Rosenwald - Review

100 min  |  Documentary, Biography
Review - Matt Mungle

**Opens Friday, September 18 at the Angelika Dallas and select theaters.*

SynopsisRosenwald is the incredible story of Julius Rosenwald, who never finished high school, but rose to become the President of Sears.  Influenced by the writings of the educator Booker T. Washington, this Jewish philanthropist joined forces with African American communities during the Jim Crow South to build over 5,300 schools during the early part of the 20th century.  Inspired by the Jewish ideals of tzedakah (charity) and tikkun olam (repairing the world), he gave away $62 million in his lifetime.

Review: There is a common belief that you can't give everything away. That the universe (however you perceive it and its creator) will give back unto you ten fold. ROSENWALD is a film that certainly backs that up. The story is fabulously told and is as much a history lesson about race and commerce as it is the man himself.  We forget sometimes in our fast paced society how life was in the early days of business. This is an entertaining and informative reminder of our nations yesteryear. Told with exciting narrative it is far from a boring lecture. It is a celebration of one man's life and those who benefitted from it.

The relationship between Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington was a powerful force. They built many a school and gave children, who back then had little or no chance for an education, a better life. The documentary is full of testimonials and praise for this humble man who knew the true meaning of living and giving. 

There is lots of stock footage and photos from the early days of racial segregation. I am not sure that stories like this are told much. But they need to be. In this modern day of anger and frustration it is cleansing to see a positive story of man helping man. It shines a bright light on the aspects of business, wealth, history, and service. This isn't about a man who made billions and then decided to give some away. This is about a man who decided to give some away and I feel was blessed for it. 

This film is unrated and safe for everyone. Though it may be more interesting to older viewers I can't help but think that young teens will find a meaningful perspective not often taught in the classroom and blogs today.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials - Review

PG-13  |  131 min  |  Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller 
Review - Matt Mungle

**In theaters September 18th*

SynopsisAfter having escaped the Maze, the Gladers now face a new set of challenges on the open roads of a desolate landscape filled with unimaginable obstacles.

Review: The first Maze Runner flick was a surprise to those who had never read the book and expected just another YA action film. The surprise came in the depth of characters, the graphic depiction of the Glade, and the intricate workings of the maze; all that paired with intense action and grand Sci-Fi moments. But what about now that they are out of the glade? In Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials can lightening be captured again in the post apocalyptic bottle?

This review, for the most part, is for those who have not read the books. You may go into this thinking that the trials are actually pre structured tests. But in actuality this is not a 2nd in a long list of obstacles. The Scorch is not meant to be gone into but Thomas (Dylan O'Brien), Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), and others do just that in order to try and find more answers to their past and WCKD, the company that has been exploiting them. 

The action in this one takes a little while to get in gear but the dramatic elements are intriguing. We get a tad more backstory and a refresher into the characters. That doesn't mean it is boring or mundane. The curiosity is as much for the audience as for the Gladers when it comes to this new facility they find themselves in. Like the first movie the effects and set design are fabulous. The world created is as barren and scorched as the title. The maze is replaced with a labyrinth of tunnels and burned out buildings. Also more characters are introduced which add to the plot. 

Readers of the books may already know what is coming but even they will be impressed with how the written word is fleshed out and designed in this one. Newcomers get to experience the surprises that wait around each corner. Without giving too much away it should be known that the enemy lingering in the scorch are an intense and frightening addition to this second flick. They are fast, vicious, and possibly a little recognizable to fans of certain genres. 

When it comes to second films in a franchise often they are filled with more set up and plot development that straight ahead action. This one does have the much needed evolution of story but it also does not shy away from thrilling moments. WCKD plays a vital role in this one and it is clear that their agenda, whatever it might be, is not of a benefit for Thomas and friends. Patricia Clarkson returns as Ava Paige and is just as untrustworthy as you would expect. Then there is Janson (Aidan Gillen) who elevates the jerk factor to knew heights.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is rated PG-13 for extended sequences of violence and action, some thematic elements, substance use and language. This film, like the first one, is more appropriate for those 15 or 16 and up. The Gladers have been through a lot and do not mix words when it comes to adult language and thematic dialogue. Also the creatures the encounter in the scorch will be too intense for younger peeps. I give it 4 out of 5 close calls. It is a solid follow up to the first film and doesn't phone anything in. 

EVEREST - Review

PG-13  |  121 min
Review - Matt Mungle


SynopsisInspired by the incredible events surrounding an attempt to reach the summit of the world's highest mountain, Everest documents the awe-inspiring journey of two different expeditions challenged beyond their limits by one of the fiercest snowstorms ever encountered by mankind. 

ReviewIt is hard to look at the movie poster, see the IMAX logo, and not think this is another on location, docu-drama about the most alluring mountain in history. Yes the story is based on actual events but the out come is all Hollywood. Creating a disaster film like EVEREST is a slippery slope and as one character in the film says, "The mountain always gets the last word.".

Where the film loses its footing is that it tries to do too much. The central character is expert mountain guide Rob Hall (Jason Clarke). There is no one better at getting paying customers up the summit and back down. Rob is cautious, caring, and calculating. He has three central figures in this tour; the Texan Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), the journalist (Michael Kelly), and the guy trying one more time to reach the top (John Hawkes). The trek these four and others made in May of 1996 is all the story you need. It is edge of your seat, held breath, tense nerves, excitement. But the script is crowded with so much more that it becomes overwhelming and cluttered. 

This over abundance of stuff is meant well and in theory - as well as on paper - probably looked great. Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) runs a competitive tour company and Scott will be the first to tell you that he does things much different than Rob. As he puts it, Rob does a little too much hand holding. The writers wanted this animosity to shine in the film. And it would have been great were it successful. But there is not enough time to flesh out Scott so that we truly understand him. Also, his team and customers are more of the party mentality but are only there as extras and never add anything to the mix. 

There is a lot going on with the other characters as well. Rob's wife (Keira Knightley), who normally would be there climbing, is home pregnant. Beck is obviously having marital issues with his wife (Robin Wright) and this under developed story line it is a waste of the caliber of actress Wright is. It would have been good to have a bit more perspective from the journalist too. But even in 121 minutes a lot must have been cut. Many times a bit of dialogue is spoken or something is alluded to that is intriguing. But it is never revisited or expounded upon. So it falls flat like an after thought. And in a film with this much velocity those moments stand out horribly. 

The good news? The climate that is Everest is undeniably fierce and savage. That is depicted with expert camera and audio technics. You feel like you are on the side of the mountain facing the ferocious wind with them. The film is shot on location in Nepal on the foothills of Everest, and in the Italian Alps so the visuals are stunning. Again, this is a true account of one of the worst storms ever to hit a climbing party. You can't water that down or soften the blow. If you do you demean the real people and what they endured. The audience must walk out feeling exhausted and spent. And they will. That was a complete success.

EVERST is teeming with familiar, star ranked actors. So there is never a moment when a scene flops because of a lack of talent. Along with the fore mentioned cast you have Sam Worthington, Emily Watson, Ingvar Eggert SigurĂ°sson and more. It is rated PG-13 for intense peril and disturbing images. It is a heavy film and even the lighter moments are quickly blown aside. I give it 3.5 out of 5 snow caps. The visuals make it a must see on the big screen but be prepared for a lot of disjointed pieces.



Star Wars fans have much to geek out on and anticipate this year. As we all long for Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens on December 18th we need things to help bide our time.

Luckily there is STAR WARS REBELS and Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season One hit Blu-ray and DVD September 1st! Enjoy 15 episodes plus never-before-seen bonus material revealing the magic behind the making of the hit series.

Many people hear the name Disney and see animation and automatically think, kid stuff. And yes this series is totally safe for your pre-teen 7 and up. But adults love this as much as kids due to the depth of script, emotion of characters and how it stays true to the heart and soul of the franchise.

The Blu-ray release has several solid bonus features including a look ahead to season 2. The best may be REBELS RECON. 14 fun insightful behind the scene journeys archived as 5-minute companion pieces to season 1.

If your family is as giddy about the Star Wars universe like mine then this is certainly a must own.