Four new reviews from Don Shanahan of Every Movie Has a Lesson



You come to “The Circle” for the provocative thoughts.  As preposterous as it really is, the intriguing topical parallels from Dave Eggers’s source novel are appealingly fascinating.  The most circular aspect of “The Circle” is the repetition of its metaphorical mantras and simile statements, and the belabored points of its overt social commentary.  Spewed lines like “secrets are lies,” “sharing is caring,” and “privacy is theft” hammer thumbtacks with jackhammers.  For the many of us with our faces tilted down scrolling bright screens, the over-indulgent jackhammer might be the right attention-getting sound.


Like “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” before “Sand Castle,” this film feels ten years too late to make any resounding statement.  Asking the tough questions of social and political commentary has become the prevailing desired detail in chronicling this war, with “Zero Dark Thirty” at the top.  The premise, while thankfully direct and simple in its size, is too slight in answering any “to what end” doctrine that better war films can emanate from credits to credits.  Even with its “coming-of-age” overtones, “Sand Castle” lacks the complexity to tell a stronger story.


Amir Mo is an unstoppable fountain of chatter rolling with all kinds of uncensored confidence. Not many of his cast members, even Tosi going tit-for-tat as the naive foil, can keep up with his comic velocity.  “The Sex Addict” shows off his ballsy writing right there with his go-for-broke performance dedication.  He is quite a discovery for a first-time feature effort.


The grassroots documentary “Faith in the Big House” sharply packs an informative punch on the realities and impacts of religious-based reform programs that operate in our nation’s prisons.  This film isn’t a sugarcoated “hey, look at me” humblebrag fireworks display celebrating any particular preacher or church’s shallow efforts that, in reality, only add up to little more than window dressing.  This film isn’t an offshoot of the conveniently-produced stereotypes being perpetuated on reality TV prison shows flooding cable channels.  “Faith in the Big House” commendably exudes wide-ranging integrity to redefine the mountain of misleading facts and truths.


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