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SIFF 2011 Movie Reviews: Holy Rollers, Funkytown, Lys

Hello Scarecrow fans! Here are some final reviews before the big weekend! Get 'em while they're hot! Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians: The first half of this movie is quite simply AWESOME fun. Fast and funny, well-edited, stylish and clever, this film whisks you along on a gambling adventure that is part Rainman and part Ocean's 11.� The film deals with the story of how this group of Christians came together and made a business out of blackjack and how they justify the means to themselves, their families, and their communities. Unfortunately the film simply goes on too long and makes some crucial errors by not following up on what is clearly an important interview, which makes me wonder if the director was perhaps a fellow Christian and friend of this group and, as such, biased in his choice of what to show and, more importantly what, not to show. Questions of greed, suspicion, discrimination, religious fervor, and morality begin to raise their ugly heads like a hydra; interesting and provocative but in the end something of a buzz-kill to the initial exuberance of the first half. What I found surprising is that the SIFF write-up for the film is partially inaccurate. It claims that these people are using blackjack in order to fund their churches and communities. This is not the case, according to the film. It is, quite clearly, a business; there are investors, there are managers, and there are players (employees) and as far as the film depicts, they are all in this to make money for themselves. Basically, they "work" 40 hours a month playing blackjack to make a living rather than 40 hours a week in a regular job and "supposedly" put the rest of their time into their Christian faith. This is the only way their "work" gives back to the Christian community; their claim that they do it in order to have more time to dedicate to pastoring, their church, and their community. But this is something we are told in non-explicit terms and do not see. This movie clearly pushed some hot buttons in the people around me, as several individuals walked out during the press screening. Even though it was overlong and could have used some editing, overall it was entertaining and certainly very interesting. No matter what your stance or opinion on either gambling or Christianity might be, there's something of interest to take away from this film. I think any film that posits such controversial ideas and conversations is a film worth seeing. USA, 2011 (93 minutes) Director: Bryan Storkel Director Bryan Storkel, producer Jason Connell, cinematographer Brian Liepe, and other cast and crew members are scheduled to attend Festival Screenings 6:00 PM Sat, June 11 Admiral Theatre (Screening on STANDBY - advance tickets not available) 3:30 AM Sun, June 12 SIFF Cinema Funkytown: Based on true stories, this Canadian film does an excellent job of capturing the changing of the times at the end of the 70s, from when Disco ruled to the point where New Wave start to make its move. Following a number of different characters - a highly successful radio DJ and TV celebrity, an up-and-coming model/starlet, a corrupt music manager, an aging singer whose career is on the rocks thanks to disco and poor management, a sexually conflicted young Italian dancer and restauranteur, a gay TV host and celebrity on his way down from success - we watch as their lives become intertwined, mostly for the worst, through the Starlight club, which boasts to be the first Disco dance club in North America. The music really makes the film (and it's not all disco)� capturing not only the times but� suffusing the movie with a vivacious energy. Although the film is long, and you can feel its length, it's never boring or uninteresting. It's a fascinating look at how times change, music changes, and people change, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. Some people shoulder adversity and manage to rise to the top; others are crushed and crumble beneath it. Even though only a few characters in the film are really likeable or deserve your respect, they're all interesting and engaging, whether they're rising like a phoenix or crashing like a burning car. Way more enjoyable and entertaining that I had expected. A really� good film that I highly recommend checking out. Canada (Quebec), 2011 (133 minutes) Director: Daniel Roby Cast: Patrick Huard, Justin Chatwin, Sarah Mutch, Raymond Bouchard, Paul Doucet Director Daniel Roby scheduled to attend Festival Screenings 9:30 PM Fri, June 10 AMC Pacific Place 3:30 AM Sun, June 12 AMC Pacific Place Lys: This movie is crazy short! It was preceded by a short film called Roman's Ark which I found vaguely interesting visually, but not particularly interesting (or even exactly clear) as a film, short or not. Siiiigh. Lys likewise felt a bit incomplete and lacked a great deal of explanation. A new power plant, using a supposedly clean and renewable energy source called Anima, suddenly starts having catastrophic failures resulting in massive blackouts at the same time that a mysterious girl is found in the reactor chamber. Quickly it becomes clear that they do not have control over this energy source, which may be far more volatile than they initially realized, and for better or for worse it appears that the strange girl, Lys, might be the either the key to understanding this new mystery, or a weapon to bring about their destruction. I think this the first time I've ever felt that a movie at the festival should have been longer, but this one really needed a little more beef along with its bun. Too many questions left unanswered, too little actual plot or character development.� It needed more and, honestly, I think there could have easily been more to it. Characters were dreadfully two-dimensional, some utterly arbitrary, and as a result it was difficult to feel engaged in the film. Told in a series of flashbacks, there is also a distinct lack of a clear timeline, which really would have added to the clarity and possibly even the tension of the story. Rumor has it that this is the director's thesis project and, despite all of my complaints, it was still interesting and well made. In the end, however, I was more interested in what it could have been with some more time and more money, rather than in what it was. Germany, 2011 (52 minutes, 76 minutes total) Director: Krystof Zlatnik Cast: Hanna Schwamborn, Horst-G�nter Marx, Marc Hosemann, Catherine Bode Ecki Hoffmann Director Krystof Zlatnik scheduled to attend. Festival Screenings 9:30 PM Fri, June 10 Neptune Theatre 11:00 AM Sat, June 11 Neptune Theatre