Following the Subplots of The Chosen (Season 2, Episode 8: Beyond Mountains)

The Chosen has been a transformational series, and it’s now in its second season. Its audience has exploded in the past year and only has more potential to grow. As the first multi-season Bible series to be created, it has the potential to reach beyond traditional Christian audiences and transform the culture both inside and outside the church. The series’ connections with real people in a Jewish cultural context as they encounter the Messiah are its biggest assets, so here’s a helpful guide to help keep up with the core subplots we saw in the second season’s final episode, entitled “Beyond Mountains.”

***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***

Jesus and Matthew

In the days leading up the sermon event, Jesus and Matthew meet early in the morning so that Jesus can dictate parts of the sermon to Matthew. Once most of the sermon is written, Jesus asks for Matthew’s opinion, so Matthew says that it seems like that the sermon is full of ominous pronouncements, lending a few examples. As a result, Jesus and Matthew have a dialogue about how Jesus did not come to maintain the status quo or initiate a revolt but to start a revolution so that the Jewish people could participate in the healing of the world. Matthew believes that some of the rules in the sermon are impossible while others are not presented plainly. Jesus says that He’s using metaphor like Solomon did because He wants truly committed followers to peer deeply into His teachings, thus weeding out passive observers.

Throughout their talks, Jesus continues walking over to a cliff that oversees the disciples’ camp. He makes remarks about what His students are doing, and Matthew wonders if the students can get along while they are handing out notices about the upcoming sermon. Jesus says that conflict is expected during the trying times in which they lived, especially since He was building something new that was open to all people from various walks of life.

Previously, Matthew had said that he thought the the opening of the sermon needed more, and Jesus agreed with him. Thus, Jesus said that He needed some time to work out the beginning. After meeting with and praying to the Father, Jesus wakes up Matthew at night, saying that He has the beginning of the sermon, which will be a map. Matthew asks what kind of map, and Jesus says that it’s a map of where His followers can be found. Then, Jesus proceeds to give the Beatitudes to Matthew.

Simon son of Jonah, Andrew, John son of Zebedee, Big James, Philip, Thomas, and Simon son of Zebulon

As Simon son of Jonah, Andrew, John son of Zebedee, and Big James do various tasks around camp, Andrew is still worried about everything, and his brother makes veiled comments about this. Big James is annoyed that Jesus keeps giving Matthew extra attention, but Simon son of Jonah seems to defend Matthew, which frustrates everyone. Simon son of Zebulon says that Jesus and Matthew have been up early every morning. John son of Zebedee takes issue with how Simon son of Zebulon seems to value physical health over spiritual health, but the former zealot is nonplussed about this.

Philip and Thomas stay out of the conflict as they bring food that they had foraged. Thomas makes a point to tell Tamar that he specifically found apricots for Ramah instead of the apples that Philip had gotten. Thomas wants Tamar to tell Ramah this fact.

Later, as the group worries about no one showing up for the sermon, Simon son of Jonah, along with the women, tries to calm everyone down. Thomas think he’s doing everything wrong but is silenced by Ramah praising his work. At the sermon, Philip, Big James, Simon son of Zebulon, and John son of Zebedee help with crowd control. This is where John reunites with his parents.

Nathanael, Thaddeus, and Little James

Jesus’ mission for Nathanael, Thaddeus, and Little James is for these three disciples to secure a location for the sermon. Jesus gave them exact specifications to look for in the prospective land, but when they arrive at where Thaddeus believes the location to be, a goatherder tells them to go away. Thus, the three disciples schedule a meeting with the landowner at a public house.

However, landowner is not enthused about many people coming on his land, and he doesn’t think that Nathanael, Thaddeus or Little James are good at negotiation or have convincing arguments for why he should donate the use of his land. The three disciples appear to be losing their case before the businessman steps in. Later, Nathanael and Thaddeus help design and construct the stage that Jesus would later use to begin the sermon.

Mary Magdalene, Ramah, Mary Mother, Tamar, and Eden

As Mary Magdalene copies notices for the sermon that the disciples would later hand out, she helps Ramah finish reading Psalm 139. When Ramah makes mistakes, Mary corrects the errors from memory, which prompts Ramah to ask Mary how she knows the entire Psalm. Mary says that she has to have tools so that she doesn’t fall back into problems but doesn’t want to talk any further when Ramah tries to console her. As Ramah keeps practicing, Mary seems to sadly contemplate the meaning of the fact that God knew what she was going to do before she was born.

In another tent, Tamar and Mary Mother prepare for the day, and Tamar wants to know if she’s required to learn how to read. Mary Mother explains that it’s optional and that Ramah just wanted to keep up. Later, Tamar takes Thomas’ apricots to Ramah and seems to pick up on the potential romance between Thomas and Ramah.

Just before Jesus is ready to go out onto the stage for the sermon, Mary Magdalene, Ramah, Mary Mother, and Tamar magically produce four different colored sashes and try to convince Jesus to wear one of them even though the Son of Man (and some audience members) couldn’t care less. The four women are split 2-2 on what color Jesus should wear, so Jesus asks Eden to break the tie. Previously, Eden had showed up for the sermon and reunited with her husband.

Just before the sermon, Jesus and Mary Mother have a private moment in which they discuss how they wish that Joseph was there to witness Jesus’ earthly ministry.

Shmuel, Yanni, Shammai, Quintus, Atticus, and Gaius

Using the testimonies of Madai and Lamech, Shmuel and Yanni finally gain an audience with Shammai, the leader of the legalistic sect of Pharisees in the Sanhedrin. Shammai is beside himself with excitement about the opportunity to get back at his rival, Shimon. Shmuel and Yanni share various things that they learned about Jesus’ revolutionary activies, but Shammai wants more than just facts. The elder Pharisee wants to use rumors and conjecture to stir up trouble when the time is right so that Shimon can be politically damaged for not dealing with Jesus sooner. Shammai expects Jesus to become more popular and wants to wait until this happens before exposing the fact that Shimon did nothing when Jesus was still virtually unknown. However, Shammai wants everything documented beforehand and plans to stoke his followers with Shabbat sermons about Jesus.

Throughout the conversation, Shmuel seems uncomfortable with some of Shammai’s methods and comments, such as derogatory remarks about Nicodemus, but Yanni silences Shmuel because Yanni is salivating over the opportunity for political advancement. As such, Yanni fully agrees to Shammai’s terms and plans.

When Quintus receives a notice about Jesus’ sermon event, the praetor is not happy. Atticus seems to be amused at this, and Gaius feigns innocence. In the end, Atticus and Gaius join the sermon crowd to watch and wait.

Judas and the Businessman

Judas is the apprentice of an unnamed businessman, and they begin their day by running a con on an elderly landowner. The businessman discovered that there was a hidden salt mine on the older man’s property, so the businessman and Judas schemed to buy the land for cheaper than it was worth under the guise of digging graves for middle class Jews. However, the elderly man is skeptical of their offer and hesitant to give up the land that has been in his family for many generations because the land is a piece of the promised land. Nonetheless, the businessman is uninterested in sentiment and only increases his offer buy a small amount. When the elderly man continues to probe about why the two men are so desperate for the land, Judas pretends to care about the elderly man, which softens the older man enough to accept the businessman’s low offer.

Later, the businessman celebrates the success of their scam, saying that they will be set up like kings for the rest of their lives. However, Judas is frustrated about how they conned the older man out of valuable land and is disillusioned to what the purpose of money is if one cannot make a lasting difference in the world. The businessman tries to brush Judas’ concerns aside by saying that more money means that they can devote themselves more to God, but Judas is worried about growing scales on his eyes. In the end, the businessman gives Judas an advance on the sale of the land, and this causes Judas to perk up.

While Nathanael, Little James, and Thaddeus are in the public house trying to convince the owner of the land that they want to use for the sermon to let them use the land, the businessman overhears the conversation and decides to show off his negotiating skills. When the land deal is about to fall through, the businessman steps in to convince the landowner that the products that come from his land could be associated with the success of the miracle worker’s ministry, which eventually convinces the landowner to let the disciples use the land.

The businessman and Judas leave the public house before the disciples can thank them for helping, and on the way out, the businessman gloats to Judas about how they can use these negotiating skills to influence many people. The businessman also says that he’s interested in hearing from Jesus of Nazareth, and Judas is excited about the idea of going to the sermon, so the businessman agrees to go.

At the sermon, the businessman salivates over the number of people who are attending the event and immediately tries to assert himself as a helper for the disciples who are directing the crowds. After the businessman leaves, Judas runs into Barnaby, who insists that he can take Judas to see Jesus. However, Judas becomes confused after Barnaby goes a different way from the crowds but follows anyway. Eventually, Barnaby leads Judas right to where the disciples are waiting for Jesus, and Nathanael recognizes Judas. Nathanael thanks Judas for his help in getting the land and introduces Judas to Simon son of Jonah. Later, Judas watches in anticipation as Jesus goes out onto the stage.

Barnaby, Shula, Zebedee, and Salome

Barnaby and Shula attend the sermon event and end up bumping into Judas. Barnaby says that he can take Judas to Jesus and proceeds to go the opposite direction of the others, saying that he wants to meet some old friends. When Barnaby calls the event “a show,” Shula corrects Barnaby, saying that it’s not a show even though this fact is debatable. Barnaby and Shula end up sneaking behind the curtains that are hiding the disciples from the waiting crowds, and the two from Capernaum reunite with their old friends.

Zebedee and Salome also attend the sermon event, which is where they reunite with their younger son. Zebedee pretends to cause trouble while Salome playfully chastises her husband. Salome is concerned that her son John is not eating enough.

Amish Grace (Movie Review)

Watch Amish Grace | Prime Video

Plot Summary

When a mentally ill man tries to exact revenge on a local Amish school for the death of his daughter, the Amish community is rocked with grief. However, as the religious leadership instructs the faithful to forgive, one mother cannot let it go. Thus, she has to come to grips with what it truly means to follow God and do what He says.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

With professional funding behind it, Amish Grace sports a great production with very few errors within it. Video quality, audio quality, and camera are all on par with industry standards. Sets, locations, and props are all well-constructed and well-utilized. There are no lighting or special effects concerns. The only small problems to note relate to editing, but these are not enough to prevent a high score from being awarded to this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

It was great that the writers used real-life source material to explore extremely difficult topics in this narrative. As such, some characters are very relatable as they struggle with hard concepts. However, some characters come off as too perfect and angelic, and there are overall too many characters to keep up with. Because of this fact, there is no clear protagonist, and many of the subplots are unfinished or disjointed. It’s unfortunate that a story based on true events lacked focus and organized purpose. Nonetheless, certain sequences of dialogue and some conversations are intriguing even if they fail to effectively move the narrative forward. Sometimes, it feels like the characters are trapped in what the story wants them to do, such as when there are pertinent points raised about the various inconsistencies of legalism in certain religious lifestyles and when these legitimate concerns are never explored again. In the end, this film was not long enough to do justice to the true accounts, and it’s possible that a miniseries format would have been more appropriate. Despite this, however, this aspect of the screenplay does deserve a modest rating for authenticity.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The acting is the strongest element of Amish Grace. There are virtually no errors with the emotions or line delivery. It’s clear that the cast members were professionally coached, which leads to a perfect score for this section.

Conclusion

There was so much that could have been done in this movie. The true story is extremely compelling and poignant, but the potentially powerful message is not effectively communicated in Amish Grace. Nonetheless, there are still meaningful elements in this film, so it’s likely worthy your time. We just wonder what could have been.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

Gimme Shelter [2013] (Movie Review)

Gimme Shelter,' movie review - New York Daily News

Plot Summary

Agnes Bailey, who goes by Apple, was raised in a terrible environment. Thus, after Apple finds out that she’s pregnant, she decides to make a run for it away from her drug-addicted mother. Apple tries to find her long-lost father, who lives in an affluent area. However, Apple will have to wrestle with the demons of her past before she can find true rest.

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, this production is a mixed bag. There is some shaky camera work and inconsistent lighting. However, video quality is fine, and the audio is mostly acceptable. The soundtrack is intriguing even if there are background sounds at times. As a while, sets, locations, and props are realistic, and editing is acceptable. All production elements do improve with time, so this section does enough to receive an above-average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Gimme Shelter is an authentic look at real struggles that is sometimes a bit too raw. There are one too many instances of course language and edgy content, and the first half of the narrative meanders before finding a footing. It’s good that the writers refrained from an overly preachy Christian message, but more redemptive themes would have been preferred. Nonetheless, the characters and dialogue are still very believable even if some sequences are wasted and unnecessarily drawn-out. More meaningful flashbacks could have fleshed out the plot and helped it avoid so much telling. As it is, the stream-of-consciousness storytelling style sometimes works and sometimes does not. The narrative needs a more central focus and stronger themes, but the realistic look at life is refreshing. Thus, an average score is warranted for this section.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Despite previous shortcomings, the acting is the strongest point of Gimme Shelter. The performances therein are very solid with no discernable errors. Emotions and line delivery are on point. This rounds out an overall above-average film.

Conclusion

At the time, Gimme Shelter stood apart from other quasi-Christian screenplays that were being released in the 2010s. This movie was almost too authentic and shocking, and there are quite a few rough edges in Gimme Shelter. Nonetheless, perhaps the most significant element that held this film back from being all that it could have been was its lack of plot focus and organization. The writers relied too heavily on the gritty aspects and forgot the keep the audience engaged with the characters. Thus, this creation serves as a warning for future projects of this caliber.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

Into His Arms (Movie Review)

Into His Arms (1999) | Full Movie | Marcia Welch-Kahler | Joel King |  Travis Opdyke | Marc Linn - YouTube

Plot Summary

When a little girl goes missing, the community is shaken. Her parents are beside themselves as they demand for the police to do something. Many authorities are dismissing the disappearance as a simple accident, but one detective isn’t convinced. He won’t stop until he finds out the truth.

Production Quality (0 points)

With very poor audio quality, inconsistent video, and bad lighting, this production is mostly a disaster. Scenes are too bright in the outdoors and too dark in the indoors. Backgrounds sounds are annoying, as is shaky camera work. Sets, locations, and props are extremely cheap, giving the film the feel of a cheap reality show. Weird flashes and special effects disorient the audience, and editing is extremely random. Needless to say, this production has no potential, which is why no points are awarded here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Between very obvious messaging and incredibly unsubstantial dialogue, watching this screenplay is a real drag. There are tons of scenes without conversations and useless montages that waste time. Many side characters do nothing to advance the narrative, and the viewer isn’t drawn into the suspense. Despite the tragic circumstances of the plot, the audience feels nothing due to the totally blank and empty characters. Otherwise good themes are lost in the most boring possible portrayal of a crime drama that’s full of characters staring into space. Then, to top everything off, a wild climax sequence concludes the story by disrupting the overall tone of the movie with an over-the-top ending. Hence, another score of zero is warranted.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Between extremely sappy and unbelievable emotions and overly practiced line delivery, the acting of Into His Arms leaves much to be desired. Many cast members are very over-the-top in their performances, including a lot of fake happiness. Thus, due to lack of potential in this section, no points can be awarded.

Conclusion

In the end, older creations like this film had an uphill battle to fight due to low production potential. There was also a lack of adequate understanding when it came to effective acting. However, this doesn’t diminish the fact that screenplays like Into His Arms are just bad in every way. They have no impact on the audience and only serve as a relic of days that were darker for Christian entertainment. Hopefully, we can move past these times.

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

It’s a Life Worth Living (Movie Review)

It's A Life Worth Living (2020) | Full Movie | Daniel Jeffries | Angela  Roberts Johnson - YouTube

Plot Summary

John is running from his dark past, trying to conceal his demons of substance abuse while living a seemingly normal life. However, when everything falls apart, he has nowhere to turn. Thus, he is forced to look to God for strength to continue on and rebuild.

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the production of It’s a Life Worth Living is acceptable. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are fine. Sets, locations, and props are average or better. The main concerns with this section are the wild editing and disorienting special effects in certain sequences. Sometimes, there are very abrupt transitions that cut things off mid-scene. Thus, a slightly above-par score is warranted here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This narrative is certainly interesting and contains flawed characters. However, the radio-style storytelling is a crutch for actual character development, and this method of plot development encourages large time jumps that are bridged with exposition. The writers tried to cover too much ground in the narrative, and the storyline meanders without much purpose. Despite slight potential, the plot needs lots of reorganization and shoring up. The characters therein are okay but are slightly one-dimensional due to unsubstantial dialogue. Redemption moments are interesting but are unearned due to the weak characters and unclear motivations. The writers’ understanding of substance abuse is okay but incomplete as it makes it seem like that Christian rehab is a magic fix as the protagonist is quickly healed after just a few short steps. Mental health therapy is also viewed in an unrealistic way, and recovery is portrayed as too fast and easy. These shortcomings overshadow the otherwise interesting concepts that are explored in this narrative as well as the non-linear method of storytelling. Unfortunately, as the film progresses, things only get worse with a stupid climax sequence that’s based on childish coincidences, leading to a very ridiculous conclusion. In the end, slight potential is present in this section, but it’s mostly a disappointment.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite a few errors among the lead cast members, the main actors and actresses of this screenplay post pretty good performances. However, the supporting cast is quite week in their performances. Some emotions and lines are too over-the-top in certain moments. Although there is a strong beginning in the acting, this aspect of the movie unfortunately worsens with time. Therefore, an average score is warranted here.

Conclusion

It’s evident that the creators of It’s a Life Worth Living wanted to make an authentic film about substance abuse struggles. However, more research was needed in this area, and story consultation was needed to present the narrative in a more audience-friendly manner. Further, the acting needed shoring up. Nonetheless, with more refinement, this creative team could move on to better things in the future.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Following the Subplots of The Chosen (Season 2, Episode 7: Reckoning)

The Chosen has been a transformational series, and it’s now in its second season. Its audience has exploded in the past year and only has more potential to grow. As the first multi-season Bible series to be created, it has the potential to reach beyond traditional Christian audiences and transform the culture both inside and outside the church. The series’ connections with real people in a Jewish cultural context as they encounter the Messiah are its biggest assets, so here’s a helpful guide to help keep up with the core subplots we saw in the second season’s seventh episode, entitled “Reckoning.”

***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***

Simon son of Jonah, Andrew, Big James, and John son of Zebedee

After Jesus sends the sons of Jonah and the sons of Zebedee on a quest to catch enough fish to feed the group, the two sets of brothers decide to have a competition to decide who will do the work. Andrew is on edge, but the others want to have some fun. However, Andrew insists that they need to obey Jesus, or bad things will happen. The three other men brush this off and go through with the contest, which leads to the Sons of Thunder winning, leaving the sons of Jonah to fish.

John son of Zebedee and Big James rejoin some of the others who are listening to Jesus as He shares information about the upcoming sermon. As soon as the sons of Zebedee arrive, Jesus asks them if they won a competition, which the Sons of Thunder affirm. Later, when Gauis and Atticus, along with their detachment, come to detain Jesus for questioning, John and Big James try to defend Jesus, but Jesus instructs them to drop their weapons and step back. The two brothers reluctantly do this and helplessly watch as Jesus is taken away.

Previously, Simon son of Jonah and Andrew had been arguing while they were fishing. Their conflict ranged from Jesus drawing too much attention to Himself by angering the Pharisees and Romans to how Mary Magdalene hurt the group with her temporary backslide. Simon is more cool than usual and tries to encourage his brother to embrace what’s happened and to not be so hard on Mary Magdalene. However, Andrew is extremely on edge about everything that’s happened because of the recent arrest of John the Baptizer.

The two brothers put their argument on hold to fish, but their silence is interrupted by Simon noticing Gaius’ detachment of soldiers approaching Jesus on the shoreline. Simon tries to calm Andrew before his brother sees the Roman troops, but it’s too late. Andrew flips out and the sons of Jonah scramble to get back to shore. However, by the time they arrive back at camp, Jesus is already gone. Simon and Andrew accuse the group of not doing enough to stop the detainment, but some of the disciples tell them what Jesus said about coming back. This fact seems to calm Simon son of Jonah, but Andrew is inconsolable as he angrily tells the others that they’re not doing enough. Andrew also goes off on Mary Magdalene, blaming her for the problems of the day, before storming off to find Jesus.

Andrew is joined by Philip in his quest to save Jesus since Andrew could not save John the Baptizer. They make their way to Jotapata to see if Jesus is at the local jail, but Andrew becomes distracted by Tamar and Ethan, who are preaching about Jesus to a crowd of protesters. Andrew freaks out again because he thinks that they are drawing too much attention to Jesus, which is why he drags Tamar and Ethan away from the crowd to tell them this.

While Philip checks out the jail, Andrew explains what’s going on, and Tamar doesn’t want to be silent until Yussif comes to warn Tamar about Shmuel and Yanni looking for her. This prompts Ethan to decide to lay low for awhile and Tamar to ask Andrew if she can follow Jesus, which Andrew reluctantly agrees to.

Later, after Jesus returns to the camp, Simon son of Jonah asks the Rabbi to teach the group to pray like He does, which Jesus agrees to do.

Mary Magdalene, Mary Mother, Ramah, Nathanael, Philip, Simon son of Zebulon, Thomas, Thaddeus, and Little James

When Jesus is detained by the Roman detachment, Mary Mother is visibly affected by this event. Nathanael tries to protect and help her during this. Later, Mary Magdalene and Ramah also provide comfort to Mary Mother. As the group argues about what to do regarding Jesus’ detainment, Mary Magdalene, Ramah, Mary Mother, Nathanael, Thaddeus, and Little James all firmly believe that they need to trust what Jesus said about His coming back. However, Simon son of Zebulon asserts that Jesus could have been speaking in code, trying to let the group know that they needed to break Him out of jail. Nathanael takes issue with this interpretation, saying that zealots are always looking for codes and riddles in plain speech.

Mary Magdalene offers to help Andrew find Jesus. However, when Andrew accuses Mary Magdalene of being responsible, she apologizes for her mistake and insists that she will wait and hold on to what Jesus said. Mary Mother becomes afraid when there’s talk of imprisonment, and Ramah and Matthew come to the defense of Mary Magdalene. After Andrew storms away, Philip tells Mary Magdalene that he will go with Andrew because he has experience waiting for a rabbi outside of jails.

In Jotapata, Philip helps to calm Andrew and checks the jail, finding nothing. Philip returns to find Andrew talking to Tamar, Ethan, and Yussif but is confused about what’s going on.

After Jesus returns to the camp, the entire group of disciples is glad to see Him, and He tells them that He had already promised to return. The sons of Zebedee agree that they need to do better and want to know what type of prayer they can pray like John the Baptizer taught his disciples. Jesus congratulates His followers for behaving like true students by asking questions and begins to teach them the Lord’s prayer.

Later, Jesus awakes Matthew early in the morning to begin organizing Jesus’ thoughts for the upcoming sermon.

Shmuel, Yanni, Yussif, Madai, and Lamech

Shmuel returns to Capernaum with Yanni and is greeted by Yussif, who appears excited to hear about Shmuel’s work in Jerusalem. However, Shmuel is more interested in tracking down Tamar to see if he can find the leper who Jesus healed so that Shmuel can determine where this took place on the Sabbath. Yussif is quietly suspicious of this endeavor but tries to conceal this. Yanni seems wary of Yussif because of Yussif’s veiled attitude. Eventually, Yussif tells Shmuel that an informant told him that Tamar was seen preaching in Jotapata, which draws ire from Shmuel.

Before heading to Jotapata, Shmuel and Yanni visit Quintus’ office but are stonewalled by the clerk and attending soldier. Quintus’ office is not interested in outdated intel about Jesus being in Jerusalem because they are more concerned about his affiliation with the Zealot Order of the Fourth Philosophy. In the end, Shmuel and Yanni are run out of the office because Rome has no time for them.

In Jotapata, Shmuel and Yanni are unable to talk to the Pharisees who are standing around on the street praying because these Pharisees will not interrupt their rituals. Thus, Shmuel and Yanni are forced to pay a beggar for information about where Tamar is, which she gives to them. However, Yussif, in disguise, reaches Tamar first to warn her of the plans of his colleagues.

While Shmuel and Yanni are searching for Tamar, they find the group of pilgrims to whom Tamar was preaching. However, Tamar is nowhere to be found, but before they can look for her, Shmuel and Yanni are interrupted by Madai and Lamech, who overheard Shmuel and Yanni discussing Jesus. The two pairs of Pharisees compare notes about what they’ve seen Jesus do.

Atticus, Quintus, and Gaius

Once Atticus enter Capernaum, he sees one of the notices that Quintus had put up regarding reporting the whereabouts of Jesus of Nazareth to Quintus’ office. Atticus takes the notice to Quintus’ office and demands an audience. The clerk gives Atticus trouble at first but admits Atticus when he discovers that Atticus is a member of the Cohortes Urbanae. Once with Quintus, Atticus demands that Quintus do something about Jesus based on the evidence that Atticus provides.

Thus, Quintus instructs Gaius to lead a detachment of Roman soldiers to detain Jesus for questioning. Atticus tags along with a cagey motive that Gaius doesn’t buy. After prodding from Gaius, Atticus reveals that he’s both perplexed and scared by Jesus because Jesus doesn’t seem scary and has seemingly accomplished amazing things. Throughout the course of the conversation, Atticus also convinces Gaius to go around Jotapata because of the potential danger in that town.

Once Gaius, Atticus, and the detachment arrive at the area around Jesus’ camp, Gaius orders Jesus to come peacefully and to have everyone else step back. When asked if anyone was armed, Jesus said that some of His followers were, which draws aggression from the soldiers. After Jesus calms His students and tells Gaius that Matthew was back at the camp. Gaius pretends to be tough when he remarks that many of the followers seemed underfed, and quietly to Jesus, Gaius says that Matthew was used to eating well and asked Jesus what He had to offer Matthew. When Jesus says that they should talk about it later, Gaius leads Him away with his detachment.

When Gaius brings Jesus to Quintus, Quintus orders Gaius to leave, but Atticus stays in the room. Atticus looks on as Quintus and Jesus have a philosophical conversation about how Jesus has both helped and hurt Quintus’ standing with Rome with impossible feats and annoying situations. Jesus remains calm and collected while Quintus tries to get a rise out of Him. In the end, Quintus can’t find anything to punish Jesus for and lets Him go with a warning to stop causing trouble, which Jesus doesn’t agree to. Quintus also leaves a parting swipe by referencing the arrest of John the Baptizer. After Jesus leaves, Quintus smugly says that the experience was fun, but Atticus is confused as to why Quintus sees no issues with Jesus.

Tamar and Ethan

Tamar and Ethan are preaching about Jesus in Jotapata, sharing with a group of pilgrims about how Ethan was healed of paralysis. Tamar also shares what she saw Jesus do for the leper. The pilgrims want to know where Jesus is and why Tamar is sharing about Him when He told the leper not to do so. Tamar is unsure of Jesus’ whereabouts but says that she cannot remain silent because Jesus never told her to be quiet.

After being interrupted by Andrew, Tamar and Ethan retreat to the alley with Andrew. There, Tamar learns of Jesus’ detainment but is confused as to why she cannot speak of His miracles since she is not part of the Jewish religion. At this point, Yussif appears to warn Tamar of those who are looking for her. Ethan says that they need to lay low, and Tamar tells Andrew that she wants to follow Jesus.

The Chosen, Season 2 (Series Review)

Producer of Bible-Based TV Show 'The Chosen' Shares S2 On-Set Update

Plot Summary

After Jesus launched his public earthly ministry and took it to the next level by going to Samaria, the disciples thought that everything would be easy for them. However, things don’t pan out the way that they expect as they struggle with group dynamics, dark pasts, and outside opposition. In the end, as Jesus prepares for a sermon that will take His ministry to the next level, the disciples have to come to terms with what their new life means and what the Messiah has come to truly accomplish.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Many aspects of the production of Season 2 have greatly improved from Season 1, most notably the camera work, sets, and locations. However, for the most part, this talented team retained the authenticity and grittiness that was captured in Season 1 despite having more to work with. Camera work, video quality, and audio are all top-notch. Sets, locations, and props are realistic and culturally accurate. There are virtually no editing problems, so the only minor nitpick here is the fact that a few key moments are lacking the soundtrack that has come to be one of the core tenets of The Chosen. It’s unclear why this was the case, but it takes the wind out of the sails in certain circumstances. Nonetheless, this is another top-quality production that’s worthy of a high score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

It’s undeniable that the writers of The Chosen put much effort into making sure that the narrative is engaging and as accurate as possible. Season 2 is full of relatable and deep character arcs that portray the human experience and progress in realistic ways. Dialogue and conversations are excellent although slightly lacking some of the philosophy that we grew to love in Season 1. In Season 2, we get to watch a plausible interpretation of how the disciples might have interacted and how outside groups like the Pharisees and Romans may have approached Jesus in His early earthly ministry. There’s no doubt that the creators took the storytelling of the series to the next level by building intrigue and backstory for the outside events that were likely surrounding Jesus’ earthly ministry. For the most part, all characters are depicted as nuanced and motivated by various factors rather than all good or all bad. Further, the world-building in this season is superb as the writers demonstrate firm commitment to exploring and portraying the first-century Jewish culture in which Jesus lived. The main contention in this section that prevents a perfect score is the somewhat disjointed ending to the season. Some leaps in logic are taken to force a certain point, and the core philosophy of the show is temporarily abandoned just so certain moments can happen. This conclusion seems out-of-place compared to the rest of the season, which is disappointing since it’s the last thing that is seen. Nonetheless, there is still plenty to celebrate in this season as this plot is still very high quality.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

For the most part, The Chosen, Season 2 picks up right where the first season left off in the acting department. Sporting an extremely talented cast of culturally authentic members, the learned accents enhance the realistic experience. Nearly 95% of all performances are very strong, including emotions and line delivery in key moments. However, there are a few missteps that keep this section from being perfect. For instance, Noah James is expected to do a lot more than his acting range allows him to do, which is a drag. Other scenes are obviously one-takes due to extenuating circumstances, so this is an unfortunate fact. In the end, however, this section still receives a very high score due to loaded talent.

Continuity Quality (3 points)

The writers of The Chosen are clearly skilled in establishing setups and payoffs in their narratives. In Season 2, character arcs and storylines are also superb. No scene is wasted, and logical reasons are given for why things happen. As previously mentioned, the world-building of this series is unparalleled as the viewer is drawn into an authentic experience in first-century Judea. There are virtually no errors in this section.

Conclusion

The Chosen, Season 2 receives one x-factor point for attention to detail and making everything count. However, unlike the first season, this follow-up seasons does not receive the other x-factor point for rewatchability. It was evident during the lead-up to this season that Season 2 would be one that sets up many future events, and this assertion was definitely true. Set-up is necessary, but it doesn’t always produce rewatchability. Nonetheless, we respect what is being done here since it will hopefully make future seasons even better. One word of caution that we have to offer is that, much like Jesus’ ministry in the series is becoming more popular, as The Chosen increases in real-world popularity, especially among the Christian elite, the creative team will face an even more daunting task of avoiding the accidental creation of an echo chamber. We love The Chosen and everything that they are doing, and there were many enjoyable moments that make Season 2 worth your time (and land the season on the Hall of Fame). Because we care about The Chosen and the team behind it, we feel the need to offer a small warning about the future of this series: don’t let it go the way of all Christian projects. Stay committed to being different and doing what God wants you to do.

Final Rating: 11.5 out of 14 points

To the Ends of the Earth [2018] (Movie Review)

Watch To The Ends of the Earth | Prime Video

Plot Summary

When the Apostle Paul went to Philippi, this was the first time that the gospel of Jesus Christ had reached the continent of Europe. However, Paul faced much opposition and many trials in his mission to follow the Lord’s calling. Nonetheless, his obedience changed countless generations to come.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Although video quality is fine and the soundtrack is culturally sensitive, dizzying camera work and confusing special effects hold the production back from being what it could have been. Sets, locations, and props are great, but sound effects are poor. Further, editing is inconsistent, which goes with the overall theme of this production being a mixed bag. Thus, an average scored is granted here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While it’s commendable that the writers of this narrative focused on one short aspect of Paul’s ministry, the apostle himself is too perfect of a character, which means that it’s hard to relate to him as a person. Also, demonic elements are too sensational as too much time is spent on dark spirituality. Elsewhere, the story presentation is confusing since it makes the progression of events very unclear. Most of the characters are inaccessible and hard to connect with due to procedural dialogue. Unfortunately, although this plot could have been interesting, it doesn’t offer any potential because attention is given to all the wrong things.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though the casting is sometimes culturally authentic, this is not always the case. Nonetheless, the actors and actresses make some good attempts at accents. Sometimes, the acting is believable while other times, the performances are too theatrical and stoic. Emotions and line delivery can be a bit uneven at times. Unfortunately, the bad outweighs the good in this section, which leads to a sub-par score.

Conclusion

Period pieces about well-known Bible characters are very difficult to effectively execute. There are many moving parts and small details that are easy to get wrong. As a whole, it seems like that the creators of To the Ends of the Earth had the right motives but not always the correct philosophy. Unfortunately, there are just too many pitfalls in this screenplay that kept it in the basement of Christian entertainment.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

The Appointment [1991] (Movie Review)

The Appointment (Spanish) (1991) | Full Movie | Karen Jo Briere | Art Oden  | Leslie Basham - YouTube

Plot Summary

Liz is a journalist who just hates God with a passion. Her entire job consists of writing anti-God articles in the paper. Liz is clearly bent on evil, so she doesn’t believe a strange message that she hears from a mysterious messenger who claims to be from the Lord. The message is that Liz will die at a specific time on a specific day, which was why she needed to get saved. Liz laughs this off, but as the day gets closer, she becomes more and more uncertain of what she believes. Will be turn to Christianity before it’s too late???

Production Quality (0 points)

As a 1990s production, The Appointment is just bad, even for the time period. Video quality is cheap, lighting is inconsistent, and camera work is random, including silly mid-shot zooms. Audio quality is disrupted by weird sound effects, noticeable background sounds, and an overpowering, in-your-face soundtrack. Further, very abrupt cuts and transitions sometimes completely cut off scenes in abrupt and shocking ways. Needless to say, no points can be awarded in this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

In the most propaganda-level fashion, the Christiano team made sure to craft one of the most offensive portrayals of Christians and non-Christians known to Christian entertainment. The “bad” characters are downright evil pariahs who are bent on destroying Christianity. Many other characters are generic and vanilla due to blank dialogue, but almost every conversation is used to push agendas, preach at people, and force ideas down the viewers’ throats. Some scenes are very short and punctuated. In general, the writers seemed to have a really bizarre obsession with the main character dying, which further contributes to a portrayal of Christianity that will repulse people. In the end, due to offensive elements, this aspect of the film must receive negative points.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The performances in The Appointment are either generic or overplayed. Some cast members are trying too hard to be interesting, which sometimes comes off as overly theatrical. Forced line delivery and emotions don’t help matters. Further, cheap costuming caps off a section that lacks any substantial potential.

Conclusion

As we’ve said time and time again, trying to scare people into being saved is one of the worst things that a Christian can do. This is not the objective of our faith, yet some Christian creators seem to think that it is. Though older than other movies, The Appointment still tarnishes the reputation of Christian entertainment. The one hope is that we are now past these dark days.

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

Secrets in the Fall (Movie Review)

Secrets in the Fall- Official Extended Trailer - YouTube

Plot Summary

After being stuck in school for a snowbound night, a group of teenagers became friends for life. Now, they’re working together as counselors at a Christian camp. However, not everything goes smoothly as some campers don’t want to be there for various reasons. Will they all be able to wok together to make the week memorable?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Beginning with a cheap found-footage feel, this production doesn’t live up to professional standards. Background noises and shaky camera work don’t help matters. While video quality, sets, locations, and props are okay, there’s not much soundtrack to speak of. Editing also contains concerns, including lagging scenes, awkward fadeouts, and weird sped-up portions of the film that confuse the audience. Despite some slight production improvement with time, this section can’t receive any more than an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

From the get-go, the narrative is filled with convenient exposition that shoves information into the viewers’ faces. When this finally stops, the dialogue is somewhat acceptable yet could use some work. Although this screenplay is a sequel, characters are one-dimensional due to lots of blank scenes that accomplish nothing. Additionally, the high number of characters crowds out the runtime, causing many subplots to get lost in the shuffle and characters to get neglected. As a result of wasted time, character arcs are too steep as shortcuts are taken to force lessons upon the audience. Though there are some good attempts at making the “bad” characters neutral by giving them reasons for their actions, which is the tiny shred of potential in this story that keeps it from receiving no points, there is still not much focus or purpose in this narrative. Characters undergo very self-aware growth without experiencing circumstances that would promote these behaviors, which is unrealistic. In the end, the Every New Day creative team often tries to craft character-based plots but continue to lack key elements that are needed or success.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, the acting of Secrets in the Fall is mostly generic due to there being nothing special or terrible. Line delivery and emotions are standard. Thus, with no positive or negative standouts, this section receives an average score.

Conclusion

Secrets in the Snow had a good amount of potential, but this follow-up seems forced and unnecessary. Sequels should build upon what was previously accomplished, but this movie takes a step backward. It seems like that the Goodwins have noble intentions with their creations, but they have taken a quantity over quality approach. Perhaps it’s time for them to take a step back and focus on producing fewer screenplays that contain more meaning.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Following the Subplots of The Chosen (Season 2, Episode 6: Unlawful)

The Chosen has been a transformational series, and it’s now in its second season. Its audience has exploded in the past year and only has more potential to grow. As the first multi-season Bible series to be created, it has the potential to reach beyond traditional Christian audiences and transform the culture both inside and outside the church. The series’ connections with real people in a Jewish cultural context as they encounter the Messiah are its biggest assets, so here’s a helpful guide to help keep up with the core subplots we saw in the second season’s sixth episode, entitled “Unlawful.”

***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***

Simon son of Jonah, Matthew, and Mary Magdalene

Simon son of Jonah and Matthew continued their search for Mary Magdalene in Jericho, sleeping in someone’s stable overnight. In the morning, Matthew is intent on making a plan to find Mary and forgot to stay clean while lying in the hay. Simon takes note of this and also realizes that Matthew has an attraction to Mary as Matthew describes Mary to Simon. Simon appears to soften to Matthew as a result of this. The two men are interrupted by a hungover Roman soldier stumbling by the stable, making comments about having quite a night at a bar called The Nomad. Simon tries to help the solider, but the soldier is obviously prejudiced against Jews. However, Matthew infers from one of the soldier’s comments that The Nomad has stairs, implying that Mary could be there based on what Jesus told him about remembering the verse from Psalm 139.

In The Nomad, Mary Magdalene is getting drunk and gambling on knucklebones. She has turned her one shekel into a pile of shekels, but she is being heavily scrutinized by the rough men at the gambling table. When one of the men, Hohj, is angry about losing all his money, he tries to move toward Mary, but Jethro stops him. Nonetheless, after looking around and remembering what her father told her about what to do when she was scared, Mary abruptly exits the bar, leaving her gambling winnings behind.

Matthew and Simon enter The Nomad later, and Matthew awkwardly asks the crowded room if they had seen someone fitting the description of Mary. Hohj recognizes Mary as Lilith and blames her his losing all his money. After leaving The Nomad, Matthew insists that he and Simon need to split up to cover more ground, but Simon is worried about Matthew getting lost. Matthew says that they have to do what they can to find Mary because it’s important to take her back to Jesus. Simon reluctantly agrees, but just as he’s pointing out directions for Matthew to follow, Mary calls to them from an alleyway.

Mary is sitting in an alley, hungover from being drunk. She wasn’t sure as first if seeing Simon and Matthew was a dream, and the two men rush over to her. They want to help her to return to Jesus, but Mary insists that she’s not going anywhere because Jesus fixed her once and probably couldn’t fix her again. Matthew tells Mary that he’s a bad person and used to live only for himself without any faith. Matthew also reminds Mary of what she contributes to the group and encourages Simon to do the same. Simon reminisces about how Mary helped Tamar bring the paralytic to the roof of Zebedee’s house, and Matthew says that Ramah is learning more about Torah because of Mary. At this point, Mary seems convinced but is interrupted by hangover vomiting. Rather than being repulsed, Matthew takes off his handkerchief to help Mary clean up. Matthew directs Simon to go get water, and Simon does, surprised at what Matthew is doing.

Simon and Matthew lead Mary Magdalene back to the camp of disciples where they are greeted by Ramah and Mary Mother. Mary Magdalene is hesitant to see Jesus, but Mary Mother insists that she needs to see Him immediately. Mary Mother leads Mary Magdalene to Jesus’ tent, where He is sad and praying after the news of John the Baptizer’s arrest. Jesus tells Mary Magdalene that He’s not distraught over her but that there’s a lot going on, which is why it’s good for Mary Magdalene to be back. Mary Magdalene is still inconsolable because she feels like there’s no reason why she should have thrown away what Jesus had given to her. Jesus says that redemption can’t be lost in a day and that He knows how painful Mary’s trauma was for her. Jesus explains that no one can be instantly perfect and that these things take time. Mary, although she apologizes, still isn’t convinced that she can be fixed, so Jesus verbally forgives Mary, which prompts Mary to cling to Him and finally accept His forgiveness.

While Jesus talks to Mary Magdalene, Matthew listens outside the tent. When they had first come in, Simon son of Jonah had learned of the arrest of John the Baptizer and gone to find Andrew, who was freaking out about the situation. Later, after leaving the synagogue of Wadi Kelt, Simon begins to subconsciously pick heads of grain while he excitedly recaps for the group what Jesus had just done. However, when the group stares at Simon’s actions, he realizes that he was doing work on Shabbat and spits out what he had eaten. After Simon apologizes to Jesus for this perceived error, Jesus tells the group that they can eat the heads of grain, so everyone does.

After Simon son of Jonah had picked heads of grain, Matthew had asked Philip what the problem was. Matthew had also asked Philip why Madai and Lamech were so concerned about Jesus’ use of the term “Son of Man.”

Ramah and Mary Mother

As Ramah and Mary Mother forage for food by looking for edible plants, Ramah confides in Mary Mother that she is worried about Mary Magdalene and their whole situation in general. Ramah doesn’t understand why Jesus was allowing all of it to happen, especially since He had the power to make things better. Mary Mother says that she didn’t always understand how her Son worked, but she trusts that because the Father always took care of His children and knew what was best for them, Jesus would do the same. Ramah also reveals that she wants to be a teacher and that Mary Magdalene had been a great help to her.

Later, when Simon son of Jonah and Matthew bring back Mary Magdalene, Ramah and Mary Mother rush to greet Mary Magdalene. Ramah is glad to see her, and Mary Mother gives Mary Magdalene a new head covering. Though Mary Magdalene is hesitant, Mary Mother insists that she needs to go see Jesus. Thus, Mary Mother takes Mary Magdalene to Jesus and stays with her the whole time.

Thomas, Andrew, Thaddeus, Little James, Philip, Nathanael, and Simon son of Zebulon

While Simon son of Jonah and Matthew are gone, Thomas counts the group’s remaining food and confides in Andrew that they do not have enough portions left for everyone to eat for the next meal. However, Andrew is mentally distracted because he thinks that Philip has been gone for too long. Andrew absent-mindedly tells Thomas about how he used to follow John the Baptizer and not always have enough food, but sometimes, they would have too much food, depending on the people who had just been baptized. Thomas thinks that John the Baptizer needed better planning, but Andrew says that John never valued money at all.

When Philip returns, he reveals that John the Baptizer had been imprisoned by Herod for life because of what John had told the king. Andrew becomes distraught over this. Simon son of Zebulon confidently says that they could break John out of prison because Simon knew some people. Philip seems to be interested in this idea for a quick second, but he changes his mind and tells Simon that he’s no longer a zealot. Andrew says that nothing could be worse than John being imprisoned for life.

Thomas interjects in this discussion to share that the situation is worse than they know, saying that things like this never used to happen before he met the other disciples. This leads him to interrupt Jesus’ meeting with Mary Magdalene to tell his Rabbi that the group is running out of food. Jesus tells Thomas that this is the perfect time to ask the Father for what they need, especially with Shabbat coming. Jesus suggests that they go to a nearby synagogue in a small town for the Jewish holy day.

Thaddeus, Little James, and Nathanael do not have any substantial scenes in this episode.

Big James and John son of Zebedee

While they chop wood, the two Sons of Thunder talk about the current state of the group. John son of Zebedee tells his brother, in response to watching Simon son of Zebulon perform his zealot exercises, that he once considered joining the zealots. Big James says that he never knew this, and John implies that the thought was short-lived because he liked his comfortable life with Zebedee and Salome.

When discussing Mary Magdalene and feeling sorry for her, Big James discloses to his brother that he really doesn’t understand everything that’s going on because he’s just following. John says that he has a feeling that, for quite awhile, many in the group won’t understand everything that’s happening.

Shmuel and Yanni

Shmuel and Yanni are able to gain an audience with Shimon’s scribe, Dunash, but this higher-ranking Pharisee is dismissive of the claims that Shmuel and Yanni are bringing forth. Dunash loftily explains that Shimon, the current president of the Sanhedrin, is concerned with helping vulnerable populations and alleviating the burden of the Talmud rather than enforcing the rules of Shabbat. Yanni insists that blasphemy is an important matter, but Dunash berates Yanni as being stuck his lower position because he doesn’t listen. Shmuel insists that the law of God is perfect and doesn’t need to be softened, but Dunash, seemingly bored with the complaints, says that Shimon has no time for disputes over doing work on the Jewish holy day.

Later, Yanni rants about Dunash’s arrogant attitude and put-downs. Shmuel seems defeated and resigned to the matter being over. However, Yanni is ready to fight back, insisting that the situation is far from over because they now needed to go to Shimei, the leader of the opposite school of thought in the Sanhedrin. Yanni firmly believes the Shimei will not overlook the Shabbat violations because he is more stringent and will want a chance to one-up Shimon, who ignored the problems. Yanni and Shmuel agree that more testimony is needed before moving forward, and Shmuel wonders aloud why it took all this.

Madai and Lamech

In the small town of Wadi Kelt, Madai is the synagogue priest while Lamech is the teacher. When Jesus and His disciples come into the synagogue, Lamech is reading regulations from the Torah about who can and cannot enter the assembly of the Lord. Madai immediately notices the large group of people entering the building and stops Lamech from his reading. Lamech demands that Jesus tell them what He’s doing, but Jesus focuses on Elam, a man with a withered hand. Jesus highlights Elam’s infirmity for Madai and Lamech, but they insist that it’s not lawful to heal on Shabbat, which visibly frustrates Jesus. Jesus asks the general room if it was lawful for someone to take care of a lost animal on Shabbat, but Madai and Lamech order for Jesus to be silent and warn Elam that Jesus could be a shaman. Jesus ignores them and once again asks the room if it was lawful to save lives on Shabbat before telling Elam to stretch out his hand. Madai and Lamech insist that Elam’s affliction doesn’t impact his life or health, but Elam’s hand stretching out of his hand leads to its healing as the hand returns to full health. This lights Lamech’s fuse as he screams that God could have healed Elam if the healing was meant to happen. Madai angrily tells Jesus to leave before asking what was wrong with Him. Jesus says that apparently everything is wrong with Him as He and His disciples leave. However, Madai and Lamech suddenly call after them to come back.

Madai and Lamech catch up with the disciple group as they are eating heads of grain, complaining about Jesus making a mockery of their synagogue. They demand to know Jesus’ lineage before getting distracted by the disciples breaking off heads of grain on Shabbat and accusing Jesus of this transgression as well. Jesus reminds them of the time that King David ate the showbread, but Madai asserts that this event was an emergency. When Jesus says that the Levites also do work on shabbat, Lamech challenges Jesus to reveal his lineage to see if He’s from the tribe of Levi, but Jesus ignores this, instead telling the two Pharisees that something greater than the temple had come to them. Jesus chastised the two men for not showing mercy and thus condemning the innocent before telling them that Shabbat was made for man not man for Shabbat, for the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. This statement shocks Madai and Lamech, who are speechless as they watch Jesus and His disciples leave.

Later, Madai and Lamech are beside themselves as they breathlessly pen a report for Jerusalem about the events of the day. Madai laments that Jerusalem never gives them attention since their attention was divided by other matters but that this might might be their chance to be noticed even though they are a small town. Madai says that the best thing thing to do is to file the report, but because it might get lost in the paperwork shuffle, they also should see if they can find any fellow Pharisees to talk to in Jotapata, a nearby town. Lamech agrees that this is a good plan and that they also need to pray for justice.

Ahimalech, Yafa, Abiathar, and David

During the Old Testament period, Ahimalech was a priest in Nob. As his wife Yafa helps him get ready one morning, they discuss an ill family member with Yafa being a pessimist and Ahimalech being an optimist. Later, Ahimalech trains his son Abiathar in the practice of changing out the showbread, replacing the old bread with hot bread. As they do this, Ahimlaech explains to his son that God does not eat the bread, but it is a portion for the priests. The father and son are interrupted by David bursting through the door, so Ahimalech tells Abiathar to run home and tell his eema that all was well.

After Abiathar leaves, Ahimalech asks David why he came alone, and David explained that he was on an errand for the King and needed provision for his men, who were in hiding. David wants the showbread, but Ahimalech says that it’s for the priests, so David invokes a Jewish rule regarding emergency situations. Ahimalech relents, warning David that the men could not eat unless they were pure, and David insisted that they were. Before David leaves, Ahimalech says he doesn’t mind putting himself in danger to help the young man because something great would come through David.

Teen Musical: The Movie (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dr. Alexandra Park just wants to run the community center for the kids, but an evil businessman with unlimited political power wants to tear the building down to build something really important. Dr. Park’s only option to save the center is to host a musical and make money off of the tickets. Thus, she forces the kids she knows to work for free in this show. Will they be able to pull off their scheme in time???

Production Quality (1 point)

There is much to be desired in this production. Between inconsistent camera work and video quality, the viewing experience is difficult. Audio quality is also poor, including background noises, echoes, and a cringeworthy singing soundtrack. Also, overdubs and lip syncing are very obvious, and sets, locations, and props are very cheap. Further, editing is choppy, and despite some improvement throughout, this section doesn’t break the average line.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As this narrative jumps all over the place, the audience is assaulted with tons of empty characters and cardboard content. Plastic expository dialogue serves as a crutch to bridge the plot jumps. The villain character is totally ridiculous, and the out-of-left-field suspense elements that come with him are unrealistic. It’s too far-fetched to assume that the level of violence that is brought in by this absurd villain would actually occur in this situation. Besides this, the story is full of other cheesy clichés and constructs, such as the formulaic narrative structure of using a musical event to save a struggling organization. With so many things happening, all leading to a predictable conclusion, there’s no potential in this aspect of the film.

Acting Quality (1 point)

When you combine awkward acting with terrible singing in a musical, you have a disaster on your hands. Emotions are very manufactured throughout the movie, and the performances are overall too scripted and stiff. Despite slight improvement with time, this section doesn’t reach the average point.

Conclusion

This screenplay is just a mess, and this is exactly what we should not longer see in Christian entertainment. Teen Musical is nothing short of a disaster, which many musicals end up being. Hopefully, one day soon, we won’t have to keep wading through these murky waters.

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Future Tense [1990] (Movie Review)

Future Tense (1990) | Full Movie | Fred Carpenter | A.J. Merrill | Leigh  Lombardi | John Shannon - YouTube

Plot Summary

After a college student becomes a Christian while away from his family, he tries to encourage them to convert to his newfound faith. When they refuse, he decides to record a tape of what would happen to them if the Rapture came before they were saved. Coincidentally enough, after the student sends the tape to his family, the Rapture actually does happen! What will they do now???

Production Quality (.5 point)

As a 1990s production, Future Tense leaves much to be desired. The weird grainy and shady tint to the video disrupts the viewing experience, as do weird special effects. The soundtrack is loud and annoying, and other aspects of audio are unbalanced. The camera work, sets, locations, props, and editing are the only acceptable elements that prevent his section from receiving no points. Needless to day, this is a very low-quality production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Between heavy-handed messaging and lots of off-screen content that we only hear about, this narrative barely counts as storytelling. With hardly any actual dialogue to speak of, the characters are blank cardboard cutouts. The out-of-order plot style is poorly presented, which confuses the audience. Other aspects are generally boring as many scenes waste time. Also, the entire narrative is perfectly spoon-fed to the audience and magically constructed to fit a very narrow worldview. Further, the vague ending makes no sense and leaves the viewer wondering what just happened. In the end, this section receives a score of zero due to lack of potential.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Although the acting in this film is robotic and overly practiced, it’s actually the strongest aspect of the screenplay. This fact is mainly due to the fact that the lead actor posts the best performance. Elsewhere, however, there’s too much yelling and screaming. There’s not much else good to note here, which rounds out an underwhelming effort.

Conclusion

Apocalyptic movies about the Rapture were all the rage in the 1990s and early 2000s. However, the idea of trying to “scare” people into being saved is fairly morbid. I doubt creations like Future Tense made any significant impact, and such projects definitely have no influence in the more modern era. Once again, films like this one only serve as examples of how not to do it.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Genesis 7, Season 1 (Series Review)

Genesis 7 (TV Series 2012– ) - IMDb

Plot Summary

At some point, some creationist company got enough money to create their own space exploration program, complete with highly advanced and complex technology that allows crews to visit any part of the solar system. Captain Enoch Andrews and his crew are tasked with searching the outer reaches of the galaxy for evidence that disproves Darwinism and proves creationist propaganda to be true. What types of drama could they get up to???

Production Quality (1 point)

This production team bit off way more than they could chew. Incredibly cheap CGI dominates the viewing experience. Annoying sound effects and poor special effects are also problems to contend with. Shaky camera work and dark lighting don’t help matters. The soundtrack is generic, but video quality is fine. Also, the limited sets, locations, and props don’t represent what they are supposed to emulate. Further, the editing is full of awkward cuts and continuity errors. Nonetheless, there is slight improvement with time that is enough to prevent this section from staying in the basement.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

This series is essentially a tool of creationist propaganda. The writers had a clear agenda to push their opinions about young-earth creationism all the while relying on fake science to conveniently power their plot devices. In between constant spoon-feeding of tenets from the fundamentalist worldview, cardboard characters sit around in terrible CGI settings, reciting lines without feeling. As such, the dialogue and conversations are vanilla, full of information dumps and constant swipes at Darwinism. Every situation that the characters find themselves in is purposely contrived to push a point. When faced with stressful circumstances, the characters lack normal human emotions and reactions. Thus, there is basically no substantial conflict, and the narrative overall lacks clear purpose or focus. In the end, due to its propaganda elements, this storyline receives negative points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Although the acting is not all bad, much of it is extremely stilted and mechanical. Line delivery and emotions are robotic and unsure. Many performances are very muted and blank. Most of this section is very forgettable, leaving not much to say except that only a small score is warranted here.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

Throughout this ridiculous series, there are no actual subplots or arcs to follow between episodes. Nothing substantial happens at all as each episode basically repeats the others in slightly different ways. The writers just kept repackaging the same concepts over and over again, hoping no one would notice. Thus, no points are awarded here.

Conclusion

When a creator’s entire purpose is destroy another worldview by pushing propaganda, this endeavor will never end well. Audiences will see right through these schemes and call the efforts out for what they are. It’s un-Christian to try to convert people using the methods that are employed in Genesis 7. Fighting over scientific opinions simply is not worth it.

Final Rating: 1 out of 14 points

Don’t Give Up [2021] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Amy Samuel is drowning in depression due to everything that’s happened to her in life. She just wants to give up and leave her life behind. However, a set of circumstances prevents her from ending it all. As a result, Amy is forced to face her past in order to pick up the pieces and move on.

Production Quality (1 point)

Despite this production having fine video quality and okay camera work, there are a number of concerns to contend with. For instance, the audio is quite bad, including background echoes and a loud soundtrack. Special effects are very cheap. Also, sets, locations, and props are a bit limited. Further, editing is quite choppy. Thus, these missteps all lead to another below-average production for JC Films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Although the narrative is based on a true story, Don’t Give Up is a train-wreck of a film. Voiceover bridges time gaps and guides the viewer through the plot in a very heavy-handed manner. Sensationalism crowds out interesting psychological elements that provide the story with a small amount of potential. Some content is unnecessarily edgy, and expository dialogue short-circuits the sliver of potential that the characters had. Implied off-screen content makes for a confusing watch, and too many elements are unexplained as it seems like that the writers expected the audience to read a lot into various things. The time jumps create vacuums of information and a general atmosphere of random ideas being strung together with no clear focus or purpose. The flashbacks are slightly interesting since they make attempts to establish character motives, but the protagonist is fixed way too easily. It’s implied that getting saved will automatically fix clinical depression, and the story has a generally rushed conclusion. Therefore, though there is some potential in this section, only a small score can be awarded.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, the acting in this screenplay is average despite the fact that the performances are just average. Some cast members are way too dramatic in their acting, but they are balanced out by other cast members who are more even-keeled. Line deliver is mostly okay throughout the movie although some emotions are forced. While better coaching was definitely in order here, the performances overall improve with time. However, this section’s rating isn’t enough to save the movie from itself.

Conclusion

It’s commendable that Jason Campbell and his team continue to make films that are based on true stories. However, their flooding-the-market approach is still a detriment to Christian entertainment. Other production companies have tried this method in the past but have ultimately failed. At this rate, it’s hard to see how JC Films doesn’t end up with the same fate.

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Real Stories with Christ, Season 1 (Series Review)

Watch Real Stories With Christ | Prime Video

Plot Summary

Pastor Joe wants to be a good pastor, but church stuff is hard. The devil is always trying to throw him off, and it seems like every day, Joe experiences a modern-day version of a well-known Bible story. Will he and his wife be able to withstand the tests and trials of life???

Production Quality (1 point)

The group at Strong Foundation Films consistently produces low-quality productions, and this miniseries is no exception. Despite okay video quality, camera work is inconsistent throughout. Audio quality is poor, including loud background sounds and a generic soundtrack. While outside lighting is acceptable, indoor lighting is not, and the sets, locations, and props are cheap and limited. Further, editing is choppy, and although there is slight improvement with time in all production aspects, only a meager score can be awarded here because of all the concerns.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Like many other narratives produced by this creative team, the plot of Real Stories with Christ is very hard to follow. Presenting one thing after the next without much actual dialogue, the writers choose to have things randomly happen without good reasons. There is also a fixation on the dramatic and sensational, especially an unnecessary obsession with dark spiritual warfare as basically every episode has a long and drawn-out exorcism sequence. With these ridiculous wastes of time, the story lacks central focus, clear purpose, and consistent themes. Long conversations accomplish nothing and produce blank characters. Events only occur because the writers want them to happen, and problems are unrealistically fixed very quickly. Full of Christian platitudes, cheesy messaging, juvenile worldviews, and patriarchal attitudes, this section cannot receive any points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Per usual for Strong Foundation, the acting in Real Stories is predictably bad. Josiah David Warren dominates the screen time with his typically awkward and cringey performances. Many cast members are trying too hard, and some exhibit uneven lines and emotions that don’t appropriately fit the moment. Injury acting is laughably bad, and the biblical components of the acting include low-quality costuming and inaccurate cultural portrayals. However, there is at least some good acting in this series, such as the performances posted by Amber Shana Williams. Hence, a small score can be awarded here.

Continuity Quality (1 point)

It’s very confusing and unclear as to how this series relates to Who Am I? because Amber Shana Williams plays a different character in that movie than she does in Real Stories. This creates continuity problems, but there are other concerns in this section, such as a lack of character arcs. Though some subplots are followed between episodes, these narratives are formulaic and predictable. Also, some characters disappear between episodes with no good explanations. Thus, this rounds out an underwhelming effort.

Conclusion

This series is basically the culmination of all the other failed projects that have been produced by the Strong Foundation team. Real Stories includes all the predictable elements from this group and offers very little to redeem itself. As they continue to taint Christian entertainment with this offerings, there’s little advice to offer the Strong Foundation creators. They will obviously continue to do what they do without changing.

Final Rating: 3 out of 14 points

30 Day Promise (Movie Review)

30 Day Promise (2017) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Heather Winslow’s life has gone from bad to worse. In a short amount of time, she receives news that her husband wants to divorce and that she has cancer. However, she convinces her husband to wait 30 days to see what happens. During this time, Heather must have faith that God is still in control.

Production Quality (1 point)

Despite fine video quality, this film contains on overall cheap production. Audio quality is very inconsistent, including background noises and hard-to-hear lines. Camera work is mostly acceptable except for some moments of shaky cam. Sets, locations, and props are fairly limited, and the screenplay is full of disorienting montages and the use of split screens. Editing is poor, but there is a tiny bit of improvement as time goes on. Nonetheless, it’s not enough to warrant any more than a low score for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Due to stock and vanilla dialogue, the characters of this narrative are simply pawns in whatever scheme that the writers want to use them in. Bland conversations do nothing to aid character growth, and the creators give no real reasons for why the characters do what they do. Expository dialogue takes the place of scenes that show the audience what’s happening, and mentions of off-screen content are annoying. Events just happen randomly throughout the plot, and the viewing experience is confused by unnecessarily large time jumps. Lacking regard for realistic divorce proceedings and medical facts, the writers elect to advocate for unusual methods of getting a married couple to love each other again, demonstrating how little they understand about real relationships. In the end, with no potential in this aspect of the movie, no points can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting is actually the strongest aspect of 30 Day Promise. Although the performances are generic, they are neither horrible nor dynamic. In some scenes, it feels like the cast members are awkwardly standing around and reciting lines. However, some actors and actresses are better than others. The finished product is enough to justify an average score.

Conclusion

It’s possible that the creators of film meant well. However, it’s hard to tell based on their portrayal of Christian relationships. 30 Day Promise is essentially a half-finished idea that needed a lot more fleshing out before it was released to the public. In the end, there’s really nothing memorable about this creation, relegating it to the stockpile of forgotten Christian entertainment.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

A Father’s Legacy {The Old Man and the Pond} (Movie Review)

A Father's Legacy (2020) - IMDb

Plot Summary

After Nick Wolfe commits a crime out of desperation, he takes refuge in Billy Ford’s house, taking Billy as a hostage. Nick is injured from the fallout of the crime, but Billy isn’t really afraid of the younger man. Together, the two men forge an unlikely friendship as they wrestle their demons and face their dark pasts.

Production Quality (2 points)

Though this production is above-average, it’s still not quite up to modern standards. Most production elements are fine, such as camera work, but there are some odd camera angles. Audio quality, however, is acceptable, and the soundtrack is intriguing. Nonetheless, lighting is inconsistent, and sets, locations, and props are slightly limited. Moreover, editing is fine, and all aspects of the production improve with time. Thus, this score is warranted.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This narrative is mostly a mixed bag. Though the writers sometime push a patriarchal worldview, this concept isn’t fully committed to. Throughout the plot, there is a good use of flashbacks to establish character motive, and most of the dialogue is interesting. However, some conversations are driven by an agenda to imply that older generations were better than younger generations. Doing this wastes opportunities to explore the pros and cons of generational differences. Though there is some character complexity and imperfection, the storyline structure is basically formulaic. Despite some interesting themes, there is a need for more consistency and explanation. Perhaps one of the worst elements is the climax scene that makes no sense and tries to go too big without effective buildup. Then, the narrative meanders around before it ends on an awkward note. Therefore, due to small potential but lots of confusion, only a small rating can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the acting in A Father’s Legacy is above-average. Line delivery is very professional, but the few performances that there are are quite dramatic and dour. With such a small cast, the main actors shoulder the whole burden, and neither of them demonstrates much range of emotion. However, the acting does get better as the film progresses, thus leading to this score.

Conclusion

This screenplay contained intriguing psychological elements that needed more fleshing out, and as a whole, the movie was a collection of wasted potential. With mainstream cast members, unsure messaging, and attempts to be authentic, A Father’s Legacy feels like a cash grab. However, this attempt to collect from Christian audiences is very underwhelming. The writers could have tried a bit harder to make this one interesting. In reality, this film is likely to go over viewers’ heads. There was something that could have been done here, but it’s basically a misfire.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Coffee with God (Movie Review)

Coffee With God' Breaks the Mold, Brings an Uplifting Message to TV|  National Catholic Register

Plot Summary

Apparently, Jack has a special connection with God wherein they have coffee together and God makes sarcastic comments about stuff. God also gives Jack random missions to do things, such as going to heal people. However, one day, Jack gets a basically impossible assignment or something, and things happen.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, Coffee with God has an average production with only a few assorted errors. Video quality and camera work are acceptable, but audio quality leaves something to be desired. Some portions of the soundtrack are quite loud, and lighting is fairly inconsistent. Sets, locations, and props are mostly cheap and inadequate. Editing is okay, but the mixed-bag nature of this section can only lead to an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

The writers of this film espouse an extremely bizarre view of God that includes irreverent sarcasm and general weirdness. The characters seem to go out of their way to be odd and use purposely crude humor. A strange theology undercuts the narrative, and the plot itself is full of wasted time and pointless scenes. Dialogue does nothing to build characters, and many conversations fill time by going in circles without accomplishing anything. With no clear purpose or themes, this story meanders around until it’s mercifully over, having no impact on the audience except an annoying one. Thus, due to the strange worldview, this aspect of the screenplay receives a negative rating.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite the other concerns in this movie, the acting is mostly average. Not all the performances are bad, but some are a bit over-the-top. Other cast members are bland. There’s not enough positive or negative in this section to warrant anything but an average score.

Conclusion

It’s extremely unclear why this film was even made. What’s to gain from such a strange view of God and miracles? What is the audience for this screenplay? It’s too cheaply made to be a cash grab. It’s too isolating for much of Christian entertainment. In the end, there’s literally no point to Coffee for God except to serve as yet another example of how not to do it.

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Following the Subplots of The Chosen (Season 2, Episode 5: Spirit)

The Chosen has been a transformational series, and it’s now in its second season. Its audience has exploded in the past year and only has more potential to grow. As the first multi-season Bible series to be created, it has the potential to reach beyond traditional Christian audiences and transform the culture both inside and outside the church. The series’ connections with real people in a Jewish cultural context as they encounter the Messiah are its biggest assets, so here’s a helpful guide to help keep up with the core subplots we saw in the second season’s fifth episode, entitled “Spirit.”

***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***

Simon son of Jonah, Matthew, and Thomas

While others have gone outside the camp to complete various tasks, Matthew and Thomas are stuck helping each other prepare the meal for the group. Thomas voices his complaints, and Matthew tries to defend himself by saying that Thomas is only frustrated because Matthew was a tax collector. Thomas is sarcastic while Matthew believes himself to be a very humble person. During their spat, the two men are watching Mary Magdalene teach Ramah how to read as the two women sit in a tent. Matthew can tell that Mary is distracted and frustrated, but Thomas is jealous, thinking that Matthew is watching Ramah, which Matthew doesn’t refute.

Matthew and Thomas both hear Caleb, the demon-possessed man, outside the camp. Thomas grabs a knife for defense, so Matthew copies him, grabbing a nearby spoon. The two men rush to Mary Magdalene and Ramah as the two women come out of the tent, having also heard Caleb’s noise. When Caleb jumps out from behind a tent, Thomas and Matthew try to make a show of force, but Mary steps forward, trying to help Caleb get free of his demon. As Mary talks with Caleb, Matthew and Thomas hang back. After Jesus frees Caleb from the demon, Thomas prepares food for the victimized man.

Simon son of Jonah seems wary at the arrival of John the Baptizer but keeps quiet about the situation. After Simon son of Zebulon talks with Jesus, Simon son of Jonah introduces the new disciple to the other disciples. During this exchange, they discover that Mary Magdalene has been missing, so Simon son of Jonah goes to Christ, Who is practicing the Sermon on the Mount. Simon son of Jonah informs his Rabbi about Mary’s disappearance, and Matthew joins them. Simon accuses Matthew of spying, but the Lord tells Simon that Matthew needs to go with Simon to find Mary. Seeing a greater need, Simon relents and agrees. Before they leave, Jesus tells Matthew to keep the verse from Psalm 139 in his thoughts.

Ramah and Mary Magdalene

While picking persimmons for the group, Mary Magdalene is trying to memorize several Jewish prayers as well as the verse that Matthew had given to her and Ramah. However, Mary is distracted by two Roman soldiers who ride up to talk to each other on a nearby path. Mary drops the fruit and accidentally crumples her parchments as she tries to hide in fear.

Later, while trying to teach Ramah how to read, Mary is distracted and frustrated, which she takes out on Ramah when Ramah makes mistakes. After taking a break, Mary apologizes and admits that Ramah was doing fine. Ramah is accepting of Mary’s apology. Mary confesses that she has been frustrated about how she ignored the prayers that she had been holding and chose to hide from the Roman soldiers. Ramah implies that she has been frustrated with the nature of the group’s travels thus far.

As Caleb approaches the camp, Mary is able to sense the presence of demonic activity. She and Ramah go outside the tent to join Thomas and Matthew, and Caleb jumps out from behind the tent. Belial, the demon that’s possessing Caleb, says that it can smell something vile on all of them. After the standstill between Caleb and Matthew, Mary steps forward, trying to help Caleb by asking his real name. Belial remains in control of Caleb, calling Mary Lilith and reminding her of her past. Belial says that the seven demons that once possessed Mary told it stories about what Lilith was like. Mary insists that Caleb needs to say the name that his mother gave him, and Caleb tries, but Belial prevents him from doing this.

After Jesus casts Belial out of Caleb, Mary quietly leaves the camp, taking her bag with her. Along the road to Jericho, Mary is still distraught about the events of the day, but as a Roman soldier passes her without doing anything to her, Mary regains some of her old confidence. With a new outlook, Mary enters Jericho and goes to a questionable establishment where she asks for a man named Jethro. The man at the front of the business is hesitant to do this at first, calling her a nice girl. However, when Mary takes off her head covering and tells the man to pass along a message about a girl from The Hammer wanting to win back her money, the front man is more eager to find Jethro.

The front man takes Mary to a back room to meet Jethro, who immediately recognizes Mary as Lilith, thinking that she was dead. Mary says that she was sort-of dead and says that she brought her own money to pay for the gambling game.

Andrew, Thaddeus, Little James, Phillip, and Nathanael

When John the Baptizer comes to see the disciple group, Andrew is confused as to why his former rabbi is going back to Jerusalem until John the Baptizer explains his rationale.

Thaddeus and Little James, after witnessing Jesus cast Belial out of Caleb, assist Caleb with his recovery.

Phillip and Nathanael have no substantial scenes in this episode.

Simon son of Zebulon, Jesse, and Atticus

After Jesus had met with Jesse a second time to tell Jesse to go and sin no more, Jesse was questioned by Shmuel and Yanni. Jesse told the two Pharisees that he hadn’t heard much of what Jesus and His disciples had said because Jesse was more focused on his healed legs. Jesse is still excited about his ability to walk, and he ends up disclosing to Shmuel and Yanni that one of Jesus’ disciples had mentioned going to see Jesus’ cousin. When Jesse hears that Jesus is from Nazareth, Jesse is surprised.

After leaving the interrogation, Jesse encounters Atticus, who was spying on the healed man. Atticus pretends to be a friend who just heard about the miracle and wanted to know more because he allegedly believed in the miracle. Jesse is hesitant to share much but reveals that he had encountered his brother soon after the healing. Jesse also reluctantly disclosed to Atticus that Jesse’s brother believed the healer to be the Messiah. Atticus pretends to be excited about this fact.

Simon son of Zebulun is searching for Jesus in the wilderness, which is where Simon encounters Caleb. Trying to remain hidden from the demon-possessed man doesn’t work because Belial can smell Simon following Caleb. Caleb begs for Simon to kill him, but Simon decides against this since Caleb was neither a Roman nor a tax collector and because the demons would go somewhere else. Simon reasoned that Caleb was strong enough to have lucid moments and would be fine. When Belial takes control again, the demon says that Simon has a vile smell on him, and Simon thinks that it’s because he hugged Jesse, who had not taken care of personal hygiene in a while. However, Belial insists that the smell is of a holy person, but Simon says that Jesse had not been holy for quite a long time.

Simon leaves Caleb and finds the camp of the disciples, watching them from a tree. However, Caleb follows Simon to the camp and startles Thomas, Matthew, Ramah, and Mary Magdalene. After the exchange between Belial and Mary, the demon forces Caleb forward to attack her, but Simon jumps out to stop the demon-possessed man. Nonetheless, Belial has allowed Caleb to be very strong, and after knocking Simon’s sica dagger away while Simon wasn’t looking, Caleb forces Simon to the ground and begins to strangle Simon to death.

Simon is only rescued by Jesus ordering Belial to get out of Caleb. Afterward, Simon tries to recover, and John the Baptizer recognizes that Simon was a zealot. Jesus tells the group that the newcomer is also Simon before directing the disciples to help Caleb. Then, the Lord takes Simon aside to discuss Simon’s future with the group. As Simon and Christ walk alone along the river, Simon conveys that he wants to do whatever he can to use his skills for Jesus. However, the Lord isn’t interested in Simon’s training, and after holding Simon’s sica dagger, Christ throws it into the river. Jesus tells Simon that He needs no one but wants Simon for specific reasons. Christ says that no one buys their way into the disciple group because of special skills, and Simon says that he’s concerned about people coming after Jesus due to the healing of Jesse. The Lord asks what Simon will do about this, and Simon says that he would be more likely to protect Christ if he still had his dagger. In response, Jesus says that Simon will have to wait and simply accept walking with the Lord for now.

Later, Simon son of Zebulun watches Christ say goodbye to John the Baptizer. Atticus had been following Simon through the wilderness, finding the remains of Simon’s campfire. As the Lord bids farewell to John the Baptizer with Simon looking on, Atticus watches the three men from a tree. Atticus had retrieved Simon’s sica dagger from the river, and Atticus begins making a connection between Jesus and John the Baptizer.

Shmuel and Yanni

After finding Jesse talking with Christ, Shmuel and Yanni bring in the healed man for questioning. It’s implied that the two Pharisees bribe Jesse with a pair of sandals. Shmuel attempts to extract information from Jesse, wanting the healed man to stop pacing and paying more attention to his legs than to the two Pharisees. From the interrogation, Shmuel and Yanni are able to derive that the mysterious Healer told Jesse to go and sin no more, which Shmuel thought matched what he had seen Jesus do in Capernaum. Yanni says that there were too many people named Jesus in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles.

After the questioning, Yanni and Shmuel go to a records clerk, demanding that the formal inquiry about the paralytic being healed in Capernaum be updated with new information about a second healing. The clerk is perturbed at this disturbance, taking his time to examine the archives. He eventually reveals that the formal inquiry was opened and then closed before it even advanced to the Sanhedrin. Yanni wants to know why, but the clerk is cagey, citing confidentiality. The clerk only discloses that a powerful member of the Sanhedrin used his influence to close the case, saying that it was a one-off incident by a rogue. Thus, the clerk insists that the inquiry would never be questioned or reopened.

After leaving the clerk’s office, Shmuel and Yanni fume about what they infer were Nicodemus’ actions to shut down the formal inquiry into Jesus before the investigation could even begin. Shmuel is ready to give up, believing that Nicodemus has too much power, but Yanni isn’t ready to relent. He tells Shmuel that he may have a contact who can help.

Later, Yanni is writing a letter to his friend, who is a personal scribe of a powerful member of the Sanhedrin. While writing, Yanni explains his plan to Shmuel: use the situation of healing on the Sabbath as a divisive political issue to split the Sanhedrin in half since either side held different beliefs about the interpretation of the Torah. Shmuel dislikes politics but agrees that this is the best way to either circumvent Nicodemus or convert him. Additionally, Yanni shares that he wants to recreate the events of the healings, possibly returning to Capernaum for investigation. Yanni says that they might be able to find the Ethiopian woman who took the first paralytic to Jesus, and Shmuel says that they can search the census records for Jesus’ cousin.

John the Baptizer

After meeting the Lord and His disciples in Jericho, John the Baptizer wants to meet them outside the city. John the Baptizer startles Jesus, Andrew, Simon son of Jonah, and Phillip, and Christ wants to meet with his cousin alone. The two men sit beside a lake in privacy as John insists that Jesus needs to be moving faster with His earthly ministry and doing more than He currently is. John the Baptizer intends to call out Herod for marrying his brother’s ex-wife. The Lord insists that it’s not His job to deal with the romantic lives of royalty. John wants to know why his Cousin is always going to desolate places, and Jesus says that He’s working on a big sermon and that He’s always ready to do the will of His Father.

Eventually, John the Baptizer becomes more serious as he realizes that everything that was prophesied about him and his Cousin was becoming real, which was heavy. Jesus agrees with this, and John apologizes for being pushy, reiterating his commitment to the Lord and John’s purpose in life.

Later, after witnessing Christ cast the demon out of Caleb, John the Baptizer thanks his Cousin for allowing him to see the miracle. As John leaves, a saddened Jesus tells His cousin that John is doing what he was supposed to be doing and that he only needed to listen to God. As he leaves, John says that he always does this, and the Lord fights back tears as he watches His cousin leave.

Good Friday [2020] (Movie Review)

Good Friday (2020) - Movie | Moviefone

Plot Summary

Lucas Cole is a high-power prosecutor who’s currently under political pressure to make a local scandal go away. Lucas wants to do his job but can’t shake the feeling of betraying an innocent victim. Lucas is also struggling with being a single dad to his son. Before he knows it, Lucas finds himself caught up in a complex scheme of local politics with little room for error. Will Lucas be able to get out in time?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Though this creative team is largely unknown in the Christian entertainment world, the production of Good Friday is very professional. There are very few errors to note. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all good. Sets, locations, and props are on par with industry standards. The soundtrack is intriguing, so the only minor concerns to note relate to confusing editing. Nonetheless, this isn’t enough to prevent this section from receiving a high score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

It’s very surprising how complex the characters of this film are. Via superb dialogue, the characters’ motivations and personalities are well-constructed. The writers refrain from painting any one character as all good or all bad, which is a difficult feat. The narrative contains a very realistic and interesting exploration of the complications relating to local politics and legal concerns. However, this section is not without its flaws. Some scenes seem unrealistic, such as over-the-top negotiations, deals, and threats that appear out-of-place for the situations. Also, the plot jumps all over the place, trying to cover too many things at once. The many storylines and asides become confusing as the characters are shuffled from one things to the next. At times, the characters only do what the writers want them to do without having good reasons for acting in those ways. Despite the excellently subtle Christian messaging and flawed characters, this narrative has a really abrupt conclusion that makes no sense at all. Thus, with obvious potential that is left untapped, this aspect of the screenplay can only receive a below-average rating.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The acting is actually the strongest aspect of this movie. The performances are very strong with little to no problems. Emotions are believable, and line delivery is on point. Thus, a perfect score is awarded here.

Conclusion

Good Friday joins a group of Christian entertainment that almost made it to the next level. However, a collection of small issues held this film back from being all that it could have been. Nonetheless, this creative team certainly has potential for the future, so it will be interesting to see what they offer next.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

Promises to Keep [2020] (Movie Review)

Promises to Keep (2020) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Jonathan and Evelyn were engaged when they were young, but mistakes drove them apart. Now that they are both older and widowed, they have come back into each other’s lives because their children have fallen in love. Will they be able to heal the old wounds while looking to the future???

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Despite a mostly acceptable production, including fine video quality and camera work, the beginning of this film is quite rough. Audio quality leaves something to be desired, such as an in-your-face soundtrack. Flashbacks have an unnecessarily weird quality to them. Also, sets, locations, and props are slightly limited. Further, editing is incredibly choppy and disorienting. However, there is some improvement as the production goes on, which is enough to warrant an average score for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Throughout this narrative, there is a generally odd tone as the writers try very hard to force their specific doctrines onto the viewers, which include some very unusual beliefs about Christian behaviors. As such, the dialogue is very obvious, creating perfect characters that are inaccessible as they spout Christian platitudes at the other characters. Besides this, some of the characters make really weird decisions for no reasons at all, and in general, events occur simply because the creators wanted them to happen. The “bad” characters are ridiculous stereotypes while the “good” characters push the lie that becoming more religious fixes all one’s problems. Nearly every scene is either about imposing the writers’ worldview or an exploration of edgy content. Basically a long monologue of propaganda, this plot has no potential and is thus awarded no points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The acting in Promises to Keep is very sub-par. The performances are quite matter-of-fact, including overly practiced and forced emotions. Some scenes have over-the-top drama, such as yelling and screaming. Though line delivery is mostly acceptable, this isn’t enough to keep this section from receiving a low score.

Conclusion

As has been said many times before, when the creator of a screenplay intends to push propaganda in their movie, there’s no way that the film can ever be good. Two main goals of Christian entertainment should be to invite the audience to think and to responsibly present the writers’ worldview without shoving in down viewers’ throats. It’s unbiblical and un-educational to force agendas on audiences, which is why the reputation of Christian media is so poor today. The only way to fix this problem is to focus on quality over quantity as we move forward.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Power of the Air (Movie Review)

Power of the Air (2018) | Full Movie | Nicholas X. Parsons | Patty Duke | A  Dave Christiano Film - YouTube

Plot Summary

David Williams just wants to live a regular life, but one day, after being convicted by the message of an African missionary, David and his wife decide to stop watching secular movies due to their objectionable content. David is ostracized at work for this decision, but he feels strongly that he needs to do more to reach others for the Gospel. He wants to air a radio ad, but the city’s largest radio station is standing in his way. Will they be able to air the ad on every radio station???

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The Christiano team has come a long way since the old days of their films. Power of the Air has a very professional production with only a few errors. Video quality, audio quality, and camera work are all compliant with industry standards. Sets, locations, and props are also good. The only concerns in this section relate to editing, which leaves something to be desired. Nonetheless, this isn’t enough to prevent a very high score from being awarded here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Full of information-dump dialogue and expository conversations that are designed to push messages, this narrative is lacking in depth. Empty characters are simply pawns of the plot, which is full of generic Christian propaganda. The philosophy of the writers is very closed-minded and tone-deaf when it comes to real life. Administering heavy doses of legalism, the creators exchange actually story for an outdated view of society, implying that basically all media is evil. The only thing that keeps the screenplay running on fumes is a ridiculous ongoing conflict about when to air a radio commercial, and this experience is full of absurdly forced drama, trying to make the viewers actually care about this stupid first-world problem. In the end, with no potential to be had, this aspect of the movie can’t receive any points.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Throughout Power of the Air, the acting is acceptable without much good or bad to point out. Most performances are fairly pedestrian. Emotional and line delivery are passable. However, there’s simply not enough dynamic to warrant a higher than average score for this section.

Conclusion

Via this film, the Christiano team raises valid points about how American Christians unnecessarily consume too much objectionable entertainment. However, the very existence of Power of the Air only furthers the problem because it demonstrates why many Christians seek entertainment outside Christian circles: Christian entertainment, as a whole, is just bad. Power of the Air is no exception to this general rule. Why should Christians want to watch a screenplay like this? What’s the point? Until Christian creators learn why people watch what they watch, we’ll just keep having the same problems.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Following the Subplots of The Chosen (Season 2, Episode 4: The Perfect Opportunity)

The Chosen has been a transformational series, and it’s now in its second season. Its audience has exploded in the past year and only has more potential to grow. As the first multi-season Bible series to be created, it has the potential to reach beyond traditional Christian audiences and transform the culture both inside and outside the church. The series’ connections with real people in a Jewish cultural context as they encounter the Messiah are its biggest assets, so here’s a helpful guide to help keep up with the core subplots we saw in the second season’s fourth episode, entitled “The Perfect Opportunity.”

***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***

Simon son of Jonah, John son of Zebedee, and Matthew

On the outskirts of Jerusalem, Simon son of Jonah, John son of Zebedee, and Matthew all assist Jesus and the disciple group with preparing their tabernacle for the upcoming Feast of Tabernacles. Simon continually wants everything to be organized while Matthew is striving to fit in by lightening up and not focusing so much on semantics. Simon and John seem less hostile toward Matthew after the conflict outside Syria. When asked about why women don’t always go to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, Simon explains that the journey was difficult for the vulnerable but that he had always gone to the holy city with Eden for this feast.

While Nathanael and Thomas are gathering supplies for the Shabbat meal, they see Shmuel preaching in a square, not knowing who he is. Matthew warns the two disciples about the Pharisee and what he had done in Capernaum.

After the Shabbat meal, Simon and John warn Jesus that Shmuel was spotted in Jerusalem preaching about false prophecy. The Lord says that this is a good thing because He’s going to see someone in the city on the following day. Christ invites Simon and John along and tell them to also invite Matthew. Simon and John aren’t thrilled about asking Matthew but do so anyway.

On the way into the city, Jesus reveals that they’ll be going to the Bethesda Pool, which draws skepticism from Simon and John. The group explains to Matthew that this pool is the site of a pagan cult who believes that an angel stirs up the waters such that the first person to touch the bubbling water will be healed of their ailments. After going through the checkpoint, the Lord leads the three disciples to the forum that surrounds the Bethesda Pool. Christ heads straight to where Jesse is lying on the ground, saying that Jesse has been there the longest.

Simon, John, and Matthew watch as Jesus asks Jesse if he wants to be healed. The Lord and the crippled man have a conversation about false hopes and about how the pool is not what Jesse needs. In the end, Jesse agrees that he wants to be healed, and the three disciples witness Christ take away Jesse’s paralysis and tell the man to pick up his mat and walk. John writes down the event, and after Jesus leaves, Simon reminds Jesse to pick up his mat and walk because he won’t be coming back to the pool and because everything is different now. Then, Simon leaves just as Yanni approaches Jesse, accusing the former paralytic of doing work on the Sabbath by picking up his mat. John explains to Matthew that the oral tradition of the Torah adds rules like this to the actual Torah. John berates Yanni for not paying any attention to the miracle before Matthew silently encourages John to leave with him.

As they leave Jerusalem, Simon thanks the Lord for letting him see the healing, and John seems excited about getting under the Pharisees’ skin. Matthew asks Christ why He didn’t wait thirty more minutes for Shabbat to be over to heal Jesse, and Jesus informs the three disciples that sometimes, you have to stir up the water.

Andrew, Mary Magdalene, Big James, Thaddeus, Little James, Thomas, Ramah, Phillip, Nathanael, and Mary Mother

At the Shabbat meal, Andrew remembers one of the Torah passages that was typically read during the Feast of Tabernacles although Simon does not.

While preparing for the Feast of Tabernacles, Mary Magdalene shares that she had never been to the Feast of Tabernacles but that her father had always gone. Mary also wants to know why women weren’t typically invited, and Simon explains that the journey was usually considered to be too difficult. During the Shabbat meal, Mary Magdalene remarks about how the thatched roof of the booth reminds her of her days on the streets and makes her feel protected.

During the Shabbat meal, Big James asks Jesus why the prophet Zechariah prophesied about Gentiles eating at the Feast of Tabernacles. Big James complains that it was the people of God who wandered in the wilderness, so other nations wouldn’t fully appreciate the meaning of the feast. However, the Lord says that everyone wandered in the wilderness from time to time.

Thaddeus assists the group with the construction of the tabernacle and explains a few aspects of the Jewish feast to Matthew.

Little James has no substantial scenes in this episode.

Thomas accompanies Nathanael into Jerusalem to gather supplies for the Shabbat meal. However, Thomas clashes with Nathanael as Thomas doesn’t like Nathanael’s direct nature. Thomas is also annoyed by Matthew’s behavior and Nathanael’s assessment that Thomas and Matthew are almost the same person. Further, Thomas resents Nathanael for exposing Thomas’ desire to impress Ramah.

Ramah has no substantial scenes in this episode.

Phillip works alongside Matthew as they assist with building the tabernacle. Phillip silently encourages Matthew when he sees that Matthew is trying to avoid being overly analytical about everything.

Nathanael takes the lead with the construction of the tabernacle since he drew up the plans for it. While in the city, Nathanael informs Thomas that Thomas shouldn’t eat a pomegranate without washing his hands, especially if Thomas wants to impress Ramah. Nathanael also points out that Thomas and Matthew are both very analytical. Nathanael does not seem bothered by Matthew like others are. During the Shabbat meal, Christ congratulates Nathanael for his craftsmanship in designing the tabernacle.

During the Shabbat meal, Mary Mother shares with the disciples group that the thatched roofs of the tabernacles were to remind the Hebrews of their dependence on God. Mary also asserts, in response to the collective belief that prophecies about Jews and Gentiles coexisting were impossible, that she knew a thing or two about impossible prophecies.

Simon son of Zebulon, Jesse, and the Order of Zealots

Simon and Jesse, sons of Zebulun, grew up as very close brothers. After Jesse was injured from falling out of a tree, his parents were unsuccessful in helping Jesse to walk again. Jesse’s biological mother died giving birth to Simon, and Jesse took care of his younger brother when Simon was an infant. However, their father, Zebulon, eventually remarried. When Simon was older, he switched roles with his paralyzed brother, taking care of Jesse. One day, Simon, angered by the cruelty of Rome, joined a group of zealots who were bent on bringing down the Roman rule and instituting pure Judaism. After leaving a note, Simon began training with the zealots at a remote location.

Later, Jesse began living by the Pool of Bethesda, which was the property of a pagan cult made up of adherents who believed that whoever touched the fountain first when the water bubbled would be healed of their ailment. However, Jesse was never able to get to the water when it stirred because others always pushed ahead of him. For twenty-five years, during which Zebulon died, Simon lived and worked with the zealots while Jesse languished by the poolside, eventually giving up on a chance to be healed.

In the present timeline, Simon son of Zebulon prepares to join zealots in Jerusalem, collaborating with them in an assassination attempt of Rufus, a Roman magistrate in the Jerusalem area. By this time, Simon has received great honor from the zealot leaders and established a strong reputation among the group. However, if Simon was to either succeed with the assassination attempt or die.

The leader of the zealot order had told the zealot rabbi that someone had to assassinate Rufus because of the magistrate’s connection to Caiaphas, the high priest, who the zealots believed to be corrupted by Rome. The rabbi had recommended Simon for the job.

On the way out of the zealot catacombs, Simon son of Zebulon is reminded of a prophecy from Zephaniah about the day when Israel would be purified and when the lame would walk. Along the path leading to the entrance of Jerusalem, Simon sees men being crucified by Roman soldiers and becomes uneasy when he’s searched at the city gate. Simon tells Linus, the soldier who’s questioning him, that he’s early for the Feast of Tabernacles because he’s visiting family. After Simon inquires, Linus informs Simon that the men were being crucified for murder.

Later, after going over the plans for the assassination attempt with the Jerusalem zealots, on the temple steps Simon son of Zebulon hears someone reading the prophecy of Zephaniah about Israel being purified and the lame walking. Looking out at the dead bodies on the crosses outside the city walls, Simon ponders his pending crime. This seems to prompt Simon to visit his brother at the Pool of Bethesda.

Jesse had previously indicated to one of his fellow invalids that he wasn’t sure why he still was by the pool, and when Simon visits his brother, Jesse can’t believe it’s actually Simon. The two brothers discuss their justifications for their chosen paths in life with each brother criticizing the other’s choices. Simon thinks that Jesse has given up and is following a cult while Jesse believes that Simon is breaking the law by working with the zealots. Simon is discouraged the Jesse seems so hopeless now and informs his older brother that he’ll be in the upper city on a mission for the zealots. Jesse, visibly frustrated and distraught, produces the notes that Simon had left him when Simon joined the zealots. This note includes the prophecy from Zephaniah that Simon previously heard at the zealot headquarters and on the temple steps. Simon’s note concluded with a statement that he would know that the Messiah had come when he saw Jesse walking, and as Simon leaves, he tells his brother that he stands by this statement.

Jesse falls into a depression after Simon’s visit, so when Jesus arrives at the pool, Jesse doesn’t really want to talk. However, Jesse agrees to answer the Lord’s questions, thinking that He will help Jesse to get into the pool. When Christ says that Jesse needs Him rather than the pool, Jesse is ambivalent but silently agrees that he wants to be healed. Thus, Jesse stands up when Jesus tells him to do so and picks up his mat when Simon son of Jonah reminds Jesse to do so. When Yanni challenges Jesse for doing work on the Sabbath, Jesse is too excited to care and simply says that he’s standing on two feet. After the Lord and His disciples leave, Jesse tells Yanni that he needs to leave to find his brother. On the way to the upper city, Jesse runs into someone as he seems unsure of walking.

In the upper city, Simon son of Zebulon is preparing to execute the assassination attempt along with several other zealots. The distractions are put in place, but as Simon is about to pull out his knife, he sees Jesse pass by out of the corner of his eye. Distracted by this, Simon abandons the plan and follows his brother, prompting the other zealots to scatter. Simon finds Jesse around another alleyway, and Jesse dances as Simon looks in wonder at his brother’s healing. The two brothers embrace, and Jesse points Simon in the direction of where he thought Jesus had gone.

Shmuel and Yanni

In Jerusalem, Shmuel is being trained by Yanni to speak about Pharisaic teachings in a poor district. Yanni, however, doesn’t want to be around the poor and quickly leaves once Shmuel has found something to stand on during his speech. Shmuel eventually teaches a crowd of people about how many false prophets would be coming to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, which was why they needed to be on alert.

At the Pool of Bethesda with other Pharisees, Yanni witnesses the Lord heal Jesse. After Christ leaves, Yanni accuses Jesse of picking up his mat on Shabbat, which constituted as doing work on the holy day. Yanni then interrogates Jesse about Jesus, and when Jesse says that he doesn’t know the Lord’s name, Yanni says that this was very typical of a false prophet who performed magic tricks on Shabbat, thus causing people to sin.

Later, Yanni rushes to tell Shmuel what he witnessed, and Shmuel appears to understand what’s happening.

Atticus, Pretorius, and the Romans

Atticus, a member of the Cohortes Urbanae, the Roman secret police, begins watching Simon son of Zebulun while Simon practices an assassination attempt. Atticus goes ahead of Simon to Jerusalem and sees Simon check in at the city gate. Recognizing Simon’s ruse, Atticus reprimands Linus for not being more suspicious of Simon before beginning to follow Simon through the city. Atticus watches Simon as Simon uses secret passageways to meet with zealots in Jerusalem, but Atticus frequently loses track of Simon due to the confusing alleyways.

Later, Atticus meets with Pretorius, an associate of Rufus, a Roman magistrate of Jerusalem. Pretorius seems unwilling to meet in public, and Atticus chastises the official for being dressed so conspicuously. Then, Atticus reveals that he suspects that a trained zealot assassin was planning to attempt to assassinate Rufus on Shabbat due to the predictable nature of Rufus’ schedule. Pretorius insists that the scheduling is out of his hands, so Atticus decides to present a plan to Rufus: Atticus should pose as Rufus on Shabbat so that Simon would attempt to kill Atticus, who could use his skills to turn the tables and kill Simon instead. Pretorius doesn’t think that Rufus or Rufus’ wife will agree with the plan, but Atticus is confident that the government official will.

Atticus proves to be right, so he disguises himself as Rufus on Shabbat, keeping his eyes pealed for Simon. However, when Simon is distracted by Jesse, Atticus takes notice and watches the two brothers embrace. Atticus is ready to kill Simon, but the zealot leaves before anything can happen.

Mary 4 Mayor (Movie Review)

Mary 4 Mayor — Home Theater Films

Plot Summary

Mary Parsons is tired of the way her family has been torn apart by her father’s obsession with his mayoral work. To make matters worse, her father begins making governmental decisions that negatively impact Mary’s life. She’s fed up with this and decides to run against her father in the upcoming mayoral race. What she discovers is that everything is not as it seems, and she has a lot to learn about life.

Production Quality (2 points)

In this film, Corbin Bernsen and his team mostly upheld their tradition of professional productions. There are very few errors in this section as there is good video quality, camera work, and audio quality. Though the soundtrack is dumb and generic, which detracts more than it should, the sets, locations, and props are well-constructed. There are also a few slight editing concerns, but these could relate to narrative issues. In the end, this production is at least above-average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Consistent with Bernsen’s past tendencies, Mary 4 Mayor is an out-of-the-box plot idea that has good themes and relatable messaging without being too in-your-face with the Christian elements. Portraying a true-to-life family experience with authentic characters and dialogue, Bernsen finds some success with his trademark quirkiness that’s actually truly funny at times. However, other times, the comedy feels overly engineered or half-hearted. Unfortunately, the characters feel like that they could be a bit deeper, but their full development is short-circuited by extraneous content that crowds out the runtime. Sometimes, coincidences randomly happen simply to suit the needs of the story, and in other instances, the narrative aimlessly meanders to hit certain points without properly building up to these events. The first half of the screenplay contains too much wasted time, but there is a really good twist in the middle of the plot that is very thought-provoking. Nonetheless, some occurrences move too fast due to lost time, thus taking away from the chance for natural development. As a result, the climax is quite rushed and silly even though it does contain some effective payoffs. Therefore, due to all these factors, this section is a mixed bag that receives an average score.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The strongest aspect of Mary 4 Mayor is the acting, which is very professional with few, if any, errors. Each cast member seems comfortable in their respective roles. Line delivery and emotions are believable and realistic. Thus, a rare perfect score is awarded here.

Conclusion

In this movie, Corbin Bernsen successfully offered an authentic relevant message about the political problems of today. However, Bernsen continues to hover next to greatness without taking that next step into the truly meaningful. He still can’t seem to decide where he’s committed to satire and comedy in his films. He has also failed to consistently focus on central themes. Mary 4 Mayor would have benefitted from deeper characters, which would have required elimination of extraneous story elements. Character arcs needed to be more effectively developed to prevent the arcs from being too steep. These small changes would have likely given Bernsen his fist Hall of Fame screenplay. Nonetheless, we’re only left wondering what could have been.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

Forgiven [2016] (Movie Review)

Watch Forgiven | Prime Video

Plot Summary

When a desperate criminal takes a pastor and his two daughter hostage within the church after a Wednesday night service, the police are forced to take drastic measures to keep the victims safe. However, the criminal is mostly confused and unsure of what he wants to do. Thus, the pastor and his daughters do what they can to help him. Will the situation be resolved before it’s too late?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Besides a few exceptions, Kevan Otto’s more recent productions have contained higher levels of quality than his previous efforts. There’s a continuation of this trend in Forgiven. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all professional. Sets, locations, and props are standard. There are only a few minor editing issues, but this fact doesn’t prevent this section from receiving a high score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This film is based on an interesting suspense idea although the hostage situation is half-hearted at best. Additionally, the characters are one-dimensional, including a criminal who doesn’t really seem to be committed to anything and generally lacks deeper motivations for his behaviors. Stock and unsubstantial dialogue do nothing to improve the blank characters even though this character-based plot desperately needed real conversations to keep it going. Too many empty scenes fill time rather than create meaningful arcs. It felt like that the writers just wanted to skip to the end instead of make the audience want to watch the build-up. Many sequences are very boring and preachy, espousing a cheap Christian message about going to church to act right. Though the conclusion is slightly interesting, it’s difficult for the view to make it there, and it’s hard to understand why the basically perfect and unrelatable protagonist even wanted to help the criminal character. Very narrative-heavy and character-light, this story needed a lot more fleshing out to truly enhance the potential within. Thus, only a meager rating is warranted here.

Acting Quality (2 points)

As a whole, the acting in Forgiven is pretty good. For the most part, emotions are realistic, and line delivery is acceptable. Some performances are better than others, and some cast members are more believable than others. Due to the small cast, errors are more noticeable, which is why this section only receives an above-average score.

Conclusion

At this point, it seems like that Kevan Otto and his team know how to craft a pedestrian, acceptable-on-paper screenplay. However, to truly succeed, they will need to go further than this. Otto has proven that he can improve production quality over time, so it’s time for him to employ better writing talent to create more engaging narratives with more accessible characters. Otherwise, average ratings will be the norm.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

The Furance [2019] (Movie Review)

Coming Soon: Darrell Roodt's Award Nominated Film, 'The Furnace' (2019) -  PopHorror

Plot Summary

Mary and Matt are recently married, and for their honeymoon, they want to complete The Furnace together, which is the most treacherous race in Africa. However, Matt’s untimely death delays these plans and sends Mary into a tailspin. Injured from the car accident that took her husband’s life, Mary feels like giving up until she meets a man who inspires her to fight. Then, Mary finds her second wind and decides to compete in The Furnace to prove that she can move on.

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the production of The Furnace is acceptable, including good video quality and an intriguing soundtrack. Other audio elements are also fine, but the visual special effects are quite poor. There are also some instances of shaky camera work for dramatic effect that become disorienting. However, sets, locations, and props are very professional. To round things out, the editing is fairly choppy, but some of this could be due to narrative presentation problems. Therefore, taking all this into account, this production section receives an above-average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The plot of The Furnace is all over the map and is mostly disorienting to the audience. The writers were clearly trying very hard to be mysterious and artistic in their story presentation, but this approach causes many scenes to go way over the viewers’ heads. Very abstract and ethereal at times, the narrative is difficult to follow as it jumps all over the place, full of coincidences and convenient turns that suit the creators’ means. Certain portions are rushed through with montages and time jumps, thus short-circuiting character development. It’s impossible to relate to the people in this plot due to the breakneck speed of the film. Expository dialogue fills in that gaps that are left by the time jumps, and many conversations are unsubstantial. Some parts feels like a dream sequence and carry a very odd tone that’s impossible to quantify. Despite some very interesting concepts that are not fully explored, there are realism errors in this screenplay, such as medical problems that are solved too easily and other lapses in logic. There’s actually a very good theme at the end of the movie, but not many audience members will make it that car. The writers tried to create big, pivotal moments, but these fall flat due to empty characters and lack of proper setup. Thus, only a meager rating can be offered here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Unfortunately, all throughout The Furnace, there are many instances of over-acting. Emotions are often too dramatic and overdriven to the point of being offensive. However, line delivery is mostly acceptable, and all performances improve as the film goes on. Some cast members are better than others. Hence, an average score is awarded for this section.

Conclusion

Many screenwriters mean well but lack proper execution in their offerings. However, in the case of The Furnace, it’s very unclear what the creators actually wanted to convey. The production, story, and acting are all over the map, making for a confusing viewing experience. In the end, this screenplay is an example of why proper planning is vital to the success of a movie.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Discarded Things (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Grace Wyatt felt like she had finally buried her past by becoming a successful professor of music. However, her husband’s untimely death sends her back into a spiral of addiction and bitterness. Once Grace is able to recover, she’s assigned to live as a volunteer at a house program for troubled teens. Though Grace initially clashes with the leadership decisions of the program, she eventually finds her niche helping the teens find their voices. Nonetheless, Grace has no idea that she still has to make peace with her past to move forward in life.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a whole, the production quality of Discarded Things is professional…at least it gets there eventually. In the beginning, there’s a driving soundtrack that doesn’t always fit the mood although the score is still intriguing. There are also some background sounds and sepia tone flashbacks. The editing is sometimes choppy, cutting off scenes for no good reason. However, all productions elements improved in the latter two-thirds of the film, offering good video quality and camera work. Also, sets, locations, and props are professional. The improvement is good enough to warrant a high score in this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The creative team behind this screenplay really had a lot going for them as they demonstrated a strong understanding of how hidden church problems and childhood trauma can affect people for their entire lives. This narrative contains an excellent portrayal of fundamentalist legalism and its consequences, and this is done via a good application of flashbacks that provides believable reasoning for character motive. However, Discarded Things has a rare problem: it’s too short. The fact that so much content is squeezed into this movie creates various issues, such as too-obvious dialogue. The writers rushed through important sequences, using montages as a crutch and implying that substance abuse rehab is a really easy fix for people. Platitudes are also used to quickly solve problems. It’s very evident that too much is being covered in this linear plot with the limited amount of time that’s been allotted. There are many complex and interlocking storylines that we barely get time to explore, and this lack of development causes some otherwise meaningful events to occur without proper buildup, thus making them empty and meaningless. Though most of the conversations are good, the characters are under-developed, but their major potential can still be seen. There are obvious themes throughout the narrative that slightly tie everything together, but the conclusion of the film is quite cheesy. In the end, this section is a mixed bag that could have been so much more than this.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Despite a few moments of cast members over-acting and being a bit too dramatic, the acting is still very strong in Discarded Things. Karen Abercrombie appeared comfortable in her role, and Cameron Arnett is always a standout. This particular role for Cameron was perhaps his best to date. In the end, the acting is quite good, earning a great score.

Conclusion

This screenplay likely would have worked better as a series that blended what the protagonist learned from rehab with what she taught the teenagers. In this current form, this was too much content to cram into one movie, and this was a rare instance where we actually need to see more of these characters rather than less. We need to observe their journeys so that the payoffs don’t feel cheap due to lack of proper buildup. However, on the whole, some viewers will enjoy Discarded Things in its current state, and this film overall demonstrates huge potential for the future.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

A Father’s Legacy (June 2021)

In Theaters June 17, 2021

Writer(s): Jason Mac

Director(s):  Jason Mac

Producer(s): Jake Bloom, John Lerchen, Jason Mac

Starring: Tobin Bell, Jason Mac, Rebeca Robles, Gregory Alan Williams, Michael Aaron Milligan, Isaiah Stratton, Kurt Yue, Josh Henry

Plot Synopsis: A Father’s Legacy is an inspirational story that touches on family, redemption and loyalty as it follows a young man on the run after an armed robbery. Hiding from the law, he sets out to find the father he never knew. Venturing further away from the city streets, he finds himself at the secluded home of a stranger. As the days pass and the secrets about their past are revealed, they learn that they might not have been looking for each other…but they may have been brought together for a reason.

Acquitted by Faith (Movie Review)

Watch Acquitted by Faith | Prime Video

Plot Summary

Benjamin Stills’ life is forever changed when he’s responsible for a texting-and-driving accident that puts a little girl in the hospital. Benjamin is a high-power lawyer with a lot of workplace pressure, but this event sends his life spiraling out of control. Will he ever be able to regain his footing and return to the faith that he left behind before it’s too late?

Production Quality (2 points)

This film contains a professional production with only a few errors to speak of. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all in line with industry standards. Sets, locations, and props are professional and well-constructed. The main concerns in this aspect of the screenplay relate to weird special effects and editing. It’s unclear why these special effects were even needed as they make for an odd experience. Further, some scenes end very abruptly with no warning. Thus, due to more good than bad, an above-average score is warranted in this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Acquitted by Faith contains an intriguing narrative although there are many subplots to keep up with. The characters therein are realistic and flawed, developed through authentic dialogue. Due to the large amount of content, many scenes can be a bit rushed even though some sequences waste time when there’s no time to be wasted. The more the story progresses, the more hasty the progression of the narrative becomes. There are many interesting asides and complex characters that could have had creative backstories, but we never get the chance to fully explore them because of the many tangents and subplots. These concerns make the story better suited for a series. It’s a shame that this movie is too bloated because is contains a good subtle Christian message. In the end, due to a generally mixed bag, this section receives an average rating.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

As a whole, the acting in Acquitted by Faith is quite good. There are only a few over-the-top performances, but for the most part, the cast members deliver believable performances with good line and emotional delivery. Near the end of the film, the acting becomes nearly perfect, which leads to a very high score for this section.

Conclusion

This screenplay is perhaps the closest that Kevan Otto has ever come to the Hall of Fame, but it wasn’t due to his solo efforts. Acquitted by Faith was clearly a collaboration, but it still missed the mark due to inconsistent production elements and a bloated narrative. Nonetheless, this movie deserves a remake that reorganizes the concepts therein and presents them in a clearer fashion, perhaps in series form. With the consistent funding that Kevan Otto can get, it’s time to start saving some of the money to put toward fewer projects. Maybe then he’ll finally break through.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

Dispatched [2020] (Movie Review)

Watch Dispatched | Prime Video

Plot Summary

Carl Thomas is an embattled police officer being questioned about his past actions. Thus, Carl relates why he made the choices that he did and how he’s now a different man. Will his interrogators believe his story before it’s too late?

Production Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, the past production transgressions of JC Films have not been atoned for. Dispatched has all the same problems of past films created by this team, such as loud background sounds and echoes, not to mention the generally grainy audio quality. Despite moments of a surprisingly good soundtrack, many aspects of the score don’t always fit the mood of the scenes. Elsewhere, lighting is inconsistent, and camera work is incredibly random, including weird angles. Video quality is acceptable, but editing is quite choppy. Thus, with a tiny amount of potential, this section receives a small score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

One of the main strength areas of Dispatched is its shockingly honest portrayal of the complexity behind police problems. In this endeavor, authentic flashbacks are used to build character motive and personality. However, it all goes downhill from there as convenient and random things happen when the writers need them to occur. Similarly, obvious dialogue steers the plot in the direction that the creators want it to go rather than letting events develop naturally. The interesting exploration of the protagonist’s backstory is overshadowed by the contrived nature of the narrative. Part of this trumped-up premise is the assumption that one spiritual experience will magically make someone the most perfect Christian who ever lived. These steep character arcs are impossible to relate to, and these concerns make for very cheap messaging. Christian platitudes are used in place of meaningful lessons, thus leading to an empty conclusion. Therefore, with only a small dose of potential, this section is awarded a meager rating.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Although the acting of this screenplay leaves much to be desired, it’s still the strongest aspect of the movie. Emotions are forceful, such as cast members trying too hard to be angry. Line delivery often lacks conviction and natural register. However, the acting generally improves with time to the point where an average score is warranted.

Conclusion

When will the JC Films team ever learn? The last thing that the Christian entertainment field needs is more quantity to full up our streaming services and further turn people off to the genre. Just imagine if the budgets and efforts for each individual film were bundled together into one or two screenplays. Less is always more, so one day, we’ll hopefully see this play out in Christian entertainment.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Cross Purposes (Movie Review)

Cross Purposes (2020) | Trailer - YouTube

Plot Summary

When an overconfident man who wants to be a medical student at a prestigious school is forced to complete an internship that he doesn’t care about, he has no idea what’s in for him. He’s determined to not care about any of the patients, but he can’t help but grow close to a teenager with a terminal brain tumor. Before he knows it, the intern is trying to determine the meaning of life although he didn’t used to care.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Cross Purposes offers an acceptable production with very few errors. Some of these pitfalls include some slight audio and editing concerns. For instance, there are a few distracting background noises, and certain scenes drag on too long. Nonetheless, this production team did good with what limited funds that they had. Video quality, camera work, and lighting are all above average. Sets, locations, and props are well-utilized. Thus, will very few problems to highlight, this section receives a high score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The writers of this film, for the most part, were committed to crafting believable characters. However, because there are so few characters, they needed more deepening than they were given. It was good that the creators focused on the main idea of the screenplay without getting sidetracked, but doing such requires intense storytelling. Dialogue and conversations needed to be more than average to pull off this feat. As things are, the character arcs are a bit too steep, and the motivations and personalities of the characters are undeveloped. Elsewhere, it’s clear that the writers did some medical research, but some aspects of the narrative are slightly unrealistic. In the end, Cross Purposes has good messaging without being too forceful, and many audiences will enjoy this brief plot, so a meager score is warranted here.

Acting Quality (2 points)

It’s clear that the creative team behind this movie were definitely trying to make an effort, and this fact is evident in the acting. As a whole, the acting is either standard or a little bit better. Line delivery and emotional delivery are mostly on-point. Although some performances fall a bit short due to some forceful moments, there’s enough positive in this section to award an above-average score.

Conclusion

The team who produced this film, like many newer creators, has lots of potential for the future. Offerings like Cross Purposes, among others, provide hope for the future of Christian entertainment. Now, if those who make good things on small scales would collaborate with each other, pooling their expertise and resources, we would really have something to behold.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Following the Subplots of The Chosen (Season 2, Episode 3: Matthew 4:24)

The Chosen has been a transformational series, and it’s now in its second season. Its audience has exploded in the past year and only has more potential to grow. As the first multi-season Bible series to be created, it has the potential to reach beyond traditional Christian audiences and transform the culture both inside and outside the church. The series’ connections with real people in a Jewish cultural context as they encounter the Messiah are its biggest assets, so here’s a helpful guide to help keep up with the core subplots we saw in the second season’s third episode, entitled “Matthew 4:24.”

***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***

Simon, Andrew, and Thomas

After Little James finishes his shift helping Jesus with those being healed, Thomas awkwardly asks Little James what the latter’s malady is, and Little James reveals that he has a disability. Thomas wants to know why Little James doesn’t ask the Lord to heal him, which makes Thomas realize that he wants to ask Christ more questions.

While they are resting from helping Jesus as He healed local people, Simon, Andrew, and Thomas set up shelters and rest by the campfire. Simon asks Andrew to ask open-ended questions since Simon was too tired to think. Andrew asks the group what un-sinful things they would do to get money. The disciples offer various responses. During a discussion about education, Thomas says that he never did well in school and was working for the family business as soon as he had graduated.

When Mary Mother mentions that Jesus’ father died, Thomas says that he wants to asked the Lord more about this.

Eventually, the conversation turns to the Roman occupation and the nature of their Jewish culture. After others talk back and forth about this topic, Simon sarcastically asks Matthew how Matthew feels about the Roman impact on Jewish culture. When Matthew doesn’t respond, Simon lays into Matthew, accusing Matthew of what he used to do for Rome, oppressing his fellow Jews. Andrew agrees that Matthew needs to apologize for what he did to his fellow countrymen, and Thomas resents all tax collectors for making him struggle as a business owner. Simon doesn’t let up, saying that he wouldn’t accept Matthew’s apology even if there was one because Simon feels like Matthew forsook everything Jewish just to make more money while Simon remained faithful to the Jewish traditions and had to struggle for everything he had. Simon’s tirade is interrupted by Jesus coming into the campsite.

Big James and John

Big James and John assist Christ with the healing before helping set up the shelters. The brothers have a discussion with the others about why the Lord was choosing to heal people instead of get ready for war. Big James always believed in the rabbinic tradition that the Messiah would be a military leader who would conquer the Romans.

Then, they take a break for the night, sitting around the campfire. The two brothers participate in the various discussions about education and Jewish culture. John seems to take a particular interest in Mary Mother’s stories. John says that he didn’t do very well in school, but his brother did. Big James shares a time when he had to finish cleaning up the fishing supplies just before Shabbat, and he barely got done in time.

Although John asked Matthew about money during the earlier part of the conversation, John defends Matthew from Simon’s later attacks. Big James also steps in to try to stop the conflict, which gets interrupted with the Jesus’ arrival at the campsite.

Matthew

After Phillip gives him a passage to memorize from Psalm 139, Matthew thinks that it’s not enough. However, Matthew agrees to follow Phillip’s advice to mediate on the passage and write it down to help commit it to memory. Then, Matthew shares the same passage with Mary Magdalene and Ramah, helping them learn it as well.

While Christ was healing people, Matthew tried to keep track of what each individual’s ailment is so that he can write it down, but he’s unable to keep up as the people are excited and quickly leave after being healed.

Matthew did not participate very much in the discussions around the campfire, and he didn’t seem to know how to respond when Simon attacked him.

Mary Magdalene, Ramah, and Mary Mother

When the disciples are discussing why the Messiah came during their time and did not wait for people to become holy, Mary Magdalene asserted that the Lord came to make people holy rather than to wait for them to be holy. Later, during the campfire discussions, Mary Magdalene shares a modified version of her backstory for those who had not previously heard it, saying that she had temporarily left Judaism and forgotten most of the tenets of the religion. Mary Magdalene seems reluctant to talk about this and speaks awkwardly about her past. Later, Mary Magdalene is visibly uncomfortable during the heated arguments but stays out of the conflicts.

As the group talks about their expectations for the Messiah, Ramah shares that she always imagined that the Messiah would rescue her from the Romans. Later, during the discussion about Jewish regulations, Ramah shares that it was always easy for her to follow the rules. Ramah stays out of the arguments among Matthew, the sons of Jonah, and the sons of Zebedee.

Once Mary Mother joins the group, she assists in preparing the evening meal. As the disciples sit around the campfire, after being prompted by the others, Mary Mother shares some of her perspective on the birth of her Son as well as His childhood. When the Lord was younger, Mary Mother said that she was surprised at how much He needed her help as He grew up, but now, she felt like Christ didn’t need her help anymore.

Mary Mother left the group before the arguments broke out but came back as things were getting heated. She stays silent during the conflicts until she notices her Son coming back from the healing, looking exhausted. When no one else assists the Messiah, Mary Mother rushes to His side to wipe the blood from His hands and wash His feet. Then, Mary Mother helps her Son get ready to sleep even though no one else assists her.

Thaddeus and Little James

When Thomas inquires about Little James’ malady, Little James tells Thomas that he’s unsure if he’s supposed to ask Jesus to heal him of his disability, and Little James wonders if some of the people who are being healed only believed in the Lord because they were being healed by Him.

Thaddeus spends most of the episode helping Christ with the healing. At one point, Thaddeus reveals that he once ate pork at a Gentile marketplace. Thaddeus also reiterates that he’s learning to pray more.

Phillip and Nathanael

Phillip tells Matthew to memorize a portion of Psalm 139. When Matthew wants more, Phillip tells him to only focus on the small part for now by meditating on it and writing it down. Then, Phillip told Matthew to get back to him later.

For a majority of this episode, both Phillip and Nathanael were with Jesus, assisting with the healing of the crowds.

Nathanael did not have any substantial scenes in this episode.

The Perfect Race (Movie Review)

Watch The Perfect Race | Prime Video

Plot Summary

Courtney Smith-Donnelly is still teaching high school track-and-field, but when she gets the opportunity to fill in for a college track-and-field coach, which also involves coaching a former student, Courtney jumps at the chance. Much like her past experiences, Courtney faces heat for teaching basically conventional running techniques. Nobody thinks that Courtney knows what she’s doing although her advice is common-sense. Will they ever be able to run the perfect race?

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the production of The Perfect Race is acceptable. This includes good video quality, standard camera work, and passable audio quality. The soundtrack is generic, but sets, locations, and props are realistic and professional. Lighting is on par with industry standards. The biggest drawback in this section is the very choppy editing that makes for a confusing viewing experience. Nonetheless, the production is still above-average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Throughout this plot, many of the scenes are quite short and end prematurely, making for rushed conversations. It doesn’t help that much of the dialogue is full of boring and procedural information, thus leading to blank and empty characters. As meaningless scenes speed by one after another, the audience is subjected to proprietary sports content that involves characters who no one cares about due to lack of development. Much like the predecessor of The Perfect Race, Remember the Goal, this sequel film ridiculously shoe-horns Christian messaging into the sports elements, using empty platitudes to do so. Although the middle of this narrative explores some surprisingly interesting themes pertaining to self-esteem in relationships and Christians not liking death, it’s too little too late. These topics were not properly set up, and it doesn’t help that most of the Christian characters are basically perfect people who can fix everything really easily. In the end, there’s hardly any difference between The Perfect Race and Remember the Goal as both screenplays involve the same character being unrealistically persecuted for using basic cross-country running strategies that pretty much any sports professional would agree with. Because of these concerns, no points are awarded in this section.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, The Perfect Race continues the long-term Christiano tradition of poor acting. The line delivery is too quick, and emotions are quite robotic. Throughout the movie, it feels like that the cast members are simply going through the motions without conviction behind their performances. However, the acting is not all bad as the work of some actors and actresses is acceptable. Thus, a small score is merited here.

Conclusion

It’s very hard to believe that the Christiano team squeezed two full films out of this extremely limited and boring idea. There’s very little difference between The Perfect Race and Remember the Goal except that the sequel has a bit more potential. Nonetheless, this screenplay is still a relic leftover from the old era of Christian entertainment that we are hopefully transitioning away from.

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Faith.Hope.Love. [2021] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When six college students are invited to a mysterious getaway in the snowy mountains of Utah, they have no idea what’s in store for them. What begins as a retreat of self-discovery quickly becomes a life-changing experience that many of them will not soon forget. How will they apply the changes that they have experienced to their everyday lives?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Faith.Hope.Love. has a good production with very few errors. One of these mistakes is the existence of background sounds. The set is fairly limited but well-utilized. As a whole, the production gets better with time, including high-quality video and camera work. The editing is acceptable, which rounds out a section that warrants a high score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

At the beginning of this story, the premise seems very trumped-up. The conversations are awkward and stiff, sometimes cutting off without warning. In the first half of the narrative, the dialogue feels very strained, forced, and unnatural. Many things are said without actually developing the characters, and there’s a tendency for the writers to be fixated on edgy and provocative content. However, the plot tends to get better as it goes as the characters improve due to more natural conversations. The second half of the film presents real people rather than characters representing social issues, but the initial presentation may discourage viewers from proceeding. The backstories of the characters become very strong if you wait long enough, even if the dialogue sometimes steers the screenplay in the direction that the writers want it to go, including some slight elements of propaganda. This is a testament to how strong characters can make up for other shortcomings. The conclusion is bit rushed, and the twist ending isn’t all that shocking. Thus, one point is awarded here.

Acting Quality (3 points)

For the most part, the acting is likely the strongest area of Faith.Hope.Love. Despite lacking a dynamic quality in the first half of the movie, this aspect of the film improves with time. The performances grow stronger by the second half, including believable line delivery and emotions. Thus, this rounds out an overall encouraging effort.

Conclusion

This creative team has demonstrated plenty of potential for the future, so it will be interesting to see what they produce next. With tighter storytelling and better messaging, they have nowhere to go but up. Hopefully, screenplays like this one represent a new positive trend in the Christian entertainment industry.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

Cries of the Unborn (Movie Review)

Watch Cries of the Unborn | Prime Video

Plot Summary

In a sequel to The Life Zone, which nobody cared to remember, much less watch a sequel about, the horrific nonsense of the first installment is rehashed as a completely new cast of characters decides the fate of the perpetrators from the first film. These new characters form a jury who’s tasked with determining the innocence or guilt of the alleged criminals. In order for this movie to have a “plot,” one juror inexplicably thinks that the evil corporation that imprisoned three pregnant women is somehow innocent of all transgressions. She spends the entire screenplay trying to convince others, including the audience, of this fact. What ensues is a slow descent into madness that will leave you wondering how this garbage gets made.

Production Quality (-3 points)

Much like this film’s awful predecessor, Cries of the Unborn has an extremely cheap production that’s negatively impacted by other elements. Lighting and audio are quite poor, and the soundtrack is creepy. Sets, locations, and props are extremely limited. There really isn’t any editing present, and any aspects of the production that aren’t bad are washed away by all the other problems that are in this screenplay.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-3 points)

How is it even possible that there was enough money to make two of these terrible movies? To self-indulge in their first creation, the writers use Cries of the Unborn to provide a bizarre commentary on The Life Zone. Doing this requires the narrative to lead the audience in one direction, only to pull out a double fake twist at the end. As a result, the plot is completely mind-bending and out-of-this-world insane, essentially presenting a demented defense of the events that took place in The Life Zone. There are so many rehashed scenes from the first film that Cries of the Unborn feels like a sick director’s commentary on The Life Zone where the creators are speaking through the characters to lecture you on why you shouldn’t hate their utter madness. Contrived dialogue and trumped-up situations force propaganda down the viewers’ throats, including a very twisted obsession with eternal punishment for certain sins that the writers deem ‘worse’ than others. In the end, the awful nature of this section drags the entire creation down to the lowest level.

Acting Quality (-3 points)

On the whole, the acting in Cries of the Unborn is uninspiring. However, this section is overwhelmed by the sheer nonsense that overtakes the entire screenplay. When a central idea is this bad, it infects every section of the movie, causing an overall negative rating.

Conclusion

Additionally, this film receives a negative x-factor point for being offensive and for pushing toxic propaganda on the audience. It’s rare that film creators fail so hard that they produce two screenplays that each receive the lowest score possible from our ratings system. This is a feat that has never been previously recorded in our experience with the field of Christian entertainment. It goes without saying that both The Life Zone and Cries of the Unborn are among the worst movies ever created, and the views espoused by these films have no place among Christianity. If the pro-life movement is to ever be effective, it must dispense with poison like these two creations and actually care about every person like Jesus does.

Final Rating: -10 out of 10 points

The Life Zone (Movie Review)

The Life Zone' Review | From the Mind of Victor Lovecraft Anderson

Plot Summary

Three pregnant women, who each intended to have abortions, are kidnapped by a powerful and creepy corporation that’s bent on forcing its pro-life agenda onto people. This unethical company intends to hold the three women captive until they deliver their unborn children. While they wait, the women are forced to explore their pasts and understand what led them to their choices. With a premise as bad as this, you can’t even imagine how strange things get.

Production Quality (-3 points)

The Life Zone is truly a creation to behold for all the wrong reasons, starting with its extremely cheap production. Poor lighting and bad audio quality make for an obnoxious experience. The soundtrack is creepy, and the sets, locations, and props are cheap and limited. Editing is choppy, and while some small aspects of the production are slightly acceptable, this section is overall negatively impacted by other elements of the film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-3 points)

Words can hardly explain how awful this screenplay is. It’s hard to believe that this plot is so honest about the radical extremist wing of the pro-life movement. The Life Zone could be a dark parody if it weren’t so propaganda-heavy and full of bizarre sequences. Tossing all conventional movie procedures aside, such as meaningful dialogue and developed characters, The Life Zone elects to take a very demented turn down some of the less-traveled alleyways of Christian culture that many don’t dare to discuss. Instead of beating around the bush, this story fully embraces a warped view of the life issue to the point that the writers are unashamedly pro-baby and anti-mother rather than being an advocate for all life, born and unborn. Dominated with extraneous documentary content that attempts to brainwash the audience, this narrative is basically a slow descent into madness. Once The Life Zone reaches its climax, which is a very sick twist ending, it becomes clear what the creators’ agenda was: demonize everyone who’s ever had an abortion. Supporting the kidnapping of pregnant women so that they can be forced to deliver their babies is a very demented idea that has absolutely no place in Christian entertainment, which is why the negative ratings fill up this review.

Acting Quality (-3 points)

Much like the other aspects of this film, the acting is quite bad. Emotions are very strained while lines are forced and unnatural. Many cast members over-act and try way too hard to be convincing. Similar to the production, this section is negatively effected by the other horrible elements of the screenplay, which gives another negative score here.

Conclusion

Additionally, The Life Zone receives a negative x-factor point for being offensive propaganda that pushes a toxic agenda. There is literally zero justification for making a movie like this. If the pro-life movement is to defend the philosophies of this film, these activists are further gone than expected. This screenplay is the epitome of why the pro-life movement in America has not been fully successful over the past few decades. All that can be learned here is how not to do it, but such a movie can also prompt us to examine the purpose of our activism to see if we actually care about all people or just some.

Final Rating: -10 out of 10 points

Following the Subplots of The Chosen (Season 2, Episode 2: I Saw You)

The Chosen has been a transformational series, and it’s now in its second season. Its audience has exploded in the past year and only has more potential to grow. As the first multi-season Bible series to be created, it has the potential to reach beyond traditional Christian audiences and transform the culture both inside and outside the church. The series’ connections with real people in a Jewish cultural context as they encounter the Messiah are its biggest assets, so here’s a helpful guide to help keep up with the core subplots we saw in the second season’s second episode, entitled “I Saw You.”

***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***

Simon and Andrew

The two sons of Jonah continue a quiet competition with the Sons of Thunder, but the four men are mostly cordial in this episode. When Phillip arrives, Simon is wary of the stranger but surprised when his brother Andrew welcomes Phillip with open arms. Andrew tells his brother that he has a life outside of Simon. Simon still doesn’t fully accept Phillip, especially when the new disciple quickly takes a liking to Matthew and defends the former tax collector from the others’ mistreatment. However, Simon has begun to like Thomas more than the other disciples. Later, Andrew is glad to hear from Phillip that John the Baptizer remembers Andrew. When he discovers Matthew writing down recent events again, Simon chastises Matthew for doing this.

On their way to Caesarea Philippi, Simon makes sure that he has a one-on-one conversation with Jesus because Simon wants to ask the Lord about how the leadership structure should work when Christ is away. Simon is also concerned about Matthew writing everything down, but Jesus is nonplussed by this fact. Simon suggests how he thinks things should go, but the Lord says that Simon’s leadership skills will be needed in the future when things will have to be more structured due to Christ being absent. Simon wants to know what this means, but Jesus says that it’s another conversation for another time and warns Simon that he needs to be kinder to every member of the group and possibly slow down if it helps someone else. Throughout this episode, Simon continues to try to assert himself as the leader of the group while also being threatened by the leadership skills of Phillip.

Big James and John

The Sons of Thunder, after the others find out about their new moniker, settle into their position within the group as manual laborers. After the initial shock, the sons of Zebedee are indifferent to Phillip’s arrival and mostly keep to themselves in this episode.

Matthew

After Matthew can’t find any dry wood, Simon criticizes Matthew for his lack of skills. However, Phillip uses this opportunity to take Matthew under his wing by showing him that they can dry the wet wood that Matthew found. Phillip treats Matthew differently than the others do, so this prompts Matthew to open up to Phillip about how Matthew feels different from the rest of the world. Phillip says that he also feels different from others but believes that someone’s past doesn’t matter anymore after Jesus calls them. Phillip tells Matthew to remind Simon of this the next time that Simon criticized Matthew about something. Matthew does this when Simon chastises Matthew for writing down all the events that happen to them. Matthew tells Thaddeus that he has to have a good record because the disciples were already disagreeing about how things occurred.

Later, Matthew agrees to assist Mary Magdalene and Ramah by copying portions of the Torah for the women to learn. Matthew tells the women that he will ask Phillip what the most important passages are. Phillip tells Matthew that he will think this over and tell Matthew as soon as possible.

Mary Magdalene, Thaddeus, and Little James

After hearing some of the men recite from the prophecies of Ezekiel, Mary Magdalene is motivated to learn more. In this episode, she seems distracted by something but doesn’t want to talk about it. Thus, Mary throws herself into helping Ramah learn how to read and write, enlisting Matthew’s help by asking for his tablet and help with learning the Torah.

Thaddeus shares with Matthew his newfound love for praying and tries to encourage Matthew even though others do not treat Matthew the same way. Thaddeus attempts to keep the peace between Simon and Matthew during their feud over Matthew’s writing.

Little James has no notable scenes in this episode.

Thomas and Ramah

In this episode, Thomas is still trying to find his place among the group. He becomes slightly jealous of Matthew helping Ramah learn how to read and offers his assistance in her endeavors.

Ramah realizes that following Jesus was harder than she thought and is glad for Mary Magdalene helping her learn how to read and write. When Thomas offers to tell Ramah what she needs to know, Ramah is noncommittal.

Phillip and Nathanael

Phillip visits the main disciple group because John the Baptizer told him to do so. Phillip immediately makes his presence known among the group because he doesn’t immediately conform to their expectations. Phillip makes waves by quickly taking Matthew under his wing to mentor him. As a disciple with two years of experience in the wilderness, Phillip decides to help Matthew collect the wet wood so that they can dry it for later use. During this task, Phillip tells Matthew that the Messiah defines people by who they are rather than who they used to be.

Later, Phillip tells Jesus that he will follow Christ as his new rabbi, and the two men discuss John the Baptizer and the Lord’s future work. Phillip and Jesus agree that the Messiah’s work is unconventional, much like the work of His cousin John the Baptizer. Phillip also asks if they can stop to see a friend in Caesarea Philippi before they continue on, and Christ agrees.

As an architect, Nathanael is proud that he’s a Jew working among Romans, but he also grows impatient with the lack of progress on one of his current projects. While arguing with the foreman about these delays, the unfinished construction collapses, dooming Nathanael’s career. This sends the former architect into a depression as he sits under a fig tree and asks God why He let Nathanael’s projects fail when they were meant to be for Yahweh. Nathanael recites passages from the Psalms, burns his blueprints, and pours the ashes on his head.

Afterward, Nathanael bars himself in his house, which forces Phillip to climb in through the window to see him. The two of them are old friends, and Nathanael recounts his woes. Phillip is sorry for his friend but insists that Nathanael needs to be come and see the Man Who is the Messiah. Nathanael is skeptical because Jesus is from Nazareth, but Phillip insists that He is the Messiah, which is why Nathanael has to come and see him. Nathanael agrees, realizing that he does not have anything else to do, and he admits that he’s never seen Phillip act like this.

As soon as Phillip and Nathanael come to Christ, the Lord calls Nathanael a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit. Jesus informs Nathanael that He saw Nathanael while he was under the fig tree at his lowest point, which prompts Nathanael to immediately call the Lord his rabbi. Phillip is glad about this development. Christ tells Nathanael that he will see even greater things, such as the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man, but for now, the work in Syria will begin the following day.

Timbertown (Movie Review)

Timbertown (2019) | Trailer | Eleanor Brown | Cory Kays | Adam Dufour -  YouTube

Plot Summary

There’s a murder mystery among the people of Timbertown, but most are too busy to care. However, when a logger accidentally discovers the body, an ambitious Natural Resources officer takes it upon himself to solve the case. Doing such leads him to unexpected places, and each character must determine how they will find purpose in a life that is sometimes meaningless.

Production Quality (2 points)

Timbertown has an acceptable production as a whole since it lacks glaring errors. Despite some inconsistent camera work, video quality and audio quality are on par with industry standards. The soundtrack is intriguing, and sets, props, and locations are authentic. Lighting is good, but there’s some lagging editing due to the nature of the story. Thus, in the end, an above-average rating is awarded to this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

In the beginning, Timbertown is quite boring and doesn’t accomplish very much, especially since a lot of the complicated dialogue doesn’t effectively build characters. In the first half of the plot, it’s hard to understand the point as it’s based on a vague idea that isn’t fully fleshed out. After wasting some time, the narrative suddenly changes into an anthology as if it’s a series. This element of the film is interesting because it lets the audience see the same scenes from other characters’ perspectives, thus fleshing them out and bringing more clarity to the situations. However, despite this creative aspect, the story is still a partial idea that lacks deep enough characters to carry the plot when the viewer is confused. In the final third of the movie, there’s actually a really good montage that lets the audience know the entire purpose of the screenplay, even if it’s a little too late. Working backwards to get to this point was commendable, but it left the viewer uninterested in the stakes, which begs the need for a better hook. The characters have tons of potential to be gray rather than black-and-white, so they just needed more development to fully achieve the goals that the writers had. Thus, with a good amount of prospect that wasn’t completely fleshed out, this aspect of the film receives one point.

Acting Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the acting in Timbertown is either average or slightly better. Some cast members are better and worse than others. As a while, line delivery and emotions are believable and on-point. The positive aspects, combined with the fact that some elements could be better, leads to a slightly above-average score for this section.

Conclusion

The core concept of this film would have worked much better as a series that involved more content and collaboration. Nonetheless, the creative team behind this movie has massive potential for the future as they could expand the long-neglected genre of suspense mystery in Christian entertainment. We need more faith-based mysterious that are actually engaging and unpredictable. Perhaps these creators can do this in the future.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

The Girl Who Believes in Miracles (Movie Review)

Sneak Peek of New Film Starring Kevin Sorbo and Mira Sorvino 'The Girl Who  Believes in Miracles' | CBN.com

Plot Summary

Sara Hopkins is just a regular perfect little girl who not many people take seriously. However, when she begins praying for miracles and when the miracles actually happen, others begin to take notice. Everywhere she goes, Sara can’t help but encounter a situation where she prays for a miracle that later occurs. Nonetheless, these experiences take a toll on Sara as she suddenly begins dying of an undisclosed medical condition. The only hope for her survival is for her grandfather to concoct a slightly illegal scheme to spring Sara from the hospital and, against all odds, take her to a magical lake. Can they do this questionable act before it’s too late???

Production Quality (2 points)

As a well-funded project, The Girl Who Believes in Miracles has a professional production. This is shown by good video quality and camera work. The audio quality is fine but could be better due to blank portions that lack music and a boring, generic soundtrack. Sets, locations, and props are on par, and lighting is acceptable throughout. However, there are some terrible special effects and choppy editing, but there’s enough positive here to warrant an above-average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

This film is essentially a series of disconnected scenes that present one thing after the next, strung together with plenty of expository dialogue. As one miracle after another are spoon-fed to the audience, there’s no way to feel any emotions about what’s happening because the characters are so blank. This nonchalant presentation of important events short-circuits payoffs and prevents the viewers from understanding who the characters are. A matter-of-fact and clinical approach to this topic was a very bad idea as life-changing occurrences are treated as boring or uneventful. Besides this, the dialogue is incredibly underwhelming and empty. Conversations accomplish very little outside of information dumps, and most of the Christian characters are basically perfect. Offscreen content is skipped over for no reason other than the fact that there’s too many new characters to introduce before the absurd conclusion. After aa number of extremely convenient turns and coincidences that suit the writers’ means, the plot escalates into utter madness for the final act. One of the few enduring themes of the narrative is a fixation on a magical lake, so the ridiculous ending sequence of this movie involves all the characters, who you’re expected to care about for no reason, engineering a basically illegal and very dishonest scheme to kidnap a dying girl from a hospital so that she can go to said magic lake. This madness only works due to luck and caps off a story that gets worse as it goes, which is why this section receives negative points.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Despite the obvious flaws of the screenplay, The Girl Who Believes in Miracles actually has good acting without any glaring errors. However, some performances are a bit too dramatic and overwrought, extending beyond the scope of the cast members’ skill sets. There’s also some slight inconsistency with emotional delivery, but line delivery is on-point. Thus, an above-average score is justified here.

Conclusion

After the success of “miracle” films like Heaven is for Real and Miracles from Heaven, it’s inevitable that other creators will try to capitalize. However, The Girl Who Believes in Miracles comes to such an outlandish conclusion that many audiences will feel isolated. In the end, an obvious cash grab like this movie really should not be supported because its funding could have been better served on other projects. Before producing more click-bait like this screenplay, creative teams needs to consider what their intentions are and how their work will leave a lasting impact beyond the opening weekend at theaters.

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

The Wager [2020] (Movie Review)

The Wager (2020) | Trailer | Cameron Arnett | Jim Gloyd | Bishop Stevens |  Ty Sheldon | John Wells - YouTube

Plot Summary

When Brucie loses some kind of supernatural wager with a spiritual being, Brucie is allowed to retrace the steps of his life to see how it happened and how things could have been different. Through mind-bending and reality-defying methods, Brucie criss-crosses through time to see his life in hindsight. Will be able to make the right choice before it’s too late?

Production Quality (2 points)

As a whole, The Wager has a fairly good production despite a lot of loud background sounds. Even still, the soundtrack is very interesting and seems too advanced for this film. Lighting is a bit inconsistent, but video quality is stable throughout. Sets, locations, and props are on par, and editing is acceptable. Thus, this rounds out an above-average section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Despite interesting character backstories, very generic dialogue consistently overstates the obvious in this narrative, thus causing the characters to be too cardboard and generic. Very expository conversations leave nothing to chance, spoon-feeding the viewer with a very pushy Christian message. Random and disconnected scenes cause the plot to lack concrete themes or purposes; silly coincidences and convenient turns also make for a frustrating experience. Large time jumps confuse the audience, as do trippy psychological sequences that lack sense and only waste time. Although this movie is full of hit-and-miss story presentations due to a meandering, stream-of-consciousness narrative, there is actually a grain of potential somewhere in this screenplay. Aside from all the clutter, several key concepts that are explored in The Wager have the ability to be great. However, the film continually gets in its own way, so only a small score can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Although there are some good performances among this cast, many of the scenes come off as very scripted and overly practiced. Emotions and lines are a bit forced and stilted at times. However, Cameron Arnette is always a standout actor, and as a whole, all the cast members improve with time. Thus, this is enough to warrant an average rating in this section.

Conclusion

In the end, The Wager is full of wasted ideas that need restructuring and repackaging. It’s clear that this creative team wanted to go in a certain direction, but they forgot to let the viewers in on where the movie was actually headed. Mind-bending psychological trips don’t exactly engage the audience or help the watcher connect with the characters. Therefore, this screenplay is an opportunity for the creators to reflect on what they want to convey in the context of film and apply these findings to future projects.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Fearless Faith (Movie Review)

Watch Fearless Faith | Prime Video

Plot Summary

Colton is a police officer who’s haunted by the trauma of witnessing his former partner get gunned down in a crossfire. Now, Colton avoids all things relating to God even though his wife wants him to come back to the faith. However, circumstances begin to change Colton’s heart as he’s forced to face the past that he’s been running from.

Production Quality (2 points)

Although this production is mostly above-average, it still has some unnecessary pitfalls, such as odd zooms in the camera work and some strangely blurry video quality in certain parts. Action camera work is inconsistent, and the soundtrack is a bit loud at times. Also, flashbacks tend to be disorienting, and the editing has a lot of quick cuts and transitions, but all aspects of the production generally improve with time. This include better video quality, audio quality, and camera work in the second half of the film. Sets, locations, and props are relatively stable throughout. In the end, this mixed-bag section does enough to warrant this score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Fearless Faith is based on a very valid and worthy idea that needs to be explored in entertainment: law enforcement trauma. However, this concept is presented with stream-of-consciousness storytelling that lacks focus or overarching themes. Average conversations don’t do enough to develop the generic characters although there is a lot of missed potential to have better dialogue. The perfect Christian characters and racial stereotypes don’t do much to help the cause of the narrative. Religious platitudes and lack of continuity are only compounded by wasted time and plot jumps. Despite dry humor and sarcasm that could have made for interesting experience, unrealistic coincidences happen just because the writers need them to. Even though the ending does a somewhat good job of bringing everything together, characters are fixed way too easily, and the conclusion isn’t properly set up. There are no meaningful payoffs because a majority of the storyline is just kicking the can down the road to get to an unearned high point. The climax falls flat where it could have soared because it lacks effective build-up, and personal tragedies aren’t exactly treated in a serious fashion. All of this is to say that Fearless Faith had the potential to be a truly interesting movie, but this section’s low score holds it back.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, the acting in this screenplay is average. Surprisingly, Jason Burkey may have found his niche in this film as he demonstrates pretty good performances with dry humor and sarcasm. This role doesn’t require him to go too far beyond his abilities, which actually works. Elsewhere, there are no obviously glaring errors in this section except for some annoying yelling and screaming. In certain pivotal scenes, the acting can tend to be unnecessarily blank and not present. In the end, this aspect of them movie rounds out an okay effort.

Conclusion

Fearless Faith had a lot going for it since it was written by real law enforcement officers who know what it’s like in the real world. This creative team put forth a pretty good project in Beautifully Broken, but Fearless Faith seems to lose some of this progress. A disorganized narrative derailed most of the potential in this screenplay, and a handful of concerns in production and acting didn’t help either. Next time, however, this team can hopefully learn from their mistakes and seek better counsel in their plot development.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Following the Subplots of The Chosen (Season 2, Episode 1: Thunder)

The Chosen has been a transformational series, and it’s now in its second season Its audience has exploded in the past year and only has more potential to grow. As the first multi-season Bible series to be created, it has the potential reach beyond traditional Christian audiences and transform the culture both inside and outside the church. The series’ connections with real people in a Jewish cultural context as they encounter the Messiah are its biggest assets, so here’s a helpful guide to help keep up with the core subplots we saw in the second season’s first episode, entitled “Thunder.”

***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***

Simon and Andrew

Continuing his trend from the second half of Season 1, Simon tries to assert himself as an authority over the other disciples, insisting that he cares the most about protecting Jesus. This attitude prompts jealously toward and competition with the sons of Zebedee, especially when Jesus seems to give Big James and John special privileges. Andrew vacillates between supporting his brother in the “competition” with Zebedee’s sons and trying to mediate a truce between the two parties. Simon believes that Jesus needs to set the agenda for the group while Big James and John want to decide how things will go. Also, Andrew tries to make Matthew feel more welcome in the group.

Big James and John

When Jesus gives the two brothers special assignments to plow a field and lead the other disciples in purchasing supplies for a meal, Big James and John become overconfident in their abilities and their seemingly new position in the disciple group. Maintaining their hatred of Samaritans, the sons of Zebedee believe that they should have more power in the group of followers and want to organize a detailed itinerary for their Rabbi. However, Big James and John are disappointed when they discover that they plowed the field and gathered food for a disabled Samaritan and his family.

Additionally, Zebedee’s sons are infuriated when they are mistreated by some Samaritan passersby. The two brothers, emboldened by a statement from Jesus about being given power, demand that the Lord allow Big James and John to call down fire on the people who had mistreated them. Christ reprimands the two brothers by reminding them that they are not better than the Samaritans and that the work they were accomplishing in Sychar would last generations. Jesus told the sons of Zebedee that the people of Sychar were believing in the message of the kingdom of heaven without even seeing miracles and that it was important for Big James and John to be leaders among the disciples by not allowing their tempers to carry them away. After the two brothers admit their wrongdoing, the Lord called them the Sons of Thunder because of their high-strung attitudes that could be used for good but would need to be controlled before they received powerful authority from heaven.

Later, Christ has a private meeting with John in the Torah Room of the Sychar synagogue, asking for John’s opinion on what passage to read. John says that he always liked the very beginning of Genesis when God made the heavens and the earth, so Jesus choose this passage to read to the people.

Matthew

Matthew continues to be socially isolated from the other disciples, with the exceptions of Mary Magdalene and Andrew. However, Matthew tries to assert himself as useful by calculating how long it would take to reach every person in Sychar. Matthew also keeps careful track of the disciples’ monetary funds, worrying that they will not have enough for the future. Further, Matthew sides with Big James and John, although they do not particularly like him, supporting their proposal to have a detailed schedule for Jesus’ ministry. In their first encounter, Matthew and Thomas do not hit it off very well.

Mary Magdalene, Thaddeus, and Little James

Mary Magdalene disliked the the conflict between the sons of Jonah and the sons of Zebedee, purposely staying out of their discussions. Thaddeus and Little James were mostly quiet about the tension but tried to find simple solutions for it. Mary Magdalene did her best to make Matthew feel welcome in the group and also tried to help Thomas and Ramah settle in comfortably.

Thomas and Ramah

Thomas and Ramah made their way to Sychar with Ramah’s reluctant father, Kaphni, to join the main disciple group. Thomas and Ramah tried to awkwardly accommodate Kaphni as he consistently criticized the two of them for their decision to leave their jobs behind and follow Jesus. Once in Sychar, Kaphni demanded an audience with the Lord, and Thomas began posturing for an important position among the disciples. However, despite wanting to make a schedule for Christ to follow, Thomas chose to stay out of the conflict between the sons of Jonah and the sons of Zebedee.

After continuing to reprimand Thomas and Ramah for wanting to follow Jesus into the unknown, Kaphni tells the Lord that he only came because of the wedding miracle that Thomas and Ramah had described to him. Although Kaphni believed that talk of miracles was blasphemy, he was still grateful for what Christ had done but refused to acknowledge anything further. Jesus told Kaphni that He understood why Kaphni was concerned and wouldn’t ask anything of him. After giving Ramah some money and telling Thomas that he wasn’t sure if he would agree with Thomas and Ramah marrying in the future, Kaphni left them on uncertain terms. After Kaphni’s departure, Thomas and Ramah were more subdued in group settings.

Photina, Neriah, and the Citizens of Sychar

Photina continues to gather the Samaritans who live in Sychar so that they can hear Jesus preach. Many citizens are opening to and excited about the teaching. Neriah listens to the Lord tell how God will leave ninety-nine righteous people to find one lost sinner, and this changes Neriah’s heart. As a result, Photina and Neriah later invite Christ and His disciples to stay in their large house. Later, Photina and Neriah go to the local synagogue to hear Jesus read from Genesis.

Photina also introduces the Lord to Melech, whose field the Sons of Thunder plowed. Christ and His disciples bring food to share a meal with Melech and his family, who are very poor. Melech’s leg is paralyzed from an unhealed broken bone, and after some conversation, Jesus encourages Melech to share the story behind the injury. Melech reveals that he broke it while trying to rob a Jewish traveler who was passing through the area. Melech is ashamed of this and doesn’t understand why the Lord would help him, but Christ says that God leaves ninety-nine righteous people behind to find one lost sinner. Before leaving, Jesus encourages Melech to regularly visit the synagogue and learn what he can. That night, the Lord heals Melech’s leg while Melech was sleeping. The next day, Melech and his family come to the synagogue to hear Christ’s reading.

The Disciples in the Future

Simon, Andrew, Thomas, Nathanael, Thaddeus, Little James, Matthew, Mary Magdalene, and Mary Mother are shown at a future point in time, right after the martyrdom of Big James. John son of Zebedee is interviewing these disciples to get their accounts of when they first met Jesus. However, John is struggling with how to begin his gospel, which he dialogues with Mary Mother about. Mary Mother wants John to wait and mourn his brother’s death, but John insists on writing it down before everyone gets too old. Matthew says that he will write a precise gospel. In the end, John decides to introduce his gospel with a writing based on the opening words of Genesis, which he was reminded of by his memory of the Lord’s reading in the Sychar synagogue.

Roe v. Wade (Movie Review)

ROE v. WADE the Movie | Indiegogo

Plot Summary

In this propaganda version of history, Roe v. Wade only happened because a giant conspiracy involving the media, the court system, and the medical field forced it to happen since they were so addicted to abortions. This alleged cabal supposedly loved abortion so much that they regularly sang songs about it. If this film is to be believed, all the conspirators ever thought about night and day was abortion, and anyone who stood against them was to be completely ostracized. With movies like these, it’s no wonder that so many people are skeptical of the pro-life movement.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, the production of Roe v. Wade is mostly acceptable, including good video quality and camera work. However, audio quality is uneven, as shown by very poor overdubs and an inconsistent soundtrack. Some scenes are very dark while others have odd soft lighting. Sets, locations, and props are passable, but the editing is quite choppy. Cuts and transitions are all over the map, but this aspect of the film is likely due to the utter disaster that is the plot. In the end, the production section is at least average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2.5 points)

Seemingly in a mission to become one of the most obnoxious and in-your-face movies since Assassin 33 AD or The Reliant, Roe v. Wade succeeds on all fronts. Beginning with the very first scene, the screenplay’s extreme pro-life message is pushed on the audience via immediate and constant narration that sometimes covers up dialogue. Moreover, it’s not like the conversations are really worth hearing since most of the dialogue is designed for shock factors and propaganda. Not a single spoken line can exist without a fundamentalist agenda being shoved down the viewer’s throat. Elsewhere, tons of content is forced into the narrative, including random asides that continually interrupt the storyline. Large time jumps and information dumps attempt to connect it all together, so all these pitfalls inevitably create wooden characters. The “bad” characters, such as the abortion activists, could not be worse strawmen, and there are generally way too many characters to keep up with. The most disgusting aspects of the issue are obsessed over, and the pro-abortion side of the argument is portrayed in the most evil way possible. Due to the massive amount of content in this film, many sequences are very rushed, leading to a nonsensical and incoherent conclusion. Needless to say, this section easily earns its negative rating.

Acting Quality (0 points)

A majority of the acting in this movie is quite overplayed and disingenuous. Line delivery is robotic, and emotions are forced. It’s extremely difficult to believe that many of the actors and actresses in this bloated cast are taking the matter seriously. Hence, this aspect of the screenplay rounds out an effort that should have never happened.

Conclusion

Much like the production process of Unplanned, the creation of Roe v. Wade was seemingly based on deception as some of the initial cast and crew were allegedly not given complete information about the film’s intentions. Whether or not this claim is fully or partially true, it seems to shed light on the attitude of the movie’s creators: produce propaganda at any cost and through any means necessary. Thus, we’re left with this finish product, which is a total disaster in every way. Hopefully, in the very near future, we’ll no longer see offerings like this one that further mar the reputation of Christian entertainment.

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

God’s Fool (Movie Review)

God's Fool (2020) | Trailer | Scott William Winters | Nathan Clarkson |  Laura Orrico - YouTube

Plot Summary

Frank grew up with a privileged life, but it means nothing to him. He’s tried to fill the hole in his soul with all kinds of vices, but nothing helps. Thus, when Frank meets a Franciscan friar one day, Frank’s life changes forever as he learns about the Franciscan order’s philosophy of life. Frank commits himself to live this life but finds it harder than expected as many oppose his new faith.

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, God’s Fool has a pretty good production, including good video quality and audio quality. The soundtrack is quite intriguing, but the camera work is a bit inconsistent. Lighting is aligned with industry standards, and sets, locations, and props are acceptable. This section’s biggest drawback is its terrible editing as the film is presented in a very choppy way. Nonetheless, an above-average score is still warranted here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Despite being based on an interesting idea, this plot meanders all over the place with no focus. One random thing happens after another, including a wild 800-year time jump after an extended prologue that seems initially disconnected from the main narrative. Stream-of-consciousness storytelling leaves the movie lacking a central focus. As a result, the characters are hard to relate to, and even though some dialogue sequences are interesting, it all needs to be deeper. The characters’ struggles are very detached and hard to relate to. While many conversations bring up good points, the back-and-forth interactions are poorly presented, causing the audience to be flooded with ideas without helping them feel the conflict. In general, too many events occur in this plot, and the “bad” characters don’t have good reasons for their actions. Although this narrative explores realistic church corruption issues, it’s all too detached and vague, leaving the viewer without meaningful impact. Thus, due to a small amount of potential, only a small rating can be awarded in this section.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, the performances in God’s Fool come off as staged and overly measured. Emotional and line delivery are clinical and generally lack conviction. Accents are not culturally accurate, but costuming is authentic. Nonetheless, despite these shortcomings, the acting does improve with time, which is enough to warrant an average score here.

Conclusion

It’s clear that the creators of this screenplay meant well in what they were doing. They are trying to present an honest look at modern-day Christianity. However, convoluted storytelling and uneven acting detract from the film’s potential. A more focused narrative would have gotten the presentation off on the right foot. Perhaps, in the future, this creative team can build upon what they have done here to improve their craft.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

A Cowgirl’s Story (Movie Review)

A Cowgirl's Story': Movie Review | HORSE NATION

Plot Summary

Dusty Rhodes has had a hard time due both of her parents being in the military and being called out for duty at the same time during the Iraqi War. While she lives with her grandfather, Dusty has an idea to force her school to start a horse program by riding her horse to school. As a result, she gets a whole bunch of her classmates together to compete in horse competitions, but things get even more complicated from there. Can Dusty rely on her faith to make it through?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, A Cowgirl’s Story has an average production, including fine video quality but odd camera work as some scenes appear to be filmed in busy public places. Audio quality is acceptable, however, and the sets, locations, and props are run-of-the-mill. Other aspects are okay, but the editing is a big detractor. The cuts and transitions are very poor, making for a choppy viewing experience. Due to this mixed bag, a middle-of-the-road score is warranted here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With absolutely no substantial plot content to speak of, this film lacks meaningful conflict and story focus. The narrative jumps all over the map as one thing happens after another without any clear connections to other events. A disjointed and spastic narrative presentation takes the audience on a wild ride through cheesy high school romances and horse subplots that just happen for no good reason other than the writers’ whims. The characters experience extremely unrealistic and absurd circumstances just for the sake of coincidences, and there’s so many things to keep up with since more and more new concepts are continually being introduced. This is disorienting to the viewer, and it makes matters worse that the characters are incredibly blank. Stiff and forced conversations accomplish absolutely nothing as they’re full of vanilla and stock dialogue. Therefore, due to purposelessness and pointlessness in this section, no points can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Despite some average performances from a handful of cast members, much of the acting in this movie is cringeworthy, especially the teenage and young adult actors and actresses. This includes forced line delivery and emotions. It’s hard to take some of the cast members seriously, especially when Pat Boone posts creepy performances. Thus, this section can only receive a meager score.

Conclusion

A Cowgirl’s Story is just another pointless screenplay littering the Christian entertainment landscape. There’s no point to films like these except to make an attempt at a cash grab. Hopefully, however, these days are ending as we look forward to an improved market where creators actually care about producing quality content that can connect with audiences.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Worm [2007] (Movie Review)

Worm | Pure Flix

Plot Summary

Adam was one of the cool kids in high school who didn’t want anything to do with Christianity. However, he’s forced to examine the faith when people around him begin following Jesus. Nonetheless, Adam still wants nothing to do with Christ until it’s too late for him.

Production Quality (1 point)

Even though this production has okay video quality and camera work, the audio quality is quite weird, including loud sound effects, obvious overdubs, and a distorted soundtrack. Sets, locations, and props are average, but lighting is inconsistent. Editing is also passable, but there are too many concerns to award this section more than one point.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

It seems like that the entire purpose of this plot is to try to scare people into becoming Christians, which is a ridiculous tactic. The message-pushing is extremely obvious and doesn’t allow the audience to decide anything for themselves. The narrative is full of expository conversations and manufactured dialogue that make for cheesy characters, including absurd strawmen non-Christians and overly perfect Christians. There’s also quite a bit of talk about off-screen happenings as well as mindless sequences that accomplish nothing. The story concludes in a very dark way, and due to the propaganda nature of this film, this section has to receive a negative point.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, this section doesn’t yield any positive results either as most of the performances seem overly staged. Line delivery is unnatural and overly practiced, and it makes matters worse that the cast members frequently talk over the top of one another. Further, emotions are mechanical, rounding out a zero-potential effort.

Conclusion

We’ve said it before and will say it again: propaganda screenplays always fail. There’s just no potential in them. Setting off to push an agenda on the audience is always the wrong motive, and it will be inevitably exposed. There’s simply no sense in contributing this sort of garbage to the market.

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

My Brother’s Keeper [2021] (Movie Review)

My Brother's Keeper - IMDb

Plot Summary

When Travis Fox returns from war, the trauma of combat still haunts him, especially the death of his Christian friend.  Nonetheless, Travis has sworn off Christianity altogether, wanting to move on with his life.  However, the past won’t leave him alone, and new complications with Travis’ family don’t help matters.  Will he ever be able to find peace?

Production Quality (2 points)

In keeping with most Christian productions that have come out since 2018, My Brother’s Keeper is mostly professional.  Video quality, camera work, and audio are all in line with industry standards.  For the most part, sets, locations, and props are acceptable although they sometimes don’t adequately represent what they’re supposed to portray.  The biggest concern in this section is the choppy editing as some scenes cut and transition in awkward ways.  Thus, this portion of the film receive a slightly above-average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Throughout this narrative, the conversations and scenes come off as overly staged and unnatural, such as the forceful dialogue and messaging (including overt sermonizing) that leaves nothing to chance.  These problems are only complicated by the many subplots that are juggled, which causes the story to lack focus.  As a result, every character is a one-dimensional representation of an issue rather than an actual person.  Despite potentially good PTSD flashbacks, these experiences are a bit overwrought instead of providing opportunities for the audience to connect with the character.  Elsewhere, events in the narrative happen just because the writers want them to, and this extreme level of convenience causes the plot of aimlessly meander through a sea of empty platitudes and disorganized ideas.  It goes without saying that there are also some very questionable portrayals of dual relationships and counseling ethics.  In the end, there’s unfortunately no potential in this story, leading to zero points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Despite acceptable line delivery, the emotions in this movie’s performances are very over-the-top.  This is evidenced by lots of yelling and screaming, and it’s generally hard to believe that the cast members care about what they’re doing.  Many of their performances are robotic and practiced although there are some bright spots.  In the end, due to the errors, only a small score is warranted here.

Conclusion

My Brother’s Keeper is essentially another Christian issue screenplay, this time focusing on PTSD.  Normally, this would be a good idea, but adequate research and firsthand accounts are needed to keep mental health portrayals realistic.  There are many complex factors to consider, so crowding out this concept with subpar content isn’t the way to go.  Unfortunately, this film is unable to connect with the audience, which likely means that it will be forgotten in a few weeks.

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Romance in the Outfield: Double Play (Movie Review)

Review: Utah-made 'Romance in the Outfield: Double Play' strikes out in the  rom-com department — The Movie Cricket

Plot Summary

Kenzie and Tyler used to be in love, but after their falling out, they haven’t spoken for years. However, a string of coincidences has now thrown them back together, and they’ll have to decide what they’re going to do about it. Also, Tyler’s sister has her own relationship issues to sort out.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, this film’s production is acceptable, including fine camera work and good video quality. Lighting is okay throughout, but there are some background echoes along with an inconsistent soundtrack. Sets, locations, and props are somewhat limited in scope, but the editing is at least average. As a result, these factors produce a run-of-the-mill score for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As a sequel to a movie that no one can remember, Romance in the Outfield: Double Play expects the viewers to understand what’s already happened in this narrative. However, this is poorly communicated, leaving the plot purposeless. It feels like every scene is constructed to happen just because the writers want them to, therefore producing blank characters with vanilla and cardboard dialogue. Lots of time is wasted on long and meaningless sequences that use the characters as pawns in a stupid romance agenda. Ridiculously fake conflicts fuel the romantic tug-of-war, and extremely convenient situations force strangers into baseless relationships with each other. The most absurd romance tropes are presented in the most infantile ways until the story mercifully ends, leaving the audience without anything substantial or useful. Thus, no points can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

On the whole, the acting in this screenplay seems unsure although it’s not all bad. Oftentimes, line delivery is too muted, and the emotions are quite mechanical. With nothing truly dynamic yet some potential, only a point is warranted in this section.

Conclusion

Romance in the Outfield: Double Play is essentially a follow-up just for the sake of it. There was nothing in Pitching Love and Catching Faith that justified a sequel, especially when the sequel just rehashed the same narrative while still somehow leaving the audience mostly in the dark as to what the first installment was about. This failure was difficult to pull off, but this creative team did it effortlessly. In the end, a lack of effort is this film’s biggest downfall and the reason why it didn’t need to exist.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Church People [2021] (Movie Review)

CHURCH PEOPLE (2020) | Movieguide | Movie Reviews for Christians

Plot Summary

Youth pastor Guy Sides feels like he’s stuck inside of a well-oiled ministry machine. His boss, lead pastor Skip Finney, wants to find new and outlandish ways to draw people into the church. However, Guy feels like the simple gospel is enough. Nonetheless, Skip charges ahead with zany plans for an Easter production that will have everyone talking about it. Can Guy help everyone see the true meaning of Easter before it’s too late?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s evident from start to finish that Church People is well-funded, and this results in a professional production. This high quality is evidenced by top-notch video, camera, and audio elements. The sets, locations, and props are great, and it’s clear that the money has been well-spent. The only minor concerns in this section pertain to some inconsistency in editing, but overall, a high score is warranted here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This plot begins with a strong opening sequence that refrains from narration and establishes a basis for subtle humor that avoids being too over-the-top. Though the comedy is sometimes a bit dry, the writers were definitely trying to construct effective dialogue as they took a realistic look at the problems with the corporate church mentality. There are many relatable conversations throughout the narrative although there’s also a dose of exposition throughout the course of the conversing. However, as the story continues to develop, some comedy overstays its welcome, being used too much and coming off as too quirky. Rather than expanding as it goes, the premise remains quite thin and has little basis in reality beyond silly conventions. Montages strung together with humor take the place of deeper character development, and some oddly explained off-screen scenes only make matters more awkward. When it comes down to it, Church People is just another return-to-hometown plot, complete with forced romance-with-your-former-love tropes. Despite its promising beginning, this narrative continues its nose dive all the way to a forced conclusion that involves an eye-rolling ‘twist’ that doesn’t really work. Thus, one point is garnered here.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Although Stephen Baldwin once again positioned himself to star as a wise character in a self-produced film, he exhibits an acceptable kind of unusual in Church People. Other cast members are quite good in their performances despite a few slightly awkward moments. Some actors and actresses can be over-the-top and over-extended, but for the most part, they are all well-coached. As a whole, this section is at least above-average.

Conclusion

In the end, some audiences will enjoy this screenplay even though it travels through well-worn church comedy ruts. Unfortunately, the humor just isn’t enough to carry the entire movie: deeper characters are needed to drive the point home. The purpose of Church People is commendable (exposing corporate Christianity), but the audience isn’t left with much beyond the obvious fact that this approach to the faith is insufficient. Therefore, this film boils down to another standard comedy release that will unfortunately be forgotten in a few months.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points