Hiding in Plain Sight [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Almost overnight, the Blackmon family finds themselves unemployed, homeless, and running out of funds.  As they try to make their way on the streets, they discover that the world is hostile towards the homeless and that they will need to figure out how to fend for themselves.  As the going gets tough, will they reach out for help where they know they can find it or will they continue to hide in plain sight?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Possibly in an attempt to be overly realistic, this film looks like it was literally filmed on the sides of busy roads with cars constantly driving by either in front of the camera or behind the set.  There are also many other artistic angles, such as filming through fences and from behind other barriers and objects.  But randomly, the video quality and lighting of the scenes are professional, which seem out of place in this production.  Most, if not all, of the audio is either severely muffled or obviously overdubbed in post-production.  The soundtrack is also very loud, probably to cover up outside sounds.  Furthermore, editing is atrocious as scenes jump all over the place and transitions are very choppy and disorienting.  In the end, this production is unfortunately a train wreck.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While the writers appear to mean well, this storyline is next to impossible to follow.  There are some interesting points in here somewhere, but they are hard to decipher amidst this story’s general lack of focus.  It’s mostly just a collection of random scenes about people wandering around and sitting around outside, with some montages thrown here and there.  There is no plot continuity whatsoever and no depth to these characters.  Whatever dialogue is even discernable does nothing to help the plot or the characters.  There are too many off-the-wall elements and goofs to take this movie seriously.  Unfortunately, this was a swing and a miss.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Though there are some cast members that appear to mean well and it is likely that this cast had no coaching or assistance, this is still a mess.  There are too many mumbled lines that are completely indecipherable.  Emotions are also forced and extreme, with either too much yelling or too little expression.  It really seems like in many ways that this film was thrown together on the fly.

Conclusion

Though there were some well-meaning intentions here and there is certainly potential to be found in Hiding in Plain Sight, as it is, this is nothing but a disaster.  The team clearly tried to patch up some of the glaring problems in post-production, but the problems were too great.  This film needed to be totally scrapped and started over.  Yet it is highly possible that this was not financially feasible.  Thus, this further shows the importance of doing things right the first time and making sure you don’t take on more than you can handle.  Sometimes it’s better to start out small before moving to bigger things.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

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The Veritas Project: Hangman’s Curse (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The Veritas Project consists of the Springfield family—their job is to work with local law enforcement undercover in order to discover the origins of unusual happenings in small towns.  Their next job is to go undercover at a high school that seems to be haunted by the curse of a teen who hung himself inside the school one night.  Seemingly random deaths keep happening that are tied back to the hanging and to dark happenings at the school.  Will they be able to get to the bottom of it before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Like many early 2000s productions distributed by Fox Faith, Hangman’s Curse has its high points and its issues that keep it from being all it could be.  For example, the video quality is unnecessarily grainy and there is poor lighting throughout.  However, the sets, locations, and props are realistic and appropriate.  Audio quality is fine except for the cheesy soundtrack and the cheap sound effects that are dubbed on top of the normal audio.  There are also a lot of very juvenile horror-related special effects that are actually quite annoying.  Finally, the editing is fairly choppy as scenes end abruptly, off-screen content is referred to often, and transitions do not flow well.  In the end, it’s possible that this production team’s budget was not ready to handle a sci-fi\horror film, so they might should have rethought this effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though Frank Peretti knows how to craft an interesting enough Christian horror\sci-fi plot, Hangman’s Curse crams too much content into a short amount of time.  This stunts character develop and forces dialogue to be rushed and packed with information.  Sometimes the premise of this ‘horror’ concept is hard to believe and is even a little silly at times.  We are supposed to treat the issue as serious, but it is difficult to do so because it all seems too shallow.  There are too many very cheesy half-attempts at horror that are more annoying than effective.  Like too many sci-fi plots, this one relies too heavily on the ‘twist’ and the concept revealed near the end rather than actual character development.  It’s hard to care about what’s going on when it all rushes by so fast all in the name of solving the mystery in under two hours.  In the end, some will find this story interesting, but it does not appeal to every audience.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The casting and acting of this film are definitely its strong suit.  Though there is nothing truly dynamic about the cast members’ performances, they are also not detracting or negative.  Their emotions are mostly believable and their line delivery is professional.  This should be the baseline for acting in Christian film.

Conclusion

Frank Peretti has always been a genre pioneer in Christian entertainment.  He went where other Christians were afraid to go and opened up a whole new world for both writing and movies.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with his work, this particular film does not capture it well, and this could be due to the early days of Christian productions.  Perhaps if this film were made today, it would be better.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

David and Goliath [2015] (Movie Review)

I AM GOD YOU ARE NOTHING!!!!!!!!

Plot Summary

Travel back to that historical moment when the British Jews in construction hats were hanging around in the desert waiting to fight the eye-shadow-challenged PhilistInes until they saw the guttural wonder known as Goliath and became too afraid to fight.  So they reverted back to standing around talking, wandering around in circles, and riding their horses around camp.  Then along came the pastiest white British man ever—Michelangelo’s David—who decided that he was going to fight the giant action figure across the valley.  After much deliberation, arguing, and talking, the pasty white man ventures forth to fight the giant.  If you made it this far into the film and haven’t been paid off by Timothy Chey, you know how bad it is.

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

With millions of dollars flushed down the toilet for this disaster, you would think that Timothy Chey and crew would be able figure out how to put together a professional production.  But apparently they wasted too much of their funding on the ‘dangerous’ international location to care about how to keep audio quality from constantly screeching and overdriving.  Despite the international endeavor, the sets are terrible and childish.  The soundtrack is very generic and loud, like much of the other audio.  Video quality is low for no reason and camera work is average at best.  A lot of the outside scenes are poorly filmed, with constant extras and horses walking around in front of the camera.  There are also a lot of poor special effects used, along with obvious animation to cover up production shortcuts.  In the end, the world of Timothy Chey defies reality in many ways, especially when he is somehow raising tens of millions of dollars to fund these outright calamities.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In a terrible attempt to portray the Biblical story of David and Goliath, this plot is really just about delaying the inevitable.  As the whitest and most British man alive plays David, all the British characters waste time standing around (with horses and people constantly going round and round them) talking and arguing about what they are going to do and debriefing about what’s going to happen next.  It feels like the same conversations repeat over and over again, and the sayings of Goliath most definitely and literally repeat over and over again, like he’s a giant action figure.  Once it finally gets to the so-called climax, it really wasn’t worth waiting for.  Besides this, there are tons of the typical Timothy Chey bizarre elements, such as likening the PhilistInes to a Satanic cult and having Goliath literally drink blood from a cow head.  There is just so much here that cannot even be covered or explained, but needless to say, only watch this film if you don’t pay for it and if you need a good laugh.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

Besides this cast being extremely BRITISH, the costuming is among the worst.  They blew millions of dollars on international travel but couldn’t even put together a decent historical costume that doesn’t look like it was a repurposed construction uniform.  The makeup is also among the worst we have ever witnessed, with coal spilled all over the PhilistInes’ faces.  The cast members therein (especially Goliath) make all kinds of weird guttural sounds and mumbled lines, not to mention the constant yelling and screaming.  Basically, we could just go on and on about the twilight zone of Timothy Chey.

Conclusion

One only has to look to the International Movie Database user reviews of Chey’s films to see just how far his insanity extends.  He clearly has a following of paid reviewers that constantly extol his works in an attempt to ‘correct the record’ (lol) about how the only reason anybody doesn’t like his movies is because they are carnal Christians who stole the movie off of the internet and live in their parents’ basements.  Go ahead and check them out—you’ll see where a good portion of Chey’s budget goes.  But this notwithstanding, what was someone thinking when they enabled this train wreck to happen?  Needless to say, Chey hopefully will not be handed this much funding again any time soon, but stranger things have happened…

 

Final Rating: -2 out of 10 points

 

I’m in Love With a Church Girl (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Miles Montego has everything money can buy, but he is restless and is under investigation by the federal government.  When he talks a Christian friend of his, he is inadvertently introduced to a girl he cannot stop thinking about.  The only problem is she is an outspoken Christian while Miles hasn’t been to church since he was a kid.  But in order to pursue her, he begins to play the part of a Christian, all the while running from his past as a drug dealer.  Eventually, it will all catch up to him so what choice will be make?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though there was a modest amount of money behind this project, it doesn’t seem like it was spent very well.  Camera work is fine, as is video quality, but there are one too many poorly lit scenes here.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is very standard and typical.  Sets and locations are fairly cheap and limited and have room for improvement.  There are too many product placements in this film, which make it seem plastic.  Finally, the editing is not the best as there are too many montages and wasted scenes.  In the end, while there is some good here, it simply isn’t up to standard.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this film was based on a true story, this story is not necessarily portrayed well.  There is too much narration that serves as a crutch to move the plot along.  Dialogue is mostly okay, but characters tend to be too one-dimensional and need further depth.  There is also some suggestive content that could have been avoided.  The purpose behind this film is also questionable—the idea here could send a wrong message about ‘missionary dating’.  It doesn’t really seem like the seriousness of the issues presented here are really grasped.  Though there is a somewhat good message of redemption, its conclusion and quite forced and rushed—it’s very hard to appreciate what is going on here because it all seems too surface.  Unfortunately, this was not the best way to portray a true story.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this is a ‘big name’ cast, and though there are some bright spots, there is too much over-acting and there are too many awkward performances in this effort.  A lot of the cast members seem forcibly cast to the point where they don’t seem real.  Of course, Stephen Baldwin is as ridiculous as can be expected.  Also, costuming and makeup is largely overdone in most of the cast members.  Essentially, this film is a case of too much of the wrong thing.

Conclusion

True stories are great in film—they can portray real people that audiences can connect with and learn from.  However, I’m In Love With a Church Girl crafts an unusual message that can confuse Christians when it comes to dating.  We certainly aren’t about to get into a debate over this topic in this forum, but we definitely have to be very careful when it comes to becoming emotionally involved with non-Christians.  Besides this, the gospel is presented, perhaps unconsciously, as a quick-fix method for problems and is thus cheapened.  But maybe next time this team will improve.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

The Lamp [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After a tragedy takes their son from them, Stanley and Lisa’s marriage is on the rocks and they seemingly have no purpose in life.  As they try to sort through what’s left of their son’s possessions, Lisa is given a mysterious lamp by one of her neighbors, who tells her that it has special powers.  Though Stanley is skeptical and angry, Lisa chooses to believe that the lamp can help them.  Little do they know what is coming to them next.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, The Lamp has good funding behind it that produces a decently above average production.  All the typical elements are good, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also intriguing.  The editing is also fine as the story is presented well.  However, the sets and locations are fairly limited to a handful of neighborhood areas, houses, and a baseball field.  Also, the biggest nagging issue here is the use of odd special effects to ‘enhance’ the experience—yet they only end up coming off as cheesy.  Overall, this is a good enough production, but the cheesy special effects tend to put a damper on things.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Based on a novel by Jim Stovall, The Lamp is a very unique Christian storyline that, while it has an interesting point and purpose, it also has a slightly silly premise.  The plot is somewhat slow to develop, but the dialogue improves as it goes and helps to build the characters.  There is a good use of flashbacks, but they are sometimes too disorienting.  As previously mentioned, though there is a good point here, there are also too many goofy magical elements that are introduced and only downplayed later.  This makes for a confusing viewing experience.  Also, in the end, things are fixed too easily, although there is an interesting twist that many will find interesting.  Overall, many will enjoy the uniqueness of The Lamp and there’s certainly nothing wrong with it—we just feel it could have been better.

Acting Quality (2 points)

At first, the acting of this film is atrocious.  Emotions are very extreme at first and there is far too much yelling in the first half hour.  However, the acting does get better as it goes as the cast members settle into their roles better and deliver their lines more smoothly.  In the end, it becomes an above average performance.

Conclusion

The Lamp is a textbook average film—with good production backing, it looks good on the surface.  It’s based on a book by a popular author, so that also works in its favor.  It also has recognizable cast members.  While average is awesome in the Christian entertainment market, we want movies to take that next step into greatness.  It’s definitely difficult to do, but in the end, it’s so worth it.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Jackson’s Run (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jackson is a troubled teen with a terminal illness who just can’t seem to stay out of trouble.  Ever since his father died, Jackson cannot find any direction in life.  His mother is at a loss for what to do with him as he continually gets in trouble, so she sentences him to a troubled youth work program at a local church.  Jackson balks at first but soon finds a mentor he desperately needs and begins to wrestle with what is truly important in life.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though this production is overall average, at the beginning, all production aspects are fairly cheap, almost like the introduction was a beta test.  Video quality and camera work are inconsistent throughout but do improve by the end of the film.  Audio quality is also poor at first and better later.  The soundtrack is somewhat interesting, however.  Sets, locations, and props are standard.  Yet editing is quite poor as transitions are choppy and the general flow of the film lacks direction and clarity.  In the end, it seems like more time could have been spent on this part of the movie, especially since the plot is so forgettable.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Jackson’s Run (not to be confused with Jackson from Decision) follows a typical and formulaic troubled character plot with no real surprises or twists until the end, and even so, the main ‘twist’ is quite cheesy.  There is really nothing creative to note here—characters are very one-dimensional and shallow due to uncreative and empty dialogue.  A lot of meandering ideas are present in this incoherent storyline that never really come to fruition.  It’s almost like the writers had to come up with a bunch of content to fill in the middle of the story because they just wanted to jump to the end.  Writing the end first can be helpful, but writing a plot only for the sake of the end reduces your chances of the audience actually making it that far.  Overall, Jackson’s Run seems like an incomplete idea that needed more fleshing out before going into production.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With ‘famous’ Christian actors Rusty Martins Sr. and Jr. and T.C. Stallings, it seems like it was assumed that this cast would be automatically good.  There are some bright spots, but there are a lot of moments where the cast members appear to either be not trying or to be unsure of what they are doing.  Sometimes it seems like they are phoning it in and they overall lack direction in the absence of proper coaching.

Conclusion

Jackson’s Run falls into the massive pile of low quality, forgettable Christian films that have no impact on anything whatsoever.  Though there may be a good message in a lot of these films and they are ‘family-friendly’, they are not making a difference.  Why are they not making a difference?  Production is not what it should be, the plots are lacking creativity and development, and casting is underwhelming.  What if all the money that was poured into these myriad forgettable films was pooled for a few truly dynamic movies?  The entertainment world would be turned upside down.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Sacred Vow (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Doug and Amber married when they were young, in college, and hopelessly in love.  However, as they grew older, they slowly but surely grew apart.  Then Doug does the unthinkable: he becomes involved with another woman who makes him want to get out of his current marriage.  But Amber refuses to sign the divorce papers until they both give their marriage a chance.  With secrets between them and their faith in tatters, will they ever be able to repair what is broken?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, the production of Sacred Vow is good.  Video quality and camera work are on par.  However, audio quality is sometimes poor, which seems out of place in this production.  The soundtrack could also use some work.  Sets and locations are acceptable, but the reality-television confessional style presentation seems counter-intuitive.  It’s very odd to have characters tell you things like this—it would be better for these things to be shown rather than told.  Thus, editing is somewhat lazy and relies on these odd confessionals.  Overall, this is an average production, but it feels like it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The confessionals also hamper with the plot structure.  Are we supposed to pay attention to the characters telling us about the story or to the story itself?  The “interviews” serve as a crutch for actual dialogue and character development.  Besides the interviews, there are also flashbacks that are fine but need more development to make sense rather than constant voiceovers.  Though this story has a good message and point, it is sometimes too shallow and simplistic, and at other times, it is too edgy.  It’s really hard to know who these people are outside of their interview spots.  There are also a few too many cheesy elements that hold this idea back.  In the end, what started as a likely good idea became too clunky to work well.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, this cast screams amateurish.  Sometimes their performances appear to be overly practiced, while other times they are quite awkward.  Some line delivery is too breathy and measured.  Also, costuming and makeup are very odd and off-putting.  Overall, though it seems like they meant well, it’s not really good enough.

Conclusion

Films like Sacred Vow start off as something interesting but all too quickly and easily fall short of their original intentions.  Though some decent money was spent on this film, it wasn’t applied in a way that makes it worthwhile.  The story is too underwhelming and the cast is not adequate enough.  In the end, unfortunately, Sacred Vow is just another one of those random Christian films that easily gets tossed aside and lost in the shuffle.  What we need is more dynamic films, not more five-dollar-bin fodder.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Lucky’s Treasure (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

May Landis knows there’s a coin hidden somewhere on her property, and she spends her life looking for it, much to the chagrin of her husband, Henry.  However, one day, May is sure she has found it, but she pays for it dearly.  Henry is sent into depression and drinking following his wife’s untimely death and is reluctant to take in his granddaughter Emily when she comes to live with him to go to college, but he agrees if she will take care of May’s horse Lucky.  Then Emily starts searching for the coin, even though there are also ‘bad guys’ searching for it.  Will they ever be able to find it in time?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

When compared to his past projects, Saving Winston and Camp Harlow, Shane Hawks’ production quality has somewhat increased.  However, the production of this film is still not up to industry standard.  Video quality and camera work are professional, but audio quality is lacking, especially in outside scenes.  The soundtrack is also very stock.  There are too many musical montages that waste time.  However, sets and locations are clearly given thought.  Yet editing is almost nonexistent as lots of useless content is included.  In the end, though Lucky’s Treasure looks better than past films, it’s still not there yet.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

If you could think of the most stereotypical and juvenile plot premise that involves a horse, a girl, a ranch hand, a treasure, and some ridiculous villains, then it would be Lucky’s Treasure.  Though it is Shane Hawks’ most complex plot (not saying much), its presentation is very disingenuous and lackadaisical.  Time is spent on the most childish things, like the cheesiest high school college romance since Barbie and Ken.  Every character fits into the most plastic mold you can think of—dialogue (the parts you can understand) sounds like it’s been bought from a stock dialogue company.  Things happen because they need to as time is filled with montages, romance stuff, activities of daily living, vague treasure hunt concepts, and lectures on French history.  With no real direction or purpose, Lucky’s Treasure (the horse is actually fairly insignificant) meanders along a predictable progression until time runs out.  Basically, this storyline is so stereotypical and stock that it in no way warrants creation.

Acting Quality (0 points)

With perhaps the most thrown-together cast ever, Lucky’s Treasure just keeps getting better and better.  The cast members post very awkward and unsure performances.  Some lines are mumbled while others seem phoned in.  Some are overplayed while others are underplayed.  The costuming is also atrocious.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to believe that any time was spent on this portion.

Conclusion

It’s noble that Shane Hawks and his team want to keep making movies.  They have the rare opportunity to do something great with the resources and platform they have been provided.  But they are utterly wasting it.  Our advice at this point for Hawks and company would be to stop trying to write plots and focus on directing and producing.  Find a better writer and get some help with your casting and coaching.  At the very least, do the best you can with what you have, because this is by far not the best you can do.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Like Dandelion Dust (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When the Campbells adopted little Joey from the struggling Porters, they thought it was forever.  But when the Porters get back on their feet after Joey’s father gets out of jail, they file to regain custody of their son.  Heartbroken, the Campbells do everything they can do to keep their only son, but they cannot prevail.  Therefore, they resort to a drastic measure that could land them in prison, but they are committed to protecting their son from evil.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a pilot production from Jon Gunn and company, this production quality is not what it could be.  But on a shoestring budget, it is not that bad.  Camera work is sometimes shaky and video quality and lighting are sometimes poor.  The standard soundtrack is sometimes loud enough to cover up dialogue, but audio quality is mostly fine.  For a first-time effort, the sets and locations are quite realistic, even the international ones.  The editing is a pretty good effort considering what they had to work with.  In the end, every movie maker has to start somewhere, regardless of the budget or resources.  When put in that perspective, Like Dandelion Dust is an applaudable effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Based on a novel by Karen Kingsbury, this plot is somewhat slow to develop and has one too many flat scenes and dead spots.  Yet the story is true to the book and depicts unfortunately realistic happenings.  Too much time tends to be spent on trashy elements, although what happens therein is believable.  This film is a fair portrayal of real people and their struggles and highlights important issues with child welfare.  Dialogue is mostly accessible and helps to build the characters.  Unfortunately, the first three-fourths of the film may not hold the attention of most audiences.  However, once it gets to the point at the end, it suddenly becomes really good and is worth the wait.  Overall, Like Dandelion Dust improves at the end and shows great potential for the future.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast is semi-professional and mostly knows what they are doing.  Through they are small, they have some bright spots, such as well-played and believable emotions.  Their line delivery can be wooden at times, but overall, this is a good effort that shows talent in casting.

Conclusion

It is always good to choose a book plot for your first film, but we have to wonder if this was the best Karen Kingsbury book to choose.  The story is intriguing as a book, but it doesn’t translate very well to the big screen.  Yet nonetheless, it is a good effort and something to build off of for the future.  There is great potential in this team and we can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Birdie and Bogey (Movie Review)

EVERYBODY’S HAPPY!!!!!!!!

Plot Summary

Pro-golfer Danny O’Connor loves his daughter Birdie, which is why he makes the unorthodox decision to make her his caddy in a tournament.  She begins to have a positive effect on his game, and he inches closer to his dream of playing on the PGA tour.  However, their dreams are tested when a disease threatens their relationship and puts their faith to the test.  Will they be able to withstand the trials before them?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

It is very confusing as to why this film was ever produced, because despite the big names behind it, the quality is quite low.  Video quality is grainy, especially in bright outside scenes, and camera work is shaky.  Audio quality is medieval, including loud outside sounds and a clanky soundtrack.  Sets and locations are underwhelming.  When it comes to the editing, there are far too many sports and scenery montages.  It seems like hardly any effort was put towards this production due to its cheap quality, which begs the question, was this film a necessity to make?

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Birdie and Bogey follows the predictable storyline of a typical sports plot and is saturated with golf content that isolates most audiences.  Other than golf references and training sequences, not much really happens in this story.  The premise of the film is very thin and flimsy, and the Christian message is very plastic and shoehorned in.  What little dialogue there in in this movie is very childish, and the characters therein are so over-the-top happy and sappy it’s enough to make you sick.  The end is very predictable and anti-climactic, if you make it that far.  Basically, we are unsure of what this film’s creators were really trying to convey here, but whatever it was, it never came through in a way that made any sense.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Just like the overly sappy characters, these cast members also act as fakely Hallmark as they can.  Their performances are very juvenile and over-the-top, obviously lacking in proper coaching.  Emotions are plastic and overly enthusiastic.  Also, the makeup jobs are atrocious.  In short, this is another example that causes us to ask why.

Conclusion

There are simply too many films on the Christian market like this one that have already been forgotten by most audiences and remain forever locked in the basement of Christian film.  We’ve said this before and will unfortunately continue saying this: making a film for the sake of making a film is never a good idea.  Just because you have a little bit of funding doesn’t mean you need to use it up on a knee-jerk movie.  Take your time, think about what you’re doing.  Make sure you have a good plot and the proper equipment and a cast who can at least be coached.  It’s simply not worth it to rush things.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Letters to God [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Tyler Doherty is fighting for his life against the cancer inside of him.  But rather than feel sorry for himself, he seeks to reach others for God by writing letters to God and sharing them with other people, especially his new mail carrier, who has a troubled past he is running from.  As Tyler’s family wrestles with what is happening to him, little do they know that God has great things in store for all of them.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a more ‘mainstream’ Christian film, Letters to God has good production quality, demonstrating that time and money were spent on it.  Video quality is clear and camera work is professional.  The opening sequence is interesting and grabs the attention well.  Audio quality is standard, but the soundtrack is slightly generic.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and appropriate.  The biggest drawback to this film’s production is the choppy editing that tends to only hit the high points of the storyline.  But overall, this is a respectable effort and one that should be commonplace in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As another cancer film based on a true story, Letters to God does better that most in its genre at being realistic.  Though the plot is simplistic, it has a meaningful message that it presented by believable characters that endure realistic struggles.  However, there is some information dump dialogue and there seem to be one too many silly\filler scenes that tend to waste time.  Thus, the plot is somewhat incomplete.  Though the characters can also tend to be heartwarming, we wish we could get to know them a little better through deeper dialogue.  As it is, some of their arcs are too steep and simplified to be appreciated.  However, on the bright side of things, flashbacks are utilized well.  In the end, this plot left a lot on the proverbial playing field that could have made it far better, yet many viewers will enjoy this story and its message.

Acting Quality (2 points)

As a semi-professional cast, these cast members are mostly good when it comes to line delivery and emotions.  There are a few head-scratching moments and awkward displays that detract from the overall score, yet there is not much to complain about here.  This is a demonstration of mostly good casting and coaching.

Conclusion

Letters to God checks the necessary boxes for being marginally successful in the Christian entertainment world: spend time and money to make your production look good and make sure you have a professional cast that makes minimal or not too noticeable errors.  If you can accomplish these two feats in a Christian movie, you are unfortunately far ahead of the game.  Being average is great, based on the low standards that have been set by and myriad of basement-dwelling films on the market.  But we still want movies to take that next step into greatness rather than hover around the middle.  When high quality becomes more widespread in Christian film, then the entire movie industry will never be the same.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Rachel (2018)

 

Coming in 2018 from PureFlix and Reel Frog Films

 

 

Writer(s): Kerry Chestnut

Director(s): Juan Pablo Reinoso

Producer(s): Ray Nikolaison, DJ Perry

Starring: Ray Nikolaison, DJ Perry, Sherry Morris, Carman, James Van Patten, Lana Wood

 

Plot Synopsis:

Basically the same cast from The Book of Ruth makes The Book of Rachel because they needed to make another Bible film.

Johnny [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Johnny is a foster boy with cancer who sees it as his mission to show people the truth and love of God even though he is suffering.  When he encounters Dr. Carter, little do they know that both of their lives will be changed forever as a result.  Dr. Carter and his wife are still hurting from the death of their young son, and though they are not ready to believe that Johnny could offer healing for them.  However, God has other plans for all of them.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

In keeping with most recent PureFlix productions, Johnny is most fine.  Video quality is on standard, but there are some unexplainable moments of shaky camera work.  Audio quality is mostly what it should be, but the soundtrack is extremely uninspiring and sometimes it seems like the audio is overdubbed.  Sets, locations, and props are professional.  However, there are far too many montages in this film that serve as a crutch for actual content.  Thus, the editing work is poor.  Overall, this is an average production that should have been better than this, considering the funding it had.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though there is a somewhat good message behind Johnny, there is far too much melodrama that distracts from it.  It is very difficult to connect with the struggles of the characters because they come off as very manufactured and plastic.  The main character is very cheesily sappy and perfect, almost to the point of embarrassment.  A lot of the dialogue from all the characters is very obvious and forceful in moving the plot along rather than developing the characters.  Thus, the story follows a predictable progression that is obvious from the start.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with the plotline itself, the way it is presented and the lack of authenticity really derails this film.  Also, things are fixed too easily, which doesn’t really help us learn anything.  In the end, these sorts of movies are very formulaic and are unfortunately designed to make money.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Though this cast is intended to be professional, there is really no coaching present.  While it is not all bad, there are far too many over the top emotions and yelling sequences.  Everything is overly dramatic, which makes for a very distracting experience.  This is not the way to make a meaningful film.

Conclusion

Johnny is one of those films that uses a generic and predictable plot structure to churn out a made-for-bookstore film that can be easily sold on the shelves.  It contributes nothing to the field and only serves the purpose of generating revenue for the production company.  A few weeks after the release, it is totally forgotten and eventually turns up in the cheap Walmart bins and in thrift stores.  Christian film should not be about profit ventures, even though PureFlix has done this for about a decade now.  However, hopefully that tide is turning.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Movies That Are So Bad They’re Not Even Worth Our Time, Part 6 (MTASBTNEWOT 6)

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.

 

There’s a map on the back of Georgia’s state constitution

The Adventures of Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Treasure

Oh, Mickey Matson.  Why does this series exist?  I guess someone pitched the idea of a juvenile young-adult patriotic secret society action adventure suspense secret codes National Treasure concept copycat film to PureFlix and they liked it because they don’t usually have any standards (see Divine Will).  So they found the most redneck characters ever to play the villains and wrote out a bunch of mumbo jumbo about secret codes to make the story look interesting.  Then they thought it would be cool to throw in some kind of cockamamie machine invention doohickey that does alchemy or something.  Basically, this sort-of-non-Christian action adventure film is just too far over our heads to warrant a full review, especially since we can’t make heads or tails of what we’re supposed to learn from it.

 

The secret lies with Charlotte

Pirate’s Code: The Adventures of Mickey Matson

Oh, there’s another one?  To think they meant to make more of these like PureFlix’s own version of a poor man’s young adult film franchise.  Seriously, is this all they could come up with?  More redneck villains and stupid props!  More devices, doohickeys, and junk science!  More secret societies and secret codes and secret secrets!  More terrible special effects!  If a non-Christian saw this, they would laugh you out of the room.  This non-franchise should have been left at the storyboard.

 

Road to the Open

This isn’t really even a Christian film at all, just another random cheap inspirational film that PureFlix endorses.  It was so boring to watch and the only reason we did was so we could see John Schneider and Eric Roberts play an alpha-male star tennis team.  They were barely in the movie as it was, which was a real bummer, and they weren’t even that funny, even though they tried.  Oh well.

 

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

The Miracle of the Cards (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Craig Shergold was a healthy eight-year-old boy until he began having mysterious headaches.  The doctors ran tests and found that Craig had a brain tumor, so Craig’s parents immediately began taking steps to combat the disease inside their son’s body.  As they walk on the journey together, Craig’s mother continually has premonitions and visions about her son’s future.  Craig also receives millions of get-well cards, prompting media attention to his story and talks of a world record.  Could it be that the cards are instrumental in Craig’s healing?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, as an early 2000s made-for-television production, The Miracle of the Cards is not what it’s cracked up to be.  Video quality is relatively cheap-looking, although camera work is fine.  Audio quality is also fine, except there is a cheesy stereotypical soundtrack to go with it.  Sets, locations, and props are decent enough.  There are one too many cheesy special effects that attempt to go with the ‘magical’ themes of this film.  Finally, the editing is quite choppy as time skips around to hit the high points—in doing this, the audience is left confused.  In the end, not enough time was spent on this production to make the movie worth it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As previously mentioned, there is not very much plot content in The Miracle of the Cards as time travels too quickly, thus leaving characters underdeveloped.  Dialogue only serves to report what is happening as time spends by—in doing so, the characters are left shallow  and one-dimensional.  Though this is a true story, it is seemingly based on too many coincidences; a sense of realism is missing from this plot, especially considering the number of childish magical and sensational elements.  The presence of these elements is frustrating because it’s hard to take this movie seriously when they are there.  Unfortunately, they weaken and cheapen the Christian message that is included in it.  In the end, at least this film is based on a true story (its only redeeming quality in this category), but it’s hard to see that there were any motives behind this film except making money on an easy-to-market television movie.

Acting Quality (2 points)

With a professional cast (even though it includes Kirk Cameron), the acting is by far this film’s strongest suit and keeps it from being left in the basement of Christian film.  There are few errors here pertaining to emotional and line delivery.  This just goes to show you that a good cast with good coaching can make all the difference in your movie.

Conclusion

What is one to do with kids-with-cancer films?  They are easy to get people to watch, especially if they’re on TV.  But despite true stories behind them, their plots are still formulaic and predictable.  Just because you use a real idea doesn’t mean you need to ignore character development.  Without realistic characters, the realism of the story is undermined.  In the end, many will view this film as fine, and it’s definitely not one of those embarrassing films, but we still feel it could have been better.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Fathers [2012] (Movie Review)

Yup

Plot Summary

Michael was randomly abandoned by his wife while Rick’s wife and daughter died in a car wreck.  Rick hates God now but Michael is still a perfect role model for his son.  Rick has let his life fall into shambles, but Michael and his son reach out to Rick and his son and try to help them with stuff.  After hanging around the doing stuff for a while, tragedy suddenly strikes these characters and they will have to try to face it together.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Seriously, this movie looks like it was filmed with a camcorder on the cloudiest days possible.  We’ve seen some doozies when it comes to bad productions, but Fathers really takes the cake.  There are absolutely no positive elements here as everything about this production is terrible and horrific in every possible way.  From blurry video quality to shaky camera work to horrible audio quality to a loud soundtrack to highly unprofessional sets, this film is unrivaled, except for unforgettable gems like Final: The Rapture or My Refuge.  As if it matters, there is also no editing.  Just when we think we’ve seen it all, along comes another medieval production.  How does this stuff get made?

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With barely any plot or purpose to speak of, Fathers mindlessly slogs along until the time is up.  Full of meandering emptiness and utter pointlessness, there is no clear story here to speak of.  Whatever point is trying to be conveyed here is totally lost in the disaster that this film is.  The characters therein in are totally empty and laughable, burping out garbled dialogue here and there.  Though there is an attempt at a plot twist near the end of the story, it’s just too little too late.  Words can’t even begin to describe how inept this film is.

Acting Quality (0 points)

If the Rossetti’s team goal was to find and cast the most awkward white people Walmart has to offer, then they succeeded with flying colors.  They succeeded in mumbling at least half of their lines and demonstrating to most dorky emotions ever.  They constantly repeat phrases like ‘you know’ over and over again.  At this point, it must be considered how much those involved in this film actually cared about what it looked like in the end.

Conclusion

There is little else we can say.  If you want a good laugh, you simply have to see this one for yourself.  If you don’t laugh, then you have to cry at the fact that this kind of stuff is made in the name of Christian film.  Money was spent on this and somehow it was released as a feature length film.  The only thing we can ask is why.  Why, why, why, why, why, why, why.  Why.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

One More Round [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jake Taylor is a down-on-his-luck former boxer who is plagued by a mistake from his past that cost him his boxing career.  Ever since then, he has been struggling to hold down a job, his marriage is a mess, and his house is about to be foreclosed on.  When it seems like everything is about to fall apart, he suddenly stumbles upon his old trainers again and decides that his only shot at life may be through picking up the gloves again to fight.  Will Jake be able to fight through one more round to save his family and his finances?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

In One More Round, Rossetti Productions has taken on more than it can handle in a production.  Though camera work and video quality are mostly fine, many other production elements are not.  Audio quality is very poor, as background noises and echoes are very loud.  The soundtrack is also loud and out of place, sometimes covering up dialogue.  Sets, locations, and props are quite cheap-looking and seem like they are just slapped together.  Finally, the editing is poor as scenes awkwardly cut and as they abruptly transition between each other.  In short, though sports productions require extra effort to make them quality, this effort was not present in One More Round.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This plot unfortunately falls into the trap of a typical sports premise depicting a down-on-his-luck former athlete that has to get back into the sport in order to save something in his life, usually for financial reasons.  The troubled athlete is usually hated by some people and is typically having relationship problems and struggling with his identity.  The athlete has an epiphany moment that causes him to get back into the sport of choice, usually under the guidance of his old trainer, and training montages ensue.  The climax is always the ultimate showdown between the troubled athlete and his arch-nemesis, which the athlete wins against all odds and reclaims glory and his broken relationships.  All of these clichéd ideas are present in One More Round, except that this story also slaps a trite Christian message on top of this to make it marketable in Christian circles.  Thus, in this one-track-mind plot produces flat, one-dimensional characters that are based on empty and forced dialogue.  As the plot jumps from one thing to the next, trying to cover all of the high points, the audience is easily lost in the shuffle.  In the end, unfortunately, this story was not really worth forcing to become a movie.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This is a very poor casting job that leaves the cast members with no real assistance or coaching.  A lot of the performances are juvenile and childish, with some being over the top.  Line delivery is very punctuated and stiff and emotions are not very accessible.  Some cast members look very fake.  Needless to say, the Rossetti team has not had much success with casting.

Conclusion

There’s not really much else to say that hasn’t been said.  One More Round is based on a worn out idea and is not even executed properly.  It would be one thing if the idea was unoriginal and the execution was positive, but this is not even the case.  The Rossetti team is decent at marketing their films, but at what cost?  Their reputation is becoming very disappointing and this will hurt their future work.  The main lesson that can be learned from their films is always focus on quality over quantity.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Champion [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sean Weathers is an up and coming dirt track racer who is obsessed with becoming the best and doing whatever it takes to do that.  He feels like he is close to becoming the top dirt track racer, but when one rival stands in his way, Sean does the unthinkable to secure his position.  However, tragedy sends Sean spiraling out of control as he begins to lose his sanity and everything he holds dear.  The only path forward is to face the pain he is trying to avoid and to seek forgiveness in the hardest places.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a student of the Kendrick film model, Judd Brannon and his team have mastered professional productions skills early on in their careers, which will be a major advantage for them down the road.  All aspects of Champion’s production are excellent—video quality is superb and camera work is very good as difficult action shots and outside scenes are executed nicely.  Audio quality is also on par and the soundtrack is reminiscent of a Kendrick soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are highly professional and appropriate, thus enhancing the film’s overall quality.  The only minor issues to raise here are some editing mistakes that cause for a small amount of viewing confusion, but this is something that will be rectified with more experience.  Overall, you can’t ask for a better production start than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Judd Brannon and his team have also taken a page from the Kendrick playbook when it comes to plots, as they used a non-linear plot structure with interlocking subplots.  This is mostly a good thing, yet there are a few too many unnecessary tangents that hamper with the storyline’s focus.  The characters therein are realistic and the circumstances they encounter are also believable.  However, they could use a little bit more deepening through better dialogue and more complexity.  It is clear that a lot of thought and effort was put into this plot, and there is certainly great messaging that many audiences will enjoy.  Yet this story is held back by its predictable progression and reliance on coincidences.  But in the end, like the Kendricks, Judd Brannon and his team are making the most of the inspirational genre plot structure and have great potential for the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is a professional cast, and for the most part, each cast member is appropriately placed in their roles.  Andrew Cheney and Robert Amaya clearly know what they are doing.  Yet some other cast members are not very convincing in their roles and sometimes come off as disingenuous.  But overall, emotions are believable and line delivery is on point.  This is a great cast to begin with.

Conclusion

The good news for Christian film is that the bar is being raised by new film makers entering the field.  Although hardly anyone can make a freshman blockbuster like October Baby or Priceless, films like Champion certainly make for a great start in the field.  You can’t argue with this type of beginning, especially since most viewers will enjoy it.  We firmly believe this team has the ability and the resources to take that next step, as long as they add a little more complexity and creativity to their plots and make sure to avoid pesky acting errors.  Regardless, Brannon and company are well on their way to greatness and will find great success in this debut, as it is certainly worth your time to see.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

The List [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jack Stone was dealt a bad hand as a foster kid, but he decided to strike out on his own and not let it get him down.  With hard work and determination, he completed law school and passed the bar before landing himself a lucrative job at a top law firm.  He always abided by his list of goals, and one of them was to start a family, so once he finally found the woman of his dreams, they become frustrated when they cannot have children.  But one day a miracle occurs, yet Jack consistently puts his work first.  Eventually, he will have to face the ultimate choice of what is important in his life.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The List unfortunately had a limited budget, as most startup films do.  There is shaky camera work and one too many dark lighting scenes.  Audio quality is seemingly inconsistent, including a loud soundtrack.  Sets and locations are fairly realistic.  As for the editing, there are too many awkward cuts and transitions in pursuit of cramming tons of content into this film.  However, it seems like more money was given to the second half of the film, as the production quality overall improves as the movie goes on.  With that being said, it might have been better to make this film shorter so that money was saved and used more wisely.  In the end, this is an average effort and is commendable for a pilot.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

It was very difficult to concisely summarize the plot of this film above because this story tries to cover so much content all at once.  Beginning with a collection of unexplained and random scenes, The List grows and changes as the story jumps all over the place with no continuity.  In an attempt to be an epic, all focus and purpose are lost in pursuit of covering ground and making time pass.  There are also too many failed attempts at comedy and other wasted scenes that do nothing to build characters.  Things just randomly happen and the empty and mindless characters are swept up in them.  They need much more development and deepening through better dialogue.  The only thing that keeps this plot from being a zero is the good message that is hidden somewhere in here.  With this, there are loads of untapped potential that make for a disappointing watch.

Acting Quality (1 point)

As a slightly amateurish cast, sometimes the performances here can be lazy and goofy.  At other times, the cast members seem robotic and overly coached.  Thus, emotions are sometimes hard to connect with and lines are sometimes delivered awkwardly.  But there are also good aspects to this cast as they show some potential for the future.

Conclusion

Epics are very hard to make and should be seldom attempted unless there is a really good (and probably true) story for the plot to build on.  Characters must be developed even though time is passing quickly, and this is a difficult feat to pull off.  If the creative team is not prepared to make an epic perfect, it can easily become a huge failure.  Sometimes it’s better to stick with small ideas, especially if you are still trying to hone your film making skills.  However, this team has potential for the future and we look forward to what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Ride {Rodeo} [1997] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Smokey Banks was one of the best bull riders in the field before he became consumed with alcohol and gambling.  After he finally hits rock bottom by getting himself in trouble, he will have to decide whether or not he wants to go to jail or if he wants to work at a troubled boys ranch teaching the residents how to be cowboys.  One of the boys, much to Smokey’s chagrin, becomes very attached to the fallen athlete and convinces Smokey to teach him how to ride a bull.  Little does Smokey know that his life will be forever changed as a result of coming to the ranch.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For a late 1990s production, in keeping with usual Worldwide Pictures quality, The Ride is at least average, which was good for the time period.  The opening sequence is effective and seems like the most effort was put into it.  Camera work is good for the genre, though video quality is slightly grainy.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is generic.  Sets, locations, and props clearly had a lot of time put into them to make the film look realistic.  Yet the editing of The Ride is an issue as the film jumps around too much and confuses the audience.  Overall, this movie is passable and will be enjoyable to some audiences.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This plot is a slightly typical fish-out-of-water plot featuring a spoiled and famous ‘city’ character being forced to live in the ‘wilderness’, yet it is fairly well done.  The characters therein are quite stereotypical, however, and fit into predetermined molds.  There is also not enough plot content as time is used on too many filler scenes.  Nevertheless, most of the dialogue is good and there are attempts to be meaningful.  But in the end, the plot progression is quite predictable, including many expected scenes and a silly romantic subplot.  In short, this is a fine effort, but it comes off a little bit lazy and phoned in.

Acting Quality (1 point)

For a supposedly professional cast, these performances are not what they should be.  There is far too much yelling and emotions are too extreme.  Line delivery is forceful and robotic throughout.  However, performances do improve in the second half of the film, although it is a little late.

Conclusion

Worldwide Pictures had stronger films than The Ride.  This one was perhaps before their prime and before they had fully honed the skills of quality film making.  The good thing is that they did not stay at this lower quality for very long.  But it’s a shame that they stopped making films after Last Flight Out, because, as pioneers in the field, they could have continued to adapt and change and still be a force to be reckoned with.  Perhaps they will once again take up film making as a mode of evangelism one day.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Lynn Austin’s: Wonderland Creek

Image result for Wonderland Creek lynn austin

In the past I have mentioned that Lynn Austin is an excellent and widely-read author of superb Christian fiction. However, I have not mentioned that she has many little-known books that would make excellent Christian films. While not much can beat her landmark novel, A Proper Pursuit, she has many selections that come close. One of these is the book Wonderland Creek, Austin takes on a different setting with this book that you will not find in her others. This book has always been one of my favorites, partly because of it’s eccentric charm, and partly because of it’s well-developed characters. Wonderland Creek deals with subjects such as backward mountain communities, librarians, truth, lies, life lessons, romance, action, mystery, and everyday adventure. The opening chapter introduces the reader to a young woman named Alice Grace Ripley. Alice has loved books for as long as she can remember, and while reading fiction is hardly a crime, Alice has begun to unknowingly believe that her beloved stories are the guidelines for real life decisions. Alice has it all, the storybook boyfriend, a loving family, and a comfortable job as (what else?) a city librarian. However, that is all about to change. Alice’s boyfriend becomes increasingly frustrated with her obsession with fiction and accuses her of living in a fictional world. They argue, and eventually decide to part ways. Confused and hurt, Alice turns to her books for comfort, only to discover that they make her more unhappy. She makes a last-minute decision to take a trip to the mountains of Kentucky to deliver donated books to a small community there. While there Alice will discover that the real world is a far cry from what one can find in a storybook, and that life, love, and commitment are concepts that she has never fully understood. Will Alice ever find her Prince Charming? Will she gain a correct perspective on the world of non-fiction? Most importantly, will she discover the Creator of every good and perfect thing? To answer these questions, read the book!:-) Wonderland Creek would make an excellent romantic comedy in the hands of a good writer/director. It would require an excellent casting job, strict adherence to the original plot, and superb production quality. Once again I will say that there are many Christian novels, like Wonderland Creek, that can and should be on the big screen. I can’t wait for the day when filmmakers realize the potential found in Christian novels such as these.

Something to Sing About [2000] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Tommy has a gift for singing, but his past criminal record is holding him back from getting a good job that he desperately needs.  When he is tempted to go back to his old life to make some extra cash, suddenly an elderly woman steps into his life and offers him a helping hand.  She helps him find a job and gives him a whole new outlook on life by taking him to church and introducing him to the choir.  But when faced with new opportunities and when his past comes calling again, Tommy will have to make a decision that will impact his life forever.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In keeping with the usual practices of Worldwide Pictures, Something to Sing About is a quite respectable production, even though it is difficult to attempt a musical, regardless of the genre.  The opening sequence of this movie is interesting, as is the original soundtrack.  Camera work, video quality, and audio quality are all on par with what they need to be.  Sets, locations, and props also meet industry standards.  Really the only downside to this production is its musical structure that sometimes hampers with the continuity of the editing.  As previously mentioned, it is difficult to craft this type of production properly, yet Something to Sing About is overall above average and puts many productions to shame.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Besides being a creative urban musical, this story depicts the realistic struggles of believable characters that are built on good dialogue.  The Christian message is very accessible, even if the content tries a little too hard not to be edgy and the plot is a little simplistic.  There are some slight cultural stereotypes and cheesy villains, but for the most part, this is not noticeable.  The biggest things that hold his plot back from being all it could be are some silly coincidences, too many musical montages that cause some subplots to be underdeveloped, and large time jumps that hurt this story’s natural progression.  There is also an amateurish climax scene that would not have been missed.  Overall, this was a difficult effort to pull off, yet it has been done in a commendable way—we just feel that it could have been better.  But then again, no one has.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

This cast is highly professional and each member fits their character perfectly.  There are little to no emotional or line delivery errors.  It is rare to find a cast for a musical that can actually sing.  There are a few cheesy performances, especially from the villain characters, but they are not enough to detract from this high score.

Conclusion

It is very difficult to pull off any musical, so this team must be commended for reaching a score this high, because it could have easily gone awry in the wrong hands.  But we can’t help but feel Something to Sing About leaves too much on the field, especially with regard character development and complex subplots.  This film could have been epic but instead is average, which is not all that bad when you look at the field.  We would like to see a remake of this film, or at least a similar one that builds on this idea and makes it better.  However, we caution the creation of musicals because they are very hard to create and can easily become an embarrassment.  Make sure you have your ducks in a row before doing this and use this film as a blueprint.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

A Vow to Cherish (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

John and Ellen have been married for over two decades.  They have done everything together over the years and are still in love after all this time.  John and his brother built a successful business while Ellen was a recognized teacher.  They had two children whom they love.  However, one day, their seemingly perfect world comes crashing down when Ellen suddenly develops Alzheimer’s disease.  John is faced with hard choices as Ellen loses memory after memory and becomes increasingly confused.  Will he be able to stand up under the weight of it all and remain faithful?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though Worldwide Pictures did a majority of their movie making in the 1980s and 1990s, they perfected a production model that no other Christian film makers could successfully replicate at the time.  A Vow to Cherish is one of those productions—it has great camera work and good sets, locations, and props.  Audio quality is fine, although the soundtrack is a bit average.  Video quality is also acceptable considering the time frame, yet it could be a little better.  Some of the indoor scenes are poorly lit, but outside scenes are shot well.  Finally, the editing is quite good and makes for a good watch.  Overall, this is a great production for the time period and shows what a film maker can do if they truly care about quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Based on a novel by Deborah Raney, A Vow to Cherish is a very engaging and intriguing story.  It highlights the little-focused-on issue of aging and dementia as it portrays the progression of this debilitating disease very well, including a commitment to medical realism.  The progression of time in this sort of story can be difficult to properly handle, but A Vow to Cherish does so very well.  However, it is not without its issues, as the dialogue is largely designed to move the plot along and to tell information without showing it to the audience.  While the characters are mostly believable, there is a slightly unnecessary and unrealistic dichotomy between Christian characters and non-Christian characters.  Yet the struggles of these characters are meaningful and believable—thus, the audience is able to connect with them on some level.  But at the same time, there are too many underdeveloped subplots and characters that we would like to get to know better.  Overall, with an honest Christian message, A Vow to Cherish is a mixed bag plot with the potential to go further.  Thus, it warrants an average rating.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Worldwide Pictures was always able to assemble professional casts, and this film is no exception.  Line delivery is great, but some emotions seem forced and wooden.  Yet this cast does an excellent job portraying those who struggle with mental illness and those who care for them.  Overall, this is a job well done.

Conclusion

Even during the 90s, when good Christian movies were nearly impossible to come by, Worldwide Pictures demonstrated a commitment to producing quality films that were unfortunately unrivaled for their time period.  Though they are not the best, movies like A Vow to Cherish are still enjoyable today and definitely worth your time.  Current Christian film makers can learn a lot from the models used to make WWP movies; there are many newer films that unfortunately never made it to this point.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Cutback [2010] (Movie Review)

Dude…

Plot Summary

Luke Harris and his friend Casey have one thing on their mind as they finish up their last year of high school: surf!  But Luke’s parents are constantly pressuring him to grow up and choose a college for him to further his education.  Luke is focused on making the local surf team and beating out a new ‘popular’ guy—not to mention getting the attention of the girl he likes—but little does Luke know that despite his own plans, God has plans for him that he could never imagine.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Cutback is different from most Skipstone films, in that it is less artistic than usual.  Video and audio quality are on par, yet the soundtrack is far too loud and tends to be too ‘surf’ oriented.  There is also some shaky camera work in the action scenes.  Outside scenes are otherwise relatively fine, and the sets and locations are acceptable.  However, the editing leaves something to be desired as it falls into the sports film trap of including too many musical sports action montages.  The good news is that the Skipstone team’s production skills did improve after this effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Though Cutback is mostly a formulaic high school sports plot, there are some interesting twists and turns in the middle of the film that we did not see coming.  At first, the dialogue is far too ‘cool’ and ‘surfer-dude’, almost to the point of embarrassment, and this creates very cheesy characters.  However, this subsides as the movie goes on and they actually become believable characters.  As usual, Johnny Remo and team deal with realistic life circumstances that really make the viewer think.  The messaging of this story is quite good.  However, though everything overall improves by the middle of the film, issues tend to be resolved too easily.  Yet in the end, despite some errors, Cutback becomes a somewhat meaningful film.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast is fairly professional, though sometimes they seem unsure and\or lazy.  They also tend to play the whole ‘dude’ thing too much, but they are mostly fine.  Emotions are believable and line delivery is average.  Thus, an average score is warranted.

Conclusion

Like many Johnny Remo movies, we would like to see a remake of Cutback.  It has the tools for success, even if they are not always applied properly.  Remo always demonstrates a special creativity and ability to craft different types of films, but he is often hampered by a collection of small errors and some poor execution.  We believe he and his team have great potential for the future as they continue to become better film makers.  We anticipate what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

For the Glory [2012] (Movie Review)

Your guess is as good as ours

Plot Summary

Kurt Kuykendall is a highly gifted basketball player who has it all, including a possible Olympic future.  But his home life is a wreck, which leads to tragedy and his being cut from the basketball team.  He feels like his life is over, but all is not lost, because God opens up a new door for him—playing soccer—that he would have never thought was possible.  The only question is, will Kurt seek God or remain bitter about the past?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

While some measures were taken to make this production good, too many corners were cut here.  Video quality and audio quality are on par, though the soundtrack is pedestrian, but there is too much shaky camera work, especially in the sports sequences.  Speaking of the sports sequences, they are too repetitive and redundant, including some unnecessarily recycled footage.  Thus, there are too many sports montages, which reflects poor editing and a general lack of content, even though this film is supposed to be an epic about a real person’s life.  Sets and locations are also fairly limited.  Therefore, though this production looks good on the surface, it does not do enough to warrant more than one point.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This is an interesting true story to depict in movie form, but it overall lacks focus and causes too much confusion for the audience.  For the Glory commits the amateur epic mistakes of creating too many time jumps and referring to off screen content too often.  Besides the constant sports montages, there are too many head-scratching sequences and random occurrences that do nothing to help us get to know these characters at all.  Time is not spent wisely, thus making it hard to be able to relate to the struggles of these characters.  Dialogue also meanders and is generally hard to follow, which creates cheesy and empty characters.  In short, while For the Glory highlights some true-to-life issues, it does so in a very lazy fashion that will unfortunately have no real impact.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, cases that include Jason Burkey and Richard Swingle that have no connection to the Erwin Brothers do not fair well.  They are their usual awkward selves, as are other cast members.  Emotions are over the top and forced and line delivery is sometimes hesitant.  This cast would have benefited from coaching.

Conclusion

In the grand scheme of things, films like For the Glory are very easily forgettable and fall into the massive heap of Christian movies that just blow over your head after you’ve watched them.  There is nothing particularly good or bad to remember about this category of films—you just watch them and then you’re done and never watch them again.  What we need is greatness in Christian film, not more failed attempts like this one.  Perhaps movies like this one can serve as reminders of how film makers can improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

The Reconciler (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

According to local authorities and media figures, a mysterious man who has become known as The Reconciler has been mysteriously choosing random people to force to stay together in an enclosed area until they reconcile the differences they have with one another.  No one knows how or why he does what he does, or why he chooses the people he does, but multiple people have been positively affected by The Reconciler’s work.  Will his identity ever be discovered or will it always he shrouded in mystery?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

With a somewhat limited budget, it’s clear that this production team did the best they could do with what they had.  Camera work is fine, as it video quality.  Audio quality is mostly on par, but there are some lapses.  The soundtrack also needs a boost.  Sets, locations, and props are presented fairly well, even if they are slightly limited.  The biggest issue to point out here is the extremely choppy editing that creates a lot of confusion for the audience.  This is likely due to the large amount of content that is forced into this runtime.  Overall, the production of The Reconciler is average, and it’s likely it could have been better with more substantial funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The idea behind The Reconciler is very interesting and creative, but it also leaves the audience somewhat scratching their heads.  As previously mentioned, there is a lot of information crammed into less than two hours, and thus, the use of information dump dialogue is employed to fill in the viewer.  There are also a lot of interesting flashbacks that would be better if the characters therein were developed better.  However, due to the sheer amount of content here, there simply is not enough time, especially when some sequences are just wasted.  There are so many subplots that need further exploring here that The Reconciler would have been far better served as a miniseries.  The series format would have allowed the characters to develop better, would have given more credence to the idea behind this story, and would have allowed for more complexity and creativity.  But as it is, The Reconciler makes the mistake of biting off more than it can chew—by including everything, it spreads it all too thin.  For this reason, it’s difficult to appreciate what’s going on here.  In the end, though there is a huge amount of potential here, and the creativity of the writers should definitely be commended, this is unfortunately not the way to present this type of idea.

Acting Quality (1 point)

As a little-known cast, these cast members show amateurishness too much.  Some lines are forced and half-yelled, while others are perfectly normal.  Emotions are all over the place and are too often overplayed.  This cast would have definitely benefitted from better coaching.

Conclusion

This film receives half of an x-factor point for creativity.  We absolutely need different and unique films like The Reconciler, but they need to be well-developed.  Creative and complex plots are awesome when they are executed properly.  The Reconciler would have made an amazing series if done properly.  But once again, creativity is limited by funding.  We long for the day when useless movies are no longer wasting funding opportunities and damaging the reputation of Christian film so that creativity seen in movies like The Reconciler can fully thrive and flourish to be all that they need to be.  Christian film makers have the potential to change the world, but will they be given the opportunity?

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

A Greater Yes: The Story of Amy Newhouse (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Amy Newhouse had it all—a great family, a boyfriend she loved, and a mission from God.  She knew what God wanted her to do and believed she had a future in the international mission field.  However, God had other plans for her as Amy was diagnosed with cancer.  Through these trials, she had to learn to trust in God’s sovereign plan and to discover the new ministry God was giving her, even when His plans didn’t make sense.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

A Greater Yes was made right as the new era of Christian productions was beginning, so it is still a bit raw in parts.  Camera work is okay, as are video and audio quality, although all of these could have used a little ‘sprucing’ up.  The soundtrack is fairly stock, which is disappointing because a story like this needs a meaningful soundtrack to drive the point home.  Sets and locations are fairly limited, thus making for a somewhat cheap feel to the film.  Editing is also poor and leaves a lot to be desired.  There are too many musical montages that take away from useful content.  In the end, while it’s clear that the team of Bradley Dorsey, Marshal Younger, and Clayton Miller meant well, this was just at the beginning of their careers.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

We love it when true stories are brought to life in film, but it seems like this plot did not really do the story of Amy Newhouse justice.  There is too much heavy-handed narration and off-screen content that takes the place of character-building and otherwise meaningful content.  The story also jumps all over the place, thus making it hard to follow.  While there are many realistic elements that can be connected back to real life, these characters need to be deeper so that we can connect with them better.  Their dialogue is too shallow as it is and needs fleshing out.  Overall, A Greater Yes has a powerful message that has great potential—it simply needs to be packaged differently.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast clearly meant well in their performances and were not putting anything on, as opposed to the practices of other PureFlix casts.  However, these cast members are sometimes too awkward and robotic in their emotions and line delivery.  They would have likely benefitted from improved coaching.

Conclusion

Every film maker has to start somewhere.  For Dorsey, Younger, and Miller, this was the start of a great career.  It’s better to try something rather than try nothing, especially if you are going to learn from your mistakes.  Though A Greater Yes was a meager beginning, it has a meaningful story that many will enjoy.  It is also clear that this trio did learn from their rookie mistakes (especially Younger) and have gone on to do great things.  It just goes to show that if you honestly want to make a difference in film, find the right people to work with, and are willing and ready to improve with each new film, the sky is the limit for you.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Accidental Activist [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ted Murphey never thought he’d see the day when his signing of a traditional marriage petition would push his important t-shirt business to the brink of destruction.  His gay friend gets angry at him when he reads about Ted’s evil deeds in the local ‘gay newspaper’ and doesn’t want to talk with him anymore.  The local gay activist leader raises a ruckus with protests and media attention around the t-shirt business.  The store is attacked and the Murpheys are ostracized by the evil gays and their media buddies.  With such persecution, how will anyone’s business ever survive?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though Accidental Activist has a fine production overall, including good video quality, camera work, and audio quality, it still leaves much to be desired.  The soundtrack needs a little more creativity.  The sets and locations that are used are fairly cheap and pedestrian.  There is also no editing as pretty much all of the content is used, and the film still barely cracks fifty minutes.  Overall, though the production looks good on the surface, it’s really hard to find a justification for this film’s creation.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Similar to Right to Believe, Accidental Activist is basically a collection of long conversations, complaints, and debates over the issue of traditional marriage.  However, this film uses borderline propaganda messaging to get its point across.  This is done by constructing a very unrealistic premise of persecution and by creating a strawman of the ‘opposition’.  Though one gay character is portrayed fairly well, other portrayals are downright embarrassing.  All of the dialogue is full of talking points from both sides and does nothing to build believable characters.  There is no real plot focus except for the agenda the American Family Association is pushing here.  Also, the ‘persecution’ these Christian characters endure is unfairly compared to the chattel slavery that led to the Civil War, and we find this to be a highly offensive suggestion.  In the end, Accidental Activist really accomplishes nothing except appealing to a group of Christians that wants to have their ears tickled with this sort of nonsense.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

To be fair, this cast is not horrible and is overall average.  Their performances are mostly fine, although they tend to be overdone in their emotions at times.  There are also a few too many stereotypes constructed therein.  Overall, it comes out as average.

Conclusion

Creating another movie that depicts an us-versus-them mentality in the traditional marriage debate is not the answer.  Whipping up support and anger among your base is merely political, not Christ-like.  The reality is that American Christians have no idea what persecution even means, even though they eagerly jump to such conclusions when things don’t go their way.  Of course the fact that traditional marriage has been altered is a major problem, but it’s a symptom of something deeper that the American church has been reluctant to deal with for decades: the broken Christian family.  Movies like Accidental Activist only further drive a wedge between Christians and ‘the world’.  We are supposed to be influencing the culture, not battling against it.  I think it’s time we take a good look at the state of the Christian family before we go pointing fingers.  Only then will things start to change.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Freedom of Silence (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In the year 2030, Christianity is effectively outlawed in America due to a series of controversial laws passed by Congress and rulings handed down from the Supreme Court.  Christians are forced to live in secret, but some of them risk their lives to share their faith with others.  Thus, Zach Thompson, his family, and his friends decide that they are going to take down the government by hacking into their system and broadcasting a message of truth to the entire country.  However, what price will they pay for this?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: if you don’t have the money to fund your big idea, please please please don’t make it until the funding is there.  There is absolutely no reason to further muddle the market with laughable Christian productions.  The Freedom of Silence is very cheap-looking, including grainy video quality and shaky camera work.  The lighting is most scenes is positively deplorable, especially the dark torture scenes.  Audio quality is also abysmal, including audible outside noises, and the generic soundtrack is often too loud.  There is also a good amount of overdubbed audio.  Sets, locations, and props are very limited in cheap—this also goes for the special effects.  Finally, the editing is quite choppy and confusing, including abrupt and awkward transitions.  For such a big idea, this production simply does not cut it.  It is too limited and short-sighted and thus completely falls flat.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While this futuristic concept is an interesting idea (this is the only redeeming quality of the film), it has been completely mishandled in The Freedom of Silence.  The dystopian premise is very thin and flimsy—it is not explained well and is very small scale compared to what the writers are trying to portray.  There is far too much off-screen content that the budget would not allow them to include, so this is really a big idea taken far too lightly.  The storyline is just a collection of information dump conversations, awkward dialogue, and over the top torture scenes.  The characters therein are very empty and robotic, except for the villains, which are total strawmen.  There is also far too much heavy-handed messaging and unexplainable content.  Essentially, if there weren’t an interesting idea somewhere in here, this film would have zero positive aspects.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This amateur cast has been given no help.  This is supposed to be a highly serious film, yet the acting is extremely stiff and awkward.  Lines are said far too quickly and there is too much yelling.  Emotions are very wooden and unrealistic.  Unfortunately, there is nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

We desperately need different genres and premises in Christian film, but this is most certainly not the way.  The cover of this film looks way better than the actual movie does.  Imagine an excited Christian’s disappointment when they begin watching this film based on what the outside looks like.  Viewers will either have to laugh or cry at this mess, so it should serve as a reminder to future film makers that if the budget is not there, do not make the film.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

The Bill Collector [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Lorenzo Adams is a shifty sort of fellow with a past he would rather bury.  But he thinks he has it made when his boss takes a leave of absence and puts Lorenzo in charge of his debt collection call center.  However, Lorenzo suddenly gets a visit from an old enemy who has come to collect an old debt that Lorenzo owes him.  Thus, Lorenzo uses his newfound power to concoct a scheme that he thinks will get him out of trouble easily.  Yet despite his schemes, Lorenzo finds hope in unexpected places.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The production of The Bill Collector is mostly good and above average.  Camera work and video quality are professional.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is cheesy in an attempt to be funny.  Sets and locations are fairly limited but are at least realistic.  Furthermore, the editing is not the best it could be, since there are too many musical montages.  Yet overall, this is a passable production that should be commonplace in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

In an effort to make a comedic take on the parables of the shrewd manager and the unforgiving servant (I guess), The Bill Collector tries too hard to be funny and ends up falling flat.  The comedy therein is not very good since it is too forced and sometimes out of place.  Too much time is wasted, as mentioned before, on musical montages and on silly asides that are trying to boost the comedic spirit, yet fail.  Sometimes the characters are okay, but other times they are far too cheesy.  This variability depends on their dialogue at the moment.  The ending is fairly predictable and leaves something to be desired.  Basically, while it’s always commendable to try to create a comedic parable, the writers of The Bill Collector unfortunately tried too hard with this one.  Maybe they will improve in the future.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With a semi-professional cast, these performances are split down the middle.  Half of the time the cast members act over the top, while the other half of the time they are fine.  Line delivery is respectable throughout, but emotions are variable depending on the moment.  Thus, an average score is warranted.

Conclusion

There are a lot of potentially funny moments in The Bill Collector that are unfinished.  There are too many missed opportunities left on the table.  While the writers were on to something, they didn’t really find it.  Unfortunately, this film is likely to be easily forgotten by most and to get lost in the shuffle of the many Christian films on the market.  In order to truly stand out, you have to do something that is memorable for the right reasons—something that really hits home with the audience you are trying to target.  The audience is there and they’re still waiting for greatness.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Pamela’s Prayer (Movie Review)

What would my father say?

Plot Summary

After her mother died tragically, Pamela’s father threw himself into obsessing over how he was going to raise her.  Though they prayed together every night, Pamela’s father micromanaged nearly every aspect of her life and kept her in a fundamentalist bubble.  He determined that God’s will for her life was and wouldn’t let her date anyone until he hand-picks the first guy who comes to work for his archaic film ministry for her to hang out with.  After being brainwashed all her life, Pamela goes along with it, even though this relationship has no substance, because she too must be the guardian of the fundamentalist-patriarchal flame.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

If you’re going to make a movie about patriarchal propaganda, the least you can do is make the production good.  But no, Pamela’s Prayer sports a medieval production quality reminiscent of Bob Jones University’s Unusual Films (that’s not the only reason this movie is similar to those).  It’s very cheap overall, including grainy video and audio quality, very pedestrian camera work, and an extremely clanky soundtrack that sounds like it was recorded in some tiny Bible Belt church (no offense).  The sets and locations are severely limited (just like the minds of the writers), and there is absolutely no editing as the condensed life of an unsuspecting girl raised in a cult-like atmosphere is portrayed in just under sixty minutes.  But that’s not all that’s wrong with this disaster.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Pamela’s Prayer is not a fitting enough title, since this story is entirely centered around normalizing a creepy ideology of patriarchy that seeks to control every aspect of a girl’s life. Using completely empty and one-dimensional characters, including extremely perfect white Christians and very bad ‘worldly’ Christians (like Timothy Chey’s carnal Christians), the patriarchal worldview is shamelessly shoved down your throat.  If you want people to convert to your cause, at least try to depict real people, not cardboard cutouts the spew talking points.  also, try to actually write a realistic story that is accessible to most people, not some alternate universe portrayal of life.  Nevertheless, this film is very legalistic propaganda that aggressively pushes an agenda and has no place in Christian entertainment.  Hence, negative points are warranted.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Once again, the Christiano team shows us how to distribute propaganda in the worst fashion possible.  Choosing the most extremely white and awkwardly stiff cast possible, they fed the cast members lines and made sure they looked like good little white Christians, and that was about it.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are very wooden and robotic, but this was probably mission accomplished for the Christianos.  Yet people wonder why people cringe at the thought of Christian films.

Conclusion

After watching a movie like this, one can only conclude that the people who push this sort of legalism on others also believe that those who are not perfect little white Christians cannot be redeemed or restored.  The type of parenting that is portrayed in this film as good is exactly the reason why young people ‘fall away from Christianity’ or ‘lose their faith’.  God didn’t tell Christian parents to keep their children in little fundamentalist bubbles all their lives or to micromanage every aspect of them, but to create a loving environment where the children learn Who God is (based on actions more than words) and how they can follow Him.  Of course children need to be protected from harm and wrongdoing, but raising them in a cult-like atmosphere is equally detrimental.  We need Christian families that actually care about each other, not dictate lists of specific rules to follow that are geared toward patriarchy and are designed to create little ‘perfect’ robots.  If there’s one reason why a lot of people dislike Christianity, this movie embodies every aspect of it.

 

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

 

The Imposter [2008] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Johnny C is a wildly successful Christian rock star with a dark past.  He knows how to entertain Christian crowds and how to say the right things, but he still struggles with the demons inside him.  He has had a secret addiction that he constantly lies about and consistently has struggles in his topsy-turvy marriage.  When he finally can’t hold it all together and his world comes crashing down all around him, he has no one to turn to except for God.  Left with virtually nothing, will Johnny be able to pick up the pieces and start over for real?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

As an early 2000s production, The Imposter seems like a film searching for identity.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t really find it.  In attempts to be artistic and ‘creative’, strange production conventions are embraced, such as shaky camera work and very dizzying special effects.  Audio quality is fine, and the original soundtrack is intriguing, but there are too many songs, musical montages, and confusing music videos.  Lighting is also inconsistent, especially in some outside scenes, which are too bright.  Furthermore, editing is choppy and makes the story hard to follow.  In the end, while there was adequate money spent on this production, it is mostly wasted and disappointing.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though The Imposter is not afraid to deal with difficult yet realistic issues and to take an honest look at Christian ‘stars’, it’s just not enough.  The constant narration stunts character development.  They need to be deepened through improved dialogue because it’s difficult to understand why they do what they do—the characters seem to be too swept along by circumstances.  Unfortunately, some of the Christian characters are portrayed as too high and mighty.  Also, too much of the messaging is heavy-handed as the story jumps all around and is somewhat hard to follow.  The story seems too aimless and sometimes lacks purpose and even hope.  However, the ending is interesting and realistic, although it lacks proper buildup and leaves something to be desired.  In summary, The Imposter is an honest look at life, but at the same time, it lacks the true authenticity that is required to properly deal with the issues dealt with here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this is a ‘popular’ Christian cast, they are fairly unconvincing and sometimes appear to be phoning in their performances.  Emotions are too unrealistic and all over the place.  Sometimes the performances are fine, but on the whole, these cast members are without direction and need better coaching in order to reach their full potential.

Conclusion

Movies like The Imposter start with good intentions but without a real focus on where they are going, their plots wander aimlessly and try to use Christian ‘celebrities’ as crutches for their mistakes.  There are some poignant issues portrayed in this film that need to be discussed in the context of Christian entertainment, but as this movie is, it just comes off as unserious and sometimes unprofessional.  You need more than a base idea and some ‘big name’ cast members to make a good film.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

The Return [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Leah of Nod is a thief and has never known anything else.  she spends her days stealing from unsuspecting villagers.  She is being controlled by the evil Dybbuk and doesn’t think she can get out.  But one day, a huntsman named Yadid comes to town and Leah meets him.  He is unlike any man she has ever met and he treats her different than Dybbuk treats her.  But when Leah is accused of wrongdoing and sentenced to death, who will stand up for her?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

With an obvious low budget, the production of The Return is quite cheap, although it seems like it’s the best the team could have done with what they had.  Camera work and video quality are almost passable, but the audio quality is quite bad.  The soundtrack is too loud at times and is too generic.  Though this allegory relies on the quality of its sets, props, and locations, these elements are very cheap and drag the movie down.  Finally, the editing is very unprofessional, with awkward cuts and transitions that make for a choppy presentation.  In the end, since this genre required a more substantial budget, it might have been a better idea to not try to force it to happen with limited resources.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Allegories are always interesting, and it’s refreshing to have a movie from a different genre, but The Return is somewhat simplistic and even childish at times.  The scope and premise are very limited and there are far too few characters.  The small number of characters only highlights the fact that the dialogue is extremely empty and cheesy.  There are too many allegorical concepts that are isolating and need better explanation.  These ideas also need further expansion and development in order to be more substantial.  They are not effective because they are too shallow, thus rendering the allegory almost pointless.  The ending is also confusing and isolating.  In the end, The Return is a nice idea but is greatly short-sighted and underdeveloped.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

While is some potential in this cast, they seem quite amateurish and need further coaching.  It seems like they mean well, but they are misguided.  There are too many awkward moments and emotions.  Line delivery random.  Overall, this cast definitely would have benefitted from substantial coaching.

Conclusion

The Return is a half-idea that needed a lot more deepening before it was allowed to go into production.  With a very limited budget and an incomplete concept, more time needed to be given to this project before it was forced into creation.  Allegorical films can be very powerful tools if used properly, but without careful planning, like in the case of The Return, it can become a big disappointment.  There is absolutely a place for this type of film in the Christian entertainment industry, but it must be done properly.  Perhaps in the future, this will happen.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Turn Around Jake (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jake has a dream job, a flashy fiancé, and everything he ever wanted, until one day when it all comes crashing down.  He is forced by his boss to take the fall for something illegal the company did and is left homeless and on the run from the law.  Jake has nowhere to turn, so he is forced to go back to the home he ran from—including the father and the girlfriend he left behind to pursue his dreams.  What he finds is that everything he was looking for was right in front of him.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In the recent days of PureFlix, they have mastered the art of doing just enough to make a production look good on the surface.  Turn Around Jake is no exception to this rule.  Camera work, video quality, and audio quality are all on par.  The soundtrack is one of those childish attempts at comedy tunes, but is mostly typical.  Sets and locations are fairly limited but are passable.  There is really no editing present as the storyline just follows a stereotypical progression.  In short, there is really nothing out of the ordinary to say about this production—it’s standard and a little above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Turn Around Jake is really nothing but a typical city-character-returns-to-struggling-hometown-and-fixes-things plots.  This is also mixed with a dose of a prodigal character plot.  Everything is there: the old girlfriend, the parental character, the city characters who try to pull him back, and the other rural caricatures.  Besides this word-out premise, there are a lot of absurdly childish characters, dialogue, and asides that really make no sense except that the writers tried to force a lot of comedy but failed miserably at it.  As the story rushes through a predictable progression that hits all the expected points, it peddles a very cheap Christian message that cannot be respected and feels like it was shoved in so PureFlix would carry it.  Essentially, there is nothing original, creative, or worthwhile here, thus warranting no points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

While there is some good here, for the most part, this cast is over the top and awkward.  They are painfully lacking coaching as their attempts at being funny and witty completely fall flat.  As a bright spot, Jen Lilley continues to outshine otherwise laughable PureFlix casts.  It would be interesting to see her in a more upstanding film.

Conclusion

In the end, Turn Around Jake is business as usual for the inspirational film business.  Somewhere they keep a database of the very small and limited scope of reusable inspirational plots (we think Hallmark is the gatekeeper of such secrets) and every time a new film makers needs a story they can easily peddle to the masses, they pick one for themselves.  Among these plots are the closely related prodigal character plot, the hometown return plot, and the fish-out-of-water plot.  Turn Around Jake borrows elements from each of these conventions and mixes them into its own awkward comedy style.  Anything that involves all of these elements is probably doomed from the start.  How about trying something original?

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Interview with Vicki Brown, Co-Producer of Skid

Tell us about your faith journey. Well, I was raised in a Christian home and came to Christ as a teen. I have continued to grow in my faith throughout my life with many trials and challenges, like most Christians experience. I was a founding member of Westmoore Community Church in 1994 and have served faithfully to help our church grow to over 2000 members.

How does your family influence your film making? I have been married to my husband, Tim Brown, for over 25 years, but we have no children. Having no children gives me a unique view on how children grow up. I am able to look at things that contribute to a child as they become an adult. I really see how the media contributes to what society thinks is “normal”. What we find entertaining really speaks to what we find acceptable. I hope that our society begins to demand more wholesome entertainment that doesn’t feel like it is childish or corny. I know there is sophisticated entertainment that is clean and wholesome, but I know it requires a lot more thought.

When was the first time you wanted to make a Christian film? Probably the first time I read a book. I visualize my reading as though I am watching it on a screen. I think the more I read good, wholesome books, like the ones written by Rene Gutteridge, the more I wanted to see it up on a screen. I decided to try to get a film made in 2012. I wanted it to become a reality.

What makes you interested in creating Christian entertainment?  I think the entertainment that is out there now is creating the view of the world for our society. I think the Christian view is under represented and needs to offer an alternative look at the world.

What do you ultimately want to do in the field of Christian movies? Well, if I had unlimited resources, I believe there would be an entire writing team dedicated to creating sophisticated, funny, good movies, who, along with talented actors, will open doors to audiences who wouldn’t otherwise watch faith based films. I think people need to see a different view of how the world is for Christians. The movies should show that we are all the same, but there is grace in Christ that allows us to change, start over, and get forgiveness from mistakes. Movies should show how to make decisions based on the good of others as Christ did in his ministry and to show why we make those decisions because of our faith.

Do you think that Christian entertainment needs more quality productions? Oh my yes! Making a movie is a gigantic risk and people willing to risk millions of dollars on a market that doesn’t usually support movies (because of what is out there) is cost prohibitive. I believe as people demand and support Christian movies, the quality will go up.

How hard is it to cast an independent Christian film? Well to be cast isn’t that difficult because the “Big Names” aren’t lining up to audition for these roles. However, there is always many, many more actors than parts so in terms of an actor who is just starting out, so it can be very difficult to get cast in any movie, even and independent movie.

How hard is it for a new Christian film maker to make it in the business?  What is the level of support? The film business in general is almost impossible to make as a living. Most of the film folks do commercial work to support their film fix. The level of support is very difficult to garner as the people who are promoting films are not on board, so most of the support is very grass roots. It takes large masses of folks to offset the cost in order for a film to make money.

What are your plans for the future? There is another of Rene’s books that I would love to get into production. I would love to be able to have a budget to make it a SAG (Screen Actor’s Guild) Production. The truth is that there have been some attempts to raise funds, but none have been successful enough to get it off the ground yet. I would love to know what the Christian community thinks would be a film they would really get behind. Is it an actor with a known name? Is it a book they love that tells a great lesson? Is it more that it supports a cause? I want to produce movies that the public wants to see and finds it a joy to support. So I am open to hearing what your readers want!

 

Thanks for participating!

Angela Elwell Hunt: The Emerald Isle

Image result for the emerald isle angela elwell hunt

The Emerald Isle is the final installment in Angela E. Hunt’s The Heirs of Cahira O’Connor series. Throughout the series a young woman named Kathleen O’Connor has been researching the lives of her famous ancestors, and discovering their incredible stories of bravado. After looking into the lives of Anika, Aidan, and Flanna O’Connor, Kathleen finally decides to research the ancestor who started the legacy of the O’Connor women. The Emerald Isle deals with subjects such as sacrificial love, discovery, friendships, sadness, broken families, healing, love, forgiveness, reconciliation, and God’s grace. The novel opens with Kathleen meeting her best friend Taylor at a local restaurant, she expects this encounter to be a typical, enjoyable lunch filled with playful banter and long conversation. However, she is shocked to discover that Taylor has invited her to lunch only to inform her that he is getting married…to a young woman named Maggie…in Ireland…and soon. This news floors her, as she has recently been examining her own feelings for Taylor. Much to Maggie’s dismay, Taylor invites Kathy to join them on their Irish adventure. After much consideration, Kathy decides to go along and use the opportunity to find out more about her heritage. Little does she know that along the way she will discover important life lessons, and find the one whom her soul loves. To find out who Kathy’s true love is, and to discover the story of Cahira O’Connor, read the book! We here at Box Office Revolutionary believe that the Heirs of Cahira O’Connor series would provide excellent fodder for a Christian miniseries, film series, or several individual movies! It is our continuing belief the Christian filmmakers should look no further than Christian book series to find quality content.