The Sound of the Spirit (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rivka and her father are Messianic Jews, but when her father dies, she must go live with her aunt and uncle, who still follow Orthodox Judaism and do not believe Jesus is the Messiah.  As the time approaches for Rivka’s Bat Mitzvah, she becomes increasingly divided as to which path she is supposed to follow.  As she meets different people and tries to keep ties to her father’s friends, she will have to decide if she will try to please her aunt and uncle or follow Jesus.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

The only two positive qualities in The Sound of the Spirit pertain to production, and they are the clear video quality and the pretty good camera work.  However, there is literally nothing else good to say about this movie.  The audio quality is deplorable, including a blaring soundtrack and loud background noises.  The sets and locations are very limited and cheap.  Finally, the editing is nonexistent as this two-hour film is filled with wasted time and the same things happening over and over again.  Unfortunately, the negativity doesn’t stop there.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As previously mentioned, it feels like the one-dimensional characters of The Sound of the Spirit continually have the same meandering conversations over and over again as literally nothing is accomplished for two hours.  Even so, the dialogue therein is disjointed and the subplots are very confusing.  Things happen because they need to as the viewer is forced to constantly witness obscure Jewish concepts and conflicts as the non-Messianic\Messianic Jew split is forced down your throat over and over again.  This could have been an interesting idea if the isolating ideas were explained better, but as it is, it’s very hard to follow or understand.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is full of tons of offbeat cast members and unfortunate Jewish stereotypes.  Their emotions are incongruent and they constantly talk over each other.  Line delivery is either forceful or robotic to the point that it sounds like someone is dragging the words out of them.  Needless to say, this was a total fail.

Conclusion

The Sound of the Spirit had the opportunity to showcase a unique and intriguing topic in Christian film—Messianic Judaism.  But audiences will only come away from this film frustrated and some Jews may find it offensive.  We have no idea who these characters are except flat stereotypes and their conflicts are isolating.  We needed to be able to understand and appreciate their struggles, but we never got the chance.  It’s just another disappointing day in Christian film.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

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Unidentified [2006] (Movie Review)

Strange invaders…

Plot Summary

Keith and Brad work for a magazine that is more prominent its own mind and when they are sent by their supervisor to investigate some UFO claims in some obscure small town in Texas, they can’t believe it.  They think it’s all pointless, especially when the locals refuse to talk about the sightings.  But when their friend Darren invites them to take a different look at the UFO phenomena, their whole world is turned upside down.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Sometimes the Christiano brothers put together a respectable production, but not in Unidentified.  The okay camera work is the only positive quality to speak of.  The video quality is quite cheap and there are too many cheesy special effects littering the film.  Though the plot goes all over the country, the sets and locations are fairly limited and mostly focus on the office set.  Finally, the editing is extremely choppy in a failed attempt to be dramatic.  In short, there are not enough redeeming qualities to make up for the rest of the nonsense in this movie.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

The Christiano brothers might as well have not even tried to make this a fiction plot, because it’s mainly a docu-drama filled with regurgitated UFO documentary talking points.  There are tons of disjointed subplots that are nearly impossible to follow and that are based entirely on coincidences.  Things happen because they need to as the dialogue is filled with information dumps and consists of long and drawn out conversations.  There is also tons of off-screen content.  A clear agenda is being pushed here, placing this plot in the propaganda category.  Even though there may be some truth to what is being said here, it comes off as disingenuous and is mostly clouded with legalism.  As usual, opposing worldviews are treated offensively, thus warranting negative points.  Finally, this film has the weirdest end since Decision that you have to see to believe.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Except for a few small positive elements, this cast is very unprofessional.  It’s not only a very awkward cast, but they are not coached very well at all.  Their line delivery and emotional delivery are overly practiced and robotic.  Some cast members come off as lofty.  In short, this rounds out a very embarrassing effort.

Conclusion

It is clear that the Christiano brothers have a legalistic agenda to push both in this film and in others like Time Changer and A Matter of Faith.  The sad thing is that spiritual issues like the ones alluded to in Unidentified need to be discussed on Christian film, yet people like the Christianos are the only ones who seem to do this, and always in the wrong way.  There is some truth to the UFO phenomena, but no one is going to learn it from this film.  Unidentified only serves to further solidify a Pharisaical and sometimes bizarre image in Christian film, especially Christian sci-fi, which is a needed genre.  Who will stand up to reverse this trend?

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Final: The Rapture (Movie Review)

Making international calls on a deserted island

Plot Summary

In an instant, millions disappear in what Christians call the Rapture.  This leaves the planet in total chaos and unrest.  The lives of four people are followed as they experience the fallout from this cataclysmic event.  A rich football player in America wrestles with the fact that his wife has disappeared.  An atheist professor finds himself stranded on a deserted island after his plane crashes.  A girl from Argentina cannot remember what happened to her as she tries to piece the events of her life back together.  A businessman from Tokyo wonders if his Christian friends were right about the end of the world.  They will all have to struggle to survive in this new world.

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

It’s hard to remember the last time we saw a production this annoyingly horrible.  For starters, the camera work and video quality are medieval, like the whole thing was recorded on a flip phone.  The audio quality is perhaps the worst we have ever heard, from a loud soundtrack, to audio constantly cutting in and out, to distorted screeching dialogue, and to incessant background noises and cheap sound effects.  The sets, locations, and props are very amateurish and cheap-looking.  Finally, whoever edited this disaster should have quit to save their reputation since they had virtually nothing to work with.  The film is very choppy and jumps all over the place, sometimes recycled old footage and sometimes using black and white footage randomly.  The viewer is constantly reminded of the location and time through subtitles since there is no other way to understand what’s going on.  In short, this is likely one of the worst productions in the all-time history of film making.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The plot can do nothing to redeem this trainwreck, since there is very little real content to speak of.  Filled with obvious dialogue and stiff, robotic characters, the storyline has zero continuity as random subplots jump all over the place and meander aimlessly.  The characters are either obnoxious strawmen or cultural stereotypes.  There are many bizarre asides, moments of unintentional comedy, and random things that just happen.  Also, as expected, Final copies the typical apocalyptic plot progression but makes it their own by zooming through it at breakneck speed before crashing with a nonsensical end that is somehow supposed to be continued.  In other words, this is Left Behind 2014 on steroids (or is it actually the other way around?).

Acting Quality (-1 points)

As these amateur cast members screech, squeal, and scream their way through this disarray, they either come off as lackluster or singsong.  They are generally very obnoxious and over the top, obviously lacking coaching as they forcefully deliver their lines and emotions.  We are unsure who is to blame for their ear-piercing delivery—the audio quality or the cast members themselves.  Any way you cut it, it’s a mess.

Conclusion

With such low quality everything, what possessed the creators to make this garbage?  Did they really think that they were going to make more of these, as this is presumably the first in an obligatory unfinished apocalyptic series?  This is hands-down one of the most absurdly low quality films of all time, to the point that it should have been made it through post-production.  The entirety of this wreckage should have been scrapped and never used again.  It’s things like this film that drive us crazy.

 

Final Rating: -2 out of 10 points

The Young Messiah (Movie Review)

I’m British!

Plot Summary

According to some fake historical accounts written down in pseudepigraphical infancy gospels, while the British boy Jesus lived in British Egypt, he supposedly had no idea that He was God in the flesh as His family ‘concealed’ His true identity from Him.  Stalked by Satan, British Jesus accidentally raised people from the dead and healed them.  But when British Herod sent a British Centurion to kill the little British Messiah, young British Jesus must discover who He is before it’s too late.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Despite its glaring flaws, The Young Messiah does have good production merits, which is becoming the new baseline of Christian film.  Camera work and video quality are obviously professional, except for a few strange moments of weird camera angles.  The audio quality is fine but the soundtrack leaves something to be desired.  The sets and locations are mostly realistic.  However, there are some editing issues pertaining to useless scenes and generally confusing plot development.  Overall, this is a respectable effort and lends to the new normal of Christian film, which is quality productions.  However, it gets worse from here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

I don’t care what your theology is—if you believe that Jesus was fully God and fully man from birth, then there’s no way you can believe that the young Jesus had zero clue what He was supposed to do on earth or that Mary could conceal anything from Him.  What is the actual point of constructing an entire plot around keeping a ‘secret’ from God Himself?  Even without this issue, this plot is meandering, useless, and without focus as it jumps from one sensational scene to the next.  With tons of extra-Biblical, questionable, and even borderline explicit content, The Young Messiah has an overall dark feel to it and an unhealthy addiction to sadistic violence.  Bizarre spiritual elements are also present as this film has a typical obsession with Satan, who is mostly portrayed as smarter than Jesus.  Perhaps the entire motivation for making this mess should be reexamined.  With no truly redemptive qualities to speak of and an offensive portrayal of Christ, this plot warrants negative points.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

Obviously the standard for slapping together a Bible film is to put out a casting call for people who sound like they stepped out of a Charles Dickens novel.  There’s nothing wrong with cockney British accents, mind you, as long as they are kept in their proper place, like Jane Austen movies and such.  But why, can anyone tell me, do movie creators feel the need to endlessly cast Roman and Middle Eastern figures as WHITE BRITISH PEOPLE?!  It effects everything—not just the accents—but even the out-of-place culture-specific references like ‘hubbub’.  Besides this, costuming and makeup is generally weird and line delivery is overly dramatic.  Any good hidden here is totally overshadowed by all things BRITISH.

Conclusion

If you’re going to make a Biblical movie, first why do you feel the need to cast an entirely and extremely BRITISH cast?  Second, why not portray a clearly written story from Scripture rather than some made up garbage from a false historical source (see pseudepigrapha and Infancy Gospels)?  It’s not like we’re running out of Bible stories to choose from for movies.  And we’re certainly not at an international shortage for Middle Eastern cast members as some have shown.  Even if you’re not going to cast totally Middle Eastern people, can’t you at least have them learn different accents?  Some actors conceal their accents for some roles because that’s their job.  Can’t we respect the Bible enough, at least as a historical document, and attempt some authenticity?  Finally, if you don’t care to portray Jesus and Satan properly, don’t make a movie about them, KTHXBYE.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

The Mark of the Lion Miniseries: A Summary

vcewind

A Voice in the Wind is the epic first novel in Francine River’s The Mark of the Lion Trilogy, this book covers topics such as starvation, slavery, captivity, persecution, a forbidden romance, family relationships, arranged marriages, secrets, sinful lifestyles, and deception. The beginning scene features a young girl and her starving family who are hiding in their home from the siege overtaking their homeland. One by one they die from starvation or cruelty, all except for Hadassah, who is captured and taken to Rome as a slave. She is purchased by a rich and influential family as a personal maid for their spoiled teenage daughter Julia, who cares for nothing but amusing herself. Hadassah begins to fall in love with Julia’s older brother Marcus, however, she is ashamed of her feelings for him, as he is not a Christian. The story begins to weave together the lives of the Valerians with Hadassah’s, creating a strong foundation for future installments in the series. The plot also introduces us to the third main character, Atretes, a young German chieftan who is captured by the Romans and put into service as a gladiator. Atretes hates his circumstances and makes sure that everyone around him is as miserable as he is. Eventually he decides that the only way out of the arena is to try to earn his freedom. A Voice in the Wind closes on a note of suspense, leaving Hadassah lying near death in the same arena where much of the novel occurs. How did she get there? You’ll have to read the book to find out.:) A Voice in the Wind gives a gritty and correct portrayal of Roman life, which featured all the pleasures the world could offer, and seemingly none of the consequences. This novel would serve as the perfect beginning for an epic Bible miniseries, if done correctly.

echodrknss

The second epic novel in this miniseries is titled An Echo in the Darkness, this book deals with subjects such as sickness, near-death experiences, sacrifice, bitterness, the consequences of sin, love, salvation, and the healing power of God. The opening scene of An Echo in the Darkness features a young physician named Alexander who has been assigned to preform examinations on the dead and dying captives who come through the arena. His first subject happens to be Hadassah, who has been torn nearly to pieces by the lions. He debates whether or not to let her die or try to save her, in the end, compassion wins out, and God uses him to save her life.  They become friends, and she decides to remain in his home/treatment center as his personal assistant/nurse. Alexander soon discovers that God has given Hadassah the power to heal others through prayer. This fact not only brings him more business, but notoriety. Meanwhile, Marcus, who witnessed Hadassah’s apparent death in the arena, tries to comfort himself by traveling to her homeland and learning of her God. There is only one problem, he finds that this brings him no comfort or closure, only more grief. Julia, Hadassah’s former mistress, is reaping the consequences of living an immoral lifestyle. Eventually she and Hadassah’s paths cross again, and Hadassah becomes her servant for the second time, however, Julia does not recognize her identity, as Hadassah wears veils to conceal her scars. Atretes is more of a background character in this novel, as only one thing changes in his life. An Echo in the Darkness ends on a bittersweet note. What happens? You’ll have to read the book to find out.:)

suredawn

The third and final novel, As Sure as the Dawn, focuses entirely on Atretes. This book deals with subjects such as spiritual warfare, family relationships, sacrificial love, war, peace, suffering, salvation, turmoil, reconciliation, and the mercy of God. The content of this novel is best left for the reader to decipher for themselves, as it deals with many topics that some may not feel comfortable with. In my opinion, As Sure is the Dawn is a powerful book, and probably one of the best novels on spiritual warfare that I have ever read. The biggest difficulty that someone would have while making this miniseries would be finding exceptional cast members to play the various main characters and background roles. If someone does decide to undertake this challenging project, and we certainly hope that they do, they would have to be prepared to dedicate at least a year to each installment of the series. This is the only way to ensure that quality, rather than quantity, is achieved. God has given Francine Rivers an amazing gift, and we here at Box Office Revolutionary believe that it is a gift that needs to be shared with the world.

 

Me and You, Us Forever (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Dave is left behind and divorced by his wife, he begins to think about what could have been.  As he begins to pine after an old high school girlfriend of his, one of his friends advises Dave to go to a church support group for divorced people.  There he meets a creepy woman who takes it upon herself to vicariously live Dave’s life and to help him in going back to meet the old girlfriend he’s pining after.  As Dave finally plans to go meet her, the suspense builds as he drives back and forth outside her house and borderline stalks her.  Will he ever get to talk to her again?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

This awkwardly-titled film has one good merit, and this is some production quality.  While the video quality and camera work are good, as well as some of the sets, it’s beyond us why anyone would spend money on such a useless piece of entertainment.  Audio quality is also okay, but the soundtrack is snore-inducing.  There was clearly no editing in this film as tons of useless and empty footage was included, probably in an effort to make this painful slog longer than it was.  Besides a few production high marks (which should be standard), this movie is all downhill from here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In perhaps the most useless and pathetic plot we have ever seen, immature conflicts dominate the silly dialogue as a bunch of middle aged people whine about what could have been in high school.  As the scenes progress from melancholy to melodramatic to boring, nothing really happens as we are forced to witness Dave drive around, go to work, talk on the phone, go to support group, and hang out with a creepy and desperate woman.  Sometimes there are huge gaps without a single spoken word as characters just stare at things while the piano music plays.  Besides all this, there is no way to make this sort of plot interesting or palatable, so why make it at all?

Acting Quality (0 points)

As usual for Christiano casts, the cast members are overly practiced in their line delivery.  The emotions are empty and they generally leave much to be desired.  Unfortunately, the cast is so small, there is really no potential here.

Conclusion

What was even the point of making this plot?  The idea literally has no potential and is so absurd that we have to question whether going after (married!) old flames should even be encouraged among Christians.  Was this really all the Christiano brothers could come up with?  We would expect something much more sanctimonious and pious than this.  Where is the potential in watching a middle aged man pine after his old girlfriend, who’s now married?  Don’t even get me started about using divorce support groups as a dating service.  We can’t even comprehend the motive behind this film and must just leave it as a useless movie you shouldn’t waste your time on.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

Divination [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jason and Jessica are a young married couple excited to be having their first child.  But soon after they discover the good news, they begin being tormented by strange people and beings.  Jason cannot stop seeing evil spirits in his mind.  A spiritual battle based on ‘intel’ ensues as angels and demons battle over the minds of this young couple.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Though the cheesy opening credits sequence suggests that Divination was meant to be the first in a series, that was thankfully not the case.  On the whole, this production is a mess, starting with strange video quality and shaky camera work that looks like it’s from a camcorder.  The audio quality is inconsistent and full of echoes, including weird sound effects.  Lighting is poor in many of the limited sets.  To top things off, there are tons of terrible special effects and CGI used throughout the film.  Basically, this is a horrid effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Besides the fact that there are too many things going on in this so-called storyline, it’s filled with purposely creepy spiritual elements.  There are many bizarre elements and twists and turns that defy logic and sense.  The plot is very in-your-face and obvious when it comes to the demonic and spends far too much time focusing on demons.  In other areas, the dialogue is very forced, thus creating wooden characters, and the ending makes no sense.  Overall, this alleged plot is so annoying that it warrants negative points.

Acting Quality (0 points)

It seems like some effort was taken to coach this cast, but it was done all wrong.  The actors and actresses are far too theatrical and come off as over-practiced.  Emotions aren’t very believable and line delivery is wooden.  In short, this rounds out a very weird and disappointing creation.

Conclusion

Someone needs to address spiritual warfare in the context of Christian film, but at this point, we have yet to find anyone who has done so properly.  Films like this are always far too focused on the demonic and the Satanic and generally expose the fact that their creators have no idea what they’re doing.  Attempts to be sensational and to get attention are evident in movies like Divination, and this is clearly not the message that needs to be communicated.  It’s disappointing when interesting concepts like spiritual warfare are wasted, but hopefully someone can learn something from this mess.

 

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

Nativity Story [2006] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The timeless tale of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Savior of the world, has been told time and again, but rarely told from the correct historical perspective.  Mary, Joseph, and their families were real people with real struggles as they lived as poor people under the cruel dictatorship of Rome.  Elizabeth and Zechariah were a real couple who struggled with a real problem of not being able to have children.  The shepherds were also real people, living on the outskirts of society and shunned by the importantly religious.  Herod Agrippa was paranoid power mongrel who held his small locus of control in a firm grasp.  Yet his perceived power was no match for the divine plan of Yahweh.  The Magi were real truth-seekers who wanted to know the true meaning of the celestial anomaly they followed.  The lives of these characters all intersected in an epic moment in history when God stepped into the world He created in the form of an infant at the unlikeliest time and revealed Himself to the unlikeliest of people.  This story is not just for the holidays, but for every day, to remind us not only of God’s redemptive plan for humanity, but also to remind us that God works in ways we cannot even comprehend.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

Just as Jesus was born into obscurity, this film was created in obscurity and unfortunately still remains largely obscure in Christian circles.  But there is no reason for this.  Starting off, the camera work is superb in Nativity Story, as is the video quality.  The sound quality is above par, and the musical score enhances the viewing experience.  There is CGI used, but it is used properly.  The editing is excellent.  The surroundings and locations are authentic to first-century Judea, making for a realistically gritty experience.  This film joins an elite group of Biblical films as the only ones to capture the gritty reality of ‘Bible times’.  In short, there is nothing negative about this film’s production—it has every element needed to be perfect.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

As previously mentioned, this is not your children’s Bible nativity story.  Life was hard for Joseph and Mary, and the political climate was tumultuous.  Violence was a weekly occurrence and finances were very scarce.  Nativity Story correctly depicts all of these historical elements.  Joseph, Mary, Zechariah, Elizabeth, their families, Herod, the Magi, the shepherds, and everyone else are all very authentic characters that are accessible.  Too many times, Biblical films depict characters as lofty and otherworldly, but this group of characters is your everyday working poor or political elite.  The dialogue is outside the norm of Bible movies, but it pays off.  There are unique psychological\spiritual elements throughout that make this movie stand apart from other Christmas stories.  The one tiny complaint that keeps this film from being perfect is the fact that it slightly bends historical fact to make certain plot elements fit together.  However, this is still a masterful piece of screenwriting.  It captures the epic feel that this story needs to have and translates it in a way that all audiences will enjoy.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Nativity Story, in keeping with its usual themes, also schools Bible filmmakers in how to cast a film that is supposed to depict Middle Eastern characters.  Not a single British accent is heard among this cast, as each actor and actress is exquisitely placed into a superbly appropriate role.  The costuming is extremely realistic, thankfully forsaking those horrid church play robes.  Emotions are felt and lines are delivered excellently.  We really cannot stop saying good things about every part of this film: it is a force to be reckoned with.

Conclusion

Nativity Story earns an x-factor point for being generally awesome and for portraying an important concept in a great way.  It stands apart in a dismal holiday genre and owns the Biblical genre like a boss.  It shows not only what a Bible film should look like but also what the world Jesus was born into looked like.  It brings the real historical nature of the Nativity into your living room and presents it in a way that makes you want more rather than to reach for the remote.  Instead of watching those ridiculous ‘traditional’ films every holiday season, watch this one.

 

Final Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points

 

The Christmas Candle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The people of Gladbury have always looked forward the Christmas when an angel comes and blesses a candle at Haddington Candlery.  The tradition of the Haddington family has always been to give the blessed candle to someone in need, since the candle has special powers to give that person what they needed.  This Christmas, with a skeptical new pastor in town and more requests than ever for the fabled Christmas Candle, the Haddingtons feel like they’re in over their head.  This only gets worse when Edward Haddington trips the night the angel blesses a candle and causes all of his candles to scramble in a mess on the floor.  Now, with no way of knowing which candle is the blessed one, Edward and his wife Bea decide to give a candle to everyone on the request list and hope for the best.  But little do they know that there is far more in store for them this Christmas than they could have ever imagined.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

Echolight Studios has always put together top-notch productions, and The Christmas Candle is no exception.  The video quality is very clean and the camera work is extremely professional.  Audio quality is excellent, including an epic original soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and historical props are very realistic and appropriate.  The editing is flawless and presents the plot seamlessly.  In short, Echolight has always thrived with productions, but this is perhaps their crowning achievement.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Adapted from a beloved Max Lucado novel, this plot is far better than one might expect from a Christmas storyline involving angels touching candles.  It is extremely character based and driven by excellent dialogue.  Though there are numerous characters and subplots, they are handled extremely well and are threaded together wonderfully.  There are some excellent points raised throughout, including a balanced view of miracles versus good works.  The issue of the angel blessing the candle is actually presented in a palatable and even believable way.  The only problems to highlight here are some convenient plot coincidences and one too many silly magical elements.  Otherwise, this is a masterpiece storyline and stands as an example of how non-Biblical Christmas plots should be written.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The Christmas Candle utilizes a very professional cast, yet their ‘big names’ do not give excuse for lackluster acting.  There are virtually no acting errors here, as each member of this very well-rounded cast is coached well and delivers their lines and emotions superbly and effectively.  As a side note, each actor and actress is also cast appropriately for their characters, which is a rare feat to accomplish.  In summary, this rounds out a job well done.

Conclusion

With The Christmas Candle, Echolight has finally found their way home.  For years they have searched for a great plot to combine with their excellent production quality, and they have finally achieved this.  Max Lucado has also taken his career to a new level, as this film actually improves upon his original work of fiction.  It’s refreshing to know that there are quality Christmas movies in the Christian field instead of all the usual garbage that is forced upon us.  As we come around to Christmas Day, let’s just enjoy the fact that there is still hope for Christmas films.

 

Final Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points

Christmas Child (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jack Davenport loved his adoptive parents, but he always wanted to know who his real parents were.  So when his adoptive father dies and Jack finds a clue in his belongings that could speak to Jack’s biological parents, he decides to go to a small town in Texas that could hold some answers for him.  He and his wife have grown distant from each other, so she lets him go without telling him that she is carrying their first child.  Jack hopes to find what he is looking for, but that he doesn’t know is that the answers he is looking for are not what he thinks.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Christmas Child is a fairly respectable production.  It sports good camera work and professional audio quality, though the soundtrack leaves something to be desired.  Sets and locations are engaging and realistic.  However, there is some low video quality throughout.  The editing is also an issue as some scenes lag longer than they should while others are understated.  Overall, this is an average production that seemingly could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Max Lucado is well known for his poignant plots, but Christmas Child was probably not the best one to choose to make a movie out of.  It’s basically just a typical small town plot filled with stereotypical characters that fit into molds.  However, the characters are at least down-to-earth and believable and their struggles are accessible.  There are some interesting elements and portions of dialogue, but the plot is reliant on too many coincidences.  Overall, this is very safe and pedestrian plot with no real plot twists than many will find enjoyment in.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The casting and acting is this film’s strongest suit.  The cast clearly knows what they are doing and have been coached well.  However, there are some lackluster lines and emotions that keep this section from being all that it could be.  Yet this should be an example of the baseline for acting in Christian films.

Conclusion

Many people love Max Lucado and will enjoy this movie.  There is nothing glaringly wrong with the movie, but we feel that Lucado has more to offer than this.  It’s always nice when movies portray people as regular and realistic, but Christmas Child as a whole is perhaps too slow for some audiences.  In short, as we have said before, this sort of movie should be commonplace in Christian film, not the exception to the rule.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Wish for Christmas (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Anna MacLaren hates it when her Christian parents force her to go to church and obey all kinds of silly rules.  So when they insist that she goes to church on the same day as her all-important Winter Ball, it’s just the last straw for Anna.  She wishes with all of her heart that her parents were not Christians, and next day, her wish comes true!  She is excited at first but soon discovers that she needs to be careful what she wishes for because her wish has far-reaching effects that she does not even like.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In an improvement from their freshman effort Catching Faith, Mustard Seed Entertainment benefits from PureFlix with improved production quality.  Camera work is exquisite, as is video quality.  Audio quality is great, but the soundtrack needs improvement.  Sets and locations are fairly realistic.  However, the editing is not very good as it is very choppy and amateurish.  The storyline is hard to follow as the editing makes it jump around.  Basically, this is an improvement with more room to grow.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though this is a stereotypical Christmas wish psychological plot, it does not follow the same patterns as usual.  For example, the wish does not create an alternate It’s a Wonderful Life universe, but actually changes real life.  This in turn causes all kinds of confusion and continuity problems.  While the Mustard Seed crew had some good intentions in writing this script, there are just all kinds of problems here.  Changing the parent characters from legalistic Christians to obnoxious atheists is just too much and screams of PureFlix influence.  Any meaning that is conveyed in this plot is hamstrung by the lack of character development and substantive dialogue.  As the plot jumps all around, we never get a chance to understand these characters or why they do the things they do as they are swept along in an inevitable storyline and flat ending.  There was definitely potential here, similar to that of Catching Faith, but it just fell short.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This casting job was poor, even if they are mostly experienced actors and actresses.  Many of them seem far too plastic as costuming and makeup are overdone.  Line delivery is fine, but emotions are not very believable.  Overall, while the cast is generally professional, they just seem like they stepped out of a Hallmark movie.

Conclusion

Mustard Seed Entertainment certainly has potential and it’s great to see that they have a better platform now with PureFlix.  We sincerely hope that they have not been ruined by PureFlix demands and that they can combine their newfound production success with the creative and meaningful plot ideas of Catching Faith.  Mustard Seed has plenty of hope for the future—next time they just don’t need to rush a Christmas movie for the sake of having one.  It’s better to take time on movies and produce a true work of art rather than a half-measure.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Bringing Francine Rivers to the Big Screen: An Introduction

Image result for francine rivers

mrkoflion

Francine Rivers is, in my opinion, the greatest undiscovered Christian author to this day. She writes with a depth of emotion that has yet to be replicated in the world of Christian fiction. Rivers is a prime example of someone who is doing exactly what we believe God wants her to do, making a difference through writing. Here at Box Office Revolution we believe that it is time for someone to discover her books, and bring them to the big screen. Her most popular series is probably the Mark of the Lion Trilogy; a powerful epic series following the lives of a devout Christian Jewess, an arrogant young Roman and his family, an iron-willed Germanic chief, and many other characters who make this incredible work of fiction what it is. To see this trilogy come to life as film series would be amazing. The vast amount of content found in the three books (A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, and As Sure as The Dawn), would best be portrayed in a epic miniseries. Truly meaningful miniseries are few and far between. The famous Anne of Green Gables miniseries is a prime example of how staying mostly true to the novels and hiring professional cast members goes a long way towards making quality productions. Some may say that it is impossible to replicate such brilliance, as one would have to find a director and screenwriter who could pull off the same level of plot and production quality found in movies like Risen, and still remain true to original content. Not to mention the amount of quality actors and actresses that would have to be acquired, and the significant amount of time that would be dedicated to such a work of art. Then again, wouldn’t the time and money spent on making something unforgettable be worth it? Instead of wasting resources on yet another forgettable Christian movie, someone should focus on the materials already available: the vastly untapped world of Christian fiction.

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

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.  For now, here’s a collection of Christmas films that fall into this category.

 

It’s very hard to explain

Beverly Hills Christmas

This is barely a Christmas movie at all except that it’s based on the typically bizarre magic premise you find in many knockoff holiday films.  Dean Cain and a Meryl Streep lookalike star in this movie that’s filled with wacko works-based theology and abstract vague fantasy lingo and concepts.  Apparently some dead woman has to get into heaven by making her spoiled brat daughter act good, so she decides to bring a nice kid back to life by shooting lightning into his skull even though Dean Cain told her not to touch people.  It’s a shame this off-the-wall movie wasted a decent character arc and a remotely interesting idea.

 

Look, a rose!

Natalie’s Rose

Also barely a Christmas film (or a Christian one), this time about a horse named—guess what—Rose.  Basically, this movie wastes an hour of your time on farm footage and sitting around talking before coming to the shocking conclusion: the horse is a “special” horse that turns into a rose.  [ENTER GIANT FACEPALM HERE].  No joke.  The production is terrible and most people won’t even make through the entire slogfest to see the main character having hallucinations about glowing horseback riders at night.  How this garbage gets made is beyond us.

 

DAX!

The Heart of Christmas

When you use kids with cancer as props and parade vain Christian actors and actresses in front of the camera in some kind of lame attempt to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in a shameless commercial soliciting you for money, we don’t have much respect for you.  Sure, St’ Jude’s does some great things and helps families in need, but can’t we just have a normal movie without all the advertising, drama, and pageantry?  They didn’t even try to make this true story a realistic plot.  It’s really shameful when you have characters telling you to make donations.

Paper Angels [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Lynn Brandt and her two children, Thomas and Sara, leave her alcoholic husband behind, they find themselves free from pain but low on funds.  As they struggle to make ends meet, Lynn realizes that she will not have enough money to give her kids Christmas gifts.  So when she hears about a charity that will help kids whose families cannot afford Christmas gifts, she jumps at the chance.  Kevin and Jenny Morrell cannot wait to have their first child, even as he tries to hide the fact that his business is struggling.  Jenny decides that they need to help someone else for Christmas and chooses two children to buy gifts for.  All of their lives intersect during the Christmas holiday in ways they never could have planned.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The good thing about Up Entertainment is that they care about making respectable productions.  The camera work in Paper Angels is mostly good and the video quality is on par.  The sets and locations are realistic and down to earth—Christmas decorations are used wisely.  However, the audio quality could be better as it is sometimes inconsistent and the soundtrack is just stock.  The editing could also use a little improvement by cutting out some wasted filler scenes.  But overall, this is another good effort from Up.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is sort of a generic ‘good cause’ storyline, we strongly believe the writers’ hearts were in the right place.  The plot is a little safe and pedestrian, but the creative work of Travis Thrasher can be seen in the non-typical Christmas subplots.  The characters feel like realistic people in that we can connect with their circumstances and understand what they’re going through.  As previously mentioned, this holiday film is not ‘overly-Christmas’ but treats the situation normally.  While the plot is mostly down to earth, there are a few cheesy elements that feel forced and unnecessary.  The end is slightly predictable, but the thought does count.  Overall, this type of plot should be the baseline of Christian film.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast has their good moments and bad moments.  Sometime they seem a little too wooden and insincere, while other times they are fine.  However, as a professional company, acting should be an area where Up has little to no problems as they should employ professional acting coaches.  We kind of expect better here.

Conclusion

If anything, Paper Angels highlights the need for more Travis Thrasher movies.  He’s got the resume and the content to be adapting his novels to screenplays, if anyone will have him.  He has ties to both PureFlix and Up, so rather than spin out another generic Christian movie plot, somebody needs to pick up one of Thrasher’s books and bring it to life.  Paper Angels is only the tip of the iceberg of what he has to offer.  Nevertheless, this film can also serve as an example for how simplistic Christian movies should be.  We would like to never see a film that goes below this threshold.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

The Dark (Pre-Production)

Series coming in 2017

Website

 

Writer(s): Chip Rossetti?

Director(s): Chip Rossetti?

Producer(s):

Starring: Donna Botts, Faith Murphy, John Wells, Jenn Gotzon?

 

Plot Synopsis:

Some Battles Can’t Be Won, Only Survived

It’s the Seventh Year of the Tribulation.  The world is in utter chaos and the United States is basically a third world country, with no electricity, medicine and a limited food supply.

Christianity has practically been wiped off the face of the Earth, save for small bands of Believers that are hulled up, just trying to survive until the Second Coming.

Pastor Peter Braxton leads one of these bands of Believers, and has taken refuge in his small church, trying to fight off and outlast “The Dark”.  Despite his own battle with his Faith, he has been charged with leading his church through these End of Times.  Little does everyone know that Pastor Braxton’s church is also one of the biggest targets of “The Dark” because Peter, and a few others “in the know” are the keepers of a secret, crucial to the End of Times Prophecy.

Their fight for survival will test their Faith, and force them to risk everything, in an attempt to survive, “The Dark”.

The Farmer and the Belle: Real Love (Thanksgiving 2018)

Coming Thanksgiving 2018

Website

 

Writer(s): Jenn Gotzon Chandler, Jim E. Chandler, Leo Partible, Billy Falcon, Reuben Evans, James M. De Vince

Director(s): Cristobal Krusen, Anthony Hackett

Producer(s): Jenn Gotzon Chandler, Jim E. Chandler, Isaac Hernandez, Joel Bunkowske, George D. Escobar, Keith Rostalski

Starring: Jenn Gotzon, Mark Ashworth, Jim E. Chandler, Henry Cho, Jim O’Connors, Alicia Minshew, Patricia Mauceri, Richard Swingle, Wes Llewellyn, Amanda Llewellyn, Lily Buchanan 

 

Plot Synopsis:

Days before Thanksgiving during a fashion shoot, NYC Supermodel Belle Winters (and a horse) in pink pajamas gets dumped publicly by her Latin popstar fiancé on ERN Gossip News. Flooded by flashbulbs, the blonde beauty flees the biting press to hide where no one could imaginably find her (not even her agent)… the deep south with a pig secret.

In this classic Christmas comedy movie, Belle finds herself a fish-out-of-water, with her broken down Lamborghini, high fashion iconic clothing and an allergy to manual labor. Not to mention, the farmer’s pumpkin’licious six year old daughter waking her up before the rooster crows… to chase chickens. Belle is forced to stay Thanksgiving through Christmas season, in what resembles the backdrop of the nursery rhyme, The Farmer in the Dell, finding real love.

“The Farmer and The Belle” is a feel good Christmas comedy movie creating family tradition every Thanksgiving through Christmas season. Caught up in the hilaria of never-seen-before farm festivities, pearls of wisdom are the best gift given. Reuniting with Josh Carpenter, the farmer from the dell, Belle learns real love does not come from Facebook, but the real love of God. Thinking of things worthy of thanksgiving is best for treating mental tornadoes, and beauty does not come from the glitz of a magazine cover.

Right when Belle’s big secret is revealed, all havoc breaks loose: pigs, paparazzi and surprise comedic guest appearances creating one memorable Christmas Fair no one is gonna wanna miss.

With laughter and fun, will Belle Winters ever find real love?

By God’s Grace [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Chris Taylor’s parents and sister die in a car accident, he inherits his father’s business.  However, he is bitter, confused, and angry by the happenings and takes it out on his employees.  He is on the verge of destroying the company when his sister visits him in a dream and shows him the past, the present, and the possible future if he continues on his dangerous path.  Chris will have to decide if he’s going to return to what his parents taught him or keep going his own way.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Surprisingly, By God’s Grace is a very respectable production effort.  Though there is an amateurish opening sequence, the video quality is clear throughout and the camera work is quite professional.  Audio quality is also good, including an interesting non-typical soundtrack.  The sets and locations are realistic and believable—they also don’t overflow with Christmas decorations like some.  As for the editing, there are some unnecessary scenes and sequences, but it is overall above average.  In short, this production puts a lot of others to shame.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

By God’s Grace is based on a typical A Christmas Carol premise, which has been done before, though not necessarily in this fashion.  While there are some slightly interesting psychological elements, the storyline tends to be little bit too magical.  There is also too much narration, although flashbacks are used very well.  As previously mentioned, there are bit too many slow scenes and some of the messaging is too obvious.  The obvious nature of the plot is also evident in some of the characters, although there are interesting character arcs.  Some dialogue is also too convenient, while other dialogue is good.  Overall, while the ending is predictable, the story finds a way to be meaningful.  It’s a mixed bag and is little bit too juvenile to reach Hall of Fame levels.

Acting Quality (2 points)

There are also some juvenile elements present in the casting.  Some line delivery is forced and some lines are too loud while others are too soft.  However, there are plenty of bright spots regardless.  Despite the errors, this is an overall above average cast.  Many cast members appear to be coached well.  This rounds out an overall above average effort in this film.

Conclusion

By God’s Grace definitely could have gone further than this.  Had the idea been slightly more creative, some of the dialogue rewritten, and some of the cast members coached better, this could have been Hall of Fame.  It’s a shame when movies fall short of greatness, but perhaps this creative team will learn from it and improve in the future.  They have great potential that needs to be cultivated.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Christmas Angel {Angel at Christmas} [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Olivia and Lucas have always heard rumors about a mysterious old house in their New Orleans neighborhood.  Legends say that if you throw a rock through one of the windows and make a Christmas wish, it will come true.  After witnessing several wishes come true when they ask them for other people, Olivia and Lucas decide to investigate the matter further.  They find a collection of offbeat characters hanging around the house who are not what they seem at first.  Little do they know that Christmas angels come in many forms…

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As we’ve mentioned before, PureFlix can usually put together a respectable production.  Video quality is clear as usual and camera work is professional.  The sets and locations are realistic and down to earth.  Unfortunately, the audio quality drags down this production, including a silly Christmas soundtrack and too many scenes in which lines cannot be heard due to background noise.  The editing is mostly okay and does a good job concealing the obligatory Dorsey twist until near the end.  Basically, this is an average production effort but we strongly believe it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

In keeping with their usual practices, Bradley Dorsey and Andrea Gyertson Nasfell craft a creative and thought-provoking plot that makes you think it’s going to be one thing, only to change it to something different in the end.  However, it goes without saying that Dorsey also commits his original sin of not going all the way with his creativity.  There are times when Christmas Angel is innovative and interesting, while some moments are cringe-worthy and totally off the wall.  This inconsistency makes the audience vacillate between cheering and scratching their heads.  The schizophrenia is also demonstrated in the characters—while the character arcs are great in the end, it’s a rocky road to get there.  As usual, the storyline is based off a creative concept that sports a key plot twist and demonstrates the creative genius of the team.  Elsewhere, there are just too many childish Christmas elements that hold this plot back from being as good as it could have been.  Sometimes we wonder why a creator can come so close so many times but always miss the mark by an inch.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like the rest of the film, the cast of Christmas Angel is very inconsistent.  Sometimes they have awkward scenes while other times they act very professionally.  Emotions are good at times and not good at other times.  Some of the makeup work is below par.  In short, in comes to another average score.

Conclusion

Basically all of the films Bradley Dorsey is involved in need to be remade.  As we’ve said before, he has tons of potential that is untapped, probably because he throws in his lot with the PureFlix crew.  For that matter, Andrea Gyertson Nasfell has lot of untapped potential herself.  Both Dorsey and Nasfell have much to offer to Christian film and if they ever reach their full potential, then the field will be a different place.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Mandie and the Forgotten Christmas (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When she’s sent with her friends to boarding school to become ‘proper ladies and gentlemen’, Mandie Shaw and crew stumble upon an attic full of Christmas secrets of years gone by.  But another girl is determined to get them in trouble for snooping around.  Yet Mandie is equally determined to find out the important information behind a room full of Christmas junk.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Though there was some effort put in here, Mandie and the Forgotten Christmas embraces its childish identity too much.  The entire production has an overall plastic feel to it, as the video quality looks like it’s been adjusted in post-production.  The lighting is all wrong and camera work is very amateurish.  Some of the audio sounds like it’s been over-dubbed while other parts are very echoed.  The soundtrack is very cheesy and the audience is forced to listen to all kinds of stupid Christmas sound effects throughout.  There is virtually no editing present as the story meanders around aimlessly.  Essentially, the Mandie trilogy has digressed as it has gone on.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As previously mentioned, there is little to no focus in this plot as the viewer is forced to sit through one choppy scene after another.  The dialogue is very stilted and over-practiced, like a bad church play.  The characters are quite plastic and scream ‘children’s book characters’ with every line and action.  We realize this was adapted from a children’s book, but it doesn’t have to be like this.  The events that happen are not terribly realistic and seem to exist in a magical alternate world.  Also, the ending is as cheesy as can be expected.  Essentially, there’s really nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Really, what’s the point of casting David Blamy as a different character in this installment than he was in the first two installments?  It’s extremely confusing and gives off the impression that they can’t find anybody else to cast in these films.  Besides this, changing lead actresses in the midst of a trilogy\saga is never a good idea.  In other respects, this cast is really not any good at acting and acting coaching is absent.  As previously mentioned, this is just a bad church play.

Conclusion

As the Mandie series comes to a pathetic conclusion (maybe?), we have to reflect on what was truly accomplished in this saga.  There was some potential early on, but it quickly faded away.  We have to wonder if there was any justification for bringing this books to film, as the movies likely hurt the reputation of the children’s series.  We’re sure that the creators meant well, but maybe some advice seeking was in order.  Ambition is great, but delivering well is even better.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Christmas Miracle [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a back road closes due to a snow storm, eight people find themselves trapped in an abandoned church.  They include a priest who has left the ministry because he feels distant from God after his wife died, an EMT who wants to be a doctor, a wealthy married couple having relational and financial issues, a newlywed couple trying to start their new life together, and a couple on the brink of divorce.  As the storm rages, they all find common ground with their issues and discover that there is hope for each one of them.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

While Christmas Miracle is a generally average production, it is not without its issues.  Video quality is pretty clear and the camera work is fairly good.  Sets and locations are okay, even though it mostly takes place in a dark church.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is too bizarre.  Otherwise, there are numerous editing problems.  There is too much reused footage and too many flat and empty scenes.  It seems like some scenes are designed to pad the runtime and drag out the movie.  Essentially, while it’s not the worst production in the world, Christmas Miracle still needs a lot of help.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While the idea behind this plot is slightly interesting, there are just too many errors here that cover it up.  The storyline brings up mostly realistic and pertinent issues that everyday people face, but they are all portrayed in simplistic and sometimes petty ways.  The plot does not hold the attention very well as silly problems are rehashed and delayed to suit the runtime.  Though we spend a lot of time hearing these characters talk, we don’t get to know them very well.  They are extremely wooden and one-dimensional, sometimes repeating themselves throughout the film for emphasis.  Though there is a lot of dialogue, it is empty and stock.  Basically, Christmas Miracle is your average boring and slow plotline that has a small amount of potential that it does not cultivate.

Acting Quality (0 points)

To top things off, this is a very poor casting job.  While they are not necessarily bad actors and actresses, they severely lack quality acting coaching.  Their line delivery is possible the fastest we have ever witnessed in a film.  Their lines are forced and overly practiced, as are their emotions.  Since this film is entirely reliant on them, it really hurts its overall case.

Conclusion

It’s very hard to know what the Nasser Group is trying to do.  It usually seems like they have potential as film makers, but they always have things in their movies that trip them up.  While this is a very generic Christmas plot, it could have been better than this.  It’s not disingenuous like some; it’s just a typical low quality film.  I wonder if there will be a point in time when these types of films are no longer made like this.  Maybe that’s a Christmas miracle to wait for (lol).

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Sarah’s Choice (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sarah wants a big executive break like her boyfriend has, that’s why she sees an opportunity when she gets interviewed for a temporary job.  The only catch is that in order to get hired, she has to prove that she’s not pregnant.  But after she takes a test, she finds that she is pregnant and is faced with a serious decision: pursue a career and abort her child or give up her career and have her child.  Sarah will have to decide how real her faith is and what direction she wants her life to go in.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The one thing PureFlix usually has going for them is that they can put together a respectable-looking production.  Sarah’s Choice is not an exception.  Notwithstanding an odd opening sequence, the camera work is at least above average.  The video quality is good, as is the audio quality.  The soundtrack could use some improvement, but the sets are respectable.  Also, the editing is mostly average, though there are a handful of unnecessary scenes that put a damper on this production.  But overall, despite their obvious flaws, PureFlix can usually put together a semi-professional production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Leave it to PureFlix to take an important social issue and mutilate it with over the top messaging.  As a plot filled with typical White-style extremist characters, Sarah’s Choice sports a ridiculously unrealistic premise that is designed to force the issue of abortion on the audience.  As usual, pro-abortionists and other people who disagree with the PureFlix worldview are portrayed in offensive ways.  The dialogue is very obvious and forces the plot along, even though there is plenty of time wasted on bizarre asides.  There is also a silly shoehorning of the Christmas story into this plot, along with some odd ‘magical’ Christmas elements.  While the psychological parts are intriguing, they are not enough to offset the onslaught of nonsense in the remainder of the storyline.  As can be expected, the end is neat and tidy with no real justification for it ending up that way.  Basically, every horror story regarding the combination of PureFlix and the issue of abortion comes true in Sarah’s Choice.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While some cast members, including Rebecca St. James, post moderately respectable performances, this is probably Andrea Logan White’s most obnoxious role to date as she attempts to caricature a vain (well this mostly true) pro-abortion feminist.  There are some bright spots here that keep this category from being terrible, but there are still too many unrealistic emotions and drama moments.  Line delivery is fairly average throughout.  Overall, this is just average, despite Andrea Logan White.

Conclusion

In a PureFlix Christmas movie about abortion, what could go wrong?  Well, a lot, actually.  The Whites and company continue their addiction to portraying non-Christians as heartless ogres and construct an unrealistic framework designed to shove a social issue down your throat.  Do they even have any regard for reality or are they just trying to sell movies?  Movies like Sarah’s Choice are exactly why people tire of legalistic Christianity.  Unfortunately, while this blog is unashamedly pro-life, this is not the type of film we can support.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

The Reliant (2018)

Coming in 2018 from Fervent House Media

Website

 

Writer(s): Patrick Johnston

Director(s): Paul Munger

Producer(s): Patrick Johnston, Elizabeth Johnston, Paul Munger, Brian Bosworth, Kevin Sorbo, Eric Jellison, Tim Schmidt, Doug Yeary, Betty Yeary

Starring: Kevin Sorbo, Eric Roberts, Brian Bosworth, Mollee Gray, Jenn Gotzon, Julia Denton, Kevin Wayne, Ian Lauer, Blake Burt, Josh Murray, Kiera Strauss, Brian Friday, Marisa Hampton, Tyler Sanders, David Benham, Jason Benham, Tim Schmidt, Nicole C. Mullen, Rusty Thomas, Nico Zahniser, Jesse Boone, Jonathan Bocinsky

 

Plot Synopsis:

When the dollar collapses, widespread rioting and looting ensues, and five children tragically lose their parents in the chaos. Armed with a couple of their father’s weapons, they are able to survive in a stretch of woods on the outskirts of their burning town. Facing starvation and threats from encroaching gangs, they begin to doubt God’s love. Will God answer their prayers, or must their faith remain blind to facts?

Pick the Next Movie Reviews!

What Christian movies do you want to see us review next?  Comment below and let us know what you want to see!

 

Upcoming Reviews:

Forever My Girl

Wraith

2nd Greatest

On Wings of Eagles

Adopted

The Gospel of Luke

Amish Grace

Desires of the Heart

Trade of Innocents

Thomas: Close to Jesus

Ragamuffin

Little Notes from Heaven

Box Office Revolutionary Saves Christmas

He knows when you’re sleeping and stuff

After watching Kirk Cameron’s infamous Saving Christmas masterpiece, I was left feeling both inspired and cheated.  I feel like good ole’ Kirk didn’t go as far as he could have with this award-winning film.  There are so many more elements of Christmas that need explaining and redeeming.  Take note, Uncle Kirk: this one’s for you!

 

Don’t you want to build a snowman?

Snowmen

What is the Biblical-historical origin of snowmen, you may ask.  Take a moment to talk with me down the historical timeline.  Imagine darkness.  Imagine a few stars peeking out in the cold Judean night as sheep graze on the countryside.  Imagine gripping a wooden stick called a staff and staring off into the distance, wandering what your true purpose is.  Then suddenly, you are knocked off your feet at the sight of mind-searing light coming from the heavens.  The very fabric of the universe has been pulled back and you see beings dancing across the firmament.

That’s right—snowmen represent the shepherds who went to see baby Jesus.  Even today, when we build snowmen, we are still referring back to those lowly men who visiting the neigh-tivity scene.  This is clear when you realize that snowmen just stand there, never moving, always watching…always watching you…

 

I can’t think of a witty caption to put here

Christmas Lights

Go back to that Judean countryside.  Walk with me as we enjoy the crisp evening.  Look up to the heavens and see the millions of blinking lights across the celestial array.  The panorama stretches as far as you can see.  Each star is named by God and each one worships Him.

You are correct again—our modern day Christmas lights represent the stars that were there the night Jesus was born.  Each star worshipped Him that night.  So the next time you’re hanging those annoyingly tangled things up around your house, remember that you are participating in the real meaning of Christmas: stars.

 

You know what kinda train this is?

Hot Cocoa

Seriously, Kirk, you really let us down here after you waxed eloquent in the first opening sequence of your creative wonder.  What does the hot cocoa mean?  I mean, Tom Hanks and the Polar Express already tried to tell us something about it, but we need your wisdom as bad as Rusty Martin Sr.’s.  I guess I’ll have to try to fill your large shoes and explain this one for all the little people out there.

Imagine you are sitting in your house alone, pondering your future life with that dreamy carpenter down the street.  You’ve picked out your new curtains for those modern windows in your first-century Jewish abode and you’ve even got a dress from Lydia of Philippi (it sure was expensive).  Then suddenly, your entire world is rocked as you turn to see a creepy angel staring right through you.  How did he get in here?  Why won’t he say anything as he stares blankly at you?  What would Joseph think if he walked in right now?  You suddenly find yourself bathed in warm light—so much so that you drop the tea you were drinking and it spills all over your new shawl.

We’re really on a roll here.  There’s absolutely no question that Christmas hot cocoa represents the British tea the virgin Mary was drinking when the British angel showed up and gave her the skinny.  So next time you’re drinking that powdery dust from a mug with red and green scribbles and\or a fat Santa on it, remember that you are following in the footsteps of the Immaculate Heart herself.

 

The best non-Christian Christmas film to date

Reindeer

Think back to that neigh-tivity scene in that wooden structure we call a stable.  The snowmen shepherds are there.  Depending on your beliefs, the ‘wise men’ may or may not be there too.  Baby Jesus lays in the feeding trough with a halo around his head.  British Joseph and Mary are there too, each with their own halo.  It smells so fresh in this ancient garage—like a cow farm.  The animals are gathered all around, just like in that song we sing in church sometimes, looking at their Creator in their feed bucket.

Right again!  The modern day reindeer are actually the animals at the neigh-tivity scene.  They were all there to witness the birth of Jesus, just like a Disney movie.  So the next time you see those red-nosed critters, think back to how the animals witnessed the birth of our Lord and Savior.

 

No, we’ve never seen this film and never intend to

Elves

Forget elf worship, these creepy little pointy-eared guys are nothing but bundles of Christmas cheer!  Think back to the day (whatever day you think it was) when the wise men guys from the East Magi visited the baby boy Jesus and gave him like a million dollars worth of gifts.  As they knelt in the stable house, they presented their gifts to the King of Kings.

In our modern Christmas ways, we think of elves as creepy little guys always watching Santa’s cute little helpers, who assist the jolly ole’ Saint Nick in body slamming liberal Christians delivering gifts to kids.  Well, that’s exactly what the Magi did!  They brought gifts to Jesus!  See, elves aren’t so bad after all!

 

 

There, I did it! Where Cameron forgot to save Christmas traditions for you, I saved them!  You’re welcome.

For Love’s Sake [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Mary Walker’s husband dies in a car wreck, she begins to sink deeper and deeper into depression and suicide attempts.  She eventually loses custody of her two sons, even though she refuses to allow her atheist in-laws to take care of them.  They are instead sent to a Christian children’s home that quickly becomes the center of controversy, due to the suicide of one of the children there.  But the Walker family forges a relationship with a Christian therapist that gives them a ray of hope for the future.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

It is hard to comprehend why For Love’s Sake was funded or created.  With very poor video quality and unprofessional camera work, this film looks like it was made in the time period it is portraying.  Audio quality is no better, including a cheap soundtrack.  The sets and locations also look cheap and the entire movie has a feeling of being dark and grey.  The editing is very amateur, with many wasted scenes and missing pieces of the plot.  Unfortunately, there is really nothing good to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As previously mentioned, tons of content happen off screen, as the budget was clearly too low to include complex scenes.  The entire storyline has an unhealthy obsession with suicide and an incorrect portrayal of mental illness.  The plot is very melancholy and depressing itself, and sometimes downright creepy.  There are some disturbing scenes that we don’t consider to be family friendly.  Besides all this, some of the characters are atheist strawmen and all the characters have very forceful and annoying dialogue.  There is no way to appreciate the struggles of these characters—they are all wooden and dark.  While it is commendable to address mental illness in film, this is not the way to do it.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As with the rest of the film, the cast members are drab, dank, and dour.  They are either cold and unfeeling or so depressing that they make you feel depressed yourself.  As they mire in the slough of despond, line delivery is all wrong.  The costuming and makeup is also low budget.  In summary, this is another one of those zero-point slogs.

Conclusion

Mental illness needs to have its cultural stigmatism removed from it, and film is a good tool to do this with.  However, For Love’s Sake is the example of how not to portray mental illness.  This film only reinforces stereotypes and paints the mentally ill as weird and unfixable.  Besides that, it also puts more salt on the wound between Christians and atheists by making atheists out to be horrible people.  Everything about this movie is just all wrong and the one consolation is that it’s likely no one will ever watch it.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

The Perfect Gift {The Perfect Christmas} [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Maxine is a spoiled girl who doesn’t like the fact that everyone always does something else on her birthday, which happens to be on Christmas Day.  Her mother is overworked and barely has time for her, so she takes Maxine help her struggling pastor neighbor at church.  At the church, Maxine meets a mysterious but kind drifter who is helping the pastor fix things up for Christmas.  As Maxine spends more time around him, she begins to change and have a new perspective in life.  As people continue to attack Christmas, she becomes a strong defender of the day, even though it’s also her birthday.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

It’s clear that not much care was given to this production.  The video quality is quite poor and many camera shorts are very tight.  Also, outside scenes are glaring and loud.  Audio quality is equally poor, including a Christmas soundtrack that is blaringly loud in some parts.  A lot of props look very cheap to the point that cast members can barely use them.  Sets and locations are nothing wowing.  As for editing, there are too many wasted uncut scenes.  Yet there are also abrupt and awkward transitions between some scenes.  Basically, this is an amateur effort that did not pay off.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The entire premise of The Perfect Gift is the typical ‘war on Christmas’ mantra, including tons of asides about characters being ‘persecuted’ for saying ‘Merry Christmas’ and such.  The giant strawman is made of the so-called ‘anti-Christmas agenda’, including terms like ‘winter tree’ and ‘winter gala’. Besides these juvenile false conflicts, nothing else really happens in this plot.  It’s very boring and does not hold the attention.  Many occurrences are unrealistic and all the characters are quite childish.  Odd and offbeat dialogue peppers the movie and makes it an unintentional comedy.  Perhaps the most perplexing part of this film is the fact that the Jesus character—who is also the creator of the film—has an impassioned speech at the end that actually raises several good points regarding the alleged conflict between atheists and Christmas.  Yet Jefferson Moore, the creator, does not seem to actually believe what he is saying, since he inserted so much red meat into the movie about people being anti-Christmas.  Overall, The Perfect Gift is both low quality and confusing, an odd combination indeed.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, the story does not get any better here.  The few cast members that there are come off as either very obnoxious or totally dead inside.  Line delivery is awkward and emotions are childish.  The makeup work is amateurish.  Basically, there is not much good to say about this film.

Conclusion

Jefferson Moore seems to have a good heart and some slightly interesting ideas.  He can probably be credited with writing the original plots that have characters encountering Jesus in everyday circumstances.  But with such low production and acting quality, The Perfect Gift will have very little of the impact that it’s intended to have.  Fixing these two areas would be a good start to improving this film.  It really seems like Moore needed some help with this film and it’s a shame to see some of his ideas go to waste.  Perhaps there will be better things in store for the future.

 

Final Rating: .5 point out of 10 points

 

Lifestone Velocity (August 2018)

In Theaters August 5, 2018

Website

 

Writer(s): Mark A. Knudsen

Director(s): Tim Kaiser, Daniel Knudsen

Producer(s): Kristina Kaylen, Mark A. Knudsen, Michelle Knudsen

Plot Synopsis:

Colt Lifestone struggles with who he really is until he is called on a journey that changes his life forever.

Christmas Grace [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Gary is a local toy shop owner, but when a rude rival toy shop owner comes to town and tries to sabotage Gary’s business, Gary suddenly has to close down and look for work elsewhere.  He knows that he shouldn’t be angry so he trusts God for the next step in his life.  As his wife has their first child, Gary suddenly has an idea for a business venture and decides to pursue it.  But little does he know that the rival toy shop owner is still miserable inside…

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

There’s not much to get excited about with this production.  The only positive thing to mention is the clear video quality.  The camera work is poor and some scenes have bad lighting.  The audio quality is quite inconsistent, including an annoying Christmas soundtrack and sound effects.  The sets and locations are limited and seem amateurish.  Furthermore, the editing is quite choppy—some scenes are too long while others are too short.  In short, there is really nothing much good to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

In an attempt to include more plot content, the writers had to also include large time jumps, spanning from one Christmas to the next (since everything has to happen at Christmas time).  While there are slight attempts to be spiritually meaningful, there is too much heavy-handed messaging.  There are also some slightly interesting flashbacks that attempt to build characters, but a majority of the characters are still cheesy stereotypes.  This is mainly because the dialogue is very pedestrian and stock.  This is not to mention the fact that the entire premise of the film, which is warring toy shops, is absurd and unrealistic.  There are other happenings that are equally unrealistic, created for the sole purpose of the plot.  In the end, this plot is quite predictable and needs to be reworked.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The casting work, unfortunately, brings out the amateurism of the creators.  The acting is extremely wooden and stiff and line delivery is quite forced.  There are really no emotions to speak of.  Perhaps the worst part is the makeup, especially the eye makeup, which makes some people look like they have black eyes.  Basically, there’s nothing good to say here.

 

Conclusion

The creators of Christmas Grace seemed like they meant well, but they needed to choose a more realistic premise for their plot.  Honestly, in the advent of online ordering, nobody shops at toy stores anymore.  Yet the provision of God during hard times could be communicated in a different way that is less cheesy and more realistic.  At least there was some slight justification for this being a Christmas movie, and it definitely could have been better.  This creative team has some potential in them, and it will be interesting to see what they do next.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

3 Day Test {3 Day Christmas} (Movie Review)

The marauders are coming...
The marauders are coming…
Tina says no!
Tina says no!

Plot Summary

Martin Taylor, an obsessive accountant, is tired of how his family never spends any time together.  Prompted by his half-crazy prepper brother to begin preparing for doomsday by taking the 3 Day Test, Martin sees it as his last chance to get to know his family again.  So he disconnects them from modern amenities and is assisted by local police in convincing his family to endure the three days in the comfort-free world.  But little do they know that they were not at all prepared for what’s coming next…

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As usual for Corbin Bernsen, production quality is slightly above average in 3 Day Test.  The camera work is pretty good and video quality is clear.  Audio quality is fine except for an annoyingly blaring Christmas soundtrack and dumb sound effects.  The sets and locations are slightly limited due to the premise, but they are well designed.  The editing is fairy respectable with only some minor quirks.  In short, Bernsen has always succeeded at production quality, but that’s not even the half of this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Where to start?  3 Day Test is based on a bizarrely forced Christmas apocalyptic survival premise in which you never really know what’s coming next.  Though it doesn’t have to be a Christmas film at all, it takes place during Christmas and contain many sarcastic head-scratching asides and forced comedy moments.  Since the dialogue is either information dump or downright zany, the characters come off a mostly mentally insane and unstable.  As slightly interesting concepts are shoved in your face and packaged in ridiculous ways, many occurrences are highly unrealistic and head-scratching.  The longer the movie goes on, the weirder it gets as the audience is pulled into an over-the-top descent into madness coupled with a wacky Home Alone rip off.  By the time it’s all over, no sense can be made of it and there are unexplained factors and loose ends.  Is it satire or just total insanity?  Your guess is as good as ours.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Sporting some professional cast members and some odd child actors\actresses, this cast is a mixed bag.  It’s sometimes pretty good while other times it’s histrionic and annoying.  Line delivery is actually quite professional, but there are just too many episodes of craziness to warrant any more points than this.

Conclusion

Once again, what are we to make of Corbin Bernsen?  Is he a mad satirical genius or is he just trolling?  3 Day Test is actually less satire than usual for him and more goofy madness.  While we wholeheartedly agree that families need to spend more time together, and not just during the holidays, this does not have to involve a ridiculous false survival premise.  This leads us to wonder if Bernsen is actually advocating for ‘prepping for an apocalypse’.  Who knows what he really believes; we may never know.  The bottom line is that he’s wasting his talents and resources on facepalm-inducing films that no one really cares about when he could be making a real difference.  Will he ever change?  We somehow doubt it.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

A Christmas Tree Miracle {Random Acts of Christmas} (Movie Review)

How'd I get stuck with this guy?
How’d I get stuck with this guy?

Plot Summary

When well-to-do David George is laid off from his job right before Christmas, he and his wife agree not to tell their three children until after Christmas to see if he can find a new job.  But as his job search becomes more and more fruitless and the money begins to run out, the George family begins to find themselves running out of options.  Confused and frustrated, they are forced to vacate their house and seek shelter elsewhere.  Though they are at the end of the rope, little do they know that things are about to turn around for them.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Everything about A Christmas Tree Miracle is a mixed bag.  While the video quality is sometimes blurry and outside scenes are not shot very well, the camera work is mostly okay.  Audio quality is good, but the obligatory Christmas soundtrack is wearing.  There are actually quite a few sets and locations used, but some of the outside ones seem fake.  Finally, the editing is just okay yet falls short of what it could be.  There seem to be too many useless scenes and the first half of the plot is spoiled before it even begins.  In all, this is an average production effort that should have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Essentially the Christmas version of Stand Strong, A Christmas Tree Miracle sports a surprisingly complex plot, even though it has many bizarre undertones and random twists and turns.  For example, sometimes things happen just because they need to happen.  One of the main characters is a creepy and schizotypal Santa Claus figure.  Though some plot occurrences are believable, others are just too far outside of reality.  If the writers wanted this movie to be meaningful, why does it have such strange elements?  The storyline oscillates back and forth between potentially interesting and laughable.  Elsewhere, there is too much annoying narration throughout.  Though the characters have some basis of believability, they seem unfinished and at times cartoonish.  Overall, there is just a general feel to this movie that you can’t really put your finger on.  It almost makes you want to like it, but it’s just too silly to be good.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like other parts of the movie, the acting is sometimes tolerable while other times it is smart alec and over the top.  Some cast members come off as trying to make fun of the film.  Others are more professional.  Emotions are inconsistent but line delivery is mostly on par.  Basically, just another average effort.

Conclusion

A Christmas Tree Miracle is one of those odd movies that seems better than its rating.  Yet we cannot in good faith rate it any higher when it has so many goofy elements and logical inconsistencies.  The idea is interesting and might even be worth a remake.  The creators seem semi-genuine in what they are doing and produced a good amount of content to back it up.  However, this film just isn’t up to par with what it should be.  They should have spent less time on quasi-fantastical ideas and more time trying to bring this story into the real world.  But perhaps they have better things in store for the future.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Love’s Christmas Journey (Movie Review)

Registering...
Registering…

Plot Summary

After Ellie King loses her husband and daughter in a strange tornado, she decides the visit her brother, Aaron Davis, for Christmas.  When she arrives in the generic-looking Western small town that looks like all the others in this series, she meets all the stereotypical characters, including Sean Astin the sheriff.  Of course, what would this Love Comes Softly movie be without a replacement romance for the poor widow Ellie?  But even Christmas is threatened when Aaron hits his head on a rock (hmm, sounds familiar…) and is lost to the wilderness.  What will they ever do?

 

Note: This two-part film has been reviewed as one because we cannot differentiate the two parts

Production Quality (.5 point)

As the Love Comes Softly series endlessly drags on with more and more sequels, prequels, and specials that have long since departed from the original novels, we have to wonder at this point what Janette Oke thinks of Hallmark’s total dismantling of her work.  In keeping with usual Hallmark style, Love’s Christmas Journey has some good production qualities, such as clear video quality and good camera work.  The sets and locations are okay, but as previously mentioned, are clearly recycled from past films, but this time with Christmas decorations!  The soundtrack is as stock as it comes.  The editing is designed to drag this movie out into a nearly three-hour runtime, so there are plenty of wasted scenes.  In short, this is what you can expect from a Hallmark Christmas film—some money spent on production, but otherwise very empty.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Whoever is in charge of letting these movies get on television decided that since they needed to force a Christmas Love Comes Softly film to happen, then they needed to recycle the old standby plot of the saga: a young widow moves to a new place to start a new life and meets a new man.  Seriously, how many times are they going to do this one?  First it was Marty, then Missy, then Belinda, and now some sister of Missy’s named Ellie.  Besides this nonsense, the characters are extremely empty-headed and mindless, fueled by forced and awkward dialogue.  The first half of the movie (the original first part), is a huge waste of time, spent on preparing for the next half by introducing trite and petty conflicts that have no consequence whatsoever.  Throughout the movie, there are many factually unrealistic elements (what else is new?), such as the audacity of including Santa Clause in this plot.  No, seriously: Santa is a character.  And nothing can beat the cheesiest Christmas end in the world: snowing on Christmas Eve.  Essentially, Hallmark just phoned this one in because they can.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This is just more of the same garbage.  The cast members are extremely fake and plastic.  Natalie Hall in particular acts like she’s had a lobotomy most of the movie, taking forever to recite her lines, like she keeps forgetting what she’s supposed to do.  The emotions of the cast members are equally plastic.  In typical Love Comes Softly style, costuming and makeup are overdone and unrealistic for the time period.  But what else can we say without constantly repeating ourselves?

Conclusion

Love’s Christmas Journey is a textbook case from that all important manual from the executive offices of Hallmark: How to Make Another Hallmark Christmas Film.  First, find a plot to rip off; it can be a stock plot or it can be a loose idea stolen from an unsuspecting Christian author.  Second, find the most plastic cast members available and shower them with makeup and costuming.  Third, find a reusable set that fits the genre and inundate it with Christmas cheer.  Now just film the movie as fast as possible to get it ready for television!  Once again, with the resources and platform they have at their disposal, Hallmark squanders opportunity after opportunity to make a real difference in the film world.  But we doubt they will ever learn.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points