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August 2016

God’s Club {Holy Warrior} (Movie Review)

As you can see, they spent a lot of time on that sign

Plot Summary

When his wife dies tragically in a car accident, Michael Evans falls into a funk.  In order to find new meaning and life and try to keep his wife’s memory alive, he decides to return to teaching and start an after-school Bible club, something she had always wanted to do.  But he is shocked when he is met with extreme resistance both from school authorities and parents.  As the pushback goes from bad to worse, Michael considers just leaving it all behind (after all, there’s no churches in his city).  But his daughter reminds him that her mom would never have wanted him to give up, so Michael sticks with the fight (literally) and doesn’t back down.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

It feels like we repeat ourselves all the time.  There are simply too many Christian productions that are all the same.  God’s Club offers nothing new—clear video quality along with a host of errors.  Between nearly every scene is an awkward fade to black moment that requires a fade-in for the next scene.  In many scenes throughout, especially outdoor scenes, there is shaky camera work, which seems to indicate that someone is holding the camera, which infers that the budget was too small to pay for any other equipment.  The limited funds are also evident in the few cheap sets that there are, as well as in the prop usage.  It seems like the only reason this film is ninety minutes long is because of excessive use of slow motion throughout.  Also, in an attempt to be ‘cool’, the creators crafted a weird soundtrack that sometimes covers for their lack of better sound.  In short, God’s Club commits all the usual production sins, just in different ways than usual.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In an attempts to frame a religious freedom conflict, God’s Club portrays an all out school war, complete with fistfights, brawls, vandalism, arson, and sabotage, all because of a silly after-school activity called God’s Club, also known as Bible Club or Bible Group.  The worst part is that Christian characters aren’t even able to be sympathized with because they deserve half of the treatment they get, as they either pick fights or continue them.  The Christian perspective is also very empty, lacking meaningful depth and espousing odd Christian philosophies as they try to shove the Bible down your throat.  There are very few characters in this plot; some of them we are supposed to appreciate without even getting to know them.  ‘Bad’ characters are very evil in every possible way until they are randomly fixed up.  Dialogue is in-your-face, leaving nothing to the imagination.  God’s Club also sports a growing trend in offbeat Christian films: a disdain for proper counseling and psychology.  Basically, if you are to believe the worldview of this film, churches are disappearing (the town in this plot has no churches), Christians are being persecuted for having after-school activities, it’s okay for Christians to fight back (literally), and reciting Bible verses will fix your life up.  In our experience, none of these things are true in reality, so why portray them in a film?  Because you’re trying to make some kind of quick buck by preaching to the choir.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Why do movies consistently cast Stephen Baldwin in major roles he’s not suited for?  He’s downright creepy in this movie, and when he’s not creepy, he’s lethargic.  It’s beyond me why Corbin Bernsen consistently involves himself in these sorts of messes.  The few other cast members that there are either make no positive impact or remind us why they’re not in any other notable films.  In short, there is clearly no coaching for this cast, thus obvious problems go unchecked.

Conclusion

Was there any thought during the making of this film to attempt to make it realistic and down-to-earth?  We highly doubt it.  At least the persecution subplot of God’s Not Dead is somewhat realistic.  God’s Club is a trumped up preaching-to-the-choir load of nonsense only designed to further inflame Christians against ‘the world’ and give them a chip-on-the-shoulder mentality to approaching non-believers.  None of this movie is reality and it’s a total sham and embarrassment to portray people in this way.  As Christians, our time would be better served using movies to actually reach people for the Gospel and to encourage Christians to go deeper in their faith by using meaningful and realistic plots combined with professional production and acting.  Until Christians are stronger in their faith and until more people are reached with the saving power of Jesus Christ, we have nothing else we need to be discussing.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

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Hall of Fame Rewind: Courageous

Check out our review for Courageous!

Hall of Fame Rewind: Unconditional

Check our our review for Unconditional!

A Letter to Dad [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dan Donahue believes he has found the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with.  But as he continues to struggle with anger issues, he can’t help but feel that they are related to his lack of a healthy relationship with his father.  Therefore, he begins to write a letter to his estranged father detailing what he missed out on.  As Dan writes, his mind drifts back to his childhood and he wonders what could have been.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Exactly what is supposed to be happening with this production?  Is it a flashback within a flashback or a series of flashbacks?  Why are the sepia tones inconsistent?  This is possibly the cheapest looking production we have ever witnessed.  The camera work is deplorable and the video quality is from another century.  Lighting is very amateur throughout the film.  In some scenes, it is extremely hard to hear what is being said.  Some sequences are dominated by the silly soundtrack.  As for the editing, there is no way to understand what is even happening from one scene to the next.  Everything is out of context and obscure.  In summary, you can’t get any more poorly homemade than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The idea behind this plot—the fact that absent fatherhood affects children later in life—is highly important and must be discussed in movie form.  However, this is absolutely not the way to do it.  Much like Lukewarm, an important family systems issue is made a mockery of in A Letter to Dad.  There is no coherence in this storyline as the ‘plot’ meanders from letter writing flashbacks to other flashbacks to present day (we guess?).  Scenes are randomly strung together with no continuity between them and the viewer is left lost in translation.  Any meaning that is attempted to be conveyed goes over your head.  Dialogue is choppy and inconsistent, causing the characters to be empty shells.  There is really little else to be said—there is such little content in this plot that it barely registers any life.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Sadly, the bad news does not end.  It’s possible that this virtually unknown and tiny cast never had a chance without acting coaching.  There is literally nothing good to say here—the delivery of lines is awkward and emotions cannot be felt.  There are so few cast members that it just becomes glaringly obvious that so support is being provided to them.  Unfortunately, they likely wasted their time.

Conclusion

We sincerely believe that the motive behind this movie is pure, but the delivery is terrible.  This one would have been better off as a short film.  The good news is that it will have little to no impact in the movie industry, which means it won’t further contribute to bad publicity.  However, the bad news is that the time of the creators of this film was wasted and money was dumped down the drain.  Jesus spoke about counting the cost before undertaking a big project, and we believe it’s high time for Christian filmmakers to begin doing this.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

The Masked Saint (Movie Review)

 

He’s a saint
What is he here for again?

Plot Summary

When Chris “The Masked Saint” Samuels retires from ‘wrestling’, he follows God’s call on his life to pastor a church in a small Michigan town.  However, when he and his family arrive, they find a much different situation than they expected.  The church is struggling to stay afloat financially and is controlled by a power hungry rich member.  What’s more, the town is wrought with crime and victims are downtrodden.  Chris doesn’t want to just sit back and watch everything happen, so he takes it upon himself to become a masked vigilante on the streets, in order to stop crime before it happens.  But as Chris becomes more and more successful, he finds himself at a crossroads: will he live in his own strength or will be turn to God for help?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For a debut independent Christian film, The Masked Saint has pretty good production quality.  The video quality is clear and the camera work is a little above average.  Audio quality is mostly passable, but some scenes are much louder than others.  The soundtrack sounds like it’s from a Hallmark movie about a small town.  The props are quite professional looking, but therein lies another problem.  It seems that too much money was spent on the production of the ‘wrestling’ scenes and not enough was spent elsewhere.  Thus, the editing is terrible and greatly isolates the viewer with awkward transitions between scenes that have little to do with each other.  As we will see next, this movie is plentiful with subplots but barren with coherency.  While the production is average, it’s still not money well spent.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The Masked Saint is a collection of loosely associated ideas, including a ‘wrestling’ sports redemption storyline, a stereotypical struggling small church in a ‘bad’ neighborhood subplot, and a mysterious vigilante who helps victims of crime idea.  The creators attempted to ram these concepts together in a lame fashion, which leaves the audience scratching their heads as to what they are supposed to be watching.  As the empty characters leap from one thing to the next, events happen with no real basis except for the fact that the writers wanted them to happen so the movie could continue.  The good ideas that are hidden somewhere in this nightmare are either burned out too quickly or not emphasized enough.  There are too many gaping plot holes, and dialogue is forced and awkward, including some flies-over-your-head attempts at comedy.  Also, we definitely need to talk about the long and useless fighting scenes that dominate the film’s runtime and that look more like cage fighting than wrestling.  There is so much fighting that we can’t even catch our breath to get to know the characters before another sports music montage occurs.  Basically, there were too many cooks in the kitchen that produced this mind-bending multi-course meal.  They needed to stop and think about plot continuity before proceeding.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With a semi-professional cast, The Masked Saint really had potential.  Sometimes the acting isn’t that bad, but too many times, it is.  Some cast members are inconsistent in the way they act and deliver.  Attempts at comedy are especially awkward.  Basically, this cast could have been something, but nothing panned out.

Conclusion

Essentially, The Masked Saint is a collection of smashed together ideas and cause of collision of insanity.  It’s a total train wreck and must have been a headache to storyboard (if they did).  Any good intentions here are lost as the creators are unable to communicate what they are trying to do.  Crashing The Rev, Brother White, and Beyond the Mask together into one film is definitely not a good plan.  The fact that much of the content—save for whatever you want to call the fighting scenes—is not particularly original gives us reason to think this film wasn’t really justifiable at all.  In the end, it’s just another unfortunate installment in the endless saga of failed independent Christian films.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

The Climb [2002] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Derrick and Michael are professional mountain climbers who collaborate after assisting in a mountain rescue mission together.  With the backing of a top mountain climbing sponsor, they endeavor to scale a massive peak in Chile in a way that no climber has ever done before.  But the more they spend time together, the more obvious their differences are.  Michael is an outspoken Christian who believes Derrick needs to take more responsibility for his personal life.  But as they clash, they also find a common bond and becomes extremely important in a pivotal moment of crisis.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Even in the earlier days of Christian film, when Worldwide Pictures was the only reliable producer on the market, they were still committed to quality production.  The Climb is no exception.  Camera work and video quality are state of the art for the era, including complex outdoor filming and action shots.  The sets and locations are fairly diverse, including great mountain scenes and realistic surroundings.  Props are used effectively and appropriately.  However, the soundtrack leaves much to be desired.  Also, the editing job isn’t the best it could be, as some scenes last far too long.  But overall, even though this film has obvious flaws, WWP made sure that its production quality was above average.  If only all low quality Christian films adhered to this practice.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As the film arm of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, WWP was always committed to presenting a clear-cut gospel message in their films; The Climb is no exception.  However, coupled with this message is a major turn-off for most audiences.  Non-Christians in the movie are portrayed as very ‘bad’ and reckless, while Christians in the movie are portrayed as very ‘good’ and wise.  Important issues that are presented in the film are too black and white; causes and effects are too obviously stated.  Thus, the characters are not able to be related to.  Their dialogue is forced and ridden with empty textbook theology; a connection to real life is not made and leaves the viewer feeling cheated.  While the end is interesting and thought-provoking, there is much wasted time throughout the film that will cause many viewers to glaze over.  In short, there was so much that could have done here—the plot is unique and interesting—but it was wasted.  It’s so frustrating to watch movies like this.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Using the typical model of some popular actors and other not-so-popular, The Climb assembles an okay cast.  On paper, it seems to work, but not in reality.  Line delivery is sometimes good, but sometimes not.  Emotions are not realistic—either too extreme or too muted.  Basically, this cast had the potential to be successful, but they just didn’t quite make it, thus contributing to further frustration surrounding this film.

Conclusion

Worldwide Pictures actually had a great thing going.  They had funding, good production, and name recognition.  But unfortunately, The Climb only contributes to the stereotype of Christian films—they appear out of touch with real people and portray otherwise important issues in very black and white terms.  Christians are not perfect, yet this film makes it seem like they are.  It’s a shame to see this money go to waste, but hopefully someone was converted by watching this movie.  The gospel message is clear, and we can’t fault anyone for that.  This film can simply serve as a lesson on how to improve Christian movies in the future.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The Mark 2: Redemption (Movie Review)

Eric Roberts as himself

Plot Summary

After jumping out of that plane to save their lives, Chad and Dao find themselves on the run for their lives in Thailand as they try to remove the secret chip from Chad’s arm while being pursued by agents of an all-powerful rising world leader.  The Rapture has occurred, leaving the world mired in chaos.  As they try to grapple with the God of the Bible, Chad and Dao find themselves involved in multiple international conspiracies, including a human trafficking scheme that involves Dao’s sister and Chad’s former employers.  As they fight for survival, who will prevail in this brave new world?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

In keeping with the usual poor PureFlix production mode, clear video quality is all that can be found here that is remotely positive.  Anything else related to camera work is dizzying and annoying.  Much of the footage is recycled, both flashback footage and non-flashback footage, which demonstrates extreme laziness.  Other scenes of the film are extremely long and drawn out, trying to delay the inevitable to build up some kind of fake suspense.  Action sequences are over the top and poorly executed.  The use of special effects and sound effects is very amateurish and obnoxious.  For such a big plot, the sets and locations are quite limited and the surroundings are almost entirely confined to Thailand, PureFlix’s favorite international location.  There is little to no editing—I’m convinced that the production team just went with what they had from filming.  Basically, The Mark 2 is same song, different verse for PureFlix.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Picking up where The Mark left us hanging, The Mark 2 is the most slow to development suspense plot ever.  Inevitable confrontations between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters are painfully dragged out over a ninety-minute runtime full of coincidences, convenient plot devices, information dump dialogue, stupid action scenes, and scenes of characters sitting around or pacing around and talking.  There is basically no purpose to this plot as John Patus once again shoves his apocalyptic opinions down our throats in the most awkward fashion possible.  Multiple scenes appear to be directly copied from the original Left Behind series, which is no surprise with Patus involved.  Only this time, the antichrist character is borderline unbearable and sports the fakest European accent possible.  In the middle of the film, a cheesy Christian message is shoehorned in, along with a random human trafficking subplot that tries to improve the runtime.  The mark of the beast concept, though slightly interesting, is only toyed with in the film and never seems complete.  In the end, as the characters tell us through narration what we’re supposed to learn, it is unclear whether or not the story is to continue—obviously not, since there’s no Mark 3, but what were they really expecting?  Did they actually have any ideas beyond the Rapture?  Basically, we learned nothing from this plot, thus making it completely useless.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This typical C-grade PureFlix cast is complete with fake accents, lame attempts at diversity, racial stereotypes, and Eric Roberts.  Multiple cast members appear to have no place in the film, opting to pace around and talk about important things.  Other cast members appear to take themselves too seriously and try to be as serious as you can be in a PureFlix action plot.  At least not all of the acting is bad, but across the board, line delivery and emotions are very poor.  But what else is new?

Conclusion

Why are so many PureFlix action plots at least partially set in Thailand?  Also, if we are to endure so many apocalyptic Christian films on the market, can’t we at least see one that doesn’t involve the alleged ‘Rapture’ in some fashion?  Haven’t we seen that enough from the original Left Behind series, that horrible new Left Behind, the first Mark film, The Remaining, Jerusalem Countdown, In the Blink of an Eye, the Revelation Road series (with the exception of The Black Rider), Six: The Mark Unleashed, etc.?  With the money spent on this film and every other wasted apocalyptic film, you would think that it could have been saved for a truly groundbreaking Christian action\adventure or suspense movie that would have made a difference in the culture.  But instead, we are left with a littered collection of could-haves and cut-rate productions.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

Hall of Fame Rewind: Old-Fashioned

 

Check out our review of Old-Fashioned!

Hall of Fame Rewind: Beyond the Mask

 

Check out our review of Beyond the Mask!

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