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 https://www.virgilfilmsent.com/store/product.php?pid=704. More information on this and other titles from Virgil Films is available online at:

Website: https://www.virgilfilmsent.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VirgilFilms

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Fred Won’t Move Out A Tragically Beautiful Film

Courtesy:  Virgil Films

Courtesy: Virgil Films

Virgil Films’ drama, Fred Won’t Move Out is not a movie for everyone.  The reason for this is that it is one of those movies that tackles subject matter to which most people would prefer to turn a blind eye.  The movie centers on an elderly couple, Fred and Susan.  Susan is suffering from what would appear to be dementia.  To make matters worse, Fred begins to show hints of dementia himself as the story progresses.  Enter their adult daughter Carol and her husband Bob.  Bob is a dreamer of a film maker.  He would like to believe that he’s something great.  To this extent, the issue of suspension of disbelief is raised as the younger couple’s lives are not entirely something to which audiences could entirely relate.  Script writer Richard Ledes makes up for this though in the story’s central plot of Carol and Bob trying to convince Fred that Susan needs to be put in an assisted living facility.  This is where things do pick up somewhat.

The emotional struggles faced by Carol and Bob are something to which more audiences than would like to admit can relate.  The script’s subject matter is a topic which has been raised in a number of nightly television news journals as far back as memory serves.  So while it may be somewhat emotionally difficult to watch, it serves as a reminder to specific audiences that they aren’t alone, and that what they are feeling is entirely normal.  They don’t have to place any stigma on themselves or feel bad that they feel the emotional issues that they feel.  This is heightened by the interaction of the cast.  Bob isn’t an entirely believable character.  But his attempts to gently press the issue of taking Susan to an assisted living facility is entirely believable, as are his discussions with Fred.  Much the same could be said of supporting actress Mfoniso Udofia.  Udofia plays the part of Susan and Fred’s live-in nurse.  While her character is only that of a live-in nurse, it shows that even those that are employed solely to care for others can and in some cases do become emotionally attached to their patients just as she does.  She shows signs of this early on such as when Fred yells at Susan for no reason just because she wouldn’t hold onto the phone when someone called for Susan.  Her emotional link to Fred and Susan could be argued to be more so than that of Bob and Carol.  So it adds an extra level of emotional depth to the story, making it even more interesting.

Just as interesting is the juxtaposition of the calming nature shots tied into the overall story.  There are those in particular that have criticized this story for the fact that it used these shots of trees and insects.  The whole point of these shots was to be used as an emotional contradiction between the emotional storm inside Fred and Susan’s house and the calm outside the house.  Within the confines of the house’s walls, things were anything but calm, despite attempts by Bob and Carol to remain calm with everything.  As viewers will see, it’s ultimately Bob that shows to have the hardest time dealing emotionally with what is going on.  Anyone that has ever had the terrible duty of dealing with an elderly parent in the situation such as that of Fred and Susan will be more understanding of this juxtaposition.  That understanding will help to appreciate the rest of the story, even as emotionally difficult as it is to watch art imitating life.  But it is in its own right a therapeutic work that is deserving of at least one watch.

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Shelter Me Episode A Touching Tail…Er…Tale

Courtesy:  Virgil Films/Halo Purely For Pets/PBS

Courtesy: Virgil Films/Halo Purely For Pets/PBS

Thousands of animals end up in shelters across the country every year.  The reasons for this are as wide as the breeds of cats and dogs that end up being held at shelters.  People lose their jobs, have to move, or they simply run away from their homes.  In even worse cases, it’s because they have been taken from abusive owners.  Whatever the reason, these animals need loving homes.  So many shelter animals end up being euthanized because they don’t get adopted.  Virgil Films and Halo: Purely for Pets have partnered together in hopes of decreasing the number of animals euthanized each year and increase the number of shelter animals that find their forever homes instead in the new documentary, Shelter Me

Shelter Me is a heartwarming program that takes viewers into three different settings showing the value of shelter pets.  In hindsight, it’s less documentary and more advertisement for adopting shelter pets.  There is nothing wrong with this, either.  That is because so many shelters across the country are becoming overloaded with animals and underfunded.  That is, in sociological terms, what’s known as a negative correlation.  That’s not a good thing.  With any luck, this feature will help to turn that negative correlation into a positive one, and shelters will see an increase in both adoptions and funding.  It makes its argument through three examples of the value of shelter pets in society, starting with the dispelling of the reputation of Pit Bulls.  From there, it transitions into dogs that are made virtual inmates by their reputation to the impact of dogs on inmates themselves.  From there, it shows how the friendship between military men and women and service dogs can lead each others’ lives to turn around.  By the end of the feature, hopefully this feature will have convinced viewers of all ages and backgrounds to help give shelters and shelter dogs a second chance.

It is fitting that the very first segment of this feature features what is one of the most pressing issues in the world of pet owners.  The issue in question is that of the reputation of pit bulls.  Pit Bulls have arguably the single worst reputation of any dog breed.  That is because far too many people have abused them and made them into fighting animals.  As a result, most of the stories centered on Pit Bulls that people see on the news are negative.  But as audiences will see in this first segment, Pit Bulls are just as docile and loving as any other breed.  It dispels the belief that belief that this breed is just a mindless killer and proves even more the argument that it is indeed the fault of the human and not the dog that a Pit Bull becomes violent.  In an odd way, one could argue it is proof of the sociological argument that it is nurture, not nature that makes any living being become what it becomes in life. 

The second segment of Shelter Me is a proper transition from the topic of Pit Bulls.  This is because just as Pit Bulls have negative reputations, so do those behind bars.  Pit Bulls are ignored when they are sent to shelters just as inmates are largely ignored and labeled when they are put behind bars.  But as viewers will see in watching this segment, even those behind bars can be just as caring as the dogs for which they care.  Even more so, it shows that these dogs and others can help to give those behind bars the fire that they need to start their lives back on the right track.  Just as the dogs give the inmates featured here the start at a second chance, the dogs give themselves a second chance, proving their value even more.

The final segment of Shelter Me is just as solid a transition as that between the program’s lead segments.  The dogs featured in the feature’s second segment give both themselves and the inmates a second chance at life.  In the same vein, service dogs are just as valuable to the nation’s men and women in uniform.  Viewers are introduced to two young military veterans in this final segment. Both men were suffering the effects of fighting the war in the Middle East.  One was on the verge of taking his own life.  The other was on the verge of ending up as an inmate himself.  But when both men were partnered with a service/therapy dog, their lives were immediately turned around.  Because their lives were turned around for the better, it made them want to help their fellow soldiers.     

All three segments of Shelter Me provide very deeply heartwarming stories of the impact of shelter dogs on humans and vice versa.  From dispelling the reputation of Pit Bulls to showing the value of these and other dogs in various facets of life, Shelter Me provides audiences with touching story after story of the impact of shelter dogs.  The stories alone are enough to leave no eye the least bit dry.  Each one is compelling in its own right, showing that just because they’re in shelters, these animals are no less than those at a person’s local humane society.  Making the near hour-long feature even better is its transitions between each segments and the manner in which each segment is tied to the one before.  This makes the overall viewing experience all the easier and more touching.  Who knows?  It may even move viewers to share it with others and thus spread the movement to help both shelter pets and shelters.  Shelter Me is available now on DVD. 

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Battle For Brooklyn One Of 2013’s Most Important Documentaries

Courtesy:  Virgil Films

Courtesy: Virgil Films

Battle for Brooklyn is one of the most important documentaries to be released this year.  The film follows the battle of one Brooklyn neighborhood in its fight against a group wanting to build a new arena for the now Brooklyn Nets on top of their homes.  It originally debuted at the Brooklyn International Film Festival on June 3rd, 2011.  It then went into a limited theatrical release on June 17th, 2011.  But it wasn’t until January 15th of this year that the movie was finally released to DVD.  And now that it’s available for the masses on DVD, audiences can and should pick up a copy of this gripping documentary.

Battle for Brooklyn was filmed by activist Daniel Goldstein, who takes audiences through his personal battle against Forest City Ratner in an attempt to keep his home and those of everyone in his neighborhood from being taken.  The six year-long battle is expertly documented over the course of the documentary’s ninety-three minutes.  In that hour and a half plus run time, Goldstein effortlessly manages to keep viewers engaged through the timeline of the events that unfolds.  At the center of Battle for Brooklyn is the controversial issue of eminent domain, which is essentially the same thing as its predecessor, manifest destiny.  Audiences are taken through the battle of one Brooklyn neighborhood against development firm, Forest City Ratner. The battle happens as Ratner has its sights aimed squarely at the community in question as the sight of the new home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.  Some have called this presentation rather one sided.  But in watching it, audiences will see that that couldn’t be farther from the truth as employees of Forest City Ratner are interviewed just as much as those living in the endangered neighborhood.  And while Goldstein and those at his side make a number of very arguments against Forest City Ratner, the firm’s Executive VP makes at least one solid argument regarding economic progress.  This argument is sure to be a point of contention that will bring about discussion among audiences; some of which may get heated. 

The subject matter of this documentary is much like that of the hit movie, Barbershop 2 as it too focuses on a similar issue.  One of the most powerful moments that viewers are presented with in Battle for Brooklyn comes when viewers discover that those who originally stood by Goldstein had either taken buyouts and their associated gag orders, or simply started taking the side of Forest City Ratner.  Just as powerful is the revelation of some very interesting tax documents filed by a group known as B.U.I.L.D.  The documents in question seem to hint that despite what one member of B.U.I.L.D. claimed, the forms show that a rather large amount of money was given to B.U.I.L.D. by Forest City Ratner.  It’s just one of many revelations that show the power of business and political interests.

Goldstein has crafted in this feature, a story that’s just as gripping as any major legal thriller out there today as is already evidenced here.  The difference is that unlike those legal thrillers, this story is real life.  It shows a topic that while it has been used for movies and TV shows alike, it’s just as serious as those stories if not more so.  It shows an unbiased look at the effect of corporate might on entire communities.  The neighborhood placed in danger here is just one example of something that happens throughout the country.  It adds an extra example in the bonus feature, “More To Talk About” The Tragedy Of Urban Renewal.  Audiences learn that the history of eminent domain goes as far back as the 1950’s and the Truman presidency.  Even as a mini-history lesson, it is an eye opener that puts the main story into even more focus.  Together, the pair makes for a documentary that is just as good as any legal thriller penned for the big screen.  It can be ordered direct now via the Virgil Films online store at http://www.virgilfilmsent.com/store/product.php?pid=604.

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Dark Horse A Dark Horse Itself In The year’s Indie Movie Race

Courtesy: Virgil Films

Writer/Director Todd Solondz new indie flick Dark Horse is not one of those movies that will grab audiences on the very first watch.  It is for all intensive purposes, a dark comedy.  It’s one of those pieces that must be watched more than once to truly appreciate its depth.  Here, Solondz presents thirty-something Abe, who lives with his parents.  How often has that been done, right?  Right.  But what makes this so great is that actor Justin Bartha really pulls off the stereotype, even going a little over the top at some points, to make his character believable.  Abe is a grown up kid who obviously has a complete lack of connection to reality.  Ironically enough, there are people out there just like Abe.  Perhaps that reality is part of what makes this story difficult for some audiences to digest.  From his relationship with his parents Jackie (Christopher Walken) and Phyllis (Mia Farrow) to that of his new girlfriend Miranda (Selma Blair), Abe shows his lack of maturity and responsibility.  Abe only makes things worse for himself after proposing to Miranda having known her only for a week.  Yet again, he shows his complete lack of connection to reality maturity here.

It’s these poor choices and general lack of maturity that has led to Abe’s disconnection with his family, including his far more successful brother.  As uncomfortable as all of this is for viewers, Dark Horse offers laughs, too.  There are people out there like Abe.  That’s what makes his character so funny.  Yet as his life begins to go downhill so quickly after meeting Miranda, one can’t help but feel a certain level of sympathy for him.  That his life is so pathetic will actually make viewers want to have hope for him, despite everything.  And that’s where the charm behind Dark Horse comes from.  It’s one of those stories that as funny as it is, it’s just as moving.  It reminds audiences about having compassion.

Audiences will develop compassion not just for Abe, but for his parents, too, as the story progresses.  While his relationship with his parents is dysfunctional to say the least, they show that they still love him.  And as the story comes to its surprising and bittersweet end, that compassion that builds for both Abe and his parents may even leave some viewers at least somewhat teary eyed.  The near ninety-minute movie’s final moments are emotional.  And they bring the entire story full circle, leaving an impression that won’t soon leave audiences who have taken the time to experience this story.  It’s one more piece of evidence in the argument proving that indie flicks are just as good as any major big screen feature.  It’s one more indie flick that any true movie lover should experience if only once.

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High Ground Is One Of 2012’s Top Documentaries

Courtesy: Red Flag Releasing/Stone CirclePictures/Serac Adventure Films/No Barriers/Virgil Films

Every day on the news, we see images of war across the world.  We hear stories of the men and women who have served in said wars and what they’ve seen.  But few if any of those stories has gone into true details of the effects of serving overseas.  Now thanks to writer/director Michael Brown, audiences get a chance to hear firsthand from a group of nearly a dozen recent veterans, the impact of having served.  It’s a poignant story that will move audiences not only because of the soldiers’ own stories, but also because of the hope and determination instilled in them by each other and by their families.There is no way for anyone who has never served to have any idea what exactly a soldier goes through physically, emotionally, or psychologically both while serving and after having returned from war.  The stories presented in High Ground do a very good job of giving viewers an idea of what our nation’s finest go through every day of their lives.  Hearing these veterans’ stories will move any viewer, military or not.  It’s interesting to note that there is a recurring theme among the soldiers in that they feel alone and that they don’t want to talk about what they have and are going through.  This echoes what a lot of WWII veterans went through in coming home from the European and Pacific theaters of war.  Equally moving is the sense of hope and optimism brought to them in their journey to Nepal.

The group of eleven veterans heads to Nepal to climb Mount Lobuche.  As the group makes its climb, each member of the group shares his or her story with their fellow soldiers.  The reactions by both those telling the stories and those hearing them are so painful to experience.  It shows that while they may have been trained to kill, they are still humans.  They are people.  They feel pain just like anyone else.  Yet it’s through that shared pain that the group is able to find hope and push on to meet its goal.  The vets’ reactions upon reaching the top of Mount Lobuche are the ultimate statement.  Viewers can tell that each climber knows they have overcome not just a mountain but an emotional mountain, too.  It is without a doubt the single most emotional moment and the perfect culmination to this group’s journey.  After it’s all said and done, High Ground will leave any viewer, military or not with a whole new appreciation for what our nation’s men and women in uniform do every day.

High Ground is not an anti-war documentary.  This needs to be addressed right here.  High Ground is a story of—as director Michael Brown notes in the director’s commentary—human spirit.  It shows a group of people who have faced great odds, and used a great odd of another kind to help them face those far greater odds and beat them.  Sure there are comments about conditions at the now closed Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and the issues that one vet had with the VA.  But they aren’t comments against the military.  These statements help to illustrate what the veterans have endured on their journey of recovery.  Understanding this and hearing what each veteran has endured will leave every viewer agreeing that High Ground is one of this year’s best documentaries.  It is available in stores and online now.

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