Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of May 13, 2024

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of May 13, 2024

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

Rated PG-13 for intense sci-fi violence and action

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%

In Theaters

Continuing the saga set up by the original Apes trilogy, several generations have passed since Caesar fell, and many different ape clans exist now , all with different laws, rules, and varying morals.  This story follows a young ape named Noa from a tribe of apes who have come to excel in raising and working with hawks.  As Noa and his two best friends find their eggs which will soon be their hawks to raise, they also discover a human female, who begins to follow them around in the shadows.  But one violent night, a clan of apes bearing superior strength and weapons, comes across their village while looking for the human.  Killing many and taking the rest as hostage, most of the apes are forced into slave labor by a ruler who calls himself Proximus Caesar.  Temporarily escaping capture, Noa finds the human but cannot elude the villain for long.  While in captivity, we learn that Proximus Caesar needs the slave labor to help open a vault built by the humans centuries before.  And the human, who goes by the name of Mae, will do anything to stop them from getting in.  Since we have lived through several of these stunning Planet of the Apes movies, we are already primed for what they can be.  With so many fantasy movies, the story serves the special effects, creating a mindless fantasy where not much thinking is involved.  But here, just like in the others from this newest edition of the franchise, the special effects serve the story, thus giving us a smart, thrilling drama that better captures our minds and our imaginations.  I really loved the characters here and what they were able to do with them.  I was also happy to see them start up something new now that the previous chapters have been told.  It certainly appears that a new storyline, whether it be a trilogy or even more ambitious, is coming our way, and I will park my nerdy butt in a chair for each one, with a tub of popcorn, ready to enjoy them.  A-

You Can’t Run Forever

Rated R for language, drug use, brief sexual content, suicide and violent content

Rotten Tomatoes Score: None at time of writing

In theaters and paid streaming

Oscar-winner JK Simmons (Whiplash) plays a man with a warped sense of humor, who goes on a random killing spree in the woods, killing nearly everyone he comes across, in a twisted sense of vengeance.  When he comes across a father and his teenage stepdaughter on a drive, he kills the father, but the girl escapes into the woods where he attempts to chase her down.  To be honest, almost all big actors make bad movies, and many even b-movies like this.  While it’s getting the big studio treatment from Lionsgate, this is ultimately a low-budget independent film with bad acting, bad writing and bad directing.  If you had seen it at a local film festival, sans Simmons, you might have enjoyed it for what it was, especially since the cinematography is good enough and the sound design is professional.  But it’s hard to remove all that with Simmons being so out of place within the context of nearly every other aspect of the film.  His motivation is silly, his actions are imprudently deadly without cause, and it feels like it is being violent just for violence’s sake.  The police response is comedically incompetent, and then there is the group of volunteers looking to find the girl, fully knowing that there is a gun-toting psycho on the loose nearby.  You want it be something it is not and it never delivers.  D  

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

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of April 29, 2024

The Fall Guy

Rated PG-13 for drug content, action and violence, and some strong language

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%

In Theaters

From Deadpool 2 director (and former stunt man) David Leitch, comes this high-octane action comedy, loosely based on the 80’s television show of the same title.  Here, Ryan Gosling plays Colt Seavers, a legendary stuntman who gets spooked when a stunt goes terribly wrong.  Playing the part of Jody is Emily Blunt, a crew member Colt was in love with before his accident, only to ghost her afterward.  When he is called back into action again, this time to work for Jody, who is now a big-time director, he jumps at the chance of redemption and hopeful reconciliation, only to find that his life is in danger since the actor he stunts for (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is missing.  Packed with action and humor, the movie meanders between beats, never taking anything too seriously, but always having fun along the way.  Sure, the movie is essentially a series of big set pieces with the necessary story interjected to propel it, but even though the whole thing is ridiculous – it works.  Gosling is so perfect in this part, chewing up the screen with his very believable stunt man vibes, poking fun of Hollywood, while making you forget that he actually is Hollywood.  And with Blunt as his leading lady, you get fantastic chemistry and a believable romance.  The script never ventures too deep, but the surface-level courtship is more than enough to put a smile on your face.  And then there is Taylor-Johnson, who doesn’t really appear in the film until late in, but when he finally does show up, he gives us the frosting on the cake.  His Matthew McConaughey impersonation as the Space Cowboy is a riot.  While there are a few plot-holes and maybe a little too much tongue-in-cheek dialog at times, the faults of the project are largely forgivable, and the end result is a terrific date movie that should both excite you and at times even have you in stitches.  B+

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

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton 

Week of April 8, 2024

Monkey Man

Rated R for sexual content/nudity, language throughout, drug use and strong bloody violence

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%

In Theaters

Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) writes, directs and stars in this new revenge thriller about a young Indian man, living on the streets of Mumbai, who dreams of revenge against the man who killed his mother, and the system that gave that man power.  Shaping itself like an Indian version of John Wick (and even paying homage to that franchise) the film is an exhilarating action flick that captures your attention from the opening scene until the closing credits.  Showing the city as a cesspool of corruption and depravity, the movie doesn’t exactly serve as a travel commercial for Mumbai, but it does deliver a background that has you cheering for the hero that much more, as you see his struggle just to survive until he has the opportunity to follow his dream of vengeance for those that took everything from him.  Unlike Wick though, you don’t get the sense that his fighting ability comes from decades of skilled execution, but rather from just being desperate and scrappy.  With his big training montage at the end of the second act, I’m not certain that there is enough there to propel him into the finale, but it is nonetheless fun to watch, and it doesn’t over-pronounce itself.  Being that this is heavily focused on Indian culture and religion, much of the tapestry of the movie might not make sense to an American audience, especially the rationale for the title Monkey Man, which references the Hindu god Hanuman and his plight.  But having a great knowledge of Hinduism is hardly necessary since the universal tale of revenge is vastly more important.  If you’re still interested in learning more after you see it, then there’s a world of information available for you.  Overall, I found the movie to be a lot of fun and a tremendous amount of value to your entertainment dollar.  Consider me a Monkey Man fan.  A-

The First Omen

Rated R for violence content, grisly/disturbing images and brief graphic nudity

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%

In Theaters

This period horror flick, taking place in the early 1970s in Italy, tells the story of a young American who moves to Rome to begin her life as a nun.  Before she can take her vows though, she discovers a series of grisly truths that cause her to give pause to her decision.  It’s so wild that the recent film Immaculate and this tale are so similar in their basic story, so much that it is incredibly distracting.  That being said, this is a better film, with better acting and far better production values, but unfortunately it is not extremely scary or disturbing.  Billed as the prequel to the original 1976 The Omen, and the trilogy that ensued, it’s hard to think of the film as anything but irrelevant in its goal to give a backstory to a set of movies that weren’t very good in the first place.  Although the original was a modest hit, making a prequel now is a rather risky venture given that so few people, outside of its cult following, could tell you anything about it.  They would have been better off here just creating a new franchise. C+   

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of April 1, 2024

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of April 1, 2024

Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire

Rated PG-13 for creature violence and action

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 54%

In Theaters

Now that Kong has been sent to live in the world that exists underneath the surface, he is trying to make his home one he can survive in safety and satisfaction.  But when he discovers a new tribe of giant apes led by a real baddie with a secret weapon, the scientists at Monarch devise a plan to have Kong and Godzilla fight the new creature together.  If you didn’t watch Apple TV’s new show Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, and you can’t really remember what happened in the previous film, don’t worry.  It would be very hard to get confused here.  This film might have set a record for least dialog as the human plot is more of that of a narrator to what the Titans are doing and far less for plot development and actual meaning.  In fact, I would have preferred even less human interaction as almost everything the humans did was annoying and unnecessary.  Most people are coming to see a film like this for watching monster battles, and those are a plenty here.  The action sequences are quite fun, although pretty silly, and fully capable of filling up the time for a theatrically released film.  A lot of this new universe they have set up does’t make much sense, and can be quite tedious on the brain if you try to do the mental gymnastics required to try to figure it out, but when Kong rips a monster in half, or when Godzilla destroys Rome only to fall asleep inside the Coliseum, it proves that turning off your brain every once in a while is a justified thing to do.  And given that the movie was a smash hit on opening weekend, I’m guessing that we will see even more of these films coming our way in years to come.  B-

Wicked Little Letters

Rated R for language throughout and sexual material

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 72%

In Theaters

From Thea Sharrock, the director of The One and Only Ivan, comes this little British comedy about an older spinster (Olivia Colman) who gets the police involved when she starts to get vile and sexually explicit letters from an anonymous literary attacker.  She and her family believe the letters are from the single mother next-door (Jessie Buckley), who they assume to be a woman of poor character and loose morals.  But as the police learn more about the “crime,” the story begins to get more and more convoluted.  If you didn’t notice Sharrock’s name in the title, you might easily guess that this is a film by Mike Leigh (Topsy Turvy).  Especially since its dry wit combined with a phenomenal cast are very much his signature.  While the film is not a gut buster, it certainly is both very funny and quite entertaining.  Colman and Buckley play off each other extremely well, and while the plot is somewhat predictable, it is still effectively written so as to not make you care that you guessed it correctly.  If you are in need of an adult comedy that is slightly off-kilter, and full of loads of naughty verbiage, you will surely enjoy this dirty little picture.  B+

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of March 25, 2024

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of March 25, 2023

Late Night with the Devil

Rated R for violent content, a sexual reference, some gore and language

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

In Theaters

This low budget horror indie from IFC stars David Dastmalchian (Dune, Oppenheimer) as a late-night show host from the 70s who has played second fiddle in the ratings to Johnny Carson for years.  In an attempt to drive said ratings, he plans a Halloween show for the ages, complete with a medium who can talk to the dead as well as a possessed teenager.  But when an evil spirit is unleashed in the theater, home viewers are given a bigger scare than they asked for.  For sure the story is interesting, and the performances are decent enough, for a B-movie.  But there’s a lot of that here.  If this were a major studio release, it would be widely panned.  But for an indie, it’s not bad.  Different expectations for sure.  Personally, I didn’t find the movie very scary or intense, but members of my family did.  So, in that regard, I can say that for the right audience, this might be a decent horror film.  But for many like myself, the movie is just a bizarre and intriguing found-footage pic with a smart angle that is well enough put together to be entertaining.  B-

Steve! (Martin) A Documentary in 2 Pieces

No Rotten Tomatoes Score at the time of writing

Streaming on Apple TV+

Steve Martin has had one fantastic career, starting as an avant garde comedian in the 70s, followed by a great run on SNL, and then on to a legendary movie and television career.  This new documentary follows Steve’s life in two parts.  Part one focuses on his younger years up to his very first movies.  Part two shows an older Steve, along with his friends Martin Short, Jerry Seinfeld and others, as he recollects what has gotten him to what is going on today.  The documentary really helps you understand the comic genius that he is and at the same time gives you an appreciation for the person he has become and what shaped him.  If you don’t know much about the man, this will surely give you a great primer and springboard to go back and take in all of the classic films, television and recordings.  If you are like me and have loved the man all of your life, literally, you will now feel like you know the man personally and intimately.  It is a truly great homage to one of the greatest entertainers of the last half-century.  A

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of March 18, 2024

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of March 18, 2024

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

Rated PG-13 for supernatural action/violence, suggestive references and language

No Rotten Tomatoes Score at time of writing

In Theaters

Following up on the events of 2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Paul Rudd and  his new family have now moved from Oklahoma to live in New York City, where they have reinvigorated the ghost busting business.  But things go awry when a new spirit is introduced into the world who wishes to destroy the planet with frost.  So the new Ghost Busters and the old (including Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Ernie Hudson and Annie Potts) must team up to take on the newest monster before he exterminates mankind.  The movie manages to basically entertain throughout, although it tends to be so tongue in cheek that it never elevates to a decent narrative and unfortunately, most of the jokes fall pretty flat too.  I found myself chuckling here and there, but I never got a big laugh.  Or a big scare.  There is a lot of potential here to frighten, but as scary as the new baddie looks, he is just not very intimidating.  And while the actors all seemed like they were having fun – it never once looks like they were taking the project seriously.  As for the return of the old cast (in bigger parts this time out), it still seems like they are there simply for the nostalgia and not to actually add anything to the project.  So while the movie is sometimes fun, and even creative, it is also incredibly superficial and self-aware to the point that it doesn’t hit the highs that it is more than capable of hitting.  B-

Road House

Rated R

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%

Streaming on Amazon Video

Loosely based on the original Road House from 1989 starring Patrick Swayze, this new tale follows Jake Gyllenhaal as Dalton, an ex-MMA fighter with a death wish who goes to work to clean up a bar in the Florida Keys.  But the bar he’s bouncing at is the target of a local criminal determined to bring it down.  And he will do anything it takes to burn it to the ground.  This project has been getting a lot of bad press of late, mostly because Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) was furious that it was going straight to streaming rather than getting a theatrical release.  I would agree with him that the film should have gone to theaters first, as it would have probably had some success there.  It’s not a great film, just like the first one was pretty bad.  But in spite of the terrible reviews, the first was a modest hit, especially for an R-rated film, and still has a small cult following today.  Here Jake goes all out for the role, looking spectacular with his new physique and you can tell he put a lot into preparing for the role.  And while the story is pretty lousy and the acting, for the most part, matches the story, the melee is what people will be watching for and they won’t be let down.  Larger than life MMA fighter Conor McGregor plays the hired hitman sent to take Dalton out, and the final battle is like Kong vs. Godzilla.  If that’s what you are into – you’ll be more than satisfied.  Personally, I would have liked better-than-B-movie writing and acting, but I could mostly appreciate the film for what it was and try to ignore what it wasn’t.  C+

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

Spaceman
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

Argylle
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