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Christian Movie News and Reviews

Month

August 2017

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

 

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