Catching Hearts [2012] (Movie Review)

Why am I here?

Plot Summary

Professor Mark Gavin is a successful atheist speaker and author, but what happens when life causes him to begin questioning his beliefs?  Rachel and Dean are two young adults who have been influenced by Gavin’s work, and they both feel like there is no true purpose for them in life as they meander along and wallow in their problems.  Will any of them ever be able to find meaning and purpose in their lives?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, there’s really not much good to say about this production.  Video quality is grainy and camera work is all over the place.  Audio quality is lacking and the soundtrack is very generic.  Sets, locations, and props are very limited and cheap.  Finally, there is really no editing as this film as the content meanders along aimlessly with no real purpose.  Basically, this is an underfunded production, but it’s easy to see why there’s not much investment here—because there’s really no point.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Catching Hearts (whatever that title means) explores the seeming meaninglessness of life, but it gets lost in the purposelessness itself.  Its subplots are very disjointed and full of silly coincidences and unrealistic occurrences.  The characters are stunted and empty.  Too many moments are too melodramatic and the Christian message is very trite, while at the same time, the portrayal of atheists is laughable.  There is no gist or driving purpose in this story—it’s just a bunch of random sequences thrown together with problems that are fixed very easily.  There’s nothing to learn from this film and it’s embarrassing to watch.

Acting Quality (0 points)

It’s evident that there was no acting coaching present with this plot as the performances are lazy and the emotions are too extreme.  Line delivery is sometimes phoned in and it doesn’t feel like the cast members cared about this film.  Then again, who can blame them, since they really didn’t have much content to work with.

Conclusion

What’s the point of films like this?  They begin with a half-hearted idea and somehow materialize into a feature length film of pointlessness.  Catching Hearts has nothing whatsoever going for it, so it’s hard to see how this idea was even pitched.  It’s little wonder that the funding was lacking and the cast members were unmotivated.  Movies like this only further clutter the field.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

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Esther [1999] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When King Xerxes banished his wife, Queen Vashti, for refusing to obey him, he called all the young women of the Persian kingdom to come and audition to be his new queen.  Among them was Esther, a Jewess, whose cousin Mordecai instructed her to hide her ethnic identity from the royal leaders.  Little did either of them know that she had been raised up by God for such a time to save His people from certain destruction.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though this film was made before the 2000s, Affirm Films demonstrated even in 1999 that they were committed to professional production quality.  Video quality and camera work are good in this film, even if lighting is sometimes inconsistent.  Audio quality is average, and the soundtrack leaves something to be desired.  The biggest win for this production is the professional and historically authentic sets, locations, and props which demonstrate care for accuracy.  The editing is fine but it could use a little improvement.  Overall, this is a respectable production and shows why Affirm is where they are today.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This rendition of the story of Esther was likely the first of its kind in the modern era, later to be follow by For Such a Time As This, One Night With the King, and the deplorable Book of Esther.  In this 1999 version, care is also given to an accurate retelling of the story, even if it is a little too literal.  This is the only film we’ve seen that portrays Xerxes very well and likely accurate to the historical figure.  At least this story shies away from the silly ‘love story’ trope that modern film writers try to force into the account.  However, the characters in this version still don’t seem like real people as they are too dramatic and boring at the same time.  There are a lot of dead sequences and not enough substantial dialogue.  Overall, this was a nice try, but not good enough.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast, though semi-professional, is overly theatrical and too practiced.  Though costuming is culturally authentic, the casting is not always this way.  Emotions are also forced and feel manufactured, like this is some sort of Bible play.  Yet not all is bad here and this rounds out an acceptable effort.

Conclusion

A lot of time and money was likely spent on sets and costumes in this film, much like its later relation, One Night With the King.  However, what both of these films forget is substance.  Though Esther is better at adhering to the true historical account, it is still not presented in an interesting way that will engage audiences.  Biblical film makers can learn from this to not abandon accuracy but still develop the characters like they’re real people, not lofty ‘heroes’ that have no connection to us today.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Investigator [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sergeant James Buanacore loved his job as a leader on the police force, but when he got caught up in a street fight that ended with a gang member shot to death, he is pressured to retire from his post to mitigate bad publicity.  At the same time, tragedy strikes his family and blindsides him, which causes him to lose his faith in God.  Thus, James’ brother gets him a job as a baseball coach and criminal justice teacher at a local private Christian school to help him find new meaning in life.  But what James finds there is students searching for hope and a corrupt leadership, so he sets out to use his investigative skills to determine whether or not Jesus was a historical figure.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For a slightly unknown independent Christian film, The Investigator has a surprisingly good production.  Video quality is great, but the only issue in this production is the odd camera work that is sometimes employed.  Otherwise, audio quality is professional, as is the soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are well-funded and appropriate.  The editing is quite good and is successful in most ways.  If it weren’t for the unusual camera usage, this would have been a perfect production.  In the end, this is an excellent example of how an independent production can succeed.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The Investigator has a lot of interesting ideas and takes big risks in breaching less-discussed topics such as corruption in private Christian schools.  However, the story is all over the place and is somewhat disorganized as a lot of ground is attempted to be covered.  The circumstances portrayed are realistic and honest, and the characters are actually quite believable and realistic, but the organization of this story is greatly lacking.  The creativity here needs some serious honing and better development.  Too much time is wasted on sports montages and unrelated scenes.  In the end, this is a very unique plot, so it’s a shame it couldn’t have been better.  Yet it does show potential for the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is a semi-professional cast, and they post mostly good performances, but emotions tend to be too extreme at times.  Line delivery is nearly perfect and it’s evident that acting coaching is present.  Only a few minor problems hold this portion back.

Conclusion

There is a lot of good content packed into this film, but there is perhaps too much that is included here.  It’s great to deal with the issues of tragedy, corruption, and apologetics, but in this disorganized fashion, it’s difficult to follow.  Yet the production and the acting successes show that independent films can be professional if the proper resources and effort are put towards them.  Regardless, it should be interesting to see what this creative team comes up with next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Break Away [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Francois is a hard worker, but when he suddenly loses his job in the struggling Johannesburg economy, he is at a loss as to how he is to provide for his family.  He feels like God gives him an idea to start his own bicycle delivery business, and he does so, aided by a friend.  But as his financial situation goes from bad to worse, out of desperation, he decides to enter a cycle race in the hope of winning money.  Will he be able to recover what he has lost and keep his family from poverty?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though a lot of good efforts were made with this production, there are still some pesky errors that hold it back.  Camera work and video quality are good, especially in the actions scenes, even though there are some odd camera angles throughout.  However, audio quality is sometimes poor, including a random soundtrack and outside noises.  Yet sets, locations, and props are quite good and authentic.  Also, the problem areas do tend to improve throughout, which is a plus.  The editing is also a mixed bag, with some good moments and some poor moments.  Overall, this is a good first-time independent production and something to build off of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Break Away is based on a realistic and interesting story, even if it is somewhat boring at times.  There are unfortunately too many montages that fill up the runtime, thus hurting the development of the characters and causing dialogue to be shallow and stunted.  There are quite of few interesting subplots besides the main plot that warrant further explanation.  It’s difficult for this plot to hold the attention as it is, even though the struggles of the characters can be appreciated on some level.  Though it’s sometimes overly dramatic, it’s clear that this creative team meant well in writing this.  Once again, this is something to build off of.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a semi-amateur cast, these actors and actresses do a decent job, even if they are a little stuffy and robotic at times.  Sometimes lines are mumbled, but emotions are mostly believable.  In the end, this is an average performance to round off a decent effort.

Conclusion

It’s never easy to make a movie of your own, especially since funding is hard to come by for international films.  Regardless, all that matters in this sort of situation is that you do your best, and it seems like, for the most part, this was done in Break Away.  It always feels like plots are suffering in Christian film, however.  Sometimes it’s better to use a plot that’s already written, but perhaps one day, the stories that are told in Christian movies will be more creative and engaging.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Redemption Ride (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Colter Reese tests positive for performance enhancing drugs, he thinks his professional cycling career is over forever.  His son is dying of cancer and he has seemingly no purpose in life, so he begins to train again in the hopes of earning enough money to pay off his hospital bills.  Will he be able to find redemption in his cycling?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, Redemption Ride is a relatively cheap production.  Though video quality is fine, there are some odd camera angles and shaky camera work.  As for audio, there is too much dead air and not enough soundtrack except in musical montages.  There are also a lot of loud outside noises.  Sets and locations are quite limited and props leave something to be desired.  Finally, as usual for films this low quality, the editing is poor and adds nothing to the film.  In the end, it’s hard to see the justification for this movie.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Redemption Ride really just boils down to a formulaic story about a troubled athlete character returning to his hometown, and this is only combined with a sick child plot and a sports redemption plot.  There is also a typical romance rekindle subplot to pad the runtime.  Besides this, there are tons of dead scenes and empty sports montages.  The characters are very quirky and the dialogue is too full of dry attempts at humor or nothing substantial at all.  Overall, this story is incredibly boring and little to no point at all due to its predictable nature.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is definitely not the strongest cast.  A lot of the time, their performances are very flat and seem unmotivated and lazy.  Yet other times, they are overly demonstrative and over the top.  Overall, this is not a very good casting or coaching job, which tops off a disappointing and empty film.

Conclusion

Movies like this likely mean well, but it’s difficult to understand how they came to be.  With a such a low budget, one would think films like this wouldn’t make it to even limited distribution, much less become a feature-length film.  The Christian film field really needs a lesson in quality over quantity.  Please don’t make a film just for the sake of having a film—it’s just not worth it.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

Exodus: Gods and Kings (Movie Review)

British Moses the Madman

Plot Summary

Moses, the son of Hebrew parents, was raised an Egyptian in a golden age of Egyptian culture.  But this culture was built on the backs of Moses’ people, who were enslaved by cruel Pharaohs.  Moses was always torn between two cultures, but he was forced to choose when he killed a fellow Egyptian and was driven out into the desert, on the run for his life.  After discovering and immersing himself in the Midianite culture, God called him back to Egypt to free His people, the Hebrews.  Though reluctant, Moses assumed his role as God’s deliverer.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Since this is a highly-funded Hollywood production, of course it’s going to be highly quality.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all highly professional, especially in the action scenes.  The soundtrack is also quite interesting and creative.  Sets, locations, and props are excellent and clearly had a lot of money spent on them, even though there are some obvious special effects.  The only other error to point out is the very poor editing that causes the story to jump all over the place, but that’s not only a production issue.  Overall, it would be nice if a Christian film maker had this much money and spent it this well (coughcouchTimothyCheycoughcough).

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Like many Hollywood forays into the Biblical market, Exodus: Gods and Kings is an epic failure.  Far too much time is spent on extra-Biblical content for no reason, as well as the dumbest head-scratching asides.  Historical truth is bent very freely as Moses is transformed into a sword-wielding maniac (with a British accent) and God is turned into a creepy, angry, and manipulative pre-adolescent boy who pours tea and stacks little metal blocks.  As time speeds by for the convenience of the runtime, characters are left in the wake and are made lifeless.  There’s no way to know what’s happening next as the audience is thrust through time without warning.  Iconic and historical sequences are framed in very odd and dark ways, thus making for a very strange and altered account of the story.  Many Christians complained about the cavaliered nature of this film, and they were actually justified.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Although some attempts were made to make this cast culturally authentic, this rule mostly only pertains to the supporting cast and the extras.  The white guys of Egypt get to take over the lead roles of this cast.  However, a lot of money was put into historically authentic costuming, so that’s a plus.  However, too many lines from these ‘professional’ actors and actresses are mumbled, thus giving off the impression that they are phoning in their lines and were rather be somewhere else.  For authenticity’s sake, I wish they were.

Conclusion

I’ll take singing and disproportionately-shaped cartoon priests played by Steve Martin and Martin Short over this madness any day (nothing beats the Plagues sequence in that film either).  DreamWorks may not have nailed historical accuracy either (Moses was 80 when he went back to Egypt guys), but who can beat that soundtrack?  Maybe one day I’ll post a review of that animated film, but for now, Exodus: Gods and Kings is a total wreck and waste of Hollywood’s money and your time, KTHNXBYE.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Angela Elwell Hunt: The Dangerous Beauty Series Book 1

Image result for esther royal beauty angela hunt

In her newest series of novels titled Dangerous Beauty, Angela E. Hunt takes up the gauntlet to provide depth and meaning to the stories of women in the Bible. She includes both tales that you would expect, and those that many in the church are afraid to speak aloud. Where others have romanticized, sensationalized, and heavily edited certain stories in the Bible, Hunt speaks out with a refreshing boldness not found in many Christian authors. Esther, Bathsheba, and Delilah were three women whose stories were included in the Bible to teach us important life lessons. So far Hunt has written novels about these three women of the Bible, it is currently unknown as to whether she will continue the Dangerous Beauty series or end it as a trilogy. The first novel in the series is titled Esther: Royal Beauty. This novel tells the story of Esther from a fresh perspective, and what I believe to be a very accurate depiction of what her life really was. Esther was a brave Jewess who answered God’s call when it was not the popular thing to do, nor the safest option. In this novel, Esther is depicted as a real person who made mistakes, as someone who has both strengths and weaknesses. As per usual for Hunt, she combines the perspectives of Esther herself and influential people in her life to create a well-written story that will hold the attention of any reader. I have always found that a good Christian novel is one that you read in one sitting; one that holds the attention for an extended period of time. This series measures up to it’s heritage by bringing fresh content and continuing refreshment in the world of Christian fiction. Many Christian filmmakers have attempted to make movies based on Esther’s story, and every one of them has failed. I would be interested to see a Christian filmmaker think outside the box and use Hunt’s novel to create an Esther character that is a real person, not an subservient, angelic character (The Book of Esther), nor a hollow shell who performs a dramatic act (One Night With the King). It is time for Christian filmmakers to either make a real film about Esther, or stop trying! Hunt’s book provides more than adequate content with which to create a landmark Bible film, so if you want to make another film about Esther, do it right this time and use her book as a master plan.

The Frontier Boys (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a tight-knit group of high school basketball players and fans is directly affected by a seemingly random drive-by shooting, they band together to discover the truth behind the evil deed.  However, unbeknownst to the others, one of them is holding a terrible secret that would affect his very life if he disclosed it.  But as the trail grows cold, will be speak the truth and risk it all to save his friends?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Frontier Boys starts off as a very raw and rough production, which is not characteristic of Echolight Studios.  Camera work is quite shaky at first and video quality is inconsistent.  However, audio quality is always good and the soundtrack is creative.  Sometimes lighting is randomly poor, but this and other productions elements at least improve as the movie goes on.  Sets, locations, and props are stable throughout the film, but for some reason it takes until the middle of video quality, camera work, and lighting to improve.  However, the editing is bit odd as it leaves too many lagging scenes and unexplained sequences.  Overall, this production is a roller coaster and probably should have been redone.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The Frontier Boys is a rare circumstance in which the creative plot saves the film from total mediocrity.  Though it begins in a confusing fashion, the story becomes more interesting as it goes, even though it does take a while to get to the point.  Regardless, the characters are surprisingly well-developed through unique dialogue and realistic circumstances.  However, there are some typical sports and mystery story elements and sometimes it seems like the creativity of this suspense idea is not reaching its fullest potential.  It feels like this film was just a beta test because a lot of factors are too downplayed and not taken seriously enough.  Had they been taken more serious, this would be a whole different ballgame.  But in the end, though things tend to be fixed too easily in this plot, it is still a commendable effort and one that demonstrates story-writing talent, which is hard to come by in the Christian movie field.  Perhaps this talent will be utilized further in the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is some off-putting and unusual at first, they work well together and assume their roles very well.  Line delivery is on-point and emotions are believable.  This is a professional casting job and one that should be replicated in the future.

Conclusion

There’s really not a movie out there that’s like The Frontier Boys.  It actually follows a non-typical plot structure and dabbles into an untapped genre.  If the production were upgraded and the plot even slightly improved, this would have been a Hall of Fame film.  Perhaps with the backing of Echolight, this creative team has a chance to really make a difference in the field, if they put their mind to it.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Pitching Love and Catching Faith {Romance in the Outfield} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Heather and Tyler meet on a softball field in the heat of a game and of course don’t like each other at first until they are randomly thrown together in a quirky relationship in which Tyler doesn’t want to kiss her until the right time.  Heather makes it her goal to kiss him, but she soon discovers that his faith is more important than she realized.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a freshman production, this confusingly-titled movie is pretty good.  Video quality is professional, as is the camera work, even though there is some unnecessarily poor lighting.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack leaves something to be desired.  Sets, locations, and props are fine but slightly limited.  Finally, the editing is too amateurish, including very choppy cuts and transitions that make the viewing experience confusing.  But in the end, this is fine for a first-time effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It seems like this film with the long title was pitched (haha) to Hallmark, UP, INSP, or even the abysmal ION in the hopes of a TV deal, but there were no home runs (lol).  It has all the trademarks of Hallmark cheesiness, including a cheap Christian message and the most juvenile romantic plot ever.  Every romance cliché and conversation in the book of stock romances is used in this film.  The plot progression is so predictable that it seems like someone wrote it in their sleep.  Their nothing new or creative here as two empty and cardboard characters are inevitably thrown together into a plastic romance full of forced drama, fake breakups, and an unhealthy obsession with kissing.  Maybe even Hallmark was tired of this.  Then again, maybe not.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Though this cast is not all bad, it is a small cast, thus amplifying the errors.  Most cast members are very awkward and flat.  Many of them are unsure in their line delivery, while emotions are forced and stiff.  This is definitely not a good way to top off a textbook romance movie.

Conclusion

It seems like a Christian message was slapped onto this film just to sell it to a certain market.  There’s really no other reason why it should be considered Christian.  Regardless, there is nothing whatsoever creative about this movie.  Thus, there is zero justification for its creation as it clutters an already-crowded field and genre.  The last thing we need is more of these plastic romances.  But last time I checked Hallmark, there’s still plenty more to come.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

The Playbook [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The Thomas family is successful and seems to get along on the surface.  However, they struggle with as many issues as anyone does.  They are involved in their community, including local sports, and are well-liked, but when tragedy strikes one of their own, they all find themselves struggling with forgiving those closest to them.  Will they ever be able to reconcile and find healing?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Although The Playbook is a somewhat rookie production, it is mostly good and is at least average.  Video quality is fine, but some of the camera work is shaky, especially in the sports action shots.  Lighting is sometimes inconsistent, but sets, locations, and props are all above board.  Finally, as usual for films of this caliber, the editing is lacking the necessary push.  Yet in the end, this is a respectable production is something to build off of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though the idea behind this plot is interesting and has potential, the story gets too lost in melodrama at times.  There is too much wallowing in self-pity and anger without any real plot focus or meaningful redemptive elements.  Rather than developing the characters so we can appreciate their struggles, this film spends a lot of time on sports montages, musical montages, and other useless sequences that really put a drag on the viewing experience.  Stuff just happens but nothing holds the attention or is enough to sustain a full story because the characters are under-developed due to poor dialogue.  The Christian message is also a little bit too vague.  In the end, it’s likely that this creative team meant well—they just need some help with their execution.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is ‘amateur’, they do a decent job without any real errors early on the film.  Yet their performances tend to digress in the middle due to extreme emotions and poor drama acting.  However, by the end, they have righted the ship again.  Despite the errors, this is a good model for amateur casting.

Conclusion

Tragedy plots are notoriously difficult to pull off without stepping into common pitfalls.  The same goes for sports plots.  When combined together, there are all kinds of issues that can come up.  Yet despite the rocky road plot, this movie isn’t all that bad, even though it may not have mass appeal.  It shows raw talent and could be a stepping stone for future work.  It will be interesting to see what becomes of this creative team.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Saul: The Journey to Damascus (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After the Resurrection of Jesus, the Jewish religious leaders sought to stamp out all remaining traces of those who followed Him.  However, they were largely unsuccessful at stopping the spread of the Gospel right under their noses, so they employed a radical in their midst named Saul to lead the charge of ending the teachings of Jesus once and for all.  Though he had success at first, Saul slowly changed until he was shocked by his Damascus road experience and his life was completely turned upside down.  Then he proceeded to turn his world upside down, even as his former employers tried to kill him.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

John Patus, along with the Leif Films team, has had an up and down career mostly marked by apocalyptic failures (literally).  Yet he and the Leif Films team seem to work relatively well together in Biblical productions.  Although there is some randomly shaky camera work in this film, video quality is great and audio quality is professional, including an interesting soundtrack.  However, there are some odd and unnecessary special effects that put a damper on things.  The outdoor locations are quite good, even if the indoor sets and props need some work.  Finally, the editing of this film is inconsistent, although it’s not all bad.  In the end, this is an average production that definitely has room for improvement, yet it is a good effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Though there is unnecessary narration at first, it subsides and allows the story to unfold naturally.  Saul: The Journey to Damascus is actually an honest and accurate depiction of historical events that does not allow the extra-Biblical content to clutter things.  The Biblical characters are relatively well-developed and are real people that can be related to.  The main things that hold this plot back from being perfect are one too many slow and seemingly unnecessary scenes that put a drag on things.  Sometimes dialogue is good, but other time it just seems to fill time.  The ending is very effective and appropriate.  In the end, this is a very refreshing plot in a market that usually produces such poor storylines.  It gives great hope for the future of Biblical film.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Acting is a mixed bag as the costuming is historically authentic, yet not many of the cast members are culturally accurate.  Some are British, while others are American or Canadian, but we know how difficult it is to cast Biblical films properly.  However, though this cast has plenty of talent and potential, some members need to coached a little better.  But overall, this is a mostly a job well done.

Conclusion

It’s refreshing to have a film that’s not across the board terrible, especially a Bible film.  It’s rare to have a film that has as many bright spots as this one, yet does not go all the way and reach Hall of Fame status.  Yet nonetheless, this is a film to be proud of and one to build off of.  It offers a Biblical film model that can be replicated and improved in the future.  Thus, it’s definitely worth a watch.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Set Free [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Danielle relocates to Pittsburgh after her husband dies, she hopes to find a new life for her and her college-age son.  However, the more she tries to run from her past, the more it catches up with her and finds her.  She must have the courage to tell the truth to her son before it’s too late, but will her friends still accept her after she comes clean?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

As a first-time church-based production, funding was obviously limited for this film, which always has a trickle-down effect.  Video quality is fine, but it is the only bright spot in the production.  Camera work leaves something to be desired, as does audio quality and the soundtrack.  Sets and locations are quite limited, which is somewhat understandable, but props also suffer.  Finally, there is no editing work done in this film as scenes cut and transition often without warning and before they seem like they should be over.  In the end, this is another one of those productions that reflects a lack of proper application, regardless of funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

What is this movie about?  Not even the plot summary above sums it up properly.  Nothing really happens in this odd story until the end when a head-scratching twist is revealed.  There are too many characters in this plot, which makes the constantly changing scenes even more confusing.  The audience never knows where the characters are at any given moment or how much time has actually passed since the last scene.  Thus, there is absolutely no continuity, flow, or purpose in this so-called storyline.  There are some realistic issues and circumstances presented, but all in the wrong ways.  In the end, the twist at the end is just too strange, even though some may be able to relate to it.  This entire story needed a total rewrite.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The acting in this film is actually not as bad as it could be, although there are plenty of amateurish moments.  Emotions are sometimes believable but line delivery is too inconsistent.  Yet these cast members show that they have some potential.

Conclusion

It seems like that this creative team meant well in making this film, even if the delivery is bit misguided.  It’s great to be honest and authentic with the struggles of Christians, but they need to be presented in a way that people can understand, without constant confusion as to what is happening.  Low-budget productions can be forgiven for a time, as long as the film making team can prove that they can craft a creative and unique plot with believable characters.  Otherwise, there is not much point in making a movie.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Daniel’s Lot (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Daniel is a devoted Christian whose marriage is struggling because his wife refuses to embrace the faith he has.  They are also struggling financially as Daniel does not make enough money to pay their mortgage and his wife’s real estate sales are down.  His wife insists that Daniel sell the large lot he inherited from his father, but Daniel promised his father that he wouldn’t sell it until the right time, even though they need the money to pay their mortgage.  When his wife cheats on him, Daniel does the only natural thing anyone would do—set out to build a huge cross on the lot he owns.  What could go wrong?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

As an underfunded church film, Daniel’s Lot has a lot of production errors.  It is overall cheap-looking and includes blurry video quality, weird camera angles, and lots of shaky camera work.  The soundtrack is very silly and often too loud, as are many outside sounds.  Lighting is very inconsistent and is poor a lot of the time, especially in the very bright outside scenes.  Sets and locations are very limited to inside people’s houses and offices and have an overall cheap feel to them.  Finally, editing is totally out the window.  This type of production begs the question, was it really worth making?

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The ‘plot’ of this movie also raises questions of necessity and purpose.  Besides the cheesy and childish portrayals of Christians and non-Christians that suggest Christians are perfect and non-Christians are all obnoxious, this story is utterly pointless and juvenile.  Why can’t Daniel sell the lot to take care of his family and keep them from being evicted?  There’s a difference between waiting on God and plain stupidity and lack of common sense.  In addition to all of this, constant heavy-handed TV preaching litters the storyline.  Some of the ways people are portrayed are downright embarrassing, and it goes without saying that the character development is horrible.  To add insult to injury, a ridiculous religious freedom subplot is shoved into this so-called story.  In short, we have no clue what is trying to be accomplished here, but whatever it is, it’s certainly not anything worthwhile.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Amateur church casts are very difficult to hone properly, and this problem is only made worse by the very unusual casting job done here.  Some cast members act like literal children and are over-the-top obnoxious.  Also, makeup is done very poorly.  Unfortunately, this rounds out a very poor job all around.

Conclusion

When making a movie, a church should really look into getting some unbiased feedback of their work.  Films like this are only giggle-inducing or just plain eye-rollers, so there’s no way they’re ever going to have a real impact.  Any good intentions or messages that were attempted to be conveyed here are totally lost when the overall quality is so poor.  Besides improved production and acting, we need stories we can actually relate to and characters we can care about, not silly nonsense like this.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Last Days in the Desert (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jesus was in the desert for forty days and forty nights, he supposedly helped out a random family who lived there.  He was also tempted by the devil in various ways to see if He would fall before beginning His earthly ministry.  Though the battle was difficult, He prevailed and was ultimately prepared to do His Father’s work on earth.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s very clear that this film was mainstream produced, as its high production quality unfortunately sets it apart from most independent Christian films, especially other Biblical films.  This production is virtually flawless—it boasts professional video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also creative and intriguing.  Sets and locations are highly realistic and appropriate for the story.  Props are also historically authentic.  The only nitpick to raise here is some slightly odd editing, but it’s not enough to keep this production from being great.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Despite its high amount of funding, this story is a total wash.  The first half of the movie is extremely empty and boring, with hardly any dialogue to speak of.  Hardly anything happens except for the introduction of bizarre spiritual elements and the development of a very unusual take on the Biblical account of Jesus’ tempting in the desert.  There is little justification for altering the historical account in this way, as the alterations seem utterly pointless and just for the sake of altering it.  As what little conversations there are meander on and on, they never go anyway and thus serve little purpose.  But without dialogue, what is a plot?  From start the finish, this story is useless and serves no purpose whatsoever, except to further muddy the waters of Biblical films.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though the costuming is very authentic and well-constructed, there is little else good to point out here.  Though this is a professional cast, and though they certainly have their good moments, they are all overly dramatic and too serious.  Also, it goes without saying that it’s ridiculous to cast Jesus and Satan with the same actor, regardless of who the actor is, just saying.  There are also shades of British accents among this cast, but what do you expect at this point?

Conclusion

Hollywood certainly knows how to fund a production, unlike a lot of independent and struggling Christian film makers, but their plots are just as bad or worse as independent plots.  Biblical films like this are so stupid because they alter historical accounts for fun, it seems like.  What if someone altered another historical account?  There would be an outcry.  Nonetheless, until Christians start making better Biblical films, there’s really not much else to say.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Midrange [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Damon Sharp, a new college graduate, must leave his glory days of playing college basketball behind and return to his hometown to live with his mother and brother while he waits to be drafted into the NBA.  However, he returns to find the same old things being done at home.  His brother quickly pulls Damon back into the partying lifestyle as he awaits a big sports contract.  However, Damon is constantly nagged by his newfound faith, wondering how he is supposed to live it out as his brother tries to lead him astray.  Will he find the path that God wants him to take before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Midrange is another typical freshman production that looks good but has a collection of errors that drag it down.  Video quality is fine, but camera work is inconsistent.  Audio quality is also poor, but some effort was put into the soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are commendable but they are slightly limited and cheap.  Furthermore, there is really no editing to speak of in this film as it progresses unimaginatively from one thing to the next.  In the end, this is forgivable as a first-time production and hopefully this team will grow more in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this story is based on loosely interesting idea about the struggles of Christians and their families of origin, it is packaged in a very flat and linear presentation that has no real twists or creative elements.  Everything is given at face value, including the stiff dialogue and the descriptions of vague off-screen content that might have been helpful to include.  Though they mean well in presenting the struggles of a new Christian, the Christian message is too cheap and plastic to be accessed by the audience.  In the same vein, the characters are not deep enough or realistic enough to be related to, even though their struggles are real.  Thus, this story just boils down to a formulaic and predictable storyline that reaches an inevitable conclusion in which everything is fixed.  It would be one thing if the viewers could be taken along for an accessible experience, but this did not happen.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Another mark of an amateur film is an amateur cast.  While this is not inherently a problem, these cast members sometimes seem unsure of themselves.  They are often too robotic and measured and seem like they performed everything in one take.  This is more evident due to some obvious line mistakes.  Though there is some good here, they need a lot of more coaching than this.

Conclusion

Meager beginnings should never be frowned upon, but there are certainly ways budding film makers can learn from their past mistakes.  Without good funding, story writing skills need to showcased to prove that the film maker has something to offer the field.  Amateur casts can be difficult to deal with, but it is possible to make something out of it.  Overall, what we always look for is improvement, so we will see what happens next.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Beyond Acceptance (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Though they have comfortable lives, the Border family feels like God wants them to adopt a child.  As they look into the process, they are somewhat skeptical but their hearts are stolen by a little boy who they feel needs their help.  They begin the adoption process and bring him into their home, buy they soon discover the terror and violence he conceals inside of himself due to the trauma he has experienced.  Will their family be able to survive this new strain or will they give up?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Though this film is obviously a cheap church production, there is no excuse for the production being this bad.  The only good assets are the clear video quality and lack of poor lighting, but that’s not saying much.  Camera work is very shaky and dizzying and sets are very cheap and limited.  Audio quality is very poor and the soundtrack is too loud.  The most obvious and negative standouts pertain to the horrific editing, which includes terrible transitions and far too many repeated sequences.  The editing is disorienting and creates a lot of confusion for the audience.  Overall, this is a highly disappointing production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though Beyond Acceptance can be commended for attempting to highlight good and pertinent issues pertaining to foster care and adoption that need to be discussed in Christian film, this is the worst possible way to do it.  The plot structure is hopelessly disjointed and confusing, mostly because the story jumps all over the place with no continuity or sense of direction.  Mental health is portrayed very well, however, even though there are too many unrealistic occurrences in this story.  Finally, there are no meaningful or tangible solutions to the problems presented here—only magical and unrealistic solutions are given that automatically fix everything.  Unfortunately, though it’s likely this creative team meant well in this film, the delivery is not there.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

As an amateur cast, these actors and actresses have some work to do.  Again, it seems like they really do mean well, but their emotions are either flat or extreme.  There is too much yelling and screaming.  Line delivery is disjointed, but there are some brief good moments here.  In the end, this cast needed a lot more coaching.

Conclusion

First-time, under-funded productions like this one are often better suited as short films rather than feature-length films because it gives the team better opportunities to focus their limited resources on a smaller scale.  Making a short film at first can give the team experience and help them work out the kinks without having to go through the hassle of making a longer film that will only hurt their reputation.  But perhaps this is only the beginning of something greater at hand.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

The Current [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jake Larson witnesses a holdup in the city he and his family live in, his parents decide it’s time to move.  They take the chance to move to Minnesota to start a new business venture at a campground retreat.  Jake instantly hates the area and tries to make it miserable for everyone else, but when he befriends a local boy, he sees a whole new world of possibilities that he hadn’t considered before.  He also discovers that his faith in God is more than he thought it was.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For a freshman production, The Current showcases great effort as it checks all of the appearance boxes.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all on the standard they should be on.  The soundtrack leaves something to be desired, however.  But the sets, locations, and props are appropriate and well-funded.  The biggest drawback to point out here is to the poor editing, but this is to be expected from a first-time effort.  Overall, this production is great for a new film maker, which shows potential for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this plot is trying to be different and to follow a non-typical plot line, it needs a bit of work.  There are too many awkward attempts at humor and dialogue is only there for the sake of having dialogue, not for the sake of the characters.  This hurts character development, as do the montages and juvenile conversations.  Though there is an interesting idea in here somewhere, there’s not enough content to sustain a feature length film.  Character-driven plots need deep characters, and this is something this story lacks greatly.  Also, the subplots need to be more complex in keeping with the non-traditional setup.  Overall, while there is some potential here, it needs quite a bit of development.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a slightly amateurish cast, there are some rough performances therein.  Emotions are mostly over the top and there are some forced lines, but this is not to say that the cast doesn’t have their good moments.  There are plenty of reasons to believe in this cast—they just need further development and coaching.

Conclusion

Overall, The Current, though it has a good production, sports the typical marks of a first-time film.  Across the board, plots are usually the number one sticking point that holds Christian films back from being all that it could be.  Though this film does not borrow from conventional and stock plot lines, it still fails to develop the characters in such a way that the audience can relate to them and appreciate them as real people.  However, there is a lot of potential in this creative team and it will be interesting to see what they come up with next.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Dialtone [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a disillusioned Christian lawyer receives a very unusual visit from a man that claims to have access to a special phone that allows the caller to call people in the past who have died in the present, he is very skeptical at first.  However, he finds himself intrigued enough to try to call his recently deceased wife in the past.  But the deeper he goes, the more he discovers that he needs to get right with God before he is ready to truly make a difference.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is a very low-key film, attempts were made to make the production worthwhile.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all good, including a creative and intriguing soundtrack.  However, there is some unnecessarily poor lighting and a lot of the sets and locations are quite limited, probably due to budget limitations.  Also, the editing of this film is not really what it should be, especially considering how short it is.  Nonetheless, this is a good effort for a low-budget production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Dialtone is based on a very unique idea, but it is still a time travel plot, and like other time travel plots, it has a lot of continuity and logic problems.  Sci-fi is one thing, but a logic-defying story is hard to justify, even though the effort to be creative is commendable.  Since this idea is so short and underdeveloped, it’s hard to see the justification for it except to beta-test movie-making.  It’s great to have a creative idea, but it needs to be expounded upon.  The characters are also pretty well-developed, but we need to know more about them since there are so few of them.  In the end, creativity should be rewarded, but time travel plots should mostly be avoided.  An idea isn’t enough to carry a film—you need characters to do that for you.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this is a small cast, they post good performances that lack glaring errors.  Emotions are believable and line delivery is on point.  The only drawback is that they can be underwhelming at times, but they really showed effort to make this portion good.

Conclusion

Movies like Dialtone are hard to figure.  It seems like the creative team behind these sorts of films really has potential to do something great, but they just don’t go quite all the way.  It could be that films like this one were started projects, but there isn’t any follow-up, which is unfortunate.  But perhaps one day they will pick it back up again and improve on what they already have.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Welcome to Paradise [2007] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Debbie Laramie makes a mistake that causes her to lose her current pastor job, she is demoted by her superior to become the pastor of a struggling small town church in Paradise, Texas.  She tends to be a rogue when delivering her sermons, so she brings her unique style to the stuck-in-their-ways small town in an attempt to shake things up.  Though plenty of gossip goes around about her, she forges ahead and tries to make a difference.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Unlike other Echolight-affiliated productions, Welcome to Paradise does not have the usual professional quality.  Camera work is unprofessional and there is some inconsistent lighting, although video quality is fine.  Audio quality needs some work, as does the random soundtrack.  However, sets, locations, and props are adequate and appropriate.  The editing could also use some improvement, but it is not that bad.  Overall, this is a confusing production because it’s hard to understand what they were trying to do.  They don’t appear to be that limited on budget, so it’s hard to know why quality is inconsistent.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This story was taken from the pages of a proverbial stock plot playbook.  It is the extremely stereotypical tale of a character who is forced to live in a small town and save the church therein.  Thus, every character stereotype imaginable is included, driven by pointless dialogue and very cheesy and forced comedy.  As the story meanders along in a useless fashion, it is driven by laughable coincidences and things that happen because they need to.  There is little to no justification for making this formulaic film because it has been done a million times before and after.  If you’re going to use a typical storyline, at least develop the characters properly.  However, this was not done in this film.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this is a semi-professional cast, they are trying way too hard to be funny.  Though they have their good moments, they are trying too much to exhibit quirky stereotypes.  It’s hard to feel like emotions are taken seriously in this cast.  Overall, this film is a big disappointment.

Conclusion

Welcome to Paradise feels like a dumb TV show or a reject Hallmark movie.  It could have very well been marketed by Hallmark, as long as it was fit into one of their seasonal molds.  Nonetheless, it’s difficult to justify the creation of these types of films.  Is this really what the Christian market needs?  We beg to differ.  Christian film makers can do better than this by a long shot.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Slow Fade [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Since Thomas grew up without a positive father influence in his life, he was influenced by the television and by the wrong crowd of friends.  As he embraces violent behavior, his mother is at a loss of what to do with him except to pray for him.  One day, his violence finally catches up with him and gets him in trouble with an elderly man.  But rather than press charges, the elderly man takes Thomas under his wing and decides to positively influence him.  Slowly but surely, Thomas’ life turns around.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

This production begins very roughly, with very cheap video quality and some poor lighting.  Camera work is relatively stable throughout, but audio quality is very poor, including loud background noises and an overbearing soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are relatively limited.  However, most production elements improve as the movie goes on.  Yet the editing is consistently a problem as it allows too many montages and lagging scenes.  Overall, this is a very raw production that needed better funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though on its face this is an interesting plot idea, it does not translate to reality.  Heavy-handed narration stunts character development, as does the cheap dialogue.  The message presented here is very juvenile as it treats all entertainment as evil (what about this film?) and offers an extremely simplistic and childish view of why people act the way they do.  Large time jumps cause a lot of off-screen content to be referred to, which makes the storyline vague and hard to pin down.  As previously mentioned, there are too many flat and meandering scenes that simply boil down to a conclusion that unrealistically fixes all the problems with no real consequences.  The story leaves too many vague concepts unexplored and will likely cause viewers to roll their eyes at the simplicity and silliness of how these otherwise important issues are handled.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this small cast has some potential, they are too often unsure of themselves.  Line delivery is inconsistent, as are emotions.  There are some good moments here, but the bad moments hold the cast back from being all they could be, thus warranting an average score.

Conclusion

Movies like Slow Fade feel like beta tests that were not necessarily intended for full release to the public.  The good thing is that most people will likely not see this film, but that’s so unfortunate to wish such a thing on a movie.  This creative team may mean well, but they are lacking in proper presentation.  They need to try to connect their plots with reality rather than vaguely and childishly explore important concepts.  Then they will possibly find themselves with some better funding and more success as film makers.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

No Greater Love [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jeff and Heather Baker once had a happy marriage, but when Heather was struggling with her alcohol problems, she felt like she could not hold it together anymore.  Thus, she abandoned Jeff and their son and disappeared from their lives.  Now Jeff has found someone else he wants to marry, but he runs into a problem: he and Heather were never officially divorced.  As he tries to find her again, she suddenly turns up at the local church, asking for forgiveness and reconciliation.  Is it possible that they could put aside the past and find a new life together?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, No Greater Love is an underwhelming production.  Though video quality and audio quality are both fine, other production elements suffer.  Camera work is shaky and there is a lot of poor lighting.  Sets, locations, and props are fairly cheap and limited.  As for the editing, there are too many awkward transitions and lagging sequences.  In the end, it’s clear funding was limited for this film, which makes production elements suffer, however, is understandable considering it is basically a first-time effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though on its face this is an interesting idea, No Greater Love is neither handled well nor developed properly.  There is not enough plot content as the same conversations and flashbacks seem to repeat over and over again.  Dialogue is fairly cheesy, which hurts the characters’ development.  Despite this, there is lots of wasted time and useless montages that pump the runtime.  Though there is a somewhat good point in the end, it is hard to get to and is packaged in a very shallow Christian message.  The problems presented in this story are fixed way too easily, so it is hard to learn anything from this film.  In the end, though this could have been an interesting story with an important message, it fell far short of expectations.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Since this is a small cast, every little error stands out.  Though the cast members are sometimes okay, they are in need of some coaching.  Emotions are over the top and too dramatic.  There is too much yelling and line delivery is sometimes forced.  In the end, this is another area of this film that falls short of the target.

Conclusion

This creative team likely meant well in making this film, but the delivery is lacking.  Not having enough funding is one thing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an interesting plot with relatable characters.  This is a character-driven plot, which means the characters and the cast members have to carry it.  However, this did not happen.  Perhaps next time things will improve.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Melody Carlson’s Mental Health Masterpiece: Finding Alice

Image result for finding alice melody carlson

As previously mentioned on this blog, Melody Carlson is a superb author of teen and adult fiction. Many have been drawn to the gentle way that she weaves the Gospel story into her novels. She believes that Christians have just as many issues as the next person, and that, at times, some hurt others with their exclusivity. Carlson is a rare author who dares to admit that the church body has flaws. In her novel, Finding Alice, she shows how the church body can hurt a person or persons by not being willing to help them, by putting their convenience and traditionalism above someone else’s needs. For this reason, and others like it, Finding Alice is Carlson’s best novel. The plot and plot twists are performed flawlessly and hold the attention of the reader. Carlson’s brave undertaking of this difficult subject matter make this novel worth a read and definitely worth promoting. Not many people would be willing to write about this topic in a real-life context, nor would they make the effort to portray it in an accurate light.  Finding Alice deals with subjects such as mental illness, schizophrenia, family traits, life choices, the consequences that come along with these, the exclusivity of small churches, estranged family relationships. loneliness, fear, friendship, brotherly love, and the healing power of God’s love for us. The opening chapters introduce the reader to the main character, Alice Laxton. Alice is a senior in college, she is a brilliant student, confounding her professors with her knowledge and ability to learn new concepts. Alice has a normal life, or so she believes. However, little does she know that there is a dark secret from her estranged family’s past, one that they would all like to forget. You see, Alice’s grandmother had schizophrenia. Being an early case, no one knew how to treat her properly, so, they locked her away…..and she eventually died alone, lost in her own mind. Alice lives in a typical college housing facility, alone, and in total control of her life; she is independent and free. One day Alice meets a new friend, her name is Amelia. Amelia claims to be Alice’s guardian angel, and tells her that she is here to keep her safe from the outside world. Alice wonders how she got into the apartment, Amelia brushes this aside and begins teaching Alice all sorts of new things. Alice shouldn’t eat the food in her home, it’s not safe. She shouldn’t even drink the water, its probably poisonous. Alice listens to Amelia, and, slowly, she begins to fall into the hands of her own mind. Some time later, Alice’s mother discovers how far gone her daughter has become. She is shocked to discover Alice’s condition, and makes the decision to bring her home to nurse her back to health. Alice soon discovers, with the help of Amelia, that nowhere is safe, not even her own home. Her mother, goaded on by friends from her cultist church who believe Alice is possessed by an evil spirit, makes the decision to send Alice to an institution. For months Alice lurks in a drug-induced haze that she believes to be Wonderland, but somewhere in the back of her mind she knows she should escape this place of darkness. Eventually an opportunity arrives, and she is finally free from her prison of medication. Sadly, she realizes that she is now on the streets, alone and afraid…..and still in a prison in her mind. Alice makes new friends, real ones, that Amelia doesn’t like, and discovers that the streets are much more accommodating than Wonderland. Eventually she finds a sick, abandoned kitten and names him Cheshire. Her friends tell her of a woman named Faye who takes in sick cats from the streets, so she takes him there. Little does she know that Faye also takes in people in need, and loves them unconditionally, just like Jesus. Will Alice escape the prison in her mind? Will she find healing through God’s love? To answer these questions, read the book!;) Finding Alice would make an excellent Christian drama film, but in the wrong hands it could be disastrous. I believe the best course of action for Christian novels such as these would be to include the author in the film-making to ensure that a quality story-line would be upheld.

A Walk With Grace (in progress)

Currently being filmed

Facebook Page

Website

 

Writer(s): Nick Kellis

Director(s): Nick Kellis

Producer(s): Nick Kellis, Lance Paul, Chris Carson, Drew Evans, April Kennedy, Brian MacGillivray, Austin St. John

Starring: Stephen Baldwin, Austin St. John, Joe Estevez, David Lee Smith, Nicole Dambro, Ashley Bratcher, Ian Grey, Brenna Sherman, Garrett Pace, Bret Aaron Knower, Lance Paul, Jenni Kennedy, Mishka Calderon, Jenni-Kate Deshon, Chris Minor, Yorke Fryer, Manu Aggarwal, Samir Patel, Jaylee Kennedy

 

Plot Synopsis:

When his mother dies a week before Easter, a widowed hotshot LA exec, Nate Lassiter, is confronted with heart-tugging responsibilities. He must finally return, with his daughter Chloe intow, to his hometown in Ohio. There, he faces the daunting task of signing away his family’s factory. Nate must also confront: a spitfire cousin, unhappy Nate left her to run the factory years ago, a labor-strike lead by his high school wrestling buddy, and a legal battle over the impending sale of the factory– brought on by his high school sweetheart, Grace. Nate’s biggest challenge, however, will be the realization that accepting things you feel you don’t deserve, and giving freely to those you believe aren’t deserving, is giving into God’s grace. Forced to search his soul and embrace his past, he just might reconnect with his God – and fall back in love with his Grace. Once lost in Los Angeles, Nate Lassiter is about to be found in Middle America!

Selfie Dad: When a Comic Gets Serious About the Bible (2018)

Emily Tosta and Shelby Simmons in Selfie Dad (2018)

Coming 2018 from Kappa Media and Rapture Pictures

 

Writer(s): Brad J. Silverman

Director(s): Brad J. Silverman

Producer(s): Patrick G. Ingram, Paul L. Long, Mike Sullivan, Geno Taylor

Starring: Michael Jr., James Denton, Johnny Pacar, Dahlia Waingort, Chonda Pierce, Pat Finn, Emily Tosta, Shelly Dennis, Peter Hulne, Charissa Saverio, Shelby Simmons, Jalon Christian

 

Plot Synopsis:

Spiraling uncontrollably into a mid-life crisis, Ben Marcus, a reality television editor, is convinced he can only be happy by fulfilling his lost dream of being a comic.  Ben posts his stand-up comedy to a You Tube channel, under the name SELFIE DAD.  His comedy videos fall flat until his tweener son posts Ben failing miserably on a home improvement project.  Much to his teenage daughter’s embarrassment, this video goes viral launching Ben into a new career as SELFIE DAD.  Soon Ben is an award winning, social media comic phenomenon! The problem is no amount of success seems to bring Ben satisfaction.  Through an odd relationship with a brash twenty-five year old I.T. guy (Mickey), who is on fire for Christ and studying to be a pastor, Ben learns the only way to attain true, sustainable happiness is by reading the Bible and re-establishing his relationship with Jesus.

The Light of Freedom (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In 1861, the rumblings of the Civil War were just beginning and the work of the Underground Railroad was in full swing.  Christians from the Union bravely joined the slavery abolition movement and saved runaway slaves from their evil masters.  Both the Confederacy and the Union armies pressed their male citizens into military service.  A group of friends and families is followed as they make brave and heroic decisions that forever alter the course of American history.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is an obviously amateurish production, a lot of time and money was spent on making sure that the sets, locations, and props of this film were historically realistic.  They succeeded in this goal, but it was at the expense of other production elements.  Camera work is fine, especially in the action scenes, but video quality is blurry at times.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is a bit generic.  Furthermore, there is a lot of wasted time and one too many dead scenes, which reflects poor editing, even though there is a lot of content to use here.  Nevertheless, this is at least an average production that spends time making certain elements good; it is at the very least a starting point for greater things in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this is a period of history that is very much under-explored in Christian film and though there is a lot of potentially interesting content in The Light of Freedom, this film is a collection of random disjointed stories that have no real correlation or driving focus.  Care is given to historical accuracy, but with this comes archaic Shakespearean dialogue that the viewers cannot relate to.  Most scenes are full of information dumps that do not allow the content to develop naturally.  All of the subplots and characters presented need further development so that we can get to know them better and truly understand how we can relate to what is happening.  The purpose of these stories, aside from the historical content, is quite vague, even though there are plenty of opportunities for overarching themes here.  The sheer amount of scenes that contain characters sitting around and talking about trite ideas is frustrating because this time could be given instead to truly character-building, focused, and meaningful content.  In short, while we can see a lot of potential in this story, it’s disappointing that it does not follow through.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is a largely amateur cast, they are mostly fine.  They are sometimes too theatrical, but costuming is at least authentic.  There is a need among this cast for more realistic emotions, but they are at least trying, which is the best we can ask for in this situation.

Conclusion

The Light of Freedom desperately needs a remake, or at least another Civil War film like it.  This is an important period in American history for many reasons, one being that it was a time when Christians made a true difference in the culture.  Thus, we absolutely need more Christian films about this era.  It is certainly hard to be historically authentic on a limited budget, but this creative team pulls it off well.  Now if they can just improve other elements, such as characters and plot, they will be well on their way to greatness.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Like Arrows: The Art of Parenting (2018)

Coming May 1 and 3, 2018 from FamilyLife and Pro-Family Films to Select Theaters

Website

Writer(s):

Director(s): Kevin Peeples

Producer(s): David C. Cook, Kevin Peeples

Starring: Alan Powell, David Blamy, Alex Kendrick, Kristi Taylor, Victoria Anastasi, Katherine Shepler, Les Best, Holly Morris, Garry Nation, Andrew Hurt, Elizabeth Becka, Justin Torrence, LaVictor Chase Talbert Jr., Samantha Katelyn, Jason Rhymer, Jade Bui, Anisa Nyell Johnson, Micah Lynn Hanson, Adam Drake, Joseph Curtis Callender, Emma Dison Brantley, Kathleen Dellinger, Dawson Shea, Jaden Bishop, Frances Dell Bendert, Carter Babcock, Hobbs Peeples, Sophia Smith, Amanda Lauren Cabigting, Rowe Powell, Elleina Papageorgiou, Justin Livingston, Isabella Smith, Joel Dellinger, Aowyn Peeples, Randy Henning, John Jackson Hunter, Tara Warolin, Rory Root, Kendrick Peeples, Micah Drew Johnson, Davis Ray, Drakeford Peeples

Plot Synopsis:

When conflict, rebellion, and resentment overwhelm their family, Charlie and Alice are forced to rethink their parenting strategy. In the process, they realize how critical intentionality and focus are when shaping and molding young lives. FamilyLife’s first feature film explores the challenges and joys that come with raising children. Through a journey that unfolds over 50 years, Charlie and Alice discover the unmistakable power of family.Together, they learn that knowing and living by God’s Word is what brings transformation and hope to any family.

HeavenQuest: A Pilgrim’s Progress (2018)

In Theaters late 2018

Website

 

Writer(s): Matt Bilen, Dan Mark, Rachel Tan, Michael Tang, Darren Wilson

Director(s): Matt Bilen

Producer(s): Jeremy Adams, Matt Bilen, In-Pyo Cha, David Kang, Ricky Kim, Dan Mark, Rachel Tan, Darren Wilson

Starring: Peta Sergeant, Alan Powell, Fernanda Romero, Karyme Lozano, Ricky Kim, Eric Tiede, Asger Folmann, Patrick Thompson, In-Pyo Cha

 

Plot Synopsis:

A new take on the classic story from John Bunyan.

Without a Father (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Two men, Jacob Taylor and Christopher Bauman, grew up with different lives, but they both grew up without a father.  Now they live different lives—one is successful in law but not in his marriage, while the other is successful with his family but struggles for work.  Though they have taken two different paths, the truth for them still remains the same: they both have a Father in Heaven Who wants them to turn to Him in their time of need and to put their trust in Him.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, as a low-budget church production, Without a Father suffers on most production fronts.  Video quality and camera work are very inconsistent and mostly low-quality.  Audio quality is also poor, including a loud and uninspiring soundtrack.  Flashbacks are black and white for no reason.  Sets, locations, and props are limited and fairly cheap.  Finally, the editing is also bad, with very awkward and abrupt cuts and transitions that make for a confusing experience.  In short, though this church likely meant well with this film, the delivery is not very good.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though Without a Father has a good purpose (which is obviously messaged in the title), the plot completely lacks focus, as it is mostly a random collection of stories all jumbled together.  Though the agenda is good, it is still pushed way too hard in the audience’s faces.  Narration is also heavy-handed and provides more message-pushing.  Trite Christian answers are provided as unrealistic quick fixes for problems.  Also, the legal premise presented here is basically not believable.  Finally, there is no justification for this film being so long, since the runtime is only sustained by long and drawn out scenes depicting the empty characters doing random things and activities of daily living.  Basically, having a low production budget is one thing, but the least you can do as a struggling film maker is make a decent plot without heavy-handed messaging.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As an amateur church cast, some forgiveness is in order here, but it still doesn’t warrant these poor performances.  The cast members are overly practiced and stiff in their delivery.  Emotions are too extreme and there is far too much yelling.  In short, from start to finish, Without a Father is unfortunately how not to make a church movie.

Conclusion

It’s baffling to me how churches make films this long.  In my experience, it’s difficult for a church to even make a thirty-minute film, much less one that’s nearly two hours.  With all the effort put into films like this, what do they really have to show for it?  We can understand not having enough money for a first-time church production, but if you’re going to make a movie like this, at least try to write a good story with realistic characters.  Otherwise, what’s really the point?

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Find a Way [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a locally popular high school football player and role model is taken to the hospital with sudden medical complications, the entire small town finds themselves lost and confused.  The head coach’s family is having hidden problems and other families are suffering from hidden secrets and sins.  The school counselor tries to help wherever anyone will let him, but most people will not let him into their world.  However, slowly but surely, walls begin to come down so that healing can start.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, Find a Way is a professional production.  Camera work is mostly good, even though there are some random moments of shakiness.  Audio quality is in the same boat, with some inconsistency and a stock soundtrack.  Yet sets, locations, and props are highly professional and well-constructed.  Editing is also fairly good, which is a change from the norm in independent inspirational films like this one.  Overall, this is a respectable effort that could be a stepping stone to greater things.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, Find a Way does fall into the typical pitfalls of independent film making when it comes to its plot.  This story is somewhat limited from the start, but it contains interesting ideas and realistic circumstances that need further development.  It sometimes has a one-track mind and wastes a lot of time on trite asides, which stunts character development and makes them one-dimensional.  Sometimes it is difficult to discern what this story is supposed to be about due to the multiple under-developed subplots presented here.  There are important issues explored here pertaining to broken families, but they are not handled very well due to lack of real focus.  Also, all the problems are basically solved in unrealistic fashions, which teaches the audience nothing.  It’s sad to see reality cheapened because this story could have been really interesting.  But once again, we are left wondering what could have been.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though sometimes lines are mumbled and some actors and actresses are awkward, this cast posts mostly professional performances.  Emotions are believable and each cast member seems to fit their character well.  This is another respectable effort that could be a sign of greater things to come.

Conclusion

Find a Way is one of those frustrating movies that contain s creative and realistic ideas that will likely never really be seen by a wide audience because it will be lost in the endless swirl of independent Christian films that are constantly being produced.  It is not bad enough to be remembered for its badness and it’s not good enough to truly make a difference.  But perhaps this is only the beginning of good things still to come from this creative team.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

The Visitation [2006] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a stranger comes to a small town begins performing miracles, he gains an immediate following.  However, a Baptist pastor and his friends are skeptical of the man, especially as his work grows more and more sinister.  As the town descends into spiritual chaos and demons take over people’s minds, will the Christians be able to stand against the growing evil that threatens the very soul of their town—or they be sucked into evil themselves?

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

As an early 2000s Fox Faith production, this team had the resources to make this film at least somewhat professional.  However, the production is neither respectable nor presentable.  It’s an absolute wreck full of cheesy special effects, constant jumps, and epilepsy-inducing flashes.  Camera work is extremely shaky and video quality is very blurry.  The lighting is very inconsistent and the sets, locations, and props are very cheap-looking.  Finally, as previously mentioned, the editing is atrocious, which makes for an unpleasant experience.  In short, there is nothing good whatsoever to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Frank Peretti was known in his time as a ground-breaking author who wasn’t afraid to breach different genres, but that doesn’t mean he always wrote good stories.  The Visitation is extremely thin on plot and character development in general.  It is beyond cheesy and includes tons of ridiculous horror elements that make for an extremely confusing and dizzying experience.  It’s really unfair to make someone watch this train wreck of a movie, as it jumps from one thing to the next, leaving the audience in a dazed wake.  It doesn’t even seem like this plot is trying to present a real story but is instead checking the box of having a Christian horror film for the sake of having it.  Needless to say, it doesn’t work—not in the least bit.

Acting Quality (0 points)

It’s probably safe to say that any cast that involves Randy Travis already has something wrong with it.  Otherwise, this cast is extremely dramatic, with lots of yelling and extreme emotions.  If they were going for a C-grade horror movie, they reached their goal on every single level.

Conclusion

It’s one thing to breach a new genre in Christian film, and it’s entirely another to butcher a film so badly that it creates a laughingstock.  Non-Christians might watch this film because it’s a horror flick, but they will find a total disaster with the name ‘Christian’ stamped on it.  To date, Christian horror is a genre that greatly suffers, but perhaps someone will turn it around one day…soon…

 

Final Rating: -2 out of 10 points

 

The Genius Club (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a madman takes the White House hostage with a complex nuclear bomb he has built, he demands that the Secret Service assemble the world’s highest IQ achievers to solve the world’s problems in the President’s bunker before the time runs out on the bomb.  The madman poses a series of philosophical dilemmas and questions for them to solve so they can gain enough points for him to turn off the bomb.  Will they be able to play the game to win before time runs out?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Unlike later productions from Timothy Chey, The Genius Club actually has average production quality rather than negative production quality.  Video quality is good and camera work is good, but there is some randomly poor lighting.  However, audio quality is unprofessional, although the soundtrack is interesting.  Sets, locations, and props are also somewhat interesting and creative.  However, the editing leaves something to be desired with some confusing cuts and transitions.  Overall, this is a middle-of-the-road production that is better than negative but is not what it should be.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though The Genius Club has some shades of Timothy Chey wackiness, it also includes some thought-provoking philosophical concepts.  It has an interesting suspense storyline but it lacks flow and tends to jump all over the place in attempts to cover a lot of ground and information, even if it does so in an isolating way.  There are some typical philosophical regurgitations, but there are also some interesting and surprisingly well-thought-out points raised.  However, the characters, even though there are some interesting backstories, and the dialogue are not good enough to sustain a full-scale story as the conversations only seem to be used to fill time.  Finally, as with many suspense ideas, this story has a paint-yourself-into-a-corner ending that is hard to reconcile properly or creatively without being predictable.  But at least this was a reasonable attempt.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting is very inconsistent, especially with the over-the-top villain constantly manically tirading.  Stephen Baldwin is always a lazy actor, but his role somewhat fits him.  Other cast members post over-the-top performances, but others are realistic and meaningful.  Overall, like other parts of the film, this is a mixed bag.

Conclusion

Timothy Chey remains to be an enigma.  He is extremely hard to figure, except for the fact that he clearly hates lawsuits, noises, war, and oil companies, as these are constant themes throughout his films.  Yet despite his zaniness, there are some interesting thought-provokers throughout The Genius Club that actually make you think.  However, they are not enough to overcome the inevitable unprofessional elements that are almost always found in his films.  But this one is at least worth a watch.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Hemingway [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When the patriarch of the Hemingway family dies, the future of the successful Hemingway publishing company is in limbo.  His lawyer discloses his will’s stipulations for succession: his son and his three oldest adult children must reconcile their differences in eight hours or the publishing company will be sold to another company.  They must explore family secrets and be willing to forgive each other in order to save their company.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The production of Hemingway is inconsistent, but it has its good elements.  Video quality is fine, but some camera work is overly artistic and lighting is sometimes poor.  This is a very silent film with very quiet audio and not enough of a soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are fine, however.  There are some abrupt cuts and transitions, but the editing isn’t all bad.  Overall, this film is a mixed bag when it comes to production, thus warranting an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This film is based on a very interesting idea regarding broken family systems, but it is too low-key and underdeveloped.  Random things tend to happen just because as the story jumps around too much.  The characters have interesting backstories and are somewhat complex, yet they are deep enough—it would have been great to get some substantial flashbacks for these characters.  The dialogue is interesting but it needs some fleshing out.  Also, there are one too many attempts at dry comedy.  Good issues are raised in this film, but they are fixed way too easily.  Similarly, the Christian message presented needs far more substance and meaning.  In the end, this is a nice try, but not good enough.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast is sometimes professional but sometimes slightly awkward.  Line delivery is inconsistent, as are emotions.  There are one too many yelling scenes and the makeup is bit off.  But not all is bad, which warrants another average score.

Conclusion

There is something in this film that could have been made into something interesting, but it was never brought out.  This is a non-typical plot about an interesting idea that could have really been something great.  Had the comedy been written by a more skilled writer, things would have been much different.  With a little more investment in production and casting, this film could have gone places.  Maybe next time things will be different.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

An Introduction to Melody Carlson

Image result for melody carlson

Melody Carlson is a accomplished Christian author of nearly hundreds of novels, their genres ranging from fiction for adults, teen girls, and even children. She, much like Angela Hunt, is an author willing to take on challenging subjects and portray them in a poignant and meaningful way. Her somewhat raw look at life’s ups and downs is what drew readers of all ages to her addicting style. Many of her novels will forever hold life lessons for those trying to make it through the years of change and discovery. However, certain aspects in some of her novels keep her from being the best author of teen fiction, such as her view that it is okay to consume alcohol in certain situations. Unfortunately, Carlson’s motto seems to be that as long as you don’t get drunk, its okay to enjoy yourself on occasion. While everyone is free to make their own decisions, it is unacceptable for someone who claims to be a Christian author to be spreading this message. Therefore, if she would change this one aspect of her novels, I would recommend all of her novels to you, rather than a select group. Many of Carlson’s readers would argue that, at times, her gritty and eye-opening look at the modern world of high-school and relationships is needed and appreciated. I would have to agree with them in most cases, because it is rare to find an author that is willing to speak the plain truth when it comes to life choices, and the consequences that come with them. Some of Carlson’s best works include Finding Alice, The Diary of a Teenage Girl series, the Inn at Shining Waters series, Just Another Girl, and The 86 Bloomberg Place Series. All of these are excellent reads and most certainly worth your time, whether you are a teen or a young adult. In the near future I will be reviewing the works listed above, and hope that all you avid readers enjoy discovering the tales that lie within!

23 Blast (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Travis Freeman is a popular and upstanding high school football player who everyone in the small town of Corbin looks up to.  However, when tragedy strikes him and leaves him suddenly blind, he loses his purpose in life and retreats into seclusion.  He gives up on life and his parents are a loss as to what to do until his mobility coach breaks through his protective walls and lights a fire under him to get back up and find his new purpose in life.  With the high school football team struggling to find identity and success, the coach decides to put in Travis as center in the hopes that the whole team will rally around him and save their season.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

23 Blast has a respectable production with only small errors.  Video quality is professional and camera work is great, especially in the sports action scenes.  Audio quality is fine, even if the soundtrack is a bit pedestrian.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and authentic.  There is little negative to point out here except for some slightly poor editing that allows confusing leaps in time to hurt this film.  But otherwise, this is a professional effort that we don’t see enough of in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though 23 Blast presents an interesting story that contains honest characters, it commits a huge error by crafting a very rapid progression of events that keeps this plot from being all that it could be.  Massive time jumps leave too many unanswered questions and stunt characters and plot development.  There are too many vague ideas that are not well explained and there are typical sports montages, along with other predictable sports elements.  There are some moments of dry comedy, but we would really have liked to get to know these characters better through deeper dialogue and more personality-forming circumstances.  It’s a shame this plot could have been better because it’s a good story.  Even so, it’s probably still worth a watch.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is only semi-professional, they post some good performances.  Blind acting is difficult, yet one of the cast members pulls this off well.  Though sometimes lines are mumbled, emotions are mostly believable.  This is another respectable effort.

Conclusion

23 Blast is an enjoyable sports film that many audiences will find interesting and fun to watch.  Though there are some plot issues, the production and the acting are good enough to make this film fine on the surface.  It’s always frustrating to see a story that does not reach its full potential, but this movie shows that this creative team can do greater things in the future, so we can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Ben-Hur [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Judah Ben-Hur was a prince of the Jews, and he was close with Messala, his adopted brother.  However, after Messala leaves to make a name for himself in the Roman army, their friendship was strained.  But disaster struck the Ben-Hur family when they were falsely accused of an assassination attempt against a Roman leader.  Messala refuses to acquit them and thus allows Judah Ben-Hur and his family to be taken captive by cruel Rome.  Years later, when given a second chance a life, Judah must decide how he is going to respond.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The one thing you can say for Mark Burnett and Roma Downey is that they know what it takes to fund and create a top-notch production.  In this controversial remake, there are at least good on-set locations and realistic props.  Camera work is usually good in action and non-action scenes, but sometimes there is some dizzying and wild camera work.  Video quality is obviously clear and lighting is professional.  There are no audio errors, but the soundtrack sometimes does not fit the historical period.  Finally, the editing is quite poor as this previously three-and-a-half-hour film is shoved into a two-hour runtime.  But otherwise, this is the sort of production we need more of in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

When an original film is so iconic, there is little point in trying to remake it except to make money off of the name.  The original Ben-Hur was a ground-breaking classic for its time, which makes even more ridiculous the fact that this modern take on the story completely alters the original plot for no reason.  As Morgan Freeman tells you everything you need to know through narration, time rushes by at breakneck pace in an attempt to hit all the carbon-copy high point scenes of the original film.  Thus, as the film speeds along, there is no time to get to know the characters or connect with their struggles.  One minute they’re here, and the next minute they are there.  The presentation is so lazy and pandering that it’s laughable.  The writers do just enough to remind you of the old movie while at the same time turning the plot inside out for little reason.  The whole experience is overly dramatic and off-putting, thus making for a disappointing film.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As if changing the story wasn’t enough, Burnett and Downey had to drag a whole slew of BRITISH people to play Jewish and Roman characters again.  What would people have said if Morgan Freeman’s African character had been cast as a white British dude?  Besides cultural inconsistencies, the acting is simply too dramatic.  Though the costuming is historically realistic, it’s not enough to make up for the mistakes of this section.  This is another bust.

Conclusion

Burnett and Downey have perfected the model of lazily ripping off and ruining Biblical and historical plots in order to make money.  What they have not perfected is actually using the rare money and resources they are able to somehow acquire for their films for something good and effective.  They are one of the rare production teams that have the ability to actually make a respectable, well-marketed, and recognizable Christian movie, but they fail at it every time, even drawing criticism from mainstream outlets.  The question is, where do they go from here?

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Full of Grace [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Mary the mother of Jesus was one of the most important characters in the Biblical narrative.  She was given the privilege of bringing the Messiah into the world and raising Him as a child.  But as she grew older, she became a follower of her Son, the Savior of the world.  Some believe she had a major impact on the early church and her whole life was a testament to the grace of God.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

In attempts to be artistic, there are some unusual production elements in this film.  For one, camera work is very shaky in parts.  Video quality is strange and there is a lot of poor lighting throughout.  Audio quality is fairly inconsistent, but the soundtrack, though it is sometimes too loud, is at least intriguing and creative.  Furthermore, there are a lot of long and wasted sequences that are overly artistic.  There is also too much recycled footage.  In the end, where this could have been an interesting production, it is just not.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though there are some interesting psychological elements in Full of Grace, like the production, the plot tends to get lost in artistry.  A lot of the story is extremely low-key and almost purposely understated for no particular reason.  There are a lot of scenes of characters sitting around talking about off-screen Biblical and historical events, but Full of Grace commits a common Biblical movie sin by focusing more on extra-Biblical and extra-historical content then on the actual content we have available to us in the Bible and in other historical documents.  Besides this, the characters cannot be connected with because they seem like ethereal, otherworldly figures rather than regular people.  Also, it is very difficult for this film to hold the attention as there is hardly enough content to sustain a feature length film.  This movie seems like it was written for one good scene that has a good message, but this occurs near the end, so it is unlikely many viewers will make it this far.  Unfortunately, Full of Grace is just another Biblical film disappointment.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The one thing this movie got right was culturally authentic casting without BRITISH people.  This is an amazing concept that most never get right.  Thus, though there are some overly dramatic performances, the professional and responsible acting and casting is the standout in this film.

Conclusion

There is so much in the Bible that needs to be made into movies.  The Bible is a historical document filled with real people who encountered God in one way or another, just like we do every day.  It’s time for film makers to dispense with the practice of crafting Biblical characters that we can’t even relate to and start treating Biblical narratives like real events that actually happened.  If this happens on a consistent basis, things will finally begin to change.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Homefront {The Things We Leave Behind} [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When three American soldiers are taken captive by the enemy and trapped in a dungeon awaiting their fate, their minds wander back to the lives their left behind in their home country.  As they share stories and regrets, one of them tries to help the others come to Christ before it’s too late.  Will they be able to leave behind their regrets and embrace a new future with Jesus before time runs out for them?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, throughout his film career, Chip Rossetti has struggled with production quality.  Homefront is no exception.  Camera work is stationary and video quality is grainy.  Lighting is terrible in a lot of the scenes.  Audio quality is also bad and the soundtrack is basically nonexistent.  Sets and locations are severely limited.  Furthermore, editing is not what it should be, although there are some efforts to make it that way.  In the end, it’s unfortunate that the production quality of this film is so low because it had some potential.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

It is clear that this film was intended to be a big military epic, but it fell very short of expectations.  The story is very flat and boring, even though the dialogue has some potential.  Flashbacks barely keep the movie alive, but they need a lot more development, as do the characters.  There is a part of this film that is interesting and makes us want it to be better because we can see what Chip was trying to do here, but it just didn’t work.  As it is, Homefront does not have the stamina or powerful content to sustain a two-hour film.  Though it was intended to be an international suspense epic, this dream unfortunately did not come to fruition.  Thus, we are left wandering what could have been.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast, while they are not as bad as they could be, is very dry and cardboard in their emotions and in their line delivery.  Some lines are severely mumbled, yet sometimes they surprise you with a randomly good performance.  Since they were so underwhelming yet showed potential, they desperately needed some acting coaching.  With that, this section could have been improved.

Conclusion

Homefront is the bare bones skeleton of an idea that needs serious fleshing out and a huge production and casting upgrade.  It’s not like there’s not potential here—the potential is the one thing that keeps this film from being zero points.  But with a production this bad, a film can never succeed.  With a plot this understated and under-developed, there is no way a movie can make a difference.  Furthermore, when your cast does not reach its full potential, you are in for disappointment.  The good thing is that Chip Rossetti is making strides to improve his brand, and is having some success at this (see 94 Feet).  This is all we ask from Christian film makers.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Eternal Salvation [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jonathan Wright is a successful businessman with a beautiful wife and daughter.  He has the house he wants, the car of his dreams, and all the possessions he could ask for.  But when he has a near-death experience, his perspective on life is forever changed.  He sees all that he has been missing out on and is compelled to follow God with everything he has.  However, he soon finds that his newfound faith is not easy and he must learn to trust God with his whole life.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though Eternal Salvation is a freshman production, it is quite respectable.  The video quality is professional, as is the camera work.  Audio quality is what it should be and the soundtrack is effective.  However, there are some cheap-looking special effects and some fake-looking sets that put a damper on things.  Yet the locations and props are realistic.  The editing leaves something to be desired, but sometimes this is to be expected for the first-time production.  In the end, this is a professional effort that gives hope for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this is an interesting and non-typical plot idea, it is also a little too simplistic.  Though the occurrences are mostly realistic, the characters are far too black and white.  Christian characters are too good, while non-Christian characters are too bad, and this suggests that everything is automatically fixed when you are saved.  Thus, this produces a cheap Christian message that is hard to direct people to.  Besides this, the dialogue is also too obvious, including unnecessary narration.  Also, passage time is too vague as it rushes by with no real warning.  In the end, it is clear that the writers meant well—they just needed to brush up on their characters in order to make them more realistic.  This would have totally changed the dynamic of this film.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though sometimes this cast is too practiced in their emotions and their line delivery, they are mostly good in their performances.  Sometimes they are too fake looking, but they are predominantly professional.  Like the production, this casting job certainly demonstrates potential for the future.

Conclusion

This creative team should be proud of the good start they have made here.  Their next step needs to be crafting a deeper story by developing their characters better.  Their ideas are fine, but they need better characters to back them up.  This team has certainly found great success in production and casting that can be built off of in the future.  It will be interesting to see what they have planned next; we need more film makers like them to improve and succeed in order to transform the market.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Rene Gutteridge: Greetings from the Flipside

Image result for greetings from the flipside rene gutteridge

Rene Gutteridge is a widely read author of Christian fiction who enjoys employing eccentric charm and unexpected plot lines into her writing. She is certainly one of the most, if not the most, unique Christian authors out there today, and is well-loved by both her readers and those who work with her in film-making. Yes, we here at Box Office Revolution are happy to say that Rene Gutteridge is interested in making Christian films based on her books. What a concept! Gutteridge is what you would call a sentimental comedian of sorts, as most of her novels are either in the comedy or romance genre, or a little of both! She is not afraid to try and employ the unexpected into her novels and her life, and we appreciate that she is using her artistic side to influence Christian film-making for the better. Greetings From the Flipside is a perfect read for someone who is interested in getting to know Gutteridge’s books, as it will define her style and draw an innocent reader in to the slightly absurd comic happenings that make her novels all that they are. This novel deals with subjects such as the mind, life, death, the afterlife, broken hearts, broken trust, renewed purpose, coma patients, miraculous occurrences, and God’s will for our individual lives. The opening chapters of Greetings From the Flipside introduce the reader to the main character, a woman named Hope Landon. Hope has it all, a job that she loves, the perfect fiance, and an exciting future ahead of her. However, her perfect world comes crashing down when her fiance leaves her at the altar. Confused, hurt, and brokenhearted, Hope disappears from society to recover from her broken heart. When she returns, she discovers that everyone has forgotten her and assumed that she committed suicide as a result of her jilting. In short, everyone thinks she is dead. Hope retreats to New York City, only to find that her troubles are the same no matter where she is. She finds a new job and a new purpose, but something is not quite right, she just can’t figure out what. Hope will have to learn to distinguish fantasy from reality, and remember what really happened after she was left at the altar. She will also learn that everything is not as it appears. The novel ends with a major plot twist and a completely unexpected conclusion, to discover what happens, read the book!;) This novel would make an excellent comedy/romance film in the hands of the right writer/director/producer. In fact, I am surprised that Gutteridge has not championed this book to be made into a film yet.

Life Fine Tuned (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Star is a spoiled music icon who wants everything to go her way, exactly the way she wants it.  When she has a disagreement with her manager and her creative team, she employs a typical and immature method of getting their attention: running away until they beg her to come back.  However, in an unfamiliar state, she gets more lost than she anticipated and finds herself stuck in small town America.  Forced to slow down, Star has to contemplate what her life is really like and what matters most.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

This production is certainly not as bad as it could have been, but it’s also not as good as it could have been.  Video quality and camera work are fine.  Audio quality is also fine, but the soundtrack is silly.  Sets, locations, and props are cheap, but this likely comes with the territory of this sort of production.  The editing is very odd, including abrupt cuts and transitions that make it seem like it was spliced together quickly.  Overall, though it is a bit amateurish, some of these elements are forgivable, considering this was mostly a freshman effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

There is nothing whatsoever creative about this cheesy fish-out-of-water plot.  It’s been used before and will be used again, probably on the Hallmark channel (see God’s Country and Finding Normal).  The story of Life Fine Tuned is very formulaic and predictable, yet it also seems to have a penchant for showcasing homeschool life of rural Virginia.  Don’t get us wrong—homeschooling is great (we were homeschooled), but why do homeschoolers have to isolate and label themselves so obviously?  Homeschooling isn’t about segregating yourself into a quirky subculture.  Besides this, the characters of this film are incredibly shallow and the story relies very heavily on childish coincidences.  Unfortunately, the uncreative nature of this plot renders it scoreless.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this cast is amateur and sometimes awkward, they are really trying.  They show potential, even Victoria Emmons.  Their performances definitely could have been worse.  Had they been a little bit more believable, especially with their emotions, this section would have been better.

Conclusion

We have to hand it to the creators—they tried, mostly.  This film could have been potentially saved with a more creative plot.  Use that advanced homeschool mind to craft a creative plot that silences the critics (like us).  Make a movie that’s better quality than the others.  Don’t just make another silly Christian movie that can be passed around certain circles and then forgotten about.  Take the Christian entertainment world to new heights.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Almost Home [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Rachel and her dementia-afflicted grandfather decide to go for a walk to the store, they suddenly become lost in their small town find themselves wandering aimlessly along country roads.  As Rachel’s mother prays and tries to organize a search party for them, she can only think of all the horrible things that might happen to her daughter and her father.  However, Rachel and her grandfather end up having a fun time wandering around and meeting eccentric people.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The only good aspect of this production is the video quality, unfortunately.  Camera work is too shaky and audio quality is unnecessarily echoed.  The soundtrack is also silly.  Sets, locations, and props are too limited and are obviously amateurish.  There is not really any editing to speak of as pretty much all content possible is included.  There are also some references to unnecessary off-screen content.  Basically, this production unjustified due to its low quality and for reasons we will explore next.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The plot of Almost Home is so trite and silly that the entire idea is utterly pointless.  Filled with silly juvenile conversations, there is literally nothing to this film except for a girl and her grandfather aimlessly wandering around and meeting goofy people while their family worries about them.  This is the only conflict presented and a majority of the ‘plot’ is based on coincidences.  While there may be a place of this sort of film, its idea needs to be greatly expanded and the comedy of it needs to be further embraced.  As it is, this story is so limited that it can only be justified as a short film as it is.  There is no way this story is going to interest people.

Acting Quality (0 points)

With such a small cast, all errors stand out obviously.  The cast members are overly practiced and stilted in their line delivery.  Sometimes the acting is a bit off the wall.  Emotions seem very plastic.  Overall, this caps off a disappointing film.

Conclusion

Exactly how was this idea pitched?  Almost Home is at best a piece of a film or a short film, not a feature-length idea.  There is so little potential and content here that it’s actually quite sad.  We are unsure as to how films like this are made, even if the creators do mean well.  The time and money spent on this film would have been far better used elsewhere.  As it is, films like this one will have no impact on the field and will be easily and unfortunately forgotten.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

I Am Potential (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Patrick Henry Hughes was born blind and disabled, and even though his parents were discouraged by this, he never let it get him down.  Though sometimes it was one medical procedure after the next, Patrick always kept his head up and did what he could to spread the love of Christ to those around him.  His father constantly wrestled with the reality of his son’s condition, but ultimately, it was instrumental in bringing the family closer together and closer to God.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As is the typical practice of American Family Studios, the production of I Am Potential is highly professional.  Video quality and camera work are excellent.  Audio quality is flawless and the soundtrack is engaging.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and appropriate.  The only real nitpick to raise here is some choppy editing due to the large amount of content presented here.  But besides this, American Family Studios is continually setting the standard for how Christian films should be produced.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As I Am Potential is based on true events, the plot has a built-in advantage over your run-of-the-mill inspirational plot.  This is a really good story to depict, but there is a large amount of content to cover in a short amount of time.  It’s very difficult to deal with this sort of plot.  There is a tendency to skip through time too rapidly, and this causes the story to skate on top of everything.  This in turn makes everything shallow, including the characters.  While the dialogue therein is good, there is not enough time focused on developing the characters, even though they are real people.  It’s a real shame that this story could not be deeper, because it carries an important and meaningful message.  It could have been Hall of Fame had more attention been given to deepening the story and the characters instead of trying to cover tons of content.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Much like the productions of American Family Studios, the casting and acting of I Am Potential is highly professional.  Each cast member fits their character well.  Emotions are believable and line delivery is effective.  The only small issue to highlight here is some underwhelming acting, but it’s not enough to keep this portion from being high quality.

Conclusion

It’s refreshing when a studio like AFS consistently rolls out quality films.  We need every Christian film distributor and creator to have this mentality because things will not change for the Christian film industry until this happens.  Professional production is an absolute must, and AFS has perfected this.  Acting and casting must also be professional, as their films demonstrate.  As the overall quality of productions and casts improve, the final frontier for Christian films is the plot.  Once plots become more creative and deep, Christian movies will finally take the culture by storm.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Redemption of the Commons (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Victor Clay tried to make it on his own in the business world, but he soon finds himself bankrupt, evicted, and living in his van.  With no more options on the table and not enough money, Victor decides to return to the Commons, where he grew up, in hopes of a new beginning.  But what he finds is a struggling community with no real options.  Will he be able to use what he has learned to help them all succeed?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Redemption of the Commons is another one of those slightly under-funded productions the raises the question of its own necessity.  While video quality and camera work are good, there is far too much dead air in this film, as well as inconsistent audio quality.  However, the soundtrack is at least interesting.  Sets, locations, and props are quite realistic, even if they are little uncreative.  As is common for this type of movie, there is no obvious editing as content is presented at face value.  In the end, this production is passable, but it could have been more.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Redemption of the Commons is trying to inspire, but it does not inspire much.  As narration guides the story along, there are too many confusing subplots, empty sequences, and time-filling montages.  The plot follows a formulaic return-to-struggling-hometown-plotline in which the returning character is down on his luck in his ‘city’ life but then uses his ‘city skills’ to fix the problems of the small town.  But even this small town seems tiny—the premise and scope of this story is almost insignificant as it really only focuses on one neighborhood.  All the characters fit into predetermined molds and do nothing to hold the attention of the audience.  Dialogue is very flat and empty.  The storyline is extremely linear and leads to an inevitably ‘fixed’ and patched-up conclusion that really teaches nothing useful.  Unfortunately, there is really nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this cast is realistic and raw, it also includes some slight cultural stereotypes.  There is some good here, but there are too many lazy performances and uninteresting acting.  Emotional and line delivery don’t seem to be taken seriously enough.  This rounds out an overall disappointing effort.

Conclusion

Films like Redemption of the Commons likely mean well, but the idea is almost doomed from the start.  Is there really a market for this sort of predictable plot anymore?  As Christian film makers, we need to be reaching higher and aiming to be better than the mainstream market, rather than constantly letting the mainstream market dictate creativity.  We should be the leaders in creativity, and so far, we are unfortunately not.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Behind the Sun [1995] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a young Muslim convert to Christianity returns home to Iran from America, he wrestles with how he is going to tell his staunch Islamic family and community about his conversion to ‘treason’.  He is also trying to understand God’s call on his life and to continue to grow in his newfound faith.  As he comes to grips with the persecution of Christians in his country, he must decide whether he will run back to safety or face the hard road in front of him.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though the production of Behind the Sun is archaic, it is good for its time frame.  Camera work is shaky and video quality is somewhat grainy.  Yet audio quality is fine, even though the soundtrack could use a little improvement.  The strongest point of this production is the highly culturally realistic sets, locations, and props throughout the film.  Editing is okay, but there are some abrupt cuts and transitions.  Overall, this film was unfortunately made in a time frame that did not allow for better production, so a remake might be in order.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Behind the Sun addresses a storyline that is often never addressed in Christian film and does so in a realistic way.  The characters are interesting, but we would like to see a little more development from them, yet we can appreciate the struggles they encounter.  What they need a little more backstory and dialogue to help deepen them as people.  We would also like to see some of the subplots developed more to give the film more content and effectiveness.  As it is, the story is engaging but would be better with a more flowing plot and fewer leaps in logic.  Too much of the story is told through headlines and not enough through dialogue.  However, the ending is interesting and is worth a watch.  We only wish it could have been better.

Acting Quality (2 points)

International films are notoriously difficult to cast due to limited resources, but this team did an excellent job finding cast members that fit the depicted culture properly.  Costuming is also authentic.  The acting is also great, except for a few bouts of extreme emotions.  Otherwise, the acting and casting is the strongest point of this film.

Conclusion

Behind the Sun is an obscure Christian film, yet it carries with it a lot of potential.  Had it been better funded and had the plot been written a little more complex, it could have been Hall of Fame.  As it is, it seems a bit rushed since it was perhaps not completely intended to be a Christian film to be sold on the market, but rather an awareness-raising project.  However, think of the impact it could have had if a little bit more time had been invested in it.  Perhaps one day someone will remake it or make one similar to it.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Angela Elwell Hunt: The Fairlawn Series Book 3

Image result for she's in a better place angela hunt

Angela E. Hunt’s Fairlawn Series has been called pedestrian and commonplace by some, and while this may be at least partially true, I choose to believe that Hunt meant to portray the importance of life lessons through this series. There is a time for landmark novels, and a time for simple plots with a poignant message. Keeping in the eccentrically charming spirit of the other two novels, the final book brings a poignant end to the story of Jennifer Graham. Titled She’s In A Better Place, this novel deals with subjects such as loss, grief, death, broken relationships, broken trust, redemption, reconciliation, the hope of an eternity with Jesus, life lessons, life struggles, and learning to be content, no matter what. The opening chapters tell the reader that Jennifer Graham still struggles to keep up with the daily demands of her busy life as a single mother and sole breadwinner, but bring encouragement by alluding that she has learned to trust God’s plan for her life. Jennifer has at last come to the end of her degree program at mortuary school, and is studying for her final exam. The daily demands of being a mother are wearing at times, and she relies heavily on her close friend and mentor, the elderly Gerald, for support. However, she is shocked to learn that her rock does, in fact, have weaknesses. Gerald, the focus of the novel, reluctantly informs Jennifer that he has been diagnosed with a fatal illness, and will not live much longer. Jennifer is crushed and feels confused as to why God would allow this to happen. She learns of his broken relationship with an estranged daughter he refuses to discuss, and feels that they should reconcile before his death. Jennifer begins searching for his daughter, but is unaware that this search will bring both joy and heartache for everyone involved. She will learn that the last chapter of a person’s life reveals how everything they have done has molded them into the person that they are. Through Gerald’s imminent death Jennifer is forced to take her own relationships more seriously, especially her blossoming romance with a certain handsome attorney. The novel’s ending is surprisingly not predictable, and leaves the reader to imagine what happened to the characters. To find out firsthand, read the book!;) As I have said before, this series would make a good standalone film or Christian miniseries, in the hands of the right person/persons. In conclusion, we here at Box Office Revolution continue to petition aspiring Christian filmmakers to look no further than Christian fiction for inspiration.

Chasing Grace [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The wounds between two brothers are only deepened on one tragic day when the daughter of one of them is tragically killed in an avoidable accident.  The brothers and their families are immediately divided by hate and grief, which sends all of the family members spiraling and searching for answers in all the wrong places.  Secrets are kept and vices are sought, and the only way out is through confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation.  Will they return to the faith their profess with these actions?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

It is clear that a lot of time went into making this production, as most elements are fairly professional.  Camera work is mostly good except for some inconsistently shaky moments.  Video quality is on standard, but sometimes there is some randomly poorly-lit scenes.  Audio quality is fine and the soundtrack is intriguing.  Sets, locations, and props are all realistic and appropriate.  The editing is okay, but there are some confusing cuts and transitions and isolate the story.  But overall, these are all minor errors and the production as a whole meets industry standards.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Chasing Grace depicts a very interesting story, even if it is too slow to develop.  It contains many realistic circumstances and accessible struggles, but it also has a lot of dead sequences that don’t hold the attention.  There are a lot of long and drawn out conversations, but the characters are fairly well-developed.  Yet there are too many under-developed and vague subplots due to a confusing and disorienting presentation of events that includes unnecessarily missing gaps of time.  Family problems are given a fair look, but many of the problems presented are fixed far too easily and in ways that would never work in real life.  The Christian message is good, though there are some moments of melodrama.  Overall, this is a really good plot effort, especially in developing the characters, but as usual, we strongly feel like it could have been more.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

This is a highly professional casting job and lends the best elements to this film, as each actor and actress is cast appropriately and coaching well.  Even Rusty Martin Jr. posts a good performance.  There are only some minor errors among this cast, mostly of slightly overdone emotions.  Otherwise, this is a job well done.

Conclusion

Chasing Grace joins the ranks of middle-ground Christian films that stand out in the market due to their successful attempts at creating quality films.  However, it has a handful of small issues that hold it back from being all that it could be.  A character-driven story needs deep characters and a seamless plot that flows without confusion.  This is certainly difficult to pull off, especially when you have a lot of other elements to think about, but it is definitely possible and worth it in the end.  Films like this one are something to build off of for the future, so it will be interesting to see what the Catalyst team has planned next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Newton’s Grace {But Now I See} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

John Newton was never a saint.  After living a wild lifestyle and trying to dodge the British Navy draft, he found himself on the high seas and eventually marooned as a slave on a strange island.  But his spirit never gave up and eventually, after coming to the end of himself, He was used of God to influence a powerful emancipation movement that changed the world forever.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though a lot of good effort is made in this film, it is clear that poor funding holds it back from being all that it could be.  Camera work is sometimes shaky and video quality sometimes has an odd soft-light quality to it.  Flashbacks also have a weird quality to them.  Audio quality is also inconsistent as there are occasional loud outside sounds; the soundtrack is also generic.  The strongest point of this production is the mostly realistic and historically authentic sets, locations, and props, even though there are some obvious animation and some cheesy special effects combined with this.  The editing is okay, but there are some large time jumps.  Overall, it is clear that this creative team is honest in their work…they just needed some better funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The story of John Newton is definitely a great historical account to chronicle in film, and Newton’s Grace is an accurate retelling of the story.  However, this plot commits a common error of Biblical and historical stories in that it forgets that historical characters are real people that need character development.  Dialogue is a bit too formal and obligatory rather than dynamic, which leaves the characters unfinished.  As previously mentioned, the story does skip through time a little too fast and leaves the audience slightly confused.  This only leads to an anticlimactic end that does not drive the important message home enough.  In the end, while this film is a nice effort, if the story had been improved, it would have more impact.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This casting job is mostly authentic, which once again demonstrates good effort.  While there are some moments of overly theatrical and practiced acting, this section is the film’s strongest point, even though most the cast members are ‘amateurs’.  The acting caps off an overall commendable effort

Conclusion

If Newton’s Grace had been given a better budget, it could have made a strong case for Hall of Fame.  However, there are still concerns with the plot content, in that the historical characters do not feel like they are real.  When writing historical plots, writers shouldn’t forget to help their audiences access the characters more than the events depicted.  At the end of the day, audiences want to be able to connect with the movie’s characters more than they want to connect with the circumstances of the film.  There are always exceptions to this, but it’s a good rule of thumb to follow.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Adrenaline [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Joseph Jenkins is a hotshot drag race car driver, but when he is suddenly crippled in a wreck, he feels like his life is over.  As he sulks in a hospital room, he doesn’t want to see anyone, but his roommate pulls him out of his shell and gives him a new purpose in life.  Then Joseph suddenly reconnects with an old friend of his father, whom he never knew.  Joseph soon finds a new lease on life and a chance at redemption, but will he be able to make his newfound faith his own?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Adrenaline is overall a mixed bag, including the production.  Video quality is fine, but camera work is too shaky, including a lot of odd camera angles.  Lighting is poor at first, but it improves as it goes.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is sometimes too loud.  However, sets, locations, and props are very professional.  Yet Adrenaline commits a common error of indie films—imperfect editing.  Cuts and transitions are very confusing and even sometimes spastic, thus making for a lot of choppy editing.  In the end, this is a good production effort, but some kinks still need to be worked out of it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, though it has some good messages, Adrenaline is a formulaic sports redemption plot with a predictable sequence.  The characters are somewhat stereotypical, though attempts are made to develop them.  However, it would be better to see them deeper because they are intriguing characters.  This can be done by making the dialogue more creative and complex.  Elsewhere, there are too many (unfortunately expected) sports and training montages, as well as a lot of wasted time.  It’s too bad because it feels like this plot has a lot of potential that it doesn’t reach.  Perhaps things will improve next time.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Even as a slightly amateur cast (except for John Schneider), the acting isn’t really that bad.  Even John Schneider is better than he has been in the past.  The cast members embrace their characters well.  The only issue to point out is some overdone emotions, but that’s easily fixed.  This shows great hope for the future.

Conclusion

With some experience working under the Kendricks, this creative team did pick up on a thing or two that they will likely be able to use to get even better in the future.  First movie mistakes can easily be forgiven, so it will be interesting to see what they have planned next.  With some better production funding and a more creative plot, as well as a continuously good cast, this team will be going places.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Printing [1990] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When the Communists and the KGB had a vice grip on Russia, they did everything they could do to stamp out any form of Christianity that did not adhere to their standards.  But no matter how hard they tried to control everything, even the churches, they could not control a secret group of underground Christians who was committed to printing the true words of a Bible on their secret printing press.  The Word of God spread regardless of government control—these historical events are depicted in this film.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a film from 1990, it’s clear that compared to others films in the time frame, a lot of money was put into The Printing, even though it still looks extremely archaic.  Video quality is sometimes blurry, but camera work is good.  Sets and locations are pretty good considering the limited budget.  Audio quality is inconsistent throughout, and the soundtrack is too dramatic.  However, some action scenes are actually filmed pretty well.  As usual, editing is fairly poor as the film slogs on for over two hours.  But in the end, for the early 90s, this was probably as good as it was going to get in independent film making.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though it’s based on interesting historical events and intriguing ideas, The Printing is far too long, boring, and protracted to be even remotely interesting.  There are far too many wasted sequences and long, drawn-out scenes.  Dialogue is too robotic, thus making stiff and wooden characters.  The premise is somewhat realistic, yet it is overly dramatic.  In contrast to the Communist propaganda depicted, The Printing borderlines on some capitalistic propaganda of its own.  Overall, the idea behind the film has potential, but the presentation is awful.  Thus, it would be worth a remake one day.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

As their casting pool was severely limited to those associated with Bob Jones University, they were unsuccessful in casting many culturally correct actors and actresses.  Some the attempts at faking Russian accents are laughable.  Though the costuming is culturally correct, most of the performances are too theatrical and dramatic.  Emotions are not very believable.  Thus, this is a disappointing section.

Conclusion

It is commendable to make this ambitious of an independent film in the early 1990s, and one can rarely go wrong with a good historical film.  Unfortunately, the presentation of The Printing is too drab and boring to reach any audiences.  It might be interesting to history enthusiasts, but it has no wide appeal.  This film, however, is better than other disasters produced by this studio (The Treasure Map, Project Dinosaur, and Appalachian Trial), but it still doesn’t make the mark.  Perhaps someone will make a better version of this film one day.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Worth: The Testimony of Johnny St. James (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Johnny was a seminary student ready to serve God, but when his wife dies in a drunk driving accident, Johnny becomes the drunk he never thought he would.  A friend decides to help him out by taking him to a local Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, but little does he know what Johnny has planned.  Desperate for answers, Johnny decides to hold the meeting hostage until he finds what he is looking for.  Will he be able to reconnect with the faith he has lost?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

At face value, Worth has a good production that does not commit any glaring errors.  Video quality is on par and camera work is fine.  Audio quality is what is should be and the soundtrack is engaging.  However, there is basically only one set utilized, so there is not much creativity to see there.  There is basically no editing in this film as all of the content is presented at face value.  There is not that much wasted time per se, but what you see is what you get.  Overall, there is nothing inherently wrong with this production, but there is nothing ground-breaking either, thus warranting an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Based on true events, Worth is basically a ninety minute hostage situation.  There are no real twists or turns—the plot is just presented as is.  There are no flashbacks, only long and meandering conversations on philosophical topics.  Unfortunately, there are quite a few dead spots and sequences of repeated dialogue that hamper with any creativity present in this film.  While this film has a good message and some interesting ideas, it doesn’t hold the attention and would be better presented as a short film.  Like the production, there is nothing really wrong with this story, but it doesn’t do enough to engage the audience and it is mostly uncreative.  Plots like this need deep character development and flashbacks, which is something Worth does not have.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As usual, Eric Roberts has been cast for the DVD cover and only shows up to film a few scenes, in which he is overly impressed with himself.  Other cast members show some potential and interesting performances, but there are too many over the top emotions and forced lines.  Like the rest of this film, the acting is just average.

Conclusion

There is a place for films like this in the market, but when they are not made to their fullest potential, they always fall short of expectations and thus become forgettable.  Worth is one of those movies you might watch once, shrug about, and then never give another thought.  The true story depicted here is interesting and is worth depicting in a film, but this is not the right way.  Like many other films, good intentions do not equal a good movie.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points