Unexpected - Review

R  |  90 min  |  Comedy, Drama
Review - Matt Mungle

**In theaters and On-Demand July 24, 2015**

Synopsis: Samantha Abbott (Cobie Smulders), is a dedicated and passionate teacher at an inner-city Chicago high school. Just as she is coming to terms with her school closing, Samantha faces some life-changing and unexpected news: she is pregnant. After breaking the news to her supportive live-in boyfriend John (Anders Holm) and opinionated mother (Elizabeth McGovern), Samantha learns that one of her most promising students, Jasmine (newcomer Gail Bean), has landed in a similar but very different situation. As the women navigate their ambitions for the future, whether tackling the painfully hilarious realities of pregnancy or challenging each other to think beyond motherhood, Samantha and Jasmine forge an unlikely friendship that will challenge their perspectives and leave a lasting impact on one another.

Review:  UNEXPECTED is actually exactly what you would expect from the cover and synopsis; a very predictable and pandering look at the lives of two socially diverse pregnant women. The writers (Megan Mercier/Kris Swanberg) don't even want to attempt clever twists or out of the box dialogue. So what you have is a safe, cookie-cutter story that is truly not worthy of the talent of the two leading ladies.

Smulders recently kicked butt in the comedy RESULTS and we know she can nail personality from HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. So to see her having to deliver these lines in this scenario was painful. Gail Bean is not as familiar a face but there is no doubt she has some acting chops. She carries her character perfectly and delivers when called upon.

The white female teacher and the underprivileged black student is so overdone.The scenarios and life options that they each face is almost comical in their predictability. Even swapping roles would have given it some-sort of uniqueness.

The main issue with the film is it doesn't know what it wants to be. This could easily be a Saturday afternoon LIFETIME film (and excel) for women. It has the template, the stereotypical characters, the predictable lines, and the attempt at emotional manipulation. Even the poster screams daytime television. There are no sexual situations or violence or mature themes. But, the F word is used a dozen or so times. Unnecessarily. And totally out of character. Its as if the writers again had no idea how to be edgy or creative. Mercier is a talented woman. When i saw her name attached and then witnessed the outcome i was a bit shocked. Intelligent women should be better at writing intelligent women characters.

Bottom Line: I have no idea who this movie is for. If you are unfamiliar with Smulders work please do not let this be your first and only opinion of her. If you love the made for TV movie fodder then you might stomach it. But this just doesn't deliver.

Paper Towns - Review

PG-13  |  109 min  |  Drama, Mystery, Romance
Review - Matt Mungle

**In theaters July 24, 2015**

Synopsis: A young man and his friends embark upon the road trip of their lives to find the missing girl next door.

Review: You can think of author John Green as the John Hughes of this generation mixed with the teenaged answer to Nicholas Spark. He certainly has his pulse on the young culture of today in how they think and act. His new film PAPER TOWNS is a bit road trip film and a whole lot of what I remember of High School.

Quentin (Nat Wolff) is a High School senior who has carried a torch for his neighbor Margo (Cara Delevingne) ever since he was a youngster and she moved in across the street. Over the years he has found himself further and further from her center of coolness until now they seldom speak at all.  He is the good kid, mind always on graduation and following the rules. Margo has always lived outside the box with little regard to societies convictions. When she seemingly disappears right before Prom, Quentin and his friends throw caution to the wind and take out to find her; led only be clues she has left behind.

This is a film and story geared to the Young Adult book readers and even though it may cause their parents to reflect upon the glory days of high school there is very little else for them. The story is well written and Green does capture both personalities thoughtfully. The friendships that are reflected here, both good and bad, are genuine and plausible. Wolff personifies the nice kid and it is fun to watch him struggle with the decisions he has to make. It is a nervous common sense that will not be able to subdue his passionate heart.

Delevingne's character is a tad harder to warm up to. Maybe it is because we see her less or at one point in time knew a girl like Margo. She seems self absorbed and selfish. Even if that is not a fair assessment it causes us to be on guard. Our attraction to Quentin is such that we want to see him happy and find answers. We don't trust that he will get all he deserves in Margo. But at the same time the romantic in us can't help but hold out for the happy ending.

Like the John Hughes films of the 80's this one relies on an eccentric and lovable supporting cast to bring much humor to the movie as well as rally around our main character. Ben (Austin Adams) and Radar (Justice Smith) are wingmen for Quentin and each are as nerdy and amiable as he is. They bring a depth to the dialogue and balance out the always serious Quentin. Halston Sage plays Lacey, Margo's best friend, and joins the guys are their expedition. It is perfect casting on all levels and truly helps ground the roles and solidify the story.

PAPER TOWNS is rated PG-13 for some language, drinking, sexuality and partial nudity - all involving teens. The themes and content are geared more toward the 16 and up crowd. The jokes and wit are far too advanced for those fresh into their teen years. Before you start to judge though I want you to think back on the teen films of the 80s. Our parents probably had the same concerns. That said it is worth being cautious about and talking to your young movie goers about. Both should be prepared for the content and humor. It is certainly not a solicitous comedy but is written with depth and brains. The dialogue is smart and the characters carry themselves for the most part with confidence and maturity.

I give it 3.5 out of 5 band halls. The road trip is the standout moment and the first half of the film is too much set up with little meat. Also, there is much backstory that only the book can give. This may cause many to feel cheated and some story elements to appear thin. This spoken as an adult. The High Schooler in my home probably thinks I am old. Like I felt watching the Breakfast Club.


Lynyrd Skynyrd - One More For The Fans - Promotion

NR  |  106 min  |  Concert
Review - Matt Mungle

**DVD and 2-Disc CD July 24**

Synopsis: Lynyrd Skynyrd One More For The Fans will be available tomorrow, July 24, 2105 on Loud & Proud Records in partnership with Blackbird Presents.  The two CD/DVD set was filmed during one special night last November as an extraordinary collection of artists came together at the historic Fox Theatre in Atlanta, GA to perform and celebrate the songs of Lynyrd Skynyrd, one of the most influential bands of our time.  This unique concert event centered around performances by Lynyrd Skynyrd and features performances by music legends and young talent, culled from multiple genres including Classic Rock, Country and Americana with Trace Adkins, Alabama, Gregg Allman, Blackberry Smoke, Cheap Trick, Charlie Daniels, Peter Frampton, Gov’t Mule, Warren Haynes, John Hiatt, Randy Houser, Jason Isbell, Jamey Johnson, Aaron Lewis, moe., O.A.R., Robert Randolph and Donnie Van Zant all coming together to perform songs from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s extensive catalog of music.  Highlights include a special rendition of “Travelin’ Man” with Johnny Van Zant singing along with an archival video of his late brother, Ronnie performing, as well as a rousing rendition of “Sweet Home Alabama” with Skynyrd inviting the entire star-studded line-up up on stage to perform along side them.

Review:  This is certainly one for not only the fans of Skynyrd but also southern fried rock and roll! The line up is amazing and they put their own spin perfectly on the classics; but without ever losing the core of the tunes. Every number turns into a jam fest with expert musicianship recorded brilliantly. You have a front row seat to one of the best classic concerts of the year. 19 of your favorite Skynyrd tunes done better than ever.

 1. Whiskey Rock-A-Roller – performed by Randy Houser              
2. You Got That Right – performed by Robert Randolph & Jimmy Hall        
3. Saturday Night Special – performed by Aaron Lewis      
4. Workin’ For MCA – performed by Blackberry Smoke                  
5. Don't Ask Me No Questions – performed by O.A.R.
6. Gimme Back My Bullets – performed by Cheap Trick
7. The Ballad of Curtis Loew – performed by moe. & John Hiatt
8. Simple Man – performed by Gov't Mule                
9. That Smell – performed by Warren Haynes          
10.  Four Walls of Raiford – performed by Jamey Johnson            
11.  I Know A Little – performed by Jason Isbell
12.  Call Me The Breeze – performed by Peter Frampton
13.  What's Your Name – performed by Trace Adkins        
14.  Down South Jukin’ – performed by Charlie Daniels & Donnie Van Zant
15.  Gimme Three Steps – performed by Alabama              
16.  Tuesday's Gone – performed by Gregg Allman            
17.  Travelin’ Man – performed by Lynyrd Skynyrd With Johnny and Ronnie – Ronnie on big screen
18.  Free Bird - performed by Lynyrd Skynyrd
19.  Sweet Home Alabama – performed by Lynyrd Skynyrd and All-star ensemble


Siren - Review

R  |  93 min  |  Drama Thriller
Review - Matt Mungle

**DVD and Digital August 18**

Synopsis: The dark modern fairy tale tells of a woman who has the uncanny ability to appear to each man as his heart's desire. Leigh (Vinessa Shaw) has had to live a reclusive life secluded in her family home. She has some potent pheromones that do a number on any male she encounters. When a drifter named Guy (Robert Kazinsky) shows up and is unaffected by her scent Leigh immediately takes a liking to him; grateful to have a normal relationship.

Review:  SIREN has an interesting concept and for the most part delivers some entertaining moments. There were elements that should have been fleshed out more and at times I felt as if the story wasn't as secure with itself as it could have been. Many key components were glossed over and never explained. The origin of her condition was vague and a tad polluted. One of the strong selling points was how men would see her differently and fall madly in love. These men were shown in past tense and it was never used to the audiences advantage.

There are some good twists and turns in the relationship between Leigh and Guy which makes it a lean more toward romance than dramatic thriller. Shaw does a convincing job with the script she is given. Luckily for the majority of the film we see her as her normal self and not as the other men see her. She is striking on her own and her casual good looks help the character appear more real and not a Hollywood by-product. It is ironic in that men would fall for her just as hard if they saw her as she actually is.

Bottom Line: As renters go you might do far worse. Just be prepared for a lot of slow paced dialogue and minuscule plot movement. There is little in the way of excitement or edge of your seat thrills. I hate to use the term boring but much of it sadly was. This could have been a dark and steamy outing. And I think it wanted to be. It just didn't know how to go about it.

Pixels - Review

PG-13  |  105 min  |  Action, Comedy, Sci-Fi
Review - Matt Mungle

**In theaters July 24, 2015**

Synopsis: When aliens misinterpret video feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth in the form of the video games.

Review:  In no way do you have to love arcade games to love this movie. Any child of the 80's will find so much to reflect on, laugh about, and geek out on. PIXELS may be the next cult classic film in the vein of Ghostbusters. Even Adam Sandler manages to keep it reigned in - for the most part - as he balances out the sarcastic wit with some heartfelt moments.

As young boys in 1982, Brenner (Adam Sandler), Cooper (Kevin James), and Ludlow (Josh Gad) were the champs at arcade games. They knew every pattern and lived to play level after level. Now 30 years later they have to dust off those skills in order to save our planet from an alien invasion. Joined by their gaming nemesis Eddie (Peter Dinklage) they must unite, put aside their differences, and play like never before.

One rule going in to this film is simple. Don't try and take it too seriously. Leave all your "why's" in your Q*bert lunch box back at the house. It is the same with most Adam Sandler films. He gets his friends together and they make a movie. The casting is usually not very well thought out but at the same time he gets people who are likable and solid comedians. Is it plausible that Kevin James would be a governmental leader? No. Is it funny? Incredibly. The trio of Gad, Sandler, and James is heavy artillery enough but when you add the versatility of Dinklage to the mix and you get humor that is off the charts. Peter can go from ELF to THE STATION AGENT to DEATH AT FUNERAL to GAME OF THRONES and never miss a beat. Then he comes into a goofball comedy like this and not once seems like it is beneath him. He knocks every line and facial expression out of the park. It's gold.

Josh Gad may walk out of this one with the high score though. He unabashedly takes his character to the heights of nerdy geekdom. It is a reminder of why Olaf was the hit of Frozen. Here we get not only the voice and artistic delivery but the human form of Gad as well. The way he manages to keep control of the out of control persona of Ludlow is remarkable. It is as if he is juggling atomic energy. You worry that at any moment he will drop something and it will all implode in on itself. But he never does.

The supreme moments of this film are the 80's references. It is like a museum exhibit for the pop culture, celebrities, and dialogue of that decade. Though set in current day the aliens use 80's influences as they try and communicate to Earth. It is not only unique but clever as heck. You find yourself trying to spot all the references and are afraid to laugh too hard or you will miss the next funny bit of dialogue. Adam Sandler is always Adam Sandler. He doesn't try to be anyone else. His sarcastic jabs at people are his go to staple and he utilizes it perfectly here. And he does it without relying strictly on an off color innuendo.

The effects are better in the film then they appear in the trailer. The Pixels are just that, pixels, and we are so used to seeing clean seamless graphics that we forget that is the point. These are arcade game graphics they are battling and they have to look as nostalgic as the brand. PAC-man is sure to be a hit but there are so many other minor players in this one that it is near impossible to spot them all. Only the true die hard Arcadian will be able to do so.

PIXELS is rated PG-13 for some language and suggestive comments. It is far tamer than most Happy Madison productions and most of the language and innuendo is fast and non offensive. There is too much to like in this film to not pic any of the rating content. It is bottom line a hilarious and fun movie experience. I give it 4.5 out of 5 coin slots. That is impressive for a Sandler film but this one plays the comic pattern perfectly.