Hunt for the Wilderpeople - Review

PG-13 | 1h 41min | Adventure, Comedy, Drama
Review - Matt Mungle

*In select theaters July 8th 2016*

SynopsisA national manhunt is ordered for a rebellious kid and his foster uncle who go missing in the wild New Zealand bush.

Review: There is a fine line between organic wit and a forced rhetoric. HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE tiptoes as close to that line as any film I have seen. The beauty of the cinematography and the likability of the characters almost keep you from caring though. And after it is all said and done you will feel all warm and cuddly inside. Not a bad exchange for bit of predictability. 

Ricky (Julian Dennison) is a product of the system. After bouncing from one foster home to another he ends up with a caring couple who bring him out of his plump shell. Ricky starts to actually open up and embrace his surroundings. When a turn of events puts him and his "Uncle" Hec (Sam Neill) on the run these two renegade bush beaters find out a lot about themselves and each other. 

Taika Waititi wrote and directs this comedy adventure that has a lot of heart. It never takes the darker path of films like Whale Rider or Beasts of the Southern Wild. This one has a lighter tone to it and never lingers very long on the more dramatic moments. That is one thing that makes this a stand out, but far from brilliant, piece of filmmaking. I often felt like Ricky's dialogue was too rehearsed. This is not to shine a negative light on young Julian. In fact he is quite funny and is able to spar with Neill effortlessly. They two of them together are an odd couple for sure. Ricky's character has the ability to overshadow Hec's but Waititi directs them in a way that this never happens.

In hind site you realize how very funny goofy this film is. Even with the subject matter of foster care and a young troubled boy you are not manipulated into sadness. When you first meet Ricky he is introduced with humor and a silly bit of conversation. You immediately know that this film is not going to take itself completely serious and neither should the viewer. It is going to be goofy and it is ok to point and laugh. In doing so you are able to breath easier and enjoy the journey more. When the drama seems to be escalating you don't worry too much because you know that a silly exchange is right around the bend.

This confidence will make many embrace it as soul cleansing and beautiful. That is fine. Again it does walk that line. But scripted wit is not the same as inherent charm. Taika certainly has a knack for writing and an even better sense of directing. He will find that greater balance and wow us in the future even more. In fact he did just that with the hilarious "What We Do in the Shadows" which is co-wrote. This one is certainly not as campy but you still get those lines that just floor you. 

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is rated PG-13 for thematic elements including violent content, and for some language. It is void of vulgarity and crudeness. Older teens may find it too slow even with the silliness. Adults will enjoy the heartfelt approach but might be turned off or dulled by the constant attempt at side splitting one liners. Should you see it? By all means. I give it 3.5 out of 5 sausages. Not groundbreaking but enjoyable none the less. 


The Dog Lover - Review

PG | 1h 41min | Drama
Review - Matt Mungle

*In theaters July 8th 2016*

Synopsis:Sara Gold is a rising star at the United Animal Protection Agency (UAPA), a major animal rights organization that conducts animal rescues and lobbies for better animal welfare laws. Handpicked for a major assignment, Sara goes undercover as a college intern to infiltrate a suspected "puppy mill" run by the enigmatic Daniel Holloway.

Review: THE DOG LOVER is an intriguing story that manages to keep the intensity and drama elevated without ever losing its family friendly nature. Granted it has the feel and movement of a film best suited for TV or on-demand rental but that in no way takes away from the positive moments. 

Sara (Allison Paige) is an educated journalist squandering (if you listen to her parents) her degree by working for nearly nothing at an animal rights organization. She loves what she does and is driven by her concern for the welfare of her four legged friends. Her latest assignment is to go undercover at a well known dog breeder to try and gather anything that would expose and help shut them down. While there she encounters something quite different and must decide which side is right. 

Dogs are always good fodder for an emotional drama. Director Alex Ranarivelo uses the backdrop of this story to his advantage. The viewer is instantly engaged regardless of the forced dialogue of the characters. It is not that anyone is horrible in their craft but you can also tell they are all acting.  Paige is convincing enough and it could be the fault lies mainly in the script. The standout performance often comes from the very familiar James Remar as the mill owner, Daniel Holloway. He has a brooding intensity that fits his role perfectly. You respect Daniel's authority and can understand his perspective; even if you don't like him. Mrs. Holloway is played by the lovable Lea Thompson who we always enjoy seeing.

The story is written in a way that you get a lot of different dynamics. It moves from the Animal Rights headquarters to the Puppy Mill to eventually the courtroom. With each transition the level of anxiety rises. Just as it should. You want justice served and thankfully it is not an easy payoff. It holds you until the very end. Sara is a tough customer who does not back down from a fight. This tenacity also helps her character to rise above the mediocre script. She joins forces with Daniel's disenchanted son Will (Jayson Blair) in her search for the truth. Their relationship takes some cliche back roads but it is not a terrible misdirection. Just unnecessary. 

THE DOG LOVER is rated PG for thematic elements, brief disturbing images and some language. It is safe and interesting for older family members, 10 and up. There are a few very brief moments of animal peril but this is handled correctly. I give it 3 out of 5 quarantine kennels. The script is the biggest downfall but luckily the meat of the story is not completely lost. 


The Secret Life of Pets - Review

PG  |  90 min  |  Animation, Comedy, Family
Review - Matt Mungle

*In theaters July 8th 2016*

SynopsisA terrier named Max has his quiet life upended when his owner also takes in Duke, a stray mutt whom Max instantly dislikes.

Review: Tails are wagging with enhanced excitement for the new animated family flick, THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS. Excitement has been brewing since we first saw that headbanging poodle, Leonard. Sadly all of the really tasty morsels are in the trailer and the rest is just a standard bowl of dry kibble. 

Max (Louis C.K.) is a cute enough terrier with an even cuter owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper). They have been the best of buddies for as long as Max can remember. It is a perfect life until Katie brings home a large, hairy, boorish, mutt named Duke (Eric Stonestreet). When Max's plan to get rid of Duke causes them both to end up on the street their neighborhood pals must come to the rescue and make sure Max and Duke get home safely. Along the way they battle a street wise bunny (Kevin Hart) and animal control.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this film. It has several funny moments and the writers nail the animal characteristics. Pet owners will get all the jokes and appreciate the way each species is handled. Even the pet/owner dynamic is spot on. The story has plenty of adventure and everyone in the family will enjoy certain aspects of it. The problem is that all of the high lite moments that you would want to encounter fresh and organic have been saturated in clips and commercials. By the time you see them in the context of the film they feel old and stale. The rest of the film is just a safe and anecdotal production. 

If there is one saving grace it is the addition of the bunny Snowball. Having Hart voice this tossed aside pet was such a wise decision. Kevin's delivery of the dialogue is the same rapid fire, slightly put out, self deprecating tone we love. And to have it come out of a small fluffy rabbit it comic gold. The rest of the voiced actors fit their characters nicely. Jenny Slate voices Gidget, a small prim and proper Pomeranian who has a little secret her own. Dana Carvey will draw in the older crowd fittingly as a crusty older dog they call Pops.

Though they pack this full of dogs there are also several other variety of animals to add depth to the litter. Cat lovers (and those that simply tolerate them) will especially enjoy watching Chloe (Lake Bell). There is no question that cats are a breed apart. Kids will have fun watching the animals interact but the adults will certainly respond to the subtle personalities.

In the middle of all the fun is a lighthearted message about how much we love our pets. Thankfully the preachy heavy handed message of pet adoption is delivered delicately. There is no agenda in this film but to make us take a look at our pets for what they are; vital members of our family. 

THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS is rated PG for action and some rude humor. It is certainly safe and fin for the whole family. If you have never owned a pet and find them smelly and intrusive then you will probably take very little from this. The majority of the population will delight in seeing their favorite pet brought to animated life. I give it 3 out of 5 retractable leashes. There are moments that shine but most of the better ones have been dulled by mass marketing. 

Precious Cargo [Blu-ray + Digital HD]

  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: 
  • Studio: LIONSGATE
  • DVD Release Date: June 28, 2016
  • Run Time: 90 minutes

Synopsis:  Betrayal and deceit take center stage in Precious Cargo, the electrifying heist-thriller arriving on Blu-ray (plus Digital HD), DVD (plus Digital), and Digital HD on June 28 from Lionsgate. Starring Mark-Paul Gosselaar (TV’s “NYPD Blue”), Bruce Willis (Die Hard Franchise), and Claire Forlani (TV’s “NCIS: Los Angeles”), Precious Cargo tells the story of a criminal couple forced to confront the limits of their loyalties. The edge-of-your-seat thriller is available now On Demand.
Adrenaline-pumping chases and deadly double crosses electrify this twist-filled thriller. After a botched heist, thieves and ex-lovers Jack and Karen (Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Claire Forlani) are targeted by Eddie (Bruce Willis), a murderous crime boss. To escape with their lives, Jack and Karen must steal a cargo of precious gems. But when the job goes down, allegiances are betrayed and lines are crossed as Jack, Karen, and Eddie face off in a fateful showdown.
  • “The Making of Precious Cargo” Featurette
  • Cast/Crew Interviews

Review: Bruce Willis in an action movie is like steaks on the grill or drinks by the pool; they go together and always draw a crowd. In this one he is even more intense as the baddie set on revenge. Gosselaar packs a pretty decent punch as well. This one is a perfect renter for guys night movie watching in the man cave or home theater. 

The Divergent Series: Allegiant [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD]

  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: 
     Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: July 12, 2016
  • Run Time: 120 minutes

Synopsis:  In this third exciting film in The Divergent Series, Tris and Four lead a team of rebels in a daring escape over the city wall—into a strange new world where they face a threat more dangerous than they ever imagined. Together, Tris and Four wage a furious battle for survival, fighting not only for their factions and loved ones, but for the future of an entire city in this dynamic, action-packed adventure.

Review:  - Matt Mungle - In the world of dystopian film franchises DIVERGENT seems to be the one series most people are adamant about. You either really love them or truly hate them. They are certainly not as popular as MAZE RUNNER and HUNGER GAMES so the need to split the final act into two films is just arrogant. The Divergent Series: Allegiant - Part 1 is fun visually but the thin script and non-engaging dialogue make it hard to get behind.

Jeanine is now gone but the atmosphere inside the walled Chicago is still volatile. Death trials. dissension, and a lack of leadership have made things go from bad to worse. Tris (Shailene Woodley) has decided enough is enough and flees the city along with Four (Theo James), Peter (Miles Teller), Christina (ZoÎ Kravitz), and Caleb (Ansel Elgort). They are in search of answers. What they find is more questions in the form of a unified city and its charismatic leader, David (Jeff Daniels). He has been watching Tris and her friends since birth and the people of this new area revere them as legendary heroes. But of course not all is what it seems.

The world that this film creates is stunning to see on the big screen. The effects and imagery draws the eye in and submerges you in a futuristic society that is unrecognizable. The gadgets and vehicles are technologically advanced and fit the surroundings. The film immediately sets up the mood and tension of those left in Chicago. For a brief moment you are encouraged about what is to unfold over the next two hours. But then people start talking and the plot gets lost in its self. It is then you realize that the only thing this has going for it is a pretty face; or two. 

Tris no doubt get's a lot of screen time in this one. We get to see her torn between her love for Four and her deep desire to get answers from David. Woodley brings a lot of depth to Tris and without it this movie would be even more ridiculous. The scenes later on between her and Daniels are the most solid. But too many holes are left unfilled and we end up not really caring about his motives and the "full picture". Perhaps they are trying to set things up for part two but why bother. They should have tried to make one solid thick film to end it instead ff trying to draw it out. That now leaves the need for too many failed attempts at witty humor and character interaction. 

Four is probably the best character to watch. He is a tough, focused, no nonsense guy. He doesn't allow emotion or favoritism to cloud his judgment. Peter is the comic relief and Teller is always able to bring that cocky arrogant swagger to a role. You certainly can't trust him but you want to hang out with him regardless. 

As far as movies go these characters are all likable and dynamic. The issue is in the things the actors are asked to say and do. They are all talented young people so the fault is not in their ability. No one can honestly deliver lines of lackluster dialogue in a way that is riveting or believable. For this installment Noah Oppenheim was brought in to help with the screenplay. We know he has skills for what he did with the first Maze Runner screenplay. So the obvious fault is in the source material. The books were not solid enough to transfer to the big screen. The franchise started when this YA genre was exploding and someone figured anything would work. Now all these years later they are discovering what can stand up and what can't. This one just can't.

The Divergent Series: Allegiant - Part 1 is rated PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements, and some partial nudity. To be honest there is nothing in this one that would be a surprise for those who have seen the past franchise flicks. The violence and themes are the strongest concern for parents. Even the nudity isn't really nudity. You just happen to know they aren't wearing clothes without every seeing anything. Plus it is not in a sexual moment but more of a Silkwood shower moment. I give it 2 out of 5 gas masks. To be honest I would like to get a hit of that stuff so I can forget all about this flick.

§  Audio Commentary with Producers Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher
§  Six Featurettes:
o   Allegiant: Book to Film
o   Battle in the Bullfrog: The Stunts and Choreography Behind This Thrilling Sequence
o   Finding the Future: Effects & Technology
o   Characters in Conflict: The Motivations Behind the Film’s Antagonists
o   The Next Chapter: Cast & Characters
o   Building the Bureau

Emma's Chance - DVD

  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: 
     Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: July 5, 2016
  • Run Time: 93 minutes
There was a lull in the "horse friend" films but in the last few years they seem to be making a steady comeback; and young girls especially are watching them with great fondness. This one is a perfect family flick or a super safe option for the summer sleepover.  - Matt Mungle

  • Synopsis:  While volunteering at a horse rescue, Emma forms an unlikely bond with an abused horse that won’t let anyone else ride him. Gaining new skills and confidence, Emma hatches a plan to redeem herself and ultimately save the ranch she’s grown to love.

Search Party (Blu-ray + Digital HD)

  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: 
  • Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: July 5, 2016
  • Run Time: 93 minutes

This film is for all those who miss the early movies in the HANGOVER series. Though nothing will compare to that franchise, SEARCH PARTY does bring quite a few laughs and outrageous moments. Solid character acting and writing that isn't insanely bad make this a good rental option. - Matt Mungle

  • Synopsis:  A pair of friends embark on a rescue mission to save their pal and reunite him with the woman he was set to marry in the hilarious comedy Search Party, now available on Digital HD and On Demand, and coming to Blu-ray™ and DVD on July 5, 2016 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Directed by Scot Armstrong (writer of Old School and Road Trip), the movie stars T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley) and Adam Pally (Happy Endings) as the groomsmen swept up in south-of-the-border shenanigans to help their buddy, played by Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley)
  • When the love of his life (Shannon Woodward of Raising Hope) jilts Nadro (Middleditch) at the altar thanks to his hard-partying pals Jason (Miller) and Evan (Pally), he follows her down to Mexico – where he’s carjacked and left naked in the middle of nowhere. Reluctantly summoning his friends to help him get back his runaway bride-to-be, Nadro plunges into an escalating series of outrageous misadventures courtesy of the guys who created the mess in the first place. The raucous comedy also stars Alison Brie (Community) and Krysten Ritter (Marvel’s Jessica Jones).


NR (17+)  |  1h 30min | Action, Crime, Horror 
Review - Matt Mungle

*In select theaters and VOD July 1st 2016*

This pure-pulp thrill ride jumps between past and present as it pieces together the puzzle of a shocking crime. It’s 1978 and a bank robbery gone wrong leaves Vivian (The Last Exorcism’s Ashley Bell) the hostage of two criminals on the run. But things go from bad to off-the-rails berserk when she and her captors wind up on the sun-baked desert outpost of a deranged ex-military sniper (Pat Healy), who ensnares them in his deadly game of cat and mouse. Rising horror auteur Mickey Keating (Pod, Darling) directs this gritty, grisly homage to the glory days of grindhouse cinema.

Review: CARNAGE PARK took me back to the films I used to rent as a teen. Those days when all you had to go by was the box art at the video store. It is a high energy fuel ride that makes you glad you are, at the moment, safe and secure. Mickey Keating has a knack for directing the horror genre so that it is more about the intensity and skin crawling characters instead of run of the mill, seen-it-a-hundred times, cliches.

Ashley Bell also shows she can get down and dirty with the best of them. She is no easy win blonde and the villains in this film soon learn the hard way. Vivian (Bell) has found herself in the worst situation when she is held hostage by some bumbling bank robbers. Now she must try and find her way out of a sadistic, mad man's (Pat Healy) playground. 

Healy looks far too comfortable in the deranged role. You can add him to the list of creepy off the grid psycho's that haunt your nightmares. He plays it subtle with little or no hint of sanity. He is calm in his craziness which is always the most terrifying. 

Though Unrated CARNAGE PARK is an adult film due to the graphic violence and language. Not for the squeamish or lighthearted. Those who love tasty cinema soaked in gritty, grindhouse spices will eat this one up.