Morris from America - Review

R | 1h 31min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
Review - Matt Mungle

*In select theaters September 2nd 2016*

SynopsisA heartwarming and crowd-pleasing coming-of-age comedy with a unique spin, Morris from America centers on Morris Gentry a 13-year-old who has just relocated with his single father, Curtis to Heidelberg, Germany. To complicate matters further, Morris quickly falls hard for his cool, rebellious, 15-year-old classmate Katrin.

Review: I have been a fan of Craig Robinson since the early days of The Office. His laid back demeanor and smooth delivery give his roles a relaxed since of realness. Having him as a single dad in MORRIS FROM AMERICA peaked my curiosity and bumped up my desire to check it out. The film was the Sundance Film Festival 2016 Winner and picked up the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. All of these facts make this coming of age tale intriguing. But the question is, "for what audience?".

Morris Gentry (Markees Christmas) is a likable young teen. As with any 13 year-old he is just trying to find his groove. It is hard adjusting to life in Germany with his single father (Craig Robinson) since Morris doesn't quite fit in. The language and lifestyle is far different than what he is used to and his attempts to make friends often backfires. When he starts attending the youth activity center he meets Katrin (Lina Keller) who helps him come out of his shell a tad bit. Morris longs to be a rapper and this of course is interesting to his new German friend. But rapping is about life and Morris may not have lived it enough to bust any serious rhymes

The father son moments are the foundation of this story and the scenes with Christmas and Robinson are the best. Granted their frank, open dialogue about everything from sex to rap music may catch many off guard. Morris idolizes Snoop and Biggie and much of his lyrics and speech emulate that. Markees is able to handle the adult nature of these conversations with a confidence and poise that elevates his performance to award worthy. He is very comfortable in his own skin even in the most awkward of scenes. Robinson is as good an onscreen dad as you will see. Yes he may talk to his son in a vernacular that most of us might shy away from but it never seems fake or manipulative. He captures the essence of a father trying to make a straight path of his son. He is a working man dealing with the hand he has been given. The balance between letting his son grow while still keeping the boundaries in place is tricky.

The script is solid and writer/director Chad Hartigan handles the content efficiently. Having a 30 something year old  white guy from Cyprus pen a story about a black American father and son seems a little odd. You may wonder at times if the conversation would actual play out like it does. Though delivered well the actual words often has a disconnect from what many of us would consider reality. But for the most part it works. 

MORRIS FROM AMERICA is rated R for teen drug use and partying, sexual material, brief nudity, and language throughout. It is the rating and content that make it difficult to figure out who this film is for. One of my favorite family dynamic films of all times is LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. Though focused on family the content was certainly not for the entire family. Similarly this one also is about a young boy but made for adults. The language and many of the conversations may be a bit awkward for mixed viewing. I found it funny and heartwarming but many times was glad I was not watching it with family members. I give it 3 out of 5 water guns. But a low three. The performances are fantastic but I am not sure the film would have anything else going for it without those. 


THE WONDER YEARS: THE COMPLETE SERIES, a Specially-Priced 22-Disc Collection

  • Synopsis
  • For six seasons, The Wonder Years captured the angst of growing up in suburban middle-class America in the late '60s, as seen through the life and times of Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage).  Audiences eagerly followed his evolution as a typical awkward teenager who remembered every moment of his transition from childhood with excruciating detail and remarkable hindsight.  From his first kiss with Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar) to his friendship with Paul Pfeiffer (Josh Saviano) and the ups and downs of the Arnold family, fans shared in laughter, love, and loss, but above all, wonder. 
  • This 22-DVD set contains all 115 episodes from the six seasons of this landmark series that aired from 1988 to 1993.  Included in this specially-priced slipcase set are complete show notes with episode synopses, cast member reflections, "Current Events," and more plus nearly 12 hours of bonus material, as well as an astounding soundtrack of over 300 classic period songs as they were featured in the original broadcasts featuring such artists as: Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, The Byrds,  Simon & Garfunkel, Aretha Franklin, James Taylor, and of course, Joe Cocker's unforgettable theme. 


    • Highlights from the first cast reunion in 16 years 
    • Roundtable discussions with Danica McKellar, Fred Savage, and Josh Saviano 
    • 6 newly produced featurettes 
    • Farewell set tour 
    • One-hour ABC broadcast of the series finale 
    • Exclusive interviews with the show's creators and cast including Fred Savage, Danica       McKellar, Josh Saviano, Alley Mills, Dan Lauria, Olivia d'Abo, Jason Hervey, and more!  

The Nice Guys (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Ultraviolet Combo Pack)

  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: 
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: August 23, 2016

  • SynopsisSet in 1970s Los Angeles, down-on-his-luck private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and hired enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) must work together to solve the case of a missing girl and the seemingly unrelated death of a porn star. During their investigation, they uncover a shocking conspiracy that reaches up to the highest circles of power.


“The Nice Guys” Blu-ray Combo Pack contains the following special features:
  • Always Bet On Black
  • Worst. Detectives. Ever. Making The Nice Guys

“The Nice Guys” Standard Definition DVD contains the following special features:
  • Always Bet On Black


Ben-Hur - Review

PG-13 | 2h 4min | Adventure, Drama
Review - Matt Mungle

*Now playing in theaters*

SynopsisJudah Ben-Hur, a prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother, an officer in the Roman army, returns to his homeland after years at sea to seek revenge, but finds redemption.

Review: When the original Ben-Hur movie released in 1959 it was three and a half hours long and won eleven Oscars. This reboot is luckily much shorter but with fewer award worthy elements. Truth be told it is a very good film and one that will move and inspire viewers. Its story of forgiveness and heartbeat of endurance may not win the attention of voters but it is sure to thrill and stir the emotions of movie goers. 

Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) and his adopted brother Messala Severus (Toby Kebbell) have always had a competitive nature; rooted in a bond of love and friendship. When a tragic event forces Severus to choose between his family and the Romans he now serves Ben-Hur is thrust into a nightmare world of slavery and a mind set on revenge. 

The story is powerful and this adaptation is masterfully written so that it moves steadily throughout. We are introduced to the characters in a time of peace then quickly moved to the dramatic moments that make it riveting. It covers a lot of ground both historically and fictionally without ever losing its way. We see the upheaval in Jerusalem due to the rise of the Roman government. Audiences feel the tension and empathize for Ben-Hur and the decisions he makes. He is a good man trying to do what is right. But as with most dramatic tales this backfires horribly. 

The film looks incredible.This was an unexpected and pleasant surprise. The attention to detail of the costumes as well as creating a Jerusalem countryside that mirrors what I would expect 33 AD to be set it apart from most dramas of that era. Other than Morgan Freeman most of the cast would not be considered a-listers. A smart move as this more than likely helped the studio to budget in ways that mattered most. It was a decision that paid off richly considering that these lesser known actors deliver top notch performances. 

Many may consider this to be a biblical film since it is set in the time period and home of Jesus. And yes Jesus (Rodrigo Santoro) is even a character in the film. But the movie is not biblical. We see Jesus as a contemporary of Ben-Hur and his presence is more of a vision of the thoughts and motives of his teachings. Not in a preachy or sermonizing way. But more of a compassionate nature that  effected Ben-Hur and later drives his decision making. It is a powerfully subtle inclusion in the story. 

Great story or not the true test of a Ben-Hur film is that final chariot race. That is payoff we all want to see. It has to be large and loud and colorful. We want to gasp and cling to our seats as the horses and chariots fly around the Colosseum and deadly speeds. Like those who attended them live we secretly want to see blood and crashes and our favorite man win. The race here is filmed nicely. We get all the elements just mentioned as well as the heart of the riders. We know what is at stake. We have felt the emotion of the journey leading up to it. We understand the importance of it. Not the sport only but the need for victory. That helps to elevate the excitement and fury of that final action sequence. 

BEN-HUR is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and disturbing images. I would say the themes and dialogue make it better suited for the 16 and up crowd. The imagery is at times graphic and might be a tad much for your preteen family members. It is a touching and moving portrayal of one mans heroic journey. I give it 3.75 out of 5 slings and arrows. I must admit I went in with very low expectations and came out on the other side very satisfies with the experience. It is a film I would watch again and might even slip in an award vote as well. 

Free To Run - Review

Unrated  |  1h 30min | Documentary 
Review - Matt Mungle

*Now playing in select theaters*

SynopsisToday, all anybody needs to run is the determination and a pair of the right shoes. But just fifty years ago, running was viewed almost exclusively as the domain of elite male athletes who competed on tracks. With insight and propulsive energy, director Pierre Morath traces running’s rise to the 1960s, examining how the liberation movements and newfound sense of personal freedom that defined the era took the sport out of the stadiums and onto the streets, and how legends like Steve Prefontaine, Fred Lebow, and Kathrine Switzer redefined running as a populist phenomenon.

Review: The documentary FREE TO RUN is a brilliant insight into what many of us today take for granted. We see people of all ages, genders, and nationalities running. It is as common as grocery shopping. But not so long ago only a small handful of people did it and others found them quite strange. Too were women who wanted to run but were banned from doing so. The stories here are inspiring and at times mind blowing. 

It seems almost science fiction to watch the news footage and view photographs depicted in this film. Grown men of presumed intelligence, leaders in sports and medicine, proclaiming that if women were to run more than 100 meters it could damage them forever. In the 1950's and 1960s! Not the stone age. The brain can barely process the idiocy. When the Boston Marathon first started women were not allowed to be in it. To hear Kathrine Switzer recount those early days is riveting. Then to watch the progression as the sport took off and seeing footage of the first ever Female Olympic Marathon is emotional and cheer worthy. 

But not just the women were having issues. Here we see actual footage of track star Steve Prefontaine advocating the rights of amateur runners to be paid for their sport. Something unheard of in the 1970's. We see the early grassroots movements of companies like Nike and watch as Avon aids the rights of women runners. 

At the heart of the film is the NY marathon and how it went from a handful of Central Park runners to the mega event it is today. Much of this due to the hard work of a few dedicated enthusiasts who just liked to run. Personal stories and memorable accounts from some of the leading proponents of the sport of running make FREE TO RUN an inspiring, emotional, and informative Documentary. 

Though unrated it contains a couple of brief adult images. A must see for runners and anyone inspired by what a few dedicated enthusiasts can do.