Dennis Harvey, writing for Variety, reviews this new documentary by Bryan Storkel about a group of Pastors raising money for their ministries in a very unique way:
(EXCERPT) “Holy Rollers” chronicles what happens when two normally well-separated worlds collide. Its subjects are a group of young Christians, mostly from the Pacific Northwest, who realized they could make rent and devote more time to the Lord’s business by training themselves to count cards at casino blackjack tables. Treated as a sort of jaunty nonfiction caper by helmer Bryan Storkel, pic doesn’t probe deep but sustains the entertaining lure of its novel premise.
Protagonists might easily be taken for 30-ish hipsters, but appearances deceive: They’re all pastors, church leaders and/or congregants very much dedicated to their faith. (Pic’s major omission is that it doesn’t describe the precise tenets or logistics of their spiritual practices, though their sincerity is never in doubt.) Most struggle to support young families and spend time in worship-related activities while working as public schoolteachers, in construction, etc.
Then Seattle-based friends Ben Crawford and Colin Jones hit upon the idea of counting cards. Despite some hand wringing, they rationalize that taking funds from exploitative institutions in order to have more free time for family and flock does not constitute a sin. They consider it a calling, not a hustle.
This, however, is not an opinion shared by casino staff and gambling officials. While card counting isn’t actually illegal — being, as one person says, just “addition and division” — the venues certainly consider it cheating, and are quick to escort out, detain and/or ban any player whom their extensive surveillance suspects of using a system to beat house odds.
Despite being repeatedly thrown out of joints as a result (Crawford particularly enjoys donning outlandish disguises to elude that fate), the “Church Team” at first succeeds beyond its wildest dreams, enabling some to work at blackjack tables a mere 40 hours a month for a sustaining income distributed evenly among all investors.
But despite rigorous training and recurrent self-testing, their luck turns and they pile up some scary losses after a half-year winning streak. Some team members, with life savings or mortgages at stake, get cold feet. As the range of players and participants expands beyond a close circle of church friends, trust ebbs, and suspicions arise that someone might be stealing from the collective kitty.
Though it often seems money inevitably corrupts, the principal subjects here (most identified only by first name) are convincingly idealistic, taking this bizarre, even unseemly route not to get rich quick, but simply to better support their loved ones and ministries. Still, we find out far less about the faith that plays such a big part in their lives than we do about the gambling team’s process and the defensive tactics of highly unamused casino personnel.
Sounds like “21″ meets “Rainman” meets “700 Club”. This totally needs to be a Feature Film, btdubs.
Read the FULL ARTICLE HERE.
How do you follow up the succcess of your deep, intensely emotional drama about an overweight, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child? With the humorous adventures of third-grader Judy Moody, naturally. A Variety Magazine news item by Pamela McClintock talked with the Producers of “Precious” to discuss their next project.
“Precious” producers Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness have selected their next project: family pic “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer,” based on the popular children’s book series.
John Schultz (“Aliens in the Attic”) will direct from an adapted script by Kathy Waugh and Megan McDonald, author of the books. Schultz begins lensing in August in Los Angeles. The Magnesses, who are hoping to spin the film into a franchise, will produce through their Smokewood Entertainment shingle.
CAA is packaging the film and repping North American rights.
McDonald’s books chronicle the humorous adventures of third-grader Judy Moody. There are eight titles in the series, with more than 12 million copies in print. All are illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds.
A spin-off series features Judy Moody’s brother Stink.
Schultz told Daily Variety the film will appeal to both girls and boys, since it will feature Judy and Stink. He said the story also will engage adults.
“Megan McDonald’s books are really smart and funny. More than anything, they remind me of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts,” Schultz said.
The full article can be read HERE at Variety.
(JAN 09, 2009) A Variety Article by Robert Koehler about TD Jakes’ newest film, Not Easily Broken. The full article can be read at VARIETY.
(EXCERPT) The T.D. Jakes faith-based media empire expands even further into mainstream entertainment with “Not Easily Broken,” a contempo melodrama about a marriage under stress that, religious overtones and sheer artistic skill aside, isn’t too far from some similar-themed films of the ’50s by Douglas Sirk and Richard Quine.
Director Bill Duke, with screenwriter Brian Bird adapting Jakes’ novel, oversees a routine and formulaic project that could have reached considerably greater emotional and psychological depths. The Good Word of mouth among members of Jakes’ flock will deliver fine opening weekend numbers for this early January release.
TD Jakes’ newest film, Not Easily Broken, hits select theaters on Jan 9, 2009.
(JAN 09, 2009) Variety Magazine blurb by Daniel Frankel which talks about the showcasing of a new Ted Haggard documentary at an HBO event. The full article is posted at Variety.
(EXCERPT) HBO kicked off its Friday afternoon TCA panel by showcasing upcoming docu “The Trials of Ted Haggard.”
Haggard, whose sex and drug scandal ended his high-profile ministry career in 2006 and led to the creation of an HBO docu chronicling his dramatically changed life, spent much of his panel explaining to crix the definition of such Evangelical nomenclature as “overseers” and “restorers.”
The Haggard docu debuts Jan. 29.
(DEC 31, 2008) A Variety article by Pamela McClintock giving us a preview of the big studio releases scheduled for Winter 2009, even amid news that production, hand in hand with the economy, is recessing. The full article can be read HERE.
(EXCERPT) Hollywood studios are scaling back production, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at the multiplexes in the first part of 2009. The first few months of the year were once a graveyard for the least promising fare, but ’09 is seeing a flood of titles entering the marketplace.
There are numerous reasons for the glut. With the summer and holiday frames jam-packed, the majors can no longer afford to save their best titles for those key dates. And studios are using the January-April period to open a cluster of pics that were put into production before the 2007-08 writers strike.
(APR 05, 2007) Kevin Jackson of the Christian Post Reporter covers a Variety Magazine story:
(EXCERPT) Six of the film industry’s “most dynamic” independent Christian movie firms were featured in the faith-based section of Variety, a popular daily newspaper for the entertainment industry.
Among other things, the featured piece explained how these movie companies have remained independent from the studio system in the past to keep true to religious themes, but also how many are beginning to partner with Hollywood to gain more exposure for their productions.