The Whole Truth - Review

R | 1h 33min | Drama, Thriller
Review - Matt Mungle

*In theaters and VOD 10.21.16*

SynopsisA defense attorney works to get his teenage client acquitted of murdering his wealthy father.

Review: Though not a perfect film THE WHOLE TRUTH does have elements of a John Grisham thriller or high end made for TV movie. It doesn't boast or brag but moves subtly through a simple script. And although you may figure some things out early it will keep a few mysteries under wrap until the end. 

The film jumps right into the story line as Ramsey (Keanu Reeves) enters the court room to defend his teenaged client Mike (Gabriel Basso). Though only 16 Mike is being tried as an adult for the brutal stabbing of his father Boone (Jim Belushi). As witnesses take the stand we get the back story on Boone and the type of husband and father he was. The script does a decent job of keeping the audience guessing because you aren't sure who is telling the truth. Ramsey's job is made even harder by the fact that Mike has refused to speak since the killing. 

One good point is that this legal thriller spends the majority of time in the courtroom. Getting the story in testament form is actually better than seeing it in real time. Reeves has matured his acting skills and seems comfortable in the role. Again this is not a deep rooted script and it allows Keanu to handle the dialogue proficiently. He is supported at the table by Janelle played nicely by Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Belushi we see only in flashbacks but he nails the domineering parent. He is the guy in the neighborhood that you walk on egg shells around; hoping not to get on his bad side. 

Mike's mother is played by RenĂ©e Zellweger who, if you haven't seen current pics online, will be hard to recognize. The mannerisms and voice is hers but the face is a stranger. That is just a trivial point and of course doesn't hinder her performance. Zellweger is a fantastic dramatic actress and like Reeves has no problem with this script. 

The Whole Truth is a decent big screen option but a wonderful renter/vod option. The cast is well known and masters of their craft. As mentioned the script doesn't try too hard and some might find it too simplistic. But honestly the simplicity of it works here. Normally I am harsh on this type of narrative but the fact it kept me engaged and intrigued says a lot. 

It is rated R for language and some violence including a sexual assault. It is an adult film but nothing is vile or offensive. With a few edits it could be as tame as any Sunday night TV movie. If you are looking for a date night on the couch I would recommend it more than big box office ticket prices. But even with that option you won't walk away angry. I give it 3 out of 5 gavels. The higher rating as a renter. 

Certain Women - Review

R | 1h 47min | Drama
Review - Matt Mungle

*In theaters *

SynopsisThe lives of three women intersect in small-town America, where each is imperfectly blazing a trail.

Review: There  should be a golden rule in Hollywood that no matter how fantastic your movie looks it must must must have an engaging story or at least invested characters . CERTAIN WOMEN is a how-to of framing and capture but nothing else. Possibly the thinnest and most pointless script this year. 

The movie boasts of these three intersecting tales of American women blazing a trail. There is no trail blazing going on here and  the women seem more on the verge of immobility. The only weaving of story lines and characters are random people who scene drop one or twice. The individual stories are invisible tapestries of awkward silence and beat down personalities. These are women who seem ready to throw in the towel and are no where near the point of forging new fires. 

In act one we meet attorney Laura Wells (Laura Dern) who has a difficult client (Jared Harris) she can't convince to move on. I assume her "women" is the one whose voice is lost in a male dominant vocation. Maybe. Not really sure since the story gives us nothing about her to build on. She mopes from scene to scene until an anti climactic moment ends her part of the story. 

We then move on to a husband (James Le Gros) and wife (Michelle Williams) who may or may not be having marital problems. They may or may not be commune gypsies. They may or may not even be human. No one really knows. We watch them argue then try and negotiate a deal for sandstone from some random guy. The movie makes you think he is significant but if he is we never know why. This story is connected to the first one in a brief scene between the husband and Laura Wells. It could be pivotal but is never revisited. 

The final (thank god) story has even less impact than the first two. It is about a young law student (Kristen Stewart) who takes a job in a small town teaching a class. She misunderstood what town the class was in before accepting the job only to find out it was a four hour drive each way. She is befriended by one of the students (Lily Gladstone) who only showed up because she saw people going in the building, and they have some awkward meals together. 

Director Kelly Reichardt is fantastic and framing shots and capturing small town America through a camera lens. I applaud her sense of vision and eye for realness. But the script she wrote is so bad that you don't even care about the visuals. It really is  mess of nothing. 

What is worse is the caliber of female actors she had to work with. These women are tops in their field. And in a movie about trail blazing women it should have been ground breaking earth shattering performances. But instead it is an embarrassing waste of ability and talent. All because they were given nothing to work with. In fact the best performance and the one with any sort of depth or feeling is that of Gladstone. She is the only one you will engage with or feel for at all. 

CERTAIN WOMEN is rated R for some language. It truly is a boring snooze-fest. I give it 1 out of 5 milkshakes. I have not been so underwhelmed by potential in many a year. American women deserved better. 

In a Valley of Violence - review

R | 1h 44min | Western
Review - Matt Mungle

*In theaters October 21st 2016 *

SynopsisA mysterious stranger and a random act of violence drag a town of misfits and nitwits into the bloody crosshairs of revenge

Review: Congrats to writer/director Ti West on making me a fan of the western. Better known for his thriller/horror flicks here Ti creates an old west adventure full of sarcasm and unhinged individuals. IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE puts just enough tongue in the cheek to be witty without ever diluting the core of the genre. 

Paul (Ethan Hawke) is a quiet loner making his way south with his faithful four legged companion. He isn't looking for trouble but finds it none the less when he stops in a small, dried up town ruled by a bunch of loud mouthed bullies. The Marshall (John Travolta) doesn't totally have a handle on everything; especially keeping his people in line. When some dim witted locals push Paul too far it becomes a bloody, gun blazing, battle of revenge. 

Not being a fan of westerns I was first drawn to this film by the cast and premise. It didn't seem like your typical fare and I jumped at the chance to see Travolta in an action flick again, even if he was wearing boots and a hat. Plus I am a huge fan of Taissa Farmiga who also stars. She plays Mary Anne who along with her high maintenance sister Ellen (Karen Gillan) run the local hotel. Ellen has a desire for the finer things in life and bosses Mary Anne around. Some of the best onscreen interaction is between those two. 

But the meat of the film is of course the showdown between Paul and The Marshall. Travolta is superb in this role wielding his lines with a verbose attitude. He is a man who has been dealt a crappy hand in life and he figures he can fold or call. Part philosopher and part arrogant lawman he tries his best to salvage the situation and bring it all peacefully to an end. Hawke too delivers a grand performance as a man pushed too far. You root for him the same way you get behind anyone you see bullied or taken advantage of. Plus you really despise the main bad guy, Gilly (James Ransone) and can't wait for him to take a bullet. 

West keeps his story moving with well written dialogue and memorable characters. It never feels weighty or cliche. Often in Westerns I find myself just wanting it to be over. In this one Ti kept me engaged and wanting more. It was a subtle mix of knowing what was coming and trusting how he would get me there. His knack for the horror genre upped the intensity level of the violence. Not to the point of the macabre but extreme enough to squirm. It was fantastic.

In a Valley of Violence is obviously rated R for violence and language. A must see for fans of the cast and stylized westerns. I would hope the old school fans would embrace it as well. The wit and sarcasm never make fun of the genre but instead enhance the characters and bring the script to brilliant life. I give it 4 out of 5 pistol grips; for the genre. It sold me and I am probably the toughest customer. 


Jack Reacher: Never Go Back - Review

PG-13  |  118 min  |  Action, Adventure, Crime
Review - Matt Mungle

*In theaters October 21st 2016 *

SynopsisJack Reacher must uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy in order to clear his name. On the run as a fugitive from the law, Reacher uncovers a potential secret from his past that could change his life forever.

Review: There are many who have not adjusted to Tom Cruise taking on the persona of the hulking Jack Reacher of the Lee Child Novels. But in the first film of the franchise we found that if you overlook the character as someone brand new the movie is actually a decent watch. Sadly in JACK REACHER NEVER GO BACK you have to overlook even more. 

The film starts off as the book does with Reacher (Tom Cruise) pulling into DC in order to meet up with Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) who he has been having a long distance friendship with via the telephone. When he arrives he finds she has been arrested for espionage. Of course it is up to old Jack to get to the bottom of the whole thing and crack some bad guy skulls in the process. 

This one packs enough punches to satisfy the die hard action fans. Cruise takes on the quiet tough guy demeanor convincingly. Again you have to stop thinking about the guy in the novels for it to work; but it can. He is a no nonsense ex military cop who with the street smarts to see through all the red tape and glaring loopholes. Smulders is an excellent choice for Turner. She carries herself with confidence and isn't going to back down to any guy. Her natural beauty has a toughness about it that doesn't conflict with her military surroundings. If there is one thing in this movie you don't have to overlook it is her. 

The issue with this one is that it forgot what made the first film so enjoyable. The original script had twists and turns and never strayed from the point of the story; let Reacher be Reacher. This one has ridiculous villains, an unnecessary 15 year old, and a script that meandered back and forth with predictable scenarios and eye rolling dialogue. Unless this was meant for a Nickelodeon re-airing much of it was inexcusable. 

The character of Sam (Danika Yarosh) was so out of place and forced that it nearly topples the entire film. This is no reflection on Yarosh. She actually does a solid job with what she is given. Sam is a teenage girl with a rough past who gets caught up in this mess. Instead of getting rid of her early on the writers let her hang around for the entire ride. This means they have to give Sam something to do and most of what they write for her is sophomoric drivel mired in predictability. The scenes with Sam in them have a totally different feel from the rest of the film. The fans want a Jack Reacher movie not a daddy day care flick. 

Truth be told Reacher needed more to do as well. He almost feels secondary in this outing. Sort of a bystander looking on at what is happening around him. Sure he makes some decisions and roughs people up but other than that he simply looks confused. The best part of the entire movie is the opening scene which is also most of the trailer. It is him in the diner facing off against two local cops. That scene has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the movie but is the stand out moment. 

JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some bloody images, language and thematic elements. It is obviously a film for older viewers and 16 and up is a safe gauge. If you go in with lower expectations than the first film you might find it "ok". It has a fair amount of fist-a-cuffs so not a horrible option for a dudes night out. I give it 2.75 out of 5 salt shakers. Not quite enough bang for your box office buck.


Nerve [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD]

  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: 
     Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: Lionsgate
  • DVD Release Date: October 25, 2016
  • Run Time: 96 minutes

For a chance to win a copy of your own simply send an email to giveaway@mungleshow.com with "NERVE" in the subject line. No cost or obligation, standard contest rules apply. MUST BE 18 or older to enter. 

  • SynopsisA high-school wallflower named Vee (Emma Roberts) decides to participate in an online game that involves completing challenges and dares throughout New York City. Although she is initially thrilled by the game's antics -- and the fact that it asks her to partner with a handsome stranger (Dave Franco) for some of the tasks -- the experience eventually escalates into a life-or-death struggle.