Ardor - Review

R  |  101 min  |  Drama, Western
Language: Spanish w/ English Subtitles 
Review - Matt Mungle

**In theaters July 17, 2015**

SynopsisA mysterious man emerges from the Argentinean rain-forest to rescue the kidnapped daughter of a poor farmer after mercenaries murder her father and take over his property.

Review: When we first meet Kaí (Gael García Bernal) he simply walks out of the forest looking for a job on a local farm. There he meets Vania (Alice Braga) the daughter of the farms owner. You immediately learn that all the farms are in jeopardy of ruthless mercenaries coming in and savagely taking the land. Soon the show up to this farm and kill the landowner and kidnap Vania. Kai pursues them into the rain-forest in search of Vania and with a plan of revenge. 

This is an odd story and even though the characters are mysterious and dramatic nothing really every unfolds. The first hour of the film contains lots of walking and very little talking. You start to get a glimpse of the world Kai is from but even then you wonder if there is more to the story. The filmmakers keep offering up these little nuggets of intrigue or curious happenings that keep you invested. But you slowly watch the time tick away with little or no payback. With about 30 minutes left the action intensifies but sadly it is over as quickly as it came. 

The acting is on par for Bernal and Braga. With very little dialogue most of the emoting is in facial expressions and body gestures. These they both due with convincing results. Do not let the poster full you into thinking there is a lot of attraction between the characters. Yes you get the essence of mutual longing but it takes the back seat to survival. This is a film about defending what is yours. It isn't original or groundbreaking. It just tells a common story. Oh and there is a tiger. But don't worry about that. 

ARDOR is rated R for violence, some gruesome images and a scene of sexuality. That is surprising considering the lack of overall action. Granted the fight scenes that are here are graphic but not too hard to stomach. I give it 2 out of 5 land deeds. It is hard to find exactly what is wrong with it. There is simply just no meat on the bone. 


Mr. Holmes - Review

PG | 104 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
Review - Matt Mungle

**In theaters July 17, 2015**

Synopsis: An aged, retired Sherlock Holmes looks back on his life, and grapples with an unsolved case involving a beautiful woman.

Review: Lately when we think of Sherlock Holmes our minds go to the faces of Robert Downey Jr., Benedict Cumberbatch, or Jonny Lee Miller. The image is young, smartly dressed, suave and full of wit and vinegar. We have long forgotten or never knew of Basil Rathbone, Christopher Lee, or Peter Cushing. So seeing an older, less agile, and more forgetful Holmes takes a few bars to get into.

This Holmes (Ian McKellan) may be more aged but you soon see he has the same tenacity and glint in his eye that any Sherlock before him. These days he tends more to his bee hives and less to a good mystery. His house keeper (Laura Linney) and her young son Roger (Milo Parker) are his only companions. As he mentally wrestles with remembering and closing the unsolved case of Ann Kelmot (Hattie Morahan) he and Roger build a very strong friendship.
In fact it is Roger that seems to keep Holmes moving forward with the story and the past. The pairing of the old and the young in film is not always successful but here they get along quite nicely. The dialogue is written casually enough that the conversations between Roger and Holmes never feels rehearsed or forced. It helps too that Parker never seems intimidated working with the seasoned McKellan.He stands toe to toe with him with a fervor of an actor twice his age.

There are stories within the story here. Holmes and the old case, Holmes and his trip to Japan to see a Umezaki (Hiroyuki Sanada), Roger and his mom, Holmes and his internal struggle with the past; all woven together in one synchronized tapestry.

MR. HOLMES is rated PG for thematic elements, some disturbing images and incidental smoking. There is nothing offensive, crude, or inappropriate about the content but at the same time the characters and theme is more beneficial for older audiences. The timing and dialogue a tad slow for younger audiences. I give it 3.75 out of 5 keen observations. Though it took a few moments to embrace, McKellan quickly sells the spirit of Holmes and the story keep you engaged until the end.

Ant-Man - Review

PG-13  |  117 min  |  Action, Sci-Fi
Review - Matt Mungle

**In theaters July 17, 2015**

Synopsis: The next evolution of the Marvel Cinematic Universe brings a founding member of The Avengers to the big screen for the first time with Marvel Studios’ “Ant-Man.” Armed with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, master thief Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help Dr. Hank Pym protect the secret behind his spectacular Ant-Man suit from a new generation of towering threats. Against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Pym and Lang must plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.

Review: Although ANT-MAN resides in the Marvel Universe it is not on the same level as its powerhouse studio mates THOR, CAPTAIN AMERICA, and IRON MAN. That doesn't mean it isn't a proper helping of superhero action; just on a smaller scale. But that is ok. Even the film embraces its place in the world as it takes subtle jabs at the other more prominent figures. It has a lot to offer and just because it may be a one and done; there is no shame.

There are elements of this film that are stellar and some that completely throw it off track. The suit. The suit is cool. It looks awesome with popping color and gives the character some strut. Paul Rudd is a plus too as an ex-con willing to do anything to make amends and be reunited semi-permanently with his daughter. Rudd has a humble likability to him which instantly makes you a fan of Scott Lang. You want him to get it right. He dives wholeheartedly into the job and suit. He even manages to wrap his head around the fact that he can grow and shrink on command. Lang is an engineer and a smart guy.One of the reasons Pym (Michael Douglas) picked him. 

As far as Douglas goes it is good to see him in this type of film. He can be a ruthless businessman (Wall Street, A Perfect Murder) and here combines that drive with an understanding and compassion for the world at large. Pym's daughter hope is played by Evangeline Lilly (Lost) and I could never see past the god awful wig they had her wearing to glimpse any sort of character. 

The effects and graphics also helped solidify the film. When ANT-MAN shrinks down and takes a run with the insects you have to believe it. You have to feel like you are in that world with him. The stunts and imagery are fast, crisp and pack a punch. This is all good news for the comic book fan wanting to see another of their characters manifest to the big screen. But sadly eye candy is not enough to carry a film completely. You need a strong story and well crafted, often witty, dialogue too. (Just don't tell Magic Mike). This is where Ant-Man suffers the most. Even the prolific Michael Peña seems uncomfortable as the funny man. His character is relied upon for most of the humor but it all seems repetitive and redundant. 

There are numerous plot holes and awkward conversations. Many of these take place between Dr. Pym and his daughter Hope. Their relationship has been very strained and there is quite a bit of resentment and anger broiling. The times they discuss these issues are the times you feel the most disconnect from the film. It is not well written and the delivery is stiff and forced. Much of this takes place in the middle of the movie and once you get past that, the final act almost makes up for it. But again, in action only. 

ANT-MAN is worth seeing but then forgetting. It is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and safe for those 13 and over. The language might be the only thing parents would worry about younger tykes hearing. I doubt there needs to be an ANT-MAN 2 or any sort of reANTimation. Maybe in small doses (no pun intended) like a cameo in an Avengers film would be a better fit. I give it 2.75 out of 5 keyholes. Rudd just wasn't enough to make up for the dull moments. 

Lila & Eve - Review

R  |  94 min  |  Drama, Thriller
Review - Matt Mungle

**In theaters and on demand on July 17, 2015**

Synopsis: A tense and exciting film, LILA AND EVE is directed by Charles Stone III (DRUMLINE), and tells the story of Lila (Academy Award® Nominee Viola Davis), a grief-stricken mother who in the aftermath of her son’s murder in a drive-by shooting attends a support group where she meets Eve (Jennifer Lopez), who has lost her daughter.  When Lila hits numerous roadblocks from the police in bringing justice for her son’s slaying, Eve urges Lila to take matters into her own hands to track down her son’s killers.  The two women soon embark on a violent pursuit of justice, as they work to the top of the chain of drug dealers to avenge the murder of Lila’s son.

Review: If there was ever a doubt in your mind about Viola Davis being one of the most talented dramatic actresses in the biz today; this will wipe it away for good. The movie instantly invites us into her world as we find her grieving the loss of her son to a senseless murder. From the first scene she will cause you to breath a bit shallower as you are impacted with the intensity of her pain and anger. 

We have not seen a solid vigilante film since the days of Eastwood or Charles Bronson in the Death Wish days of the 1970's. We certainly have not seen a female driven story with this much grit and streetwise swagger. You combine the ferocious passion of a mother's love with the determined focus of an actress like Davis and you get a powerful reaction. 

Even Lopez steps out of the glittering lights of American Idol to get her hands and mouth dirty for this one. You easily forget that her soft spoken pretty roles in Maid in Manhattan, The Wedding Planner, and Monster-in-Law. Here she revisits roles like Slim Hiller in Enough to show us the tenacity of a tough girl. Eve is the catalyst that drives Lila to take action. She also lost a child and that drives her to support Lila in this course. 

The story also shows the good and bad side of police investigations. You can understand the frustration as Lila encounters one closed door after another. The feeling that the victims are numbers and not real people comes through clearly. At the same time you see it from the side of the investigator, here played by Shea Whigham, as they have to follow procedure and try their best to uncover new evidence. It is this slow process that causes Lila and Eve to find swifter means of justice. 

Questions also are raised in the film, maybe not forthright but subliminally, about at what point is justice a crime. We see Lila more than Eve struggle with this. As a viewer go back and forth about the issues. That is the mark of strong writing. LILA & EVE is rated R for violence and language, It is a strong adult film but the content is neither gratuitous or placating. It is there to show you the world these three women and their children live. I give it 4 out of 5 rounds. Lopez and Davis are a powerful on screen duo and give tremendous force to their characters. 


Now on Blu-ray : 07.14.15

SYNOPSISAfter six years of keeping our malls safe, Paul Blart has earned a well-deserved vacation. He heads to Las Vegas with his teenage daughter before she heads off to college. But safety never takes a holiday and when duty calls, Blart answers.

Directed by Andy Fickman from a screenplay by Kevin James and Nick Bakay, PAUL BLART: MALL COP 2 was produced by Todd Garner, Kevin James, Adam Sandler and Jack Giarraputo, with Marty P. Ewing, Ben Waisbren and Jeff Sussman serving as executive producers. 

REVIEW: It is hard to recapture lightening in a bottle. The first installment of Paul Blart Mall Cop tapped into an almost never used vocation. Add that to Kevin James' self demeaning comic delivery and you had a highly funny flick. Here we are revisiting a character that didn't really need updating. The premise is funny and James still delivers a lovable Blart. But the script feels forced and there to placate the masses. 

That being said, my 14 yr old loves Paul Blart and gravitated to this one just as fast. So maybe I don't know everything. 

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