The Revenant - Review

R  |  156 min  |  Adventure, Drama, Thriller
Review - Matt Mungle

**In theaters January 8th 2016**

SynopsisA frontiersman named Hugh Glass on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s is on a quest for survival after being brutally mauled by a bear.

ReviewSome films based on true events are a tad bit easier to fathom than others. We can relate to housing market crashes, press scandals, and rags to riches stories. But THE REVENANT is a mind blowing tale of survival with a look at scenarios few men could overcome. The word "unbelievable" forms on the mouth several times. 

Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a tracker, explorer, and leader trying to help his men trap a few furs and return home in one piece. They are battling the winter elements, the American wilderness, and savage natives. When Glass is ruthlessly attacked and mauled by a mother bear he is near death. His troupe must decide if it is worth risking their own lives to try and save his. When a small group stay behind to tend to him Glass is betrayed and left alone by his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Glass must fight his way back to camp using his knowledge of the land and his endearing spirit of survival. 

Glass has an inner fortitude that enables him to do the impossible. As he attacks each obstacle you wonder what mere human could beat those odds. One of these elements alone would shut down most men yet he runs headlong into several. The hardest could be the betrayal of his fellow man. 

You can see the tenacity on DiCaprio's face as he stares out from the movie poster. Part of that is his portrayal of Glass and part could be his own personal determination to finally win an Oscar; the gold statue which has eluded him his entire career. That drive along with Alejandro González Iñárritu's direction gives us a powerful character that eclipses anything we have seen Leo do in the past. He grabs you, pulls you to the edge of your seat, and dares you to try and look away. 

Alejandro González Iñárritu won the Academy Award for Best Achievement in Directing last year for the Oscar winning film BIRDMAN. He uses his unique approach to film making here to create a beautifully shot and expertly constructed movie experience. Like Glass, Alejandro used the elements to aide him in his objective. Relying on natural light and the splendor of the landscape he creates a massive backdrop that submerges the viewer into Glass' world. 

The supporting cast includes a few worth mentioning. Will Poulter we have seen in comedies like THE MILLERS as well as the YA based film, THE MAZE RUNNER. This time we see a more mature, focused, and emotionally engaged actor. Poulter is out to show the world that he is versatile and capable of running with the big boys. He plays Bridger, a young man pulled between his devotion to Glass and the powerhouse personality of Fitzgerald. What Tom Hardy does with the character of John Fitzgerald is disturbingly soul shaking. His is the type of personality that haunts your nightmares for weeks to come. Not in that overtly sadistic and horrific way but the subtle, dark, and determined way. And those are the most spine tingling. 

To circle back around, Iñárritu uses his cast to his advantage by allowing them to do what they do best and then capturing it with stunning clarity. There are tight shots on Hardy's eyes as he is delivering dialogue that are the most dynamic ever offered. It is probable cause as to why this may be the film that not only gets DiCaprio his first Oscar but gathers in a ton of additional accolades as well. It is a must see for those who appreciate the exceptional art of movies. 

THE REVENANT is rated R for strong frontier combat and violence including gory images, a sexual assault, language and brief nudity. This is an adult film visually and emotionally. It isn't awkward to watch but will drain you of every ounce of energy and wring you out. Those who follow the award season as if it were the Final Four of college basketball should not miss this. True it is not for every taste bud this is certainly one that critics and aficionados will watch and study for years to come. I give it 4 out of 5 "please let Leo finally win an Oscar"s. Powerful. Emotional. Stunning. 


The Masked Saint - Review

PG-13  |  111 min  |  Action, Biography, Crime
Review - Matt Mungle

**In theaters January 8th 2016**

Synopsis"The Masked Saint" is based on a true story about one pastor's mission to help his community by risking his identity and returns to his former life as a wrestler.

ReviewEveryone has a story to tell and this one is quite interesting and entertaining; regardless of how loosely based it may or may not be on actual events. And though it commits many of the same sins as most faith based films it has enough redemptive elements to warrant a smidgen of grace. 

Chris Samuels (Brett Granstaff) is a former wrestling champion who leaves that world behind to pastor a faltering Baptist church. His foes in the ring were nothing compared to the struggles he now faces. A dwindling congregation, stacks of over due bills, a community wrapped in crime, judgmental parishioners; all things Chris and his wife Michelle (Lara Jean Chorostecki) battle with a strong faith and a trust that God is in the middle of it all. When he decides to put his mask back on in order to help the church an inner battle ensues. One that may save the day or leave it all in ruins. 

Wrestling is what sets this story apart from other church geared films. There is something about that sport that, love it or hate it, you can't help but get sucked in to. The over the top characters. Cheering the good guy while despising the bad guy. As fake and staged as most of it is there is no more exciting pageantry than professional wrestling. The scenes set in the ring are the stand out moments of the film. 

Granstaff is a believable and endearing Chris Samuels. With the mask or without you rally behind him and become an advocate for his mission. His acting is solid. He looks comfortable in the ring and that is important to his character. Also, you feel his passion and tenacity outside the ring as he faces injustice in his community. At times the script does feel like a super hero wanna be tale but those times are fleeting and not a destructive intrusion. Granstaff is able to save face even during the most poorly written moments. 

The films three count comes though in the over acting performances of the secondary characters and their stereotypical mannerisms. It is the cardinal sin of faith based movies. Is it so hard to write and direct a movie about faith? Their are so many eye rolling moments. It is sad when professional wrestlers act more convincingly than anyone else. How often do we see the same hardened individuals spitting in the face of religion only to be miraculously turned around in 90 minutes? Yes it happens in real life but never in the way that these films portray it. The church ends up looking comical and unrealistic. But the message is strong and there are enough stand up and cheer moments to out weigh the cringe worthy ones; if just barely. 

This is one of the last films that the well known wrestler Roddy Piper starred in. He plays a wrestling promotor with that same rough and rowdy persona that made him loved by many in the sport. If anything this film allows us to see him one more time in his element. 

THE MASKED SAINT is rated PG-13 for some violence and thematic elements. As mentioned, professional wrestling is a large part of the film and it does not tone down the action in the ring. Thankfully so because those truly are the highlight moments. It is a safe film for anyone over the age of 10. The message of redemption, recognizing your God given gifts, and working together to salvage a community will sit well with the faith based audiences. I give it 2.75 out of 5 arm bars. As a fan of the sport it took me back to my childhood and even though it stumbles in many aspects it was entertaining and encouraging where it mattered.