Midnight Clear [2006] (Movie Review)

Hold on, it's another movie calling
Hold on, it’s another movie calling

Plot Summary

Lefty is a drunken no-account who has been fired from his job, is living in his car, and is going through a divorce.  Desperate for money, he begins planning a robbery.  Eva is a shut-in widow who feels like no one in the world cares about her or would miss her if she died.  Kirk owns a convenience store but feels like he’s not making a difference in the world.  Mary is left raising her son alone when her husband has a car accident that leaves his brain permanently damaged.  Mitch is a youth pastor who is tired of going through the motions and wants to impact someone’s life for God.  All of these stories intersect at Christmastime and learn valuable lessons.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

With just under a million dollars spent on this work, there is no reason why it is so poor, but it is.  The video quality is grainy and the camera angles are awkward.  The audio quality is poor and the soundtrack is stock Christmas stuff.  The sets and locations are cheap with nothing special about them.  With so many subplots to juggle, the editing is not very good as it chooses to waste time on blank and empty scenes.  Essentially, there is really not much to say here because the production is so empty and disappointing.  This should have been way better than this for the money spent on it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As previously mentioned, there are too many subplots in this storyline, therefore they are disjointed and do not flow together well.  They are all just crammed into the film for the sake of making the film long enough.  Due to the number of them, character development is left by the wayside; we barely get to know any of these people as the movie jumps from one subplot to another.  This leaves the characters flat, supported by uninspiring and boring dialogue.  Also, to connect some of the subplots together, odd coincidences are employed to give it that Christmas-miracle-feel.  While there are some slightly interesting ideas here, there is no heart behind them.  There are too many off-the-wall elements present that come off as abrasive.  The ending is predictable and leaves much to be desired.  In short, Midnight Clear was a half-idea forced to happen because Christmas, of course.

Acting Quality (0 points)

With a small cast of people that have at least an average amount of talent (not sure about Stephen Baldwin), Midnight Clear is supported entirely by its actors and actresses.  However, with no acting coaching, this is not a good thing.  While there are no glaring acting errors, everything about the acting is just like the rest of the film: flat and boring.  There are little to no believable emotions and line delivery is pedestrian.  I suppose that description pretty much sums up the movie.

Conclusion

Of all the Jerry B. Jenkins stories to bring to the big screen, one of the most obscure and boring was chosen.  There are better choices that have nothing to do with holiday cheer.  While the message behind Midnight Clear has some substance to it, this is not conveyed properly in the film.  This one either needed a serious rework in pre-production or it needed to be abandoned altogether.  Just having another cheap Christmas movie on the market is not what this world needs.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

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Last Ounce of Courage (Movie Review)

Make small town religion great again
Make small town religion great again

Plot Summary

When Bob Revere’s son is killed overseas while in the military, he leaves behind a wife and son, along with grieving grandparents.  Bob is the mayor of a small town and he feels like the religious freedom his son fought for is slowly being eroded away as outside legal groups try to remove everything Christmas from the town.  That’s why Bob, along with his grandson and friends, have to fight against the onslaught by taking a stand for religious freedom in their town—even if it means going to the extremes.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

It’s clear that, in keeping with a jillion other films like it, Last Ounce of Courage was forced to happen with no regard for quality.  The production team gave no care to any details—not camera work, not video quality, not audio quality.  There was some effort, however, put into the sets, but they are full of Christmas overload and have that cheesy small town feel.  The editing is fairly choppy and leaves the viewer confused.  Basically, this was a slap-together effort with a clear agenda behind it, as will be discussed next.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2 points)

Last Ounce of Courage can effectively be rated as total propaganda.  In an attempt to ‘stand up’ for religious freedom supposedly being attacked in a small town, a giant strawman is created.  The issue is portrayed as very one-sided and extreme, even suggesting that perceived attacks on religious freedom are responsible for an insane amount of things, such as societal decay.  Unrealistic situations are posed that force upon the audience the notion that America is in the midst of all-out persecution (it’s not).  Besides this, the plot has an overall zany and off-the-wall feel to it, including bizarre elements that cannot be explained.  Dialogue is mostly contrived and other times eccentric.  There are too many subplots shoved into the storyline, most of which are beyond-Hallmark absurd.  Also, the only African-American characters in the film are the villains.  The ending is forced to be perfect in every possible way, like a child’s movie.  In short, this is an offensive plot deserving of negative points.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The acting is overall mindless and empty, while at times awkward and in-your-face.  Cast members mostly recite their lines as if from a cue card.  Emotions come off as programmed and forced.  Like the production, little care was taken in this area as the propaganda-ridden plot was forced to happen.

Conclusion

Some Christian film makers seem to have a fetish for crafting an us-against-the-world plot themed with religious freedom overtures.  Religious freedom is definitely important, but we find it very hard to believe that the events portrayed in this film have actually occurred in reality.  Crafting this sort of false dichotomy only further deepens the divide between Christians and non-Christians, especially when the latter are portrayed in such offensive ways.  This is not the purpose of Christian film and we hope to never see something like this one again.

 

Final Rating: -2 out of 10 points

 

The Nativity [2010] (Movie Review)

Which way to Great Britain?
Which way to Great Britain?

Plot Summary

In some alternate universe long long ago, first century Judea looked like Europe and the Jews lived in European-style houses with glass windows.  All the Jews were of European descent and sported cockney accents.  The families of Joseph and Mary had enough money to throw parties and to eat fine food.  Everybody wore those ridiculous outfits you see in cheesy church plays and even had some makeup.  The only non-white people in their sphere were Hispanic shepherds (is this a subtle message for modern race relations?) and those Asian and African guys known as Magi.  Mary had creepy conversations with British angel guys and she and Joseph sometimes acted like a dysfunctional American couple.  The BBC historian’s personal favourite (haha) was that psychic gypsy that served as Mary’s midwife.  If you think all of this is a complete joke, you’re wrong and need to be educated by BBC, who knows far more about what really happened in the Bible than you do.  Or you can just watch this horrid viewing experience for yourself and see that I am not making any of this up.  Like seriously, this got approved.  And no, this is a not a plot summary.  This is a rant because I wanted it to be, kthxbye.

 

Production Quality (-2 points)

Did we mention that nothing about this miniseries-turned-movie is even remotely accurate to history?  Those BBC guys weren’t even trying when they put Mary in a house with glass windows.  With glass!  In first century Judea!  In fact, all of the sets are totally inaccurate to history.  The camera work and stuff like that aren’t even really that good, but they are so overshadowed by the complete and utter nonsense spewed by the remainder of this film that it doesn’t really matter.  I hate this film so bad that I gave it negative points, mostly for total disregard of reality.  So sue me if you think this isn’t a real review.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2 points)

Since when were Mary’s parents rich enough to throw even a moderate dinner party?  Since when did first century Jews have dinner parties that resembled the semi-modern Western world?  There is an infinite list of pertinent questions I could ask about this film.  What’s with the grinding planets?  Why does the Magi subplot seem like a cross between Lord of the Rings, Aladdin, and the Magi subplot from that better Nativity movie with a similar title?  Why does Mary constantly talk about being ‘bathed in light’?  What is the purpose of the Hispanic shepherd subplot?  Why do Mary and Joseph have emotionally unstable fights like a dysfunctional American couple?  Why does Mary’s invented midwife resemble a psychic?  And finally, why did BBC even make this movie?  From histrionic dialogue to historically inaccurate storylines, there are no redeeming qualities to this film and it is downright offensive.

Acting Quality (-2 points)

Screaming matches, British voices, useless conversations, oh my!  There are too many actors and actresses in this movie that I recognize from way better BBC movies, like ones that are based on those books that depict the fictional yet realistic lives of actual British characters in the 19th and 20th centuries.  We don’t have to sit here and take this garbage.  First-century Romans and Judeans were not remotely European.  The Europeans actually were the ‘bad guys’ back then, or something like that.  You’re welcome for the history lesson.

Conclusion

Some may criticize me for being so hard on this film, but seriously, if anyone else besides BBC tried to make a historical film and made it so grossly inaccurate as this one did, they would be out of a filmmaking job forever.  They would be discredited and ridiculed, kind of like what I’m doing in this review.  It’s downright offensive to totally alter historical accounts for the sake of convenience, thus a negative score is warranted.  So if you’re looking for that perfect holiday film for the whole family to enjoy, unless you like out-of-touch unrealistic portrayals of historical figures, steer clear from this one.

 

Final Rating: -6 out of 10 points

 

Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas (Movie Review)

Get ready to slide into that New Jerusalem bro
Get ready to slide into that New Jerusalem bro

Plot Summary

The war on Christmas is everywhere, dontcha know?  I mean, we can’t even talk out Santa Claus anymore.  If we say Merry Christmas, we’re practically blackballed in social circles.  We can’t even put Christmas trees or neigh-tivity scenes on government property anymore (or Muslim symbols for that matter).  Something has got to change before ‘Merica becomes one of those atheistic third world countries we buy Christmas junk from.  We need a hero to save our Christmas traditions from extinction.  Never fear, Kirk Cameron is that hero!  Join him on a quest to turn the hardest Scrooge heart back to the good ole’ days of Christmas.  Join Kirk in a meditation experience unlike any other as he guides your mind to focus on rocks, trees, snow globes, ornaments, and nutcrackers.  Experience the Christmas spirit in a way you’ve never experienced it before—with Kirk Cameron as your Christmas Zen master.  By the time it’s over, you’ll want all the Buzz-Saw Louie’s you can grab, because that’s what Christmas is really about.  You’ll probably also join the awkward white yuppie people dance-off to the tune of Family Force 5 Christmas, prompted by your stereotypical black friend DJ.  Get your tickets today, this is a show you don’t want to miss (not)!

 

Production Quality (-3 points)

Saving Christmas is a real doozy, even more so than Mercy Rule, if that’s even possible.  Starting with the three opening sequences and concluding with the two most ridiculous scenes in modern Christian film, space does not permit us to truly convey the lunacy of this film.  Filled with endless narration from the egotistical Cameron, this production is an explosion of every Christmas decoration you can imagine.  As an annoying Christmas soundtrack blares in your ears, you are forced to be subjected to Cameron’s famed use of slow motion and freeze frames, obviously to improve the runtime and give Kirk more chances to impart his wisdom.  The barely one-hour runtime is also propped up by recycled footage, stock footage, scenes of characters endlessly staring, and even an entire minute of total silence.  Besides all this, the meditation on Christmas is aided by fading out to the same scene several times.  Sets are severely limited to an extravagantly decorated house, a vehicle, and some random outdoor scenes.  We could go on and on, but we would risk becoming as long-winded as Cameron.  Basically, think of the worst possible production scenario in a film, and this would be it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-3 points)

While there is really not plot to speak of, there is plenty of madness to speak of, from its schizophrenic structure to its racial stereotypes.  As Cameron attempts to tie every Westernized holiday tradition back to the Bible with bizarre correlations and to lead the audience in creepy meditation on these objects, we are left to ponder some extremely head-scratching and sometimes disturbing ideas.  For instance, Cameron advocates for outright violence through the less than historically accurate retelling of Saint Nicolas.  If somebody doesn’t agree with you, body-slam them!  Also, when a character brings up the excellent point of the consumerist waste of Christmas, saying that the money could be spent on charitable work instead, Cameron just laughs it off and later encourages Christians to spend all they want on themselves at Christmas time, just to make sure not to ‘max out the credit card’.  But the nonsensical ramblings are not limited to materialistic apologetics—the centerpiece of the film is Cameron’s strange and laughable holiday concepts, such as trying to link nutcrackers to Roman soldiers and Christmas gifts to the New Jerusalem or something.  While he falls further and further down the rabbit hole of forced correlations, he makes light of real issues in his quest to shove his ridiculous worldview down your throat.  There is far too much nonsense in this film to discuss at length here, but the bottom line of Saving Christmas is that Kirk Cameron paints a giant strawman out of people who disagree with his outrageous claims that white Christians should grab all they can at Christmastime while totally disregarding the poor and less fortunate.  His position is indefensible and has no place in Christian film.

Acting Quality (-3 points)

Besides the patriarchal superiority and zany ‘holiday cheer’ displayed by the self-centered Cameron, his costars enablers post performances that will be forever remembered—for all the wrong reasons.  Darren Doane, who tolerated and assisted Cameron in creating this madness for some reason, comes off as a rambling lunatic.  David Shannon is perhaps one of the most self-parodying actors in history.  From start to finish, Saving Christmas will go down in history as one of the worst films ever.

Conclusion

There is no comprehending the twisted mind of Kirk Cameron.  Calling himself a fundamentalist Christian and donning the cape of a hero who claims to stand for religious freedom, Cameron decides to throw off convention again and opt for…advocating for materialistic Christianity?  Seriously, who cares about Christmas ornaments looking like ‘stylized fruit’?  Why do we need to defend and cling to snow globes, nutcrackers, and creepy Santa’s in order to be better Christians?  If this movie is to be believed, there is no difference between westernized Christmas traditions and the Scriptures.  This is wrong on a number of levels.  Saving Christmas is not only a terribly lame attempt at filmmaking, nor is it only a total waste of your time: it is an affront to the ‘true meaning of Christmas’ because it suggests and infers that Christians just need to have a lot of stuff to be happy.  This childish notion has no place in Christian film and Kirk Cameron should no longer be regarded as a legitimate filmmaker.  He has plumbed the depths of horrible film making and has written the proverbial book on how to run a film into the complete ground.  It’s little wonder he has not made a movie since this one.

 

Final Rating: -10 out of 10 points

 

Movies That Are So Bad They’re Not Even Worth Our Time, Part 3 (MTASBTNEWOT 3)

In our vast Christian entertainment viewing experience, we sometimes come upon films that we can hardly justify writing a full review for.  Therefore, for your convenience, so you don’t have to go watch those free films that invade your suggested watch list in on-demand video services, we’ve provided a quick overview here.  Someday we might post more, if we’re fortunate enough to find more.

 

We're drowning in a sea of Mormonism
We’re drowning in a sea of Mormonism

Rescued [2008]

In this special edition of MTASBTNWOT, we examine the three WisenQuest movies that were reproduced by Candlelight Media Group to put a Mormon spin on them.  That’s right: Island of Grace has a twin!  All they had to do was change some of the evangelical themes to Mormon themes.  But also for some bizarre reason, they changed all the names of the cast members, even though they are the same people.  Apparently they thought that by changing the names, you would never know this was the same movie.  How stupid do they think people are?

 

I'm totes converting to Mormonism now
I’m totes converting to Mormonism now

Turn Around [2007]

It’s just like Overcome, but with ‘different’ cast members and Mormon bishops!  Instead of Jaycee Lynn, it’s Jaci Twiss!  Instead of Aaron Brown, it’s Jordon Sorensen!  It’s also based on some kind of Mormon story about Alma the Younger (whoever that is) instead of loosely based on the Apostle Paul.  But does anybody really care?

 

I'm Mormon now!
I’m Mormon now!

Beauty and the Beast: A Latter Day Tale

Once again, Matthew Reese replaces Matthew Davis (not really, they’re the same guy).  This fairytale now has a latter day spin on it!  Seriously people, why would you pretend that it’s a different movie by changing the title and the cast member names but not the character names (oh look at that: they didn’t change Caitlyn E. J. Meyer’s name)?  What’s the point of copying on top of another film just so you can have a version that suits your section of beliefs?  Might as well copy all other Christian films and Mormon-ize them while you’re at it.

 

Well that’s all for now!  Maybe we’ll post another one someday…maybe not…

Belle and the Beast: A Christian Romance (Movie Review)

Please love me, I'm desperate
Please love me, I’m desperate

Plot Summary

Eric Landry is known as a ruthless businessman who stays locked up in his mansion all day yelling at people.  Belle Watson is the nicest, most hard working young woman you can think of.  But when Eric threatens to have Belle’s father fired for breaking some stupid vase, Belle confronts the businessman and strikes a deal with him: she will work for him to pay off her father’s debt, in addition to all the other things she does.  Though they frequently argue, Belle and Eric slowly begin to like each other and this attraction could grow into something more!

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Belle and the Beast is a different than usual production for WisenQuest, but it is still not any good.  The video quality is still grainy and there are odd camera angles.  Audio quality is just okay and the soundtrack is underwhelming.  It seems like every scene uses a different set just for the sake of it, like they actually had a lot of sets at their disposal and they decided to flaunt it.  But it doesn’t help anything, as many of the scenes therein are useless and only expand the movie’s runtime, even though plenty of pertinent details occur off screen.  Thus, in can be inferred that little to no editing took place as a part of this production.  In fact, it’s difficult to understand how and why productions like this one keep getting made.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Beginning with the canned narration sequence at the beginning and ending with an empty and trite attempt at forced romance, Belle and the Beast is scripted and copied from just about any cheesy family-friendly romance you can think of.  Besides the constant shoehorning of ‘beast’ themes and the vague business premise and lingo, there’s the boy meets girl and they don’t like each other scene, the boy and girl have a fight scene, the girl finds something important about the boy’s troubled past scene, the girl complains to her female friend about the boy who she supposedly doesn’t like scene, the boy and girl talk backstory scene, boy and girl have a soft ‘accidental’ romantic scene…need I go on?  I didn’t even cover the boy and girl break up over a misunderstanding caused by the girl’s strawman alternate love interest (pictured above) scene.  Then there’s the obligatory get back together kissing scene.  The stereotypical progression of this plot is downright laughable.  Programmed with stock dialogue, the comical characters are swept up in a grand design far bigger than themselves…it was written in some Hallmark storyboarding room decades ago to be copied by all.  Needless to say, this model never needs to be replicated again.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This stereotypical cast really had no clue how to handle emotional delivery.  The wannabe Hallmark actor Matthew Davis ranges from wild, over-the-top yelling to vanilla line delivery.  Other cast members do a terrible job at trying to be sad.  The acting is overall stiff and empty, and the makeup jobs are typically horrible.  I didn’t even fully cover how the presence of Caitlyn E. J. Meyer in a film totally makes the experience bizarre, but you get the point.

Conclusion

What is to be learned from films like Belle and the Beast or any other WisenQuest work?  There are so many like it on the market; this is just an example of others passed over.  While true love should be portrayed in Christian film, it needs to be done in a manner that is realistic and believable.  Crafting a fantasy tale and trying to call it the real world is just doing a disservice to everyone.  There’s nothing wrong with romance, but please make an attempt at realism.  If you want a blueprint, look to films like Old-Fashioned.  All we can hope is that more like that film will be made in the future.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Overcome [2008] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Colton is a bad boy.  He spray paints churches, defies his passive aggressive parents, makes fun of people for no reason, skips out on work, destroys volleyballs, blends up cell phones, and drinks at parties.  But his drunkenness costs him one night when he and his buddy are driving home drunk and they crash into a fellow student of theirs.  While in the hospital, Colton dies and comes back to life a totally changed man.  He seeks to make amends with Sarah, the girl he crashed into, and tries to help her regain her tennis skills.  The more time they spend together, the more they like each other.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

WisenQuest seems set on generating low quality Christian productions at any cost.  Overcome repeats their usual mistakes, including terrible camera work and low video quality.  Audio quality is also bad, accompanied by a cheesy free soundtrack.  Though outside scenes are a central part of this film, they are executed very poorly—sometimes too bright and other times too dark.  For that matter, sets and locations are very underwhelming and low-effort.  Finally, there is virtually no editing as the production team squeezed everything possible into the runtime to make the movie long enough to be justifiable; more on this will be discussed shortly.  Basically, this is just business as usual for WisenQuest.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Overcome is supposed to be based on the conversion of the Apostle Paul, but the plot has a very weak correlation with the original story.  As previously mentioned, there is very little content to speak of in this plot.  The runtime is padded with tons of childish montages and cheesy awkward conversations.  The dialogue is very staged, thus creating cardboard characters.  Though the writers attempt to take on serious issues of juvenile delinquency, they are ill-equipped to handle them because the issues are portrayed in an immature fashion.  It’s like they’re scared to do anything ‘too controversial’ or ‘too deep’ and thus skate on the surface of everything, never finding any substance.  The ending is anti-climactic and the film is overall yawn-inducing.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Pulling from their usual store of amateur cast members, the Wisenquest team did not see fit to employ any acting coaching.  Some lines are mumbled and most of them come off as overly rehearsed.  Emotions are forced and not believable.  Also, makeup jobs are atrocious.

Conclusion

The team at WisenQuest apparently just decided to spit out some half-hearted ideas in an unprofessional fashion just to contribute to the already-crowded market of wasted Christian films.  With very little content to speak of and a tiny correlation with a Biblical account, Overcome is as forced as a movie comes.  This is called making a movie for the sake of making one.  No thought was put into quality.  This film will just take its place among the myriad of failed Christian films before and after it.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

One Night With the King {The Call of Destiny} (Movie Review)

 

This costume is awfully heavy
This costume is awfully heavy
Quick! I need more eyeliner!
Quick! I need more eyeliner!

Plot Summary

The story of Esther is a Cinderella story of the ancient world.  Ordered by the king to audition to be his new queen, the young Hadassah, a devout Jewess, is reluctant to go.  Her uncle Mordecai encourages her to go in the Lord’s strength, but to conceal her Jewish identity for her safety.  Forced to undergo a year of beauty treatments before seeing the king, Esther forms a bond with the eunuch in charge of the process, who quickly discovers that she is different from the other girls.  But little does Esther know that she is about to be swept up into a bigger plan to save her people—a plan that only Yahweh could orchestrate.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

In the era of Fox Faith, money was certainly spent on some aspects of production, such as camera work and video quality.  The audio quality is also passable, and the soundtrack is slightly intriguing.  However, there are many other negative production elements that detract from this, such as weird special effects.  While time is obviously spent on the sets, locations, and props, there is an air of great extravagance in every part of this production.  Everything is taken to an ornate extreme; over-decoration clutters the sets.  This is a unique problem as they spent their money in the wrong ways.  As for the editing, it is also overdone in an attempt to be very dramatic.  Some scenes are replayed over and over again from different angles, just for dramatic flair.  Many scenes drag on too long, trying to drive a theatrical point home.  As will be covered next, time is spent in all the wrong ways.  While the funds were obviously present to make this a great production, they were grossly misappropriated.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

For starters, narration is used far too much to fill the gaps of this plot that the writers did not feel like filling with substantial content.  As previously mentioned, some portions of the storyline are rushed while others have too much time spent on them.  The historical account of Esther is altered in some ways for the convenience of the plot, even though the two-hour runtime proves they have no time constraints.  Instead, the writers crowd out real content with embellishment and the frivolous pursuit of meaningless subplots.  Trivial asides that have nothing to do with the original story are given far too much screen time.  Though there is some positive to find here in the complexity of the storyline, it is far too complex to the point that it cannot be easily understood.  Petty and unimportant events are portrayed as extremely dramatic as the writers squeeze forced drama out of everything.  The dialogue is empty and confusing, thus creating bland and mindless characters.  This is such a disappointment because the resources were here to make a truly great movie, but they were greatly squandered.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

We are all for casting unknowns, but with the money this team had to spend, couldn’t they have found a more professional cast?  The acting is very empty and it seems like no coaching is present.  Some lines are over-pronounced and over-enunciated, while others are mumbled.  Emotions are not believable but instead are over-dramatized.  But the money was spent on other things, of course, such as over-the-top makeup jobs.  Most of the main characters have a different extravagant costume for every scene.  The one positive to note here is that at least the cast is mixed-race rather than all British, but that’s about it.

Conclusion

Branded as a Biblical epic, One Night With the King had the tools available to it to be truly great.  Had the money been spent properly, we could be placing this film on the Hall of Fame.  Had the complex plot been honed better and the historical elements been properly handled and portrayed, we would be applauding this effort rather than denouncing it.  The lesson that can be learned from this experience is that it’s not the money you have, it’s how you spend it.  Just throwing money at a production doesn’t cut it.  It takes true talent to spend money wisely and know when to stop.  Yet frugality was not a word in this creative team’s vocabulary.  Next time, stop trying to impress us with shining objects and focus on substance.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Island of Grace [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

While in route on a business trip, Mark, Megan, and Chris survive a plane crash in the south Pacific and find themselves stranded on an abandoned island.  Forced to fend for themselves in the wild, they wonder if anyone will ever find them.  Megan finds herself torn between the two men as she tries to conceal her Christian faith to impress Mark, even though Chris, an outspoken Christian, does not want her to.  In the end, they will all have decisions to make that will impact their lives forever.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

While the effort is nice to film at a different than usual location, namely an island, this choice actually does more harm than good.  This is mostly due to the extremely loud and constant outdoor background noise in the island scenes, which mostly consists of incessant wave and waterfall noises.  Besides this, other sets are quite limited and the usage of props is cheesy.  The video quality is below average and the camera work uninspiring.  Besides the terrible audio quality previously mentioned, the soundtrack is very pedestrian.  Finally, there is no editing present—what you see is what you get.  Despite the unique concept behind the film, there was little to no justification for this film being made.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though this plot is trying to depict a serious survival situation, this idea is treated flippantly as a majority of the movie is spent hashing out a superficial high school love triangle while on a deserted island.  Important issues are portrayed in a petty way and are overshadowed by silly relationship issues.  Thus, the content is very shallow, as is the dialogue.  Even though the plot focuses on primarily three characters for over an hour, we don’t get to know any of them very well—they are just people reciting lines and being swept along by circumstances.  There are no plot twists and the ending is as superficial as the rest of the storyline.  In short, what started out as an interesting idea quickly devolved into unimportant fluff.

Acting Quality (0 points)

With the tiny amateur cast that carries the movie on their shoulders, they needed to come through, but they did not.  Coaching is obviously absent as line delivery is very lackluster.  Emotional delivery is plastic and uninspiring.  Costuming is okay but nothing groundbreaking.  The bottom line is that this film failed in every category.

Conclusion

We kind of feel sorry for the creators of Island of Grace because they could be nice people.  Unfortunately, another film with another petty portrayal of relationships is not what the market needs, especially if it’s trying to depict a survival situation.  This genre should be gritty and suspenseful, not light and laughable.  If God gives you the opportunity to make a film, you should leave it all on the field and make a mark on the field.  This is what mainly frustrates us—film makers not taking their calling seriously, because it is certainly a calling if God has given you the opportunity to create.  Please do not take it lightly and seek to make a difference.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

2 to Tangle [2013] (Movie Review)

I think you mean the 'coincidence of faith'
I think you mean the ‘coincidence of faith’

Plot Summary

Jessica finds herself torn between dumping her no-account boyfriend Tom and trying to fix him.  But then the unthinkable happens (one hour into the film): Tom tragically dies in a car accident, leaving Jessica and his family heartbroken.  But then Tom starts appearing to Jessica after his death.  Is she being haunted by an apparition masquerading as her dead boyfriend?  Is she going crazy and seeing things?  She will have to find out if she ever expects life to go back to normal.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Starting off, this production is less than quality, to say the least.  The camera work is very shaky and the video quality is quite grainy.  Audio quality is inconsistent, especially in the outdoor scenes, and the soundtrack is very cheap-sounding.  The sets and locations are amateurish and the lighting is terrible in a majority of the scenes.  The fades and transitions between the scenes are very awkward, sometimes cutting off characters before they are done talking.  For that matter, all of the editing is quite choppy, sometimes making scenes drag on too long and sometimes not allowing scenes to run their full course.  In other words, while money was obviously tight with this effort, there was little to no justification for creating it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

If you watch the trailer for 2 to Tangle, it partially spoils the ‘suspenseful’ plot twist this film pretends to conceal.  But if you watch the movie for roughly twenty minutes, the entire ‘twist’ is full revealed without leaving anything to the imagination.  Besides this, the ‘twist’ isn’t even realistic or feasible in the real world.  While there is quite a bit of content in this overall cheap creation, it’s just a bunch of shallow subplots spliced together with no real coherent thought.  Many elements defy logic and sense, including juvenile ‘coincidences’.  There are too many bizarre tangents and rabbit trails that do nothing except expose the wacked out worldview of the writers.  This film’s characters are extremely immature in their behavior and spout empty, programmed dialogue.  Furthermore, the ending is anti-climactic and trumped up.  Basically, 2 to Tangle is a ‘clever’ idea gone awry.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The creators of this film likely just cast some of their friends and people they knew, because it’s a horrible casting job.  While there’s nothing wrong with amateur casts, coaching must always be present for it to make any sense.  An actor playing two different characters should rarely be done.  Line delivery in this film is wooden and forced.  Emotions are very empty, even when the characters are working overtime to make us believe they are happy or sad.  It just doesn’t work.

Conclusion

What do the makers of films like 2 to Tangle really expect?  To make a truly great movie, regardless of the size of your budget, you have to put thought into what you do.  If God has called you to make a movie, then He will give you the resources you need to make a great one, but you have to put forth work and effort.  Independent film making is a tough business and sometimes unrewarding, but putting in the work and prayer to make a quality film pays dividends.  Movies like 2 to Tangle just seem disingenuous and lackadaisical, which is the last thing we need in the field of Christian film.  Next time, please give it a little more thought, because the reputation of Christian film lives and breathes by you.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

Beyond the Heavens [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Oliver Henry wonders what is really out there, beyond the stars in the night sky.  Ever since the tragic death of his brother, his family has never been the same.  But that has only made Oliver all the more curious about the true nature of reality.  So when a mysterious man comes to town and reads to the local kids after school every day, Oliver finds himself drawn to the man’s unique outlook on life.  Though his mother is skeptical of everything the strange man does, Oliver looks deeper and deeper into his claims and into how others view reality.  What he finds is not what he expected, but is exactly what he was looking for.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Echolight Studios is known for its quality productions, and Beyond the Heavens is no exception.  The camera work is professional, as is the video quality.  However, lighting is inconsistent throughout, with some scenes being too dark.  Audio quality is fine but the soundtrack is uninspiring.  There is an odd use of special effects and overlays in an attempt to make the movie mysterious.  Unfortunately, this also contributes to the editing being confusing and isolating.  Therefore, once again, Echolight has the potential to go all the way, but does not.  Needless to say, this does not only apply to the production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Beyond the Heavens is a very ethereal and mystical experience, one unlike any other movie we have reviewed.  However, this is not a good thing.  The ‘plot’ is very unclear and murky, consisting of vague and meandering ideas and cryptic dialogue.  It’s like Corbin Bernson is winking at the audience with every scene, waiting to reveal some great secret, but it’s never revealed.  The whole has a very tip-of-the-tongue feel, like the characters know something you don’t but never intend to let you in on the secret.  As the characters wax eloquent and philosophize about the true nature of reality, the viewer is left, in the end, with a more confusing view of reality than before.  Is Bernson advocating for or against Darwinism?  Is he a creationist?  Does he really believe that angels come to earth on the tails of comets?  Is Bernson suggesting that reality is not what it seems?  If so, what is his view of reality?  Only God knows the answers to these questions as Bernson spends 90 minutes toying with his ‘big reveal’ and dancing around whatever his philosophical worldview is.  It’s basically just a waste of your time.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast is mostly average in their delivery.  Some acting coaching is present, but some cast behavior is head-scratching.  There are too many unnecessary emotional swings.  However, costuming is appropriate.  Overall, this is just an average performance.

Conclusion

What is to be made of Corbin Bernsen?  What is his place in Christian film?  Is he trolling?  Is he a great mind misunderstood?  Whether it’s abstract musings like Beyond the Heavens or half-hearted satire like Christian Mingle or In-Lawfully Yours, Bernsen’s motivations for making Christian films are very unclear.  It’s possible that he’s smarter than us all and doesn’t know how to show it.  But it’s also possible that he’s just trying to make a quick buck off of Christian audiences.  Reality is probably somewhere in between.  Regardless, Beyond the Heavens really needed to be rethought before anyone spent money on it, because it falls flat and is unable to properly convey whatever message it is trying to present.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Movies That Are So Bad They’re Not Even Worth Our Time, Part 2 (MTASBTNEWOT 2)

In our vast Christian entertainment viewing experience, we sometimes come upon films that we can hardly justify writing a full review for.  Therefore, for your convenience, so you don’t have to go watch those free films that invade your suggested watch list in on-demand video services, we’ve provided a quick overview here.  Someday we might post more, if we’re fortunate enough to find more.

 

Our reaction to this film
Our reaction to this film

Heaven’s Door

Travel to a magical fantasy land where Dean Cain, that odd girl from Your Love Never Fails, and some other C-grade cast members discover the truth about the afterlife.  When the kid from the previously mentioned Hallmark movie accidentally kicks a soccer ball into a tree, she discovers that the tree actually holds a portal into the heavenly dimension.  If you don’t believe her, then shame on you.  Anyways, one thing leads to another and the girl’s psychic grandmother reveals to her that she talks to the girl’s unborn sibling (who died in a miscarriage) about how the portal will save her family from splitting apart or something.  It’s sort of like the teenage David A. R. White from Second Glance trying to save his family, but not really.  In the end, they all have to learn that talking to the dead will tell you the future and that this is somehow a Christian movie[/sarcasm].  If you don’t agree with this movie’s message, then you’re the Grinch who stole Hallmark cards.

 

Who knows what this cover is trying to convey
Who knows what this cover is trying to convey

This is the Day

With films like these, we can see why garbage like Princess Cut wins awards at film festivals.  If you can watch this film for five minutes without going batty from the incessant banging background ‘soundtrack’ and the constant fidgeting of several cast members, you can learn that the poor dying man lying in the bed with the trophy has cancer and he needs some seaweed to cure him.  Also, he needs his friend to find his daughter for him.  Any other dialogue was totally lost on us as we could not understand it due to the ‘soundtrack’.  God only knows what this nonsense is trying to convey.

 

Crosspoint

Most readers will probably never even find this ‘lost’ film as it was exclusively sold at a local church (we reserve the right to not disclose how we came upon a copy).  Basically, some lawyer guy likes to ride motorcycles with the ‘guys’ and his wife wants him to go to church and spend time with their son.  But he decides to ride one last time and his son goes out on a dangerous bike and crashes (offscreen) and ends up in the church hallway hospital under the care of a local mafia leader rich guy pretending to be a doctor[/insidejoke].  There’s not really much to be learned here since it’s so short and shallow; the acting is so bad that this can barely be classified as a movie.  We just had to include here for reasons.

 

Well that’s all for now!  Maybe we’ll post another one someday…maybe not…

Priceless [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

James never intended to become a bad man, but he slowly slipped into a destructive lifestyle after his wife tragically died.  After losing custody of his daughter and being convicted of crime, James finds himself desperate for cash.  He agrees to help a ‘buddy’ out by hauling unknown cargo across the country to an unknown buyer, no questions asked.  But just before he reaches his destination, curiosity gets the best of him and he breaks the lock to see what is inside the box truck he has been driving for days.  Inside, he finds two young women in squalid condition and is faced with the ultimate moral choice: does he complete the job for the cash or does he break protocol and face consequences?

 

Production Quality (3 points)

It is refreshing and encouraging that there are new Christian film makers coming onto the scene every year to contribute to a growing army of creative minds ready to redeem the field once and for all.  2016 has been a year for many film makers to try to make their mark, but Priceless stands alone from them all, starting with exquisite production quality.  Shot on location (there’s a concept!) with professional camera work and angles, Priceless has all the goods.  Video quality is excellent, including diverse lighting done right.  Audio quality is flawless and the original soundtrack is an epic breath of fresh air.  Sets and locations are extremely realistic; outdoor scenes are executed well.  There are no editing problems.  There are few times we have an opportunity to say this: there are no production errors in this film.  The production is easily one of the best for a rookie effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Unlike the failed Caged No More, which portrays human trafficking in a far-off location away from ‘safe’ America, Priceless shoves the issue in your face—in the middle of small town America and American suburbia.  Though the beginning sequence is a bit rushed and the narration is heavy-handed, there are no errors beyond this.  The flawed character arcs are inspiring; we really feel like we can relate to the struggles of the characters.  Dialogue is effective in building the excellent storyline, as is the use of flashbacks.  The plot itself is very gritty and down to earth; there are no unbelievable elements or plot holes.  The Christian message is neither in-your-face nor muted, but is presented tastefully.  Edgy elements are handled properly.  The creators did all they could do with this plot, including a slight plot twist and an appropriate ending.  In short, except for some minor rookie errors, this is a plot to be proud of.  It not only presents the human trafficking problem to the audience in a realistic way, but it does so with authentic characters and an engaging storyline.  We can’t wait to see more from the Smallbones.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Taking a page from the Kendrick\Erwin playbook, the Smallbone team employed acting coaching and it paid off.  Though the cast is small, they carry the movie well.  In Priceless, Joel Smallbone finally became vindicated for past uninspiring performances that were likely the consequence of poor leadership in those films.  Bianca Santos is a very promising actress for the future.  Emotions are very believable and line delivery is on point.  Costuming is appropriate.  In short, there are no errors here.

Conclusion

Priceless receives an x-factor point for presenting a highly important issue in an exquisite manner.  While watching this film, I was reminded that this is why we do what we do.  Christian film makers who care use their God-given talents to create movies that make a difference in the culture.  Similarly, we feel God has called us to critique the Christian creative so that hopefully the field will improve as a whole.  Enslaved girls is why we do this.  Lost souls is why we do this.  Mobilizing activism is why we do this.  Making a difference is why we do this.  Under such films as Priceless (and other Hall of Fame films) can we unite for a common cause and no longer remember the days of failed low-quality Christian movies.  Budding film makers like Ben Smallbone and his team are lighting the way and giving us hope for a new day in Christian film.  Since this is how he has debuted, we cannot wait to see what he has to offer next.

 

Final Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points

 

Unexpected Places [2012] (Movie Review)

Is that another Christian film group calling?

Plot Summary

Pam likes to control her life.  She likes to persuade her boss to give her more power in the workplace and she likes to control the lives of her sons, even though she doesn’t agree with all their choices.  One son, a delinquent druggie, is sent to live with her and her husband so that he can begin to turn his life around.  The other son is living with his girlfriend and their child, with another on the way.  Pam wants her life to look nice and neat on the outside, so she takes steps in her own strength to make this a reality.  However, she quickly discovers that she cannot do everything and that she needs to look to God for her strength.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, there is nothing positive to point out in this film.  From low quality video to terrible audio quality to shaky camera work, this one is a doozy.  Lighting is bad in a majority of the scenes, and the sets are very cheap-looking.  An annoying Hallmark soundtrack clanks the entire time, sometimes louder than the dialogue.  Transitions between scenes are very abrupt and some scenes appear to be missing.  This horrid editing job is basically just cut and paste—even if it means key information is cut off or left out.  It really seems like this crew had no idea what they were doing.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

We’re at a loss as to what this movie is even about.  With confusing dialogue filled with abstract figures and workplace lingo, it’s like the characters are malfunctioning robots.  The protagonist herself comes off a very dense and not connected to reality, even though she’s very serious about what she does.  The subplots are disjointed and appear pasted together from multiple different movie ideas.  The conflict therein is mindless and isolating; audiences are not able to connect with the struggles of the characters.  With no focus or main point, the storyline comes down to an empty ending that teaches a dangerous half-truth, which will be discussed at the end of this review.  Essentially, there was little reason for this idea to be approved for filming, let alone release.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Crystal Creek Media has a penchant for casting very wooden actors and actresses.  There is nothing wrong with using amateurs and they can certainly be coached, but coaching does not exist in Crystal Creek Media’s budget.  Cast members are emotionless throughout the film, delivering uninspiring monotone lines, like they’re reading from cue cards.  I’m sure they meant well, but it doesn’t show.

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, Unexpected Places simply does not properly deliver whatever message it is trying to convey.  What’s worse, the ending preaches a very dangerous idea: that when someone becomes a Christian, their life is automatically turned around in every aspect.  There is no question that when someone is saved by surrendering to Jesus, their life is totally transformed.  Yet this film appears to suggest that salvation takes away all of a person’s sin struggles; this is something that may confuse and frustrate those new to the faith.  In the end, few will find this film even fully watchable, which is just another testament to the sad state of Christian film.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Movies That Are So Bad They’re Not Even Worth Our Time, Part 1 (MTASBTNEWOT 1)

In our vast Christian entertainment viewing experience, we sometimes come upon films that we can hardly justify writing a full review for.  Therefore, for your convenience, so you don’t have to go watch those free films that invade your suggested watch list in on-demand video services, we’ve provided a quick overview here.  Someday we might post more, if we’re fortunate enough to find more.

 

Yep, that about sums up this 'film'
Yep, that about sums up this ‘film’

The Young Believers

If you want to see the cheapest church skit ever, view this gem.  Starring less than fifteen cast members, a majority of the scenes consist of the four main characters awkwardly standing in front of a wall or a fence.  They spit out preprogrammed lines that demonstrate an isolationist Christian view of the world, as well as the world record for the usage of the word ‘dude’.  There are more production errors that can be counted and the acting is just horrific.  With no real plot to speak of, we decided that it didn’t warrant a full review.

 

Our thoughts exactly
Our thoughts exactly

Raising Izzie

Borderline Christian films are the worst.  Are they trying to be Christian or are they trying to make fun of it?  Who knows.  Regardless, this film depicts one of the most bizarre versions of Christianity we have ever seen, complete with magic blankets.  Characters scream at each other in the most annoying ways and you really never know what’s coming next.  The plot is based on such weird pretzel logic regarding child custody that we don’t even know who to believe on this one.  Anyways, just steer clear.

 

What you see is what you get
What you see is what you get

On Angel’s Wings

This one escaped from the Disney channel for sure.  Featuring a teenage girl with first world problems conversing with the reincarnation of Peter Pan (yes, there is an actual flying scene in this film), this one is a real drug trip doozy sprinkled with Christian themes.  Replete with music videos to the tune of free background music, this film is obviously disingenuous and one big joke, boasting one of the most half-hearted casts ever.  Only watch this one if you feel like a laugh.