Lionsgate, Others Offer Solid Alternatives To Hollywood’s Power Five Studios In 2015

Looking at numbers from the box office this year, one would imagine that theaters did quite well. In terms of financial figures, they did. But in terms of really worthwhile offerings, theaters and studios clearly did not do that well. That is because much like 2014 the major theatrical offerings churned out this year were prequels, sequels, and remakes. Next year looks to be sadly much the same in that aspect. Luckily for all of the brainless, unoriginal content churned out by Hollywood’s major studios this year, audiences were offered some viable alternatives. Many of those alternatives came courtesy of Lionsgate and other independent studios. Magnolia Films’ dramedy Life’s A Breeze is just one of the noted films that proved to be one of the year’s best new movies. The independently released buddy flick A Walk in the Woods is another of those great alternatives. IFC’s Match and Manglehorn aso proved to be viable alternatives to all of the prequels, sequels, and remakes churned out by Hollywood’s Power Five Studios. And who would have thought that Shaun The Sheep: The Movie would prove to be so enjoyable, too? There’s no dialogue at all. What’s more it’s a claymation flick. But it has so much heart. It is one that the whole family should see together at least once. It is just one more movie that made it onto this critic’s list of the year’s Top 10 New Movies. Speaking of that list the following collection of titles makes up the Phil’s Picks 2015 Top 10 New Movies. And as always the top 10 make up the main body of the list while the bottom five each receive honorable mention for a total of fifteen titles. Enough rambling. Without any further ado, here for your consideration dear readers, is the Phil’s Picks 2015 Top 10 New Movies.

















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Believe Me Boasts Both Depth And Entertainment

Courtesy:  Virgil Films

Courtesy: Virgil Films

Religion is one of the favorite topics of so many screenwriters out there. Going as far back as the 1923 take of The Ten Commandments (yes, there was one before the famed 1956 version starring Charlton Heston) and possibly even before that, religion has played a major part in the rich history of Hollywood. While many of the movies that have incorporated religion and religious themes into their scripts have gone on to be major success (E.g. Star Wars, Groundhog Day, The Ten Commandments) others have remained to this day just under that mainstream. They include the likes of Facing The Giants, The Nativity, Suing The Devil. While those movies in question might never have gained the massive popularity of their bigger-named brethren, it doesn’t lessen their enjoyment one bit. As a matter of fact, lesser known movies such as those listed or like United Artists’ 1994 religious based Saved! and The Chronicles of Narnia have proven that they are just as entertaining as their major name counterparts. Now indie studio Virgil Films has added another movie to that list of lesser-known but still enjoyable movies based in religion in the form of the entertaining and thoughtful story that is Believe Me. Believe Me was released on Blu-ray and DVD this week by Virgil Films. The script behind the movie lies at the center of its enjoyment. While the script is nothing new at any level it is still an enjoyable story nonetheless. The acting on the part of the movie’s young cast is another reason that audiences will enjoy the movie. Most audiences might not know the cast members’ names. Bu that doesn’t mean they are inexperienced. It shows in their interpretations of the script and their on-screen interactions. Last of note that makes the presentation in whole enjoyable is its pacing. Audiences never feel lost at any point in the story thanks to solid pacing, which ties right back to the work of the story’s writers. Because they never feel left behind, audiences in turn will have more time to take in the story that is Believe Me and discover exactly why the writing, acting, and pacing together make this a movie that is worth at least one watch and one that is just as enjoyable as any of its more well-known predecessors.
The script that was crafted for Virgil Films’ new movie Believe Me is nothing new in the world of movies. It centers on a young man—in this case Sam (Alex Russell—Chronicle, The Host, Unbroken) who plots to cheat a bunch of money out of a specific group of people and run off with said money. In the long run though, he thinks things over and eventually has a change of heart, which is ultimately revealed as the story unfolds. Part of the reason for his change of heart is the influence of a love interest played here by Johanna Braddy (Easy A, Greek, Avatar: The Last Airbender) This sort of plot goes all the way back to the beloved 1962 musical The Music Man and possibly even before that. So one might be left asking why exactly the movie is even worth one watch. The answer is simple. It isn’t The Music Man. It is similar. There’s no denying that. But the script’s entertaining yet deeply thought provoking look at the nature of people today calling themselves Christians sets it apart from The Music Man and so many others that have come before. While Saved! justifiably poked fun at the very true stereotypes of so many so-called “Christians,” it could be argued that Believe me comes across more as a commentary of sorts about the nature of not only the true believers who live their lives as best they can, but those delusional and hypocritical “Sunday Christians” (the ones who talk the talk but definitely don’t walk the walk on the weekdays), and the outright frauds. What audiences will really like about all of this is that Michael B. Allen and Will Bakke—the movie’s writers–don’t try to get preachy at any point in the story. Nor do they try to wax philosophical or even theological. They present the arguments of both sides in layman’s terms, thus making the story in whole more accessible for every day audiences. Simply put, Bakke and Allen don’t try to come across as being something that they aren’t. They just crafted a story that even despite not being the first of its kind at its roots, provides a solid starting point for some much more in-depth discussions among audiences both more versed in theological studies and those just attending bible studies every week. For that reason alone, it proves to be a movie that while independent is definitely worth at least one watch.
Allen and Bakke’s script by itself makes for plenty of reason for audiences to watch Believe Me at least once. The work of the movie’s young cast makes for even more reason for viewers to give the movie a chance. Lead actor Alex Russell conjures thoughts of James Van Der Beek (Dawson’s Creek, Varsity Blues, One Tree Hill) both with his look and his character’s overly confident swagger. It is that swagger that leads audiences to believe that Sam really does believe his scam is fine. On the opposite end is Sam’s love interest Callie (Johanna Braddy). Braddy is spot on as the strong, yet still slightly naïve type. Audiences will truly feel for Callie when she realizes that she has been fooled by Sam all along. That’s because of Braddy’s acting chops. She doesn’t try to ham it up. Rather she shows the utmost professionalism even with the understanding of the movie being an independent release. Braddy still makes Callie a fully believable and sympathetic character. Such a serious approach makes the juxtaposition of Callie to Sam is a prime example of why the work of Believe Me’s cast adds even more interest to the movie. It would be wrong to ignore the work of Russell’s other cast mates. Miles Fisher (J. Edgar, Final Destination 5, Bad Sports), Sinqua Walls (Teen Wolf, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Pair of Kings), and Max Adler (Glee, Switched at Birth, Love and Honor) play Sam’s friends Pierce, Tyler, and Baker respectively. All four men together conjure thoughts of the crew from Warner Brothers’ hit movie The Hangover and its two sequels. The actors’ portrayals of their characters are just as believable as those by Russell and Braddy. Whether for their work or that of the rest of the movie’s cast, audiences will agree in watching Believe Me that collectively speaking, the cast’s acting is one more reason that audiences should see Believe Me at least once.
Thanks to both the work of the movie’s writers and that of its cast, Believe Me proves itself to be a movie that is just as interesting a work as any of its more well-known counterparts churned out by “Hollywood’s Power Five Studios.” In much the same vein, the story’s pacing should also be noted in regards to the movie’s pros. Throughout the course of the “God Squad’s” tour to raise funds for its fake charity, viewers are never left feeling lost. From the scene transitions to the scenes themselves, Allen and Bakke maintain full control over the story’s speed. This includes the dialogue and every other aspect of each scene. That control gives audiences plenty of time to take everything in and in turn appreciate even more all of the movie’s little nuances and all of it larger, more obvious elements. The end result of this ease coupled with the solid work of the movie’s cast and its writers is a movie that yet again is just as worth the watch as any of its more well-known counterparts. Because it holds its own so solidly with those movies, it proves in the end to be a movie worth at least one watch.
Whether for its writing, the work of the movie’s cast, or the story’s pacing—directly tied to the writing—there is plenty to say about why audiences should watch Believe Me at least once. Audiences that do will agree in watching it that it is just as interesting as any religiously based movie churned out past or present from “Hollywood’s Power Five Studios.” It is available now on Blu-ray and DVD in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from Virgil Films’ online store at More information on this and other titles from Virgil Films is available online at:



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