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Christian Movie News and Reviews

Month

May 2017

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

 

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