Lots of fabulous four-star fare this week via the indie film world, so let’s step past that big hairy Kong guy and get to some savory smaller stuff. Humans suing the almighty, scientology deeply dissected, frontier tales with biblical connections, the glory of gardening, female psychopaths, the heavy hitters of hockey and love triangles during wartime all get their viewing due via this weeks seven Encapsulated Movie Reviews. Check out the critical skinny on Frank vs. God, My Scientology Movie, Brimstone, This Beautiful Fantastic, Capture Kill Release, Ice Guardians and The Ottoman Lieutenant all below!
FRANK VS. GOD
The premise alone makes Frank vs. God a must see – after having his house destroyed by a tornado and his claim then denied by his insurance company due to it being ‘an act of God’ legal eagle Frank decides to sue…God. But mixed with some somber moments (the belief free Frank has some issues with the big guy in the sky!), comical bits (love the wacky scenes of serving various religious leaders with a summons!) and a pinch of romance (via opposing council and lady lawyer Ever Carradine!), the film and it’s leading man Henry Ian Cusick make what’s already an interesting flick even more engaging. Would have liked a pinch more morose in the character of Frank (could be my affinity for all things angry and bitter!), but as is Frank vs. God fills the fine film faith void.
MY SCIENTOLOGY MOVIE
Having loved the wry observations of the very funny Louis Theroux going way back in his days on Michael Moore’s short-lived TV Nation, the humorist takes on the religion known as Scientology here and the results are both eye opening and hysterical. In one of the most clever (he stages actors in the roles of Scientologists like leader David Miscavige and actor and supporter Tom Cruise), authentic (he has some very candid and at times uneasy discussions with former high up in the church folks like Marty Rathbun!) and frankly frightening (the people sent to harass former members are the definition of creepy!) looks at the mysterious religion, Theroux and Director John Dower present an interesting and easy to understand guide that the those unfamiliar can certainly appreciate. Revealing the auditing emperor has no clothes through humor, Theroux and company take Scientology and all it encompasses terrifically to task.
Told in an epic out-of-sequence style complete with four parts featuring biblical titles and all in a western setting, there’s something both brutal and beautiful about the brash Brimstone. Following determined but ultimately doomed dame Dakota Fanning as she tries to flee from the clutches of Guy Pearce’s sinister reverend proves to be one tasty tall tale that keeps the twist and turns coming fast and furious. Not to mention that Fanning has never been better, Black Book alum Carice van Houten shows up in a nice side role and writer/director Martin Koolhoven definitely has a firm handle on the film’s frontier feel. Mired in movie moments both sweet and sour (this story is not for the faint of heart!), Brimstone boldly displays its film fire for all to see.
THIS BEAUTIFUL FANTASTIC
(Samuel Goldwyn Films)
There’s a certain layer of schmaltz that comes with the type of feel good material this time involving a quirky alone young woman who learns a humble lesson in the importance of friends and family. Fortunately the performances of all the actors in This Beautiful Fantastic are all by themselves five-star and wonderfully breathe authentic life into a familiar film. Leading the pack is the captivating Jessica Brown Findlay as the odd and interesting Bella, Tom Wilkinson as her crotchety neighbor, Andrew Scott as her sassy new chef and Jeremy Irvine as her new meek suitor – all bring equal amounts of drama and dry wit to their respective roles. A film way more enjoyable than it should be, when describing the cast fantastic is a fine word indeed.
CAPTURE KILL RELEASE
What could have been yet another lame found footage piece of carnage cinema is elevated by a single sinful performance – the cute and creepy Jennifer Fraser. As an unsuspecting serial killer in training, her sweet, endearing and altogether unsettling camera obsessed character who is trying to convince her obedient boyfriend to join in on the first kill fun, is truly the stuff nightmares are made of. Going from alluring one minute (she gets better half Farhang exactly where she wants him!) to psychotic the next (her joy and glee in the murder afterglow is hard to watch!) it’s Fraser’s unwavering work here that kills it and even gives even the gratuitous gore bits a run for their freak me out money. (Fraser is a find film fans!) Hell hath no fury…
An interesting doc topic, this one covers hockey’s unsung heroes – the enforcers. Meaning this one is all about those gents who take the hits, bring the pain and get into all out battle brawls all in the name of protecting teammates and fan pleasure. And while this one will appeal most to NHL savvy folks (and those who love the sport!), the doc does its best to cover every possible angle – from a long look at historical hockey fights to stories of injury woe from the spouses and the players themselves. (You even get some celeb love via Goon co-writer and actor and fan Jay Baruchel!) A lesson in lashing out, Ice Guardians weighs the pros and cons of on ice altercations without padding.
THE OTTOMAN LIEUTENANT
With the inclusion of heartthrob Josh Hartnett in this film involving a love triangle in WWI, The Ottoman Lieutenant feels a lot like a Pearl Harbor wannabe. But whereas that film had the visual prowess of an early Michael Bay (and the schmaltz too!), this one tries to get by on chemistry which the two leads have very little of. As forbidden lovers, Michiel Huisman and Hera Hilmar (who fares better than her male counterpart!) simply go through the motions – a downer for a story about defying odds for love. And even though Hartnett is fine and Ben Kingsley does a decent turn as a disillusioned doctor, The Ottoman Lieutenant is simply and sadly not even a great date movie.