2012: Doomsday (Movie Review)

Only Dale Midkiff can save us now

Plot Summary

When a volcano is about to explode in Mexico, Dr. Frank Richards knows that the only conclusion can be that the end of the world is near.  The American government’s best scientists agree and begin to make an action plan as earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis rack the planet.  The only hope for saving humanity is Frank Richards’ plan to return a secret Mayan artifact to its rightful resting place so that the disaster will reverse and mankind will be able to rebuild from the ashes.

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

The Asylum’s side project Faith Films was once determined to purposely make cheap parodies of Christian films, and they mostly succeeded in masquerading as real Christian movies because they were often indistinguishable from other cut-rate productions.  2012: Doomsday is no exception.  There are multiple purposeful production errors in this film, including clear audio overdubs and a stupid soundtrack.  Ridiculous special effects riddle the landscape of this natural disaster, as well as shaky camera work and other expected errors.  Basically, these films are someone trying to be like Cross Shadow or Faithhouse.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Though the satire of this absurd disaster story is actually funny at times, it’s still not really any good.  It’s only funny because it’s so ridiculous and because it’s so easy to parody clichés from Christian and inspirational movies, not mention general disaster films.  With the level of absurdity displayed here, especially in the characters and the dialogue, not even to mention the laughable premise, you either have to laugh or cry.  There is no sense of understanding what’s happening in this story, and this is entirely by design.  As we’ve mentioned before, it’s too easy to disguise your parody film as a serious one and sell it in Christian bookstores because the so-called serious Christian films have set such a low standard.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

No parody cast is complete without Dale Midkiff, who found the pinnacle of his career with his unforgettable performance in this film.  He probably has a future in more parody films.  Elsewhere, this cast is just as ridiculous and absurd as the rest of the movie.

Conclusion

Hopefully new Christian film makers are building a market where these sorts of films can no longer be made due to rising standards.  Parodies and satires definitely have their place, but they need to have a point and not just be outright nonsense fests.  Maybe someday that elusive future parody Christian Movie will come out with an epic cast that will actually be remembered for being a true satire.

 

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

 

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Message of Hope (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

A group of six kids grows up together in the same neighborhood for over ten years and they always have want they want.  However, their parents do not always give them what they really need.  As they encounter various life struggles, each one of them has a different way of dealing with what life throws at them.  Unfortunately, these families do not begin to look at life in a different way until tragedy strikes.  Will they be able to see what really matters in life?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a relatively amateurish production, Message of Hope has its good points, but it also has quite a few errors.  Video quality and camera work are okay, except for some weird close-ups and some random shaky cam.  Audio quality is also quite random, including loud outside sounds.  However, the soundtrack is fine.  Sets, locations, and props are somewhat limited, yet they have some bright spots.  Furthermore, there is really no editing to speak of in this film as it’s just a conglomerate blob of random content.  When making a new movie, it’s best to know where you are going from the beginning and to communicate that well.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

There is basically no way to know what this movie is actually about.  Basically nothing happens for about an hour of runtime as character just wander around and random things happen to them.  It’s hard to keep up with all the characters, especially since they’re so one-dimensional due to empty dialogue.  The Christian characters in particular are overly perfect.  Though there is a lot of message pushing in this film, it’s still aimless and lacks overall purpose until it just comes down to a random end.  Unfortunately, there’s nothing really good to say here, even if they do mean well.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, the acting is actually the strongest area of this film, even if it’s still an average performance.  Some emotions are overdone, but line delivery is mostly okay, even though they didn’t have much to work with.  Some performances in general are overplayed, but overall, this cast shows more potential than the rest of this film.

Conclusion

It’s very hard to understand what this creative team was really going for with this film.  It’s likely that they meant well because there is a good message in here somewhere, but the delivery and presentation is all wrong.  Perhaps it would have been better to go over this film again before it went to production to make sure it came across clearer.  But maybe they will learn from their mistakes and do differently in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers

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Bridge to Haven is one of Francine Rivers’ newest novels, and while it had mixed reviews among Christian bloggers, I think that it is up to her usual standards. Some berated Rivers for the rather graphic content she included in this novel, saying that it did not deserve the Christian genre, while others praised her for bringing a difficult topic into the light and exposing the raw pain that is involved. The topic that I am speaking of is sexual abuse and sin. I do think that Rivers could have been more cautious with some of the content that she included, but, on the other hand, if Christians continue to be silent on this issue, nothing will change. I have always appreciated the raw honesty that Rivers reflects in her writing, and this is perhaps her most edgy novel yet. So, if you do not wish to read a novel on this topic, don’t. If, however, you wish to be exposed to an interesting side of the argument, read the novel with an open mind. Set in the 1950’s, the opening chapters of Bridge to Haven introduce the reader to a young woman named Abra who has a scarred past. Abra was found as an abandoned newborn by a pastor named Ezekiel Freeman. Ezekiel took Abra into his home and raised her as his own daughter. Abra had it all, a church home, the love of a family, and a bright future. Yet, she chose her career over these gifts and acted on her dream to be an actress by going to Hollywood. However, she learns that the price she must pay to make it big is her innocence. Abra listens to and trusts a man whose only desire is to take everything she has to give. He claims that he loves her and will never leave her, yet, she soon discovers that he has told many girls the same lie. With his “help”, she is successful, to a point. However, the “payment” that he requires is not worth the benefits of a successful acting career. Abra learns this lesson too late, and begins to willingly fall prey to men’s lustful desires. One thing leads to another, and Abra soon finds herself broken, wounded, and at the end of her rope. Will she discover that the love and forgiveness she has been searching for all her life can be found in God alone? Will Abra escape the clutches of the world and run into the arms of Jesus? To answer these questions, read the book!;) I would definitely recommend this novel to no one younger than sixteen, as the subject matter is quite heavy and the content gritty. However, this would make a landmark Christian film, if done in the right way. The novel would definitely need some editing before hitting the big screen, but I believe that it has a lot of potential that a filmmaker could build on. If you are an aspiring filmmaker looking to take on a difficult subject that will make or break your career, look no further than this novel.

Remember the Goal (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Courtney Smith-Donnelly, an inexperienced coach, is given the job as the new cross country coach at Orange Hills Christian Girls Private School, many parents are skeptical of her ‘unusual’ training methods.  She insists on not wearing the girls out, but the parents want a winning team.  Under the threat of being fired, Courtney pushes forward and encourages her girls to remember the goal no matter what.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

At least since they have been making films for nearly two decades, the Christiano brothers have learned how to craft a professional production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The soundtrack is a bit silly at times, but outdoor locations and indoor sets are on market standard.  The only real issue to point out here is the slightly poor editing job, which manifests in too many sports montages.  But in the end, at least the production quality of this film is fine.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, after all these years, the Christiano brothers have not been able to figure out how to craft a plot that relates the real people and real circumstances.  They still demonstrate a trite and sometimes childish outlook on life, which includes a silly and plastic handling of otherwise important issues.  The characters are also extremely thin and one-dimensional due to mindless dialogue.  There is hardly any content in this plot except for sports sequences and lingo and there are a lot of disjointed subplots.  But perhaps the most memorable part of this plot—for all the wrong reasons—is the forced and confusing parallels between Christianity and cross-country, as well as the ridiculous persecution the main character undergoes for training her team in a supposedly controversial fashion.  This component dominates the film and is downright laughable, not to mention all of the quick fixes in this film.  Basically, there is still nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though the Christianos mostly departed from their usual cast in his film, there are still issues here.  The lead actress is often overly practiced yet unsure of herself at the same time.  Other cast members are fine, but emotions often seem forced.  Overall, this is an average performance.

Conclusion

Remember the Goal is a departure for the Christianos in that they have finally allowed a female character to take a lead role in a plot that does not involve them being confined to the house.  Yet it still contains a lot of their typical shallow elements and their limited outlook on life and faith.  Unfortunately, they’re not going to improve until they learn how to relate to real people and stop thinking that everything is a persecution ploy.  But after all this time, why would they change?

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

We Are Stronger (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Victor Raphael returns home from his final deployment, he is not the same as he was.  Though he insists nothing is wrong, his wife knows that he has been profoundly affected by the traumatic experience he had while in the service, especially the recent vehicle explosion that has left him temporarily paralyzed.  Yet their relationship is strained as Victor refuses to get help and as his wife reaches out for comfort in the wrong places.  Will they be able to reconcile before God and let Him heal them and their relationship?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a first-time production, We Are Stronger has a handful of minor errors, yet it is overall a very impressive effort, considering the limited resources.  Video quality is great, as is camera work.  There are some minor audio errors pertaining to some background noises picked up, but the soundtrack is appropriate and interesting.  Sets, locations, and props, though slightly limited, are utilized quite well and are realistic.  Finally, there are a few small editing errors pertaining to some lagging scenes and dead sequences, but otherwise, this is a very good production to begin with.  This production team definitely put a lot of work into this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Since We Are Stronger is based on the true stories of real people, it gives a very realistic and honest look at life and the struggles people go through.  Though there is some expositional dialogue, it is mostly good and serves the build believable characters that the viewers can relate with.  This story has a very strong and meaningful message—yet sometimes it is a little flat and linear.  The plot presentation is at times a bit too straightforward and simplistic, yet nonetheless, refining screenwriting always comes with time.  In the end, this creative team shows a lot of potential and hope for the future.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Though this cast consists entirely of ‘amateurs’, they all post very good performances, especially since they are each playing a character that reflects their true-life story.  Though there are some minor emotional errors, these performances are nearly flawless as each cast member plays out their real-life story on the big screen.  Casting inexperienced people is often a challenge for new independent films, but this one is a slam dunk.

Conclusion

With the constant flow of Christian films being created, one has to stand out in the market by producing quality content.  This has been done with We Are Stronger has real-life stories have been brought to the movie, along with great production quality and a nearly perfect casting job.  This film is definitely worth a watch and is a great start to a movie career.  You can never go wrong by adapting true stories along with the quality presented here.  It will be interesting see what this creative team has planned next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

The Perfect Race (April 2019)

Coming April 2019 from the Christiano Brothers

 

Writer(s): Dave Christiano

Director(s): Dave Christiano

Producer(s):

Starring: Allee Sutton HethcoatGoria Cunningham

 

Plot Synopsis:

A female athlete at a small Christian college works hard to overcome long odds and try to win a national title in the 800 meter run. “The Perfect Race” is a follow up movie to “Remember The Goal”.

Play the Flute (2019)

Coming 2019 from the Christiano Brothers

 

Writer(s): Rich Christiano

Director(s): Rich Christiano

Producer(s): Rich Christiano

Starring: Fred Grandy, Terri Conn, Brett Varvel, Kennedy Tucker, Sean Ormond

 

Plot Synopsis:

A new Youth Director takes over an indifferent, lukewarm youth group in hopes of getting them serious about the Bible and their relationship with the Lord.

Dying to Be Heard [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rachel Angelo is a high-powered executive who has put in the hard work and hours to get a big promotion, and when she gets it, she goes out to party and makes a lapse in judgment regarding a man at the bar.  Thus, she ends up pregnant and her boss threatens her to get rid of the child.  However, she accidentally goes to a crisis pregnancy center and becomes conflicted about her decision.  When she watches a random music video, she also thinks back to her family’s Jewish heritage and how they endured the Holocaust.  Thus, she begins to change her mind about the life growing inside of her.

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

Tender Shoot Films is unfortunately among the worst at production.  Their productions are consistently below market standards and below even zero-point productions.  In Dying to Be Heard, video quality is poor and camera work is often filmed extremely close to people’s faces, not to mention the fact that it’s very shaky.  Lighting is somewhat poor and sets, locations, and props are severely limited.  Audio quality is also poor, picking up unnecessary background noises, not to mention the fact that the soundtrack is blaring.  But by far the worst element of this production is the terribly disorienting editing that rivals My Refuge for how bad it can be.  In the end, it feels like one has to try to make a production this bad.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Unfortunately, this theme being terrible only continues in other elements of this film.  It’s extremely disappointing that often pro-life films are so ruined in this way.  As previously mentioned, this so-called story is all over the place and lacks any continuity whatsoever.  The subplots are extremely disjointed and are only very thinly related.  Things are forced to go together as this story tries to cover way too much ground, even by having flashbacks within flashbacks.  Perhaps the worst part of this plot is the fact that the dialogue is so poorly written that the characters are laughable.  The ‘bad’ characters are extreme strawmen and nearly every conversation is either full of message-pushing or elements that make characters extremely black and white.  Problems are fixed for no good reason and the ending is a very rushed and forced conclusion.  Once again, you almost have to try to write a story this bad.

Acting Quality (-2 points)

Probably the worst part of this film is the awful acting.  The lead actress often comes off as drunk or high, and she is awful at delivering her lines, even though there’s not much for her to work with.  Most cast members fumble through their lines from time to time, like every scene was done in one take.  Emotions are among the worst and everything is so awkward and unsure that it’s nearly unwatchable.  It’s very hard to believe that movies like this are made.

Conclusion

Companies like FaithHouse, Cross Shadow, and Tender Shoot are extremely hard to figure.  They churn out film content on a regular basis, yet it’s often very bad in every way.  Production is often awful, plots are nonexistent, and acting is extremely amateurish.  Yet they truck along and keep putting out films.  Do they mean well?  Do they just need more direction?  We can only wonder about these things.  All we can do if offer constructive criticism and hope it matters somehow.

 

Final Rating: -4 out of 10 points

 

A Perfect Chord (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Cadence’s parents have always believed that she has musical talent, especially since they own a record label, but she has never been sure of herself.  However, when she and two of her friends discover that they have an ability to play music together, they decide to pursue this ability secretly.  However, the time comes when they have to reveal their secret if they want to make a difference, so they’ll have to decide what they’re going to do.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a first-time production, A Perfect Chord is mostly average, which is fine for beginners.  Video quality is fine, and camera work is pretty good.  Audio quality is what is should be, but the soundtrack is quite silly.  There is some odd lighting throughout, and sets, locations, and props are slightly limited.  Finally, editing isn’t perfect, but it isn’t horrible either.  Thus, the bottom line is that this is a fine starter production with some definite areas to build off of in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, this plot is as silly as the description suggests.  It lacks any real focus and is really just a collection silly scenes of activities of daily living and forced comedy.  The conflict therein is also very forced and fake.  There are too many montages that stunt character development.  They need further deepening since they are based on awkward dialogue and a bunch of silly high school conversations.  Basically, this story feels like it belongs in a short film rather than in a feature length one.  This idea is much too thin and really has no purpose behind it.  It’s hard to see how the creation of this film was justified.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is amateurish, but they don’t really have much support.  They are too awkward and lackadaisical in their performances.  Line delivery is underwhelming and emotions are not believable.  Also, makeup is all wrong.  In the end, this film has a lot of areas for improvement that should have been worked out before it went to distribution.

Conclusion

It’s likely that Kingdom Sight Studios means well, but their work has a lot of refining to do.  Production is off to a good start, but it needs to be developed further.  They need to determine the purpose behind their plot ideas and clearly communicate this purpose.  Finally, they need to employ some acting coaching to draw out the potential in their cast members.  In the end, time will tell how much improvement this studio undergoes.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Return to the Canadian West Series by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

Image result for where courage callsImage result for where trust liesImage result for where hope prevails

Janette Oke has recently returned to the world of Christian fiction and has been penning new novels with the assistance of her daughter, Laurel Oke Logan. In her newest series, Return to the Canadian West, she employs her usual writing style, along with a few new techniques that might interest younger readers. Some have said that Oke’s writing is almost too clean to be interesting, but I think that there is a place for innocent novels such as these in the Christian book world. At the very least one must admit that every one of the books in this series are way better than Hallmark’s depiction of her novels. Hallmark has twisted and ruined so many aspects of both Oke’s original Canadian West series and this new series that it is impossible for me to untangle their web of mistakes. In short, the famous When Calls the Heart TV series is a mockery of Oke’s novels and should not be taken as an accurate depiction of her stories. Any-who, before I get carried away…….So far Oke and Logan have penned three novels in this new series, and time will tell if they plan to create more. I would recommend this series to someone interested in inspirational/romantic fiction. The first book, titled Where Courage Calls, introduces the reader to a young woman named Elizabeth Thatcher. Elizabeth, or Beth, as she likes to be called, is a wealthy young woman who seeks a higher calling than the comfortable, luxurious life that Providence has granted her family. Beth feels that her calling is to be a teacher, and, despite her family’s protest, accepts a humble teaching position in a small mining town called Coal Valley. Initially she finds the people of Coal Valley to be a bit standoffish and suspicious, but she eventually finds a friend and a mentor in her landlady, Molly McFarland. This friendship leads her to become friends with a disabled miner named Frank Russo. Slowly Beth begins to embrace her new home and finds solace in her new friends……and in the attentions of a handsome Mountie named Jarrick. The second novel, titled Where Trust Lies, informs the reader that Beth has finished her first year of teaching in Coal Valley and is returning home to spend some time with her family. Beth arrived at this decision through much trepidation; she feels guilty for leaving behind the people of Coal Valley that have become so close to her heart. However, upon her return home she finds herself grateful for the opportunity to rest and recuperate. Unfortunately, this relaxation is short-lived, for Beth’s mother has planned a long and luxurious vacation that includes the entire family. Beth agrees to go out of obligation and the chance to reconnect with her sisters. She soon finds herself aboard a steamship full of people touring some of the most beautiful parts of the world. While the vacation is mostly enjoyable for Beth and her family, there is a deceiver in the mix. Through trial and temptation Beth will come to discover her true place in the world, an learn a valuable lesson about trust. The third and most recent novel is titled Where Hope Prevails, this novel falls into the typical plot of an inspirational novel: woman returns to small town to find that not only has everything changed, but that she has been virtually replaced. As you may have guessed, Beth returns home from her harrowing vacation to find that Coal Valley has hired another teacher; a man with no interest in God or her methods of teaching. They quickly form a rivalry, and through the experience Beth must learn that her real enemy is not any one person, but the devil, who will try anything to distract her from the voice of Jesus. As this is the main plot point, the matter of Beth’s wedding to Jarrick takes a backseat; this is something that may be disappointing to some readers. The authors attempt to add a plot twist at the end, and their effort is appreciated, as it adds a lot to the novel. However, this novel departs the furthest from Janette Oke’s usual above-par novels and leaves much to be desired. It seems rather fruitless to mention that this book series would make a good TV miniseries, as others have already tried and failed to produce such a creation. Yet, we here at Box Office Revolution can only hope that someone will redeem the horrors of Hallmark.

Upcoming Christian Novels: Angela Elwell Hunt’s Latest Project

Image result for Judah's Wife angela hunt

Release Date: January 2, 2018

Author: Angela Elwell Hunt

We here at Box Office Revolution eagerly await the release of Angela Hunt’s newest novel titled Judah’s Wife! The novel is Hunt’s depiction of the story of Judah Maccabees, which is found in the two books of Maccabees. Maccabees is a book of the Bible set in the latter part of second century B.C. In Hunt’s depiction, the story is told through the eyes of Judah’s wife Leah, and brings to life a little-known historical account that would otherwise be left to gather dust.

Pray 3D: The Storm (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

On one autumn night, when a young couple leaves their children with a teenage babysitter, they have no idea what’s in store for the teenager and her friends.  The storm outside gets worse and worse and the babysitter’s friends keep randomly showing up at the house.  Yet little do they know that a strange and sadistic stalker is hanging around again—even inside the house!  Will they be able to survive the strange storm and the stalker’s evil?

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

In the long-awaited conclusion to this horrific series, nothing really improves.  Production is still as bad as ever.  Video quality is bad and camera work is very shaky, including weird camera angles that look like they came directly from camcorder footage.  Audio is very muted and soundtrack is absurd.  Lighting is very poor throughout, and the sets and locations are severely cheap and limited.  There are also weird special effects and overlays throughout.  Finally, as can be expected, there is no editing to be found.  In the end, as this trilogy limps to a close, the end can’t come soon enough.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Much like the first two installments, this third go at off-the-wall yet ‘family-friendly’ horror is as pointless and aimless as ever.  This idea wears very thin after three attempts, especially since there’s no real content except for stupid and childish attempts at horror.  This so-called story is once again laughable as we are forced to watch a bunch of awkward teenagers being ‘chased’ by a figure in a cheap mask.  There is zero purpose to this and no lesson to be learned here except never, ever replicate this sort of madness ever again.  Future Christian horror writers can take notes from this display of ineptitude and learn how not to write such a film.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

Much like the previous two casts, this one is just as amateurish, unsure, and awkward.  Only this time, Rusty Martin Jr. is thrown into the mix for some reason.  I guess he really will do anything.  Elsewhere, emotions are extreme and over the top and line delivery is off-kilter.  In short, we’re very glad this trilogy has come to a close.

Conclusion

Thus, this concludes the strangest Christian film trilogy to date.  We hope films like this are never again repeated.  The creators of this three-part train wreck have some serious soul-searching to do, as would anyone who achieved the rare feat of creating an entirely negatively-rated film trilogy.  The only thing this series is good for is serving as an example of how not to make a film.

 

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

 

Broken Chains [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Benny Trevors has just gotten out of prison and has decided to hitchhike back home to his mother’s house, where he can decide what he wants to do with his life.  He is almost immediately contacted by ‘old buddies’ of his, who ask him to help them with a new crime plan.  Benny is torn between the good and the bad and has a series of conflicts with his daughters that cause him to want to leave town.  However, he stopped from doing this when he steps in to protect a woman from her violent husband.  Little does he know that he is about to be sent on a journey to face the past he doesn’t want to ever see again.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

As a very underfunded and amateurish production, Broken Chains really doesn’t have anything good going for it.  Although it’s likely that the production team meant well, they really couldn’t get anything to work here.  Video quality is blurry, camera work is shaky, and audio quality is not what it should be.  The soundtrack is too loud and out of place and there are some unusual camera angles.  Sets, locations, and props are severely limited.  Finally, there are too many odd transitions that make for a disorienting editing experience.  In the end, it’s sad to see this finished product because it’s likely that they meant well.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Broken Chains is a rare instance in which the plot is significantly better than the production and the acting.  Though it takes a while to get into, this is actually an interesting plot idea that contains a lot of intriguing psychological elements.  However, there are a lot of overly dramatic moments and not enough substantial content.  Random things tend to just happen without much explanation.  The characters are in need of deeper development and the conclusion, though somewhat interesting, is a bit contrived and convenient.  Overall, since this is based on true events, this plot definitely has a lot of potential, but this movie as a whole needs a total rewrite.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is unfortunately very amateurish and not well-versed in acting skills.  They are forceful and practiced, as well as very measured and stilted.  There are some sequences of painful singing.  Also, emotions are very flat and empty.  In the end, this film is extremely B-grade or worse.

Conclusion

Only because of the good ideas presented here does this movie deserve a remake.  The production and acting are on the basement level of film.  It would have been better to wait and use this idea in a production that was better funded and more well-cast.  Perhaps one day it will get the remake that it deserves, but for the most part, this film will likely go very much unnoticed.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

All Saints [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Michael Spurlock leaves the sales world under less than honest circumstances, he decides the most natural thing for him to do is become a pastor so he can have more time for his family and so he can give back to the world rather than take from it.  Thus, he is assigned by the parish to head up a dying church in small town Tennessee as a training ground under the church closes up.  Then Michael is promised to move on to better things.  However, the longer he is at the small church, the more Michael sees that there is purpose for it, especially since it is serving hundreds of Burmese refugees who have no one to turn to.  With God’s intervention, they begin to see miracles happen right before their eyes.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In keeping with the traditions of Affirm Films, All Saints is a good production on the surface and has no obvious errors.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all on the professional standards they should be on.  The soundtrack is effective and is culturally relevant.  The sets, locations, and props are all well-constructed and realistic.  However, this film needs some serious editing work.  Time is spent on all the wrong things and the plot overall lacks flow and continuity.  However, Affirm has likely done enough to meet minimum market standards.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this is a very intriguing true story that had a lot of potential, this potential is not reached.  There are so many things that could have gone into this film that did not finish developing.  The story is too dominated by the whining, unsure main character.  Unfortunately, there is very little focus or purpose to this plot, even though there were plenty of opportunities to have this.  There are a lot of disjointed and unrelated sequences that fill up the runtime and stunt character development by crowding out any scenes of meaningful dialogue, of which there are few.  In the end, it’s sad to see how this story turned out because it had so much going for it.

Acting Quality (2 points)

John Corbett really puts a damper on this cast since he comes off as very fake and unsure of himself at the same time.  Yet if you can look past him, the other cast members post some good performances.  There is especially good multicultural casting and acting, even if we don’t get to see enough of them.  Overall, this is a good section and makes this movie at least palatable.

Conclusion

Most people will probably be fine with this film, but it’s still a very disappointing experience.  Why can’t we at least see some flashbacks of the Karen people in Burma?  Their subplots are barely developed or explored as John Corbett dominates the runtime with his awkwardness.  In short, though there was a chance for some interesting stories here, it barely materializes and wastes an amazing opportunity.  We believe it’s time for Affirm Films to step out in faith and take a chance on a new genre of Christian film rather than churning out run-of-the-mill films like this one.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Reconciliation [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Grant Taylor (not the football coach) is a soon-to-be father who finds himself distracted and confused by wounds from his past.  Specifically, he feels scarred by the way his father treated him and is bitter at him for leaving his mother so he could become involved with another man.  Grant never forgave his father and allowed the unforgiveness to poison his marriage.  Thus, his wife encourages him to go see his dying father in the hospital when she receives a call about his condition.  Grant reluctantly goes and discovers that nothing is always as it seems.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Even though this is a somewhat underfunded amateur production, a lot of good effort was put into it to make it high quality.  Almost every production element in as professional as it should be—video quality, camera work, and audio quality included.  The soundtrack is also interesting and creative.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly good, with only some minute errors.  The same goes for the editing, as there are a few lagging parts.  However, overall, this is an excellent production, especially considering the limited resources.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

At least a part of this film really does mean well, but the good message is too easily derailed by the obvious and forceful way it’s presented.  Dialogue is too in-your-face, and there are too many character stereotypes and cringe-worthy caricatures, especially of the gay characters.  This seems to be a problem in Christian film.  Though there are plenty of good ideas and realistic circumstances here, it needs some major refining and toning down.  Subtly and ambivalence is the key here.  There are many interesting points raised here, especially through flashbacks, that are often packed incorrectly.  The characters definitely have potential, but they need more development.  In the end, this was a good idea that needed a lot longer look than it was given.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast is semi-professional, and they are mostly fine in their performances, especially in their line delivery.  However, emotions tend to be all over the place—they are sometimes awkward and forced and other times too flat.  Yet overall, this is an average performance that makes this film basically average.

Conclusion

Many a film has started with a good idea and even good production like Reconciliation, yet it doesn’t have the necessary elements to close the deal.  This is fine as a first-time film, but it’s still frustrating to see movies like this rise up and fall back down, short of their potential.  Yet maybe this creative team will build off of this movie and make a better one in the future.  One never knows what is coming next in the Christian movie market.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Pray 2: The Woods (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Laurie Curtis survives her harrowing night being stalked by an evil man, she writes a book about her experience and becomes an instantly popular bestseller.  She goes on talk shows and stuff, but little does she know that she is about to be captured again by her nemesis.  Meanwhile, some random youth group is having a camp retreat and they encounter the same evil she does.  Will they be able to run, hide, and pray?

 

Production Quality (-2 points)

The second installment of this deplorable series is just as bad as the first.  Production is still horrible in every way—video quality is bad and lighting is awful.  Audio quality is still a bust, including a loud, creepy soundtrack and bizarre sound effects throughout.  Camera work looks like a camcorder is mounted on someone’s head while they’re running and walking around.  Sets, locations, and props are as bad as can be expected.  Finally, there is once again no editing.  We are still very unsure what the intent of this series is, but it’s setting records for consistently horrible production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Besides this film’s rehashing and shameless plugging of Pray 1, there is little plot content in this film except for constant forced suspense, talk show sequences, and sequences of random dialogue and activities of daily living.  It’s basically in the same vein of the first installment, just with some different characters and ideas.  The villain character is still a total joke and there are no attempts at all to make the protagonists seem real or even remotely interesting.  There really isn’t even a plot to speak of here, which warrants more negative points.  If you were wondering, the ending of this film is a blatant attempt to get a third installment, which unfortunately worked.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Though this acting job is not as bad as the first, it still doesn’t have anything going for it.  The performances are either flat or over the top in attempts to be interesting.  We get to see more of the villain actor, which isn’t a good thing.  In the end, the Pray Trilogy is going down as one of the most half-cocked, nonsensical experiences in Christian film.

Conclusion

If you fail at something, try a little harder next time.  I guess they did try harder in Pray 2, but they’re still not out of the red.  If something is bad the first time, don’t make three versions of it.  Yet apparently, nobody told this team that what they are making is garbage, because we need more Christian films or something.  Actually, we need more quality Christian films, not trash like this.  Flooding the market with this yard sale fodder isn’t going to cut it.

 

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

 

Pray. [2007] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After a group of friends goes to a Christian rock concert, they return to their hotel and experience some creepy goings-on, thus they decide to abandon their trip early and return home.  However, even when she returns home, one them feels herself being stalked by an unknown entity.  Elsewhere, a new mother of a baby feels herself being watched by someone, but she can’t put her finger on it.  Will any of them be able to trust in God to overcome the evil?

 

Production Quality (-2 points)

So you want to make a Christian horror movie, huh?  How about you examine the ones already made (like this one) and do everything the opposite way of how they did it.  The production of each of these Pray movies couldn’t be worse.  From dizzying camera zooms to weird camera angles to generally shaky footage, it’s a harrowing experience for all the wrong reasons.  Video quality is mostly poor and lighting is very inconsistent.  The soundtrack is far too loud and the audio is better at picking up the background sounds than the actual dialogue.  Sets and locations are severely limited and there is no editing whatsoever to speak of.  In the end, this production is definitely among the worst.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

A ‘Dove-Approved’ ‘Horror’ film can’t actually exist, right?  This means anything ‘horror-like’ has been stripped from it, thus we are left with activities of daily living, local news sequences, television preaching sequences, and most laughable jump scares rivaled only by other films made by these people and the new Left Behind.  There is barely enough dialogue in this film, and what dialogue exists is mostly confusing crosstalk conversations.  With so many sequences of ‘regular life’, there is not enough real suspense.  Any suspense therein is bizarre and manufactured.  Finally, the ending of this film is one of the most laughable and head-scratching experiences ever.  We let asking whether or not it can get any worse than this.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

As if the rest of the movie wasn’t bad enough, let’s add an extremely amateur and awkward cast to this mess.  The performances therein are goofy and unsure.  There is far too much yelling and screaming.  It’s so sad that this many people were roped into this nonsense.

Conclusion

The Christian horror genre is among the worst of Christian film, and this should not be.  It’s inexcusable to have so many basement-dwelling films in one genre, especially when this genre offers such a great opportunity to reach outside the walls of the church.  Yet it’s a very difficult genre to pull off, so it would be better to not even attempt it unless you absolutely know what you’re doing.  But wait…there’s two MORE of these films?!?

 

Final Rating: -4 out of 10 points

 

Somebody’s Child (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Though Constance is going through dialysis and is waiting for a kidney donor match, she knows that God has been good to her.  Her son Douglas always takes care of her and she loves her grandson.  However, she harbors a secret from her past that hardly anyone knows about.  Yet little does she know is that God is about to set into motion events that will reconcile the past and bring redemption to them all.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Gary Wheeler is always reliable in crafting a professional production.  There are very few errors to speak of in the production of this film.  Video quality is excellent, as it camera work and audio quality.  The soundtrack is good, even if it’s a little pedestrian.  Sets, locations, and props are professional and appropriate for the film.  The only small error to point out here pertains to some minor editing issues that cause the plot to be confusing.  Yet in the end, as a made-for-television movie, this production is what it should be.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, as a made-for-TV movie, Somebody’s Child lacks creativity in an attempt to be safe and marketable.  Though the idea behind it is interesting and though the circumstances the characters experience are realistic, this story is still too underdeveloped.  Dialogue is very generic, thus making the characters one-dimensional.  This is a character-based plot, which means we need deep characters, yet this is not the case here.  There is too much wasted time in this plot and not enough scenes that develop the characters—it feels like they are just swept along in the plot without any feeling.  Finally, the ending is very rushed and seemingly unfeeling.  Unfortunately, though this movie had everything going for it, the story fails to come through.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

As a professional cast with obviously good coaching, there are very few errors to speak of here.  Sometimes emotions aren’t what they should be, but they mostly are.  Line delivery is always on point, even if the cast member doesn’t have a very good line to work with.  Overall, Somebody’s Child is a professional film that falls short of greatness.

Conclusion

Many audiences will enjoy this film, but we are always looking for films that take that next step out of mediocrity (even professional mediocrity) and become a great, difference-making film.  With this type of funding and platform, this was possible here, but the plot needs a lot of beefing up in order for this to be case with Somebody’s Child.  Hopefully in the future opportunities like this will no longer be wasted.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

In God’s Time (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Everyone’s lives are intertwined in some way, and everyone lives according to the timing God has given us.  We have no idea what God’s plan is, but our job is to trust Him no matter what.  This film follows the interconnected lives of a desperate doctor and his cancer-ridden wife, a belligerent homeless man with a past he wants to forget, a struggling military vet trying to move on with his life, and a pregnant girl who feels like she has no one to turn to.  As their lives converge together, they discover that God’s timing really is perfect.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a first-time production effort, this film isn’t half bad.  Video quality is good, even though the camera work is randomly shaky at times.  Sometimes audio quality isn’t what it should be, but it’s mostly fine.  The soundtrack is very creative and intriguing.  Sets, locations, and props are all well-constructed and appropriate.  Yet the editing is not very well thought out as a lot of the subplots seemed to be tossed together like a salad, as we will discuss further in a moment.  But overall, it’s clear that effort was put into this film, and with some small improvements, this team will go a long way.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Storylines that depict intertwining yet seemingly unrelated subplots are hard to execute properly.  Much like Do You Believe?, In God’s Time is sometimes too much of a tangled web that comes off as disjointed rather than smooth.  However, it is interesting and realistic to show how people’s lives are connected to one another, yet this story needs more organization to be effective.  Nonetheless, realistic issues are explored throughout this plot in the context of believable and accessible characters.  Dialogue is good, but it could be a little deeper.  There are also a lot of confusing psychological elements throughout the movie that seem interesting but need more explanation and exploration in order to be understood fully.  Due to these confusions, it’s sometimes hard to know what’s going on, even though there is a meaningful message presented here.  The ‘magical’ plot device utilized throughout this story is a bit cheesy and tends to fix problems too easily, but at least audiences can make realistic connections to the people presented here.  In the end, this plot shows a lot of creative potential that needs organization and clarity to make it great.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is semi-amateurish, they post some professional performances.  They are mostly believable in assuming the roles of their characters, yet there are some overdone emotions throughout.  Some performances tend to be underwhelming, but on the whole, this is an above-average section.

Conclusion

In a field crowded out by tons of small groups making movies designed to dip into the inspirational market, writing a good plot that contains realistic characters is the key to success in standing out.  This creative team has a lot of the tools and talents they need for success—now they just need some refinement and organization skills.  They would do well to consult some seasoned film makers in how they can go about this, because they are on the precipice of greatness.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

The God Question [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Stephen Kendrick (not the film maker) is a computer science expert who finds himself a part of a major project on artificial intelligence at MIT.  However, when the government shuts the project down due to safety concerns, Stephen and a friend of his decide to go underground with the project and ask the new AI software some pressing questions.  They want to know if the AI can prove the existence of God, as well as other important philosophical concerns.  Will they be able to discover the answers they are looking for before time runs out?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though it’s a clear effort was put into this production to make it professional, there are still some nagging issues with The God Question that keep it from being all that it could be.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine.  However, sometimes it seems like there needs to be more of a soundtrack.  There are too many cheap special effects pertaining to the technological props, which also need somewhat of an upgrade.  Sets and locations are okay, yet they are partially limited.  Finally, the editing of this film is quite poor as sequences lag too long and there is little driving purpose.  In the end, this is a good effort, but there are definitely places for improvement.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this is an interesting and unique topic to make a movie on, it’s too focused on only the artificial intelligence concept.  There is little plot content or character development outside of this one idea that dominates the film.  Though there are attempts at complexity, there isn’t any real complexity or plot development that would otherwise make this film interesting.  The story is all about the same thing and is fixated on the artificial intelligence concept, although there is some brief exploration of the philosophical debate surrounding this idea.  Yet it’s still not enough and we don’t get enough of a change to get to know the people who are involved in this story.  After killing and wasting a lot of time, the plot finally paints itself into a corner and ends abruptly without figuring out what it really wants to do.  In the end, this is an unfinished idea that feels like it was forced to happen.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this cast is semi-professional, they often come off as overly practiced in their line delivery and extremely matter-of-fact.  Emotions are not always believable, yet most of these performances are average.  But the bottom line is that there were a lot of elements in this film that feel like they’re not reaching their full potential.

Conclusion

We definitely different sorts of plots and ideas like this in Christian film, but the biggest temptation for sci-fi stories in general is to make the movie all about the centralized concept.  In doing this, dialogue and character development are left by the wayside in pursuit of the ‘big idea’.  Besides this, production and acting in this film, while passable, are simply underwhelming.  It might have been better to give a little more thought to this film before it went to distribution.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Angels Love Donuts (Movie Review)

The whiniest man alive

Plot Summary

John Money is a successful businessman, but he’s the whiniest man alive and doesn’t like anybody, even though he has a family that loves him, at least somewhat.  He only cares about the bottom line, so when he’s visited by a donut-loving angel of death who tells John that his days are numbered, John throws himself into finding a solution to his eternal problems.  He seeks out the answer to eternity in heaven, but he looks in all the wrong places.  Will he be able to discover what truly matters most?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though this film has a moderate budget, there are still a lot of unforced errors.  Video quality is somewhat blurry throughout, especially since there is a lot of weird soft lighting throughout the film.  Camera work is fine, however, as is audio quality.  However, the soundtrack is loud and annoying.  Sets and locations are mostly okay, but there are some cheesy props.  There is also not really any editing as this film is just a collection of very long scenes and montages.  In the end, this is a underwhelming production to say the least.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Can you seriously not come up with a different title besides Angels Love Donuts?  The cheesy comedy idea surrounding this title is just too much.  There are way too many attempts in this film to be funny, and a lot of comedy is dry and\or falls flat.  Thus, the dialogue and the characters are very cheesy and sometimes downright childish or annoying.  The driving purpose behind the film is too juvenile to be taken seriously; this film almost fits better in a children’s genre than in this format.  The story follows a predictable progression, thus there is no real creativity here.  It’s really hard to believe that movies like this are made.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The lead actor is definitely one of the most annoying we have seen.  He speaks in a constant monotone whine.  Other cast members appear to be making fun of this film, and rightly so.  Some performances are overly practiced.  Emotions are hardly ever believable.  Unfortunately, there’s really nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

Movies like this will likely be forgotten as time goes on, yet they can be remembered right now due to its absurd nature.  The last thing we need is more Christian movies that demonstrate this level of nonsense.  From start to finish, this is just a total waste of time and ranks on the level of yard sale movies.  Hopefully in the future, we will begin to see less and less of these sorts of messes.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Faith’s Song (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Faith and her parents love each other, and they all knows that Faith has a gift for singing, which uses in her local church.  However, one tragic evening, on their anniversary, Faith’s parents are suddenly killed in a car accident, thus leaving Faith an orphan.  As her life is turned upside down, she will have to do some soul searching to see what she really believes.  Will she be able to pick the pieces back up and start again?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Even though this is a 2017 film with a modest budget, it is still quite underwhelming.  Video quality and camera work are fine, but audio quality is laughable.  The film is dominated by a cringeworthy homemade soundtrack which is unfortunately very memorable.  Sets, locations, and props are okay, but they are somewhat limited.  Finally, there isn’t really any editing present in this film.  In short, this is a disappointing production not only because it’s so new but also because it has a decent enough budget that many people would love to have.  A better allocation of resources is definitely in order.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, there is no real guiding purpose to this plot.  It is way too aimless and melodramatic while at the same time being very surface and plastic.  The struggles of the characters cannot be appreciated because dialogue does nothing to build them up, thus leaving them as cardboard people.  Lack of plot content is filled in with a lot of sermon exposition, not to mention the cringing ‘original’ soundtrack.  Any attempts to develop subplots are disjointed and confusing.  Finally, the portrayal of Christians and Christianity is too goody-two-shoes to be realistic.  Overall, this story needed a serious rethink before this film went into production.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast is obviously amateurish, yet they are not all bad.  However, a lot of their performances are forceful and overly practiced, thus making them seem unnatural.  Emotions don’t seem very honest.  In the end, this tops off a disappointing effort.

Conclusion

With films like this, it’s likely that money was raised before a plot was even written.  This church decided they needed to make a film and went into the process half-cocked and aimlessly.  This always shows up in the final product.  It’s very prudent to receive consultation and advice when undertaking such a difficult venture as making a feature-length film.  It always pays off to not rush into things but to take time to make a quality film.  We hope that future film makers begin adopting this practice more and more.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Egypt’s Sister by Angela Elwell Hunt

Image result for egypt's sister angela hunt

Egypt’s Sister is the latest release by our beloved author, Angela E. Hunt. This newest release begins her new Silent Years Series and has a different flavor than her other novels. In this novel, Hunt departs from her usual style by writing a novel in the historical genre. Set in the years before Christ’s birth, the novel tells the tale of Cleopatra, the famed queen of Egypt. I was surprised to find that the beginning of the story was rather slow to develop and did not hold the attention as well as Hunt’s past novels, however, she made up for this by returning to her usual writing style later in the novel. As a whole Egypt’s Sister was a tad overloaded with historical fact, this made the book seem more like a documentary than a story. However, one has to appreciate the time and dedication that she put into writing this book. While this is certainly not Hunt’s best novel, I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to readers interested in historical fiction. The opening chapters introduce the reader to the main character, a young Jewish girl named Chava. Chava’s mother died when she was young, and she is growing up under the tutelage of her scholarly father. She has the privilege of being the companion and best friend to one of Egypt’s young princesses, a curious girl named Urbi. Chava and Urbi spend many hours playing, observing, and discussing life’s complexities. One day Chava hears directly from God that her destiny is to be a sister/friend to Urbi until the day of her death. Chava’s father does not initially believe her claim, mostly because he has never heard the voice of God. Nevertheless, Chava continues to follow God’s calling by remaining a true friend to Urbi. As the two grow into young women, they both begin to realize their place in the world. For Urbi, it would appear that her destiny is to marry well and become Queen of Egypt. For Chava, it is to follow the calling that God has placed upon her life, to love Urbi as a sister, unconditionally. Following the death of her father, Urbi is convinced to marry her younger brother and take on the name Cleopatra, so that she might take her place as Queen of Egypt. Chava finds that the Queen has little time for her childhood friend anymore, and that she begins to make decisions of her own accord. For a time, the two remain friends, but when a jealous Cleopatra asks her to choose between the gods of Egypt and the One True God, Chava chooses the One True God. This decision causes Cleopatra to throw Chava and her family in prison. Alone inside her prison cell, Chava questions God’s will and His purpose for her life. Through various circumstances, she is sold into slavery and eventually decides to become a midwife, with the hope of buying her freedom. Will Chava learn to forgive Cleopatra for her rash decision? Will she trust in God’s infallible plan for her life? To answer these questions, read the book! Egypt’s Sister could make an interesting Christian historical film, however, the filmmakers would have to ensure that their main focus is character development. Without character development, the film would be no more than a documentary.

Guided by the Word (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Right before Steven’s wife dies, her dying wish is for him to reconcile with their estranged daughter by taking her the Bible she used to use in Sunday school.  Though reluctant at first, after his wife dies, Steven honors her wishes and makes a trek across the country to find his long-lost daughter in order to give her the Bible.  Along the way, he reconnects with the faith he forgot he still had.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though this is a 2017 production, it is still relatively underwhelming.  Video quality and camera work are really the only good elements that can be highlighted here.  Audio quality is too inconsistent, including loud outside sounds and an overbearing soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are too limited and are obviously cheap.  There is also some randomly poor lighting.  Editing is basically non-existent as one long diatribe is presented here.  In the end, it’s hard to see a justification for this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Much like Almost Home, Guided by the Word us another half-baked idea that is better suited as a short film rather than a feature-length film.  The story wastes tons of time in an attempt to be longer and is full of empty dialogue and one-dimensional characters.  There’s probably a good message in here somewhere, but it feels too plastic and childish.  It also suggests a lot of quick fixes to problems.  It’s very hard to connect to these characters and their circumstances when they don’t even seem like they are real.  Unfortunately, it’s very hard to justify the existence of films like this.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Much like Almost Home, this cast is overly practiced and stilted in their line delivery.  They are also not very good at showing any emotions as they come off as monotone and lifeless.  It is unclear that John Lina should be in a lead role.  In the end, this film is just another disappointment that will be forgotten.

Conclusion

It’s sad that movies that have well-intentioned motives behind them like this will be washed away in the ever-increasing tide of Christian films being made.  In order to stand out, you absolutely must have professional production quality.  You need at least a marginally realistic plot that contains accessible characters.  Finally, you need a cast that can carry the film by becoming the characters.  Movies like this will only find themselves as thrift store fodder.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

The Sword [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Marcus Fidelius is converted to Christianity one night in a Roman jail due to an earthquake and the testimony of Paul and Silas, he and his entire family are transformed forever.  He passes down his newfound faith to his children and grandchild, and with it, an ancient sword that becomes a family heirloom.  As each generation faces their own challenges, the sword reminds them of the faith they have been given that will protect them in times of trouble.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

With a very low budget, The Sword has an understandably cheap-looking production.  In some ways, this is justified.  Lighting is quite poor at first, yet it does improve later.  Indoor sets are fairly limited, yet props and outside locations are pretty good.  Video quality is unfortunately blurry throughout, yet different parts of the film seem to have better quality than others, as if funding was better spent later in the production process.  Camera work and audio quality are okay throughout, although there are some odd camera angles at first.  Overall, this is a very good effort based on what was available to them and is very reminiscent of Pendragon.  It would be interesting to see what this group could do with better funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This plot is based on a very interesting Biblical-historical idea that needs more development.  The writers clearly mean well as they try to present realistic characters and interesting dialogue, although these things need more development as well.  This fairly complex plot is ambitious and shows a lot of initiative, but the expositional dialogue needs to be kept to a minimum.  The story tends to skip through time too rapidly, thus leaving a lot of loose ends.  However, this writing shows a lot of potential for the future and should be built upon for a future project.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast is made of amateurs and likely volunteers, so grace is extended here.  They mean well, but they tend to be robotic and overly practiced.  They should some good potential.  Though some of the makeup is odd, the costuming is fairly good considering the funding.  Overall, The Sword is a great effort that needs to be followed up.

Conclusion

It’s good to go ahead and try to make a movie to show off your skills, but sometimes waiting for more funding is prudent.  Nonetheless, The Sword demonstrates what this creative team can do and how much more they could do with better funding.  They likely did the best they could do with what they had.  We greatly encourage this collective to try their hand at another film that is better funded, if at all possible, because they definitely have something to offer.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Chasing the Star (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Prompted by the celestial sign of the star, three Magi set out from their homeland to the land of Israel to discover the promised Messiah.  Each of them had their own backstory and struggles and they faced many trials and roadblocks along the way, mostly the attempted sabotage of the evil King Herod.  They also experienced spiritual warfare and spiritual awakening as a result of their journey across the desert, and they were never the same again.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though there are a lot of attempts in Chasing the Star to be a professional production, there are also some issues that hold it back from being all that it could be.  Video quality and outdoor lighting are great, but there is some random shaky cam for dramatic effect that puts a damper on things.  However, audio quality is fine and the soundtrack is intriguing.  Outdoor locations are very well constructed and utilized, yet indoor sets and props are cheap-looking and limited.  Finally, the editing makes the film very disorienting and confusing as the plot jumps all around.  In the end, this is a good effort, but it seems like more could have been done.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As previously mentioned, this story tends to jump all over the place in a very confusing fashion that leaves the audiences isolated.  There is also a lot of cryptic, archaic, and even cumbersome dialogue that causes the characters to come off as stuffy and Shakespearean.  A lot of content is also very vague and hard to understand, although there are some interesting psychological elements.  This story tends to be overly artistic, but the use of spiritual elements is better than that of Forty Nights, even if they are still portrayed as too dramatic and sensational.  It’s great to explore spiritual warfare, but not enough time is spent on real and meaningful content, although there are some good attempts to develop the Magi through flashbacks.  Yet it’s still hard to access them as people due to their dialogue.  However, the last ten minutes of this film improve a lot and almost make the experience worthwhile.  Nonetheless, there are still a lot of improvements to be made here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Similar to Forty Nights, some of these cast members act downright creepy, while others are simply too dramatic or too stuffy in their delivery.  There are too many reminders of a Bible play in this film, yet there is sometimes okay acting, especially from Garry Nation.  The costuming is a bit unusual at times, but it tends to work.  Overall, much of this movie is a mixed bag.

Conclusion

Chasing the Star is another unfortunate waste of an interesting idea.  We desperately need creative Bible stories that are focused on spiritual and psychological elements, but not like this.  They need to have slightly improved production and deeper character development in order to be worthwhile.  Yet DJ Perry and his team appear to be improving with each film they make, so it’s possible that they are on the verge of something great.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Altar Egos (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Pastor John Bridges inherits his father’s church, he is given huge expectations by the congregation, who is led by his suspicious and controlling stepmother, Mary Margaret.  John’s wife Betsy wants him to look for a better opportunity, but John wants to follow in his father’s footsteps.  However, when Mary Margaret leads a church revolt against John, he decides to take matters into his own hands and enlists the help of his theatre-guru son to help him create an alter ego to convince his stepmother to reconcile.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

For the obviously low budget that was provided here and other limited resources, this is a highly impressive production.  This is a key example of what we want first-time film makers to do: use everything you have to the fullest potential, even if it’s small.  Every aspect of the production of Altar Egos is highly professional and there are no errors here.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all flawless, even though there are both indoor and outdoor scenes.  The soundtrack is a little goofy but it works for the comedy genre.  Sets, locations, and props are all realistic and authentic and demonstrate care.  Finally, the editing is good, although there is only a small amount of plot content to work with.  In the end, this production could have easily been another Flywheel, but it wasn’t.  New film makers are raising the standard for the market.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As with most church comedies (and Christmas comedies for that matter), the plot of Altar Egos is fairly limited in scope.  It follows a predictable progression and isn’t really all that creative.  However, the characters are highly believable since the dialogue is well-written.  The comedy is subtle instead of obvious and is actually truly funny.  Yet the comedy does run its course.  Though the message presented in this film is good, this movie tends to overstay its welcome with one too many extended sequences and montages.  As previously mentioned, you can see the ending from the beginning, but nevertheless, like all comedies, the characters make this movie what it is, thus making it worth your time.

Acting Quality (3 points)

You can hardly ask for a better casting and acting job than this for a first-time film maker.  Robert Amaya assume his first lead role very well, and even Erin Bethea is good as a quirky side character.  Victoria Jackson is always hilarious when she’s cast as an unserious and goofy character.  The new cast members also add a lot to this film as each of them assume their characters very well.  Basically, comedy is made or broken by the acting, and this cast passed the test.

Conclusion

Once listed in the Box Office Revolution Movie Purgatory, Altar Egos has made a comeback and has risen to the top of the market, leaving behind other 2017 films that were better funded and marketed.  This just goes to show you what can happen when a film maker really cares about the movie they are making and takes time and effort to make it happen the right way rather than just any way.  Altar Egos demonstrates top-notch production, despite low funding, as well as superb casting and acting.  Though the plot is a little thin at times, effort is put into dialogue and character development.  All of this spells a bright future for Sean Morgan and his team—so far, he’s the best Liberty University has to offer in the writing and directing department.  They should consider using him for their future projects.  Regardless, this film is certainly worth your time.

 

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

 

Misery Loves Company by Rene Gutteridge

Image result for misery loves company by rene gutteridge

Rene Gutteridge is known to us as one of the most creative authors of Christian fiction on the market today. She is most certainly not afraid to tackle both unusual and unexpected subjects and transform them into above average novels. Misery Loves Company is one of her more recent novels in the suspense genre, and while it is not her best book, it is mostly up to her usual standards. It is my opinion that she could have done a better job on the ending, as it was somewhat typical. However, the end of the novel does not diminish the overall heart of the story. Misery Loves Company deals with subjects such as grief, loss, anger, bitterness, secrets, truth, the pursuit of peace, reconciliation, and healing. The opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to the main character, a blogger and struggling writer named Juliet Belleno. Juliet, or Jules as she likes to be called, recently suffered the sudden, tragic death of her husband Jason. Shortly following his death she retreated from the world and currently lives an isolated life within the walls of her home. The only people she has consistent contact with are her alcoholic father and her late husband’s friend Chris. Jules finds purpose and stability in posting a monthly book review on the latest releases by her favorite author, Patrick Reagan. However, little does she know how this habit will affect both herself, and others. One day, shortly after posting her monthly review, Jules takes a routine trip to the grocery store. An ordinary day becomes extraordinary when she runs into Patrick Reagan, the creator of her favorite novels. They talk and even go out to dinner, then, the unthinkable happens…..she wakes up in a strange home, on a strange bed, in the dark…..alone. Jules discovers that she has been kidnapped by her idol, and that he has been spying on her life for quite some time. Juliet’s father discovers her disappearance and convinces Chris to search for his daughter. Both Chris and Jules quickly discover that Patrick is an unstable man driven by grief regarding the death of his wife. Patrick believes that Jules needs his help to become a great writer, and goes to extreme lengths to prove his theory. Through a captor/captive relationship, and deep soul-searching, Jules and Patrick find that through their shared grief, they can find healing. The story does have a few unexpected twists that make the novel better as a whole. To find out what these are….read the book!;) Unfortunately, the conclusion of this book is somewhat predictable, it is almost like the author did not know where to end the story. Furthermore, it appears as though Gutteridge spent plenty of time developing the Patrick character and not enough on the Juliet character. If she had developed each character with the same dedication as she did Patrick, this would be a landmark novel. Even so, Misery Loves Company has plenty of content that a Christian filmmaker could build off of to create a great film. That being said, this novel is yet another book that would make a great Christian movie….in the right hands.

Scarlett [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Chase and Scarlett and two architects who are in love and are engaged to be married.  They love God and want to help people, which is why they open their home to a pregnant victim of domestic violence on the run from her evil husband.  But their lives are also changed when Scarlett discovers that she has an aggressive form of cancer.  Will they be able to hold on to what they believe despite tragedy?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though Scarlett has a smaller budget, it shows that Strong Foundation Films has finally learned how to put money to good use by having a semi-professional production.  Video quality and camera work are on standard, and audio quality shows marked improvement.  The soundtrack is also better as it flows more smoothly.  Sets, locations, and props demonstrate more professionalism than in the past.  The only negative to discuss here is the bad editing that keeps this production from being all that it could be.  Yet nevertheless, Strong Foundation has finally found a good production style.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though there is some heavy-handed narration and though this story is just another repackaged downtrodden character plot, there is some better dialogue throughout that keeps this plot from being as bad as past efforts.  Yet the characters still need further development as they are only halfway there.  There is a lot of melodrama surrounding the disease plot and there are laughable product placements for The Prophet’s Son.  Yet it seems like the Strong Foundation team is trying, even though they suggest of a lot of childish fixes for problems.  There is at least some hope for this team.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The creative team did find some better case members and better coaching for this film, yet Josiah David Warren’s unsure performance is still front and center, and is thus distracting.  The presence of Stephen Baldwin is also an automatic detractor.  Some emotions are believable while others are not.  Line delivery is mostly okay.  In the end, this rounds out of a much-needed improvement.

Conclusion

We would much rather see a company start with a 4-point movie and progress beyond that, but it’s better late than never for Strong Foundation.  They have certainly had an odd existence, but perhaps they are finding their way now.  Josiah David Warren still needs to look over his past performances and see how he can improve so he doesn’t keep doing the same thing every time.  They also still might want to consider hiring a different writer.  Who knows where they will go as a company next.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Takeover [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jadin is an overconfident businessman (?) who trips all over himself and finds himself entangled with an eccentric ‘con artist’ who blackmails him into letting her stay with him.  She quickly takes over his house and invites a bunch of random people over.  All the while, Jadin is trying to please his mother and argue with the booming voice in the sky.  Will they ever be able to make sense of their lives?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Though this was a relatively well-funded production, only the video quality can be considered professional.  Camera work is far too shaky and includes odd camera angles and annoying close-ups.  Audio is unnecessarily overdriven at times and even overdubbed in some places.  The soundtrack is uninspiring.  Sets, locations, and props are fairly limited.  Finally, the editing is confusing and is likely nonexistent, thus making for a disorienting experience.  In the end, we are continually flabbergasted at the productions that are churned out by Strong Foundation Films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-.5 point)

Compared to all of their other sad efforts to write stories, The Takeover is hands-down Strong Foundation’s most laughable and nonsensical story to date.  From start to finish, there is no way to know or understand what is happening from one moment to the next.  Random things keep happening, as if this is depicting a dream sequence.  Many of the elements included in this rambling diatribe either cause you to roll your eyes or double over laughing, including the absurd booming voice in the sky bit.  There is literally nothing good to say about any of this, and it’s so ridiculous that it warrants even a small amount of negative points just for being this way.  As far a screenwriting goes, you really can’t go much lower than this (unless you’re Kirk Cameron).

Acting Quality (-1 points)

Josiah David Warren posts his worst performance to date, as do the other typical cast members included here.  They are absurd, over the top, and sometimes whiny with their emotions, including far too much yelling.  Also, reminiscent of FaithHouse, there is a lot of terrible injury acting throughout this film.  Basically, there is really nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

Strong Foundation has been in a constant identity crisis from day one of their productions.  What do they really want to do in Christian film?  If they mean well and want to make a difference, then they need to take some serious strides to improve.  They need to find a way to spend their funding more wisely.  They need to hire a real screenwriter.  Finally, they need to either stop casting the same old actors and actresses (Josiah David Warren has worn out his welcome) or figure out how to invest in some coaching for them.  They are at a crossroads as a company and have some tough decisions to make.

 

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

 

Seven Days Away (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Clayton’s father dies on the mission field, Clayton commits himself to serving God through missions just like his father did.  Thus, when Clayton is given the chance to go to Mexico with some friends, he takes it.  However, he finds that all is not as it seems as his friends are only there to party and mess around.  Clayton finds himself alone and suddenly kidnapped by local criminals.  Will he be able to trust God to him out alive?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Seven Days Away is a return to basement production quality, as video quality is the only good element to mention here.  Camera work is too wild in attempts to be dramatic and action-packed.  Audio quality is off and the soundtrack is constantly interrupting things.  The sets, locations, and props are the worst possible.  Finally, the editing is awful as scenes sometimes cut off in the middle of things.  The film jumps all over the place and is overall disorienting.  In the end, this is a very unimpressive effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This story is another forced drama fest that gives Josiah David Warren a venue to do whatever he wants.  There is no focus, direction, or purpose in this plot as it unfolds in a very confusing and isolating manner.  It contains a lot of nonsensical elements, such as forcing people to go to church, and all the usual childish dialogue and characters.  Unfortunately, there is basically no potential in this vague and limited idea and only serves to be another Christian film embarrassment.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is the same old story as most other Strong Foundation Films.  Josiah David Warren is still in the forefront and is still unsure of himself.  There are too many extreme emotions throughout this cast in attempts to be suspenseful or something.  There is also a lot of yelling and off-kilter line delivery.  To say the least, this rounds out another basement-dwelling Christian movie.

Conclusion

Seven Days Away had a lower budget than usual for Strong Foundation, and it shows.  It’s rarely a good idea to make two movies in one year, yet Strong Foundation makes a habit of this.  All of Josiah David Warren’s forced melodrama is just too much for any film, especially since it dominates all of the movies put out by this outfit.  We hope they mean well, but their delivery is just all wrong.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

Seventy Times Seven [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

David and Brayden are best friends, but when David marries the woman Brayden always loved, their friendship is greatly strained.  Brayden buries his sorrow in a relationship of his own, but he still stews and lets his anger grow.  Eventually, he is unable to contain it all and acts in desperation.  In the aftermath, will David be able to show the forgiveness that his wife always talked about?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As another well-funded low-key production, Seventy Times Seven at least appears to have some funding well spent.  Video quality and camera work are fine, as is audio quality for once, even though the soundtrack is mindless.  Sets and locations are limited like usual, but props show some improvement.  Finally, there is once again no editing present as pretty much all available content is presented.  In the end, while this production shows some better stewardship of resources when compared to other Strong Foundation Films, it still only comes out as average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Similarly, this storyline is really no better than other Strong Foundation attempts at plots.  The characters are still empty and one-dimensional due to be drive by juvenile and simplistic dialogue.  There isn’t really enough plot content to sustain a full-length film, thus there are a lot of filler scenes.  Random things seem to happen for no particular reason, including some strange and laughable asides.  Finally, the Christian message doesn’t seem authentic and the overall thrust of the film is uninspiring.  Though it’s likely that Sun Hui East and her team mean well, they need to invest in better screenwriting.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this cast shows some more skills than past Strong Foundation casts, Josiah David Warren’s constant screen-time dominance always puts a damper on things due to his very unsure nature.  There is a lot of forced drama among these cast members and not enough professional line delivery.  While there is some good here, it’s not enough.

Conclusion

The film-making model adapted by companies like Strong Foundation, the one that advocates putting out as many films as possible, can give the company experience making productions, but it certainly does not produce quality movies.  We don’t need more low-quality Christian films flooding the market.  It would be one thing if companies would make beta test films that were not released, but this is not usually the case.  Maybe one day companies like Strong Foundation will finally hit the mark they are aiming for.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

A Golden Mind (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Seth’s father leaves under the guise of getting a new job, he never returns, which leaves the family in their financial straits.  Then Seth’s mother dies from selling her blood too much, which leaves Seth to take care of his little sister.  He decides that he needs to go to college and invest in gold so that he can become rich.  But he will have to decide what he thinks about his late mother’s faith in order to move forward.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though this film had a decent budget, it still does not have a good enough production.  Video quality and camera work are once again the only good elements.  Audio quality is quite poor and the soundtrack is very generic.  Sets, locations, and props are very cheap and limited.  There are a lot of montages and dead sequences, which reflect the terrible editing work.  Basically, we haven’t figured out where the Stronger Foundation team gets their money from, but they are squandering it at a rate only rivaled by Timothy Chey.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, it seems as though most of Strong Foundation’s plots are utterly pointless.  This so-called story is reminiscent of a FaithHouse creation due to its childish and empty characters and its extremely juvenile dialogue and premise.  The main character is very downtrodden and there is a lot of laughable and forced melodrama.  The Christian message is also, of course, extremely plastic and off-putting.  It feels like this story was written by a five-year-old as everything is fixed in the end and just generally has a juvenile feel to it.  It’s very difficult to understand how movies like this are made.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Josiah David Warren and his typical cast comrades are at it again in this film, with very unsure and sometimes whiny performances.  Emotions are either over the top or nonexistent and line delivery is stunted.  Basically, this cast is in need of some serious coaching.

Conclusion

We are interested to know who gives Strong Foundations Films a basic blank check to allow Sun Hui East and Josiah David Warren to do basically whatever they want.  The stories they come up with really seem like they came from a bunch of kids making up stories while playing with their toys, combined with a cheap Christian message.  We are greatly unsure as to what the ultimate goal with these movies is, but we hope to forget they even exist.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

The Legend of Stuart Brannon Series by Stephen Bly

Image result for hard winter at broken arrow crossingImage result for false claims at the little stephen mineImage result for last hanging at paradise meadowImage result for standoff at sunrise meadowImage result for final justice at adobe wellsImage result for son of an arizona legendImage result for stuart brannon's final shot

Stephen Bly’s all around best book series is The Legend of Stuart Brannon. The spirit of this series is one of grit, poignancy, and humor; perhaps the style that drew readers to Bly’s works in the first place. The series has seven books that catalog the life of Bly’s famous Stuart Brannon character, they cover his past, present, and future. As with most of his novels, Bly uses his gift for writing to make each scene come alive in this book series. Stephen Bly had a way of subtly including important faith and character lessons into his stories, without being pushy or overbearing. In this series, he tells how one man’s life choices affect both himself and others, and how one can become wiser by learning from their mistakes. The first novel, Hard Winter at Broken Arrow Crossing, introduces the reader to a gruff, yet gentlemanly cowboy named Stuart Brannon. Stuart has recently suffered the loss of his wife and son who died in childbirth, not to mention the failure of his beloved Arizona ranch. Driven by grief, Stuart wanders out into the great unknown and becomes lost in a blizzard. Finally he finds somewhere to rest out of the cold. However, the dwelling is already occupied by an elderly, wounded prospector who thinks he is dying. Stuart tends to the man and he slowly begins to regain health. Together they wait out the winter and try to survive the elements. Little do they both know that the bitter winter will bring with it an abused, pregnant girl with nowhere to hide from her captors, and a family of starry-eyed gold seekers who became lost in the winter storms. Stuart finds himself snowed in with a ragtag group of people who all need his help. And if this isn’t enough, he becomes entangled in a rescue effort involving a kidnapped child. Hard Winter at Broken Arrow Crossing introduces characters that are included in all of the following books, and sets the stage for plot structure and content found in later novels. If you are interested in a Western series that has endless adventures and great characters, then read this one! The Legend of Stuart Brannon would make a great Christian miniseries, as it is a story with enough content to justify multiple episodes, and one that has a better beginning and conclusion than most Christian films. Someday filmmakers will recognize the gold mine of potential found in Christian novels, but for now, we are left to dream of the possibilities.

The Prophet’s Son (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Brothers Alex and Abel Benjamin are a famous Christian musical duo and they seek to not only entertain people but to reach people with the gospel and their spiritual powers of discernment.  They encounter many people on their travels that desperately need the love of Jesus and they also see that the world is descending into chaos as the end times approach.  Will they be able to reach the people they need to reach before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

To have an over $2 million budget, it’s difficult to see how this production ended up so bad.  Video quality and camera work are the only good elements to speak of.  Audio quality is laughable and the soundtrack is pedestrian.  Sets, locations, and props are limited and not on the standard of this type of budget.  Furthermore, editing is nonexistent as the film jumps all over the place with no sense or understanding what’s actually happening.  Basically, we have no idea how this crew got that much money to spend, because they squandered it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though there are some slightly interesting ideas hidden somewhere in this mess, there is absolutely no continuity as the story jumps all over the place with disjointed subplots and unrelated sequences.  Random things just happen and there are a lot of references to off-screen content.  The Christian characters are overly perfect and have dialogue that contains obvious message-pushing.  There is also too much expositional dialogue.  It’s also hard to understand what the deal is with the unusual and low-key apocalyptic premise that constantly nags at the undertone of this film.  Overall, it’s all very hard to understand and quantify, so it’s hard to justify this film’s existence.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This small cast that is typical of Strong Foundation Films is in need of better coaching.  They are emotionless and robotic and even forceful at time.  Though they actually demonstrate some improvement throughout, they are too unsure of themselves.  Some lines are under-emphasized while others are forced through.  This section rounds off a very off-the-wall film.

Conclusion

There is probably a part of the Strong Foundation team that means well, but their delivery is very misguided and their management of resources is embarrassing.  The premise of this movie is too isolating and the cast is very underwhelming.  In the future, this creative team needs to have a reevaluation of where they are going as a company.  But if they can continually accrue this kind of capital, who knows what they might do next.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Persecuted [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

John Luther is a highly successful ministry leader sometime in the near future, and he is being pressured by politicians to support a bill that would allow the government to regulate religion to ‘keep it fair’.  However, John refuses to comply, and thus finds himself under intense attack from faceless enemies who seem bent on destroying him and his reputation.  Injured and on the run, John will have to decide what he really believes and how he is going to defend himself.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The main redeeming elements of this film pertain to the professional production job.  It’s difficult to successfully execute a suspense production, but this team does very well.  Camera work is great, especially in the action scenes, and video quality is what it should be.  Audio quality is also good and the suspense soundtrack is a nice touch.  Sets, locations, and props are appropriate and adequate.  The only nitpick to raise here is some editing issues pertaining to the choppy presentation of this story.  But in the end, this is a respectable production that should be the norm.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this suspense story has a lot of interesting ideas in it, it is too all over the place to make any sense.  It’s great to have a different genre for once, but this isn’t really the way.  Though the persecution premise is somewhat well-explained, it needs to be explained better so it comes off as more realistic.  The protagonist is seemingly too perfect and one-dimensional, although other characters are interesting.  However, several of the villains are fairly cheesy.  We would have like to get to know some of these characters better; as it is, the dialogue is all over the place and does not help develop the protagonist.  There are also a lot of convenient suspense turns as things happens because they need to.  Too much is fixed at the end, even as the ending will leave you scratching your head.  In the end, this plot needs a serious rework.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this cast is at least somewhat professional, a lot of the performances are overly dramatic.  The lead actor does not do a very good job carrying his role, and a lot of the villain cast members are over the top.  Emotions are slightly believable, but line delivery is sometimes unsure.  In short, this is an average performance.

Conclusion

Persecuted fills a genre gap in Christian film, but that’s about the only reason why it stands out, besides professional production.  Persecution premises set in modern America are always going to need a lot of explanation and justification, and this film does not necessarily succeed on that front.  No matter the suspense film, this genre tends to suffer from lack of character development, which Persecuted also demonstrates.  In the end, while there is potential here, it needed a lot more development in order to be better.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

In Over My Head (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Nathan is the spoiled young adult of a well-to-do business family who believes he can do whatever he wants.  But his world comes crashing down one day when both of his parents suddenly are killed in a car accident, leaving Nathan to run the family business and take care of his two younger siblings.  Nathan is forced to rely on the faith he always thought was silly to make it through.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

With a clearly limited budget, it’s difficult to see the justification for this film.  The sets and locations are quite cheap and limited, although the props are okay.  Video quality and camera work are also fine, but audio quality is not.  There are too many loud background noises and a loud yet generic soundtrack that covers up things.  The transitions are also too abrupt and choppy to make any sense.  In short, the money used for this production should have been saved for a different film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The entire premise of this forced and juvenile comedy is very thin and flimsy.  There is a lot of fake drama yet not enough real plot content as the story jumps all over the place as a collection of random ‘goofy’ scenes.  The characters are very one-dimensional thanks to lame and empty dialogue.  The Christian message presented is very plastic and lazy.  There is also a very cheesy love triangle subplot that takes up a lot of this film’s time.  But it’s not like there were any better ideas to include here.  Basically, it’s very difficult to understand how movies like this are made.

Acting Quality (0 points)

While these cast members may mean well, their performances do not always reflect this.  They are a lot of times very robotic and overly practiced.  Their emotions are hard to connect with.  Since this is such a small cast, any errors are automatically amplified.  It’s hard to see anything positive here.

Conclusion

What if struggling film companies like Strong Foundation saved all of their money for one good film rather than making a handful of cut-rate cheap films that will never have any impact on the market?  We are sure people like the ones behind these sorts of films do mean well in what they are doing, they just need more direction in their work.  Yet perhaps they can build on mistakes like this one and become better as a result.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

The Case for Christ [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Lee Strobel was an acclaimed newspaper reporter who had seemingly reached a new level in his career with his in-depth research pieces.  Everything in his life seemed perfect, until his wife Leslie began talking to a Christian nurse who saved the life of their daughter and became a Christian herself.  Lee’s staunch atheism was immediately challenged by his wife’s beliefs, even though she had become a better person as a result.  Thus, Lee set out to disprove the faith of his wife by attacking the core tenets of Christianity and skeptically investigating the truth behind them.  However, the deeper he went into his investigation, the less faith he had in atheism.  He would eventually have to come to grips with what he really believed and make a decision that would change his life forever.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

After years of wandering in the proverbial wilderness, Jon Gunn and his team, aided by the new standards of PureFlix, have finally found the promised land.  The Case for Christ is a flawless production in every aspect and is an example of what we should see in every film.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are error free.  The soundtrack is highly authentic and appropriate for the time.  Sets, locations, and props are exquisite and demonstrate great care for historical accuracy.  Finally, editing is excellent as montages are kept to a minimum and each scene transitions seamlessly.  Basically, this is your textbook perfect production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

What better plot to use than a real-life story that many audiences can relate to for multiple different reasons?  Not only is this film about real people, but they are actually portrayed as real people through meaningful dialogue and realistic circumstances.  This film could have easily descended into an information-saturated and message-heavy dump that tried too hard to push its point, but that is not the case here.  Both the atheist and the Christian characters are portrayed extremely well and the highly relevant message is presented in such a way that it is both clearly understood and easily received without being pushed in your face.  In the hands of a different writer, this idea could have gone south very easily.  Yet it did not, and Brian Bird proves that with good content, he can go great things.  The only nitpick to raise here is some slight choppiness, but it’s not a big deal.  The bottom line is that this is an excellent plot and one well worth your time.

Acting Quality (3 points)

You can hardly ask for a better cast than this, as each member fits their character excellently.  There are zero acting errors to point out as every performance is executed with near perfection.  Emotions are highly believable and line delivery is on point.  This rounds out an excellent film.

Conclusion

In conjunction with Brian Bird, Jon Gunn has finally discovered his true talent and has struck gold.  He put previous disappointments behind him and found a way to become a great film maker.  All we ask of film makers is to show steady and consistent improvement, and Jon Gunn has done just that.  He was also afforded a great opportunity to tell the amazing true story of Lee Strobel and to have better funding due to the better decisions made by the PureFlix leadership.  This film gives Jon Gunn, Brian Bird, and the rest a platform to build off of to do even greater things.

 

Final Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points

 

Lynn Austin’s Waves of Mercy

Image result for waves of mercy lynn austin

Waves of Mercy is the latest installment by the renowned Christian author Lynn Austin. While certainly not her best novel, it does bring a new element to Christian fiction that is not usually seen. This novel explores the deep corners of one’s mind, the memories that we cannot explain, nor forget. Keeping with her traditional historical romance genre, Austin attempts to add a few twists and turns to her per-usual plot-line, and partially succeeds. Other reviews of this book disliked the amount of tragedy that one of the main characters experienced, alluding that Austin was a bit melodramatic in this novel. Yet another reviewer commented that he thought this book was similar to another of her books, indicating that she reused a past plotline, except with new characters. I don’t think that Austin was melodramatic in this novel, I think that she provided a realistic depiction of how hard life was for early American settlers. While she could have been a bit more original with her plotline, I appreciated that she was trying to draw in younger audiences by using a slightly different writing style in this book. Waves of Mercy deals with subjects such a hardship, death, tragic occurrences, grief, loss, bitterness, lost souls, secrets, anger, forgiveness, salvation, and adoptive families. The opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to the three main characters, a young woman named Anna Nicholson, an old woman named Geesje de Jonge, and Geesje’s “nephew” Derk Vander Veen. Anna Nicholson is a young woman haunted by nightmares and suppressed memories. For as long as she can remember the same nightmare has haunted her dreams, especially during times of stress and anxiety. When she was a child her parents could explain it away, but now Anna is an adult, and she still suffers at the hands of her own mind. Anna has perfect life on the surface, rich parents, a pampered lifestyle, the perfect fiance, and an upcoming wedding that many girls can only dream of. However, there is a pesky little voice whispering in her ear that all is not right. Anna wonders why she feels so empty and alone, and goes searching for the answer. She finds love and acceptance at what she calls the “castle church”, a place very different from the cold, indifferent walls of her family’s church. However, her fiance does not approve of the Jesus that this church preaches, and forbids her to return if she expects to marry him. Confused and hurt, Anna journeys with her mother to Michigan for a time of rest and regrouping. Geesje de Jonge is an old woman who has seen and been through more in her lifetime that any human being should be expected to endure. Through it all, the mistakes, the wrong choices, and the insurmountable grief, Geesje has managed to hold onto the one thing that is stable in her unstable life, her faith in Jesus Christ. Derk Vander Veen is a young, aspiring minister who has just broken up with his fiance because she disapproved of his chosen profession. He finds comfort and encouragement in the loving arms and endless cookies supplied by his beloved Aunt Geesje. Learning of her own difficult experience with life and love, he encourages Geesje to write down her experiences so that he can read them and learn from her mistakes. Reluctant at first, Geesje begins to write, and finds both release and healing in letting go of the weight of the past. The end of the novel draws these three characters together in an unexpected way, making the novel as a whole more interesting. To find out the exciting conclusion….read the book!;) I think that Waves of Mercy would make a great Christian film in the right hands. With a little editing and some creativity, this novel could go places as a film. Then again, all the books that I have reviewed thus far would be great Christian movies….if someone would recognize them…..:)

Samson [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Samson was a troubled man who God used to punish the Philistines.  Samson was supposed to be set apart from his people, but he did not always obey the guidelines God laid out for him.  He became involved with women who dragged him down and eventually met his destruction at the hands of his enemies, but not before God gave him one last chance to deal a blow to the evil Philistine people.

 

Production Quality (-3 points)

This rendition of Samson is among the worst productions we have ever witnessed, rivaled only by Final: The Rapture, David and Goliath, and My Refuge.  It utilizes the worst possible sets, locations, and props that look like they are in somebody’s backyard using everyday items from Walmart.  The scenes are full of shadows and the worst lighting imaginable, a rare production fail we have only witnessed in this film.  The filters are randomly black and white, but then again, it could just be the medieval lighting.  Besides these blatantly obvious missteps, there are a myriad of other issues that time does not permit full discussion on, such as the blurry video quality and the extremely overdriven audio quality, which includes stupid sound effects.  It goes without saying that the editing is notorious as well.  In short, it’s unbelievable that this movie even exists in this form.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Since this ‘plot’ is framed as a children’s bedtime story, it’s very unusual to choose the story of Samson for this venue.  Parts of it obviously have to be whitewashed, but this story sometimes doesn’t care that it’s twisting or adding things to the historical account, while other times it makes a big deal about not doing this.  Regardless, the portrayal of Samson is bizarre, even though he was likely an eccentric person.  Yet nothing makes any sense in this film, and there are no attempts to make the characters seem even the least bit realistic.  The story jumps all over the place and pauses for important interludes such as power outages in the present-day storyline.  But in the end, this plot really has nothing to offer.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

As if the rest of this movie wasn’t bad enough, this is one of the worst casts we have ever witnessed, and is right on the level of Fathers, if not worse.  These cast members don’t appear to have any idea what they are doing and some of them seem like they are being taken advantage of.  There is nothing whatsoever positive to even mention about this entire film.

Conclusion

This film is so bad that even the reviewers at Christian Film Database, who rarely criticize anything, frown upon this version of the story of Samson.  It’s presented in the worst possible packaging you can ever imagine; you seriously have to try hard to make a production this bad.  Thus, this entire experience is either a total joke or an example of sheer incompetence.  There’s really nothing else to say.

 

Final Rating: -4 out of 10 points

 

Camp Cool Kids (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Spence’s older brother Zach never wants him around because he embarrasses him, but their mother wants them to stick together now that their father has died.  Zach is headed to summer camp and Spence is supposed to go with him, but Spence is afraid.  However, Spence’s grandfather convinces him to go and Spence soon finds out that there’s a whole world out there if he will face his fears and not let his overactive imagination get the best of him.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a new production, there are obviously a lot of positive elements here.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all on standard.  The soundtrack is a little silly and it is quite excessive as it dominates the film, especially with the many montages that make up this movie.  Sets, locations, and props, however, are professional and appropriate.  Yet there are some unnecessary ‘silly’ special effects that cloud things, not to mention the fact that there’s really no editing in this film.  In the end, this is a typical new baseline production; it’s good to have a new baseline, but production isn’t the only thing you need.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s unclear what the true purpose or intention of this movie is supposed to be.  Is it a kids’ movie?  It sure seems like one.  Characters are very lazily presented through lame attempts at dialogue and comedy.  There is really no plot to speak of, as the story mostly consists of a lot of silliness, quirkiness, and montages to fill time.  The Christian message presented is very plastic and forced.  In the end, there is little overarching or driving purpose to anything that happens in this film, so it’s hard to understand why it was made or what audience it is intended to reach.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Lisa Arnold and company are reliable in putting together a good cast that mostly knows and cares about what they are doing.  There are no glaring errors among this cast—just some uninspiring and seemingly uninterested performances.  Then again, the cast members really didn’t have much to work with.  The whole film seems like an afterthought.

Conclusion

In the not-too-distant past, a film would have been a basement dweller due to low production quality and unprofessional acting.  Yet the new professional industry standards of Christian film have been raised, and thus raise films like this from the ash heap.  But that doesn’t mean that they are any more justified—it just means more money was spent on them.  Thus, we have to ask why.  We know Lisa Arnold and her team mean well and are capable of great things, so why did they make this film?  It seems like the money could have been spent better on a different idea.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

An Introduction to Stephen Bly

Image result for stephen bly

Image result for stephen bly

1944-2011

Stephen Bly was probably the greatest writer of faith-based Western fiction ever seen before. He mostly wrote in series form; his customary length being six books, with some exceptions. Bly had a talent for creating a lovable character in the first novel, and refining their personality and fictional life throughout the series. This was perhaps modeled after God’s continued refinement of our lives. He had a subtle way of sharing the Gospel through the lives of his characters, one that most would call “not-one-of-those-shove-it-down-your-throat-Christians”. Even though the Lord called Stephen Bly home in 2011, readers of all ages continue to enjoy his gritty, yet humorous take on the lives of Western gunslingers and pioneers. In his lifetime he wrote over one hundred books and stories, including some that he wrote with his wife Janet. His last novel was titled Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot; as he was not able to complete the novel before his death, his wife and three sons finished the novel for him. We here at Box Office Revolution would love to see Christian film-makers create a new genre based on his stories, perhaps Western Comedy? Bly certainly had enough content to justify a new genre, and perhaps bringing his original novels to the big screen would ‘spur’ on other filmmakers to create films inspired by his novels. While all of Bly’s novels are good, our favorites thus far are The Legend of Stuart Brannon series and the Code of the West series. Bly creates relatives for the characters in these two series that are found in later novels. His writing will forever serve as a an example to others of how to write Western, faith-based fiction. As with all the authors mentioned in the column, we eagerly await the day that Stephen Bly’s work will hit the big screen!

Billy: The Early Years (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Billy Graham is one of the most influential evangelists of all time, but he did not begin that way.  He had his own sports dreams and aspirations, but God got his attention and sent him on the path He wanted him to be on.  As Billy pursued education he felt that God wanted him to have, he was influenced greatly by a leading evangelist of the day, Charles Templeton.  Billy also met the girl of his dreams, Ruth, and the two of them began a life together.  But as God gave Billy more influence and opportunity, he and Charles found themselves at odds over a crisis of faith that would influence Billy’s ministry forever.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a semi-professional production, it’s clear that a lot of effort was put into Billy: The Early Years.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine and on standard.  Good attempts are made to make the soundtrack historically authentic.  Though some of the sets are limited, the props also demonstrate historical authenticity and the locations are mostly good.  The biggest drawback to this production is the poor editing job, but this is understandable since so much content is tried to be included.  Overall, this is an acceptable production that shows good effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Even though a small portion of Billy Graham’s life is chosen for this film, it’s still too much to handle as the story is mostly based upon montages and sneak peeks at larger stories that we don’t see enough of.  The plot rushes through time very quickly and jumps from high point to high point.  It’s framed in a very odd way that almost focuses as much on Charles Templeton as on Billy Graham, which is fine, except the movie is framed as a Billy Graham biopic.  Regardless, as time speeds along in this film, there is no time to get to know the characters properly, so we are forced to settle with cheap dialogue and one-dimensional people.  Despite the time jumps, there are still too many meaningless sequences and scenes of unnecessary and unrelated content that has no bearing on anything.  In the end, this is a commendable effort to retell a very important historical story, yet it’s executed very poorly.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Since the characters are given very little development, the cast members are forced to make up for lost time, yet they do so in unprofessional fashions.  In attempts to be ‘interesting’, the cast members come off a very over the top and quirky, as if they are trying way too hard.  Though the costuming is realistic for the historical period, the makeup is way too loud.  In short, this creative team gets an E for Effort, but not much else.

Conclusion

Historical plots are important and are often hard to pull off well.  This story in particular is very important to the history of American Christianity, yet many audiences will be disappointed in the slapped-together nature of this movie that even drew (thankfully) honest criticism from Billy’s son Franklin.  It would have been great to get to know these historical figures are people rather than cardboard cutouts, but this was not the case.  Maybe one day someone will retell this story in a better way.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

An Encounter With the Messiah (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

What if Jesus came in the modern day and ministered to everyday people and the circumstances they dealt with?  This is a different take on the story of Jesus that follows the lives of recast Biblical characters in a modern setting to show that Jesus can touch anyone and reach anyone, regardless of background or era.  He is still affecting people’s lives today.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

It’s really hard to understand how and why these sorts of productions are made.  When the budget is low, is it worth making a feature length film?  While video quality is mostly fine and the soundtrack is creative in this film, there are plenty of errors here.  Lighting and camera work are inconsistent and cheap, and the audio is sometimes too loud and disproportionate.  Flashbacks are black and white for no reason and sets, locations, and props are relatively cheap.  Finally, as usual, the editing is poor and allows the storyline to jump all over the place with no real continuity.  In the end, first-time productions are somewhat forgivable, but they’re still frustrating to watch.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Creating modern takes on Bible stories is always a problematic idea because parallels and paraphrases are usually forced to fit and cause awkwardness, which is also the case in An Encounter with the Messiah.  It’s a commendable and understandable idea that has a lot of potential, but it’s not executed correctly and is too hard to follow.  There are too many confusing transitions and disconnected subplots as the story speeds along to hit the high points.  There are also too many characters and tons of wasted time; thus, it’s difficult for the story to hold the attention as it is very flat and isolating.  The one redeeming quality is the interesting ending but it’s hard to get to and doesn’t do enough to redeem the other issues.  In the end, this is a nice idea, but not good enough.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this cast sometimes puts in effort, they are often half-hearted or overly dramatic.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are all over the place.  There is some good here, but not enough to make a difference in this film.

Conclusion

Films like An Encounter with the Messiah so easily slip through the cracks of Christian film, and it’s a shame when the creators seem to mean well.  But when potentially interesting ideas are not packaged properly, it sends the film down a completely different trajectory.  It’s hard to make your film stand apart when so many typical issues plague it.  But perhaps there will be second chances for film makers that have trouble getting started.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

My Son, My Savior (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of the Messiah, who would save Israel and the world from their sins.  Though Jesus was Mary’s son, He also came to be her Savior, and she believed in Him and what He had been sent to earth to do.  Though it was not easy at times for her to watch her Son work and suffer, she knew it was all part of God’s greater plan for humanity.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though attempts are made in this film to be realistic, they are clearly limited by a low budget.  Video quality is fine, yet there is weird soft lighting throughout that casts an odd effect on everything.  This is mostly in the indoor sets, which have a cheap feel to them, as do the props inside of them.  However, the outdoor scenes are much more professionally constructed and executed.  Camera work is relatively stable throughout and audio quality is acceptable.  There is an attempt to make the soundtrack culturally authentic, even if it is a little loud at times.  Finally, the editing is sometimes good and other times not, especially since there is a lot of content shoved into this movie.  In the end, this is an average production that needed some more funding in order to be adequate.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As previously mentioned, this film makes a lot of honest attempts to be realistic and authentic, especially when it comes to staying true to the original historical account.  However, this adherence also comes off as very strict and stiff, which paints the characters as inaccessible and somewhat lofty ‘Bible heroes’ that we can’t relate to today.  While the creators of this film probably mean well, it’s too reminiscent of a Bible play as the story speeds through the Gospel accounts very rapidly in less than sixty minutes.  In the end, while the writers can be applauded for an authentic effort, there is simply too much content crammed into fifty minutes and not enough care given to character development.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The costuming work done here is okay, but it borderlines on Bible play status.  The casting is not culturally authentic, likely due to budget constraints.  This film was made back when Bruce Marchiano posted good performances as Jesus, and he is the standout cast member in this movie.  Other cast members are too dramatic and pronounced in their line delivery.  Though there are some good moments, emotions are not very believable.  In the end, this is an average performance.

Conclusion

Biblical films are difficult feats to accomplish.  The limited budgets of independent films make this even hard to do.  Film makers need to consider whether or not they really need to make another cheap Bible film if they don’t have the resources to make it well.  Though this film is intended to be an evangelistic tool, it’s unclear whether or not this would be that effective due to the low budget.  Perhaps this money should have been saved for a more worthwhile film, or at least saved until enough was available to make this a professional production.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

My Name is Paul [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

What if the story of the Apostle Paul took place in the near future, when the government cracks down on religious freedom and forces the true Christians underground?  Paul seeks out Christians to bring into custody to further his status among the government, but a profound experience causes him to turn around and change his ways by joined the very people he once tried to stamp out.  Now he is on the run from his former employers and the Christians are wary about trusting him.  Will the Way be able to prevail in the face of grave opposition?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

It is clear that many attempts were made in this film to craft a very professional action-based production, which is something we rarely see in Christian film these days.  Video quality is what it should be and camera work is great, especially in the action scenes.  Audio quality is mostly good and the soundtrack is intriguing.  However, sometimes there are some oddly lit scenes, as if the producers are trying to be too artistic, and the indoor sets sometimes suffer from lack of creativity.  Yet the outdoor locations are very well-constructed.  The editing sometimes leaves something to be desired, as some scenes lag too long while others are cut short.  But in the end, this is a commendable effort and one that will hopefully yield even better fruit in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

It’s definitely not easy to take on such a large Bible-story-set-in-the-future concept, especially with all of the characters that are involved.  Sometimes it’s too awkward for the writers to try to force parallels; it might have been better to keep the associations looser.  However, there is still lots of good plot content—perhaps too much content for a film less than two hours long.  This is a highly complex story that sometimes gets lost in itself and may have been better suited for a miniseries, since there are a lot of ideas crammed into such a short time frame.  This is a good problem to have, yet it leaves too many disjointed subplots in its wake.  The characters are pretty good, even if they are limited in scope.  The biggest red flag to raise here is the very confusing and isolating ending that is hard to explain or understand.  In the end, this story desperately needed to be a series in order to be truly effective.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The casting and acting is clearly the strongest point of this film, as there are no errors to speak of.  This is a very large cast, yet they are all very talented and cast very appropriately.  Emotions are believable and line delivery is on target.  The cast members make this film as good as it is.

Conclusion

We realize it’s hard to make an independent series or miniseries, but with the PureFlix on Demand platform, things have been made easier.  More budding film makers need to take advantage of this resource to boost their brand so that we can see some actually worthwhile Christian series come to light.  Regardless, with some production tweaks, more funding, and continued casting success, this creative team is going to go big places.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

The Lost and Found Family (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Ester’s husband dies, she discovers that their estate is not as wealthy as she thought it was.  All she is left with after the debts are paid is a small house that’s being rented out to a foster family, so she sets out with the hopes of kicking them out, but what she finds instead gives her a whole new perspective on life.  Though she began trying to get rid of them, Ester soon discovers how she can help them and puts her mind to doing just that, if they will have her.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Affirm Films have always been faithful in their production quality, no matter the time period.  The Lost and Found Family is no exception.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality reflect this professionalism, even if the soundtrack leaves something to be desired.  Though sets, locations, and props are slightly limited, they are utilized well and are realistic.  The main issues to point out here are some typical problems with editing, such as abrupt cuts and transitions.  It seems like some content was cut out in post-production that causes there to be odd stops and starts.  But in the end, this is a high-quality production that should be a mainstay in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As previously mentioned, this plot seems like it was originally longer, because the final draft is slightly rushed.  Regardless of this, the plot progression is too predictable and includes of a lot of stereotypical rural plot elements.  Though the characters are believable and authentic due to their dialogue and although their struggles are realistic and accessible, The Lost and Found Family is still based on the stereotypical premise of a save-the-house-from-the-evil-businessman story using a historical discovery to do so.  The beginning of the story is creative and interesting, but it ends up a very typical plot and fixes too many conflicts in unrealistic ways by the time it’s over.  This story and its characters had so much potential, but it needed more twists and turns in order to work.  It might have been better to make this a two-part story, but funding was obviously a constraint in doing this.  In the end, it’s unfortunate that more couldn’t have come from this movie.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Affirm has also built their reputation on professional casting and acting coaching, and this film is no exception.  Each character is cast very well.  Emotions are very effective throughout and line delivery is on point.  The only nitpick to raise here are some slightly over-practiced performances, but this is only a small issue.  In the end, this is a professional film that many will enjoy.

Conclusion

Truly character-based plots like this one are hard to come by, so it’s refreshing to see one, even if the premise and plot progression are very formulaic and predictable.  A longer format would help this sort of story greatly because it would give more room for character exploration and would lend opportunity for more twists and turns.  Yet as it is, The Lost and Found Family will be enjoyed by many audiences, so it’s likely worth your time.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

90 Minutes in Heaven (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Don Piper was driving home from a church conference one rainy day, he was blindsided by a rogue eighteen-wheeler semi-truck, which crushed his car and killed him on the spot.  When he passed into the afterlife, he entered Heaven and saw people who has gone before him.  However, due to the prayers of a man at the crash site, Don was pulled back to earth, full of injuries.  For months, he was confined to a hospital bed and his wife and children went through many trials due to Don’s uncertain medical condition.  However, through it all, God showed Himself to be faithful.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

90 Minutes in Heaven is one of those mainstream films about Christian concepts that puts many Christian films to shame due to its commitment to a high production quality.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what it should be.  The soundtrack is very creative and engaging.  Sets, locations, and props are highly authentic and realistic, especially for the time frame.  Finally, the editing is relatively good considering the large amount of content that is taken on in this film.  In the end, this is the standard production quality we should see with each movie that comes out.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though this is a very interesting and realistic true story that definitely warrants a movie of its own, it’s hard to think that it was handled very well in this particular film.  For one, unnecessary and heavy-handed narration forces the plot along and explains things that should be allowed to develop on their own.  The narration stunts character development and subverts the use of effective flashbacks.  There are plenty of characters in this film, but it’s hard to get to know any of them very well due to the constant voiceover.  Besides this, the presentation of this otherwise good story is very slow and boring, perhaps in attempts to be overly dramatic.  Nonetheless, it doesn’t come off right as there are too many stop and start scenes and dead sequences before all of the important information is shoved at the end.  In the end, this movie carries an important message that is not handled very well.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This movie clearly has a professional cast with plenty of recognizable names, yet sometimes the cast members appear to be overconfident in their abilities.  There’s no question that they have talent, but they underwhelm in their performances, like they are just phoning it in.  But for the most part, this section does reflect a professional effort.

Conclusion

Movies like this one, that are made by ‘Hollywood’ for Christians are usually a mixed bag.  Professional production and casting is rarely shirked on, but there always seem to be those lingering problems that drag it down.  The story behind 90 Minutes in Heaven is worthy of the Hall of Fame, yet this film is not due to a handful of small issues that hold it back.  Yet regardless, many will find this film to be enjoyable and it’s certainly worth your time.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Angela Elwell Hunt: The Dangerous Beauty Series Book 3

Image result for delilah treacherous beauty

The third and final (?) novel in Angela E. Hunt’s Dangerous Beauty series continues her previous decision to bring depth and meaning to Bible characters that the church does not usually bring to the forefront. In this novel, Hunt gives her depiction of the story of Delilah, a woman famous for betraying the famous Biblical judge Samson. In the Bible, Delilah was the second wife of Samson; a woman who appeared to be willing to do anything to get what she wanted, including betraying her own husband. Hunt invites one to look past this famous offense and into the very heart of this woman named Delilah. The novel focuses on two main characters, Samson, and Delilah. Told in first person by these two characters, the story teaches the reader that while neither of these people are perfect, both are loved by a Holy God. In Hunt’s depiction there is no greater penalty for Delilah’s sins than for Samson’s. Throughout the story she reinforces the Biblical truth that all sin is equal in God’s eyes. The opening chapters of this novel introduce the reader to Samson as a young man, and Delilah as a teenage girl. Samson is depicted as a somewhat spoiled and arrogant young man who thinks that he can use his gift from God for his own benefit. While he does care for his nation, he cares more for himself. Against the advice of his parents, Samson marries a spoiled young Philistine woman who will only bring him grief in the end. After the tragic death of his young wife, Samson vents his anger against the Philistines, but finds that it brings him no relief. Alone, still angry, and somewhat humbled, Samson sets off on his own to discover his purpose. Delilah is a fiery teen who grew up in a somewhat tumultuous environment. Her mother was a slave, until she fell in love with a rich Philistine businessman and they married. This gave Delilah’s mother both social standing and a roof over her head. However, Delilah’s stepfather has a bitter son named Achish who is waiting for his father to die in order to claim the inheritance. Delilah does not understand why Achish is always taunting her and seems to appear wherever she goes. The sudden death of her stepfather grants Achish his coveted inheritance…and control over the futures of both Delilah and her mother. Achish sells Delilah’s mother back into slavery, and keeps Delilah as his concubine/slave. Delilah suffers abuse of the worst kind at the hands of Achish, and becomes bitter against God and the world. Eventually she escapes her physical captivity, but is still a prisoner in her own mind. A group of traveling tradesman save her life and find a safe home for her with a widow known as a talented weaver. Delilah discovers that she is pregnant as a result of Achish’s abuse, and is more grateful than ever for her home with the widow. She hardens her heart against love for the child, because it reminds her of her captor. In the novel, Samson and Delilah are depicted as two hurting people looking for the answer to their grief. Initially they find distraction from their pain in their love for one another, but soon learn that this is not enough to heal old scars. The ending of the novel is accurate to the Biblical account…with a twist. To find out what it is….read the book!;) This novel, like the others in the series, would make an excellent Bible film, if done correctly. As I have said before, I believe that Christian authors should be involved in the creation of movies based on their books. Which is why I believe that Hunt would need to be involved in the making of this hypothetical movie. We here at Box Office Revolution continue to wait for that glorious day when Christian movie makers will realize the potential found in Christian novels.

Prayer Never Fails (Movie Review)

Make a serious face Eric

Plot Summary

When Aiden Paul is fired from his job as a public school teacher and basketball coach, he feels like God wants him to hire a troubled agnostic lawyer to help him win a case against his former employer.  But the school district prepares to throw the book at Aiden and make an example out of him, so he soon finds he will have to fight for his rights and for the team that loves him.  Will he be able to prevail over the odds that are seemingly stacked against him?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Prayer Never Fails begins as a very rough and raw production with very shaky camera work and strange camera angles.  The lighting also begins very poorly.  Audio quality is relatively stable throughout.  Moreover, sets and locations are consistently realistic throughout.  The good thing is that the camera work and angles do improve later in the film, if you make it far enough.  Yet the editing is confusing throughout and leaves too many dead sequences intact.  In the end, though the production ends up average, it’s a very rocky road to get there and certainly doesn’t help this film’s already-shaky cause.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this story is very low-key and slow to develop at first, it is based on an absurdly unrealistic religious freedom premise that would never stand up in the real world.  This is combined with a typical downtrodden legal premise and several other confusing and disjointed subplots.  However, the agnostic lawyer character is one of the best we have ever seen in these sorts of films and should be transported to a different movie where his flawed characteristics can be more professionally explored.  Yet other characters are not nearly as well-developed, including the downtrodden lead and the strawman villain lawyer.  Furthermore, like certain other ‘persecution in the courtroom’ stories, this film fails the test of realism and boils down to an easily patched-up and fixed ending.  This story needs to be scrapped and started over with the agnostic lawyer character only.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is a semi-professional cast, they begin in a very underwhelming fashion.  The lead actor is especially unsure of himself and cannot carry the leading role.  However, there is potential here and the acting, especially the emotional delivery, does greatly improve in the second half of the film.  Overall, this rounds out a very roller coaster experience of a film.

Conclusion

It’s great to write a legal plot, but why does it automatically have to be about religious freedom and so-called persecution that’s not even believable in the real world?  Also, why leave production and acting to be so shoddy in the beginning?  It’s never worth just slapping a movie together just for the sake of having a movie, especially in the new era of Christian film that demands higher quality.  We’ll never begin to understand movies like this.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points