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Them That Follow

Scary snakes are more believable than the story 
© 1091 Media Preacher Lemuel (Walton ­Goggins) proves his faith handling venomous snakes.
     Mara (Alice Englert) follows the dogma of her father Lemuel (Walton Goggins), the preacher of an Appalachian Pentecostal community that proves their faith by handling venomous snakes. 
      Lapsed believer Augie (Thomas Mann) wants Mara to leave the mountain with him for the bigger world. She fears that people off the mountain are under the devil’s sway.
      Mara’s pregnancy tests her faith. She knows she can’t marry Augie, but she is repulsed by her father’s choice. The clock is ticking, for Mara can’t long hide her secret.
     Writers/directors Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage succeed in their feature debut in creating atmosphere, with sweeping shots of trailers and ramshackle churches with neon crosses. Actors, too, are brilliant. But the story has problems.
     Olivia Coleman, who just won an Oscar for The Favourite, plays Augie’s devout mother, who dreams of bringing her son back to the church, with repressed desire. Englert shows Mara pulled between her faith and the reality of her situation. 
      Best of all is Goggins, who could find a new career as a backwoods preacher. His Lemuel brims with manic energy, dancing with snakes in his hands and spitting fire and brimstone as he preaches. His drawl makes even his harshest pronouncements sound sincere, but his too-bright, too-wide smile gives him the demeanor of a used car salesman desperate to close a deal. 
      Alas, there’s not enough story to back up these character studies. Poulton and Savage don’t show us why this lost flock gathered around Lemuel or why their faith is so strong that even watching loved ones die from snake bites does not shake it. 
      If that failure doesn’t shake your faith, graphic imagery might, as you’ll see way too much of both snakes and home surgery. 
Fair Drama • R • 98 mins. 
 
~~~ New this Week ~~~
47 Meters Down: Uncaged
      Four friends choose an exceptional vacation off the beaten path. Instead of touristy sites, they dive into a remote Mexican cave system where they discover a sunken Mayan ruin filled with intricate artifacts.
     But they’re not alone.
     Also exploring the Mayan ruins are hungry great white sharks. With their oxygen dwindling and the sharks getting closer, the girls need a plan. 
     This sequel won’t live up to the surprisingly suspenseful shark movie 47 Meters Down. But it could be fun. 
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 89 mins.
 
Angry Birds 2
      The angry birds and the green piggies have forged an uneasy truce. Though their war has ended, there is no trust lost between these formerly feuding factions. Now shared dangers mean they need to work together. 
     This silly sequel is the rare bird that’s more entertaining than the original. That’s not to say that you’ll find any deeper message here, but little ones should enjoy the fun romp in slapstick comedy.
Prospects: Flickering • PG • 100 mins. 
 
Blinded By The Light
      Music lover Javed (Viveik Kalra) is obsessed with Bruce Springsteen’s songs of working-class life. His Pakistani parents don’t get their boy’s fixation. They’re struggling to maintain their values in England amidst racism and economic downturns. Javed, however, is inspired to take a leap and follow The Boss’ path through life.
      The earnest coming-of-age flick combines great tunes and a unique atmosphere to tell a universal story. 
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 114 mins. 
 
Good Boys
     Max, Thor and Lucas (Jacob Tremblay, Brady Noon and Keith L. Williams) are not their school’s most popular boys. A little naive, a little odd, these 12-year-olds long to seem cool. They use Max’s dad’s drone to spy on a couple making out next door. But the drone crashes, and the boys must find a way to replace it before dad gets home.
      Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg — the duo that crafted Superbad — are behind this raunchy comedy about the misadventures of little boys. Their films succeed on the inherent sweetness at the center of the vulgarity.
Prospects: Bright • R • 95 mins.
 
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? 
      Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett) is used to making sacrifices for her family. But after years of stifling her creativity, she takes a creative leap — seemingly off the face of the Earth. 
     As her anxious family searches, they uncover her secrets.
     Director Richard Linklater is a master of crafting small dramatic tales and deeply felt characters. Based on a beloved bestseller, his cinematic retelling should be an excellent story about finding yourself and your family. 
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 104 mins.