Saturday, January 5, 2013
Kevin Smith delivers an unusual and startling small-budget independent film, an action-comedy-horror-satire loosely based on a violent Westboro Baptist Church type evangelical preacher and his family/flock (who are fueled far more by hate and their belief in a vengeful angry God than a sin-forgiving Church of Jesus Christ), in Red State (2011). Michael Parks is absolutely wonderful, and creepily menacing, in the lead role as the Phelps-like minister, charismatic and cruel, a true believer, who takes his congregation a step further toward the Apocalypse in physically confronting their devils on earth. Into a dangerous trap spun by the minister fall three high-school students expecting some free sex, helping trigger an encounter with local and federal law enforcement. Yet, not all of the firebrand's followers see eye-to-eye, as his granddaughter Cheyenne (Kerry Bishe) frantically tries to protect the innocents. John Goodman also takes up an untypical role, as a conflicted ATF agent who has been monitoring the church's activities. All of the actors are very good, and you will recognize a few in small roles, but I was especially impressed by the group that plays the congregation, from Melissa Leo (who plays the ministers adoring, hard-core daughter Sara) down to the little kids. Smith does not only poke fun and criticism upon the fanatics, but also picks at government officials. Purposely inciteful to a degree, there will be some offended, but movie fans will find a lot to love here, from the great acting to the tight cinematography. I think independent filmmakers could learn a lot from the movie.
I also saw BRAVE (2012). I love just about anything Pixar does. Amazing animation, though not their best story, it is still funny and breathtaking, with a touch of usual Disney moral teaching and magic. The minute I recognized Kelly (Boardwalk Empire) Macdonald's voice, I was "I'm in." A good movie for the kids (and adults too).