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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "Faith, Fraud, & Minimum Wage" )

 

directed by George Mihalka
Canada 2010

 

Young Casey McCullen (Martha MacIsaac, the LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT remake) lives with her father in an economically-depressed Nova Scotia town. She has not forgiven herself for the accident that put her sister Meg into a coma the year before, and her father Donald (Callum Keith Rennie, EXISTENZ) has spent more time at Meg's hospital bedside than selling Christmas trees to families that can't afford them (he is even seen giving away trees without Casey's knowledge). The bills are piling up and Casey has to struggle to hold onto her minimum wage job at Krowne Donuts - the only successful business in the town - run by the very un-warm "Uncle Bob" (Don Allison, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE). Taken off the register and relegated to garbage pick-up duty after a confrontation with Tanya (Sarah English), the bitchy girlfriend of trainee/school hockey goalie Jansen (Ricky Mabe, THE WILD HUNT), Casey hurls a full coffee cup at the shop's outside wall and - with some augmentation - the pattern looks like the image of Jesus. She takes a picture of it and posts it to the internet, which attracts onlookers to the shop and causes an upswing in business. Day after day, more believers flock to the town and Uncle Bob's profits increase dramatically (as do the tips, which makes Casey and the other workers happy). Casey is on the verge of spilling the beans when a pair of Christian musicians cut her in on the profits of their album sales for use of space in her father's Christmas tree lot, and Donald starts to come out of his depression. Finally able to pay the mounting bills, Casey thinks that there is nothing harmful about the deception. Meanwhile, Uncle Bob wants the town's new priest Father J.J. (Andrew Bush) to affirm the image as a miracle, offering his influence to garner town acceptance for the young priest (who has alienated some of his flock by working his ecological concerns into sermons); however, J.J. is justifiably skeptical and suspects Casey of pulling a prank. Casey's budding relationship with Jansen is complicated by the miracle - because Jansen has always been told that Jesus is watching him, and now he knows where he's watching from - but he finds her confession even more disturbing. When Bob is temporarily taken ill (struck down?), Casey seizes the spotlight as an atheist who has seen the light. Not only does this further alienate Jansen - and target her for Uncle Bob as a pitch woman for him to bring in more customers - but it starts to convince Donald that the miracle may be real, and that it may have the power to cure Meg. Unable to get through to her father, and unwilling to "sell her soul" to Uncle Bob, Casey packs up and tries to leave town but her truck breaks down and she must decide whether to tell the truth or continue the deception when she addresses the bishop, the believers, and the growing media circus that has flocked to Krowne Donuts.

Based on scripter Josh MacDonald's stage play HOAX, HOAX FOR THE HOLIDAYS (the US DVD title, it was originally released as FAITH, FRAUD, & MINIMUM WAGE) might seem like an odd project for George Mihalka to fans of his early cult titles (the original MY BLOODY VALENTINE, the astral projection chiller ETERNAL EVIL [THE BLUE MAN], the hostage thriller HOSTILE TAKEOVER, and the killer child film RELATIVE FEAR), but Mihalka has been working regularly in Canadian TV and non-genre film. The original Canadian title and advertising do not strongly allude to the holidays, and the US poster and DVD art make it look like a "Hallmark Hall of Fame" TV movie, but HOAX is actually a daringly dark Christmas drama. Casey's quirky, snarky character doesn't alienate the viewer, even as she baits the priest, who is scripted as conflicted yet good-hearted. Jock love interest Jansen is given some depth by the script - although the relationship feels obligatory - while other supporting characters are a bit more one-dimensional ("mean girl" Tanya, harried manager Pearl [Martha Irving, THE HANGING GARDEN], stoner Stu [Matthew Amyotte, OUTLANDER], compassionate male nurse Charles [Corey Bowles]). Similarly, the believers have a couple cliche weirdos, but are generally portrayed sympathetically - and not simply as gullible idiots - until the end (hypocritical Uncle Bob - who Casey describes as wielding the power of both church AND state - shoulders most of the negative elements as a very recognizably human devil figure). The ending is more bittersweet and realistic than happy and contrived. MacIsaac and Rennie are both touching leads, and they have good support from Mabe, Allison, and Bush. Worth a viewing, although I wouldn't put it on for the family on Christmas day.

Eric Cotenas

Posters

Theatrical Release: 1 November 2011 (USA)

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DVD Review: MTI Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

MTI Home Video

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:34:12
Video

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.19 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English Dolby Digital 5.1; English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles English (CC), Spanish, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: MTI Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Trailers for ONE SPECIAL NIGHT, CHRISTMAS CLAUSE, CHRISTMAS IN THE CLOUDS

DVD Release Date: November 1st, 2011
Amaray

Chapters 12

 

Comments

MTI's disc features a single-layer, anamorphic transfer is interlaced clean and gives a reasonable presentation on CRT. Detail is not especially crisp but is consistent. The 5.1 mix is restrained but suits the nature of the film (a 2.0 stereo downmix is also supplied).

English closed captioning and optional Spanish subtitles are available. Trailers for other Christmas flicks carried by MTI are the sole extras.

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

Distribution

MTI Home Video

Region 1 - NTSC

 

 




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