See it this week in a theatre near you!

BTM

“Beyond the Mask” is a handsome production. As a period piece set in 1775, the costumes and sets are spot on. Great work by Production Designer Nicholas Burns, as he cuts no corners and it is easy for the viewers to become transported in time back to the late 18th century.

The story revolves Will Reynolds (played by Andrew Cheney of “Seasons of Gray” fame), the leading mercenary and assassin for the British East India Company. Reynolds has just been double-crossed by Charles Kemp (John Rhys-Davies from “The Lord of the Rings”), one of the company’s supervisors, and is now on the run in the American Colonies. Working to redeem his name and win back the affections of Charlotte (Kara Killmer of “Chicago Fire”), the woman with whom he’s never been fully truthful, Will now hides behind a new mask in hopes of thwarting his former employer. As his past life closes in on him, Will must somehow gain the trust and the help of his beloved Charlotte – as well as Ben Franklin – while he races against time to defuse a plot of historical proportions.
The acting is strong in “Beyond the Mask.” As the rogue assassin turned masked super-hero, Andrew Cheney does a great job handling the romance and daring-do with equal aplomb. His Will Reynolds is very easy to root for; however, I did want to be able to identify with him better. This would have gotten me more involved with the action where and the story was headed. Kara Killmer as Charlotte plays through the ranges of emotions quite well, and John Rhys-Davies is quite delicious as the nemesis and bad guy. They all seem to be having a great time, and with all the action and adventure, it’s understandable why.


“Beyond the Mask” is not a history lesson in the least bit, but it is quite fun to play around in Revolutionary War times, and we get to meet Ben Franklin and even George Washington, both played well by Alan Madlane (Franklin) and John Arden McClure (Washington).
The best thing about this movie is the theme of “not being good enough—not measuring up.” What a great theme for a faith-based film. And the theme is handled admirably. You have the added theme of sacrificial love, again handled with great style. The only wish is that the filmmakers would have stopped here and let the audience connect the dots. This would have taken the film to a higher level. Instead they include a Sunday School moment that explains what just happened, and it really dumbs-down the film and makes the audience feel somewhat cheated and manipulated. Why faith-based films seem driven to this is one of the biggest strikes against faith-based films: please respect your audience and let them work out the details for themselves.
Overall, “Beyond the Mask” is a solid film. How can you go wrong with a historical romance full of action and adventure, with a masked superhero and an evil scientist thrown in to boot? Maybe “Beyond the Mask” tries to do too much in this regard, but it is fun entertainment, and isn’t that why we watch movies? Look beyond the few faults and enjoy “Beyond the Mask.”

“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or
services mentioned above in the hope that I would mention it
on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally
and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance
with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the
Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

NOBLE-Final-Poster-HI-RES-407x600

Noble” tells the true story of Christina Noble who overcomes the harsh difficulties of her childhood in Ireland to discover her destiny on the streets of Saigon. It is a very smart film, a wonderfully artistic movie, and is highly recommended.
When this film and press materials first arrived in my inbox, I must admit I was not excited with the synopsis. It is not the type of movie I would gravitate toward, but how wrong I was. This is an excellent motion picture, and one of the best films I have seen this year.

“Noble” follows three segments of Christina Noble’s life. We first meet young Christina (Gloria Cramer Curtis) during her early childhood in Ireland where she struggles to survive without a mother or father, forced to live in an orphanage, abused and alone. The next Christina (Sarah Greene) we meet is the seventeen-year-old young lady struggling to survive in the early 1960s. She is homeless and attacked, but it is here where she receives a vision of living in Vietnam, a place she would never have considered, seemingly out of nowhere. Regardless, the strange vision has a huge impact on her and it becomes her focus, and Christina (Deirdre O’Kane) eventually journeys to Vietnam, where we find her in the 1980s helping abandoned children living on the streets. The film moves back and forth in time, and this nonlinear editing approach by Mags Arnold works wonderfully. You know it works when, as a viewer, you are not hoping to get back to one of the other stories, but each one is enjoyable in it own right.
The acting in “Noble” is flawless, not a missed beat in the film. The three Christina’s are fantastic, and it is easy to move from one to the other. And director Stephen Bradley should be commended on keeping everything consistent. Good support from the other characters, too, with a stand out performance by Ruth Negga as Christina’s firecracker friend Joan.
The set design of Cristina Casali is also splendid, and particularly fine is the early Ireland time period, which is reminiscence of something out of Dickens – creating a great atmosphere and mood. One of the most impressive features of “Noble” is the sharp cinematography by Trevor Forrest. His use of the jib is very artistic, but all of the shots are topnotch, with wonderful lighting, too. It is a very pretty film visually, but not at all pretentious. Great stylistic approach, and it is consistent throughout the film. Even the use of stock footage from the Vietnam War mixed with new shots during her dream sequence is dynamite. Now mix in smart writing and dialogue and you have a great film. Kudos to director/writer Stephen Bradley.
“Noble” is not a Christian family film. It includes mature subject matter including rape, child abuse, prostitution, and drunkenness. That said, it handles these with taste and discreetness, but this is a film more for the high-school student and not the middle-school one. There are several moments of spirituality and faith, most notably when Christina talks to God, complete with her doubts and anger – very realistically and not “in your face” at all. I like that “Noble” is not afraid to consider spirituality and faith.
“Noble” is a top-notch film – quality all around – and one of the best films I’ve seen this year. Check it out – it will surprise you and leave you wanting more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or
services mentioned above in the hope that I would mention it
on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally
and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance
with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the
Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

BTM

Beyond the Mask” is a handsome production. As a period piece set in 1775, the costumes and sets are spot on. Great work by Production Designer Nicholas Burns, as he cuts no corners and it is easy for the viewers to become transported in time back to the late 18th century.

The story revolves Will Reynolds (played by Andrew Cheney of “Seasons of Gray” fame), the leading mercenary and assassin for the British East India Company. Reynolds has just been double-crossed by Charles Kemp (John Rhys-Davies from “The Lord of the Rings”), one of the company’s supervisors, and is now on the run in the American Colonies. Working to redeem his name and win back the affections of Charlotte (Kara Killmer of “Chicago Fire”), the woman with whom he’s never been fully truthful, Will now hides behind a new mask in hopes of thwarting his former employer. As his past life closes in on him, Will must somehow gain the trust and the help of his beloved Charlotte – as well as Ben Franklin – while he races against time to defuse a plot of historical proportions.
The acting is strong in “Beyond the Mask.” As the rogue assassin turned masked super-hero, Andrew Cheney does a great job handling the romance and daring-do with equal aplomb. His Will Reynolds is very easy to root for; however, I did want to be able to identify with him better. This would have gotten me more involved with the action where and the story was headed. Kara Killmer as Charlotte plays through the ranges of emotions quite well, and John Rhys-Davies is quite delicious as the nemesis and bad guy. They all seem to be having a great time, and with all the action and adventure, it’s understandable why.


Beyond the Mask” is not a history lesson in the least bit, but it is quite fun to play around in Revolutionary War times, and we get to meet Ben Franklin and even George Washington, both played well by Alan Madlane (Franklin) and John Arden McClure (Washington).
The best thing about this movie is the theme of “not being good enough—not measuring up.” What a great theme for a faith-based film. And the theme is handled admirably. You have the added theme of sacrificial love, again handled with great style. The only wish is that the filmmakers would have stopped here and let the audience connect the dots. This would have taken the film to a higher level. Instead they include a Sunday School moment that explains what just happened, and it really dumbs-down the film and makes the audience feel somewhat cheated and manipulated. Why faith-based films seem driven to this is one of the biggest strikes against faith-based films: please respect your audience and let them work out the details for themselves.
Overall, “Beyond the Mask” is a solid film. How can you go wrong with a historical romance full of action and adventure, with a masked superhero and an evil scientist thrown in to boot? Maybe “Beyond the Mask” tries to do too much in this regard, but it is fun entertainment, and isn’t that why we watch movies? Look beyond the few faults and enjoy “Beyond the Mask.”

“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or
services mentioned above in the hope that I would mention it
on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally
and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance
with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the
Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

PTL

“Pass the Light” revolves around Steve Bellafiore (played by Cameron Palatas), a high school senior who takes issue with a local politician’s political campaign, using Christian beliefs as an excuse to instill hate and belittle those who do not agree with him. Steve thinks Christ would follow a more loving road, and Steve hopes to debate the politician, Frank Baumann (played by Jon Gries), on this very issue. Thus begins Steve’s campaign for congress, albeit unrealistic given his age is seven years short of the required 25. But along the way he is able to stir up his fellow classmates in this campaign to live life under love and not hate – a worthwhile endeavor indeed.


“Pass the Light” is a well-directed and acted movie with a great message, wonderful production values, and a nice, polished look to it. Directed by Malcolm J. Goodwin, the movie moves along at a crisp pace, and the attention given to the acting is spot on. Cameron Palatas does an exceptional job as young Steve, the anchor – it seems – for his family as well as his high school’s student body. His out-of-work father is played by Colby French, and the range of emotion he has to display is wide ranging, and the subtleness he dedicates to each is rich. Steve’s mother Anne is played by Milena Govich, and she, too, hits her mark consistently. The rest of the cast is made up mostly of young actors in high school roles, and director Goodwin helms this young cast exceptionally well. Other than Cameron, stand outs include Alexandria DeBerry as the popular girl, and Dalpre Grayer as the friend and sidekick. A good, strong young cast.
The biggest downfall of “Pass the Light” is the story itself, and not so much the story arc and character development, but the plausibility of the story. You have to enter in with a high level of suspension of disbelief; otherwise you will be distracted. Beside the fact that the law requires a candidate be 25 (the movie actually plays this concern off fairly well), there are other factors that are hard to swallow: some of the characters are harsh stereotypes, and the mass movement by the entire student body is challenging, but if the viewer allows these discrepancies and just sits back and the enjoys the ride, “Pass the Light” will draw you in well enough to spend a couple of pleasurable hours exploring this message of hope. “Pass the Light” of this message.

“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or
services mentioned above in the hope that I would mention it
on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally
and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance
with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the
Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Identical

“The Identical,” now available on Blu-ray and DVD, tells the compelling story of Ryan Wade, a young man of many musical abilities hoping that these talents will take him to the big time. What stands in his way is his father, a successful pastor whose dreams for his son are much different and center around the ministry and pastoring a church. Meanwhile, another young man is taking the world by storm with his new style of music, and not only his appearance, but also his talents, mirrors those of Ryan. Ryan is a dead ringer for this superstar, Drexel Hemsley, in both sounds and looks, and he builds a successful career as a Drexel impersonator – known as The Identical. It’s the secret behind this similarity that propels the story forward.

Newcomer Blake Rayne plays Ryan (and Drexel), and viewers will certainly notice parallels between this fictionalized account of Ryan and Drexel and that of the real-life Elvis Presley story, in part due to Blake’s resemblance to Elvis, and the fact his real-life career is as an Elvis impersonator. But the story content parallels Elvis, too, and embracing this element of the film allows the viewers some “inside” fun as it progresses. As an actor, Blake holds his own and carries the film well. He does a great job with the emotional roller coaster of his on-screen characters, and he handles the dual roles with equal aplomb. It doesn’t hurt to be surrounded by an all-star cast featuring Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Seth Green, Joe Pantoliano, Brian Geraghty, and Amanda Drew. Ray Liotta (“Goodfellas,” “Field of Dreams”) is incredible in his juicy role as Ryan’s preacher father: from fire and brimstone preaching to delicate counseling, through anger and sadness, all the while aging from a young man to an old man, he is phenomenal as Reece Wade. Equally impressive and enjoyable to watch is Ashley Judd (“Divergent,” “Dolphin Tale 2”) as Ryan’s mother and the preacher’s wife. She too moves through the ages and the emotions in this convincing portrayal, arguable one of her best roles in years. Rounding up the stellar all-star cast is Seth Green (“Austin Powers,” “Family Guy”) as Ryan’s friend and band mate Dino, who introduces Ryan to the “worldly joy of rhythm and blues;” Brian Geraghty (“The Hurt Locker,” “Ray Donovan”) and Amanda Crew (“Charlie St. Cloud”) as Drexel’s father and mother; Joe Pantaliano (“The Sopranos,” “The Matrix”) as Ryan’s employer and mentor; and Erin Cottrell (the “Love Comes Softly” series) as Ryan’s wife. This all-star cast is top notch.

“The Identical” is an extremely good-looking movie with a well-executed production, and the attention to detail in recreating several historical time periods (yes, not one, but four) is stunning. No short cuts here: using many period automobiles and trucks (and one gorgeous motorcycle), the sets are simply amazing; the costuming is spot-on and very detailed (an afro comb, no less, from the ’70s; groovy psychedelic ’60s garb; as well as precision period costumes from the ’40s and ’50s). Soaking in the recreations from the past is just one more joy while watching “The Identical.” Five stars for Production Designer Keith Brian Burns and Costume Designer Karyn Wagner.

On another note, this film is being promoted as a faith-based film, and certainly there are elements of religion throughout this picture, but it is not an in-your-face conversion sort of picture, nor one filled with sermons from the pulpit. No, this movie merely tells a compelling story wrapped in a religious worldview, filled with religious people, and with religion presented as “normal” or a basic way of life. Refreshing indeed, and the kind of movie that many in the industry say is lacking, with most movies being extremely secularized or extremely “religious,” with nothing in between: good solid family fare movies with a moral worldview. “The Identical” is this sort of a family fare picture. Kudos to the producers for this, and hopefully this will be a trend in Christian and Hollywood films.

“The Identical” is the perfect movie to enjoy with your family, appropriate for tween, teens, parents and grandparents. Pick up your copy of “The Identical.” There’s nothing quite like it.

WTGST

If you like football movies, you’ll find plenty to like in “When the Game Stands Tall.” But this is more than a football movie, and “When the Game Stands Tall” is quite different than most football films you may have seen. It’s not about a losing team needing that one win to earn their self-respect, winning the game in the last half a second. In fact, the football field is just the stage for this collection of characters learning about hope and despair, success and failure, life and death.


“When the Game Stands Tall” is inspired by the remarkable true story of the De La Salle Spartans and their visionary coaches: Head Coach Bob Ladouceur, played by Jim Caviezel (“The Thin Red Line,” “Person of Interest”), and Assistant Coach Terry Eidson, played by Michael Chiklis (The Shield, Vegas). The team had an unprecedented 151-game winning streak between 1992-2003, shattering all records for consecutive victories in American sports. In spite of their 12 undefeated seasons (and the pressure of continuing “The Streak”), Coach Ladouceur stresses the value of purpose and significance over the glory of titles and streaks, with a focus on faith, commitment and responsibility. These traits and having a solid character, he believes, are much greater than winning. Ladouceur’s mantra: “We don’t expect you to play perfect, but to give a perfect effort.” This emphatic promotion of team play over individual goals comes to a head at one point when Ladouceur must confront a star player’s dad (Clancy Brown), who is only concerned about his son (Alexander Ludwig) breaking the touchdown record.
Ultimately, the struggle for this team – a new group of seniors – is not about winning that first game, but about not LOSING a game. When a tragedy sets the team reeling, the Spartans find their world disintegrating around them. And when their coach and mentor has a heart attack, it becomes apparent that the stress has taken a toll not only on them, but also on Ladouceur, and his wife (Laura Dern) and family, whom he’s neglected. The team has to learn to rely on each other and reevaluate what teamwork really means.
“When the Game Stands Tall” is directed by Thomas Carter (“Coach Carter,” “Hill Street Blues”), with the football action visually dynamic, and the drama textured and layered. One surprise is – given the median age of the cast – the acting is strong throughout. Jim Caviezel says he brought some of the same philosophy of Coach Ladoucuer, and how those before him have mentored him, to his interaction on the film with his young co-stars. He explained to them, “If you chose to not bring in your best work, it will look bad. I also expect you to boost each other and to work hard, and work on your scenes together, because you’re really going to carry this film.” As can be seen in the film, the results are there.
“When the Game Stands Tall” has so many layers to enjoy and reflect upon: teamwork, humility, stressed-out living, fathering, heart disease, mentoring, teaching, boys-to-men, that the actual football field becomes almost secondary. It’s not so much facing your giants on the field, but conquering them off the field that is most importance. As Ladouceur says, “Winning a lot of football games is doable. Teaching kids there’s more to life? That’s hard.”
“When the Games Stand Tall,” stands tall indeed. If you like a good football movie, you’ll like this – a good football movie… and more.

GB1

As a lifelong student of film, I love the idea of telling a story visually. I believe the more you can tell a story through the visuals the better the movie will be. (And I hate voice-overs telling me – what I already know – the action I am looking at on the screen…) So I was excited about seeing “The Good Book,” a feature film done completely silent except for the music soundtrack. Of course, this isn’t the easiest thing to do, but “The Good Book” handles the challenge quite well.
The story itself is also very ambitious; in fact, it is not one story, but several stories revolving around more than a dozen characters. “The Good Book” follows a copy of the New Testament on a journey that begins with a young boy named Daniel (Evan Fielding), who runs away from home after committing a horrible accident. He finds sanctuary in a homeless camp and is befriended by Esau (Torry Martin). From there, the book is handed off to a public defender (BK Bomar) and his wife Marion (Apolonia Davalos in a moving and strong performance). “The Good Book” goes from person to person, including Sarah the homeless lady (Amanda Penticost giving a standout performance herself), Jenn Gotzon as a woman scorned, and Leah (Rebecca Lines) dealing with addictions. When “The Good Book” makes its way overseas and into the hands of a persecuted missionary (Josh Childs), the impact of this book truly hits home. It is enjoyable to see how a book and its message can have a ripple effect, as it touches lives wherever it goes.

GB2
“The Good Book” is one of the most ambitious movies I’ve recently seen, and my hats off to the filmmakers for pulling it off as well as they did. “The Good Book” is written and directed by Sharon Wilharm, and it is produced by her husband, Fred Wilharm. With this many stories and with so many many actors, especially for an independent film, some of the acting will be stronger than others, and this is the case. A couple of the characters seemed a bit over-the-top, and a couple of the transitions are strained. Rick Holets is the composer of the music for this film, which underlies the action quite well. All in all, “The Good Book” is a solid production. You will not be disappointed, and again, a very ambitious undertaking, and one that is very well done.
“The Good Book” will be making its LA premiere at The Pan Pacific Film Festival at the end of July, and you can see this movie on the big screen this Thursday July 17 at The Bedias, Texas, Christian Film Festival. Showing with “The Good Book” will also be the short films “Ragman” (This film with very little dialogue itself.) and “Paid For.” If you cannot attend one of these festivals, you can find out more about “The Good Book” and where it will be playing (or how to get your own copy) at The Good Book website. A copy of “Ragman” can be found at www.RagmanFilm.com. Finally, I will be having a drawing for one free DVD copy of “The Good Book.” I will randomly select one winner from all of the subscribers at the new DWardMedia.com newsletter. Sign up here for your chance to win. The drawing will be July 27 and announced on that week’s newsletter.