1. The Divergent Series: Insurgent (Lionsgate/Summit, 3,875 Theaters, 119 Minutes, Rated PG-13 for intense violence and action throughout, some sensuality, thematic elements and brief language, Rotten Tomatoes: 35% Fresh [104 Reviews]): That adaption of that YA novel set in a dystopian alternate reality where a female protagonist fights against an oppressive, class-based ruling party.
No, not that one. The other one.
This film picks up after the last one, with Tris and Four on the run as full scale war has broken out amongst the factions. However, a mysterious box is found and the secrets it holds can cause all the fighting to come to an end. Unfortunately, it can only be opened by one Divergent in particular–Tris. Tris needs to enter enemy territory to open the box, and what secrets she learns from the box might make it hard to leave the territory alive.
2. The Gunman (Open Road Films, 2,816 Theaters, 115 Minutes, Rated R for strong violence, language and some sexuality, Rotten Tomatoes: 15% Fresh [95 Reviews]): Do you think that Sean Penn got wind of how much money Liam Neeson has been making in the recent past and called his agent and demanded to get in on the “old guy shooting and punching things” racket.
Because, just look at this: a well-respected actor (albeit Penn has Oscar wins under his belt, where as Neeson only has a nomination) trapped in a revenge plot traipses across Europe to track down the person who did him wrong, punching and shooting things along the way. They even got the director of Taken to do the film, for goodness sakes.
Okay, there are differences. Penn plays an assassin on the run due from someone connected to a killing he made years ago. He hides out in Europe, trying to find out who is coming after him. So, it’s not the same, but still, I’d have expected better of Sean Penn.
3. Do You Believe? (Pure Flix, 1,320 Theaters,115 Minutes, Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, an accident sequence and some violence, Rotten Tomatoes: No percentage, as only three reviews have been counted [1 good, 2 bad]): I have a simple rule for films to be included in this column–the films have to be in at least 1,000 theaters. I do this to save time (Because it’s hard to write about 3 films a week, let alone 10) and so I don’t cover films here that most of the country will never get the chance to see in theaters. This is not a perfect system because there are important films that don’t get featured here (for instance, I believe the only Oscar nominees I covered were American Sniper and Selma) while films like this, which even with its 1,000+ theater count is judged to be so obscure that the film is in danger of losing its Wikipedia page, I feel the need to cover.
This is another entry in the “Christian film” genre that is inexplicably popular these days, this one more overt in its holy roller-ness that others. It stars what would have been an all-star cast if the film came out in the 1980s or 1990s, including one Oscar winner (it’s only Mira Sorvino, but it counts) and Golden Globe winner in Cybil Sheppard. It’s fun to look at the cast and try to figure out which ones are doing this film because they really believe in the message and which ones are doing it just because it’s been a long time between paychecks. They all play the type of stereotypes that you’d find in a Jack Chick comic–the doctor who thinks he is god, the homeless person who hasn’t given up hope, the parent that blame God for their daughter’s death. etc–all who go through a spiritual awakening through their either long standing, newly found or recently reignited belief in God.
I get the feeling these films are made by the devout to reach out to the lapsed Christians, the inquisitive agnostics and the angry atheists as a way to bring them back into the fold. However, even if any of those groups wanted to see the film, the treacly and heavy handed way these films hammer their message into their viewers would only serve to entrench those doubters in more. But, in reality, the only people these movies preach to is the already converted. So, the point of these films are moot.
If you are sick and tired of this particular brand of propaganda, there is cause to rejoice. Ted McGinley is in the film. Ted McGinley exists only to kill once popular forms of pop culture dead. So his appearance in this film means that the genre has jumped the shark, and will soon go away.