Headline Features / Gravitas Features
Rated PG-13 for profanity
Collegians Form Fake Charity To Fleece Gullible Christians In Faith-Based Morality Play
Even though I was raised in the church and attended services religiously as a child, I was simultaneously warned by my skeptical grandmother that sometimes, “The closer supposedly to Christ, the further from God.” That sage old saying came to mind while watching Believe Me, an intriguing modern morality play written and directed by Will Bakke (Beware Of Christians).
The story revolves around the ethical issues confronting Sam Atwell (Alex Russell), a law school-bound college senior, or at least he thought. Trouble is, his parents suddenly can’t afford to pay his final semester’s tuition which means he won’t be able to graduate on time or continue his education the following fall.
This is the predicament we find the handsome upperclassman facing at the picture’s point of departure, a time when he’d really rather be hazing pledges to his fraternity and hooking up with cute coeds he meets at keg parties. And after a futile visit with the unsympathetic school dean (Nick Offerman), Sam knows he simply has to come up with the $9,000 somehow, if he wants to get that degree in June.
Thinking outside the box, he concocts an elaborate scheme to separate gullible Evangelicals from their cash, figuring them to be a soft touch. So, he enlists the assistance of a few of his frat brothers in the nefarious endeavor, namely, Pierce (Miles Fisher), Tyler (Sinqua Wells) and Baker (Max Adler).
The plan is to prevail upon Born Again congregations by posing as a Christian charity assisting needy children in Africa. In due course, Sam proves to be such a good pitchman that the money starts flooding in.
That development is not lost on Ken (Christopher McDonald), a faith-oriented entrepreneur who offers to help take the boys’ burgeoning business to the next level. Soon, as the God Squad, they’re on the prayer meeting tent circuit and selling a Christian clothing line called Cross Dressing that includes “F-Satan” t-shirts and the like.
However, the sinful scheme begins to unravel when they have no place to send a kid (Chester Rushing) who wants to do missionary work with them in Lesotho. And the moment of truth arrives when the pretty tour coordinator (Johanna Braddy) Sam’s just started dating is given proof by a colleague (Zachary Knighton) that her new beau is a big fraud.
At this juncture, the jig is essentially up, whether or not the arrogant co-conspirators are too blinded by a combination of cynicism and greed to confess to the crime. After all, they’d taken such glee in exploiting foolish followers of Christ by strategically faking everything from appropriately-pious poses to the right religious buzzwords.
A thought-provoking, faith-based parable asking whether it’s ever too late to make a second impression, especially on God.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 93 minutes
Rated R for sexuality, nudity, drug use, graphic violence and pervasive profanity
Brit Hackers Hustle Gangster In High Octane, High Body Count Heist
Sometimes, a film unfolds so fast and furiously that it’s hard to keep score. Such is the case with Plastic, a high-octane, high body count affair following the antics of a stolen credit card ring run by a brilliant and brazen computer hacker named Sam (Ed Speelers).
The movie opens with one of those “Based on a True Story” (Google Saq Mumtaz) which might mean that what you’re about to see is the cinematic culmination of painstakingly-researched historical fact. However, it’s could just as easily be serving as a disclaimer designed to sucker you into believing a farfetched story since, well, somebody once said it happened.
I suspect that this tall tale belongs in the latter category. Regardless, I suppose all that matters in the end is whether the picture has any entertainment value. Plastic does throw a lot of testosterone-directed gore and sensuality at you, but not much for anyone outside of the eroticized violence demographic.
The fun starts when the gang of four steals the identity of Marcel (Thomas Kretschmann) to the tune of a couple hundred thousand pounds. Boy, does this sadistic gangster know how to hold a grudge. Soon enough, he turns the tables and has the college student punks promising to pay him back 10 times the amount they stole, plus interest.
High-stylized piffle designed to titillate and satiate bloodlust while slowly turning your brain to mush!
Fair (1 star)
Running time: 102 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening October 3, 2014
Annabelle (R for terror and disturbing violence) Harrowing prequel to The Conjuring revolving around a husband (Ward Horton) who comes to regret buying a cursed antique doll for his pregnant wife (Annabelle Wallis) and unborn daughter. With Alfre Woodard, Eric Ladin and Brian Howe.
Gone Girl (R for profanity, a scene of gruesome violence, graphic sexuality and frontal nudity) Screen adaptation of the Gillian Flynn best-seller of the same name about a man (Ben Affleck) who becomes the prime suspect in the mysterious disappearance of the wife (Roasmund Pike) that vanished on their fifth anniversary. Cast includes Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris and Sela Ward.
The Good Lie (PG-13 for mature themes, violence, drug use and brief profanity) Fact-based drama recounting the tireless efforts of a headstrong employment counselor (Reese Witherspoon) on behalf of several Lost Boys, Sudanese refugees from ethnic cleansing seeking to resettle inKansas. WithArnold Oceng, Ger Duany, Emmanuel Jal and Kuoth Wiel.
Bang Bang! (Unrated) Bollywood remake of Knight And Day (2010), the Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz action comedy about a woman (Katrina Kaif) headed to a wedding who ends up on the run from a team of assassins after unwittingly befriending the handsome spy (Hrithik Roshan) she meets at the airport. Support cast includes Danny Denzongpa, Jaaved Jaffrey and Jimmy Shergill. (In Hindi with subtitles)
The Blue Room (Unrated) Crime thriller set in a country hotel where a married Frenchman (Mathieu Amalric) finds himself trapped in a passionate affair with a very desperate mistress (Stephanie Cleau). With Lea Drucker, Laurent Poitrenaux and Serge Bozon. (In French with subtitles)
The Decent One (Unrated) Revisionist documentary promoting Hitler henchman/Nazi Gestapo chief Heinrich Himmler as a sensitive family man as revealed by his letters, diary, photo albums and home movies. (In English and German with subtitles)
Drive Hard (Unrated) Action comedy about a retired racecar driver (Thomas Jane) who finds himself pressed into service at gunpoint as the getaway driver for a crook (John Cusack) pulling off a multimillion-dollar heist. Featuring Zoe Ventoura, Christopher Morris and Yesse Spence.
Fishing Without Nets (R for profanity, violence, drug use and sexual images) High seas drama about a Somali pirate (Abdikani Muktar) who changes his mind about participating in a hijacking conspiracy while in the midst of holding a French oil tanker for ransom. With Eric Gordon, Abdiwali Farrah and Idil Ibrahim. (In Somali with subtitles)
A Good Marriage (R for violence, sexuality, profanity and disturbing images) Screen adaptation of the Stephen King short story about a woman (Joan Allen) forced to reevaluate her 25-year marriage after discovering her husband’s (Anthony LaPaglia) deep, dark secret. Featuring Stephen Lang, Will Rogers and Theo Stockman.
Inner Demons (Unrated) Tawdry tale of demonic possession about a devoutly religious couple (Colleen McGrann and Christopher Parker) who decide to allow a reality-TV show to record the intervention they stage for their daughter (Lars Vosburgh) in need of an exorcism after the 16-year-old straight-A student becomes addicted to heroin. With Kate Whitney, Morgan McClellan and Brian Flaherty.
Left Behind (PG-13 for violence, peril, mature themes and brief drug use) Remake of the post-apocalyptic thriller from 2000 based on the Tim LaHaye sci-fi novel of the same name about the plight of a small group of survivors in the wake of the sudden disappearance of millions of people. Hey, where’d everybody go? Starring Nicolas Cage, Lea Thompson, Nicky Whelan and Cassi Thomson.
The Liberator (R for violence, grisly images, sexuality and nudity) Edgar Ramirez plays the title character in this historical biopic about Simon Bolivar, the military leader who, in the early 19th century, mounted over a hundred battles against the Spanish Empire all over South America. With Erich Wildpret, Maria Valverde and Juana Acosta. (In Spanish, English and French with subtitles)
Men, Women & Children (R for profanity and pervasive graphic sexuality) Coming-of-age dramedy following a group of teens dealing with the ways in which the internet affects their relationships, self-image, communication and love lives. Ensemble cast includes Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Emma Thompson, J.K. Simmons, Dennis Haysbert, Rosemarie DeWitt, Judy Greer and Ansel Eigort.
The Supreme Price (Unrated) Female empowerment documentary about women’s ongoing fight for equal rights in Nigeria in the face of an oppressive culture that is both misogynistic and corrupt.