Critics’ Connection: Unsullied

Unsullied stillWhen car trouble strands track star Reagan Farrow in the Florida boondocks, she accepts an offer of help from a pair of charming strangers only to find herself trapped in a brutal backwoods nightmare. Held captive in an isolated cabin, Reagan manages to escape and take refuge in the forest. Relentlessly pursued by the savage sociopaths who kidnapped her, Reagan will need all of her inner strength and resourcefulness in order to survive. Source: Rotten Tomatoes.  Photo Source:  The Source.

Starring: Murray Gray (Reagan Farrow), Rusty Joiner (Noah Evans), James Gaudioso (Mason Hicks), Erin Boyes (Zoe Case), Nicole Paris Williams (Kim Farrow). Director: Simeon Rice; Sscreenplay: John Nodilo.  Rating:  R; Runtime:  93 mins.

What the critics are saying about Unsullied:

The Hollywood Reporter:  The Bottom Line…A solid B-movie effort.  This B-movie, reminiscent of ’70s era grindhouse fare, is a reasonably proficient and professional debut that fulfills its modest aspirations.  Murray Gray plays comely track star Reagan, who makes the mistake of having car trouble while driving through the swampy Florida boondocks. Not long after, a pair of friendly strangers (Rusty Joiner, James Gaudioso) volunteer to give her a ride. After being rendered unconscious with chloroform, she wakes up to find herself tied up in a shack with another female victim. But Reagan proves far more resourceful than her hapless fellow sufferer, quickly managing to make an escape and outrunning the psychotic duo’s chasing Dobermans thanks to her spectacular athletic skills. The rest of the film is essentially a long cat-and-mouse game in which the intrepid heroine overcomes a series of obstacles, including a perilous leap off “Hangman’s Cliff” into the waters below.  It’s all strictly formulaic stuff, including the brutally violent climactic sequence in which Reagan has the opportunity to take revenge on her chief tormentor. But none of that is likely to matter to the film’s target audience who may simply be jazzed at watching a film directed by one of their past gridiron heroes. See full review at The Hollywood Reporter.

The L. A. Times:  Unsullied screenwriter John Nodilo ameliorates an otherwise generic cat-and-mouse thriller with unusually thoughtful expositions. Reagan is grieving the loss of the older sister, Kim and Flashbacks to Kim’s motivating words help Reagan push through her desperate hours.  Her abductors, Noah and Mason, prove equally complex. These Southerners aren’t your stereotypical rednecks. Having struck it rich as wolves of Wall Street, these American psychos are beloved patrons and generous tippers in the desolate town they regularly visit on “hunting” trips. Although Noah and Mason seem indiscriminate when it comes to picking their female prey, the fact that Reagan is black and hounded by their dogs conjures the South’s troubled legacy.

It’s almost inconceivable that this effective, nerve-racking thriller is the first feature from former NFL defensive end Simeon Rice. It requires the usual suspension of disbelief, and pacing problems are a sign of Rice’s directorial inexperience. But the tension he creates is unrelenting.  See full review at L. A. Times.

The New York Times:  Unsullied? Unrelenting is more like it. This nasty low-budget thriller, the first feature directed by the former NFL defensive end Simeon Rice, tells a story rife with implausibilities. But it does have a few redeeming aspects, including a hardy newcomer, the actress Murray Gray, as Reagan, a competitive runner with the misfortune of having her car break down in a remote Florida backwater. It’s Reagan’s further bad luck to encounter two wealthy, hunky, smooth-talking brothers with a big estate and a penchant for kidnapping and rape.  The movie flirts with 1970s exploitation revenge pictures, complete with a 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle Super Sport, but comes up short on the attendant payoffs. The actors, try to infuse their characters with depth, and the cinematographer, Scott Winig, lends the proceedings a professional gloss, especially in nighttime scenes. But their efforts cannot lift the story beyond its thin, lurid premise.  See full review at The New York Times.

Cut Print Film:  NFL player Simeon Rice makes his feature directorial debut with Unsullied. It’s not often that someone goes from football player to filmmaker, so the first question one might wonder is: How does Rice do? Surprisingly well.  Rice has a firm enough grasp on framing and evoking mode to suggest he might have a promising career making movies if he keeps at it.

One thing is clear: he certainly likes watching movies. Unsullied is a sleazy B-movie that firmly remains true to its B-movie roots, while also referencing several other films at once. There’s a little bit of the TV adaptation of Dean Koontz’s Intensity in here, mixed with the backwoods hell of Deliverance, crossed with the slick Michael Bay-produced remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the lurid, exploitative-ness of I Spit on Your Grave tossed in for good measure.

What hurts Unsullied most though is that the film is just far too derivative for its own good. While Unsullied moves at a clipped pace, too much of the film feels like a greatest hits compilation, with Rice and co-writer John Nodilo cherry picking scenes from other, similar films.  Unsullied doesn’t stumble nearly as much as other films from first time directors with first time stars might, and is quick and simple enough that you’ll probably be able to get a few cheap thrills out of it if you’re looking for deliberately B-movie entertainment.  See full review at Cut Print Film.

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Critics’ Connection: War Room

War Room Still

Tony and Elizabeth Jordan have it all-great jobs, a beautiful daughter, and their dream house. But appearances can be deceiving. Tony and Elizabeth Jordan’s world is actually crumbling under the strain of a failing marriage. While Tony basks in his professional success and flirts with temptation, Elizabeth resigns herself to increasing bitterness. But their lives take an unexpected turn when Elizabeth meets her newest client, Miss Clara, and is challenged to establish a “war room” and a battle plan of prayer for her family. As Elizabeth tries to fight for her family, Tony’s hidden struggles come to light. Tony must decide if he will make amends to his family and prove Miss Clara’s wisdom that victories don’t come by accident. Source: Rotten Tomatoes. Photo Source:  The Guardian.

Starring:  Priscilla C. Shirer (Elizabeth Jordan), T.C. Stallings (Tony Jordan), Karen Abercrombie (Miss Clara), Tenae Downing (Veronica Drake), Alena Pitts (Danielle Jordan). Directed By: Alex Kendrick. Written By: Alex Kendrick, Stephen Kendrick. Rating: PG; Runtime: 120 mins.

What the critics are saying about War Room:

Variety:  Outside of evangelical circles, the names Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick are likely to be met with blank stares. But thanks to low-budget hits like Fireproof and Courageous, the brothers have transformed themselves into Steven Spielbergs of Christian cinema. This drawing power was firmly on display when War Room, a celebration of the purpose-driven life, stunned box office watchers by nearly dethroning Straight Outta Compton as the weekend’s highest-grossing domestic release with its $11 million debut. That’s particularly impressive given that the religious drama was playing on a third of the number of screens as the N.W.A biopic.

Don’t count reviewers among the fans. War Room has a woeful 18% “rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics like the Los Angeles Times’ Michael Rechtshaffen dismissing the film as “mighty long-winded and wincingly overwrought.”

Alex Kendrick, a former pastor who handles directing duties on the brothers’ films, said “Critics in Hollywood are rough with us. They don’t understand why we make our movies or our worldview. But our target audience gets them and that’s who we want to draw closer to a walk with God.”  See full article at Variety.

The Wrap:  War Room may have crushed Zac Efron‘s We Are Your Friends at the box office… but critics were decidedly less friendly than audiences. Here are some of the harshest reviews about War Room:

Vadim Rizov from A.V. Club: “It’s innocuous enough fare, though it’s creepy to encourage women to believe the true source of their husbandly woes is Satan rather than an issue that probably needs to be discussed.”

Jim Judy from Screen It!: “The flick has a potentially dangerous ‘remedy’ to domestic abuse … it’s not up to Elizabeth to change or judge her husband, regardless of his behavior. Instead, she should respect, love, forgive, and pray for him, and let God do the rest. That’s all fine and dandy, but there are plenty of religious wives (and children) who’ve eventually been beaten and even killed by abusive husbands/fathers despite all of the prayers in the world.”

Kimberley Jones from Austin Chronicle: “I lodge no complaint against the film’s emphasis on prayer, even if, dramatically, it’s not scintillating stuff to watch. […] The filmmakers are upfront about their religious intent, and it follows that their audience is a targeted one. But the Kendricks have further limited that audience by presenting an emphatically anti-feminist picture of faith, repeatedly underscoring the idea that a woman must be submissive to her husband…”

See full review at The Wrap.

The Guardian:  War Room, is, unfortunately, nowhere near as entertaining as some other of the recent low budget evangelical Christian films. The performers are professional and, while it’s set in dull interiors with flat TV lighting, it cuts together okay. The plot is an uninteresting melodrama with a tortoise’s pace, but this does allow the viewer plenty of time to scrutinize its odd logic. Elizabeth (Priscilla Shirer, a successful Christian minister in her first film role) is a hard-working real estate agent aware that her marriage is almost at its breaking point. Her no-nonsense new client Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie) wants to talk less about selling her house and more about Elizabeth’s relationship with Jesus. Miss Clara explains how she found happiness. She turned her walk-in closet into a war room, and there she sat and prayed and prayed. After a lengthy period of consideration, Elizabeth follows suit.  It was good timing, too, as her no-good husband Tony (T.C. Stallings) was just about to shack up with a work associate.

Shirer and Stallings do the best they can with the material, and while Miss Clara is about as subtle as Tyler Perry’s Madea, Karen Abercrombie’s furniture-chomping performance does sneak a laugh or two.  See full review at The Guardian.

The Christian Broadcasting Network:  War Room is a movie that serves as a powerful reminder of the impact that prayer can have on our everyday lives. It is a poignant example of God’s willingness to extend grace and mercy to us even when we feel like we don’t deserve it. Faith, family, and the power of prayer on the big screen … well worth the price of admission. See full review at CBN.com.

As Evil Does

Release Date 1/1/16
Genre:  Thriller
Rating:  Unknown
Running Time:  Unknown
Studio(s):  BroadMind Entertainment, Buggsy Productions
Director:  Yolanda Erica Buggs
Cast:  Bill Cobbs (Jeremiah), Dorian Missick (Dominic), Pamela Drake Wilson (Evangelist Carrie Robertson), Karl L. Sanders (Jesus).

As Evil Does

Story:  A suspense thriller that begins when a door-to-door evangelist engages an aging atheist in a conversation about religion and God. The conversation quickly devolves and the evangelist is asked to leave the house – but he doesn’t! When he re-emerges from the shadows after the caregiver has gone home, what ensues are three horrific nights of heated philosophical debates, cat and mouse pursuits, supernatural religious occurrences and torturous mayhem. Source(s): Shadow and Act, asevildoesthemovie.com.

Teaser:

War Room

War Room

Release Date (8/28/15; In Theaters)
Genre:  Drama/Inspirational
Rating:  PG
Running Time:  Unknown
Studio(s):  FaithStep Films, Affirm Films, Red Sky Studios, TriStar Pictures
Director:  Alex Kendrick
Cast:  Priscilla Evans Shirer (Elizabeth Jordan), T.C. Stallings (Tony Jordan), Karen Abercrombie (Miss Clara), Beth Moore (Mandy), Michael, Jr. (Michael), Jadin Harris (Jennifer Stephens), Tenae Downing (Veronica Drake), Alena Pitts (Danielle Jordan)

Story:  Tony and Elizabeth Jordan have it all—great jobs, a beautiful daughter, and their dream house. But appearances can be deceiving. Tony and Elizabeth Jordan’s world is actually crumbling under the strain of a failing marriage. While Tony basks in his professional success and flirts with temptation, Elizabeth resigns herself to increasing bitterness. But their lives take an unexpected turn when Elizabeth meets her newest client, Miss Clara, and is challenged to establish a “war room” and a battle plan of prayer for her family. As Elizabeth tries to fight for her family, Tony’s hidden struggles come to light. Tony must decide if he will make amends to his family and prove Miss Clara’s wisdom that victories don’t come by accident. Source: warroomthemovie.com.

Trailer:

See what the critics said about War Room.

Captive

CaptiveRelease Date 9/18/15 (In Theaters)
Genre:  Drama/Thriller
Rating:  PG-13
Running Time:  93 mins.
Studio(s):  BN Films, 1019 Entertainment, Brightside Entertainment, Itaca Films, Yoruba Saxon Productions, Distributors Paramount Pictures.
Director:  Jerry Jameson

Cast:  David Oyelowo (Brian Nichols), Kate Mara (Ashley Smith), Michael Kenneth Williams (Detective John Chestnut), Mimi Rogers (Kim Rogers), Leonor Varela (Detective Sanchez), E. Roger Mitchell (Sergeant Teasley).

Story:  Based on a miraculous true story that drew the attention of the entire nation, a thrilling drama about the spiritual collision of two broken lives. When Brian Nichols – on the run as the subject of a city wide manhunt and desperate to make contact with his newborn son – takes recovering meth addict Ashley Smith hostage in her own apartment, she turns for guidance to Rick Warren’s best-selling inspirational book, The Purpose Driven Life. While reading aloud, Ashley and her would-be killer each face crossroads where despair and death intersect hope. Source(s): captivethemovie.com, IMDB.

Trailer:

Unsullied

a/k/a Prey

Unsullied

Release Date (8/28/15; In Theaters) (3/14/14; Sun Valley Film Festival)
Genre:  Action/Thriller
Rating:  R
Running Time:  93 mins.
Studio:  Dreamline Pictures LLC
Director:  Simeon Rice
Cast:  Murray Gray (Reagan Farrow), Rusty Joiner (Noah Evans), James Gaudioso (Mason Hicks), Erin Boyes (Zoe Case), Cindy Karr (Claudine Willfellow), Nicole Paris Williams (Kim Farrow), Ward G. Smith (Sheriff).

Story:  Inspired by true events, Unsullied is the story of Reagan Farrow, a track star, who is kidnapped by a pair of sociopaths after her car breaks down on a deserted road.  Sources: IMDB, Dreamline Pictures.

Trailer:

See what the critics said about Unsullied.