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VIRGIL FILMS

PROGRAM INFO

Director:
Will Bakke
Cast:
Alex Russell, Zachary Knighton, Johanna Braddy, Miles Fisher, Sinqua Walls, Max Adler, Lecrae, Nick Offerman, Christopher McDonald
Writing Credits:
Michael B. Allen and Will Bakke

Synopsis:
Desperate, broke, and out of ideas, four college seniors start a fake charity to embezzle money for tuition.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English LPCM Stereo
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 93 min.
Price: $17.99
Release Date: 3/3/15

Bonus:
• Deleted Scenes
• Outtakes
• Trailers


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Believe Me [Blu-Ray] (2014)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 2, 2015)

For a comedic look at religion and charity, we go to 2014’s Believe Me. College senior Sam Atwell (Alex Russell) finds himself behind the eight-ball when a tuition hike leaves him without enough money to finish his schooling.

To raise funds, Sam convinces his pals Pierce (Miles Fisher), Tyler (Sinqua Walls) and Baker (Max Adler) to start a fake Christian charity. He tells donors that they can prove their faith if they give to his phony fund dedicated to safe drinking water to Africans.

Though this starts with selfish, cynical motives, matters change as the students’ efforts progress. In particular, Sam starts to question his actions when he gets to know Callie Edwards (Johanna Braddy), tour coordinator for “Cross Country”, a group that runs spiritual-based fundraising treks. We follow Sam’s journey and where it leads him in a spiritual and emotional way.

Based on the promo for Believe Me, you’ll probably expect more of a sharp-edge satire, but that doesn’t sum up the movie well. Instead, it attempts to serve two masters, as it tries to mock aspects of the religious/social group it portrays while it also supports the beliefs that underpin that culture.

This approach doesn’t work especially well, as it leaves the movie a bit toothless. On the surface, I feel I should support the filmmakers’ choices, as they deliver a fsirly balanced effort, not one that becomes too vicious or too sappy.

However, Believe Me falters because it seems neutered. I get the feeling those involved wanted so much to be “fair and balanced” that they lost sight of the material’s potential.

Instead, the movie tends to simply appear lukewarm. It doesn’t become sharp enough to qualify as good satire, but it also fails to turn convincing enough to stand as terribly spiritual and uplifting. It wanders from one sensibility to another without a whole lot of conviction, so it never seems to figure out what it wants to be.

The satirical elements probably end up as the weakest. While Believe Me offers a few good laughs, a lot of the humor seems lazy, such as the song with lyrics that just consist of “Jesus” repeated over and over again. When Chris Rock spoofed the rap scene decades ago in CB4, he used a similar joke – it was funny then but not so much now.

Believe Me features a cast as nondescript as the film itself. The main actors do fine, but I find it hard to cite any performances that stand out as memorable; the young thespians are attractive and moderately likable but not especially engaging.

I think the film loses points because it throws away the talented older actors in its cast. With Christopher McDonald and Nick Offerman in tow, we find two strong comedic performers, but Believe Me almost totally wastes them. They add little spark to the proceedings because the movie doesn’t give them enough to do.

I don’t want to come down too hard on Believe Me, as I think the movie remains perfectly watchable. After a string of bad, heavy-handed spiritual films like Moms’ Night Out and Left Behind, it’s also nice to find something with more subtlety. I’m not a particularly religious person, but if I were, I’d feel insulted by the pandering nature of most Christian flicks, so I like this one’s greater level of nuance.

Despite those mild positives, the final product simply doesn’t add up to much of a memorable experience. Believe Me displays good potential but it can’t often capitalize.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C/ Bonus D+

Believe Me appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a fairly positive presentation.

Overall sharpness seemed solid. A hint of softness occasionally materialized, but the movie usually showed pretty good clarity. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge haloes. Source flaws were absent, as the movie looked consistently clean.

Believe Me usually gave us an amber-tinted palette. Other hues appeared – like a bit of teal at times - but the golden feel dominated. Within those parameters, the hues were positive. Blacks seemed deep and dark, while shadows showed reasonable smoothness and clarity. No real issues affected this appealing presentation.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Believe Me, it lacked a ton of ambition. The soundfield focused on music and ambience, as it rarely opened up in a memorable way. The soundscape offered mild atmospherics and not much more. Even scenes at stage presentations seemed restrained and failed to use the speakers in an involving manner.

Audio quality was fine, though not as natural as it should’ve been. Unlike most Blu-rays, Believe Me opted for a lossy soundtrack; the use of Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD MA would’ve made this a broader, more dynamic piece.

Still, I thought the audio appeared acceptable. Speech seemed clear and concise, without edginess or other issues. Music offered good clarity and range, and effects worked well enough. They didn’t have much to do, but they appeared reasonably accurate. All of this ended up as a decent soundtrack for this sort of movie.

A handful of extras fill out the set, and these start with six deleted scenes. These fill a total of six minutes, 59 seconds and mostly show a mix of little comedic character moments. These can amuse, but none of them would’ve added to the story.

Under Outtakes, we get a four-minute reel. It combines the standard array of goofs and giggles into a forgettable package.

Finally, we locate both the teaser and the theatrical trailers for Believe Me.

Believe Me wants to provide a biting piece of satire or an affirmation of faith, but it lacks the conviction to go where it needs to go. It seems to worry too much that it’ll offend anyone so it fails to present the needed snap. The Blu-ray gives us very good visuals but audio seems mediocre and only a few supplements appear. Believe Me boasts potential but falls short of its goals.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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