Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Rapid Reviews: Going Clear and Faults

The major film studios need to look over their shoulders, because a new player is in town. HBO Films entered the buyers market at this year's Sundance Film Festival by acquiring the massively anticipated documentary, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. Who knows what types of doors this will open to future purchases by the premium cable channel, but thankfully they wasting no time releasing the documentary to its subscribers.

Director Alex Gibney centers his film around author Lawrence Wright's book of the same name, and talks to former high ranking officials of the Church of Scientology who have since left the church. Going Clear skillfully uses archived footage and in-depth interviews with eight former church members to shed light on the current state of the wealthy "religion". What begins as a look into the crazed world of founder, science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, develops into an enthralling examination of where the church has ventured since his passing in 1986.

For nearly three decades, David Miscavige, has used Scientology's church-status power to create a completely disconnected reality between his religion's members and the rest of the outside world. Going Clear also aggressively tackles the celebrity status of current members John Travolta and Tom Cruise in such a way that its two-hour running time passes with ease.

Scientology has always been a great mystery until recently, and Gibney refuses to overlook any of the various controversies surrounding the religion which include abuse of members, harsh living conditions for children and misconduct from its leaders. Going Clear is an eye-opening and captivating detailed account of Scientology account that you won't want to miss.

Stars: 3 stars out of 4

Grade: B+

Currently available On Demand is the engrossing indie thriller, Faults, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and directed by her husband, Riley Stearns. I had the distinct pleasure of catching this 90-minute gem at last year's Philadelphia Film Festival and I've been clamoring for friends and readers to see it ever since.

Winstead stars as Claire, a member of a cult called Faults whose concerned parents seek out the assistance of a so-called mind control expert named Ansel (Played by Leland Orser). Together Ansel and Claire's parents kidnap her and lock her in a hotel room in order to deprogram the brainwashed young woman. However, as their relationship begins to develop Ansel becomes consumed by Claire's enchanting aura.

Faults succeeds wonderfully on the shoulders of excellent performances from Winstead and her counterpart, Leland Orser. As a huge fan of Winstead, this role delivers some of the most exceptional work of her career. And along with a commendably clever script, Faults takes the audience for a thrilling ride all the way to its explosive finale. It was quite an impressive debut feature for Stearns and I'm eager to see what the budding filmmaker has in store for the future.

Stars: 3 stars out of 4

Grade: B

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