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Christian Movie News and Reviews

Month

August 2016

Why We Need More Christian Series’

A failed Christian series

With the rise of independent entertainment, the increase of interest and quality in Christian entertainment, and the availability of on-demand video services such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, and even Vimeo and PureFlix On Demand, Christian creators no longer have any excuses.  One does not have to look far to see that the popularity of Amazon Original and Netflix Original Series’ is growing.  Instead of being left behind in the entertainment curve once again, it is time for the Christian creative to stand up and seize the opportunity to change the culture.  Starving artists no longer have to hope for networks to pick up their shows when they have the ability to market their ideas to possibly favorable on-demand video providers such as PureFlix On Demand.  There are many advantages to the creations of Christian original series’ and miniseries’, as will be outlined in this article.

 

Opportunity for better character development and plot twists

Too often, independent Christian films are severely limited in funding, thus causing their otherwise good plots to be squeezed into a less than two-hour runtime.  With series’ and miniseries’, this does not have to be.  Running multiple 40-minute to 60-minute episodes about the same plot with the same characters provides ample time for deeper development and more complex plot twists.  Naturally, funding is necessary for this to happen, but we believe it is possible.

Longevity

Today’s entertainment consumers want more, period.  We all want more interesting movies, more things to laugh at, more effects to be wowed by, and more plots to enjoy.  With series’, we get to see more of the same characters following a common plotline across a continuum.  Of course, this has to be done responsibly so that the series does not meander, but it is definitely possible.

Ability to make quick new ideas without undertaking a major screenplay

I’m no expert in the inner workings of what it takes to get a movie to the big screen, but I suspect that it’s much easier to present a series, at least ‘on trial’, and to have it provided to viewers through the cloud than it is to work in the major movie distribution business.  Especially since PureFlix On Demand is such an open network (you would think), someone with a good idea *should* be able to expose it to more people faster through such mediums.  Of course, I could be wrong, but I’m going to bet that I’m not.

More popular with the younger generation

Perhaps most importantly, on-demand is simply the wave of the future.  It’s not that Christianity is outdated, it’s that we’ve stopped listening to the younger generation (my generation) and stopped trying to make sure that the message of Christianity is able to be understood by all.  In a more simple vein, I know for a fact that many professing Christians my age just swear off all Christian entertainment completely, and sometimes rightly so, due to the horrible reputation of Christian film that is constantly being added to.  But what if a Christian on-demand series all of a sudden materialized?  If done properly, it would be popular almost overnight.  Just look at how much people desperately cling to When Calls the Heart, which is only a shadow of what a Christian series could be.

 

In short, if God calls us to be creative, then we have to be creative.  We have to listen to people and pay attention to what they are doing so that we can know how to effectively reach people.  It’s been too long since the inception of on-demand series’ for Christians to not have a voice there.  But maybe that’s a good thing up until now, so that the reputation is not tarnished by terrible productions.  Yet the time has come for Christian creators to rise up, to make their mark, and to take their place in the Kingdom.

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In the Name of God {Name in Vain} [2013] (Movie Review)

Eric Roberts trying to conduct group counseling without screening clients

Plot Summary

When Mason, a troubled foster teen, comes to live with the Lewis family, he thinks that it will be just like all the other foster families he has stayed with.  But unlike the families before them, the Lewis are committed to setting him on the straight and narrow and teaching him RESPECT at all costs.  Even when he vandalizes a hardware store and is sentenced to ‘group’, the Lewis family sticks by him.  In the end, Mason will have to learn about RESPECT in order to move forward in life.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

If KKO Productions have anything going for them, at least they have figured out how to have clear video quality.  Otherwise, there is little else we can say positive for this film.  Camera work is inconsistent and some scenes are darker than others.  Audio quality is also a tossup, as some lines are indistinguishable while others are too loud.  The soundtrack is cheesy, as usual.  KKO appears to be severely limited in sets and locations, as there are really only three main sets used in this film.  This causes the editing to suffer as well, since many events take place off screen in places where they obviously could not acquire a set.  In short, old news is new news for KKO when it comes to cheaply produced Christian films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Framing an entire film as a sermon illustration is hardly ever a good idea.  It gives the writers a springboard to shove an obvious message down the viewer’s throat and is generally lazy.  Thus, In the Name of God overuses theological concepts and oversimplifies them by having characters repeat them over and over again.  Rather than showing and demonstrating Christian virtues lived out, they are talked about and impressed upon the audience with no meaningful actions to back them up.  Coupled with this overreach are empty and mindless characters, who are driven by petty and silly dialogue.  None of them seem like real people, just players in an obvious church play designed to teach second graders the Ten Commandments.  The subplots therein are very random and lack continuity, not the mention the fact that they contain highly unrealistic occurrences, such as a small church pastor placing children in foster care and a ‘counselor’ sharing confidential information with random people.  If you want to include such things in your films, please research them first.  As it is, In the Name of God makes a mockery of important issues that could have been presented in a meaningful fashion.  But alas, we can find no real potential with this movie, thus warranting no points for the plot.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As is the usual custom of KKO, otherwise talented actors and actresses are fed lines without any real coaching or guidance.  Most of the scenes in this film seem like they were one-take only.  John Ratzenberger has certainly had much better acting jobs than this one.  Eric Roberts always plays the same weird character, but that’s beside the point.  It seems like the ‘no-name’ cast members have potential that is not being brought out.  Thus, no points can be awarded here.

Conclusion

So apparently this was intended to be a movie series about the Ten Commandments.  Can you imagine ten movies like this one?  If this was supposed to be about the fourth Commandment, it completely went over our heads.  Basically, In the Name of God, or whatever it’s called, is another embarrassing low budget production that carries an in-your-face theological message that is unlikely to convert or inspire anyone.  We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: before making a Christian movie, please make sure you have the funding for what you want to do.  Then please make sure you actually have a plot.  These two things can make such a difference when your movie is completed.  Because seriously, who’s going to watch this garbage?

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

Caged No More (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Aggie never thought it would turn out this way.  She had always cared for Elle and Skye, the daughters of the family whose house she cleaned.  But when they disappear along with their father, Aggie feels like she has to care for the distraught mother left behind.  However, when the mother commits suicide, a string of events are set into motion that alert Aggie to sinister activity that Elle and Skye might be caught up in.  Therefore, she takes a leap of faith to get the help she needs in order to get her girls back.  As the journey takes her across two continents, Aggie clings to faith in God and to the hope that she will find her girls again.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

It seems like the creators of Caged No More had good intentions, but not the resources to pull it off properly.  They likely bit off a larger portion than they could chew.  At least the video quality is clear, which is something most new Christian movies are finally getting right.  The audio quality is passable.  The camera work is okay; sometimes it tries to be too ‘dramatic’ and it comes off wrong.  However, the lighting is very inconsistent.  Some scenes are very dark, seemingly on purpose, but it doesn’t make any sense.  What’s more, the sets are too limited for this scope of a plot.  The surroundings are fairly realistic but sometimes seem empty.  Speaking of scope, the editing of this film is deplorable.  As will be discussed next, Caged No More is a collection of spliced together sequences forced to fit together.  In short, while the effort is applaudable, the delivery is frustrating to watch.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Caged No More is built on a very choppy plot that is patched together with constant narration that either reminds us what just happened or explains something that happened off screen.  There is no coherence between subplots, and the one interesting subplot is wasted and underdeveloped.  The storyline contains too many leaps in logic and is based far too much on coincidences and happenchance.  The characters are thin and empty, crafted with stiff and cardboard dialogue.  It’s really a shame that this review has to be so negative, because the genre this film is trying to break into is interesting.  The idea behind this film is quite interesting, but it is very much wasted potential.  Between the vague ending and the rushed plot, this film felt like it was just speeding to the sequel, but it gave us nothing to be interested in for in the sequel.  At this rate, there is little purpose in creating a sequel; money would be better spent on a remake.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

These cast members seem like they mean well, but they have been thrown into the mix with little to no coaching at all.  Emotions are very overdone and not believable.  Line delivery is forced and awkward.  Kevin Sorbo playing two different characters just doesn’t work at all.  Christian ‘celebrities’ are shoehorned into the cast only for the sake of having their name on it.  In short, there is some potential here, but it is not tapped.

Conclusion

Caged No More is a sad production in many ways.  It really could have been a great genre-breaking work based on an important topic, but it fell very short of the mark.  It pretends to be something bigger than it is.  Buried inside of it are good ideas, but they will likely be wasted as this movie is forgotten over time.  We desperately need different genres of Christian\inspirational films, but this is not the way to go about it.  Human trafficking is a highly important topic that needs to be exposed, but this isn’t the way.  I hope a lesson can be learned here that will make a difference.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Pontius Pilate (2017)

Coming in 2017

 

Writer(s): George Pan Andreas

Director(s): George Pan Andreas, Joe Guinan

Producer(s): Joe Guinan

Starring: Eric Roberts, George Pan Andreas, Elvis Guinan

 

Plot Synopsis:

The story of Lucius Pontius Pilate from his early days in Rome to the time he assists in the crucifying of Jesus.

Apostle Peter and the Last Supper (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Captured by the Romans, the Apostle Peter is held for questioning and possible execution.  As he awaits his earthly fate, his mind wanders back to the early days, when he followed Jesus on earth.  As he is interrogated by a young and inquisitive soldier, Peter recounts his experiences with Jesus, including the painful moment when he disowned his Lord.  Tormented by evil spirits, Peter wrestles with his past as he tries to convert the man in front of him.  In the end, each man has his own battle to fight and they must decide which side they will choose.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

If you endeavor to create a Bible film, please, please, please invest in good sets and props.  Apostle Peter and the Last Supper suffers from the affliction of having only three or four sets, so it fills in everything else with very obviously cheap CGI.  They’re not even good sets at that.  The one good thing here is that at least the video quality is clear and the audio quality is find most of the time.  The camera work is commendable, but the soundtrack is not.  There are too many bizarre special effects that seem out of place and isolate the viewer.  Finally, the editing is blasé and seems to only focus on the sensational parts, as will be discussed next.  In all, Bible productions seem to always fall into a poor category all to themselves, and this one is no exception.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While it is commendable to include spiritual themes in a Biblical film, the ones included in this one are only sensational and sometimes downright creepy.  The smallest things are overly dramatized—as usual with anything David A. R. White touches, nothing can be subtle, all must be obvious.  Dialogue is very pedestrian and theologically scripted; it doesn’t feel like real people are talking.  When dealing with the Biblical narrative, it is obviously out of order for some reason, probably for convenience.  Jesus is portrayed in a very odd way, like He’s constantly obsessed with reading everybody’s minds.  The plot being split between the past and the present does not allow for good character development in any form.  Basically, the only positive aspect of this plot is the interesting idea of incorporating the spiritual battle, even though it is pulled off very poorly.  Essentially, this plot is The Encounter with Peter—some slight potential but too much sensationalism and mediocrity.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Time and again, we have seen Biblical movie casts with an inordinate number of British actors and actresses and Apostle Peter is no exception.  What is it about Bible films that cause creators to believe that Biblical characters are very white and British?  Accents aside, the acting is mostly dramatic and sensational, like the rest of the film.  Bruce Marchiano, in his typical role, seems creepier than usual.  Line delivery is very theatrical rather than conversational.  Emotions are not believable.  However, the acting is not bad enough to warrant zero points.  Overall, everything about this film is just a mess.

Conclusion

Oh, what we would pay somebody for a worthwhile Bible film.  Stories from Scripture need to be properly and accurately portrayed and presented on the big screen.  Such films should have a historical bent rather than an otherworldly feel.  Spiritual elements are great to include, but do them correctly, not in a way that turns people off.  Unfortunately, the majority of Biblical films on the market misconstrues the historical truths and spiritual realities of the Word of God, thus contributing only negative content to the field.  Who will stand up and turn the tide?

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Holyman Undercover (Movie Review)

The Split Personality of David A. R. White
The Split Personality of David A. R. White
Nobody believes that stupid beard is real
Our reaction to this movie

Plot Summary

When Roy, a ‘young’ Amish man, supposedly turns 18, it’s time for him to go on his ‘Rumma Shpringa’, the time when all Amish ‘young’ folks go out into the world to hopefully discover how evil the world is and come running back to their drab lifestyle.  But Roy is determined to not only find his long-lost uncle, who disappeared to Hollywood on his ‘Rumma Shpringa’, but also to witness to the heathen of the world about Jesus Christ.  But what he finds instead is a cold world with no care for the things of God.  Roy finds his uncle, who advises him to jump into the show business in order to covertly share the gospel.  Roy runs into all sorts of odd characters along the way, including a producer he’s attracted to, who entices him to play Satan on a daytime soap opera.  But the further he does into the showbiz game, the more Roy finds himself compromising all he has been taught.  Which set of values will prevail?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

If Holyman Undercover has anything going for it, it does have pretty good video quality.  But that’s where the positivity ends.  Camera work is all over the place, obviously trying to be ‘funny’ and ‘comedic’.  Audio quality is fairly consistent, but cheesy sound effects interrupt it.  The sets and locations are purposely cheap-looking, and the surroundings are clownish, like they’re from a comic book.  I could go on about how the editing is poorly done, but it doesn’t really matter because it’s all purposeful.  This film was purposely created to be ridiculous, and that’s exactly what it is.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Watching Holyman Undercover is a surreal experience unlikely to be replicated by anything else—expect for Me Again.  From slurs against the Amish to blatant and rude Hispanic stereotypes to gigantic strawmen of Hollywood insiders, this film really takes the cake.  As the split personality of David A. R. White, manifested in his two-character acting role, jumps from one random schizophrenic scene to the next, the audience can only laugh and look on at this train wreck of a creation.  Yet if you look past the zany madness that is this storyline, you can see truth emerging from the cracks.  This is a wild and embellished retelling of how the Whites began their film careers.  Coming from a strict Mennonite upbringing, David A. R. White must have felt like he was confined and not allowed to create, yet his stint in Hollywood has given him a chip on his shoulder the size of Kansas (pun intended) that makes him feel like the entire world is against Christians.  But in his usual extreme black and white thinking, the false dichotomy between overly strict Christians and hopelessly evil ‘worldly’ people is far outside of reality.  There is nothing real about this plot, and we believe that it was never intended to be real.  This is a sick satire, borne from the damaged emotions of David A. R. White, yet it is a window into what makes him tick.  But in the midst of trying to be over-the-top hilarious, there is zero coherency to this madness.  It would certainly be one thing if this creative wonder had a consistent thought across the continuum, but it does not.  There is no understanding of what and why goes on, or what is coming next.  It’s basically an embarrassing failed attempt at parody.  On the flipside, it’s a shame that a drug commercial satire idea got wasted in this movie.  Otherwise, Holyman Undercover can be seen as nothing more than a big joke that wasted over a million dollars.

Acting Quality (-1.5 points)

This clownish bunch of cast members is only lacking in Tommy Blaze, Morgan Fairchild, and David Blamy.  The actors and actresses have obviously been instructed to act as zany and stereotypical as possible, from the mentally ill ‘uncle’ David A. R. White, to the robotically mindless Andrea Logan White, to the histrionic Jennifer Lyons, to the egotistical Fred Willard, etc., etc.  Also, nothing beats Carey Scott trying to be a European maître d’.  David A. R. White has basically let himself out of the box in this one and acts as maniacal as he possibly can.  There is truly no seriousness here and a lot of lines seem adlibbed.  Emotions are blown out of proportion and line delivery is either lazy or forced.

Conclusion

The mind boggles as to how and why the Whites acquire so much money for films like this one.  Just think—what if the million and a half dollars blown on this train wreck was put toward a film that actually needed it, one that could have actually used the money for something good.  This is perhaps the real travesty with this film and with PureFlix in general.  Sinking millions of dollars into dead end films designed to make fun of stereotypes is a terrible use of God’s blessings.  This is why we continue to call the White and PureFlix out: wasted money and wasted potential.  Hopefully, one day, the tide will finally change and Christian movies will be something to be proud of.

 

Final Rating: -2 out of 10 points

A Matter of Faith (Movie Review)

Yes, this really did happen in this movie

Plot Summary

When Rachel Whitaker heads off to a ‘secular’ university to pursue a degree in pharmacology, she is immediately met with a challenge to her Christian faith as a biology professor informs the class that human life evolved from apes.  Though she wavers in her convictions, her father quickly discovers her dilemma and confronts the professor, only to have the professor challenge him to a university debate on the issue of creationism versus evolution.  As Rachel tries to talk her father out of the debate, he finds support from an unlikely ally as he digs deeper into the intrigue surrounding the professor.  In the end, which side will triumph?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

For its many faults, at least A Matter of Faith scored one point for production quality.  This is awarded for clear video quality and pretty good camera work.  However, this is where the positivity ends.  Audio quality is okay throughout, but some scenes are louder than others.  The sets and locations are pathetic and scream low budget.  The surroundings feel very plastic, like the characters are living in a textbook suburban city with no feeling at all.  The soundtrack is glaringly amateurish.  Finally, the editing is deplorable, just splicing a bunch of random scenes together that we’re supposed to believe are related in some way.  Unfortunately, this isn’t where the negativity ends.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Haven’t we had enough of the plot where the student is singled out for their faith by an atheist professor, especially with allegations of copying flying around?  A Matter of Faith seems to go out of its way to create a false dichotomy between ‘creationism’ and ‘evolution’ and throws ‘science’ around like a Frisbee.  The subtle message in the title seems to suggest that the creators don’t care about facts, just about destroying the atheist viewpoint at all costs.  Don’t get me wrong—there’s plenty of problems with ‘evolution’ and we need a meaningful dialogue on this topic, but this film only insults people who oppose its worldview and attempts to scare those who might agree with it.  Besides the philosophical concerns, there are many other problems wrong with this plot, which is actually just a collection of disjointed and unrelated snippets and scenes, mostly infused with an out of touch portrayal of life at a ‘secular’ university.  The storyline does not flow at all as it hops from one thing to the next.  The characters therein are highly stereotypical of a fundamentalist Christian worldview, depicting a controlling father figure, a wallflower mother, a confused younger woman, a heroic younger man, ‘bad boys’, and that evil atheist professor—basically the cast of Princess Cut on a college campus.  The premise of the film is trumped up and makes a strawman of the atheist.  However, the one thing that keeps this plot from going in the tank is a slightly interesting character concept that is wasted by the overbearing ‘plot’.  But in short, A Matter of Faith is a mess that doesn’t even seem to try to be discreet or polite to those who oppose its viewpoint.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This film has accomplished a rare feat.  Whereas many independent Christian films are notorious casting actors and actresses without giving them any coaching, the cast of A Matter of Faith seems to be coached too much.  This is evident in a general sense of over-acting, such as overdone enunciation of words and overly practiced body language.  Cast members say their lines like they’re reading cue cards for a public service announcement.  In an attempt to avoid glaring errors, the Christiano crew actually did not come out any better by turning their cast members into robots.

Conclusion

Did the Christiano brothers actually expect to convert anyone to their viewpoint with this film?  Is asking someone who believes in evolution if any of their family ancestors looked like apes (yes, that’s in there) truly a productive tactic to use?  Is attacking psychology out of left field a winning strategy?  We find it hard to believe that A Matter of Faith will even grow any Christians in their faith, as many are still confused as to what the real dichotomy between Biblical creationism and Darwinism (the truly dangerous philosophy) is.  Creating a strawman out of ‘evolution’ is counter-productive and confuses people.  Real people cannot relate to the events of this film, so it is likely that it will do nothing more than further fuel the fire of contempt between fundamentalist Christians and atheists.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

The Silver Chair (Fall 2018)

 

In Theaters Fall 2018

 

Producer(s): Mark Gordon

Director(s):

Writer(s): David Magee

Starring:

 

Synopsis:

Called back to Narnia for a special quest, Eustace Scrubb, along with his friend Jill Pole, must remember four important signs in order to rescue a lost prince from an evil witch.

Six: The Mark Unleashed (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In a film market far, far away, before the birth of PureFlix Productions, David A. R. White, Kevin Downes, and Stephen Baldwin (with a cameo from ‘Logan White’) all teamed up to create an apocalyptic film to remember.  This movie was unlike any other and focused on the hard-hitting topic of…the daily ins and outs of a futuristic men’s prison?  Caught in the grip a dictatorial international government and threatened with death in three weeks if they don’t take the Mark of the Beast, the men of the prison are…allowed to walk around however they please and write Bible stuff on the walls?  Busted for smuggling illegal stuff like painkillers and old movies to Eric Roberts and for stealing a pizza, Downes and White are forced to spend their three weeks in a cheesy looking set with a group of Christian prisoners who draw Christian-themed stuff on the walls of the prison without punishment.  Will they ever escape or will they be forced to take the Mark?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Watching Six: The Mark Unleashed is a surreal experience.  We can’t even believe this thing exists.  Everything about it feels like one big joke.  The fingerprints of Downes and White are all over this one, from the cheesy sets to the poor camera work to the bad lighting.  They went so overboard trying to look futuristic that it comes off as a Star Trek knockoff.  Are we really supposed to believe that the future of the world is peppered with Star Trek wardrobes and buildings?  What’s more, there is no coherent thought to the editing, as a vast majority of the ‘plot’ takes place in a giant concrete box billed as a prison.  Any other elements are completely isolating, as will be discussed next.  In short, this is nothing short of a production disaster, one that should have never been funded.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As Downes and White bumble their way through this ‘plot’, many characters are introduced and then quickly discarded with no explanation.  Vague concepts are constantly referred to that isolate the audience.  After being arrested and spending tons of time in the prison reading stuff off of darkly lit walls and talking to mysteriously creepy Baldwin, Downes and White employ absurd tactics to escape the freakishly bald Brad Heller, such as hacking using Tommy Blaze keyboard gymnastics and calling on an enigmatic figure to help them get to ‘the walled city’.  But never fear, for Brad Heller’s ‘spiritual bloodhounds’ are quick on their tails.  Do you get the picture of how ridiculous this ‘plot’ is?  By the end of the movie, there are more questions than answers.  What’s the deal with that one prisoner who sometimes acts as a double agent?  What ever happened to Eric Roberts’ smuggling business?  How did the people in the tent city escape the dictatorial rule?  Who’s Rahab and where did she come from and why do we care?  Why is Brad Heller wearing so much eye makeup?  Yet in the wake of all of this, the prologue and the epilogue of the film actually demonstrate a stroke of creative genius; they are likely the reason why this horrifying mess was even made in the first place.  It’s just too bad that they get lost in the swamp of nonsense.  In short, it is extremely unclear what type of message is supposed to be conveyed in this film, as the plot is very disjointed and schizophrenic.  Stuff like this makes you wonder how White and Downes ever made it anywhere in filmmaking.

Acting Quality (0 points)

It’s no surprise that the acting of this film is just ridiculous.  Emotions are extremely awkward and too many cast members are trying to be mysterious action heroes.  No coaching is employed as line delivery is forced and disingenuous.  Some lines are horribly slurred and annunciation is inconsistent.  Basically, no effort was put into acting, just like the rest of the movie.

Conclusion

Is any movie viewer supposed to take this film seriously?  It’s so absurd and out of touch that I would be embarrassed to recommend it to someone or even admit that it is supposed to be a Christian film.  What is gained from this level of immaturity?  Are we supposed to applaud the effort lest we be condemned for persecuting Christians or for not standing with ‘our own’?  Are Christian films allowed to be however poor quality they wish yet still be promoted in Christian circles?  We say no.  The line must be drawn somewhere.  Someone must hold filmmakers who claim the name of Christ to a higher standard if we ever expect to impact the field for Him.  Otherwise, we’re just talking to ourselves about the good things we do and making money off of it while the world looks on in disgust and\or confusion.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

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