Aaron Sorkin is a man who isn’t shy about dialogue. He’ll enlist huge rants and back and forths between his characters, and yet there’s always something meaningful traded that adds to the overall narrative. A lot of people have taken issue with that staple but it generally works in great favor with “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” It’s not just an excellent dramatic reproduction of a milestone event in 1969, but it also is the movie that we sorely needed right now. In 2020, America completely turned the tide engaging in protests and important statements about civil rights, and Sorkin swoops in to add to the important conversation.
I’m very disappointed that it’s taken me so long to watch “The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez,” a Robert M. Young Western drama that has gone shockingly under mentioned for years. A mix of “The Ox-Bow Incident” and “Rashomon,” in many ways it’s a very history accurate and groundbreaking example of the genre. Young’s drama pictures a hideous crime and paints it in the shades of people’s prejudices and how we can perceive certain events when emotions and biases play a big hand.
There’s a war on Christianity. Atheists are evil. Atheists lack hope. Atheists are atheist because they’re in a lot of pain. Atheists don’t want you to practice religion. It’s immoral to demand religion not be preached in public schools. “God’s Not Dead 2: Delusion Boogaloo” is the sequel to the painfully moronic surprise hit of 2014 where evangelical Christians bathed in the pools of their own martyrdom and victim complex for two hours. “God’s Not Dead 2” is another orgy of delusion and martyrdom that stretches the truth about evangelical Christianity, further depicting an alternate reality where evangelical Christianity is equivalent to being a Morlock. Evangelical followers of Christianity are misunderstood by a lost society littered with conniving atheists that just won’t let them say “Merry Christmas,” gosh darn it.
In one of many depictions of protests I could not help laughing at every time it popped up, Christian students of protagonist Grace silently sit outside the courtroom as a show of support. All the while a whole group of atheist protestors stand two feet away holding up signs and screaming at them. These atheist monsters are filmed with quick cuts and without sound, emphasizing how monstrous and evil they are for attacking young women displaying their right to protest. See? Complete alternate reality. Melissa Joan Hart plays Grace Wesley a well meaning history teacher who is chastised and crucified by her school for making a very quick literary comparison in class between Gandhi and Jesus Christ.
When she’s reported, the den of atheist vipers known as the PTA and ACLU begin to look for ways to strike her down for making a seemingly passive contrast of figures with similar ideals. When Grace won’t apologize for speaking he who shall not be named in a public school, she has to stand trial and put her faith to the test. “God’s Not Dead 2” is kind of a brilliantly manipulative movie that relies a lot on subliminal visual cues to sway their audience’s emotions. There are a ton of mentions of Salvation Army, there’s Jesse Metcalfe, who gives a piss poor performance as a young atheist lawyer assigned to defend Grace. When we first meet him, he’s disheveled, unshaven, and a bit slovenly.
And did I mention he’s a condescending ass? “You pitiful Christian maggot, I mock your value system and scoff in your direction conveying a sense of superiority. Pshaw.” But naturally as the film progresses he becomes more and more of a believer and by the time the film ends he’s a well dressed, clean shaven, and kept up lawyer. Ray Wise (known all over pop culture for playing slime balls on TV and film) plays the evil atheist/opportunist of the film who gazes deviously at everyone, considers every idea of morality as an opportunity to make money. He even wears a red tie most of the time. See… red is bad. Like devil, bad. Ray Wise played the devil once in a cult TV show, did I not mention that?
Not only is “God’s Not Dead 2” just stupid, but it’s providing its devout audience with information that could be potentially hazardous to their health. In easily the worst bit of nonsense depicted in the film, Amy, a character diagnosed with cancer in the first film finds out that she is in remission. She’s happy and the Christian rock band from the first film, are happy for her, because prayer helped. Forget the doctors, and medical science, but prayer helped ward her cancer away making her a true believer. So if it’s not made clearly enough in the film, if you or someone you love is dying from cancer, they’re just not a good enough Christian. You only have yourself to blame, all you small children in terminal wards across the world.
“God’s Not Dead 2” was released on April 1st, 2016. Without a hint of irony.
One thing you have to admire at least about “God’s Not Dead,” is that it wears its propaganda on its sleeve. Being Christian is depicted as noble and courageous, while the more pragmatic and atheist characters are subtly referred to as snakes, and tyrants. Kevin Sorbo (intent on alienating his remaining fans, apparently) plays the evil philosophy Professor Radisson who is up to no good, mainly because he dons a goatee, and asks his class to consider the idea of the lack of an existence in a God. Which is a shocking notion considering his class is peppered with a few absolutely devout Christians.
Director Barry Levinson’s 1996 “Sleepers” is a rich and compelling movie that straddles many genres from the coming of age, to courtroom, to the thriller, to revenge. “Sleepers” is a movie for anyone with a taste for cinema that explore childhood innocence and the end of it at the hands of pure evil. Director Levinson’s film tells the story of young boys in the 1960’s slums of Hell’s Kitchen in Queens. Bonded due to their religious loyalties and their relationship with patriarchal Father Bobby (DeNiro in one of the last great roles of his career), they often find themselves constantly walking the line between saintly and pure criminal.
The real reason to watch 1997’s remake of “12 Angry Men” is to see Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott share the screen once again as they did in the very entertaining remake of “Inherit the Wind.” This time Lemmon replaces Henry Fonda in the role of Juror 8 while Scott is Juror 3. For a film directed by William Friedkin starring twelve very notable and prolific character actors, this version of “12 Angry Men” is very vanilla and absolutely forgettable. Friedkin never quite opts for subtlety with this reworking of the stage play, so he walks around with his camera, and films the teleplay like it’s an episode of “Law & Order.”
While reports of David Fincher’s “The Social Network” being a modern “Citizen Kane” have been absolutely outlandish and ridiculous, Fincher’s courtroom drama about wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg is a near masterpiece and one that works as a cultural zeitgeist depicting the beginning of a technological revolution and the end of intimate human communication as we know it. “The Social Network” is one of David Fincher’s most verbose and openly intellectual mainstream films to date, a film about the cultural zeitgeist that is social networking and the social animal that derived such pleasure not only from devising such a complex and magnificent program that would distance each other forever that ironically required close and intimate quarters and contact, but from using this program to scorn the individuals who used their own upper class status to keep themselves differentiated from Zuckerberg.
Part of me wants to acknowledge that perhaps Sandler is woefully oblivious of the talent he possesses and is just a guy who doesn’t appreciate the potential to deliver great dramatic tales. But watching “Reign Over Me” confirms that he’s likely very aware of the talent he possesses and instead just chooses to have fun with a horrible comedy every once and a while. And I can respect that. Even if I’ll take “Reign Over Me” over “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” any day of the week. Only one in the growing number of dramas specifically geared toward men, “Reign Over Me” is that middle of the roads melodrama that explores how grief and loss can often control the way we live.