Don Verdean

Director
Jared Hess
Runtime
1 h 36 min
Release Date
1 December 2015
Genres
Comedy
Overview
Biblical archaeologist Don Verdean is hired by a local church pastor to find faith-promoting relics in the Holy Land. But after a fruitless expedition he is forced to get creative in this comedy of faith and fraud.
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Crosswalk1
Cross Walk



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • Church Satire Fails on All Fronts - Especially Humor - in Don Verdean
    Movies DVD Release Date: March 1, 2016Theatrical Release Date: December 11, 2015Rating: PG-13 (for crude and suggestive content, some language and brief violence)Genre: Comedy/SatireRun Time: 90 min.Director: Jared HessCast: Sam Rockwell, Amy Ryan, Jemaine Clement, Will Forte, Danny McBride, Leslie Bibb, Steve Park, Sky Elobar, P.J. Boudousque, Jared Shipley Jared and Jerusha Hess, the husband/wife duo responsible for the offbeat comic gems Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre (let's just pretend the atrocious Gentlemen Broncos never happened), have largely succeeded with a decidedly Seinfeld-ian approach to storytelling: writing movies that are essentially about nothing. But in the absence of plot, it's the winsome characters and weird, stream-of-conscious comedic set-ups that offer a wide range of appeal (if your sense of humor skews that way, that is. I've watched Napoleon Dynamite with people who didn't laugh once, so maybe the Hesses' work is more of an acquired taste like healthy green juice). Perhaps hoping for a better shot at mass appeal this time around, the Hesses have opted for a more traditionally structured story with Don Verdean. In what's essentially a satirical look at the shady lengths some pastors will go to hold the attention of the flock, Don Verdean has plenty going for it on paper, including an appealing, comedic cast and a premise rife with potential. As so many movies have proven in the past, however, decent actors and an interesting concept can only get filmmakers so far. The problems that plague Don Verdean are apparent almost immediately. Not only does it take way, way too long to get the party started, but the once-reliable comic relief never bothers showing up. Instead, it's been replaced with a script that's completely bananas - and not in a good way - and the borderline offensive attempts at humor are so dumb they're not even worth getting upset about. In short, Don Verdean is a giant mess where basically all the footage belonged on the cutting room floor.SEE ALSO: Stretchy Pants Save the Day In Very Funny Nacho Libre googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-1'); }); Sam Rockwell (The Way, Way Back), sporting a wig that looks like it was left over from Will Ferrell's Saturday Night Live days, plays the titular character, a self-appointed biblical archeologist. After supposedly unearthing gems like the scissors that famously cut Samson's hair, Verdean has amassed a sizable following of churchgoers who feel their faith is affirmed and enriched by seeing "actual proof" of Biblical realities. While Verdean has carved out a comfortable professional niche with steady-ish work and DVDs that sell relatively well, he's desperate to take his "work" to the next level. In his quest for "bigger" finds, like the head of Goliath, for example, Verdean eventually comes upon the fast-track to success after a local pastor, Rev. Tony Lazarus (Danny McBride, Aloha), agrees to bankroll any future excavations. Lazarus, who describes himself as "a former sinner redeemed by grace," and his wife, an ex-hooker named Joylinda (Leslie Bibb, Talladega Nights), have their own reasons for wanting Verdean to be successful. After Pastor Fontaine (Will Forte, Nebraska), a former Satanist, moved to town and started a church, Rev. Lazarus found it difficult to compete with a more colorful testimony. So with local church attendance favoring Fontaine's congregation by an increasing number, the Lazarus family feels an immediate need for relevancy. Feeling the pressure to deliver something extraordinary—and fast—Verdean reaches out to his contact in the Holy Land, Boaz (Jemaine Clement, best known for TV's "Flight of the Conchords"). Also seeking his own big break (to head to the States in pursuit of "hot chicks" and "The American Dream"), Boaz insists he can produce the pillar of salt that Lot's wife turned into.SEE ALSO: Sci-Fi Not So Appealing or Funny in Gentlemen Broncos Regardless of how odd the discovery looks ("Lot's wife" is sporting both female and male anatomy), or that its authenticity hasn't been verified by anyone accredited, the local church folks see it as a tangible sign of God's existence. Not surprisingly, Rev. Lazarus and Verdean enjoy the spoils of mass adulation and media attention, much to Pastor Fontaine's chagrin. He seems to be the only one with a lick of sense in this entire production because he, quite rightly, smells the proverbial rat. Now he's just got to prove it. Meanwhile, empowered by all the attention, Don opts for increasingly deceitful practices, eventually heading to the Middle East in search of Goliath's head. A slew of dead ends lead him to break into a grave of a wrestler born with giantism and present that skull as the famous Philistine warrior's cranium instead. Trouble is, the wrong person gets wind of Don's deception, and the increasingly opportunistic Boaz blackmails Don into making his business a partnership. Before long, Boaz is courting Christian leaders with far deeper pockets like a Chinese billionaire who is promised access to the Holy Grail, and it's here where the story segues from a lackluster stab at social commentary to a bizarro knock-off of Indiana Jones. Don Verdean hints at relevant takeaways for the modern Church: the inherent competitiveness of church leaders to maintain and grow their congregations... the constant battle to "prove" our faith to draw new converts... the gullibility of some who'll believe anything that's spoken or shown from the pulpit. So Don Verdean could have been timely satire. Instead, it falls flat in every possible way. Not only is this film shockingly unfunny, but its point of view is so tepid and timid that you're not quite sure why the Hesses went there in the first place. CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):SEE ALSO: James Bond Spoofs Have Never Been Funnier Than Spy googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-2'); }); if (gptClientWidth >= 992 && gptClientWidth <= 1000000) googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-3'); }); Drugs/Alcohol: References to cannabis Language/Profanity: Bast--d shows up a few times, as well as he—and da--. Other words, including gawl-dong and Holy Ghostpower, sub in for their harsher counterparts. Sex/Nudity: Several references to male and female anatomy, including a statue of (supposedly) Lot's wife that's a hermaphrodite. Boaz makes it known that he wants "one night" with Carol but clarifies it's not to "make love" but to dance, talk, etc. When they do get together, Boaz makes a pass at her anyway. References to Pastor Lazurus's wife's past work as a hooker. Violence/Thematic Elements: Don rips the head from a corpse. Irresponsible gunfire leads to a few injuries in one scene. A person is stuffed in a trunk. Publication date: December 10, 2015 ]]>
    ...
    (Review Source)

Armond White1
The National Review / OUT



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • The Obama Western
    The Revenant, Macbeth, and Don Verdean show civilization’s decline. The Revenant, the new Leonardo DiCaprio western, bids to be also the last western. That once-quintessential Hollywood genre has lost its popularity to sci-fi and comic-book flicks that trendily dramatize social tensions — along with offering escape into perpetual adolescence. The Revenant reworks the older westerns’ exploration of American history, and of the issues arising from the clash between civilization and perceived wilderness, into a spectacle replete with contemporary social distress. That makes it an Obama western. DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass, a guide and hunter for a fur-trading expedition in the 1820s, humbly embodies the country’s humane, multicultural hopes, yet he’s stuck amid venal, weak-principled countrymen. Burdened with the racist legacy of European settlers, Glass is haunted by the killing of his Pawnee wife and guards his biracial son. Glass’s ambivalence and fortitude are tested by his trouble with John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), a low-life among the government-sanctioned trappers. The unhinged, Bible-quoting carnivore Fitzgerald is a lying, killing incarnation of America’s evils. The epic, overlong murderous opposition between Glass and Fitzgerald reveals perfidious man in nature, and nature as alienating as it is “red in tooth and claw.” Their conflict symbolizes the war between civility and savagery, though it is not the classic sheriff-vs.-outlaw antagonism. In this End of the West western, the greed, selfishness, and brutal cynicism come straight out of our contemporary paranoid atmosphere. The Revenant portrays the U.S. as a ghost of its once idealized, rough-hewn self, a nation troubled by its treacherous past while slogging through an onerous, deadly present — thus, an Obama allegory. Oscar-winning Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu doesn’t apologize for American history; he even avoids the Mexican–American War and the policies of European colonization that might specifically explain Manifest Destiny. Yet, by playing a Clooney–Damon–Pitt game, Iñárritu uses the western genre for a simplified critique of American temperament: Glass always physically conflicts with threatening forces, including bedrock, redneck conservatism. In this End of the West western, the greed, selfishness, and brutal cynicism come straight out of our contemporary paranoid atmosphere. (function($){ var swapArticleBodyPullAd = function() { if ($('body').hasClass('node-type-articles')) { var $pullAd = $('.story-container .pullad').addClass('mobile-position'); if (window.matchMedia("(min-width: 640px)").matches) { if ($pullAd.hasClass('mobile-position')) { $pullAd .addClass('desktop-position') .insertBefore('.article-ad-desktop-position'); } } else { if ($pullAd.hasClass('mobile-position')) { $pullAd .addClass('mobile-position') .insertBefore('.article-ad-mobile-position'); } } } }; $(window).on('resize', function(){ swapArticleBodyPullAd(); }).resize(); })(jQuery); His virtue is lamely represented by romantic memories and race-conscious fatherhood. (“They don’t hear your voice, they only see your skin,” he warns his teenage son.) His struggle is epitomized in a showpiece battle with a grizzly bear. It’s like a superhero origin myth via computer-generated F/X. Glass is left nearly dead, prey to Fitzgerald’s ruthlessness. Fisheye close-ups of DiCaprio in agony recall A Clockwork Orange’s cynicism, and his snowy travails repeat that Quaalude crawl in The Wolf of Wall Street. After relentless melodramatic setbacks, phenomenal resilience wins him revenge. Remember how Vietnam-era westerns (Little Big Man, Soldier Blue, Bite the Bullet, High Plains Drifter) expressed liberal American guilt? Well, the trendy ISIS-era politics of Iñárritu’s western fantasy prohibit cathartic heroism. This frustration and reticence add to The Revenant’s Obama aspect. DiCaprio and the prodigious Tom Hardy sink into their characters’ obstinacy to show white American moral descent (while the knowing Native Americans bide their time stereotypically — a millennial flip of their passivity in Dances with Wolves). After ear-chewing combat with Fitzgerald, similar to Laurence Olivier and Gregory Peck’s mauling each other in The Boys from Brazil, Glass stares at the audience with a look of “This is not who we are” hopelessness. The Revenant is an accusatory western. Iñárritu forces the audience to judge imperialism, starting with Emmanuel Lubezki’s preening, relentless camera (just as in last year’s dreadful Birdman) weaving among the corrupt characters. Lubezki’s photography is pellucid, as always, but whereas he achieved a newly discovered, paradisiacal look for Terrence Malick’s The New World, the American wild here seems inhospitable, dangerous. Before the mano a mano brawl, a Bierstadt-worthy sun ray moves through a mountain pass. The fleeting, stunning sight suggests a dying of light, a nation’s coming eclipse. Share article on Facebookshare Tweet articletweet The cinematic surprise of 2015 is Macbeth, directed by Justin Kurzel. Shakespeare’s intimate political intrigue is filmed as a global visionary tragedy. Kurzel depicts Scotland’s eleventh-century history while alluding to our millennial disillusionment (“I feel now the future in the instant”). Kurzel’s harsh, violent images link to 300: Rise of an Empire, transforming pop myth through breathtaking poetry. Both Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard look archetypal: His ruddy skin, facial scruff, scared eyes, and a smile not to be trusted complement her deep-set stare with blue eyeshadow beneath a pearl corona. Their scheming and anguish derive from deep suffering, sufficient to explain their moral fall. By literalizing “Screw your courage to the sticking post, and we’ll not fail,” Kurzel makes the play as sexual as 300, and the tragedy becomes, all the more, a human and affecting tale of ambition vs. conscience. (The mob hailing Macbeth ironically resembles the people wall-mugging in the background of today’s politicians.) More Movies Mark Ruffalo vs. White ‘Conservative’ Women The Mummy Unwrapped: American Guilt and Masochism There’s Still Life in The Mummy At this moment of political division and partisan suspicion, Macbeth is a perfect vehicle to wake the biased, dehumanizing conscience, to show the worst of others in ourselves. That’s what makes Fassbender and Cotillard’s unorthodox performances so beautiful. His talent for decadent menace and her gift for wounding sorrow deliver a poetic effect even when they use contemporary cadence on the blank verse. Jed Kurzel’s shrieking, moaning strings and booming percussion — this is the year’s best music score — add tactile effect to already expressive images: The forest killings of Macduff’s family and Banquo are worthy of The Conformist, and Paddy Considine as Banquo’s ghost is unforgettable. Justin Kurzel’s intense understanding of the play’s essence is apparent in the welts on the witches’ faces, Macbeth’s catching embers in his hand, the revelatory edit during Lady Macbeth’s monologue, and the close-up that makes Macbeth’s “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” despair immersive. This is the most imaginative Shakespeare film in years, as we await Julie Taymor’s wonderful unreleased A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Don Verdean is the darkest film yet by Jared Hess, director of Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre, and Gentlemen Broncos. It’s not “dark” in the trendy sense that endorses nihilism but in a bright, comical sense that looks through nihilism to the other side. The title character (played by Sam Rockwell) is a religious huckster (author of Relics of God and star of the God’s Errand DVD), whose livelihood exploits seekers. He sells archaeological artifacts (Lot’s wife’s pillar of salt and the skull of Goliath) found in Holy Land expeditions. He proves the truth of Biblical miracles while plundering the modern natural world. This film about godlessness is a perfect companion piece to the profundity of Macbeth and an antidote to the pessimism of The Revenant. By showing the Christian ability to laugh at oneself (Danny McBride’s born-again evangelist strikes the perfect note; Will Forte’s former Satanist does not), Hess keeps the faith despite skepticism. Don Verdean’s character isn’t fully conceived. His Israeli partner-in-crime Boaz (Jemaine Clement) is a livelier conceit (“Your Lord and me have a lot in common”), while his research assistant (Amy Ryan) remains a sweet idea unfulfilled. But how many movies, even failed ones, can still be called idiosyncratic and delightful? — Armond White, a film critic who writes about movies for National Review Online, received the American Book Awards’ Anti-Censorship Award. He is the author of The Resistance: Ten Years of Pop Culture That Shook the World and the forthcoming What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about the Movies. ]]>
    ...
    (Review Source)

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