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Christian Movie News and Reviews

Month

February 2017

Luther [2003] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Martin Luther was a radical in his day who wanted to see sweeping changes in the Catholic Church.  He was tired of seeing the poor oppressed and abused while the Church made money off of their fear by selling indulgences.  When he tried to make a difference, he received major pushback and was forced to go into hiding after posting his 95 Theses.  While in hiding, he sought God and translated the Word of God for the common people to read.  Though he was not perfect and struggled with despair, Luther was a man of God who truly changed his world for Christ.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

In this rendition of Luther, it’s clear that great care was given to historical authenticity, including excellent sets, locations, and props.  Other aspects of production are also professional presented, including camera work, video quality, audio quality, and an original soundtrack.  There is little to complain about here except for some slightly choppy editing as it seems like too much content is attempted to be covered in one film.  But nonetheless, this film is an example of what a historical biography should look like.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The portrayal of Martin Luther as a real man who struggled with different issues is refreshing and realistic.  Other historical events are also portrayed properly, especially the follies of the Catholic Church in the Dark Ages.  There are understandably quite a few characters in this story, so most of them are not developed as well as others.  However, dialogue is effective and historically authentic.  While the first half of this film handles the large amount of content well, things begin to go downhill in the second half.  There is too much information crammed into the second half, and a lot of it is not very engaging to the average audience.  The story tends to hop from one high point to the next, yet this is an overall good effort and one that is worth your time.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This cast is overall fairly professional—each character is cast appropriately for historical authenticity.  They clearly know what they are doing, but sometimes they tend to be overly dramatic and theatrical.  Line delivery is on point and emotions are mostly good with some moments of being over the top.  But overall, this is a respectable effort.

Conclusion

This idea probably would have worked far better as a miniseries because it would have given the writers freedom to slow down and develop the characters better.  It would have also allowed them to more effectively convey key historical events instead of just jumping from one to the next.  Yet as it is, Luther is a good film many people will enjoy.  We need more films about historical Christianity, and they should be crafted in the mold of this one.  This sort of movie should be the norm, not the exception.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

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Courageous Love {Rather to Be Chosen} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Alex Shelby inherits his father’s real estate investment company, he feels like he is in over his head because he does not know how to lead.  But he decides to trust in the experienced people who assisted his father all of his career.  However, when he is faced with an impossible situation involving accusations against an employee of his that he is falling in love with, Alex will have to make hard decisions as he tries to discover who is really trying to sabotage his company.  Will love win out in the end?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

While Courageous Love is an improved production effort compared to the track record of Crystal Creek Media, it is still just average.  For example, video quality and camera work are fine, but inconsistent audio issues still plague this film, which is an error Crystal Creek has yet to rectify in their films.  Also, the soundtrack is very stock.  In this film are many of the same limited sets from Unexpected Places, especially the office sets.  Finally, the editing of Courageous Love is very sloppy, with very confusing and abrupt transitions and cuts.  Overall, while this production looks better than the past ones, there are still commonly recurring issues that plague it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unlike past plots from this studio, Courageous Love has an interesting and slightly complex idea behind it, even though it gets severely covered up by incompetent writing.  There is really no way to follow what’s happening as the audience is presented with a dizzying amount of unconnected and underdeveloped subplots.  From one scene to the next, there is little continuity or understanding of what is happening.  Many sequences and scenes are empty and wasted, doing nothing to deepen the story.  This story’s characters are one-dimensional, act disingenuous, and demonstrate no real purpose or personality as they are driven by mindless dialogue.  Finally, the plot rests on unrealistic yet extremely convenient occurrences in order to make the story go where it ‘needs’ to go.  In short, while we believe the Knudsens and company have good intentions, their messaging is all wrong.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

While this is another film filled with the same old under-coached Crystal Creek cast members, there is still some potential here.  Tim Kaiser seems to be improving with time.  However, there are still many errors that plague this section, including useless fake accents and overdubs and the usual emotion and line delivery problems.  This group may mean well, but they are in severe need of coaching.

Conclusion

After a handful of movies under their belt, has the Crystal Creek team really made it anywhere?  Following such poor productions like Unexpected Places, Indescribable, Christmas Grace, and Creed of Gold, they are just now getting the hang of a proper production, even though they still have a ways to go.  But what of their writing?  We sincerely implore the Knudsens to reach out for help in this area, because whatever good ideas they have are being wasted as they are lost in translation.  Furthermore, please find some new cast members or at least try to coach the ones you have.  Movies like Courageous Love are easily forgotten for all of the previously listed reasons.  If you want to make an impact, aim for quality over quantity.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Movies That Are So Bad They’re Not Even Worth Our Time, Part 4 (MTASBTNEWOT 4)

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.

 

Living Water [2006]

From the obnoxious blaring harpsicord soundtrack to the generally terrible production quality, Living Water is possibly one of the worst films on record.  Based entirely off of borderline offensive racial stereotypes, there is really no pot here to speak of except for a save the church concept and a bunch of heavy-handed radio preaching that drives the so-called story.  As the movie goes from one juvenile drama to the next, the viewer (if they last through it) finds themselves either laughing or crying from embarrassment.  A word of advice: steer clear of this one unless you’re really bored.

 

Running [2015]

Made by a ministry of some sort, it’s unclear whether or not the creation of this film was justified.  The production money was spent on the wrong things, such as fancy vehicles, instead of spending it on practical things, such as better audio and video equipment.  The story is very thin and empty—it seems like nothing is really happening except characters pretending like they’re doing stuff.  Finally, the acting is deplorable, rounding out a very uninspiring movie you probably won’t ever get around to watching.

 

Only Once [1998]

Only watch this barely-one-hour Mormon movie if you like to laugh at extremely awkward and wooden teenage cast members trying to convey an otherwise important message.  There is an unbelievable amount of silence in this film as mindless and empty characters just stare at each other and as useless montages go by.  This story is overall childish and overly simplistic.  There is no way to understand the end, much less what we’re really supposed to get out of this.  But if you want a laugh, have a go at it.

 

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

The Cokeville Miracle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a madman and his wife entered a small Wyoming elementary school and took everyone inside hostage for an astronomical ransom, it seemed like all hope was lost.  As the hours ticked by and tensions rose, no one could have predicted how it all would end.  The crisis escalated and a seeming tragedy struck, but no one in Cokeville was prepared for what happened next.  The children of the school claimed a miracle had occurred, but many were skeptical at first—until they saw the evidence for themselves that God was at work.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Cokeville Miracle is a raw production effort that starts out, unfortunately, very cheap-looking and drab.  This mostly pertains to some poorly lit scenes, some grainy video quality, and some poor special effects.  However, as the movie goes on, all production elements improve.  It’s clear that this team stayed within their means and did not over-exhaust their resources.  By the second half of the film, there are virtually no production errors, making this a very unique production.  Overall, it comes out as average, and since the production does get better as it goes, the film is saved from total disappointment.

Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)

We always say you can never go wrong depicting real life on the big screen, as long as it’s depicted properly.  The story of the miracles at the Cokeville Elementary School in 1986 is one that is worth portraying, but also difficult to portray since such a portrayal could easily become sensational and unrealistic.  However, this was not the case with this film.  Each character is realistic and believable—even the villains—and dialogue is effective in building the characters.  This type of story is not easy to craft properly, yet The Cokeville Miracle unfolds exquisitely and makes you stay until the very end.  Historical authenticity is preserved as this story makes everyone, even skeptics, think about the nature of modern day miracles.  In short, this is a film well-worth your time.

Acting Quality (3 points)

For an ‘amateur’ cast with not much notoriety, the cast of this film gave a slam dunk performance.  There are no acting errors here, even where there were potential pitfalls, such as villain acting and child acting.  Care was taken to preserve the original people who experienced this crisis firsthand.  Emotions are believable and line delivery is effective.  This rounds out a job well done.

Conclusion

While we would have loved to see higher production quality, this team did everything they could do with what they had, and that’s really all we ask of film makers.  Whatever God has given you, do the best you can with it.  The Cokeville Miracle proves you don’t need a big budget or big names to make a great movie.  All you need is a good story and the care enough to tell it properly.  ‘Little’ films like this one put ‘big’ ones to shame and demonstrate true greatness.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

 

The Perfect Summer (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jake and his mom move from Chicago to Hawaii to start a new life with her father, Jake is less than thrilled about the change of pace.  He has to adjust to new surroundings and new people who do not always accept him.  He also has to endure his eccentric grandfather, who tries to rebuild their relationship.  Jake is ready to give up when he discovers that he has a thing for surfing and that his grandfather can teach him.  Perhaps the worst summer ever for Jake will turn into the perfect summer.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Perfect Summer is such a clean, stock made-for-television film.  From the opening sequence to the loudest soundtrack ever to lots of nature footage, this movie checks all the boxes of mediocre production quality.  While the video quality and camera work are fine, the poor audio quality is very distracting as it picks up all kinds of unwanted sounds.  However, the sets and locations are fairly professional and interesting.  Finally, the editing is standard and moves the plot along at a predictable pace.  In short, this production is average, but we’ve come to expect more from professional television channels.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The Perfect Summer is a predictable inspirational cookie-cutter plot depicting a city character moving to a remote location and having to adjust to a different culture with limited internet access.  The constant jokes about the internet and other forced comedy gets really old.  The local characters are stereotypical; none of the characters are developed enough for there being so few of them.  This film’s premise is a fairly thin sports\training story complete with lots of music videos, empty conflicts, and a typical romantic subplot.  Unfortunately, the Christian message seems manufactured and plastic.  However, this story has a slightly realistic ending and sort of redeems it to a point.  But otherwise, if you’ve seen this kind of movie before, you’re probably not missing anything.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This cast is actually the best part of the film, even though Eric Roberts is involved.  He is strange and overdone as usual and singlehandedly holds this section back.  His presence poisons the entire film.  But the rest of the small cast is okay, though there are some slightly over emotions and cultural stereotypes.  In the end, this is a good effort, but we would have liked to see a little more from this professional team.

Conclusion

This plot has really been done before, may too often.  Channels like UP and the like need to be brave enough to take a risk with a different plot.  What’s it going to hurt?  They have the resources to make pretty much any kind of inspirational plot they want, so why not go for broke?  The Perfect Summer is one of those forgettable movies that you might watch while flicking the TV channels and then forget about in a few days.  With the money and abilities companies like this have, they need to set the bar higher for themselves and do something original and memorable.  It’s fine to make clean entertainment, but why get stuck in mediocrity?

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Texas Rein {The Ride Home} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Cassie Roberts receives word that her father is having medical complications, she is forced to return to the small town of Texas she grew up in, the one she tried to get away from.  While back in town, she is reminded of her horse riding days and reluctantly agrees to help her father and his young trainer to train her old horse for a reining competition.  Will she be reminded of what she left behind and of the new life she can start anew?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

While Texas Rein has good standard production elements, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality, there are still some other issues to raise.  The soundtrack is very stock and uninspiring.  The sets and locations are quite limited to a few houses and outside areas and don’t even give off that small town feel.  Finally, the editing is quite poor and causes the film to be very choppy and confusing—just a collection of random scenes.  There are also too many musical montages.  In short, while this movie looks good on the surface, it’s really just an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

So a character returns to their hometown they don’t want to be in because of some extenuating circumstance and finds a reason to stay (usually a horse is involved) and meets a significant other and so on and so forth.  We’ve seen this plot before and this is a 2016 movie, so why are we seeing it again?  Besides the predictable plot structure, the characters therein are extremely juvenile and simplistic.  The dialogue is typical and full of small town statements.  Nothing really substantial happens as the passage of time is hard to follow.  We can’t feel like these people are real or are doing real things as their unrealistic high school dramas are resolved too easily.  Basically, there’s really nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This is really a very poor casting job.  The actors and actresses are awkward, wooden, and robotic in their line delivery.  They don’t express any believable feeling or emotions.  On the bright side, this is possibly Erin Bethea’s best role to date.  But otherwise, this is a big disappointment.

Conclusion

It’s great to want to make a movie, but sometimes you need to take a step back and see if it really is worth marking.  Texas Rein probably would have done better as a short film, to work as sort of a springboard for better things.  With no creative plot content and very weak characters, this was unfortunately not a story worth telling.  Also, it’s great to have production elements down, but having such a poorly coached cast is unacceptable.  Perhaps things will improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Rumors of Wars (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

As Roxy, a college student, witnesses the slow but sure takeover of a one world government, she chronicles her thoughts, beliefs, and discoveries in a detailed journal that is eventually discovered by agents of the new world order.  Shaw 408, the agent who discovers the journal, is unsure of his role in the takeover regime and finds himself intrigued by the journal’s contents.  As Zurn, the leader of the new regime, tightens his grip on the world by ordering everyone to receive a microchip inserted under their skin, the world descends into chaos.  Who will survive?

 

Production Quality (3 points)

It’s clear that the Bearfruit Films team has a commitment to high quality productions, as their effort on Rumors of Wars shows in every production element.  Video and audio quality are error-free.  The original soundtrack is effective and appropriate.  The apocalyptic sets, locations and props are excellent.  The action-based camera work, which is often difficult to execute, is done quite well.  Finally, there are no obvious editing errors, thus making this a perfect production job.  This is rarely found, so we greatly anticipate Bearfruit’s future work.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Rumors of Wars is a unique brand of apocalyptic storyline that actually doesn’t bite off more than it can chew by trying to cover tons of apocalyptic high points.  Instead, the story stays in a controlled atmosphere to build a good dystopian premise without jumping through time too quickly or zooming all over the world.  The mixing of the past and present subplots is interesting and is done fairly well.  However, this overall concept needs a little more explaining and development.  The characters are most okay, but some of the villains are cheesy.  Surprisingly, the antichrist character is actually different and creative.  Finally, Rumors of Wars does commit a key apocalyptic error in creating a passive-aggressive this-might-be-continued-someday ending.  But otherwise, there is a lot of potential here and room to grow.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Full of recognizable actors and actresses, this cast is a mixed bag.  Sometimes they are over the top and other times they are very much on point.  For example, this is not T. C. Stallings’ best performance, but Ben Davies is better than usual.  It’s different from cast member to cast member, thus making this an overall average performance.

Conclusion

This whole idea would work so much better either as a series of films or as a miniseries.  There are a lot of creative ideas and concepts hidden in here that require further development, which necessitates more time and money to do this.  We hope that one day this movie concept can be continued or remade in some fashion.  Regardless, Bearfruit Films has a talented team, so it will be interesting to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

77 Chances (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jason Shaw is a photographer who always wants to capture the right moment.  But what happens when the same moment repeats over and over again?  After meeting Mackenna, his life is never the same as the day of their meeting continues to repeat itself.  Jason tries to change the fate he is left with, but is unsuccessful.  Will he be able to come to grips with the truth God is trying to tell him before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

EchoLight Studios and Liberty University clearly have the resources and know-how for crafting a top level production.  This is evident in the professional camera work, video quality, sets, and locations of 77 Chances.  However, there are some minor audio issues, such as an overbearing soundtrack.  Also, editing issues plague this movie as there is too much wasted time and incongruence.  But otherwise, this production is above average—we just feel that it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

At this point, it’s likely that the Groundhog Day plot concept is a little worn out.  There is little that can be done with this idea, and the story only ends up being filled with montages and copied or varied scenes.  Therein, there is too much ‘silent’ dialogue covered up with music, which stunts the development of the few characters there are.  Nevertheless, some of the ideas and psychological elements presented in 77 Chances are interesting and intriguing, albeit sometimes too mystifying and confusing.  After establishing the repeating day and subsequently playing around with it for about an hour, a unique and creative concept is introduced with about ten minutes left to go.  Due to time constraints, this idea is not fully developed or completed, thus leaving the audience with a half-hearted effort.  This is frustrating to watch because there is actually a lot of potential here.  But alas, we are left wondering what could have been.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Erin Bethea, Andrew Cheney, and Rachel Hendrix have all had their better movies, but this is not one of them.  They come off as stiff, awkward, and flat.  Scotty Curlee and Stephan Schultze are supposed to be Kendrick prodigies, yet their acting coaching comes up short here.  Though not all is bad, this is another disappointing element.

Conclusion

We know that EchoLight has the ability to create a quality film, but the Liberty University team has even more potential they are sitting on that they are not properly using.  Tracy Trost, Curlee, and Schultze all have the training and the talent necessary to take the next step into greatness, but they are stuck in mediocrity.  As a side note, we would like to see this movie have a remake, if possible.  The bottom line is that this creative team has more resources than many film makers dream of—they just need to use them properly.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Miracles from Heaven (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Anna Beam is diagnosed with a rare digestive disorder, her parents, especially her mother, are thrown for a loop.  They question their faith as they are swept up in the chaos of medical treatments and tests.  In the face of adversity, the Beam family must pull together and dig deep to discover what they truly believe, because a miracle from heaven could be just around the corner.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

With top level production budgeting and resources, Miracles from Heaven is clearly a high quality production.  Everything looks great—camera work, video quality, sets, props, and locations.  Audio quality is professional, but the soundtrack is standard.  The only flaw to point out here is some lazy editing—there are a lot of montages and footage scenes that seem to pad the runtime.  But otherwise, this is the kind of production that should be the norm in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

It’s undeniable that this true story touched the Beam family in more ways we can imagine, and it’s always great to portray real life on the big screen.  This is obviously an amazing story, but we can’t help but feel that it could have been portrayed in a better way.  For one, though these are real people in the story, they don’t feel real, which is probably due to the fact that time speeds by in this plot.  There’s obviously a lot of ground to cover, but the pace of the storyline leaves little room for meaningful dialogue or character development.  This is a collection of snapshots—good snapshots, mind you—but snippets nonetheless.  In the end, many will find this movie enjoyable, but we just would have liked to get to know the characters a little better.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

This is clearly a professional and quality cast, as lines are mostly delivered well.  The main drawback to raise here are some over the top emotional deliveries.  But otherwise, each character is cast well and each cast member delivers professionally.

Conclusion

Stories like the Beam family’s story are powerful and deserve recognition in Christian entertainment.  They are meaningful and can be very powerful for those who watch.  Movies like Miracles from Heaven will have a lot of impact with a lot of audiences.  However, we would have liked to see the characters of this movie deepened so that its impact would have been maximized.  But as it is, many people will enjoy this film and it’s certainly something worth watching.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

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