Love’s Abiding Joy (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Clark Davis makes a cross-country journey to visit the LaHaye’s cattle ranch, he finds a family trying to hold things together as they ride through tough financial times.  Problems are only compounded when the infant Kathy LaHaye dies suddenly of unknown causes.  Each family member is scattered from each other, dealing with grief in different unhealthy ways.  Willie is forced to take an extra job as the town sheriff as many local families are struggling to make ends meet under the firm grip of the cruel mayor Samuel Doros.  With so many negative circumstances pressing in around them, the Clark and the LaHayes will have to pull together and remember that the darkest times come right before the light.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Consistent with the previous Love Comes Softly films, the production quality of Love’s Abiding Joy is above average.  The video quality and sound quality are solid.  The camera work is professional.  However, there are some minor issues here, such as the stock musical score.  In keeping with a main Michael Landon Jr. error, the costuming, especially the makeup, is inconsistent with the historical period.  Also, the editing is very choppy, not giving any opportunity to truly engage in the story, as will be discussed further next.  But in sum, Abiding Joy looks good on the surface and is mostly good in this area.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As previously alluded to, the plot seems like a collection of random scenes glued together.  It meanders without any real identity, forcing too many different issues together in one storyline.  In the midst of this, the tragic struggles of the characters cannot be connected with or accessed by the audience because they seem very shallow.  The dialogue is quite stock; no care is given to originality.  Each character is very procedural and stereotypical, including the cheesy villain.  Abiding Joy begins a new theme of the remainder of the Love Comes Softly series: forced extra romance subplots.  At this point, the original novel plots have been completely abandoned.  On a brighter note, this grief story had some great potential, but it was left untapped.  There is a slightly interesting twist at the end of the story, but it’s pretty much washed over by all the other negative elements.  Unfortunately, that’s the only good that can be said.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Abiding Joy marks the beginning of vain actors and actresses in this film franchise.  Dale Midkiff once again takes on a large role in this movie, and it’s not a good thing.  Other cast members portray annoying forced emotions and awkward line delivery.  Erin Cottrell has a lot of half-screamed lines.  The only good element to bring light to here is the presence of at least some good acting, though it’s just not enough.

Conclusion

Love’s Abiding Joy had just as much of an original idea behind the plot as Love’s Long Journey did, but the originality is left on the proverbial playing field.  We need more movies about the real struggles of families portrayed in realistic settings, but this film just doesn’t cut it.  There was a significant decrease in overall quality in this fourth Love Comes Softly installment, and unfortunately, it was the unhindered beginning of a major slide for the film saga.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Advertisements

On the 88th Academy Awards

While I rarely watch Hollywood awards shows and do not really keep up with any inside Hollywood information, I happened to watch portions of the Oscars last night.  Therefore, I cannot actually comment on the entirety of the event, but I can offer my assessment of what I did see.  What I saw was what I will term as ‘bored Hollywood’.  In my opinion, they, as a collective, have reached a point where they don’t really have to try anymore.  Some could say they are phoning it in.  In the follow up to the event, there were many accusations of silent racism, and from what I saw, they were justified.  Attempts to combat an all-white show were lame and obviously pandering.  Besides this, it seemed to me like the same movies won all the awards.  Overall, the 88th Academy Awards, I believe, demonstrated an overarching attitude in collective Hollywood–apathy and procedural overconfidence.

Besides Pixar, what studios and distribution companies are creating and carrying movies that are not remakes of old films?  The Hollywood collective are obviously always trying to relive the good old days–and making a killing off of it–the days when special effects were in their early stages and when white actors dominated the scene.  In short, I believe that originality left southern California long ago.

So where does that leave the Christian film scene?  What is the application for us?  Simply this: it’s our time to rise up and prove that we can do it better.  We can have more diverse casts than mainstream movies.  We can create original plots rather than remakes and break into unique genres.  We can be more professional and family friendly.  We can speak about social issues in ways that people will listen.  This is our call to rise up and take the opportunity we have to make a lasting difference in modern film-making.

Love’s Long Journey (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Following their marriage, Willie and Missy LaHaye set off further west to begin a life of their own by building their own cattle ranch business.  They set out with no one but each other to lean on and begin forming relationships with people in the small settlement near their land.  Willie assembles a team of castoff ranch hands while Missy seeks to assist local Native Americans in their educational pursuits.  They are surrounded by hurting and hungry people who need what they have to offer, but little do they know that evil also lurks around the corner, wanting to steal what they have worked hard for.  The LaHayes will have to dig deep and cling to everything they learned back home in order to weather the storm.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

Love’s Long Journey marks the high point of the Love Comes Softly series in multiple ways, and especially in production quality.  The camera work, video quality, and sound quality are all solid.  This is the most authentic-looking Love movie when it comes to props, costuming, sets, and locations.  Great care was obviously taken to make this film as realistic as possible, and it shows.  Constantly dealing with farm animals on set is neither easy nor something you see often in Christian films, but Long Journey pulls this off without errors.  In short, the production of this film is flawless.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

While it is still not entirely accurate to the novel, Long Journey is the best flowing and dynamic plot of the film franchise.  The characters, although they still need some deepening.  It’s refreshing that there are some different characters in this plot that are not typical frontier romance characters.  In that vein, there is no new romance\courtship, but an actual portrayal of married life—what a concept!  While the dialogue as a whole is just average, there is some truly good humor throughout.  The end of this plot, though slightly predictable, is actually epic and has a unique twist to it.  However, the villains in this plot are extremely cheesy and unrealistic.  Also, we felt that the subplot between the two brothers needed to be explored further and to take on a larger role in the film.  But besides these small issues, this is a solid plot that deserves recognition.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This is where this movie loses Hall of Fame momentum.  Changing actors and\or actresses in the middle of a franchise is rarely a good idea, especially when it’s a downgrade.  We realize that sometimes you can’t retain actresses, but January Jones was a much better missy than Erin Cottrell.  Unfortunately, a majority of Cottrell’s lines seem forced and strained—she is the main reason this movie is not as good as it could have been, especially since she plays the central character.  But even still, this is the best acted movie of the franchise, with just average acting.  On a brighter note, Long Journey has an actually fair portrayal of Native Americans by using real Native American actors—another novel concept.

Conclusion

Love’s Long Journey is another one of those movies that really could have been something great.  It had all the tools—originality, great production, honest portrayal.  But one poor starring actor or actress can really spoil a movie; this film is an unfortunate example of this.  Regardless, this is an enjoyable movie that many people will find acceptable.  It was a symbol in its era of better Christian movies and it can be used as a blueprint today on how to—and not to—revive a franchise to greatness.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

Love’s Enduring Promise (Movie Review)

imgres

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plot Summary

Years after Clark and Marty Davis settled into their new life together, their family is prosperous and successful.  Missy Davis is a young woman now with a job and a mind of her own.  All seems well until tragedy strikes—Clark receives a serious injury in a wood-cutting accident, which sends the entire family into a search for answers and hope.  While taking care of Clark and praying for healing, Marty and Missy must work the fields in order to have the crops done in time for harvest.  At the end of their rope, they suddenly receive help from an unexpected source.  Little do they know that God has been watching over them all along and will allow them to be a part of His special plan.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Michael Landon Jr. and Hallmark, in this installment, continued to showcase production superiority over other Christian films of the era.  Love’s Enduring Promise has realistic sets and locations and great camera work.  The video and sound quality are solid, including well-filmed outside scenes.  The costuming is pretty good, with some minor issues regarding period authenticity.  The only other caveats to raise are some poorly created special effects and inconsistent editing.  At the beginning, the movie makes sense, but it becomes very rushed and choppy at the end, as will be explained next.  Nonetheless, the Love Comes Softly series, at this point, was still produced well.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

As previously mentioned, the first half of the movie is interesting and it feels like the audience will really be able to get to know Janette Oke’s characters.  However, once the major conflict is easily resolved, the plot meanders from there and comes to a predictable and forced conclusion.  Besides this, this film is an inaccurate adaptation of original novel that does not improve upon the original plot.  There are too many plot holes and unnecessary characters that only provide filler time.  The inevitable romance seems forced; it’s hard to really appreciate what’s going on because the characters are too shallow. While the dialogue is okay, the characters need to be deeper.  There is some real humor, but the Christian message is forced and not meaningful.  In short, this plot had a lot of potential to be different and interesting and to package a profound Christian message into a movie with authentic, accessible characters, but it only comes off as half-measures.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The cast size increased for the second installment, but the quality decreased.  There are only a handful of good actors and actresses; the child actors are not coached well.  Line delivery is overly dramatic, like every line is supposed to be a deep spiritual truth.  But at the same time, emotions seem shallow.  Unfortunately, low quality acting derails an otherwise above average film.

Conclusion

Janette Oke’s beloved series has a mountain of good content where deep characters and realistic frontier struggles are concerned.  However, Michael Landon Jr. and team did not capture what they needed to capture.  Love Comes Softy could have been an epic saga, but we are only left to wonder what could have been.  Most audiences will be fine with Love’s Enduring Promise, mostly because of the era it was released in, but it needed something more.  In the future, we hope that this movie genre is redeemed from ‘just okay’ status.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Love Comes Softly (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Taken to the unknown Western lands of America by her husband Aaron, Marty Claridge doesn’t know what to do when her husband dies in a tragic accident.  Alone in a strange land, she accepts the offer of a widower named Clark Davis to marry him for convenience until she can go back home to the East.  As she struggles to cope with her own loss and deal with Clark’s spirited daughter Missy, who is still dealing with the tragic loss of her mother, Marty slowly realizes that she will miss the Davis home when she has to leave.  She will have to decide what will prevail—her heart or her head.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For the most part, Michael Landon Jr. knows what he’s doing when it comes to production.  This was during the heyday of Fox Faith and Hallmark, and it is easy to understand what set inspirational semi-Christian films like this one apart from movies in its genre before it.  The video quality is clear and outside scenes are filmed well.  The camera work is professional.  Care was taken to make the surroundings and props authentic to the time period.  However, the musical score is stock and the editing is just average.  Too many events take place off screen, things that could have set this movie apart from other romances.  But in the end, the production is likely this film’s greatest asset.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Adapted from the first novel of Janette Oke’s famous series, Love Comes Softly is an intriguing plot.  This film is likely the most accurate to the original story of the whole movie franchise.  A marriage of convenience plot is not that uncommon, yet it was common for the frontier settlement time period.  Other authentic historical factors are captured.  The dialogue is good, but not great, but the characters are at the very least believable.  But with a simplistic commonly used plot, character deepening is greatly needed.  Unfortunately, Love Comes Softly, though it had the runtime to accomplish this, did not do it.  This is why the plot comes out of just average.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This was a small cast and was far better than many Christian film casts of the time, but it still was plagued with errors.  Some characters (as we will see later from Michael Landon Jr.) are too done-up for the time period, i.e., too much makeup and manicures.  But compared to later, Love Comes Softly was great in this area.  Yet other problems remain.  Only two or three actors are truly good.  Katherine Heigl and Dale Midkiff are okay in their roles, but they needed refining.  Once again, in a small-scope, simplistic plot, acting is essential, and this cast was only marginal.

Conclusion

Love Comes Softly marked the beginning of an era for Michael Landon Jr., Hallmark, and popular author Janette Oke.  Oke captured believable, seemingly common historical characters in her novels and brought them to life for audiences to enjoy.  However, the film franchise did not necessarily do this.  Love Comes Softly is a strong enough beginning and demanded stronger follow-ups.  But if you are looking for a well-produced, semi-typical Christian romance, this is the film for you, and you will not be disappointed.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Ring the Bell (Movie Review)

chpmn

fny

Plot Summary

Rob Decker is a successful sports agent who has his eyes set on capturing another prize: Shawn Hart, a top high school baseball recruit who resides in a small rural town.  When Decker personally travels there to try to scoop up the young athlete, he finds that he is up against more than he thought.  He also discovers a long lost athlete whom he tries to convince to come back into the sports world.  But instead of making converts of his own, Decker finds himself questioning his very purpose in life due to his encounters in the small town.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

It is obvious that the creators of Ring the Bell were going for a film that looks good on the surface, but has no substance.  The video quality is clear and outdoor scenes are filmed well, with consistent lighting and sound.  The camera work is solid across the board, but this is the extent of the movie’s overtly positive qualities.  The soundtrack is very stock and only adds the movie’s cheesy image.  The editing is very choppy; it feels like this movie is a collection of random scenes glued together.  It jumps along, hitting high points and movie the plot along at breakneck speed.  But the plot itself is an entirely different story.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Ring the Bell is a typical stuck-in-a-small-town with an extra large dose of cheesiness.  Typical Southern backwards characters populate the plot, but they are all more absurd than usual.  There are also the typical ‘off-beat’ personalities who make themselves too well known to the audience.  There’s also the town pastor, who serves the purpose of inserting awkward theology into the film at opportune moments.  Then there’s the female lead who has long debates with Decker about what really matters in life, including hashing both of their life stories after knowing each other for a few days.  All of the dialogue is forced and robotic.  As previously mentioned, the plot does not flow well at all and it is hard to get a bearing on the true meaning of this movie.  The only positive thing we can detect in Ring the Bell’s plot is its clear presentation of the gospel for whoever is paying attention.  Otherwise, there is little to nothing to be excited about in this film.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Barring a few cast members, the acting is overall very in-your-face and extremely obvious.  Emotional delivery is overdone; some actors are like walking commercials.  Steven Curtis Chapman is a really nice guy, but it feels like he was forced to be in this movie with no help.  In short, there is simply too much negative in Ring the Bell.

Conclusion

Ring the Bell falls into an overflowing recycle bin of Christian movies that should have either never been made or greatly reworked early in the pre-production process.  Were all of these films combined into a handful of excellent movies, the Christian movie scene would look vastly different than it does now.  We at Box Office Revolution hope to change this trend by promoting more quality films and by pointing out how low quality films could have been better.  Unfortunately, Ring the Bell is one of those screenplays that had very little potential from the beginning.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

The Grace Card (Movie Review)

agr

gossett

Plot Summary

Police officer Mac McDonald has big plans for his future career, but his entire life crashed down the day that his son was killed in an accident involving racial violence and drugs.  With his life in a tailspin, Mac’s family and work environment feel the effects of his newfound anger towards the world.  But he especially directs his anger at African-American criminals, further contributing to the racial divide in the community.  However, when Mac is paired up with Sam Wright, a popular African American police officer and part-time pastor, he is reluctantly forced to take a look at the basis for his racial hatred—is he angry at African-Americans or at God?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

At first glance, it seems like The Grace Card had time and money spent on its production.  The video is clear and the sound quality is pretty good.  The musical score is intriguing, but there are still some minor issues that plague the film.  The camera work is good in some parts, but not good in other parts.  Some of the action scenes are a bit shaky.  The sound quality of some of the action scenes is also inconsistent.  Lighting is good in some scenes, but not in others.  The sets and locations are slightly limited.  But at the same time, some scenes and elements of production seem well constructed.  Overall, the production quality comes out as average due to inconsistency.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

This is an excellent topic to discuss via a Christian movie—the racial divide in most American cities combined with tense relations between police and racial minorities.  From the beginning, it is unfortunately obvious where the plot is going to go, but at least the journey is interesting.  The Grace Card mostly stays away from stereotypes, an important factor in this type of film, but some of the characters are a bit too obvious.  The dialogue is mostly thought-provoking and balances out the action sequences.  However, it seems like these characters could have been deeper than they were.  Also, there are some seemingly unnecessary parts in the plot, including scenes in which it is difficult to tell what’s going on.  Overall, the storyline is above average, but once again, little issues keep it from being all that it could be.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting in The Grace Card is neither obviously great nor obviously bad.  Each actor and actress seems to be cast into their respective roles very well.  There is obviously cast diversity.  Yet it feels like these actors and actresses could be more than they are in this film.  Their potential needed to be drawn out more.  Therefore, the ultimate outcome of this movie is average.

Conclusion

The Grace Card is a great start for a new film making team.  It exhibits an important issue that needs to be tackled and confronted in every area of Christian culture.  But we could not help but watch The Grace Card and wish for something more.  Nonetheless, it is definitely something to build off of for the future.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

2015 in Review: The Turning Point for Christian Films

2013 and 2014 were billed as the ‘years of the Bible’ in Hollywood, but this never panned out.  Unfortunately, barring a few exceptions, the Christian movies from these years were largely negative.  Yet they did signal a sign of things to come.  Before 2013, Christian movies were randomly and sporadically produced.  No consistent creators existed save for the Kendrick brothers and other Affirm creators such as the budding Erwin brothers, the PureFlix conglomerate, and the remnants of Fox Faith.  2013 and 2014 also promised Hollywood-driven faith based and inspirational films and many movies crowded to seize on this new label, presumably to capture a consistent Christian audience.  But in the end, little good came out of this push except for a promise of greater things to come and a blueprint on how to do it.

Fast forward to the year 2015, by far the best year for Christian films and the start of a new Christian movie era.  With a record-breaking four Box Office Revolution Hall of Fame movies, it was a year for the books.

 

Old-Fashioned

Early in 2015, rookie film maker Rik Swartzwelder burst onto the scene with a Valentine’s Day alternate to the grotesque Fifty Shades of Grey, which is a move that Christians need to take note of the next time they complain about or embrace all the bad movies in America.  Untested and unproven, PureFlix took a chance with Swartzwelder and cashed in big.  Swartzwelder brought a fresh look at Christian romance, driven by quality production and Jane Austen-like dialogue.  Old-Fashioned not only signaled the possible beginning of a new era for PureFlix distributed movies, but the beginning of a new Christian film era.

 

Beyond the Mask

In the underrated release of Pendragon, the Burns family showcased their ability to do a lot with small resources.  Now, with better funding, better support, and a better cast and crew, they broke out with a rare Christian action adventure screenplay.  Mask not only showcases a new genre but also demonstrates the ability to craft a complex non-typical Christian plot.  We expect it to be the first of many Christian films to break into new genres.

 

War Room

Following their blockbuster Courageous and their exit from Sherwood, the Kendrick brothers’ next release was highly anticipated and highly marketed.  It lived up to its expectations, both in quality and box office success.  War Room proved that the Kendricks are not done any time soon and remain the Fathers of Christian Film Making.

 

Woodlawn

The Erwin brothers have always performed ahead of schedule, with their only three films all being Hall of Fame rated.  They demonstrate expertise in assembling and directing highly talented crews and casts and in amplifying the strengths of individuals.  Not to mention that they write some great plots.  Woodlawn was heavily marketed as well and did not disappoint on the big screen.  The future is bright for these Alabama brothers.

 

 

Honorable Mention: Do You Believe

Following their first box office success God’s Not Dead, PureFlix sought to build on it with another inspirational film about the interconnected lives of individuals in a city.  With increased production quality and interesting plot potential, Do You Believe continued a new era of PureFlix films.  However, it still did not live up to Hall of Fame status.  Nonetheless, it was something to build off of.

 

***

In summary, 2015 was a year that unexpectedly brought Christian movies to a new level—setting new standards for the industry.  No one saw it coming, but it happened regardless.  2016 promises to bring films from new Christian creators to the scene, and we anticipate a fresh wind of creativity to blow across the Christian movie landscape.  It’s time for a new generation of film makers to stand up and redeem the field—the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

Out of Ashes (Post-Production)

Currently in post-production, slated for 2016 release

 

Producer(s): Polly Jenkins, Zac Heath, Jaclyn Friedlander, Kerri Cissna

Director(s): Zac Heath

Writer(s): Zac Heath

Starring: Alan Powell, Yasmine Aker, Danny Vinson, Karen Carlson, Jenn Gotzon, Britney  Merrick, Paul McCarthy-Boyington

 

Plot Synopsis:

On the surface, Out of the Ashes is the story of a man struggling to cope with the loss of his wife and son three years after their deaths, when a sudden encounter with an unknown woman challenges his seemingly empty world.  She believes that love can’t be trusted, and he feels he has no love to give. The story is their reluctant journey towards healing.

Just below the surface lies a rich subtext of fear, despair, hope, friendship, faith and forgiveness- and the roles they play in setting our souls free to love. The story takes place in the small town modern day South- an area where people have learned to live together in a sort of broken harmony, despite years of adversity in the past. The story is written to coincide with the season of Lent; a time of fasting that begins with Ash Wednesday (when partakers place ashes on their foreheads as a symbol of the burdens they must be willing to bear), and ends with Easter (a day that represents re-birth).  Even in the darkest of tragedies, love will rise again.

Submission (2018)

In Progress

Website

 

Writer(s): Scott Pryor

Director(s):

Producer(s): Scott Pryor, Laura Pryor, Gloria Stella, Autumn Bailey-Ford

Starring: Scott Pryor

 

Plot Synopsis:

After two marines make it home following an ISIS interrogation, one struggles to survive while the other fights his way back into the mixed martial arts world that he left behind years ago – looking for a fight worth living for.

Submission is an inspirational film about friendship, forgiveness, and redemption.

The Letter Writer (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

A teenage delinquent, Maggie Fuller really has no direction in life but to mess around at school and try to market herself as an artist, along with her boyfriend.  But the day that she receives a mysterious letter from a stranger telling her how much potential she has as a good person was the day that changed her life forever.  Maggie’s new purpose is to discover the person who sent her the letter in order to ask him what he meant and why he sent it to her.  Little does she know that her journey will lead her life in a whole new direction.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The low production quality really derails this movie.  From the get go, it is evident that The Letter Writer is low budget.  The video is grainy and the camera work cuts corners.  The sound quality is okay, but the musical score is distracting.  On the bright side, outside scenes are filmed fairly well.  Yet issues with editing plague the film.  There are too many wasted scenes and take away from the overall point of the story.  Some scenes last too long and others make it unclear what is actually happening.  One particular element, an assisted living choir singing a hymn, occurs far too often throughout the movie.  In short, had The Letter Writer been afforded a better crew, this could have been a great film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The Letter Writer is based on true events, and its premise is very original and creative.  This sort of plot has never been attempted, which makes it even more disappointing.  The central message of the movie—giving encouraging letters to strangers—is its strongest point, yet it seems underemphasized, almost like the writers didn’t know what they had.  The characters are also understated, driven by vanilla dialogue.  Some philosophically provoking conversations occur, but there is also some odd theology included.  As previously mentioned, there are too many wasted scenes that accomplish nothing—these could have been replaced with sequences enhancing the characters and the important message of the film.  But alas, we are only left to wonder what could have been.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This cast definitely had potential that was not properly coached.  While the acting is not glaringly awful, it is too obviously amateurish to be awarded too many points.  Like other elements of the movie, line delivery and emotional expression are understated and do not leave a lasting impact.

Conclusion

The fact that The Letter Writer began as a short film even more demands that the movie should have been better.  Christian Vuissa was sitting on a gold mine, but he only scratched the surface.  In different hands and\or with a better surrounding team, this could have been Hall of Fame worthy.  In summary, The Letter Writer joins the ranks of Christian movies that desperately need to be recreated.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Son of God [2014] (Movie Review)

sfg

sfg2

Plot Summary

The life of Jesus Christ is timeless.  This rendition is centered around the unity of the Bible, the role of John son of Zebedee, and the political power struggles that existed during Jesus’ three year earthly ministry.  Son of God seeks to concisely portray this three year ministry from start to finish in a way that brings emotional connection from the audience.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For starters, Son of God looks professional on the surface.  The video quality is good and the camera work is above average.  Action scenes are filmed fairly well.  Sets, locations, costumes, and props are pretty authentic, which is something many Bible movies bungle.  The musical score is commendable, but there is also an overuse of loud sound effects.  Sometimes the first century surroundings seem authentic, but other times, they do not.  For instance, too many locations exist in CGI format, including Herod’s Temple.  Some characters are able to get dirty, but others remain untouched by grime no matter what.  Another big issue here is the severely choppy editing.  The story does not flow well at all and there are too many location and sky footage scenes.  It is too obvious that this film was cut from a television miniseries.  In short, the production is above average, but not good enough.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As previously mentioned, the storyline is hard to follow.  It seems like this film is a collection of Jesus highlights, with no real common thread or day to day life elements, just hopping from one familiar story to the next.  The characters cannot be connected with—they are just random people saying rehearsed lines.  The Jesus character is very inaccessible and seems lofty and aloof.  What is more disturbing is that, at times, Jesus seems obviously surprised that certain things are occurring.  There are multiple glaring Biblical inaccuracies that are more obvious than the usual Bible entertainment blunders.  Scriptural narratives are chopped up, edited, rushed, and forced together in order to suit this movie’s runtime.  On the bright side, there are some very engaging scenes that do bring the Bible to life, but it seems like the entire movie\miniseries was written for these few scenes.  In summary, it is a great idea to make a movie about the life of Jesus, but this is not how to do it.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Son of God is very poorly cast.  Why do Bible characters have to always be played by British actors and actresses?  A majority of the characters in the Gospels were Middle Eastern and\or perhaps African.  Each actor and actress has been forced into a role that does not work for them and their culturally incorrect accents are distracting.  On the surface, they seem professional, but a lot of their lines are very forced.  No emotion is present.  Therefore, a low score is awarded.

Conclusion

In the beginning, The Bible miniseries and Son of God seemed to have good ideas and good intentions.  But the longer they went on, the more confusing and muddled they became.  In trying to play off of sensationalism and emotion, Son of God loses the original message and forgets what the Bible and what Jesus’ first coming was all about.  You will not find theological truths or realism in this film.  As Roma Downey once put it, they were not going for Biblical accuracy, but for emotional connection.  It looks like they succeeded, but at what cost?

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Your Love Never Fails {A Valentine’s Date} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Laura Connors is a high-powered executive in New York with demands at her job while at the same time trying to be a mother to her lonely daughter, Kelsey.  Laura would like to forget that she is still technically married to her husband Dylan, who still lives in a small town in Texas.  But she can’t forget that fact when the local court has ordered her to appear over Valentine’s Day weekend to settle her unknown marital status and questionable custody arrangements.  She is forced to leave behind an important business deal in order to face a judge who never liked her and a husband she wants to forget.  But what she doesn’t realize is that this is exactly what she needs—to slow down and remember the values she has been ignoring for years.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The one consolation in this film is that the video is clear and the oft-used outside scenes are not butchered.  However, this is the extent of positivity to mention.  The sets and locations are quite cheap and lackadaisical.  The movie is populated with Texas stock footage of locations we never see the characters go, accompanied by a cheesy country music soundtrack.  The makeup is overdone.  In short, Your Love Never Fails fulfills the bill of a typical Hallmark movie—easy to watch on the surface, but absolutely nothing underneath.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This movie is a typical, very overdone small town plot complete with typical small town dialogue like “I remember when you used to…” and “She never liked me after I did such and such…” and “You look so different since I last saw you!”  Thus, the characters are very empty and seem clueless to reality.  We are not certain if this is supposed to be funny, but any attempted comedy fails miserably.  The Christian message that is inserted into the movie comes off as very manufactured and forced.  The entire premise of the story is unrealistic and slightly improbable, just to fulfill the requirement of a Christian-themed movie taking place during Valentine’s Day.  Surprisingly, the central idea of the film—repairing a broken marriage—is interesting but has no substance whatsoever.  It is hard to even connect with the struggles of the characters are see them as real people.  The bottom line is that the idea behind Your Love Never Fails should have been handed to a more thoughtful team.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The clichés seemingly never end, as the actors and actresses sport obviously fake Southern accents.  As previously mentioned, the makeup is terrible, making all the characters look plastic.  The delivery of lines is too bubbly—even when characters are supposed to be sad, it is hard to believe that they are actually sad.  Thus, the emotions are contrary.  In short, there is really not much good to say here.

Conclusion

Your Love Never Fails is a different romance than most Hallmark films, as it portrays two characters already married.  If we are to have more romances on the market, then film-makers might as well do different things than having two random people thrown into an improbably situation together and portraying them as hating each other before falling madly in love with each other, all in the span of a week or less.  The struggles of American marriages are real, but Your Love Never Fails only makes a flippant mockery of them.  This idea needs to be used again in a better way.  After all, who’s going to complain about another copycat romance?

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry (Movie Review)

images

Plot Summary

Dustin, Albert, and Mark are friends who stick together and solve the deeper problems of their 1970s small town.  But one particular summer, they find themselves with a deficit of activities save for fishing and mowing lawns.  That’s when they inadvertently cross paths with Jonathan Sperry, an elderly local man who takes it upon himself to teach them fundamental principles for living—including the truth about Christianity.  Unknown to any of the three friends, their lives will forever be changed by the secrets they learn from the enigmatic Mr. Sperry.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Jonathan Sperry had a higher-than-usual budget, and it mostly reflects in the production quality.  The camera work is pretty good, especially considering the high amount of outside scenes.  The video quality is solid, as is the sound quality.  Sets and locations were well chosen and props give the film an authentic historic feel.  The musical score could have been better.  The real thing lacking here is a game-changing factor.  The editing is considerably good, but each production element just doesn’t quite live up to top standards.  Something intangible is missing, yet it cannot be denied that Jonathan Sperry is still a step above most Christian films when it comes to production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Adapted from true events, the plot of Jonathan Sperry has a lot of great elements.  The characters are authentic and many will be able to relate to them.  The dialogue is simple yet profound.  The events and circumstances they experience are believable and accessible.  The storyline is non-linear and has some minor twists and turns.  There is a clear Christian message throughout.  Yet this being said, one could consider Jonathan Sperry to be overly realistic and too slow for viewing.  There is some truth to this.  The film lacks a dynamic punch that will really capture the widespread attention of audiences.  Great care was obviously taken to be realistic, and this care shows, but we have to wonder if it is too authentic for its own good, so to speak.  Nevertheless, the movie offers a poignant lesson for those who watch it and those who likely calm artistic plots will not find themselves disappointed.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Similar to production, an air of professionalism is very evident.  The actors and actresses are coached fairly well.  Since the cast is small, it carries a large weight, and it does not necessarily stumble under it.  However, there are some minor errors that could have been corrected and thus keep it from being all that it could be.  But nonetheless, the acting puts many Christian movies to shame.

Conclusion

There is a place for movies like Jonathan Sperry in the Christian film world, but unfortunately, films like this one will never be blockbuster.  The truly unfortunate thing is that movies like this one are not the baseline of Christian-themed movies.  This should be the starting point, not the improvement.  Regardless, Sperry is something to build off of if only to showcase that the Christiano brothers understand the common man and that the only place they can go from here is up.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Matchmaker Mary (Movie Review)

mtchmkr

Plot Summary

Join Mary and her happen-chance band of friends in a heartwarming (?) journey of taking care of puppies and forcing people to hang out with each other.  Watch as she inserts herself into the private lives of people in order to coerce them into liking each other.  With her parents unstable and fighting at home, Mary ventures out to spread her cheer elsewhere, hoping to project her insecurities on helpless loners who never asked for her help.  She collaborates with her unusual aunt, who has taught her how to meddle in other people’s business, but little do all of them know that by the time this movie is over—if you make it that far—everyone will have a match of their own!

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

If you can’t tell by now, we didn’t particularly like this so-called Christian movie.  It could have joined a host of other movies like it on the Hallmark or Ion channels, but the production is so bad that there’s no way it would have been picked up or aired.  Hallmark and Ion still have production standards, believe it or not.  Matchmaker Mary was likely filmed with a camcorder at the local pet store and the surrounding areas.  The video is grainy, the sound terrible, and the camera work shaky.  The musical score is childish.  There’s really no care taken to even make this film watchable on a surface level.  This begs the question—why was it even made?

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

It’s perfectly understandable and commendable to portray a movie about a grade school girl who is having to deal with her parents’ strained relationship—this happens far too often and needs to be exposed.  However, where are the mentions of Mary going to God with her problems?  Rather than bury herself in puppies and busybodying around, a Christian message needed to be introduced here, if this movie is meant to be Christian.  At this rate, we’re not sure.  We’re also not sure why PureFlix even distributed it, but at this point, we’re not really surprised at anything they do anymore.  There are too many head-scratching moments in Matchmaker Mary to count.  Characters say odd things in out of place ways, situations are trumped up, and the entire premise of the plot is completely absurd.  If this film is trying to be ridiculous, it succeeded.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

As previously alluded to, the actors and actresses behave in generally strange ways that cannot really be explained or described.  It’s almost like they were instructed to act off the wall.  If they were not, then we really don’t know what to think.  But that pretty much describes our entire experience watching this movie.

Conclusion

This is the state of American society—movies like Matchmaker Mary are funded and distributed while it is likely that many other well-meaning and under-funded geniuses struggle to survive in the movie world because they simply don’t know the right people.  In reality, people don’t really repair and build real relationships on the basis of puppies.  We don’t need any more movies that contribute to unrealistic fantasies that already permeate our culture.  Films like this are best forgotten and buried under the memories of better movies watched and better movies still to come.

 

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

 

As I Stand (Movie Review)

maxresdefault

Plot Summary

Devin Wheeler and Matthew Daniels both have separate lives from each other, but each of them experience different tragedies that forever alter their lives.  Both of them choose to cope differently with the paths they have been taken down, but little do they know that their tragic experiences will inadvertently cause their paths to cross.  Forced to live under the same roof for a time, they must both grapple with the problem of pain in order to find their way out of their dark storms.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

The production quality of As I Stand is so low, that it has to be questioned whether or not it was even justifiable to make it.  The video is grainy and the camera work is shaky.  There are quite a few obvious continuity errors—sometimes characters are wearing different clothes in what is supposed to be the same scene.  In intended crowd scenes, it is painfully obvious that there were very few extras for this film.  The sets are severely limited, mostly taking place inside one house and around its property.  The editing is bad, but then again, what was there really to work with?

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

What exactly is this plot supposed to be about?  The Christian message is very clear, but what is the application?  One tragedy takes place off screen, so there is no way for the audience to connect with the pain.  The other tragedy is executed in such a juvenile fashion that no sympathy can be offered.  The remainder of the plot meanders in an understated fashion that lulls the audience to sleep.  The characters are hollow and lifeless—they cannot be emotionally accessed by the audience.  One character in particular, a victim of domestic violence, had great potential to bring this important issue to light, but it all falls flat due to poor character development.  The dialogue is vanilla and practiced, thus leaving much to be desired.  Centering a plot around the problem of pain is a great idea, but it’s lost in this movie due to such low quality.  The ending of the movie leaves the audience confused and scratching their heads—that is, if they made it that far.

Acting Quality (0 points)

It was a good idea to go with a lesser known cast for this film, and it seems like the actors and actresses had potential.  But with such a small team and such a low budget, acting coaching was not employed.  This is not a typical PureFlix cast of vain wannabes, but their potential is not mined.  Unfortunately, this film does not garner any points.

Conclusion

In this modern era of Christian movies, is there any reason why films like As I Stand should ever be made?  There was a good idea behind this film and it definitely could have been better, but Christian film-makers cannot be loners.  We need many good teams working on movies together.  This zero-point film does not deserve a scathing review like some others do, but rather constructive criticism.  We sincerely believe that Carlo Nicoletta’s heart was in the right place for this film, but he needed more support than this.  As I Stand would have worked as a short film to help him build up his reputation in the industry, but not as a feature length release, unless he had more help.  Yet we sincerely hope that Nicoletta does not give up his film-making aspirations and keeps trying to improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Jerusalem Countdown: A Prelude to Armageddon (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Nuclear weapons have been smuggled into America, and FBI agent Shane Daughtry and his team have been ordered to find them before they are detonated.  They must reluctantly collaborate with an old weapons dealer, a corrupt CIA director, and an ex-Muslim spy in order to find the dangerous contraband before America and Israel are blown off the map.  Little do they know is that their true hope lies in a Jewish researcher who has come by valuable information about his mysterious next door neighbor.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The good video quality is the only positive element to mention.  Otherwise, this movie is barely watchable.  The cheap action scenes are unbearable and poorly executed.  The camera angles are below par and the musical score is what one can expect from such a film as this.  The editing is as maddening as the jumpy action sequences.  CGI and special effects are very C-grade.  Nothing can compare with the incessant John Hagee product placements as the audience is spoon-fed his controversial views on eschatology and international politics.  Unfortunately, the negativity doesn’t end here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It doesn’t really seem like David A. R. White and company really did any research on the inner workings of government organizations or the true nature of terrorists when they were planning this movie.  The way that the plot unfolds is so unrealistic that it feels like a comic book.  Leaps in logic and plot holes litter the landscape.  The ways that the characters proceed forward with ‘leads’ is absurd.  Searching the internet for ‘Iran Shipping Ltd’ and then snooping around in a house they own to see whether or not they have nuclear weapons probably takes the cake, but it’s not to be topped by a librarian assisting FBI agents in a confidential case.  Every character is a ridiculous caricature and not believable.  The only consolation is that this is an apocalyptic plot that doesn’t take place on an airplane, but that’s not saying much.

Acting Quality (0 points)

We are convinced that PureFlix believes that if you have enough action scenes in a movie, you don’t need to coach the actors.  Such is the case in Jerusalem Countdown.  The delivery of lines is lackadaisical and emotions are lackluster.  So-called interrogation scenes are forced and awkward.  In short, there is little to nothing good to say about this film.

Conclusion

Is this movie supposed to have a sequel?  We certainly hope not, but ending the movie the way it does suggests that this film was only created to push John Hagee’s unusual worldview.  Movies in the action adventure, suspense, and apocalyptic genres can be used to reach audiences outside of the church, but when films like Jerusalem Countdown crowd out the field and water it down.  The next time an unbeliever hears about a Christian action film, they may only think of movies like this one and roll their eyes, as we do.  We implore Christian film-makers everywhere to learn from the mistakes of movies such as this one and not repeat them.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

BMB – Marriage Retreat – The Church Scene

This post is part of a series called Bad Movie Breakdowns. For more click here.

Welcome back to the ongoing Bad Movie Breakdown of Marriage Retreat. This time we pick up where we left off before. After the narrated intros which supposedly set up our main characters and their backstories, said characters go to church where they “coincidentally” hear a message about marriage. This sets the stage for more cheesy and overly obvious attempts at humor. It also introduces the viewers to the two other Important Characters, Craig and Katrina Sullivan. Let’s take a look:

Some of this clip touches on the positive aspects of this movie, namely the attempt to insert important teaching on marriage as a major theme of the film. However, not surprisingly there are problems with delivery. Church scenes where the sermon is used as exposition or instruction for the viewer is an overused trope in Christian movies. It once again violates the cardinal storytelling mandate, “show don’t tell.” While this sermon sounds good, there are better ways to communicate a message than literally sermonizing at the audience.

Now let’s talk about the Sullivans. Where to begin? How about with the casting decision. Were Jeff Fahey and Victoria Jackson really the best choices for the spiritual leader mentor couple? I get that these characters were supposed to be quirky and off beat or something but this is just not executed well. Too many comedies rely on silly looking odd characters to get laughs. It is just another juvenile tactic that this movie embraces in its quest to be funny.

On that note the obnoxious hand raising bit really falls flat. It is difficult to see how that gag is supposed to illicit a laugh. Instead it feels like the writers are picking low hanging fruit when writing these sort of “jokes” into a marriage movie. How about trying something original and witty that is also funny instead?

Unfortunately the awkwardness continues in the next clip:

Oh boy… Is this stuff even supposed to be funny? Is anyone actually laughing at this? The line about being satisfied in her marriage because she is a widow is so odd I don’t even know how to comment on it. The muted, polite laughter from the church congregation is about the reaction this line is going to get from the movie audience. The bizarre lines continue when Matthew Florida exhibits his awkward line delivery of more poorly written “jokes.” Again I don’t even know why Craig’s shout out to James made the editor’s cut because it certainly adds nothing to the movie. Some may think I am nitpicking but these sort of non funny bits start to pile up and really make the viewer wonder whether much work went into this script writing.

The Christian movie scene needs good comedies that are actually funny and edifying in order to compete with the nonsense coming out of Hollywood comedies. It is really disappointing when Christians don’t do any better. Some think that Christians can’t be funny because there are unwilling to be crude enough for laughs. I don’t believe this is true but what is true is that most Christian movies are not funny (at least not in the way they were intended to be) and that is sad. I want to be laughing along with the writers here but instead I find myself laughing at the absurdity of the dialogue and how bad of a job they did on this movie.

 

The Perfect Wave (Movie Review)

srfng

dsrt

Plot Summary

Ian McCormack has always been in search of adventure and has always wanted to escape from what he perceives to be confining, namely responsibility and the domestic life.  After selling his car, he finally convinces his parents that as an adult, he needs to go out into the world and ‘find himself’.  An avid surfer, Ian has always been searching for one elusive thing: what he considers to be ‘the perfect wave’.  So he journeys from one surfing landmark to the next, along with a group of buddies, in order to find what he is looking for.  But his journey changes one day when he finds Anabel, a mysterious girl living in Indonesia.  He has never truly loved before, so when Anabel disappears, he feels like he has to search for her.  But what he doesn’t know is that what he has been searching for all along is something to fill the void in his soul.  Little does he realize that he will have to come face to face with what he really believes about the God he has only heard about as a child.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For a freshman movie, The Perfect Wave is a great start in the production department.  The sets and locations, perhaps the central factor of the movie, are excellently chosen and presented.  The camera work is great, including skillful action shots and clear video quality.  The musical score is decent.  The only two caveats that keep this film’s production from being all that it could are the choppy editing and the inconsistent sound quality.  Sometimes dialogue is hard to hear because of loud background noise.  The editing confuses the viewer—too many things happen off screen that should be on the screen, and vice versa.  Yet despite these problems, The Perfect Wave puts many Christian movies to shame when it comes to production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The true story of Ian McCormack was definitely one worth portraying on the big screen.  However, after watching the story play out, we were left with the feeling that something was missing.  The story is non-linear, which is not surprising for a film portraying true events, and the characters are obviously flawed, but this plot just didn’t quite make it all the way.  There are some surprising twists and turns, but the dialogue is inconsistent—sometimes profound and sometimes simplistic.  Some characters seem unnecessary.  There is bit too much edgy content.  But in the end, there is a great Christian message.  It seems like the movie was written for its psychologically thrilling end that clearly communicates the gospel.  The end is worth waiting for, but some people will be lost in the middle.  Overall, the plot is average and had a lot of room for improvement.

Acting Quality (2 points)

With a professional cast, The Perfect Wave scores plenty of points here.  Scott Eastwood and Rachel Hendrix are great in their roles, but some others leave something to be desired.  Granted, this is still an above-average cast, but it seems like more could have accomplished with greater acting.

Conclusion

More obscure true stories like this one need to be adapted to movies for multiple reasons.  For one, they are better than writing another small town made-for-Hallmark romance.  For another, they let both Christian and non-Christian audiences know that God is at work in the lives of many different types of people.  God can work however He wishes, and The Perfect Wave shows this.  The unfortunate thing is that this movie was not good enough to be considered Hall of Fame, yet it is still a movie worth watching.  We look forward to what is next on the agenda for Bruce MacDonald and company.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

The Mark [2012] (Movie Review)

imgres

Plot Summary

Chad Turner, a former criminal, has been chosen to be a human prototype for a biometric computer chip some call the Mark of the Beast.  After the chip is inserted into his skin, Chad becomes a different person, more powerful than before.  But he soon finds himself on the run from a powerful world leader, Joseph Pike, who seeks to take the chip and use it for his own means: world domination.  Chad takes a businessman, Cooper, hostage and convinces him to assist him in keeping the chip away from Pike.  But they suddenly find themselves trapped on a place in the middle of a global catastrophic some refer to as the Rapture.  With multiple assailants after them, Turner and Cooper must navigate the uncertain waters and avoid death at all costs.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Beyond a clear video quality, there is little to be excited about in The Mark when it comes to production.  The movie is filled with poorly constructed action scenes, wild explosions, and maddening gun-wielding chases.  Not much effort was put into sets and locations, as a majority of the film takes place on a plane, which brings to mind many other apocalyptic movies.  The editing is passable, but there is little true content to deal with.  The musical score is a stock action soundtrack.  Basically, this type of movie is been there, done that.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In this possible sequel to In the Blink of an Eye, several potentially interesting characters are thrown together on a transatlantic flight to discuss the world’s political scene and to escape from the antichrist’s henchman.  John Patus has used this plot before and used it again after this movie.  With the chip in his skin, Turner is basically an invincible character, not that plot devices like this have stopped action protagonists from being invincible before.  With mind-numbing action sequences, there is little to no actual plot in The Mark.  Character development and meaningful dialogue are traded for firing guns and yes—crawling around inside of a plane’s engine area while it’s in flight.  While Turner and Cooper could have been interesting flawed ‘heroes’ with agendas of their own, they were not.  The antichrist character is unbearably cheesy.  The bottom line is that the apocalyptic stuck-on-a-place plot has been done before and needs to be put to rest once and for all.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This particular PureFlix cast is not extremely cheesy, but they are just not that great.  In the wake of cheap action, emotions are discarded and line delivery is reduced to monologuing and pontificating.  Where there was potential in the actors and actresses, it is not harnessed.

Conclusion

Centering a plot around a character that has been forcibly given an artist’s conception of the Mark of the Beast is not entirely a bad idea.  Such an idea has the possibility to breach new genres and reach different audiences than usual.  However, movies like The Mark only cause the apocalyptic genre to become further viewed as cheesy and not worth anyone’s time.  As it stands, Christian apocalyptic movies mostly are not worth your time.  No matter where you land on eschatology, movies like The Mark are pointless and empty.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

The Book of Ruth: A Journey of Faith (Movie Review)

3499_3_screenshot

Plot Summary

A grieving widow at risk of losing more family members, Naomi is confused and disillusioned to her Jewish faith as she resides in a pagan country.  When her two sons die, Naomi makes up her mind to return to her homeland in disgrace.  One daughter-in-law, Orpah, turns away and goes back to her idols, but Naomi’s other daughter-in-law, Ruth, insists on going to the land of Israel with her mother-in-law to further adapt the Jewish faith and to take care of Naomi.  Together, they are uncertain of the path ahead of them but they forge forward, clinging to some hope that Yahweh will look upon them with favor.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Besides clear video quality, there is nothing positive to mention regarding The Book of Ruth’s production.  This film commits every cardinal sin of Bible movies: cheap sets and locations, ridiculous costuming and props, inconsistent sound quality, and choppy editing.  To top things off, a lot of scenes are overshadowed by annoying background music, making it hard to focus on what’s actually going on in the story.  Sometimes the music even covers up dialogue.  There is really little to make this movie worth watching.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The story of Ruth can and should be adapted to film, but this particular adaptation is just C-grade.  Beginning with Oded telling the story to a young David, this tale portrays Biblical characters in an unrealistic light.  It is usually difficult to understand what the characters are supposed to be doing in this movie, whether they are staring at flowers or rubbing random pieces of wood together.  It doesn’t even seem like this plot was meant to be a movie, more like a church play, as we have often mentioned in the past regarding PureFlix Scriptural storylines.  Any potentially good dialogue is eclipsed by odd monologues about Moabite gods and inventive cultural customs.  As previously mentioned, a lot of the dialogue and plot is covered up by loud background music.  In short, there is very little ability to comprehend the actual Biblical message here.

Acting Quality (0 points)

In this film, the actors and actresses stand awkwardly and recite overly practiced lines.  No believable emotion is exhibited and line delivery is amateurishly theatrical.  The casting was poorly executed, as they are too modern in look and not coached at all.  There is too much makeup and manicures, like middle class Americans wrapped in cheap church play costumes.  Once again, we could find nothing positive here.

Conclusion

The Book of Ruth is one of those movies we wish never existed.  When a Biblical adaptation is this bad, it makes us severely embarrassed for both Christians and unbelievers alike who thought this movie would be good, only to later find that it was a DVD that should have been quietly forgotten about and later donated to the local thrift store.  A word of advice to those who are contemplating a Bible movie: learn from the mistakes of movies like The Book of Ruth and never, ever repeat them.  The Christian movie world cannot afford any more movies like this one.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

Saving Winston (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When she is left behind by her partners in crime, Ashley is caught by the police and arrested following a break-in she assisted with.  After being released from juvenile detention, she is assigned to kinship care under her Aunt Diane.  Ashley’s aunt hopes to provide a structured atmosphere on her horse farm for the troubled teen and hopes to lead her to faith in Christ.  But as Ashley’s past keeps calling her back, Diane finds herself at the end of her rope.  That is, until Ashley grows close to a struggling horse on a neighboring property and tries to nurse him back to health.  Little do Ashley and Diane know that healing can come from unexpected places.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Ugh.  That pretty much describes this production.  It looks like it was filmed with a camcorder, sometimes shaking around in someone’s hand, sometimes on a tripod, and sometimes sat on a table some distance away.  More often than not, characters are cut out of the shot or are only partially in the shot since there is obviously no adjustable camera equipment.  Other camcorder qualities include tinny sound and grainy video.  There are lots of wasted ‘artistic’ shots of leaves, grass, and trees, accompanied by clanky piano music.  The sets and locations are basically people’s backyards and living rooms—not that there’s anything wrong with this, but they’re not utilized properly.  In short, Saving Winston is extremely and obviously cheap; no professionalism is exhibited here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

So, what exactly is the plot here?  Why does this plot even center around a horse that gets less than 50% screen time?  It seems like there could have been an interesting plot about juvenile delinquency issues, but there is just nothing here.  The characters are hollow, fueled by lifeless dialogue.  With so few characters, excellent dialogue is needed, but not received.  The aunt character, who is supposed to be the Christian guide of the plot, comes off as abrasive and rude.  Saving Winston just boils down to a collection of scenes depicting people driving around, working with horses, doing Bible studies, and having juvenile arguments.  Box Office Revolution has never reviewed such an empty plot.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This very small cast was neither given good coaching nor interesting lines to work with.  Victoria Emmons has demonstrated the ability to act better in other movies, but not this one, probably due better crews in other films.  In Winston, line delivery is either forced or mumbled and emotional delivery is borderline comedic.  Unfortunately, there is once again nothing good to highlight here.

Conclusion

Everyone has meager beginnings, but it doesn’t have to be this bad.  Winston should have been a short film that concisely and clearly communicated its intended point.  Many new filmmakers have used short films to begin their careers; Shane Hawks could have easily done this and saved time and money.  As it is, Saving Winston made no impact on the market accept to further tarnish the reputation of Christian films.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Risen [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Clavius is a Roman tribune who has seen everything in battle and thinks he has encountered every type of first century person possible.  He is hardened by violence and gore and shows little emotion anymore.  Battle-wearied from dealing with zealots in the wild Roman province of Judea, the last thing Clavius wants to do is perform an extra task for Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea.  The task: make sure a Jewish rabbi named Yeshua dies so that His following disperses and things calm down in the area in time for the Emperor Tiberius’ arrival to the province.  Clavius expects his task to be open and shut, but what he finds instead is an experience that could change his life forever, as he encounters the mysterious followers of the even more mysterious Yeshua.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

So many times, bad production quality derails movies with great ideas, especially Bible movies.  Too many Bible movies give off a church play quality, but Risen takes this concept and obliterates it.  The sets, locations, props, and costuming are exquisitely authentic, which is often the first hurdle to clear for a first century narrative.  Next, it actually contains action scenes—very well crafted action scenes.  The first century surroundings are highly believable and gritty.  The video quality and sound quality are flawless.  The camera work positively enhances the film, including poignant camera angles.  A lot of Christian movies in general have a poor or vanilla musical score, but Risen uses music to bring the movie to life.  In summary, the production quality of Risen lives up to the marketing and delivers a movie to be proud of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The journey of Clavius is very linear and straightforward—if you know the Biblical narrative, you will not find any plot twists here.  However, plot twists are likely not the purpose of this movie.  Though the investigation is somewhat simplistic, the gospel message is very clear and is presented in a realistic way that can be accessed by all.  The characters are extremely authentic and the dialogue is witty.  Another common error in Biblical films is portraying Scriptural characters as inaccessible and ethereal; Risen does not fall into this trap.  Its characters alone make this plot stand alone from others in its genre.  The Peter character is likely the best portrayal to date.  Jesus’ adaptation is also very accessible for audiences everywhere.  Subtle humor is inserted into the plot that is appropriate for the historical time period and makes for a well-rounded viewing.  The only caveats to raise here are a minor plot hole, a time-filling action sequence, and the somewhat vague conclusions to the Roman political subplot.  But this small issues aside, Risen is a unique and creative take on Biblical and historical narratives, with accurate elements integrated throughout.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The cast of Risen is obviously professional and very well coached.  Each actor and actress becomes and embodies their character excellently.  The line delivery is masterful and the emotions are felt.  The only negative element here is that Risen does fall into a common Bible movie trap by casting quite a few British actors.  The only thing that keeps Risen from being completely authentic is the presence of more obviously European actors than obviously Middle Eastern actors.  Otherwise, there are no acting or casting errors.

Conclusion

Risen receives half of an x-factor point for having a dynamic underlying worldview that drives the movie.  For once, this is a film that a Christian could take an unbeliever to in order to expose them to a clearly communicated and well packaged gospel message without being ashamed of low quality.  The problems with Risen are very minor and will not be enough to keep widespread audiences from seeing and enjoying this film.  A movie in the vein of Risen has been long overdue on the Christian scene and we at Box Office Revolution heartily anticipate more like it in the near future.

 

Final Rating: 8 out of 10 points

Jimmy [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jimmy Mitchell is a special boy.  Though he is afraid of water, he is able to see angelic beings known he calls ‘Watchers’ all over his small mountain town.  His father is a defense attorney and his mother is a clerk at the local courthouse, so Jimmy is not unfamiliar with the legal process.  But he is still unsure of what to do when he overhears one of his father’s clients planning to commit a crime, even though he has been recently acquitted.  Jimmy must determine whether or not he is going to overcome his fear to do the right thing no matter what.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As is the custom for Whitlow Films, the production quality of Jimmy is above average.  The camera work is solid and the camera work is mostly good.  The video quality and sound quality are good, but not great.  The sets, locations, and props are authentic.  Overall, there is not much else to be said here—the production of Jimmy is neither extremely negative nor game-changing.  However, it is a step above most Christian films and is likely the best they could have done with the resources available.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Adapted from another Robert Whitlow book, the plot of Jimmy is solid for a down to earth small town story.  The characters are true to life and their emotional struggles are real.  Unfortunately, the book’s plot is more dynamic than that of the movie’s.  The adaptation is not fully complete and the movie seems subdued and muted.  There is nothing glaringly wrong with the plot of Jimmy, but it just doesn’t make it past the average mark.  In addition to this, to no one’s surprise, Whitlow elected to use the alternate ending of the novel for the movie.  We felt that the alternate ending is what makes the book as creative as it is.  Without it, the storyline seems incomplete.  Therefore, as is reflected by the score, Jimmy is reduced to an average plot.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The acting is the strongest point of this film.  The film is well-cast and the actors and actresses are well coached.  The only thing that keeps this portion from being perfect is its lack of excellent quality.  The acting is great, but not excellent.

Conclusion

Jimmy is a heartwarming film that portrays special needs people in a very good way.  Though Robert Whitlow sometimes tends to be too sensational, Jimmy avoids this pitfall.  It contains creative conceptions of what special needs people may experience.  The bottom line is that the important message of this film should not be missed: all people deserved to be treated as humans created by God.  Thankfully, this message is not marred by awful production like many Christian films.  It is only too bad that Jimmy was not dynamic enough to make the Hall of Fame.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

Stand Strong (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Matt Webster and his family are more wealthy than the average American, and they make sure everyone knows it.  However, they don’t even like to be around each other and are always trying to find ways to cover up the emptiness inside each of them.  But when a series of adverse financial events begin affecting them, they are faced with the choice to live differently or lose everything.  Unfortunately, they do not curb their lifestyles and instead are forced to vacate their immaculate home, sell most of their possessions, and move in with Matt’s brother and his family, who do not share their lavish ideals.  In order to truly fill the emptiness inside, the Websters will have to be willing to learn and to live differently.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The one good thing about Stand Strong’s production is the video quality—at least it’s clear and professional-looking.  However, there is really nothing else good to say.  The sound quality back and forth depending on the type of scene that is being filmed.  The sets and locations are very limited, mostly taking place inside of the two Webster houses, even though other locations are unsuccessfully attempted.  Due to the confusing editing, sometimes the viewer has to guess what is actually happening.  The camera work is only good when the camera is obviously stationary.  In short, it seems like more could have been done here, but nothing materializes.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

There is a profound point somewhere buried in this amateurish plot: people with a lot of money and not enough character often have disjointed family lives and unstable emotions, even when things seem good on the outside.  However, this point is communicated somewhat too obviously—dialogue is over-the-top and extreme, thus creating characters with lots of mood swings.  On the other hand, the ‘good’ characters are perfect robots with schedules and basements full of canned goods.  Stand Strong has the components to be a creative non-typical plot, but it is reduced to unwatchable due to poor planning.  Some parts are over-stated while others are understated, almost like this script underwent different cuts and edits at different times.  The end is not necessarily neat and tidy, but the ‘bad’ characters become replicas of the ‘good’ characters, forming their own robotic dialogue.  In the end, the idea behind Stand Strong needed to be given to a more thorough crew that wasn’t going to just throw something together to have a movie.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast seems like a collection of random people were chosen to play parts and then given no help in this endeavor.  The actors and actresses are not necessarily cast inappropriately, but no care is taken to make them palatable to the audience.  There is potential in each one of them if it is mined properly.

Conclusion

Like we have said many times before, Stand Strong is one of those movies that desperately needs a re-work and a re-write.  This idea doesn’t have to go to waste; it is interesting enough to help us overlook this movie’s negative elements to a point.  It is unfortunate that the team behind this film was not given more help or did not seek out help when making this movie.  If important messages are to be properly communicated, they must be done so in a way that people will listen.  We feel that this is done through a professionally made movie, something that Stand Strong is not.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

Voyage of the Dawn Treader [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Left in England while their parents and siblings settle in their new home in America, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie are restless and not interested in continuing to be under the same roof as their obnoxious cousin Eustace Scrubb.  But it seems as though Aslan has other plans when he unexpectedly calls them back to Narnia, along with Eustance, for a unique mission—accompany King Caspian and the crew of the Narnia ship Dawn Treader in a quest to see what is beyond the Lone Islands and to retrieve lost friends of Caspian’s father.  Edmund and Lucy are sure that their past Narnian experience will help them excel, but what they do not realize is that the mysterious enemy they face on the high seas is unlike any enemy they have ever faced before.  In order to win, they must protect their minds and come to grips with who they really are as people.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

This movie franchise’s breakup with Disney was perhaps the best thing that ever happened to it.  However, since they retained Walden Media for this installment, the production quality remains high and even improves.  The video and sound quality are excellent.  The camera work is masterful.  Difficult action scenes are filmed with skill.  The editing is flawless.  The special effects are very professional and do not show any hints of being cheap.  In short, there is nothing negative say about Dawn Treader’s production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)

The original plot of C. S. Lewis’ work of fiction was honestly not that great on its face, but this film adaptation dramatically improves upon the book without losing the original message.  In fact, a more powerful message is provided.  The same plot elements are used and are rearranged in a better order so that they each serve a better purpose.  Another improvement from the both the book and the first two Narnia movies is that the character development is bettered through more creative and interesting dialogue.  Too many fantasy stories treat the characters as pawns to move around with imaginary elements, but Dawn Treader defies this trend.  There are plenty of plot twists in this film, along with cool psychological elements.  The end is not exactly predictable, even if you have read the book.  It is rare that you find a book adaptation film that actually improves upon the novel, but Dawn Treader changes up this narrative.  In summary, we could not find anything negative here.

Acting Quality (3 points)

This is the best cast Narnia movie to date.  Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, and Ben Barnes reprise as their former roles and are each better than in their previous films.  Will Poulter is a masterful casting choice for Eustace; he becomes the very essence of the original character.  Once again, there are no errors to point out.

Conclusion

This movie receives half of an x-factor point for having a meaningful and little-mentioned underlying worldview.  Unfortunately, it cannot receive the full x-factor point because it is not explicitly Christian, even though there are plenty of redemptive elements.  However, this is the only negative thing that can be mentioned about Dawn Treader.  After a success and a misfire at the beginning of the new Narnia franchise, Douglas Gresham and company have finally arrived with their third installment.  It brings the whole package and stands as a unique sort of movie that has the ability to reach many different types of audiences.  Christian film-makers everywhere can learn a lesson from Dawn Treader about reaching multiple audiences at once, bridging new movie genres, and creating a high quality film that is worth elevating to Hall of Fame status.

 

Final Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points

The Ultimate Life (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jason Stevens has inherited his grandfather’s massive fortune, but he has lost his way in life.  He is successful at putting the money to good use helping others, but he seems to never have any time for his longtime girlfriend Alexia, who he does not realize has plans of her own.  On top of this, Jason’s family is suing him for the family fortune.  When he wakes up one day and suddenly finds Alexia has left the country, he doesn’t know what to do.  Therefore, he goes to his old friend Hamilton, who produces the diary of Jason’s grandfather so Jason can learn from his grandfather’s mistakes before he repeats them.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The video quality is clear, but unfortunately, that’s all that can be said for the production of The Ultimate Life.  The sound quality varies depending on the type of scene.  The camera work is also very random—sometimes good and sometimes shaky.  The sets and locations are pretty good and fairly historically accurate, but some of them are unprofessionally presented.  Perhaps the worst part is the editing.  It is already difficult enough to transpose a past plotline onto a present day plotline, but The Ultimate Life comes off as very choppy and hard to follow.  The scenes are all over the place, sometimes depicting a vague World War II battle and sometimes depicting an awkward 1940s high school (the actors seem too old for high school though) dance.  The bottom line is that where the resources were available to make this a successful movie, they were not utilized.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This plot is meant to be another book adaptation, but it is nothing like the book that bears the same name.  However, there wasn’t really much to work with in the book anyway.  In this film, the life of Red Stevens is displayed at breakneck speed, thus not allowing any time for character development.  While this could have been a very interesting tale of success, decline, and corruption, the story sputters along like an old car.  It seems like multiple different movie ideas were spliced together into one, since the story hops along through time, only hitting the highlights and those moments that can be easily connected to the first installment in the series.  The dialogue is mindless, and thus, the characters are empty.  The only good thing to highlight here is that this plot had potential—the story of Red Stevens is not necessarily a happy one, but it could have been used as an example of how to handle success and how to put family first.  But beyond this, there is nothing to say except that it seems like, rather than actually craft a meaningful plot to showcase an interesting topic, the crew thought up a whole bunch of tongue in cheek references to the more successful Ultimate Gift and transposed it on a post-Depression era backdrop.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The actors and actresses are given no help.  Therefore, the line delivery is very forced and no emotional expression is authentic.  It seems like this cast could have been better than they are in this film, but nothing materializes.  As a side note, it is difficult to cast multiple actors for one character across a timespan, but The Ultimate Life handles this pretty well.  But unfortunately, that is the only good thing to mention.

Conclusion

The Ultimate Gift was a great film, and it is understandable why a prequel was requested.  There was a lot of good content that could have been covered.  Red Stevens’ character arc could have been showcased.  The Ultimate Life could have been a great film, but ‘could have’ is not a winning phrase.  After the success of Gift, Life had no excuses to be so poor, but it did.  This is unfortunate, and The Ultimate Life joins a long line of Christian films that could have been.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

The Encounter [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Nick, Melissa, Hank, Catherine, and Kayla are all strangers to each other until they are forced to meet up at a quaint diner due to road closures one stormy night.  Each has their own story and hurts, but the last thing they expect is to meet the mysterious owner of the diner, who calls himself Jesus.  He knows many things about them that no one else knows but he actually demonstrates true care for them, something many of them have never experienced.  Each of them must make the most important choice of their lives—will they listen to the words of Jesus or will they turn away?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The production pretty much derails this movie from the get go.  For starters, the movie is purposely designed to have extremely limited sets—the movie only takes place a very small amount outside, partly inside vehicles, partly inside flashback locations, mostly inside the makeshift diner, and yes, inside the diner’s bathroom.  The video quality is quite grainy and the camera work shaky.  The sound quality is inconsistent.  The only redeeming production quality is the editing, even though there is very little content to work with.  In short, it would have done this movie wonders to have better production quality.  With such a small cast and so few sets, there are no excuses to have such poor production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Although the encounter with Jesus in modern times is not really a new plot, there is nothing inherently wrong with this particular rendition.  The characters are pretty good and the flashbacks effectively enhance them, but once again, with so few characters, there was more time to develop them, yet this was not done.  This sort of small scale plot depends entirely on the characters, and since the characters are just average, it’s not good enough.  We needed to know more about these characters besides their favorite foods, their occupations, their parents, and their surface struggles.  Again, the flashbacks are great, but more is needed.  The spiritual\psychological elements in the plot are interesting, but the devil character is very cheesy.  In short, this plot concept had a lot of potential—especially if more psychological elements had been explored—that was not brought to the surface.  The final result is just a stock plot.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast seems better than a lot of PureFlix casts; even though there is really no acting coaching, the actors and actresses do a pretty good job by themselves.  However, like the rest of this movie, more is needed.  Similar to how the characters carry this sort of small scale plot, the actors and actresses are vital.  Unfortunately, there is just not enough positive here.

Conclusion

Though David A. R. White is the director of The Encounter, he does not insert his usual cheesy flavor.  But at the same time, dynamic elements are not present.  The tools are there, but they are not picked up and used.  The Encounter had the possibility to showcase a unique movie genre, but it was left hanging.  This film likely joins a group of Christian films that deserve a remake.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Princess Cut (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Grace has had her share of heartache when it comes to romantic relationships.  She feels like men have played games with her heart, even though she desperately wants to find the right man to spend the rest of her life with.  She looks to her parents for guidance, but she also wants to be her own woman.  After she finally hits rock bottom when a man treats her in a way she does not feel is appropriate, she decides to make changes in her life and to stop seeking men.  Little does she know that true love could be right around the corner.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

The production of Princess Cut is its one redeeming quality, but that still isn’t saying much.  The video quality is clear and the camera work is passable, except for in-shot zooming.  The editing is decent, but the sound quality is the biggest detractor here.  Many scenes are obviously overdubbed because of the lack of a boom mic.  Some sound is hard to hear and there are quite a few musical montages that cover up what could have been valuable dialogue.  Also, the sets are severely limited; too much content takes place off screen.  In short, we realize that Princess Cut had a very small budget, but it seems like more could have been done here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

There is an underlying philosophy in this plot that is slightly commendable, but there are so many negative issues.  Good principles of dating are talked about, but they are also forced down the throats of the audience through robotic paragraph dialogue.  Also shoved in the viewers’ faces is a far right Christian-ese worldview based on patriarchy, matronly women’s roles, anti-psychology ideals, and self-help books.  The female characters are portrayed as empty-headed and clueless.  ‘Bad’ characters are over-the-top strawmen.  As previously mentioned, there is no real dialogue that builds the characters—most of the time, the characters seem to be reading self-help books verbatim.  The plot is choppy and leaves out many key parts, some of which are made up for with extremely awkward and strange dialogue.  Intended humor falls flat.  In summary, this plot contains only a small amount of positive amid a conglomerate of strange philosophies and robotic characters.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

We felt like there was some potential in this cast—Rusty Martin Sr. and his son has both demonstrated good acting skills before—but it was not tapped in Princess Cut.  Ashley Bratcher seems like a good actress, but she is not given any help.  Unfortunately, most of the line delivery is emotionless and very stodgy.  If coaching had been employed, the acting quality could have improved.

Conclusion

It’s great that more independent Christian film-makers are making movies and are able to make them, but what is the cost of these sorts of films?  Princess Cut portrays Christians as living in their own bubble, owning a farm that the men run while the women slave away in the kitchen all day and knit.  People outside of this bubble are portrayed as bad, and psychology is a definite no-no.  Yet at the same time, the Bible is not given near as much attention in this film as self-help book product placements.  What type of philosophy is exactly being espoused here?  It is wonderful to portray healthy dating, but if you’re looking for that, we highly recommend Old-Fashioned, not Princess Cut.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Love Finds You in Sugarcreek (Movie Review)

amsh

Plot Summary

Rachel Troyler loves being a police officer in the small town of Sugarcreek, Ohio, but she still carries emotional baggage from past hurts.  That’s why she suspicious of a stranger who comes to town with a broken down truck and a sick son.  She becomes protective of her Amish aunts when they decide to take the man and his son in at no charge except for repairs to their dilapidated inn.  Rachel senses that there is something more to the stranger than meets the eye, and she is right.  Little does she know that she is caught in the middle of a high-stakes mystery involving top sports figures.  Yet despite her suspicions and self-protection, she finds herself falling for the mysterious runaway.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

One consolation to this film is that the production is not terrible.  It is actually quite decent—the editing is professional and the camera work shows skill.  There are no glaring errors related to sound and video quality.  The main caveats to point out here are the cheap and limited sets, so it seems like the crew did the best they could with what they had.  Overall, the production is above average, but not perfect.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Does this really have to be a romance?  The plot seems to work well as an average mystery.  Just because a fleeing athlete comes to town doesn’t mean that a local female police officer has to fall in love with him.  One breath of fresh air that this movie brings to the scene is a plot that includes Amish characters that don’t shun anyone or get shunned.  Surprisingly, most of the characters have some depth to them when it comes to their motivations and behaviors—many of them are authentic.  But unfortunately, the dialogue is just regular and the villain is very cheesy.  As previously mentioned, the mystery is just average but it seems like the most of made of it.  There are no real twists and turns—those looking for a straightforward Christian movie will find it here.  Overall, there are not overly negative elements in Love Finds You in Sugarcreek, but there are neither enough elements to make it truly creative.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Amish acting often comes off as stereotypical, but Sugarcreek tends to avoid these issues.  Overall, the cast is professional and seems to be semi-coached.  But at the same time, the lines and emotional delivery are a tad dry.  It’s already been said in this review, but the theme must be continued—the acting in this film is just average.

Conclusion

It is fitting that Sugarcreek receives a final score of five out of ten, a clean average score.  Box Office Revolution anticipated a much worse rating from any film associated with the stodgy yet empty novel saga Love Inspired.  The best was done with what was offered in this film, and it can stand as an example of how to make the best possible ‘Love Finds You’ movie.  But at the same time, we must still request that more diverse movies be contributed to the Christian movie scene.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

The Book of Daniel [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Taken from their cherished hometown Jerusalem as young men, Daniel and his three friends must learn to navigate their new culture, Babylon, without compromising their Jewish faith.  Even when it appears as though all hope is lost, Yahweh continues to give Daniel and his friends opportunities to influence their own captors for the better.  As Daniel’s life progressed, he was given more and more chances to influence world politics by simply serving and obeying Yahweh.  The life of Daniel is one that can be modeled by Christians of all generations and cultures.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, The Book of Daniel falls into the infamous Biblical film traps when it comes to production.  The sets and costuming scream church play and demonstrate a severely limited budget combined with lack of attention to historical authenticity.  There are no outside sequences, except for one, that are not replaced with extremely obvious CGI.  There are also some annoying special effects.  For what it’s worth, the camera work is not horrible and the editing is passable, even though the story is very choppy.  In summary, PureFlix Bible productions leave much to be desired.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

It is commendable to cover all the stories in the Biblical book of Daniel in one movie and to transpose it with Daniel’s God-given influence over historical monarchs.  But in this pursuit, the viewer gets lost in a very disjointed storyline.  There is simply too much content and not enough character development.  We at Box Office Revolution continually wonder why Biblical characters always have to be portrayed in the movies as inhuman and lofty—they were regular people!  The dialogue of The Book of Daniel also reminds one of a poorly written church play, very robotic.  The bottom line is that while there was a mountain of potential to be found in this sort of plot, it was never unearthed.  We are only left with a pathetic attempt.

Acting Quality (1 point)

While the acting is not glaringly bad, it is overly theatrical and overly practiced.  There are little to no emotions expressed.  Again, it gives off the impression that Bible characters were not real people, but like talking wax figures.  We believe that if these actors had been afforded better lines and better coaching, something more could have materialized.  But alas, we are once again left wondering what could have been.

Conclusion

Bible movies need to be made, but not like this.  So many audiences need to know what is in the Bible, but films like The Book of Daniel only serve to further turn people off, making them think that the Scriptures are boring and full of inaccessible characters we can’t relate to and fantastical events that will never happen again.  The truth is, nothing could be more of a lie.  The Bible has many historical and realistic narratives full of flawed and believable characters that need to be depicted on the big screen properly.  We look forward to the day when this will happen.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

When Calls the Heart [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Elizabeth Thatcher is restless in her American white upper class family structure and longs to make a true difference in life.  She is tired of being sheltered by an extravagant and risk-free lifestyle in the east and longs to teach struggling children in the west.  But her family is opposed to this prospect and seeks to thwart her goals.  Yet as Elizabeth seeks to understand their opposition, she stumbles upon a family secret involving an aunt who shares her name who also had a heart for struggling western schools.  In trying to discover how she can leave her mark on the world, Elizabeth finds that God has uniquely equipped her for adventures she never imagined.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Michael Landon Jr. usually puts on a good production.  The camera work is professional, including in different lighting scenarios.  Good locations and sets are chosen that are neither cheap nor unrealistic.  The costuming and makeup are not overdone like Landon has done in the past.  The video and sound quality are solid.  The editing is pretty good, considering that two stories are being overlaid.  But the editing also leaves something to be desired as there are some plot holes.  But in the end, this film’s production is quite good.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

When a movie mixes two different plots together connected by the reading of a diary, it usually means that there is not enough content in either subplot.  This is slightly true in this Janette Oke novel adaptation, but it seems to work out well enough.  Yet it cannot be ignored that putting two plots together undermines character development in both.  Dialogue is limited because of the combination, but it is still not a completely bad plot.  There are some interesting points and slight twists throughout.  Events that occur are authentic and believable.  The premise of the movie is very interesting, but the end of the movie is confusing.  Was this meant to be the first in a series of movies?  At the time of this writing, there are no plans for a sequel.  The ending could have been written in such a way so that a sequel was not necessary—as it is, it seems incomplete and slightly unprofessional.  Whatever the intention was, this is an average plot that needed further developing, yet it is not horrible on its face.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This is a semi-professional cast, yet they are not terribly dynamic.  They do fairly well in delivery and expression, but they still leave something to be desired.  The actors and actresses do not change the movie for the better, but neither do they derail it.  Average is a word that sums up this film as a whole.

Conclusion

It is likely that Michael Landon Jr.’s development of the When Calls the Heart television series cut this potential movie saga short, but we cannot understand why he planned to make both, each with different actors and characters and with entirely different premises.  This movie, we believe, had more potential than the television series, although there is nothing wrong with creating more miniseries.  The bottom line is that the When Calls the Heart film seems like an afterthought and feels like more could have been done with it had more effort been applied.  As it is, it’s a fine movie, but it is not Hall of Fame worthy.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Brother White (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Stuck in a long line of pastoral succession at a megachurch headed by the popular Johnny Kingman, James White is desperate to make his mark and to stand out from the crowd.  But doing so only gets him into further trouble.  After nearly ruining a children’s Sunday school class and an expensive painting and disrupting a church service, Kingman send James on a probation to pastor a struggling church in Atlanta.  So James, his wife Lily, and their two children make a cross-country move to the Peach State and find themselves thrust into a multicultural world they have never before experienced.  Not only must James find a way to save the struggling church, but he must come to grips with the fact that he is not invincible and must rely on God and his family for help.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Compared to other PureFlix productions, Brother White is not horrible.  It actually has a lot of potential.  The camera work is pretty good, as is the video quality.  However, the sound quality is inconsistent and some outside scenes are covered up with musical montages.  The editing is decent, but the sets and locations are obviously cheap.  There are some slight excuses for this, but it still could have been better.  Probably the worst production element is pretending like certain characters are singing when they are obviously not.  In short, the production of Brother White is just average—neither horrible nor dynamic.  There was a lot of potential here that was not brought to the surface.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Unlike many PureFlix plots, Brother White is slightly interesting.  Exploring racial relations by inserting an affluent white (White?) family into a predominantly African-American church has a lot of potential, if stereotypes are avoided.  For the most part, they are.  There is plenty of satire in Brother White that is actually funny, such as tongue-in-cheek swipes at prosperity gospel churches.  But there are also elements that are just trying too hard.  Too much comedy falls flat and some lines leave you scratching your head.  There are plot holes that are glossed over and some humor is way too obvious, such as the name ‘Lily White’.  The plot boils down to a simplistic save the farm storyline and seems to lose its original purpose in the end.  James’ character arc is commendable, but the whole movie just leaves you wanting more substance.  In short, Brother White is not so awful that it’s unwatchable, but it’s also frustrating to watch because there was obviously a lot of creativity left untapped.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this is probably David A. R. White’s best lead role, it still leaves much to be desired.  The presence of more professional actors in this cast keeps it from sinking to the depths of most PureFlix casts.  However, there is still a lack of acting coaching.  Were all the actors up to par, this movie would have improved.

Conclusion

This is probably the closest the Whites and Tommy Blaze will ever get to true comedy.  But were this plot in different hands, we can’t help but feel it could have been Hall of Fame worthy.  It contains a unique plot on a good topic and as it is, has some humorous elements.  In the end, Brother White is the highest rated White comedy and unfortunately, it is hard to believe that it will get any better than this.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

BMB – Marriage Retreat – The Intros

This post is part of a series called Bad Movie Breakdowns. For more click here.

Marriage Retreat, one of the best examples of a Cheesy Christian Comedy. This movie has a lot to discuss from its overacting to its bizarre scenes that leave viewers scratching their heads to that ridiculous baby bump prop. The good news is that this movie actually has a lot of potential as it (sort of) attempts to grapple with an important topic for Christians. It is also actually funny although often not for the reasons they wanted it to be.

There is no better place to start when breaking down a film than the beginning. The beginning of this film is a real doozy featuring lots of narration and rather blunt and cheesy attempts at humor. Here is the first scene:

Mark here is apparently quite chilly for some reason. This is obvious because of the way that he has dramatically wrapped himself in an overly large blanket and periodically acts like he is shivering or something. What is not obvious is the point of the whole scene. There is never really an explanation for why he is so cold other that the fact that it might be intended to be a heavy handed metaphor for the state of their marriage. Subtlety is going to be a big problem for this film and this scene is a great example of that. Writers need to stop treating their audience like little children and and employ some wittier humor that is clever and makes people think. The only thing to laugh at here is how silly the whole scene looks.

Then there is the age old problem of narration. The choice to force feed info to the viewers. Again, trust that the audience is intelligent and show them the story rather than telling it. I am not watching this so David A. R. White can read me a book.

On the plot side of things there is really no explanation for this scene. Why is he cold? What is so important about 43 days? We may never know.

Let’s watch the narrator explain the other characters to us:

The loud record scratch sounds are definitely not necessary. There are also a lot of better ways to introduce characters and backstory than to narrate over flashbacks. Add to that the fact that this backstory is pretty silly. It does not really help us to understand these characters. Is each of these couples going to be mad about one little thing? Surely the marital issues could be fleshed out a little more. The narrator still sounds like he is telling a story to children, “and then one day.”

The characters and stories just get worse from here:

Oh boy, where do I start with this one? Tommy Blaze’s acting? Asian stereotypes? Not one but two record scratch noises? Cheesy puns? or my personal favorite, typing furiously on a keyboard while ostensibly playing online poker.

An aside: I might be being overly picky here but I find the use of the phrase “on the other side of the coin” distracting. It should be used when contrasting two opposite or at least different persons, points of view, etc. Here it is used not because these two men are being contrasted but apparently because the writers thought it sounded clever. I’m sorry but I couldn’t let it go. Attention to writing details is important.

We’ll finish this post with Mark’s explanation of the problem with his marriage:

There are some of the same issues here but this clip isn’t actually that bad. Mark and Claire’s conversation in bed is pretty well written dialogue that explains some of their issues. Mark’s joke about kids growing up is even kind of funny and delivered pretty well. It is still basically unexplained why this conversation set them off into a spiral of non-communication for exactly 43 days or why this has anything to do with the house being so cold. We also have to see more of David A. R. White’s sad attempts at acting cold (body language acting skills can really set apart a quality actor)  But this is one of those parts of this movie that shows potential and could have been more developed. I would suggest opening the movie with this conversation and then expanding the characters and their issues through meaningful dialogue. Instead we get force fed narration, silly jokes, and caricatures in place of characters.

The introductory scenes of movies are very important because they set the tone and lay a foundation for the plot. Movie creators should be very careful when crafting the beginning of their film for this reason. I cannot stress enough the importance of quality character development and showing rather than telling. These are basic writing tips that must be used in order to set your film apart from the sea of cheaply produced nonsense that is already out there. Marriage Retreat’s opening falls flat but hopefully others can learn from their mistakes.

Here’s some bonus content for you:

Yes that is a real still from the opening credits and no I do not have any idea what is going on there.

Amazing Grace [2006] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

William Wilberforce, always a crusader for social justice at all levels, had never considered the evils of slavery in the British Empire until his friend William Pitt introduced him to a group of anti-slavery activists, or abolitionists.  After learning about the horrors that occurred on slave ships and on plantations in the West Indies, Wilberforce began using his influence in the House of Commons to put a stop to the evil practice through legislation.  What he did not anticipate was the pushback from the pro-slavery lobby.  After exhausting all his options, the source of Wilberforce’s motivation suddenly comes from an unlikely source—a blind pastor with a song that was destined to change cultures everywhere.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

Amazing Grace has obviously been produced by a top notch crew.  Many crews are wary of historical movies, likely because it is difficult to achieve the proper level of professionalism and to acquire the props, costumes, sets, and locations needed for an authentic film.  Amazing Grace accomplishes all of these very well, bringing this historical story to life without committing the usual errors.  The camera work is excellent, as are the video and sound qualities.  There is nothing negative to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Adapting a historical plot can be difficult, depending on how much content the writers want to cover—sometimes they can bite off more than they can chew.  But it can also be a far better plot than most fictional plots, since it is based on true events.  To some extent, both of these things can be said about Amazing Grace.  Since it covers a lot of time, the character development is not perfect, but it is still fine.  The dialogue is above average and the message of social justice for slaves is clear.  Sensitive elements are dealt with handily without sugarcoating reality.  One other issue to raise here is that the Christian message is not explicit—it is difficult to discern whether or not this was intentional on the part of the creators.  Overall, this is a great historical narrative to adapt into a movie, and even though it feels like more could have been done, the end result is still masterful.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Since this is a professional and mainstream cast, we should not expect anything less than great.  As a side note, it is unfortunate that this cannot be said about predominantly Christian casts.  In Amazing Grace, each actor or actress fits their role very well—each has been cast very appropriately.  Line delivery is excellent, as is emotional expression.  There were a lot of potential acting pitfalls, but none of them are fallen into.

Conclusion

More movies need to be made on important historical topics such as the different facets and time periods of the abolitionist movement.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to believe that this film would have been as good if it had been fully created and distributed by a completely Christian team.  Amazing Grace needs to serve as a constant reminder of the types of movies that Christian film-makers should be consistently rolling out.  While Amazing Grace is not a perfect film, it is certainly one to be proud of.

 

Final Rating: 8 out of 10 points

Hidden Secrets [2006] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Following the death of a common friend, Gary, Jeremy, Michael, Harold, and Sherry all gather at his house for a long weekend of repairs and catching up on the good old days.  However, all is not well among them.  Jeremy discovers that he still love Sherry, his former girlfriend, even though his current girlfriend is staying with them.  Michael is guarding a dark secret from his past.  Gary and Harold’s wife constantly clash over his Jewish background and his atheist beliefs.  In the end, they will have to come to grips their hidden secrets in order to face the future.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

There is literally nothing good to say about this film’s production quality.  The video is grainy and the sound quality is all over the place.  The camera work is unprofessional.  Everything about the production has a very cheap identity.  The sets are severely limited, mostly taking place inside one house or on its roof (yes, seriously).  The editing is terrible, but it’s not like there was much to work with.  Roof repair scenes, standing around and talking scenes, and thrift store dress-up scenes litter the landscape.  But nothing can beat David A. R. White mouthing a Building 429 song and pretending like he’s singing it.  As previously mentioned, there is nothing positive here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

There is only one positive element to discuss from this entire film, and that is its slightly interesting exploration of the various types of secret sins many Christians harbor.  Otherwise, the remainder of this film is utter nonsense.  The dialogue is almost written purposely ridiculous.  One character is an over-the-top, obnoxious, legalistic Christian who is the only one, in her mind, who can interpret the Bible properly.  It would be funny if it wasn’t so unwatchable.  The atheist character is equally annoying.  Other dialogue is absurd and overly obvious, shoving issues down viewers’ throats.  There is also no clear plotline to this movie except for repairing a roof, hanging around talking and arguing on various controversial topics, reminiscing about the good old days, playing dress-up in a thrift store, and pretending to sing in a cheap restaurant.  Any good intentions there were in making this movie are buried beneath a mound of insanity.

Acting Quality (0 points)

No acting coaching is employed in Hidden Secrets.  Actors and actresses are allowed to basically run wild with the material with no quality control.  Line delivery is forceful—several actors and actresses are clearly trying to draw attention to themselves.  Emotions are also extreme and unbelievable.  Once again, there is nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

There is a base idea in Hidden Secrets that should have been given to another film.  Unfortunately, Carey Scott, Sean Paul Murphy, and Timothy Ratajczak have not demonstrated that they are good stewards of movie ideas.  To make this sort of movie shows one of three things—they either do not care about making quality movies, they do not fully know how to make quality movies, or they are purposely making low quality movies.  What type of audience is supposed to derive meaning from this sort of movie?  For many reasons, this movie receives a very low score.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

Decision [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Following the tragic death of her husband, Ilene Connors struggles to maintain her current financial situation and to keep her delinquent teenage son, Jackson, under control.  At the end of her rope, she agrees with her father’s plan to take Jackson to his remote cabin in the woods in order to teach him some tough life lessons.  Resistant and frustrated, Jackson suddenly finds himself liking the structured atmosphere.  However, he forced to face what he truly believe in when his grandfather’s medical problems leave Jackson having to man up and make some tough decisions.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, we have really nothing positive to say about this film.  We tried to find something, and we sort of did, but it does not pertain to production.  The camera work is very cheap, showcasing poor angles and a general camcorder feel.  The video quality is grainy and the sound quality is spotty, especially in the outdoor scenes.  The sets and locations are extremely limited.  The props are cheesy and the editing looks like it was done on a cheap computer program.  There is really nothing good to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Now for the movie’s only positive factor: it clearly presents the gospel message to anyone who happened to be forced to watch the remainder of the film.  That’s all we could find.  The plot is extremely simplistic and very linear.  If this was meant to be a simple gospel presentation, then the characters should have been fleshed out and it should have been marketed that way, not as a direct to DVD movie.  The dialogue is pretty good when it comes to sharing the gospel, but otherwise, it’s high school grade.  The few characters that are in the plot are stereotypical.  Events that take place in the plot are not even believable, such as the survival and outdoors parts.  The grandfather has an undisclosed heart condition that is magically healed every time he pops a pill.  Otherwise, the one hour run time is filled with useless filler, like cleaning out a barn and talking on the phone.  But nothing, absolutely nothing, can top the end of the film.  It is painfully obvious that either someone made a huge editing blunder or the money simply ran out, since the movie cuts off in the middle of someone’s dialogue.  You have to see it for yourself to believe it.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Mike Rosenbaum is obviously older than the Jackson character he plays, which adds a whole new element to this movie.  While it is noble of Natalie Grant to attempt to act while pregnant in real life, it doesn’t really work.  Overall, the cast is not coached at all.  So many times, we see actors and actresses thrown out on the set with no help, and Decision is one of those instances.

Conclusion

Every day we ask ourselves why movies like this are made.  The clear gospel message should have been lifted from this movie idea and inserted into another more worthwhile plot that someone can actually appreciate.  After watching Decision, you get the feeling that Christian movies have reached new lows.  Christian film-makers are not meant to simply churn out cheap productions for the sake of making them.  We strongly believe that God expects Christians to try their best in every area of life—including creating movies.  Decision does not meet these standards.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

Grace and Gravity (2016)

Coming in 2016

Website Link

 

Writer(s): Andrew Walkington

Director(s): Andrew Walkington

Producer(s): Bruce Marchiano, Tara Ward, Ellen Waite

Starring:

 

Plot Synopsis:

An apologetics film featuring a man of faith trying to talk another man off a bridge.

This is Our Time (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ethan, Catherine, Luke, Ryder, and Alexandria, friends through college, have finally reaches graduation and are ready to go out and change the world.  However, the world they find outside of the college classroom is not the one they anticipated.  Catherine and Luke seem to be following their lives’ purposes when they embark to serve the Lord in India.  Catherine and Ryder are set on making an impact in the business world.  Ethan feels stuck working for his lonely father’s restaurant, even though he dreams of going to graduate school.  Each person has a different path to follow and each friend must discover God’s purpose for their lives.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Unlike most PureFlix distributed films, This is Our Time has good production elements.  The camera work and video quality are both pretty good.  The sound quality is inconsistent at times.  The sets and locations are pretty good, considering the story takes place in America and India.  The editing is unfortunately sub-par; there are too many scenes that appear to be filler.  Some events take place off screen and confuse the viewer.  Overall, This is Our Time has a pretty good production effort, but it is not quite there yet.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

This is Our Time has a very unique plot structure that is not typical to most inspirational plots.  Usually, when more than three subplots are crammed together in a movie, it comes off as choppy, but in this instance, it works fairly well since the subplots are all related to characters who graduated together.  The topics discussed in the film are accessible to average viewers.  There are some interesting twists throughout the film.  However, there are just too many negative factors in this plot.  Some situations are very trumped up and contrived.  Most of the dialogue is empty and thus, the characters are left wanting.  The worst part is that it didn’t have to be this way—we feel that Lisa Arnold has more potential than this.  There are several important messages in this film that are lost due its low quality.  In short, we believe that a larger, more dedicated crew would have greatly improved this movie.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This cast had potential, but they are obviously not coached well.  A lot of the line delivery is very forced and the emotions are not believable.  Once again, we believe that it didn’t have to be this way.  There was simply too much left on the proverbial field.

Conclusion

This is Our Time joins a collection of Christian films that desperately needed a rewrite and\or a redo.  Had Lisa Arnold had a better team surrounding her in the production of this movie, it could have reached its full potential.  Quality control is the real issue here—the tools are there, but they are not placed in the right hands.  In the future, we hope to see Lisa Arnold recruit people who can help bring her intriguing plots to life.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The List [2007] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Renny Jacobsen never really knew his father, so he doesn’t feel anything when he receives word of his death except how large his inheritance is.  That’s why he is devastated when he discovers the unusual and unorthodox contents of his father’s will—he cannot receive any of his money unless he joins a secret society known as the Covenant List.  In route to joining The List, Renny crosses paths with Jo, an unlikely potential List member.  Together, they discover that there is more to the secret society than they thought.  Renny must choose the truth before it is too late and before everything he holds dear slips away from him.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Distributed by a large company, The List has decent production quality.  The video quality is pretty good and the sound quality is consistent.  The sets and locations are diverse and well-constructed.  The film has an overall professional feel, but there are some editing problems.  Some scenes last too long while others are cut too short for the audience to really understand what is going on without reading a lot into it.  There are too many cross-fades and fadeouts.  Overall, the production is above average yet has some errors that hurt it from being all it could be.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Adapted from the novel by Robert Whitlow, the plot is more complex than most Christian movies.  It explores a genre unique to Christian movies—legal suspense—and does not follow the typical legal fiction storyline.  There is a lot of interesting content as the plot explores spiritual warfare, something many Christian films would never dare to touch.  However, it is not handled in the best way and comes off as overly sensational.  Too much time is spent early in the movie educating the audience on the complex inner workings of the secret society and not enough time is spent on redemptive qualities, which are rushed through and tacked on at the end of the movie.  Because of the high amount of plot content, dialogue often gets neglected, thus leaving stock characters.  Two hours was not enough to cover the scope of this plot properly.  In short, there is a lot of creative content here that was not utilized properly.  More could have been made of this film.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting is somewhat professional.  There are no glaring errors except for obviously overly practiced and fake Southern accents.  But at the same time, there is no truly dynamic acting that makes this film interesting.  When it comes down to it, the acting is average, thus garnering an average score.

Conclusion

Robert Whitlow has some interesting plots that should be depicted on the big screen, but The List was likely not the best book to choose, since it was first novel.  Secret societies, spiritual warfare, and legal suspense need to be incorporated in various ways into Christian films, but there is a time, a place, and a way for everything.  Even plots like The List are more complex than your average inspirational film, but it still not the greatest.  That’s why it has been awarded an average score.  Nonetheless, we applaud efforts to bring unique movies to the Christian scene and anticipate more to come.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Fenced Off (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Josh and Anne has recently moved into a new house in a neighborhood that is considered ‘the hood’.  While Anne is away on a short business trip, Josh tries to settle into the house before beginning his new job, but he cannot help being unnerved by the surroundings.  He is seemingly the only white guy in the neighborhood, and he keeps thinking he is witnessing crimes occurring around him.  In order to cope with his new life, Josh will have to decide whether or not he believes in stereotypes or if he is going to love his neighbor.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Fenced Off is obviously a very cheap production.  The sets are very limited and the camera work is terrible, sometimes showing very tight shots and other times showing cutoff shots.  The sound quality is inconsistent and there are a lot of cheap music montages that cover up the need for a boom mic.  The video quality is at least clear, but the editing is bad.  Granted, there is an iota of content to work with, so it is difficult to know what they were supposed to do.  In short, based on the production quality alone, Fenced Off should have been rejected in the early stages or sent back for a makeover.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

There is only a small amount of potential in this plot, since it tries to deal with race relations and stereotypes.  However, in doing so, it seems to reinforce stereotypes and make a joke out of real life struggles.  It is hard to discern whether or not Fenced Off is an overt comedy.  Sometimes it seems like a sick satire.  The dialogue is grade school level and a majority of the movie is focused on Josh wandering around his house and property, pretending to do yard work, having childish phone conversations, getting a car wash, and yes—trying to cook meat.  The conversations between the retired couple next door have little to no point and are grasping for meaning.  There is also some edgy content that is misplaced and unwelcome.  In summary, while it is noble to try to talk about racial stereotypes and collaborations in a small scale plot, Fenced Off never finds the point and needed a severe rewrite from the beginning, since it seems like this is a rough draft that accidentally got recorded.

Acting Quality (0 points)

There is no good acting in this film, absolutely none, only awkward and forceful delivery.  Many lines seem impromptu and most of the actors seem unsure of how to perform simple everyday tasks like yard work and cooking meat.  One actress in particular seems to be making a joke of the movie since it seems like she is always trying not to laugh.  Some actors poorly mimic the racial stereotypes this movie is trying to speak out against.  It appears as though the actors were just handed a vague script and told to follow it however they wished since they were only going to do one cut per scene.

Conclusion

Fenced Off is an idea that needed a lot more brainstorming and thought put into it before it left the proverbial roundtable of discussion.  We have seen time and time again filmmakers who claim the name of Christ decide to just quickly make a cheap and rushed film about an interesting topic without putting any real effort into it.  The issues need to be portrayed, but how are they being portrayed?  In order to make a lasting impact, time and effort must be put into the movie’s production.  Otherwise, it’s just a waste of everybody’s time.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Miracle Falls (status unknown)

 

Coming November 23rd, 2016

 

 

Writer(s): Paul Allan Brunotto, Sonia Woodfield

Director(s):

Producer(s):

Starring: Eamonn McCrystal

 

Plot Synopsis:

unknown

Hardflip (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Caleb, a delinquent teenager who wants to make it big in the skateboard scene, has his world rocked when his single mother slips into a coma, thus threatening his financial security and very existence.  Desperate, Caleb sets out to search for his long lost biological father with some hope that he may want to take him in.  But when his father acts like he doesn’t care, Caleb is further driven into darkness, immersing himself in the world of skateboarding and drugs as his mother’s condition grows worse.  Little does he know that the only way to escape the darkness around him is to face the darkness inside of himself.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For a PureFlix distributed film, the production quality of Hardflip is decent, but not above average.  The video and sound quality are both clear, but the music levels are very inconsistent—sometimes blaringly loud and other times too silent.  The camera angles are sometimes interesting and artistic and other times unprofessional.  The editing is all over the map, probably due to the small amount of plot content.  There is a lot of artistic potential in this film, but it is often drowned out by the high music content.  Overall, the production is back and forth and is unfortunately most positive section of the movie.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Hardflip has a vast amount of potential that is not tapped into.  The plot structure is very unique and not typical of these types of movies.  There is good artistic material and musical overlays, but the music sequences are too long and too many in content.  There are some interesting psychological and abstract elements, but they are lost among the negative issues.  These include cheap dialogue and many wasted filler scenes.  The skateboarding subplot is not properly developed and only contributes an air of unprofessionalism.  The end is slightly unpredictable, but it is difficult to reach that point.  In short, where some movies have no potential, Hardflip has plenty of it.  Unfortunately, it is not used properly and is wasted.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

John Schneider has cheesy delivery of his lines and Randy Wayne looks older than he’s supposed to be.  This is not necessarily their fault—there is really no acting coaching present in this film.  The cast is small, but it has more potential than most casts.  All of the skateboard actors seem amateurish.  In summary, the acting keeps with the theme of Hardflip and never reaches its ceiling.

Conclusion

The theme of this film is wasted potential.  The idea behind Hardflip is more creative than most, and the music adds an interesting element to it.  But the music’s overuse seems to indicate that there is not enough plot content to sustain a nearly two-hour film.  This movie needed an additional writer to come alongside the original writers and help craft and synthesize the subplots better.  The characters need to be fleshed out, perhaps through flashbacks.  The music needs to be brought to a happy medium.  In short, Hardflip needs a remake because it would be a shame to let these good ideas go to waste.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Prince Caspian [2008] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rejected by his uncle due to the birth of a new son, Prince Caspian is forced to flee for his life from his Telmarine countrymen, who are ruling Narnia and who have forced the true Narnians into hiding.  But Caspian finds himself taking refuge with these renegade creatures now that he has a common enemy with them.  In trouble, Caspian blows the legendary Susan’s horn and inadvertently calls the Pevensie siblings back to Narnia, although it has been hundreds of years since they left.  They immediately find themselves thrust into a conflict between the restless Narnians and the disillusioned Telmarines.  Although they believe they have the power they need to win, the High Kings and Queens of Narnia must remember the former days and call on Aslan for help in order to survive.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

In keeping with the production quality of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian is well-produced and well-funded.  The camera work is great.  The sets are well-constructed and the costuming remains professional, which is key in fantasy movies.  Action scenes are filmed with skill.  The only small caveats to raise here are that there is some slightly obvious CGI and the editing is confusing at times.  Otherwise, there is nothing negative here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, the original plot of Caspian is not adapted as well as the first installment.  Though Douglas Gresham was still involved, Box Office Revolution feels that the core message of Narnia was lost in this movie.  Disney takes over Caspian and inserts empty action sequences, drab dialogue, and bland characters.  Granted, the original plot of the book was not much to work with, but Disney adds a darker tone to this film that was not intended.  All the characters seem perpetually angry about abstract things.  Some scenes leave the viewer hanging with no real explanation.  The end is pretty good, but it has a strange romantic subplot is suddenly forced upon the audience.  Needless to say, both avid Narnian fans and professional plot critics cannot find much to be pleased about here.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The professional acting style is mostly maintained from the first movie, but in the sophomore installment, it seems like the cast isn’t really trying.  At times, actors seem bored and passive.  But it is not all bad and there is certainly worse acting to be seen.  In short, the acting keeps up with the rest of the film—good, but not good enough.

Conclusion

Prince Caspian is a natural sequel to the infamous The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but its plot could have been improved.  Where there was potential for improvement, nothing materialized.  It probably should not be surprising that Douglas Gresham pulled the franchise from Disney after this movie—it needed to be done.  The bottom line is that the Chronicles of Narnia remain to be great books to adapt into films, if done properly.  Larger production companies have a tendency to coast after success, and this is not something Box Office Revolution respects.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Finding Normal (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

While driving to her destination wedding location in the Hamptons, Dr. Lisa Leland has an unfortunate run-in with the local law enforcement of Normal, Louisiana.  Due to her new speeding ticket and unpaid parking tickets, a local judge decides to give Lisa a choice between community service or jail time.  Lisa chooses community service and finds herself as the new town doctor.  While begrudgingly performing her duties, Lisa clashes with the town lawyer, who is in the middle of a heated legal battle.  Finally forced to slow down in her fast-paced life, Lisa realizes there is more to her existence than just making money.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The production quality of Finding Normal is better than usual, but it is still only average.  The camera work is passable, as are the video and sound qualities.  The sets and locations are limited and seem cheap.  The editing is all right, but there is not really much to work with.  Overall, Normal is a step above other PureFlix movies that contain glaring errors, probably since it was made for TV, but it is still not as good as it should be, knowing how much funding PureFlix has available to them.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The plot content is really where this movie takes a nosedive.  For starters, it is a typical small town hostage plot in which a big city character gets stuck in a small town with every cliché imaginable: little to no cell phone coverage, a local judge with an agenda, a police officer that pulls over newcomers, a small church with typical church events, a predictable town event, and even fishing.  Besides this, the storyline is trumped up and inaccurate—local jurisdictions cannot enforce parking tickets in other states.  It is a stretch to believe that being a doctor could count as community service.  In other news, an unrealistic religious freedom case is inserted into the film, along with some save the farm plot elements.  In the wake of this nonsense, the characters are empty and the dialogue is painful.  The ending makes little to no sense—the whole movie seems like it was forced to happen.  Unfortunately, there is nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The acting is not as bad as it could be, but it is also not as good as it could be.  Candace Cameron Bure is average at best.  The surrounding cast tries too hard to have a ‘small-town feel’.  Overall, there is nothing dynamic enough here to warrant any more points.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that this type of movie has been done before, too many times.  There is nothing new about a big city character getting stuck in a backwards small town and being forced to slow down their fast-paced life.  When these types of movies are being pitched, creators need to be challenged to change it up and do something that hasn’t been done before, even something slightly different.  Christian films are already too replete with mediocre nonsense and we certainly do not need anymore.  We implore Christian film distributors everywhere to use the funding they have to make one truly dynamic movie, one that can change cultures, not five more that will be forgotten in a few years.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe [2005] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Torn from their parents and hometown due to the rage of World War II, the Pevensie siblings must make their new home in the mansion of an eccentric elderly man and stay out of the way of his picky housekeeper.  Little did Lucy Pevensie know that choosing to hide in a wardrobe during a game of hide and seek would give her entrance to a mystical world called Narnia.  After meeting a new friend, Mr. Tumnus, Lucy soon discovers that all is not well in this land where winter is year-round.  After being mistreated by her brother Edmund, who also found his way into Narnia, the four siblings are forced to enter through the wardrobe, and are surprised to find that the creatures of Narnia have been awaiting their arrival, along with the coming of a legendary lion named Aslan.  Together, the siblings must band together and dig deep in order to fulfill an ancient prophecy and to save an entire land.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As is to be expected from the production crews involved, the production is professional and obviously well-funded.  The classic children’s series from C. S. Lewis was long awaiting a high quality rendition, and it was providence that his stepson Douglas Gresham was allowed to be an executive producer, so to preserve the original intent of Lewis’ work.  The camera work is great, as are the video and sound quality.  Fantasy productions are expensive and hard to do well due to difficult sets and costuming, but this one pulls it off well.  The only issue to raise in this film is some obvious green screens and CGI in some parts, but it is not glaringly obvious.  In short, this is finally a quality film based on the timeless work of Lewis.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

The book’s plot is adapted very well, even enhancing the original plot without losing the allegorical message, which is surprising with Disney involved.  Douglas Gresham can be credited for this preservation.  The character development is decent and the dialogue is both realistic and character-building.  The twists involved are true to the book; no extreme creative license is taken here.  The one issue to raise here is that some parts of the plot tend to be overly dramatic, no doubt a Disney contribution.  But the bottom line is that this is a solid plot that does not compromise the novel’s purpose.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The funding paid off—the acting is overall professional and well coached.  Though it is largely a mainstream cast, they demonstrate great acting skills, taking on the book’s characters well.  One caveat to bring up is that a few lines fall flat in an attempt to be sensational.  But this is not really a big issue and is easily forgotten.

Conclusion

A lot of things could have gone wrong with this film: Disney could have run away and destroyed the plot, the acting could have been deemphasized in favor of action sequences, or it could have been another cheap puppet production like so many Narnia movies before it.  None of these scenarios occurred, and thus, this movie lands in the Box Office Revolution Hall of Fame.  It is not a perfect film, but it was a great start to the unique Narnia movie saga and must be recognized for its strengths.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

The Book of Esther (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Following the banishment of Queen Vashti from the royalty of Medo-Persia, King Xerses, lonely and confused, takes the advice of his closest advisors and decrees that all the young women be brought to him, given beauty treatments, and then displayed before him so that he can choose a new queen from among them.  Among them is a Jewish girl, Hadassah, who had been admonished by her cousin Mordecai to hide her cultural identity from those in the palace.  Against all odds, she is chosen to succeed Queen Vashti, just as the wicked advisor Haman is plotting to destroy the Jewish people from the face of the earth.  Queen Esther must decide that she must live up to the calling God has put in front of her in order to save an entire race from extinction.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The Book of Esther commits every Biblical movie error in every category, beginning with production.  The sets and costuming are very cheap, like this is a children’s church play.  It would be one thing if PureFlix did not have the funding to put on a better production, but this is not the case.  The camera work and video quality are passable, but the sound quality is very inconsistent.  There is really nothing to comment on regarding the editing, either good or bad.  In short, the first rule of Bible movies is to create a realistic and high quality setting, including backgrounds, sets, props, and costumes.  The Book of Esther does none of this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

The story of Esther is overused in movies, probably because it is easy to replicate and the plot suits most audiences.  But this film is not even a good adaptation—it misrepresents Biblical and historical events and includes unnecessary parts.  It seems like the viewer is being insulted and being treated like a child in a bad Sunday school class.  The film contains ridiculous over the top characters, more so than usual for a Bible film.  The dialogue is overly dramatic, like most Scripture screenplays.  There are also creepy undertones and insinuations regarding Haman and his eunuch.  A lot of content takes place off screen and this plot generally has no real potential and is even offensive is some ways, thus warranting negative points.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

As a whole, line delivery is horrible and emotion is absent.  The acting is either absurd or too theatrical.  The only exception is some small acting potential from Joel Smallbone and Jen Lilley, as their talents seem to be wasted on this nonsense.  Otherwise, there is unfortunately nothing positive to say.

Conclusion

Needless to say, The Book of Esther is another ruined Bible movie.  The audience will learn nothing worthwhile from it except that they probably don’t want to watch anymore films based on Scripture.  This movie is the embodiment of why Box Office Revolution feels the need to speak out for quality Christian films and against low quality ones.  It feels like PureFlix isn’t even trying when they make movies like this, which further warrants a very low score.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

The Lost Medallion: The Adventures of Billy Stone (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Daniel did not anticipate arriving at his childhood foster home and being pressed into service, so to speak, to fill in for a sick storyteller.  Instead of go forward with his personal plans, he elects to stay and teach the struggling foster kids valuable life lessons through an adventure story about Billy Stone, a boy living in a mystical land who has a mission to assist his hurting father in discovering the legendary Lost Medallion that is rumored to grant the wishes of whomever wears it around their neck.  Blocked from taking part in the official search operation, Billy and his friend Allie launch their own search for the treasure.  They discover an inaccuracy in the official search’s measurements and believe they are close to finding it.  However, they will have to contend with an ancient enemy who wants the talisman for himself.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The Lost Medallion is inconsistent in a lot of ways, the production quality to start with.  It is a mix of professional and cheap production, oscillating from good camera work and video quality to cheap sets, props, and costuming.  On the surface, the film seems well produced, but there are some underlying issues that are to be expected from first-time adventure films.  Yet there are plenty of production points to be applauded, such as the successful filming of difficult action scenes.  There is some obvious CGI, but it is understandable.  Overall, the production of The Lost Medallion is its strongest factor.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

This movie is a good idea in that it seeks to explore the action adventure and fantasy genres with a Christian-themed film.  There are some intriguing elements to the plot, but there are also parts that are not commendable.  For one, time travel plots are always problematic and should be avoided as a rule of thumb.  Going back and forth in time causes confusion and continuity errors than cannot be successfully reconciled.  In fantasy plots, it is also hard to avoid convenient plot devices that solve impossible problems, and Medallion falls into this trap.  There are some interesting small plot twists and minor suspense elements that work, but in this pursuit, quality dialogue and character development are discarded.  The protagonists are at least mostly flawed characters, but the villain is extremely cheesy.  The dialogue is cheap.  Most of the plot points are either understated or overstated.  In short, while this plot has more potential than many Christian plots, it still missed the mark.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Alex Kendrick is really the only good actor, and he has a minimal role.  Sammi Hanratty is forced into a role she doesn’t belong in, and the other teenage actors are not coached well.  Most lines are forced and emotional delivery falls flat.  Unfortunately, there are some Asian stereotypes that are reinforced through the acting.  In summary, this movie would not have been as bad if the acting was better.

Conclusion

Despite this negative review, Box Office Revolution sees plenty of potential in Bill Muir and his crew.  He has the tools necessary to succeed and could contribute greatly to Christian movies with different genres.  On most counts, The Lost Medallion is a good start for a first time filmmaker.  There are some definite issues to work through, but we anticipate Muir’s next release.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Seasons of Gray: A Modern Day Joseph Story (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Brady Gray was always the favorite son of his hardened father, much to the dislike of his jealous brothers.  Not only that, but Brady always had a special gift of knowing what is going to happen in certain people’s futures, based on dreams they have.  However, his brothers grow tired of his special treatment one day and finally decide to do something about—force him to leave the family ranch and tell their father that Brady died.  With nowhere else to go, Brady hitches a ride with an unlikely friend who takes him in and gets him a job at a prestigious business.  However, Brady’s life continues to take unexpected negative turns one after another.  Through the adversity, he is forced to truly look at what he believes about God and about life.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For a first time independent film, Seasons of Gray is quite good.  The camera and sound quality are both clear.  The camera angles are above average.  The sets and costuming have a slight indie-ish feel to them, but they are actually quite good considering the circumstances.  A lot of time and effort were obviously put into this movie to make the production good.  There are some minor editing concerns, but otherwise, this film is proof that first-time independent Christian films do not have to be low quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Adapting a Biblical narrative to a modern setting is not a bad idea, but it is also not the most creative idea.  However, for a freshman movie, it may be one of the better options.  This particular adaption is done well, but Box Office Revolution would have preferred it if the Biblical adaptation had been kept secret until later in the film.  Nonetheless, the plot is still above average.  The characters needed more time spent on them, yet the dialogue is passable.  Enough thought was put into this plot for it to be professional.  One other caveat to raise is the movie’s rushed and anti-climactic end.  But in the end, Seasons of Gray has a well-crafted plot that makes for an enjoyable movie.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Andrew Cheney is solid in his leading role, as he usually is.  The supporting cast puts on above-average performances, but we cannot shake the feeling that there is more they could have done.  The core cast is coached well and deliver emotions well, but they are not quite to the dynamic level yet.  Some of the background actors seem inexperienced.  Granted, this is an excellent start and far more commendable than many performances.

Conclusion

In the end, we are more than happy to watch a movie like Seasons of Gray, since it stands out among a desert of mediocrity and poor quality.  Even though it was not all it could have been, it is still a film worth a round of applause.  The Stehlik team is definitely not a crew to ignore—we expect to see even greater things from them in the future.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points