Friday, April 17, 2015

Movie Review: Beyond the Mask

by C.J. Chase
For decades, a few honchos of big corporations decided which novelists' books to publish, which musicians' recordings to release, and which directors' movies to make. Sure, it has always been easy for a small band to create music or a writer to type words--but how could the artists distribute the work to people beyond the local community? Without the backing of a major company, they were left to hawk self-published books out of their trunks or live out of a tip jar on the bar. And for would-be movie producers, the barriers to entry were even worse because of the enormous costs associated even with a "low-budget" flick. The big guys controlled which songs, books, or movies the public could hear/read/see--and those corporations chose according to their values.

Fortunately, the internet has created an "indie" revolution in music, books, and now movies. Terms like "self-published" or "independent"--once considered little more than synonyms for "poor quality"--are now ubiquitous. And while a part of me is sad at the passing of the cultural unity that developed when everyone watched/read/listened to the same things, I'm glad my entertainment choices are not confined to someone else's tastes and values.

Before I begin the review of Beyond the Mask, let me give a bit of background first. Beyond the Mask is a true "indie" movie. It is the brainchild of a couple of cousins who developed a passion for making movies as homeschooled kids. But how to finance a "real" movie? Enter the internet (part 1) with, a site that gives ordinary people the chance to vote with their wallets for proposed movies (or other art projects) they want to see produced.

Okay, that takes care of the funding. You've made the movie but what about that pesky distribution problem? How do you get it in theaters? Cue the internet, part 2, and the concept of "on demand" movies. A "theater captain" arranges (via the internet site Gathr) to choose a screening date with a local theater. In my area, there were three such possible dates, all of them on Monday/Tuesday--days the theater wouldn't normally be filled. If the captain can arrange for enough people to reserve seats by a specified date, the screening goes forward. (In my area, only one of the three met the threshold by the date.) It's a win-win for the theater which only hosts the screening if a certain number of tickets are sold in advance.

Of course, on-demand requires a groundswell of demand. How do you get word out to enough people interested that they are willing to order tickets for a Monday or Tuesday movie night? Well, I first learned about Beyond the Mask on social media (Facebook) -- internet, part 3. It sounded like my kind of movie, so I watched the trailer:

Men with guns. Women with fabulous dresses. A ship with dangerous secrets. Romance. Adventure. Redemption. Oh, yeah. Definitely my kind of movie. (Why, just the description reminds me of that great American classic, Redeeming the Rogue.) The 7:30 p.m. showing made it too late for son #3 (who has an 8:30 bedtime), so I left him home with his disappointed dad and took son #2 on a Mom-Son night.

Will Reynolds (Andrew Cheney) is a paid assassin for the East India Company who is tired of doing dirty deeds. He wants to collect his fees, retire, and settle down--but he discovers his employer (John Rhys-Davis) has an only-one-way-out, Mafia-like policy. It's only after Will cheats death (the first time) and falls in love with Charlotte (Kara Killmer) that he realizes what he really wants: redemption. But how can a man with so much blood on his hands ever prove himself worthy?

My verdict? I liked it. Imagine Elizabeth Bennet dumping that snobbish fop Darcy for a man of action like Horatio Hornblower, and you've got a pretty good sense of the flick. Beyond the Mask is billed as an adventure movie, and while it's fast-paced with lots of things that go "Boom!" (and a surprising lot of things go "Boom!" for the 1700's setting--Pride and Prejudice this ain't), I'd call it a romance at its core. It's rated PG for violence (you know, the guns, things that go boom, plus some implied killings, etc.), but nothing truly gory happens on screen. A bit of knowledge of US history is helpful, and the plot and characterization are complex enough that young children may have trouble following the storyline. I'd say it's best suited to upper elementary aged kids and above.

And here's the best part. Because enough on-demand tickets were sold in April, the movie has been picked up for a traditional theater release, beginning June 5. Take the whole family, or, if your kids are very young, leave them with a sitter and take your husband. There are enough things that go "Boom!" you don't have to tell him it's really a romance.

Hollywood has notions of adventure and romance that are often diametrically opposed to Christian values (Fifty Shades of Grey, anyone?). If Christians want to compete for the culture, we need to create and support excellent entertainment that doesn't shy away from eternal truths.

You can read more about Beyond the Mask here. For a sneak peak at the opening scene:


  1. This is like indie publishing for authors (although much harder and more costly!) but what an amazing opportunity! And what a fun idea for a book... new industries springing up around us adds to book fodder potential! Delightful post!

    1. Good morning, Ruth! It is exciting. What will movies look like in a few years? Will it be like publishing where the major houses still exist, but they publish a declining share of the books available?

      Can't say I thought of it as book fodder. Guess I'm still stuck on the idea of a Lizzie Bennet/Horatio Hornblower mashup (except I think the HH character is still under copyright. Sigh.)

  2. You sold me! I definitely want to see it.

    1. My husband is so jealous. I'm sure I'll get to see it again in June -- with him. (Big brother will be home then and can look after little brothers.)

  3. Oh wow... thanks, CJ! I've just informed the family that I want to see this one if they catch it playing near us. :)

    1. I'm hoping it comes here again. If it doesn't, my husband will be so upset.


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