A knowing, very sharp script gives this comedy a very strong kick as it tells a story about interlopers in America's Christian subculture. It would have been easy to either take cheap potshots or veer into inspirational sentimentality, but the filmmakers cleverly navigate a middle ground that refuses to simplify either the morality or the message. It's a lively, entertaining romp with real bite.
The film opens in Austin, Texas, where Sam (Alex Russell) is stunned to learn that he won't graduate and go to law school unless he pays $9,000 in overdue fees. Then he gets an idea from a Christian youth group raising funds for a mission trip to Hawaii: why not start a charity funding wells in Africa and keep some of the cash for himself? He enlists the help of his three best friends (Miles Fisher, Max Adler and Sinqua Walls), and before they know it they're headlining major events to adoring crowds across the country. This rock-star life is very lucrative too, especially as they continue to learn better ways to convince the crowd that they're true believers. But as the moral high ground becomes swamped by all that cash, they begin to have their doubts.
It's clear that writer-director Will Bakke and cowriter Michael B. Allen know only too well what they're talking about, as the film cuts a razor-like swathe right through church culture, from repetitive worship songs and cliche-ridden prayers to Christian-targeted movies. Even more pointed is the way the film deals with the vast amounts of money that have essentially turned the fundamentalist church in America into a mega-corporation that knows exactly how to deploy right-wing political sloganeering to get their followers on their feet cheering. These issues are actually integral to the story, as Sam and his friends discover the secrets to helping Christians feel better about themselves as they part with their cash.
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There comes a time in a relationship when baby talk must be had. When Audrey brings the subject up with husband Tommy, he doesn't think sowing the seeds of nature would be a problem - especially since he sold a sample of his sperm to the local sperm bank some years ago. However, after being unsuccessful at getting his wife pregnant several times, they go to a doctor who informs him of his extremely low sperm count. Feeling slightly emasculated, he suggests that there could be a problem, perhaps, with Audrey's body, but the doctor dismisses the idea as her ovaries are in perfect shape. Remembering when he sold his sperm sample, he revisits the sperm bank and requests it back in a last bid to have a baby. When the man at the clinic tells him it has already been sold, Tommy offers twice the amount of money they did in order to win it back. He is refused but his friends persuade him that he has the right to steal it back and so they set out on a scheme to retrieve his last chance at fatherhood.
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On a corporate outing, Sam (D'Agosto) has a horrific premonition that a suspension bridge will collapse. He escapes the doomed bus with six colleagues and their annoying boss (Koechner), but Death isn't letting them get away that easily. Soon they start dying in complicated freak accidents. A federal agent (Vance) questions Sam ("That looks premeditated to me!"), while a coroner (Todd) says they can escape if someone dies in their place. So while Sam tries to get his ex (Bell) back, his friend Peter (Fisher) looks for a way out.
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Sam Lawton is with his girlfriend Emma, when he has a premonition that the bridge they are on will collapse, killing everyone that's on it. It is only when his vision starts coming true that he manages to save himself and Emma, as well as a handful of other people. But it soon becomes clear to the group of survivors that they were all supposed to die on the bridge. As they try to cheat death, they all start dying starts one by one.
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If the 3 hour and 49 minute Civil War epic "Gods and Generals" is any indication, the Union and the Confederate armies must have talked each other to death.
The movie has, at most, five scattered minutes of story addressing the political issues that split the nation in 1861. It has maybe 30 minutes of battle scenes and another 15 focused exclusively on Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's pneumonia.
The balance of the picture is spent on florid speeches, polemic pontifications and protracted prayers, extensively detailed attack plans, scene after scene exploring the marriages of its military icons, and passing mentions of slavery (which apparently no one in this Southern army actually favored), while largely ignoring the other more direct causes of the war.
Continue reading: Gods & Generals Review