, Christopher finds his way home to the Hundred Acre Wood for an important life lesson. While a cute and cuddly idea, the plot is so purposefully basic that it leaves much to be desired in the story department. It is quite clever to have all of the creatures as they looked in their original stuffed form, but I can’t help but think that they needed a better story than this. I’ve always found the Pooh stories to be a bit on the dull side, almost as if the writers were as lazy as Pooh himself, but I wish that the filmmakers would have spiced things up much more than they did here. B-

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of October 29, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of October 29, 2018

Sorry to Bother You
Rated R for pervasive language, some strong sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
Available on Disc and Streaming
This Sundance favorite follows an ambitious but undereducated poor young black man who discovers the secret to success by using an overly white voice during his telemarketing job. But as his success starts to mount, the lifestyle he works his way into becomes a giant rabbit hole with little dream of a way out. What starts out as an hysterical social comedy evolves into a strange and perverse fantasy that works mostly because you don’t see it coming. To say more would take away the surprise, and this film works best off of surprise. It is refreshing to see such a bold vision from a relatively unknown writer/director in Boots Riley and such a talented up-and-coming cast. The creativity here is off the charts and the cast just goes along with it likes its a normal script, making the unbelievable tale work that much better. Sure it’s obscure and surreal, and not for everyone, and I’m not really certain what the overall message is that is trying to be conveyed, but I sure did enjoy the fantasy. A-

Teen Titans Go!  To the Movies
Rated PG for action and rude humor
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Available on Disc and Streaming
This movie version of the Cartoon Network hit follows the less-respected DC superheroes Robin, Starfire, Cyborg, Raven and Beast Boy as they desperately attempt to become A-list heroes rather than sidekicks. When a maniacal supervillain uses his vain ambition in an attempt to take over the world, they must step up to the plate and prove their worth. The story here isn’t going to impress many folks, but what has won over the relatively small audience who saw this in theaters is the super-strong writing full of jokes that hit over and over again. The filmmakers were able to tap into a wealth of comedy success, almost making it look easy. This creates an environment which is enjoyable for both kids and adults. But mostly kids. I took my eight-year-old and while I did have fun, he had an absolute blast. B

Popcorn Perspectives – Week of October 15, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of October 15, 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp
Rated PG-13 for some sci-fi action and violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
Available on Disc and Streaming
With the moderate success of Ant-Man, Marvel added a second feature, this time with his new side-kick and love interest The Wasp. Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly star as the titular team, along with Michael Douglas as the dad/boss as they go searching for The Wasp’s mother, and original Wasp, played by Michelle Pfeiffer. Her you get a healthy dose of back story and a somewhat fun adventure to bide your time in between the big Marvel tentpoles. As you’d expect, the film has some exciting and rather funny big set pieces with lots of humor and mild drama thrown in the gaps. Paul Rudd has always been the perfect choice for this role and any lack of substance is quickly made up with his charm and wit. And while I love Evangeline Lilly, her role here is too much the straight man, which is especially sad since the film is basically about her. The film just feels like a minor movie and definitely not quite the blockbuster type. But it did make an impressive amount of money at the box office and it has certainly won over a lot of fans, so they are obviously doing something right. B-

The Evil Dead 4K
Not Rated but would be strong R
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Available on Disc and Streaming
Just in time for Halloween is this 4K restoration of the classic 1981 horror film by Sam Raimi. The ultra low-budget film which started the franchise stars Bruce Campbell as he and classmates make an unplanned stopover gone wrong at an abandoned cabin in the woods. The film came to notoriety due to its humor mixed with gore, which later led to the sequels and television series which got even funnier and twistier over the years. The new 4k version looks and sounds as good as it can (it was originally shot on 16mm after all) but the fun and horror will bring back fond memories for some and maybe even find some new fans. Also available this week is the complete collection of the Ash vs Evil Dead series from Starz which furthers the adventures of Bruce Campbell’s character, Ash, as he attempts to save the world from the evil within. A-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of October 8, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of October 8, 2018

First Man
Rated PG-13 for some thematic content involving peril, and brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
In Theaters
From the Oscar-winning director of La La Land, Damien Chazelle, and executive producer Steven Spielberg, comes this retelling of the early days of the Nasa space program, culminating in Neil Armstrong’s iconic landing on the moon. Unlike most previous versions we’ve seen of this legendary piece of history, this narrative focuses on one man and what he had to go through to accomplish the impossible. Ryan Gosling reteams with Chazelle as the iconic Armstrong, a character from history who is as famous as any American, but whom we know little about. Using modern special effects with a visionary young filmmaker at the helm, the story comes off as both fresh and relevant while at the same time monumental. My only disappointment is in the disconnected score by Justin Hurwitz, who created amazing music for La La Land and Whiplash, but just couldn’t pull off the score needed to propel this movie to true greatness. But even with mediocre music, the film still manages a successful lift off, making you feel like you are a part of one of America’s greatest accomplishments. A-

Rated PG-13 for sequences of gun violence and action, and for brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 46%
Available on Disc and Streaming
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars in this Die Hard knock off about a security expert who must come to the rescue of his family when they are trapped in Hong Kong high-rise after a terrorist attack. Sure the plot is thin, but the action is huge as Johnson, once again playing the hero with a heart of pure gold, sets out to do anything to rescue his family. So while it’s nothing you haven’t seen before, this variation on a theme does provide some movie comfort movie food which is certain to entertain a large portion of viewers. I can’t say it’s my style, but it certainly isn’t horrible or anything you’ll be embarrassed about for enjoying. C+

NR, but would be a strong R
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 28%
Available on Disc and Streaming
This look at the famous sculptor’s life shows the careful balance between his art, his warm relationship with his lifelong partner, Rose Beuret, and his passionate affair with his mistress and student Camille Claudel. It is unfortunate that the film comes off as cold and disjointed rather than passionate and truthful like Rodin’s art. I enjoyed seeing the artist at work, and even some of his moments of play, but the narrative just sits and stalls, never really accomplishing the masterpiece it tries to be. C

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of October 1, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of October 1, 2018

A Star is Born
Rated R for language throughout, some sexuality/nudity and substance abuse
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
In Theaters
Bradly Cooper here does a little showing off as writer, director and star of this new take on the tragic love story. Cooper here plays a well-known singer who gets through his days with the help of drugs and alcohol. But when he runs into a talented singer/songwriter, played by Lady Gaga, in a late night bar visit, he quickly falls in love and in the process gives his new girl a boost to her musical career. While I didn’t find the film to be an experience I want to duplicate, I did leave with a huge appreciation for talents I would have never attributed to Cooper. Sure he is a great actor, but the guy can sing, direct and write like a master. And he generously allows Lady Gaga to shine in a role that steals the show and might even give the film the biggest chance for Oscar buzz. For anyone who has ever been deeply effected by a loved one with substance addiction, the film has the potential to take you to dark places that are beyond uncomfortable as Cooper all too realistically portrays this. But while the darkness and sadness take over the story, the music does find a way to elevate emotions to counter the drama. B+

Leave No Trace
Rated PG for thematic material throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Available on Disc and Streaming
Ben Foster plays a veteran who has taken his teenage daughter, played by fantastic newcomer Thomasin McKenzie, off the grid to live in the woods of Oregon. But when they are discovered by authorities, the two of them are placed in social services where they must decide to either assimilate or make their way back to the wild. This is a tough, authentic drama with rich performances that really pull on your heart. And with 185 reviews in, it has actually remained at a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score which is an almost impossible feat in itself. And while it has a PG rating, I wouldn’t call it a family film. It is simply an adult film with zero in the way of objectionable material, which is completely unique in this day and age. A-

Three Identical Strangers
Rated PG-13 for some mature thematic material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Available on Disc and Streaming
In 1980, three young adopted men in New York discover that they were identical triplets, separated from birth and given to thee different families. Years later they start to understand why. This documentary follows the unbelievable and almost inconceivable true story in a way that moves from pure joy to fascination to despair. It’s a story that I’m glad I was able to experience, but one which you almost wish was untrue afterward. In a year full of absolutely incredible documentaries, this is truly one of the best and one that you will be recommending to friends long after you’ve seen it. A

The First Purge
Rated R for strong disturbing violence throughout, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 54%
Available on Disc and Streaming
This prequel to the hit horror franchise follows the first purge experiment where the government makes all crime legal for one night, in the hopes that they can thin the herd of urban Americans. While the movies in this series have come off as more cheesy and cheap horror than riveting narrative, I’ve always thought that the basic story here could make for a pretty fantastic look at our society and where it could be heading. With this prequel to the other three mediocre films, I was actually holding out hope that they could deliver a story that would almost serve as a warning rather than just a few scares and lots of blood. Unfortunately, the filmmakers took the path of quick and easy violence rather than a shot across the bow. The script and the acting are the only horrific acts on display here and any potential for redemption for the franchise’s past mistakes is unfortunately left for dead. C-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of September 24, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of September 24, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70%
Available on Disc and Streaming
With the success of Rogue One, Disney had big plans with expanding the Star Wars universe by telling back stories that exist outside of the official saga. That is until now. While it made almost $400 million at the worldwide box office, that is a failure when the studio is expecting at least a billion. But I would contend that this is a film worth watching. Going back to Han Solo’s origin story, the very competent but relatively unknown Alden Ehrenreich does an admirable job in the title role, and adding some credible star power are Donald Glover (as the scene stealing Lando), Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton and Paul Bettany. They even got Ron Howard to take over as director when the original directors couldn’t cut it. While it’s a bit cheesy at times, this is a well-made action film with a fun personality. It has its little problems, but they are easy to overlook when viewing the bigger picture. I think its a shame it didn’t find a wider audience, but I would imagine with this release, it will pick up a larger fan base than it did in theaters. B+

Uncle Drew
Rated PG-13 for suggestive material, language and brief nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 62%
Available on Disc and Streaming
Lil Rel Howery (doing his best Kevin Hart impression) plays a height-challenged basketball fan who dreams of coaching a championship street ball team. Just when his life falls apart, he discovers a rowdy gang of elderly players (Kyrie Irving, Shaquille O’Neal, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson and Chris Webber) who join up with him to take on the young kids who think they own the game. While some of the jokes don’t hit, and many are fairly mean, once the pros hit the court, the film takes off with a good sense of humor and a fast pace. You could tell there was a lot of fun had by the cast and that chemistry creates a strong likability. It’s certainly not a great film, but it has its moments and its charm. Aside from a little innuendo and language, this actually turns out to be a decent family film with a strong message for kids: you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. And to my surprise, by the end it turns out to be a decently entertaining film. B-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of September 17, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of September 17, 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 49%
Available on Disc and Streaming
Since the events of 2015’s smash hit retread Jurassic World, Isla Nubar has been left abandoned until Owen and Claire (Christ Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard) are tricked into going back to rescue a few dinosaurs before a giant volcano consumes every last one. But once the dinosaurs are off the island, a sinister plan unfolds that only Owen and Claire can foil. While the story on Jurassic World wasn’t that great before, Chris Pratt brought the film up a huge notch, but unfortunately here he couldn’t save it. Here the story is embarrassingly bad and with Chris just phoning in his part, the film turns out to be mostly just a disappointment. Sure the special effects are great and there is some terrific action and even a few funny jokes. But by the end this project seems like nothing more than a money grab. It’s certainly not a story that was dying to be told. C+

Ozark: Season Two
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%
Available on Netflix
Lately we’ve had a drought in notable home entertainment releases, which is great for me since it allows me to jump into some exciting new Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime shows. The one I was most excited about was Season 2 of Ozark. It is still my opinion that Ozark Season One is the best show Netflix has released to date. In case you didn’t watch the first season, Ozark follows an accountant (Jason Bateman) who is left standing as the only living person in his firm when a Mexican drug cartel finds out they were stealing money. He manages to outwit his predators one day at a time by convincing them that he can take his wife (Laura Linney) and young family to the Lake of the Ozarks where he can easily launder millions of dollars for them. But of course things go wrong, over and over, leaving us with one heck of a cliffhanger that finally resolves in season two. Here Bateman and Linney must use their skills to stay alive a little bit longer while working with the cartel and the local heroine growers, hoping to build a casino until they can launch their escape plan. It’s a complicated mess that leaves you feeling dirty while constantly looking over your shoulder. The second season isn’t as frightening, but the writing and acting are strong as you watch Bateman and Linney go from being victims to crimelords. It is more than apparent that they are aiming for a Breaking Bad vibe, with an almost parallel trajectory, but it is a fun watch to tear through, even with a few faults here and there. A-

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – September 10, 2018

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of September 10, 2018

Ocean’s 8
Rated PG-13 for language, drug use, and some suggestive content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%
Available on Disc and Streaming
So apparently George Clooney’s character from the other Oceans’ films has died, and his sister, played by Sandra Bullock, is fresh out of jail and ready to take on a huge diamond heist. Along with her seven cohorts, including Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling and Rihanna, the all-female team attempts to steal a $150 million necklace off of the neck of a big Hollywood actress, played by Anne Hathaway. There’s a lot to like about the new film and it has much of the same personality of its male cohort with some interesting characters and a clever sense of humor. The biggest disappointment is how convenient and easy the whole thing ends up being. The almost complete lack of danger and tension also leads to a lack of fun. When nothing goes wrong, or at least next to nothing, its more difficult to appreciate the conquest. And at the end of the day, the project turns out to be an average attempt to entertain. C+

The Tree of Life: The Criterion Collection
Rated PG-13 for some thematic material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
Available on Disc and Streaming
One of my favorite films of the last 10 years is getting this huge Criterion facelift as director Terrence Malick delivers almost an extra hour of material in this new extended edition. While it was well-received by critics and even won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, it was met with very mixed results by an American audience, much of whom just didn’t understand it. And I’ll admit that its a tough film to comprehend and a lot of thought must go into it. It’s not an easy night at the movies. The story can only be described as a look at God’s complex relationship with humans, as told from a young family in a small Texas Town. Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Sean Penn head up the cast and Houston is very prominently featured. The film is the epitome of artsy as it is more poem and aesthetic beauty than compelling narrative, but the film’s nature is what makes it special and an almost ethereal experience for those who are willing to put the effort into it. The new material does give the movie a very different feel as you take a deeper dive into the lives of the young children and the experiences that have created their strongest memories. Aside from the new cut, the film has some great new features including interviews with Jessica Chastain and the visual-effects supervisor Dan Glass. But noticeably missing is a director’s commentary from Malick, which still saddens me with its absence. A+