Mojave - Review

R  |  93 min  |  Thriller
Review - Matt Mungle

**In theaters January 22nd 2016**

SynopsisIn this intense classical thriller, from an original screenplay by Oscar-winning writer William Monahan (The Departed), a violent artist,  has an ominous encounter in the desert with a homicidal, chameleon-like drifter in a riveting two-man clash that plays out in exciting and unexpected ways. 

Review: How do you solve a problem like, MOJAVE? It has some very capable actors (well at least one) with a script that is Shakespearean drama at times with its deluge of dystopian dialogue. But something is lacking. Something is just a tad enough off center to make it disjointed and on the verge of toppling. Maybe the fact that you do not really care for, even if you like them, any of the characters you meet? As one line in the film says, "have you figured out which one of us is the bad guy yet?". It isn't an easy question to answer. 

Thomas (Garrett Hedlund) is a successful film maker beat down by something. It could be a culmination of many things but it is never quite clear why he is so irritable. When one of his tantrums sends him in to the dessert for a few days he butts heads with Jack (Oscar Isaac), an odd and obviously unhinged drifter. A few unfortunate events later and Thomas finds himself being stalked by this drifter making none of Thomas' friends or colleagues safe. 

The script has lofty goals and many fundamental scenarios. There are crimes committed that help move the plot in the direction it needs to go. But then they are sort of swept under the rug later as unnecessary weight. In fact this film is about as bare bones as it comes in the way of character background, motivations, and redemptive measures. The characters are thrown on screen without much introduction. Then they disappear just as fast only to pop up again vaguely, as needed, to propel the story. Much if not all of the meat is placed on the conversations between the two main players. Actually Jack does most of the talking - robust tirades mingled with philosophy, sarcasm, and gibberish - while Thomas spews a few words of angst filled rebuttal. 

Isaac is a dang good actor and we have seen him deliver all types of persona's. It is no doubt that he was brought on as the backbone of the film. He has to sell the words and the homicidal tendencies of Jack. If he does not convincingly articulate each phrase then it will all crumble. So what we get is a solid piece of acting lost in a sea of meandering plot lines and unfinished business. 

It is worth mentioning that Mark Wahlberg is in this film. Or maybe he would rather it not be mentioned. Regardless he plays a loud mouthed philandering film producer working on Thomas' latest project. You get the feeling he shot all of his scenes in one afternoon with little or no concern for trying to not be Mark Wahlberg. He does add some comic relief even if he was never supposed to be funny.

MOJAVE is rated R for language and some violence. It is an adult, male driven drama. Fans of Oscar Isaac will get more from this than most. He is fun to watch in these roles. If you can set aside the lack of plot and myriad of holes in the story then you may actually enjoy it a little. It will keep you hanging on until the end. I give it 2.75 out of 5 sand dunes. It just shifted too much the wrong way. 


Ip Man 3 - Review

PG-13  |  105 min  |  Action, Biography, Drama
Review - Matt Mungle

**In theaters January 22nd 2016**

SynopsisWhen a band of brutal gangsters led by a crooked property developer make a play to take over the city, Master Ip is forced to take a stand.

Review: The first time you see Donnie Yen in the role of Ip Man, whether in this film or the prior releases in the franchise, you are instantly captivated by his quiet persona and expert martial arts skills. If ever a real person seemed tapped in to the force of our universe it would be Ip Man. The most fascinating part is that you do not have to enjoy the genre to be riveted to the character. 

Ip Man was a real instructor in Hong Kong during the 1950's and later taught Bruce Lee in the 70's. His life is an example of what it means to be dedicated to a craft as well as the people around you. We are used to seeing flamboyant, outspoken characters in the world of on-screen martial arts. Yen is neither. He speaks only when necessary and no movement is every wasted. Even when fighting his moves are subtle, powerful, and focused. It is like watching a painting or piece of art in motion. Stunning is the first word that comes to mind. 

In this installment we find Ip Man fighting foes on a personal level more than the physical. When the school his young son attends faces a hostile takeover by a local mobster (Mike Tyson) Ip Man must step in and defend it. This causes a strain with his wife who would like a bit of his time. His decisions show a side of the Master that is tender and touching. We see a man who loves his wife and family and his actions solidify the morals and structure we have seen him instill in his students. He has to practice what he has always preached. 

No way does this mean that the film is void of the Wing Chun action that we are used to seeing. Like the other Ip Man movies this one has several mind blowing fighting sequences. And like the ones in the past they are mesmerizing to watch. Ip Man was the true Master of Wing Chun and Donnie Yen captures that brilliantly. We even get to see him go toe to toe with Mike Tyson in a powerful brawl. Again it isn't the skills alone that are enrapturing but the essence of the on-screen character as a whole.

Hong Kong in the 1950's adds to the depth of story. There is corruption in local government and the community is so devoted and dependent on its Martial Arts Masters. We see Ip Man getting little aid from law enforcement. The people of Hong Kong are not wealthy and pride themselves on respect, morality, and community. So when anything apposes that people rally together in one common spirit. 

IP MAN 3 is rated PG-13 for sequences of martial arts violence and brief strong language. There is very little in the Ip Man franchise that is disrespectful or offensive. The violence is like a well choreographed dance. It is refreshing to see it play out on screen. Also the character of Ip Man is one to be admired and emulated. Fans of the genre are familiar with Ip and will enjoy this one. I was instantly attracted to Yen when seeing him in the first film and it was a joy to watch him return to this iconic figure. I give it 3.75 out of 5 Grand Masters. I perfect addition to the already popular franchise. 

THE BOY - Fan Premier

Dallas is one of fifteen participating markets hosting premieres this Wednesday, January 20 in which fans can watch THE BOY with their favorite social media hosts. Dallas’ social media host is Alex Lee (aka Alex from Target) with nearly 5 million social media followers.  

Before the movie begins, a live stream will simulcast across all 15 theaters nationwide.  Attendees will see themselves, their social media host, and fellow fans from around the country on the big screen, and have the opportunity to ask questions to the film’s star, Lauren Cohan.


-Tickets Now On Sale theboyfanpremiere.movie
- Star Lauren Cohan (“The Walking Dead”) Will Answer Fan Questions
Live Before The One Night Only Event -

(Burbank, January 11, 2016) — STX Entertainment and Lakeshore Entertainment have arranged a once-in-a-lifetime experience for fans to see the new horror movie The Boy at 15 exclusive red carpet screenings before the general public has an opportunity to see the film.  The PG-13 rated motion picture opens in theaters nationwide on January 22.

All 15 screenings will occur simultaneously and will take place on one night only – Wednesday, January 20, 2016 – starting at 6PM ET / 3PM PT. Tickets to this event are now available online at TheBoyFanPremiere.Movie. The announcement was made today by Jack Pan, President of Marketing for STX Entertainment.

Attendees will have the opportunity to walk the red carpet with their friends, mingle and engage in activities with other fans, meet and take photos with some of their favorite social media stars, and see the movie with them.  Each screening will be hosted by at least one of the country’s most popular social media personalities.

Each fan purchasing tickets to this special event will receive:

A movie ticket for one person to see The Boy
Free small popcorn & small drink
A chance to walk on the red carpet
A meet-and-greet photo opportunity with a social media star (full list below)
A live stream before the movie starts with film star Lauren Cohan (“The Walking Dead”), who will be attending the Los Angeles premiere, and all 19 social media stars across the country
Pre-show activities and photo booths
Limited edition t-shirt, presented by Dolby Atmos
Limited edition fan credential
Chance to win Toshiba tablets & other prizes

The event will unfold over 4 hours:

6PM ET / 3PM PT – Red carpet opens and pre-show activities begin inside theater lobbies, including meet & greets with social media stars

7:30PM ET / 4:30PM PT – Live stream with star Lauren Cohan, from the Los Angeles screening location

8PM ET / 5PM PST – The Boy screenings begin (run time: 97 minutes)

Joey Graceffa, Austin Mahone and JC Caylen headline a list of 19 top social media stars who will host these red carpet events. The screenings will be held in New York (with Madison Beer), Los Angeles (Joey Graceffa, Austin Mahone, JC Caylen, Jenna Ezarik & Justine Ezarik aka iJustine), Chicago (Kenny Holland), San Francisco/San Jose (Trevor Moran), Washington DC (Bea Miller), Dallas (Alex Lee), Houston (Maddie Welborn), Atlanta (Sam Pottorff), Tampa/St. Petersburg (Grant Landis), Miami (Sammy Wilk), Denver (Nick Bean), Seattle (Zach Clayton), San Diego (Daniel Skye), Knoxville (Luke Korns) and Kansas City (Rudan C).
Before the movie begins, a live stream will simulcast across all 15 theaters nationwide.  Attendees will see themselves, their social media host, and fellow fans from around the country on the big screen, and have the opportunity to ask questions to the film’s star, Lauren Cohan, who will answer in real-time.

STX Entertainment has tapped into a combined reach exceeding 90 million fans across social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Vine and Tumblr.
The Boy is a frightening PG-13 rated film directed by William Brent Bell (The Devil Inside). In the film, Greta (Lauren Cohan) is a young American woman who takes a job as a nanny in a remote English village, only to discover that the family’s 8-year-old is a life-sized doll that the parents care for just like a real boy, as a way to cope with the death of their actual son 20 years prior. After violating a list of strict rules, a series of disturbing and inexplicable events bring Greta’s worst nightmare to life, leading her to believe that the doll is actually alive. Written by Stacey Menear, the film is produced by Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi, Roy Lee, Matt Berenson, Richard Wright and Jim Wedaa.


Ten non-nominated films that are must sees

This is not a "what the Academy Awards got wrong" article. I personally cannot argue against the merit of any film in their Best Picture nominations list and in fact many of my favorite movies of 2015 are included in there. I would have made it an even 10 films but that is an argument for later days. 

What I have done here is to bring to your attention movies that did not make the list but stood out to me as powerful, innovative, and/or moving examples of why we love cinema and the stories it offers. If you have not watched these movies I would encourage you to; they may become some of your faves.

1. - JURASSIC WORLD - This franchise is in my top three of all time and like many I had waited a long time to pass through those tribal gates to a world that time forgot. I was thankful for a few things with this endeavor. It felt like it too was a fan of John Hammond, The Park, and all the thrills and excitement that the earlier films offered. It did not try and reinvent the Dinosaur or makes something unrecognizable. It was nostalgic and respectful. At the same time it put in more teeth, faster action, and likable characters worthy of the name.

2. - EX MACHINA - I had no idea what lay in store for me when I saw this movie. I liked the premise. A young computer coder wins a contest put on by the owner of the high tech company he works for. The owner Nathan (Star Wars Oscar Isaac) is one of those reclusive bazillionaires who has been creating advanced electronic programs since he was a fetus. Caleb's prize is the opportunity to spend a week at Nathan's lab/mansion in order to evaluate his latest creation; a female A.I. The graphics in this movie are incredible. The transformation of Alicia Vikander (who we now know from another nominated film, THE DANISH GIRL) into what we see on screen is perfect. You can't tell where machine stops and human starts.  Isaac gives us a genius CEO that is part Tony Stark and part Hugh Hefner. You can't tell if he is sincere in his appreciation of the naive Caleb or if he is maniacally malevolent. The two sort of do a dance through out the film.

3. - THE MAN FROM UNCLE - This might just be the coolest spy film ever; giving James Bond reason to be shaken if not stirred. Director Guy Ritchie perfectly captured the clothes, style, music, and story of the Cold War era 1960's. His cast perform expertly under his leadership and that is the element that raises this one to the top. The balance of well choreographed action, smartly written dialogue, and perfectly placed humor give the movie a rhythm that never misses a beat. Just when you think you are about to be out of breath from an edge of your seat action sequence they slow it down, offer up some witty exchange and settle into the next act.

4. - IT FOLLOWS - One key to making a solid horror film is offering something innovative even if that means borrowing from the past. In IT FOLLOWS we get a unique premise, frightening entities, and a nostalgic canvas. It proves that you don’t need a full on adrenaline fueled mad man or far too common poltergeists to drum up some scares. The ease of the script and the realism of the characters make this creepier because it seems true. Writer/Director David Robert Mitchell gives us what instantly feels like a classic ghost story. It is reminiscent of the 70s and 80s which for older viewers will make it even more fun to watch. Mix that with a slightly provocative nature of the script and it is win win all around.

5. - ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL - Once in a while a film comes along that is so unexpected and wonderful that you want to make sure everyone knows about it and has the opportunity to see it. ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL is that sort of film. This is a drama but never quite feels like it. The characters are so full of humor and personality that the dialogue and scenes always have an uplifting nature about them. Even during the serious moments the weight is taken off of you by their mannerisms and delivery. It is almost as if they do not want you to be sad. So as the story unfolds they continually entertain you with their antics, film parodies, and positive outlook. If not for that this would be just a heavy downer. But not once does it ever feel that way.

6. - LITTLE BOY - I love a story that captures the heart and imagination so much that the feeling stays with you long after the credits roll. LITTLE BOY is one such tale. It is possibly the greatest father/son movie ever made and one of the best films I have seen in decades. It is destined to be a classic and one that generations will watch and treasure. This film is the perfect balance of whimsical story, heart stirring themes, emotional drama, and inspirational teachings. It moves much like a Tim Burton movie might. The characters have large personalities and writer/director Alejandro Monteverde makes them pop off the screen in magical wonder. It truly captures the 1940's in every way imaginable.

7. - STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS - It is safe to say that if you are reading this list you have seen this movie. But in case you haven't. You should. If you are not a classic Star Wars fan. So what? Don't know an X-wing from a Tie-Fighter? Who cares? This film stands alone as a fantastic adventure movie. New characters, humor, excitement; all make this not just another page in the annuls of Star Wars. It is a fantastic popcorn flick. Period.

8. - THE WALK - There is much about THE WALK to enjoy and be inspired by. It is more than just the reenactment of a walk between two buildings. The infectious spirit of the main character should inspire all of us to grab our passions by the reins and ride them triumphantly into the sunset. In hind-site the 1970's seem like such a grand time to live. The music, fashion, and freedoms beckon us to put down our mobile devises and truly experience the sights and sounds around us. A story like this could never have taken place now. A covert operation of this magnitude needed the lack of big brother and the ability to move about unseen. Not to do something that is harmful or destructive. But rather to attempt something that is soul stirring and inspiring. Much of that feeling comes through in this film. People were different then. They trusted more.

9. - STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON - This may be the grittiest film on my list but hands down the one with the best ensemble cast performance. At times it is hard to watch and at others it is fascinatingly light and engaging. The music and lifestyle of rappers Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, and the rest of NWA is an iconic part of West Coast hip-hop. But it is more than that. It is a look at the struggles these young men made to overcome poverty and social lines, (yes not always with the right motivations or decisions) in order to break free from the world around them. It is a war film. But not for territory or government. For the power to rise above it all.

10 - YOUTH - There is something immensely special about Paolo Sorrentino's script for YOUTH. It is touching, whimsical, and engages emotions on several layers. He then takes the written word and directs it to near perfection. This is a film that has to be embraced as a whole. To dissect it or try and explain every nuisance would take away the beauty. So just open your heart and mind and let the story sweep you away.There are moments when Sorrentino will pull back the dialogue and allow the soundtrack to conduct the scene. Music is a powerful tool and the choices used here are as moving as any word. It makes the movie seem dreamlike. As if at any moment the characters would awaken from an invigorating sleep and the audience would discover that they had been peaking in at the subconscious of those on screen.