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Christian Movie News and Reviews

Month

September 2016

Second Glance [1992] (Movie Review)

Jesus man!
Jesus man!

Plot Summary

Back in the Dark Ages of Christian film, when David A. R. White was a fresh new face on the scene and when the Christiano brothers competed with Bob Jones University and WorldWide Pictures for control of the market, this movie was borne.  Depicting the iconic struggles of a perfect Christian teenager in an evil fallen high school world, Second Glance has been called ‘the best Christian film ever’ by dubious critics.  This teen feels like he’s not making any difference at all, so he wishes the unthinkable—that he wasn’t a Christian anymore.  He wakes up with this wish come true, so guided by a creepy angel, he is forced to take a second glance at his life.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

In this barely one-hour length extended short film, production errors are aplenty.  Camera work is bad, including a lot of awkward tight shots, and video quality is very poor.  The audio quality is replete with background noises that often drown out dialogue.  Also, a stupid soundtrack blares constantly.  The sets and locations are severely limited, and characters are awkwardly placed in them.  Editing is virtually nonexistent, since they basically cut nothing from this film.  They needed all the wasted time they could get to stretch this glorified skit into an hour-long ‘movie’.  In short, there is nothing positive to highlight here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This movie might as well be called Randy’s Party, because that’s the focal point of the entire plot.  This illustrious event, and that creepy King-James-Version-only angel that keeps following David A. R. White around are the highlights of the film.  In this character-based coming-of-age biopic, the characters are extremely shallow.  The high school kid White plays is extremely perfect and holds his universe together while everyone else is either beholden to his wisdom, neutral, or obviously wicked.  This makes the entire premise of this film absurd and unrealistic.  The dialogue that can be discerned is uninspiring.  There’s really nothing else to say here except that this It’s a Wonderful Life plot concept has been thoroughly worn out at this point.  Next time, please think through your idea before forcing it to happen.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As previously mentioned, easily half the lines are unable to be deciphered, partially because of background noises and partially due to mumbled delivery.  Emotions are awkwardly delivered, as with most things involving David A. R. White.  Behavior is extremely obvious and forced, trying to drive home concepts that should be subtle (gee, that sounds familiar).  As with everything else in this film, there is nothing good to note here.

Conclusion

This is such a half-baked idea that it doesn’t even warrant creation.  Couldn’t they have just dumped this one in the early stages?  But no, Christian movies must be made at all costs!  If you stand in the way, you are a persecutory extremist humanist atheist propaganda machine bent on controlling the minds of children.  The world in this movie is portrayed as very bad and oppressive to Christians (an early David A. R. White concept), and Christians must stand up against it or something.  Second Glance could almost be a prequel to Holyman Undercover.  There is really nothing learned from this work, so unless you just want to watch the infamous final scene (depicted above), don’t waste your time.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

A Letter for Joe [2013] (Movie Review)

Forgiveness...................is no joke
Forgiveness……………….is no joke

Plot Summary

When a collection of ‘troubled’ guys who hang out in a bar all the time decide to pick on Joe, an impressionable ‘seventeen-year-old’ (for no particular reason), by forging a letter for him from millionaire Howard Hughes.  This letter instructs Joe to fly to Las Vegas and meet Hughes for an important job interview.  Without question, this clueless ‘kid’ jumps to ‘free-wheeling Las Vegas’ and lands himself an accidental job working for the eccentric entrepreneur.  As he jets around the country buying up supposedly historic artifacts, the troubled guys suddenly fall into personal ‘tragedies’ of their own.  Will they ever be able to reconcile and show that forgiveness……..is no joke?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Obviously shot using a limited budget, A Letter for Joe screams cheap church production.  There are many more like this film that are not ninety minutes long and do not make it to on-demand video services.  It boasts all the trademarks of this indie subgenre: shaky camera work (replete with tons of character close-ups and tight shots), grainy video quality, an ear-piercing soundtrack, inconsistent audio quality, and poorly designed sets and props.  Does that about cover it?  I think it does.  Nothing else to see here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This is supposed to be an allegory of the story of Joseph from the Old Testament, but the correlation is so loose that it’s nearly unrecognizable.  All we’re left with is endless scenes of planes flying in the sky, montages of Joe buying ‘historic stuff’, random high school football scenes, a laughable scene that includes a character running with a broken leg, an intelligent discussion on provisional scholarships as two characters sit in a very poorly designed car simulator, and yes, tons of vintage cars.  The so-called plot is head-scratching and downright confusing.  The dialogue that isn’t horribly mumbled does nothing to assist in character development.  Many events happen out of context and there is really no reason for the major plot points to occur.  Basically, whatever was trying to be accomplished here totally fell flat.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Starring as Joe, Evan Schwaaaaab Schwalb delivers the most unsure and low self-esteem acting job since John Carmen as The Rev.  Many other acting performances are also particularly memorable, but not in a good way.  As previously mentioned, many lines from all cast members are terribly mumbled.  Emotions are out of place for the situations they are in.  I think that about covers this area.

Conclusion

A Letter for Joe is essentially a bunch of college guys in Florida who got together to try their hand at movie making.  While they put a lot of effort into acquiring 1970s-era vehicles for visuals, they totally failed at actually making a movie.  This effort makes us nostalgic of unmentionable church films of days gone by.  When dealing with films like this one, the question is always a resounding “Why?”  What’s the purpose of this movie?  Does it provide us with anything besides unwanted laughs?  We seriously doubt it.  A word of advice: film makers, please save your funding for something that’s going to truly make a difference.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Right to Believe [2014] (Movie Review)

What a strange idea.......
What a strange idea…….

Plot Summary

Tony Morris, a reporter for a local newspaper, suddenly finds his faith tested when he is instructed by his maniacal boss to cover a local gay pride parade.  This assignment consists entirely of him interviewing a gay activist in a coffee shop to get that hard hitting piece done.  As they argue back and forth on a wide variety of topics and employ outdated textbook arguments, the audience is left breathless in wonder.  The plot twists and turns even more when Tony and his plastic wife discuss his occupational dilemma while sitting on the world’s most hideous couch (pictured above).  Suspense builds when a random gun-wielding man threatens the lives of the two debaters.  In the end, as the film’s original soundtrack asks us, will anyone have the right to believe?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Being forced to sit through this docu-drama should be a crime.  With poor video quality and amateurish camera work, Right to Believe is a loser in every possible way.  The lighting is very inconsistent in the three sets that are used to film this wonder.  That’s right: there’s only three sets.  Audio quality is the pits, especially when you’re compelled to have the most obnoxious non-Hallmark soundtrack shoved into your ears, complete with the garage band original number that shares its title with this movie.  To round things off, prop usage is high school caliber.  In short, this is perhaps the cheapest looking production we have ever witnessed.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This is not a plot.  There is zero plot content and the entire film consists of two long-winded coffee shop debates on homosexuality, sin, Christianity, and other related topics.  Both sides of the issue use strawman arguments, like the Christian character saying that sin is worse in modern times because of technology.  The portrayal of the gay character is cringe-worthy.  Despite there only being three or four main characters, there is no development of any of them as we are forced to watch them stiffly converse in a coffee shop environment and lounge on the world’s most hideous couch.  They are talking points robots programmed to say stereotypical things.

No one will be converted based on the empty arguments offered by either side of the issue.  There’s really not much else to say here except for this film is a total embarrassment.

Acting Quality (0 points)

With literally eight cast members to work with, the acting should be flawless due to efficient acting coaching.  This is not the case (shocker).  More than half the time, spoken lines are indiscernible and mumbled.  There are no realistic emotions to speak of.  But after reviewing the other elements of this film, who’s really surprised?

Conclusion

At the end of this film, there is a black and white epilogue depicting the main character’s confession article as an internationally acclaimed piece, even appearing in Chinese and Russian (?) newspapers and books.  Are we really supposed to believe this is the case?  The writers were obviously bigger in their own heads.  If they really wanted to craft an unforgettable epic on the Christian response to homosexuality, they should have taken more time to actually listen to the other side rather than paint them as illegitimate and stupid.  There is no care or thought in this film as sensitive issues are clinically diagnosed and ‘fixed’ with empty arguments and rhetoric.  In some ways, Right to Believe is an example of the sad state of the American church: cold, unfeeling, entitled, and somewhat delusional.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Heart of the Country [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Faith left her rural North Carolina home to pursue her musical dreams in New York City, she never expected to meet the man of her dreams—or so she thought.  After a whirlwind romance and marriage to Luke Carraday, they are horrified to discover that the investment firm he worked for came under audit by the federal government, landing all employees in jail, including Luke.  Dazed and confused and with no one to turn to, Faith returns home and finds her ailing father the same as he always was.  Though Faith’s sister is not excited about her coming back, Faith’s whole family supports her no matter what happens.  However, none of them foresee the events that about to unfold—events that have the potential to change the direction of their lives forever.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

With a modest budget, Heart of the Country did pretty much all they could do with the money they had.  The video quality is excellent and the camera work is professional.  Sound quality is consistent throughout, and the soundtrack is fairly good, even though it’s dominated by Jana Kramer, the lead actress.  The sets and locations are relatively diverse—jumping back and forth from New York City to rural North Carolina works very well.  There is an overall authentic feel to the surroundings.  The only caveats to raise with this film are some minor editing issues.  Though flashbacks are utilized wonderfully, there are some choppy elements of the production that derail its pursuit of perfection.  But these minor issues aside, this is a formidable production model to be proud of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

From the beginning, the plot of Heart of the Country is unique and outside of the norm.  Few movies ever attempt to depict a newlywed couple’s struggles—most movies retreat after the wedding vows are said and we never hear from them again.  The premise of this film is a brave idea that deserve resounding applause.  As previously mentioned, flashbacks enhance this film and make it what it is.  The characters are fairly believable, though they could use a little more development in this character-based plot.  For the most part, this plot avoids the usual return-to-your-hometown clichés.  Unfortunately, the Christian message is quite muted and needed to be a little more meaningful.  Another problem is a number of wasted scenes that could have been used to develop characters and deepen the storyline.  Some elements are understated while others are overstated.  The end is meaningful even though it is slightly expected.  Overall, this is an above average plot that had the potential to be even better.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is a formidable cast made up of B-grade cast members.  They seem to be coached fairly well.  Line delivery is above average, as are emotions.  One big drawback here is that most of the cast members make excessive use of makeup and costuming.  In the end, this is a respectable acting job.

Conclusion

We’ve said it before, but we really wish that films like Heart of the Country were the baseline of inspirational film.  It includes a unique idea, professional production, believable characters, and commendable acting.  We also wish films like this one would go all the way and achieve Hall of Fame status.  But nonetheless, films like this one are still enjoyable and definitely worth your while.  It’s unfortunately still a rare find in the industry.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

Seven Deadly Words (Movie Review)

They're always watching.........
They’re always watching………

Plot Summary

When the Bennett family moves to Connorsville, Indiana, to lead a struggling small church that’s running low on funds, what they find there is not what they expected.  They find a very small congregation who is largely controlled and influenced by a local rich family.  When Pastor Evan Bennett decides to disagree with them on a riveting budget line item, they unleash their full wrath on his family.  Can the Bennett family survive the onslaught and get their budget passed before darkness descends on the church forever?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Where to begin?  Seven Deadly Words is an experience unlike any other.  For starters, the movie is framed as a fake documentary, sort of like a found footage film, but lacking the usual elements of this indie film genre.  Needless to say, this docu-drama concept just serves as a crutch for poor production quality.  For example, shaky camera work and inconsistent video quality throughout are ‘masked’ by the ‘raw footage’.  The film is filled with constant reality show ‘confessional’ style interviews, which pump the runtime.  Aspect ratios are inconsistent, sometimes trying to depict camcorder recordings.  The audio quality is spotty, as is the lighting.  The editing is spliced together, like it’s literally an amateur documentary.  Again, all of this is chalked up to the documentary style footage, but it’s a stupid excuse for bypassing quality.  Watching this film is very isolating and confusing because of the choice to use this type of delivery.  Essentially, this is just a cheap production that poorly masquerades as a professional one.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This entire film has a strange undertone, like there’s an inside joke we don’t know about.  The movie gives off a very twilight zone feel.  It’s also filled with stupidly unnecessary concepts like the main character always riding a bike instead of driving.  As the so-called plot limps along and jumps from one thing to the next, you have no idea what you’re going to experience next.  Therefore, there is no coherent plot structure and zero character development.  All the characters are just randomly used, and some have next to no air time.  The villains are extremely obvious and over the top.  Dialogue is offbeat and off the wall.  The saddest thing is that this good movie idea about small church corruption is totally squandered.  After much discussion on complex church budget drama and other fake suspense, the movie lurches towards the most bizarre ending ever since Decision.  The bottom line is that there is basically no sense in this storyline and it just reflects another wasted idea ruined by poor planning and little effort.

Acting Quality (0 points)

While having an amateur cast is not an inherent problem, it’s usually ill-advised unless you’re going to employ some series acting coaching.  As can be expected, this was not done in Seven Deadly Words.  The actors and actresses often have random outbursts and rants that have no context.  The emotional vacillations are dizzying.   Some cast members cannot be taken seriously at all.  In short, this section rounds off a truly embarrassing creation.

Conclusion

By the way, there is no explanation of what the ‘seven deadly words’ are or why this movie is entitled that.  As mentioned before, while we know from firsthand experience that small church corruption (i.e. being controlled by one rich family or a handful of them) is very common in America and needs to be exposed in film.  However, like far too many movies before and after it, this one only serves to further blacken the name of Christina film.  The fact that this mess won any awards at all is truly disturbing.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

The Pastor (2018)

Coming in 2018 from Action Faith Media and Destiny Entertainment Productions

 

Writer(s): Hector Echavarria

Director(s): Paco Aguilar, Hector Echavarria

Producer(s): Hector Echavarria

Starring: Kevin Sorbo, T. C. Stallings, Abigail Duhon, Hector Echavarria, Cameron McKendry, Taylor Kalupa

 

Plot Synopsis:

In a forgotten part of town, overrun by a ruthless gang; a community struggles with its faith, as they see their neighborhoods torn-apart and their youth targeted for gang recruitment. But all that is about to change.

God’s Not Dead 2 (Movie Review)

Is this thing over yet?
Is this thing over yet?

Plot Summary

When Christian teacher Grace Wesley is sued by a student’s parents for daring to mention the name of Jesus in her classroom, she is confused as to what is even happening to her. Yet, inspired by the wisdom of her ailing father whom she takes care of, Grace refuses to back down and begins working with her union-appointed lawyer to fight back in court. With her faith under fire, Grace’s case draws the attention of many from the town of Hope Springs, including Pastor James White David Hill, who serves on the jury. As Grace’s beliefs are attacked and tested over and over again, she must dig deep to withstand the world’s onslaught so that Christianity is not snuffed out forever.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

In the new era of PureFlix, video quality and camera work are no longer in question.  The sets, locations, and surroundings are respectable.  The musical score is average.  On the surface, God’s Not Dead 2 looks like a professional film, but there are many hidden issues therein.  Of the high profile Christian movies we have reviewed, this is possibly the worst edited one to date.  The many-subplots addiction from God’s Not Dead and Do You Believe? is back, and this time, they are more empty than ever.  As will be discussed next, there long sections of this movie that consist of characters staring into space and attempting to sing.  Essentially, this was just a lazy production effort that looks good on the outside but not on the inside.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In this plot, Christian characters are very perfect in every way while atheist characters are hopelessly evil.  What’s more, atheists are borderline ridiculed, giving an embarrassing feel to the film.  Subplots jump all over the place, confusing the viewer.  The premise and other plot happenings are unrealistic and cannot be reconciled with reality.  The storyline is saturated with legal rhetoric that is either only half-true or isolating to the audience.  Besides these glaringly obvious issues, the plot does not hold the attention and is very drab.  There are many slow and melancholy scenes that seem to be designed only to pad the runtime.  Large portions of the film are dedicated to advertising apologetic books and other Christian ‘celebrities’.  While there is a lot of good information in these product placements, it flies over the audience’s heads and is not remembered.  With all this wasted time, there is zero character development, therefore we cannot even appreciate the struggles that are portrayed.  In addition, the dialogue is chock-full of swipes at atheists and ‘worldly’ people.  The ending is very empty and anticlimactic (despite desperate attempts) and even includes an off-the-wall post-credits scene.  Basically, David A. R. White and company just phoned this one in, hoping that the title name recognition would garner them some more cash.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

While this section is not all bad, there is a lot of monotone acting in this film.  In another attempt to create buzz by trotting out C-grade ‘big name’ actors and actresses (in addition to the typical PureFlix clowns), this attempt basically flops.  Most of the characters carry a Hallmark-ish look to them, with far too much makeup and costuming.  Other cast members are just blank—even though they show potential, there’s no one to draw it out.  In the end, there is really nothing new here.

Conclusion

In our experience, the world portrayed in this film has never existed.  This is not to diminish the plights of some, but the realm PureFlix constructs in many of their films is over the top and outside of reality.  Rather than preaching to the choir with a juvenile us-against-the-world narrative that further divides Christians and atheists, the money spent on these types of films would be better spent on films that actually strengthen the church as a whole and tastefully address how American Christian behavior can improve.  No one will be saved as a result of God’s Not Dead 2.  Christians will not be inspired to grow closer to God as a result of viewing this movie.  I would never recommend this movie to a non-believer because the creators give no concern to opposing points of view.  Since we as Christians have the truth, we have no need to force it down people’s throats with no regard for their feelings.  Delegitimizing someone else’s beliefs has no place in the gospel message.  Yet with an awkwardly placed post-credits scene, we are all but promised more of the same nonsense from PureFlix.  This is not the direction Christian film needs to go in and now more than ever we need someone who will stand up and combat the image movies like this one project.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Left Behind 3: World at War (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

With Nicolae Carpathia increasing his grip on international politics, President Fitzgerald of the United States is highly skeptical of the United Nations leader.  The President’s suspicions are only raised when his vice president is killed in a sudden car bomb.  He also receives an anonymous tip about secret plans that threaten to overturn the delicate balance of the world.  Elsewhere, the Tribulation Force continues to seek converts and spread the gospel as the world becomes darker and darker.  When an unexpected evil strikes the planet, they must dig deep in their faith and band together under the banner of Christianity.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

After two previous productions failed even though they had money behind them, this creative team finally put the money where their mouth was and spent it correctly on World at War.  The camera work and video quality are excellent.  Props have a major upgrade and appear very realistic.  This movie finally lives up to its international intrigue expectations by providing wide ranging sets and locations to the viewers.  It also delivers on this franchise’s previous claims of action entertainment by pulling off action scenes very well, including professional use of special effects.  Watching this movie actually makes you feel like you’re watching an apocalyptic film with international ramifications.  The only complaints to bring up here are some minor editing issues.  Otherwise, this is a production to be proud of for once.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

World at War is actually an engaging apocalyptic plot that holds the attention, which is an unfortunately rare find in Christian film.  Subplots built up from the two previous installments are used very well, and even though this storyline departs greatly from the novels, it is still enjoyable.  New subplots are complex and hold the viewer’s attention until the end.  The dialogue is finally well-constructed and the characters are finally believable.  The apocalyptic concepts and surroundings are finally realistic and highly possible in the real world.  Although there are some unnecessary elements, there are not a few suspenseful twists that make this an apocalyptic plot to be proud of.  Finally, World at War packs perhaps the most epic action ending in Christian film to date, putting many other action film attempts to shame.  Yet two things derail this movie from being Hall of Fame: the lack of buildup from previous films and the lack of continuation.  The writers set us up with an engaging franchise reboot, if you will, yet did not deliver with a follow-up.  What happens next?  We may never know.  But for now, this is one of the most applaudable Christian action films on the market.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Acting also greatly improves in this installment not only because of improved coaching but also because of better additional cast members.  Once again, Kirk Cameron posts one of his best (probably his last) acting performances.  Line delivery is effective, but sometimes emotions are over the top.  In the end, there are only minor errors here.

Conclusion

It’s so frustrating to watch films that barely miss the Hall of Fame because of the potential they did not live up to.  World at War had everything going for it—except for better predecessors and a real follow-up.  If the franchise was going to be dropped here, it would have been better for World at War to either stand alone as a separate apocalyptic film outside of the series or for the absurd Left Behind reboot of recent to become the fourth movie rather than just a rehashing of the first installment.  It’s unfortunate, but it’s unlikely World at War will be remade for a myriad of reasons.  But it can at least serve as a testament to what can be done in Christian film if proper money and effort are applied.  We need many more films like this one on the market.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

Left Behind 2: Tribulation Force [2002] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

With the world still reeling from the Rapture, those left behind who became Christians band together to form what they call a Tribulation Force to stand against the forces of evil.  Their leader, Bruce, encourages each of them to not hide from the new evil world but to find a way to reach other for Christ in it.  Rayford struggles with a decision to pilot the plane of Nicolae Carpathia, the suspected antichrist.  Buck Williams chases down a story regarding a messianic prophecy expert and two mysterious men at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.  In the strange new world they live in, they also discover everyday struggles and the realization that following Jesus is no longer easy.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The second installment of the original Left Behind series is a low point.  While video quality and camera work are okay, there are a host of other production errors.  Special effects are cheesy, especially when it comes to action scenes.  Many scenes have very poor lighting.  The sets and locations are pretty good, but they are littered with cheap looking props.  The soundtrack is pedestrian.  Furthermore, the editing is very sub-par and fails to cut down quite a few long and drawn out scenes that drain the viewer’s attention span.  Essentially, not much effort was put into this creation.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Once again, for an apocalyptic thriller, there’s not much apocalyptic or thrilling about Tribulation Force.  The film takes a very melancholy tone, choosing to spend time on silly conflicts like lover’s spats and peripheral character issues.  There is little central focus as the plot meanders from job decisions to church services to turning the church into a hospital to chasing leads in the Middle East.  There is also not enough suspense or plot twists as the monotone dialogue centers on theological discussions and information dumps.  There are attempts at twists and psychological\spiritual elements, but they fall flat.  There are too many one-dimensional characters that are juggled and we can’t really get to know any of them.  Like its predecessor, Tribulation Force just gets ready for the inevitable next film without giving the viewer any reason to watch it except for the book series popularity.  The actual end of the plot is quite cheesy and non-suspenseful.  In short, if you missed this film, you didn’t miss much.

Acting Quality (1 point)

At least they returned all the same cast members.  I hate it when movie franchises try to change out actors and actresses and pretend you didn’t notice.  There is slight improvement among this cast and Kirk Cameron delivers arguably one of his best career acting performances.  My how time has flown.  This cast could have actually been great with better coaching.  Alas, what could have been.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, John Patus and company elected to follow the standard Hollywood path of bringing a popular book franchise to the big screen and relied on the series’ popularity to carry it.  There is little reason for this film to even exist except for the fact that it needed to for the series to continue.  If you skipped to the third film, you didn’t miss anything in this one.  This is the central problem to movie sagas: each one needs to be a good movie by itself without the other ones holding it up.  There are few who have gotten this right.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

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