A High School Story (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Faith High is a seemingly ordinary private Christian high school with all the typical high school issues, but one student is intent on forcing the daily events she sees unfold around her into some kind of Biblical parallel so that she can have an interesting end-of-the-semester school project to talk about.  A new kid comes to town as the backup quarterback and falls in love with a mostly silent ballet dancer, so this is naturally the stories of David and Esther mashed together.  The vain and self-impressed starting quarterback is obviously Saul, and you can see how this keeps going.  With this movie in the works for so long, you would think some better content was created.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Ever since 2nd Greatest, Kingdom Sight Studios has been committed to crafting more professional productions than A Perfect Chord.  Thus, A High School Story has a mostly average production that’s fueled mainly by good video quality, find audio quality, and professional sets, locations, and props.  However, the soundtrack is sometimes too loud, and there are some odd camera angles and wild camera work, especially in the poorly filmed sports action scenes that feel like nothing is really happening even though you’re supposed to think there’s an actual game going on.  Scenes like these show the true genius of Facing the Giants in the independent film world (A High School Story even has a discount version of Bobby Lee Duke).  Elsewhere in A High School Story, there are too many stupid slow-motion scenes, as well as self-serving product placements and unwarranted self-love for A Perfect Chord.  In the end, this is a mostly average production that could have done better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From start to finish, annoying narration decides to explain things to us that we should be about to figure out on our own if the dialogue was any good at all.  We apparently have to be told who the characters are instead of letting them develop on their own through actual conversations.  There are also plenty of weird attempts at cringe-worthy bad comedy as ‘bad’ characters are over the top bad while ‘good’ characters are too perfect.  As is commonplace in cheap sports films, training montages displace opportunities for plot and character growth, as do ridiculous high school nonsense and predictable love triangle stupidity.  There are too many cheesy attempts at ‘young people’ dialogue, and we mention the beyond-cheesy attempts to force Bible stories into this modern-day plot?  This seriously needs to stop.  In the end, this plot contributes nothing to the film’s score.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With mainstay Kingdom Sight cast members, this acting job is another average one as there are some fine moments that are cancelled out by other moments of awkward and forced acting.  When some cast members attempt their own brand of comedy, it’s quite bad.  It goes without saying that some cast members seem desperate to advertise their horrid local comedy act throughout the film.  Essentially, while these often-used Kingdom Sight cast members are definitely gaining experience with each film, there’s just not enough coaching present here to sustain a higher score.

Conclusion

There’s one thing Kingdom Sight is getting right: releasing films directly to PureFlix On Demand and Amazon Prime in order to get them out there rather than to waste time and money on limited screenings no one will go see and DVD’s that will end up in the $5 Walmart bin.  However, 3 points is basically the ‘best of the worst’ score according to our review scale.  After 2nd Greatest, Kingdom Sight likely hit their ceiling of potential with their current model, so it’s time for them to take the next step in movie making.  They seem committed to trying different things, and their production model is mostly fine.  Thus, with their next film, they need to take a bigger step towards greatness by employing a better screen writer and a better acting coach (plus maybe some new cast members).

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Advertisements

If You’re Gone (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Brad and Lillian believed that they were meant to be together forever.  When Brad graduates from high school, Lillian believes this will not affect their relationship as she has one more year to go.  However, on the night of the graduation, Lillian’s life is changed forever when Brad disappears for days without contacting anyone.  The town searches for him and holds vigils for him, but nothing ever comes of it all as the months go by with no word about Brad’s whereabouts.  Lillian’s emotions collapse as she can think of nothing else besides the future life she thought she had.  Will she be able to pick herself back up and remember the faith she claims to have had?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

After several years of trial and error, the production efforts of husband-and-wife movie team John and Brittany Goodwin have paid off.  Though If You’re Gone had a modest budget, it was allocated very well.  This is evident in the professional video quality and camera work.  The soundtrack is a very good original creation, and the audio quality is spot-on.  Sets, locations, and props, though somewhat limited, are utilized very well.  The only minor issues to point out here that keep this production from being perfect are some inconsistent lighting and some slight editing issues, but as a whole, this is a very professional production that gives great hope for the future of Every New Day Pictures.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Based on the original novel from the Goodwins, If You’re Gone delivers a unique plot and a compelling message.  Though the story can be a bit slow at times, there are some great conversations and dialogue throughout that seek to build characters.  However, there were still some missed opportunities to use dialogue to deepen characters just a tad more since this is a character-based story with only a handful of characters.  These missed opportunities are most evident in the middle of the film as it appears to only serve to fill time with montages and somewhat repeated scenes in order to get to the ending.  Though some audiences may not hold on for the end, the conclusion is definitely worth the wait as it contains an unexpected twist combined with a very unique and empowering message that one does not see very often in Christian film.  This ending is very much worth your time, but it would have been even better to see some flashbacks in the middle of the film that helped us to further understand why the characters did what they did and that expanded upon the family of origin issues that were touched on.  This story was clearly written for the excellent ending, so it would have likely been Hall of Fame if the lead-up was more engaging.  Even still, some will find this movie to be worthwhile and interesting.

Acting Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the cast of If You’re Gone appears to be well-coached as each cast member does a good job assuming his or her respective role quite well.  Masey McLain is always a great lead, but it might have helped for her to have further support since some cast members come off as a bit weak and detracting from the overall score.  However, emotions and line delivery are above average as a whole, which rounds out this film very well.

Conclusion

The Goodwins have persevered for several years in pursuit of the greatest film, and they have a unique opportunity to create their own source material by writing it before making their own films out of it.  They have always been close to the mark, and with If You’re Gone, they have come even closer.  Production is in a good spot for them, and acting is nearly perfect.  The next step forward for their team is to ensure stronger plots to accompany their great messaging.  Writing stories can be difficult, so it may be a good opportunity to adapt other source material as well since the Christian fiction world is replete with options.  In summary, If You’re Gone is definitely a good film, and the Goodwins are one step away from true greatness.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

The Islands (April 2019)

Image result for the islands movie timothy chey

Image result for the islands movie timothy chey

Image result for the islands movie timothy chey

Coming to theaters in April 2019 from RiverRain Productions

Website

Writer(s): Timothy A. Chey, Umi Perkins

Director(s): Timothy A. Chey

Producer(s): R. Julie Burnett, Susan F. Chey, Timothy A. Chey, S. Marc Clooney, Lehi Makisi Falepapalangi, David Galea’i, Todd Kim, V. Carol Rosenthal, Ichiro Tatsume, Angela Xiong

Starring: Teuira Shanti NapaMira SorvinoRicky Sua’ava, John Savage, Ichiro Tange, Malia Marquez, Michael Camp, Malia Mahi John Huser, Lehi Makisi Falepapalangi, Harry Walia, Ala’amoe Keolanui, Boyd Lauano, Andrew Sexton Iii, David Galea’i, Shawn McBride, Clifton Burchfield, Bill Stonebreaker, Yosef Kasnetzkov, Troy Husey, Wallace Del Rosario, Kealii Kuikahi, Craig Nahale, Jessica Kamalu, Vanessa Clay, Vanessa Cadang, Frank Cozart, Ikaika Jonathan, Josephine Kueva, Kae’o Kapani, Serita Liva, Yolanda Hiapo, Sanders Kapahulehua, Rebecca Sanders, Hori Bayani, Tracy Makuakane, Mailani Makainai, Alice Nakahara, Lev Kohn, John Danilewicz, Emmanuel Gomez, Angel Lemus

Plot Synopsis:

Based on the incredible true-life story of Chiefess Kapiolani who descended into an active volcano to demonstrate her new-found faith and ushered in a new beginning in Hawaii.

The website above has a much more in-depth description that space does not permit inclusion.

Tortured for Christ (Movie Review)

 

Plot Summary

Pastor Richard Wurmbrand and his wife Sabina were active in Lutheran ministry in Romania during the 1970s Communist takeover of Eastern Europe.  The Communist regme sought to corrupt the church by ‘uniting’ the denominations as a political body rather than as a ministry.  Richard and Sabina dared to stand up against the tyranny both by speaking against it and by illegally proselytizing their faith to Romanians who struggled under the heavy yoke of the Communist government.  Because of these infractions and because they helped harbor wanted Christians, Richard was arrested and tortured for his faith.  He languished for fourteen years in a cruel Communist prison, but he did not give up his faith in Christ.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though this production was somewhat low-budget, there is still a very clear commitment to making it as authentic and gritty as possible.  Video quality and audio quality are among these good production elements.  Although there are some moments of oddly poor lighting, the sets, locations, and props are very realistic and demonstrate great attention to detail and great care to make the surroundings as realistic as possible.  This is definitely the best that could have been done with the funding available, which is all we ask of productions.  Though there is some choppy editing throughout, it’s obvious that this creative did all they could with this production, which is all a film maker needs to do.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Another thing film makers can do to ensure a mostly successful effort is to use good source material.  The story of Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand is a very poignant and unfortunately true narrative that definitely deserved to be made into a movie.  However, one has to question whether the high amount of heavy-handed narration was necessary since it greatly stunts character growth and plot development.  Even still, the serious commitment to have each character speak in the original Romanian dialect is very intriguing to say the least as it further shows care for realism and attention to detail that we rarely find in Christian film.  Moreover, because of the narration that punctuates and explains a majority of the scenes, the movie comes off as too much of a random collection of loosely connected scenes rather than an engaging story about real people we can relate to.  There are also a few too many docu-drama elements.  Nevertheless, the strong content of this story keeps the plot from being worse than it could have been as the tragic realities of religious persecution at the hands of tyrannical regimes is brought to the big screen.  Thus, many audiences will find this movie to be worthwhile.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Although most of the cast members are not allowed to fully act due to the high amount of narration that only allows for rare moments of dialogue, the portions they do act in are definitely great.  The culturally authentic casting and the good use of the original language is also a huge plus.  Emotions are mostly good with only a few instances of being slightly overdone, but on the whole, this is the best area of the film, and it rounds out a job well done.

Conclusion

Christian films are still getting better by using source material and by being committed to great productions.  This creative team is off to a great start in their movie-making careers, so it will be very interesting to see what they come up with next.  Until then, Tortured for Christ is an above-average film that carries a great message and a stirring theme packaged in a realistic production that will make a lasting impression on many who watch it.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Indivisible [2018] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Army Chaplain Darren Turner and his wife Heather feel that they are called to the life they live as they each minister to those who are connected to the military in different ways.  They are committed to each other and to their family, and they firmly believe God is always supporting them.  However, the months-long separation with Darren’s deployment takes a toll on their marriage and their family as they are apart for months on end with oceans between them.  When tragedy strikes close to home, they will have to decide if they will weather the storm and press into their faith or if they will let it all fall apart.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s very clear that Indivisible was a well-funded and well-organized production.  This is evident in the flawless video quality and the great action camera work.  The sets, locations, and props are also excellent and appropriate for the situations portrayed, and it was smart for the creative team to stay within their budget and to not film too many complicated scenes.  There is a very realistic feel to the film, even if there are some slight audio issues.  However, there is a relatable soundtrack, although some of the editing tends to be a bit choppy.  Nevertheless, this production is still top-notch and demonstrates very wise use of funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

In keeping with the growing trends of using better source material in Christian films, Indivisible seeks to tell a very engaging and poignant true story that explores realistic everyday issues that need to be discussed in the context of film.  There is a very real-life feel to the film as the day to day struggles of military families are portrayed very accurately and in a way that many can relate to.  Although there are plenty of opportunities to develop true-to-life characters based on the real people of the true story, it feels like there were missed opportunities to take them a step further beyond the typical and into the dynamic.  An example of these missed opportunities appears to manifest in the middle of the plot as this part of the movie comes off as just a collection of loosely connected scenes en route to a conclusion it wants to get to.  Time moves too quickly at times, which is never helpful for character growth.  However, even though some chances for dynamic storytelling were left on the proverbial playing field, this movie still presents a very effective and accessible view of PTSD and its psychological and emotional effects on the victim and those around him.  As a whole, this plot is definitely good on paper even though there was the greater potential to go further.  Despite this fact, many audiences will still enjoy this film for its realism.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

It’s evident that Sarah Drew drew on her past acting experience and on her experience with the Erwin Brothers in Mom’s Night Out to both deliver a great performance and to assist the rest of the cast in this same endeavor.  As such, the casting and acting are both very professional.  For the most part, line delivery is on point, and emotions are mostly realistic.  There are some slight issues at times when emotional delivery can come off as a bit forced and over the top, but overall, each cast member appears comfortable in his or her respective roles.  Though there are a few nitpicks in the various areas of this film, Indivisible still has the potential to reach many different audiences.

Conclusion

One can easily see why this great true story was chosen for a film.  There are many important messages in Indivisible that many people will relate to, especially those with close connections to the branches of the military.  The military life has never been easy for anyone, but for too long, this has been kept quiet.  Thanks to the courage of the Turner family, a great story is now being told that reaches out to families who may feel like they are alone.  While there is always room for improvement, there is still plenty of good about Indivisible due to a lot of hard work put into it.  Thus, it earns a rightful spot on the Hall of Fame.

 

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

 

Born to Win [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Leon Terblanche was always told by his father that he would never amount to anything.  When he and his mother fled the abuse of his home only to abandon him at a hotel, Leon found himself as the only white child in a segregated African community during apartheid in South Africa.  However, the government discovered him there and took him away to be passed from home to home before he was able to strike out of his own and begin working for the railroad.  During his whole life, Leon was always angry and resentful towards his father, even after he married and began a family of his own.  He medicated this anger with alcohol, but when everything hit a breaking point, he was forced to choose between his own ways and the ways of the God he always pushed away.

Production Quality (2 points)

Despite their landmark production Faith Like Potatoes, Global Creative Studios did not have as much production success in Born to Win.  The video quality, camera work, and action shots are fine in this film, and the audio is fairly good, but there are several other issues to contend with.  While sets, locations, and props are sometimes fine and realistic, there are some very obvious fake backgrounds that put a damper on things.  Plenty of time and effort was put into this production, including a good soundtrack, but there are a handful of small things that hold it back from being all it could be.  The most glaring problem that hurts the film is the severely choppy editing, and this is also related to the plot problems.  Moreover, this production is mainly above average, but it’s still a letdown after the success of Faith Like Potatoes.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Frans Cronje and his team have always been committed to telling the great and true stories of real people with real struggles, and this commitment is still evident in Born to Win.  However, despite the great source material, the presentation of it is quite poor.  This is most notable due the extreme amount of heavy-handed narration that greatly hurts character growth and plot development.  The narration is mainly used to plug up the plot holes created by the breakneck time jumps that are present in the story.  These two factors combined make it nearly impossible for characters to develop as the dialogue is stunted and choppy.  Despite the little time available, there are still lots of wasted scenes, and though there is plenty of content to work with in the real story, there is little to no story organization as it jumps from one thing after the next.  Too much ground is attempted to be covered without the effective use of flashbacks or actual dialogue.  The lack of substantial dialogue and character development makes it very difficult to appreciate the otherwise meaningful struggles of the characters due to the wasted time and large gaps, and viewers are told things that are hard to believe due to poor development.  Unfortunately, it all boils down to a flat ending with little meaning because of this.  It’s too bad because there was tons of potential here for a great message to be shared.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though the acting appears to begin well, it tends to get worse as the film goes on, especially as cast members are forced to play multiple age brackets that they are not exactly suited for.  Line delivery and emotions can be awkward at times, and there is an overall need for more coaching.  There are times when emotions are lines are too forced, and there are one too many scenes of poorly executed yelling and screaming.  Overall, this caps off a mostly disappointing effort that had so much going for it.

Conclusion

The Cronje creative team has definitely shown the height of their potential, but it’s possible they tried to do too much on their own in Born to Win.  Faith Like Potatoes obviously had a better collaborative effort behind it, which is an important lesson to learn in film making.  One success does not equal constant success; it’s something has to be continually worked for, and it’s definitely not easy.  However, it’s totally worth it in the end, especially when you have good stories that need to be told.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Faith Like Potatoes (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Angus Buchan has never had an easy life.  He and his family were forced to flee from Zambia to South Africa due to racism, and now, their new farm land isn’t what they expected.  Angus feels like he works all day and all week to no avail.  However, one day, when he finally comes to the end of himself, he decides to listen to a local pastor and to the testimonies of other struggling farmers who came to know Jesus Christ when they had nothing else to turn to.  Angus decides to put aside his pride and follow suit, and little does he know the huge ways God will use him to change the surrounding areas.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Global Creative Studios struggled in other international films they made in this same era, but they went all out for Faith Like Potatoes.  The end result was a very professional production with great video quality and camera work, along with fine audio quality and an effective cultural soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props give off a very realistic and gritty feel that adds to the overall authenticity of the film.  It’s obvious that a lot of time and effort were spent on crafting and constructing scenes that were difficult to film, and there was a high commitment to making the film look as real as possible.  Though there is some choppy editing, this is still a top-notch production that Affirm Films has become known to distribute.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The story of Angus Buchan and his family is a great true story that is based on realistic and accessible characters that are able to be related to as real people despite the time jumps that tend to hold their character growth back from being all it could be.  Fairly good dialogue helps characters to remain personable and build personality and motive despite the large amount of content that is covered, even if narration hurts character development at times by trying to create a crutch to cover the time gaps.  Even still, there is a good use of flashbacks to build character motive and personality that make it easier to connect with characters as real people, but the film may have still benefited from more flashbacks to replace the portions of narration.  More flashbacks would also help the story flow better and avoid just hashing out one important life event after another.  The plot walks the line between just being a collection of scenes and events and being a great story with a lot of content that actually holds the attention.  Finally, there are many good themes and messages in Faith Like Potatoes, even if it might have been better to only focus on a handful of them.  Overall, this is a poignant and believable historical account that is likely worth your time.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

One of the biggest positives of this film is the great commitment to culturally authentic casting, which was likely not an easy feat.  It was also likely not easy to have almost half of the dialogue take place in an obscure African dialect.  Besides these pluses, emotions are fairly realistic, and line delivery is almost always on point.  Though there are some moments of forced emotions and unnecessary yelling and screaming, cast members usually own roles well and appear to be comfortable in their acting, which is important.  As a whole, Faith Like Potatoes is a top-rated film, even if a few minor issues hold it back from the Hall of Fame.

Conclusion

Despite falling short of the Hall of Fame, Faith Like Potatoes is still worth a watch because of its wonderfully true stories and life lessons.  This is definitely Global Creative Studios’ finest work, and movies like this one is why Affirm Films originally gained ground in the Christian entertainment world.  We absolutely need more movies like this one that depict real life events and inspiring historical accounts with the proper production packaging and the adequate acting support.  Unfortunately, this sort of quality is hard to come by, but hopefully, we will begin to see more and more of this in the future.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Hilton Head Island, Season 2 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

Following the critically denounced blockbuster debut season of Hilton Head Island, which is the world’s first ever Hope Opera, the second season appeared on PureFlix On Demand in a similar fashion as the first with no warning or marketing to proceed its release.  Nevertheless, the second season picks up at the cliffhanger where the first left off–only this time, the cast is smaller and the green screens are more obvious.  Daniel Trisk has woken up from his partially fake coma, and he’s taking the Isle News Network back over (as if anybody was watching it in the first place).  As he shakes up the staff and whips people into shape, we actually get some looks at what they actually play on their fake channel.  However, as usual, there’s a lot of trumped-up intrigue and fake drama that will have you rolling your eyes along with us.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

The second season of this ridiculous excuse for entertainment is just as cheap – probably cheaper – than they first season.  Although video quality is fine, the camera is constantly shifting around even though every shot is already as tight as possible to hide the fact that this nonsense was entirely filmed in a set.  This set was complete with a very poorly constructed green screen that gives the characters special outlines and sometimes bleeds through objects on camera.  The only parts that aren’t filmed in front of a green screen (there might have been one real set in there somewhere) utilize the exact same stock footage sequences we saw from the first season – including the ones of the false exterior of the network building that’s used about 4843928 times.  The rest of the stock footage has nobody in it, as if this island is completely abandoned save for our favorite main characters (some of which have already left the show).  Since the stock footage takes up nearly half of each very short episode, there’s little that can be accomplished.  Elsewhere, the soundtrack is cheesy and generic, and every scene feels like it begins just as characters start doing things rather than having it flow into things that are already naturally happening.  Finally, the introduction sequence was seriously made on Windows Movie Maker.  That’s about it for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Where to start?  How about with the weird Christian worldview that earns this section a negative point?  As if Wink Martindale weren’t a bad enough TV preacher impersonator, we get strange lectures from the very white, awkward, and geriatric patriarch of the Trisk family about how Christianity is all about legalism and behavior modification (the token black woman gets to say a few things about this topic too).  All of the dialogue is overly dramatic, and Bible verses are used in bizarre ways.  In typical soap opera form, the ‘story’ is chock-full of forced and fake drama as the subplots fragment all over the place and as conversations are used to dump information onto the audience, especially when explaining where the missing cast members went.  There’s still so much going on here that there is no chance for any character or plot depth, as if the writers even knew how to do that in the first place.  The ‘plot’ jumps from one thing to the next as the characters are just stand-ins and representations of issues and circumstances.  Nearly 60% of the plot takes place in the context of phone conversations, and Christian tropes and trite lessons inserted awkwardly into so-called stories.  In typical PureFlix fashion, young people are portrayed in insulting ways as the series basically has no grasp on reality.  A lot of ‘good’ characters are questionable at being ‘good’, and the ‘bad’ characters are total strawmen to the point that it’s not even funny.  Basically, I think you can get the picture that there’s nothing good here and that there’s not even an ounce of potential in this garbage.

Acting Quality (0 points)

To say the least, this ever-shrinking cast exhibits some of the worst acting possible.  Line delivery is forced down your throat like cast members are saying lines through a strainer.  Attempts at emotions are like fingernails in a chalkboard.  A majority of the scenes appear to be one-take as cast members awkwardly stand around making annoyingly stereotypic movements and just mindlessly recite lines.  This doesn’t even cover the fact that this cast is extremely fake-looking, and the makeup work is atrocious.  It’s really no surprise that this cast is smaller than the first season (even Donna Mills had something better to do), but we can’t even do without Carey Scott’s stiff and wooden performances.  As a side note, most the time, it seems like Anna Zielinki is trolling – it’s either that, or she’s a terrible villain.  Further, there are basically no extras in this cast, which lends further to the portrayal of Hilton Head Island as a ghost town.

Continuity Quality (1 point)

Although there is some continuity between episodes, there is still little to no organization in this series.  It’s nearly impossible to accomplish anything substantial in incredibly short episodes that are replete with stock footage.  It’s also too easy to make mindless 20-minute episodes, especially when this second season is half the length of the first.  However, for all the die-hard Hilton Head Island fans, Season 2 provides us with yet another forced cliffhanger ending that’s designed to make you want another season (if they have any cast members left by then).

Conclusion

PureFlix makes garbage and just keeps trucking along.  You can’t fault them for having drive.  They try new things and attempt to pander to their audience for quick cash grabs.  Even still, I greatly fail to see the market for this ‘Hope Opera’.  There’s definitely an untapped market for good Christian series, but this ain’t the way.  This is the last thing you want in a Christian series unless you have nothing better to do with your free month of PureFlix On Demand.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In late 2009 and early 2010, the evil deeds of a rogue abortion doctor, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, were uncovered when his suspect abortion clinic in downtown Philadelphia was raided by multiple agencies due to suspected drug laundering and mysterious deaths of women who went there.  What the authorities found during the raid was shocking and appalling.  A local prosecutor and her detective friend were immediately plunged into a politically-charged trial centered around the controversial social issue of abortion.  As it becomes more evident that Dr. Gosnell exhibited the behaviors of a serial killer, the pushback from powerful lobbyists only increased until the truth was finally exposed for the world to see.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Gosnell had fairly good funding despite their persecution-complex claims.  This translated to a mostly professional-looking production, including good video quality and camera work.  The sets, locations, and props are mostly well-constructed and well-utilized.  There are some randomly dark scenes throughout, but this may be purposeful.  Also, the editing of the film is fairly choppy due to the large amount of plot content that is taken on.  However, overall, this production is above-average even if it could have been a little better than it was.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Gosnell makes many attempts to be overly realistic in its presentation of real events, including unnecessary profanity and edgy content that may be off-putting to a lot of pro-life audiences.  Besides this, there is a lot of expository dialogue throughout that is designed to mask the time jumps and to connect otherwise unconnected scenes together.  Thus, there is lots of content shoved into a small amount of time, even though the writers found plenty of time for shock-and-awe scenes.  There are one too many over-dramatized sidebars detailing the perceived persecution of the pro-life movement, and the ‘bad’ characters are flat-out strawmen.  One bright spot is the interesting use of flashbacks with characters we don’t see enough of, which is a technique that needs to be used more.  If this film’s plot had been more about detailing the real stories of the women who were adversely affected by the negligence and twisted ideas of Dr. Gosnell rather than a politically motivated trial plot reminiscent of God’s Not Dead 2, this would have been an entirely different film.  Thus, while there is some good messaging in this film that keeps it from having no potential, the real stories of real people need to be depicted in film rather than political grandstanding.  Stories and personal experiences are what changes the culture and changes people’s minds on social issues.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Some cast members are hamstrung from the get-go of this film by the poorly written dialogue that is a direct consequence of the time jumps, but Dean Cain posts another weirdly awkward performance regardless.  Cain’s fake attempts at a Philadelphia accent are annoying, and his typical forced line delivery and emotions are wearing.  However, the rest of this cast appears to know what they’re doing, and despite their shortage of things to work with, they are mostly professional and comfortable in their roles.  Overall, this film is basically average.

Conclusion

The pro-life cause does have history and science on its side, but pro-lifers must be very careful to avoid becoming caught up in the political games that are played by the pro-abortion lobby.  There’s no denying that the abortion business is gruesome and downright evil, but the pro-life cause is better than stooping to their level.  Gosnell presents a very important and real-life issue, but one has to wonder how many people will be converted to the cause due to the gruesome nature of this story.  Though it’s extremely difficult to maintain professionalism and balance in a heavily biased and lightning-rod political culture, it’s important that pro-lifers don’t adapt the pro-abortion mentality of victim status and shock-and-awe theatrics just to try to gain political power.  The pro-life movement should not be politically charged, but we are unfortunately far from that reality.  Politics is only a reaction to culture, but changing the culture is much harder to do.  However, it can be done with real stories, and there were real stories to present in this sordid tale, even if we didn’t get to see them very well in this film.  Real women are hurt everyday by the abortion business, and many of them suffer in silence or are compelled to join the pro-abortion political lobby because they feel like the pro-life movement won’t accept them.  We are seeing some change in this area, however, so hopefully we will see more movement in the right direction in the coming days.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Shake Off the World (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Austin is a talented football player, but his coach has it out for him for no particular reason, which has forced Austin to stay on the bench for most plays.  Whenever he gets a chance, Austin makes big plays, but when some off-the-field issues begin to change and move him in a different direction, Austin isn’t sure if he can live without football or his girlfriend.  However, Austin discovers a new group of friends who introduce him to Jesus, and his life is never the same after that.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a fairly new production, Shake Off the World has a good enough production to get by.  This is evidenced by clear video quality and fine camera work, including good sports action shots.  Audio quality is okay throughout, but there are too many moments where the soundtrack is simply too loud to hear anything.  Sets, locations, and props are also mostly fine, but there are quite a few scenes that are randomly dark for no good reason.  Further, there are too many quick fade-outs and transitions that appear to interrupt the flow of the film at times.  Overall, this production does just enough to get above the average mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While Shake Off the World appears to begin as a slightly interesting true story, it quickly devolves into a big nothingburger.  Predictably present are all the typical sports story elements, but it still lacks an effort to be interesting.  In between the expected sports montages are very dry and drab conversations between characters that do nothing to develop them as people.  They aren’t accessible, and the empty dialogue makes them come off as wooden and stiff.  Thus, they are hard to relate to, and they appear to be swept along in random plot circumstances that have no continuity, logic, or feeling.  Due to the high amount of time spent in montages, the story line is rushed and actually quite short and small in scope.  Most scenes and subplots come off as disconnected from the others, and by the time the film ends, it feels like it barely got off the ground.  When a film feels like it’s over before it began, something went horribly wrong in the plot department.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite not having many lines to work with, the acting is actually just average.  The cast definitely means well even though they are underwhelming at times.  Some lines are mumbled, and some emotions appear to not reach their full potential.  However, they did enough to keep this area at the middle mark.

Conclusion

It’s quite hard to understand why this film was made and what it was going for.  If the creators meant well, their messaging was totally lost in translation.  They either cut too many scenes or didn’t plan enough to begin with.  While it was a good idea to make a film based off of true events, the true story definitely did not come through, and this frustrates many audiences.  Maybe this creative team will have better luck next time.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Amazed By You {The Faith Club} (Movie Review)

This has basically nothing to do with this movie

Plot Summary

When Christian Andrews gets a call to attend the funeral of a friend in an obscure New Mexico town, he has no choice but to immediately hitchhike his way there.  However, when he arrives, he finds that someone told him the wrong day of the funeral, so he’s actually too late.  Nevertheless, he decides to take the opportunity to go and stay at the ranch where his friend once lived, even though he has never met the ranch owners before.  He meets the family who owns the ranch and inevitability becomes immediately interested in dating the oldest daughter and decides he wants to start building a chapel on the ranch.  Other than tangling with two drunk convicts who work on the ranch in close proximity to teenage girls, not much else happens in this story.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a newer Christian film, about the only thing going in the favor of Amazed By You is its mostly average production quality.  However, by today’s standards, this should be a given.  In this film, the video quality and camera work are fine, as are the sets, locations, and props, but there are other issues to contend with, such as the stereotypical soundtrack and the audio that is often very quiet and sometimes hard to discern.  Also, there are a lot of awkward cuts and fadeouts and seem to cut scenes short, which also relates to the choppy editing of this movie that makes it difficult to follow at times.  As a whole, this production is average and looks good on the surface, but it leaves a lot of be desired.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Exactly, what is the plot of this movie?  From start to finish, the story is hard to follow as odd things appear to just happen for no particular reason.  It really isn’t rooted in reality very well, and the plot has no clear flow or purpose other than a predictable romantic subplot.  Each character comes off as plastic, empty, and unfeeling as they just spout uninspiring lines.  Any hope of character development is definitely subverted by the many montages that fill this movie’s run time.  It goes without saying that the view of women in the film is unusual, and as a side note, the ‘villains’ are extremely cheesy.  Overall, this is mostly a half-hearted movie effort with no clear direction and no concerted attempts to make characters into real people.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Although there weren’t substantial lines to work with in the first place, the acting of Amazed By You is awkward and wooden.  Emotions come off as forced, and line delivery is not convincing as there is a definite need for more coaching.  Unfortunately, this movie really don’t have much going for it.

Conclusion

It feels like Amazed By You was slapped together and forced to go into production without even deciding upon the messaging of the film.  It’s so vanilla that it lacks the typical worldview-pushing of a fundamentalist Christian film and the predictable elements of an inspirational horse film, even though on the surface it looks like it is both of these.  It’s hard to find a movie that’s so bland and empty that there really isn’t much to comment about.  If this was an attempt to make some quick cash off of inspirational audiences, the marketing really wasn’t that great.  In summary, in nearly every aspect, it’s impossible to understand how this film came to be or what it was even going for.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Unbroken: Path to Redemption (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After surviving months being stranded at sea and being tortured in a cruel Japanese prison camp, Louis Zamperini was finally returned home as a war hero.  His family celebrated his safe return, but little did anyone know that the war still raged in Louis’ mind.  His lead torturer, The Bird, never left his dreams, and hate burned inside of him.  Louis decided to drink to cover up the madness in his head, but this got him into trouble, so he was given a chance to start over on a vacation in Florida.  It was there that he met his future wife, and he felt like his life was finally in a good spot.  They married soon after, but the war did not cease in Louis’ mind as it continued to rage and push his marriage to the brink.  There was only one way to end the war–only if Louis was willing to surrender.

Production Quality (3 points)

Harold Cronk has had decent productions in the past, but he and his team really went all out for this one.  They obviously put a lot of time and effort into crafting extremely authentic and historically accurate sets, locations, and props.  This is not just another cheesy PureFlix ripoff because time and money were spent on attention to detail and one making it look real.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are also extremely professional, but these should be a given in higher budget films like this one.  Further, the soundtrack of Unbroken: Path to Redemption is very impactful as Cronk made a wise decision to depart from the typical Will Musser soundtrack PureFlix films usually have.  Finally, the editing in this film is very good as it handles a large amount of content very well.  In summary, this is a rare find as a perfect PureFlix production, and it is definitely a breakout film for Cronk and his team.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Despite what some critics may say, it was an excellent idea for this film to pick up where the Hollywood version left off because this second half of the story is much better than the first.  Hopefully, this film launches Christian entertainment into a new era of effectively using source material to produce great films.  The time jumps in Unbroken: Path to Redemption are handled very well without narration, and the dialogue is very well-crafted and well-constructed in order to build the characters into real, accessible people.  It goes without saying that the psychological elements in this film are exquisite and are perhaps the best in Christian film to date.  The use of flashbacks is wonderful, and the portrayal of PTSD is very accurate and on point.  Further, the plot progression is handled well, and the messaging is effective without being too over the top.  The only issues to raise with this plot relate to some slightly wasted time at the beginning of the film that is felt later when the ending comes off as a bit rushed, but this is really nitpicking because the story is presented very well and is definitely a breath of fresh air to Christian entertainment.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

It was absolute genius to cast Will Graham as Billy Graham in this film, and this is the sort of expertise we need to see more of in Christian films as we hopefully progress to a new era of Christian entertainment.  Elsewhere in this film, the acting is slightly awkward in the first few scenes, as if they were test scenes, but the acting quickly and dramatically improves as time goes on.  Samuel Hunt has a surprise breakout role as Zamperini, and he does a great job playing multiple different roles as the same character.  Conversely, Merritt Patterson cements a great role as the lead actress in this film.  Overall, each cast member owns his or her respective role very well and seems very comfortable in it.  This rounds out an excellent movie that is definitely worth your time.

Conclusion

Unbroken: Path to Redemption earns an x-factor point for portraying psychological elements very well and for having re-watchability qualities.  Much like Jon Gunn did in The Case for Christ, Harold Cronk and his team have found a new voice by effectively adapting source material into Christian film.  This is exactly what we need to be seeing more of by letting someone else take the screenwriting duties.  Building an authentic production and casting great actors and actresses is also key to success.  Unbroken: Path to Redemption will have far-reaching effects and is definitely worth your time to go see.

Final Rating: 9 out of 10 points

The Identical (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ryan Wade has always known the church life because he was raised by a pastor and his wife, whom he believed to be his real parents.  However, as he grew older, he did not feel the call to ministry that his father was impressing upon him.  Instead, he wanted to pursue a musical future.  However, when he got caught by the authorities doing ‘wrong things,’ Ryan’s father sent him to the military to ‘get fixed,’ with the expectation that Ryan would enter seminary afterward.  However, the military did not dampen Ryan’s musical dreams, and once he was out, he encountered a life-changing revelation: he is the twin brother of musical sensation Drexel Hemsley, which raises many questions about Ryan’s true heritage.  Will the answers he wants give him peace or more turmoil?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s clear that The Identical is a well-funded production with a well-allocated budget.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The original soundtrack is creative, even if there is some obvious lip-syncing.  The production’s biggest strengths relate to the great 
attention to historical detail, which is evident in the well-constructed and well-utilized sets, locations, and props that reflect correct time period and culture.  The only drawback to this production is the somewhat choppy editing that is a byproduct of the plot presentation, but on the whole, this is a very good and professional production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though this story concept is a bit off-the-wall as the twin brother characters bear a strangely similar resemblance to Elvis Presley (not really sure why this character concept was chosen), there are some interesting messages to explore in The Identical.  For example, the story provides a realistic portrayal of historical issues of the time period, such as churches suppressing certain types of ideas, hiding issues, and expecting men to be fixed by the military.  However, besides the somewhat out-of-left-field story concept, there is way too much narration and expository dialogue to fill time gaps, which obviously stunts character growth and short-circuits the dialogue potential.  It would have been better to just let the story unfold naturally and to let the characters reach their full potential through meaningful dialogue that builds their personalities and motives.  Besides this obvious misstep, the story is based on too many coincidences and things that happen because the plot demands it.  However, despite these issues and despite the odd premise, there is lots of potential in this story–enough to warrant a remake–and many audiences will still find it to be a fine movie.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The Identical has surprisingly professional casting and acting.  Several cast members, such as Ray Liota, do a great job playing multiple ages.  Some emotions tend to be overdone, however, especially from Erin Cottrell.  However, line delivery is almost always on point, and the costuming is historically accurate and realistic.  This rounds out a slightly above average movie effort.

 

Conclusion

It’s great for Christian films to come up with creative movie concepts that are outside of the norm and to make films that are good because they are good without being Christian-ized.  The idea behind The Identical is one of those you don’t think of every day, so the creatively must be commended.  However, while a lot of the attention this movie received centered around the central concept, there were other pitfalls that kept it from being all that it could be.  Even still, there is plenty of positive here to build on, and there are some great cues for other films to model after.  It will be interesting to see if this creative team does anything else in the future.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Only God Can {Heaven’s Grace} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sara, Coley, Patrice, Glen, and Gracie were close college sorority sisters, but now that they have grown into their middle ages, they have each taken different paths in life.  Sara is weary of going to the annual get-together of the girls because of her newfound faith, but her pastor encourages her to go to witness to her friends.  However, the weekend getaway does not turn out as plan as each woman is hiding their own secrets, which lead to intense conflicts between them.  To cap things off, tragedy strikes the group of friends in a way they never expected.  Will they be able to pick up the pieces and change their ways?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though on the surface Only God Can seems like a good production, there are a handful of hiden problems that keep it from being all that it could be.  For example, the audio is strangely quiet except for the blaring and generic soundtrack.  Video quality and camera work are standard caliber, but the sets, locations, and props, though they are professional-looking, are fairly limited and underused.  Further, the editing is very disorienting and choppy, but this is likely primarily due to the poor plot structure.  However, as a whole, this production is good enough to be average, even though it could have been more.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Only God Can follows a story-telling style similar to that of Do You Believe? as it juggles many under-developed and hard-to-fully-grasp subplots and tries to make nearly every scene a dramatic climax.  The presentation of the many subplots is dizzying for this reason, and flashbacks are used very poorly.  Each character is developed as a representation of an issue rather than a real person, and this is done through very forced and stilted dialogue that is designed to push a certain agenda rather than to create relatable characters.  The back stories of the characters are therefore flat and empty, and scenes that could have been used to develop them better are instead used for empty and mindless montages.  Sometimes it’s hard to understand what’s happening from scene to scene, but it all comes down to a predictable and forced conclusion that fixes everything.  In short, this plot unfortunately had no potential from the get-go.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, many of the cast members in this film appear to be overly made-up and overly fake.  Emotional delivery comes off as plastic and unrealistic as many cast members don’t appear comfortable with their lines or their respective roles.  However, there are a handful of cast members that are okay and thus prevent this section from being null.  Nevertheless, this film is overall a disappointment and doesn’t really have much to offer.

Conclusion

Overall, Only God Can is another moderately-funded, partially-marketed inspirational film from PureFlix that falls flat and doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.  On the surface, it has good production qualities, but there are hidden issues that undermine this.  The plot is very empty and wanting as it tries to push typical agendas, and the acting missed the mark as well.  It’s very predictable and formulaic, yet this is the type of Christian film that no longer needs to be seen in the market.  The reputation of Christian movies is bad enough as it is, so we don’t need anymore examples of ineptitude.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Forever My Girl (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Liam and Josie were in love all throughout high school, and many felt like they were destined to be together forever.  However, when they were on the verge of pledging their lives together forever, Liam experienced several life-changing moments.  First, his mother died suddenly, and Liam was discovered as a country artist and became successful almost overnight.  Thus, Liam left Josie behind without saying goodbye.  Now, after several years of fame and success, Liam has gotten into trouble with his drinking habit and has been advised to lay low for a while.  Thus, he returns to his hometown to live with his father, who is a pastor, and Liam is shocked at who he finds waiting for him there.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a modern, standard inspirational film, Forever My Girl checks all of the right production boxes.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The soundtrack is a bit generic and uncreative, but the sets, props, and locations are all realistic, appropriate, and professional.  The only other minor issue to point out here is the fact that the editing isn’t the best it could be, but as a whole, this is a very high quality production that we have come to see as commonplace in recent Christian films, and it’s a trend we definitely need to see continue.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though it is based on a novel, Forever My Girl unfortunately follows a predictable and stereotypical storyline that has been done many times before.  The return-to-hometown plot has many different iterations, and this one is just the star-returns-to-the-hometown version.  However, the presentation of this predictability is not entirely annoying and does make some good attempts at being realistic, such as a good attempt to explore family systems and some general efforts to create believable characters and situations.  Even so, the characters need to be a bit deeper through better dialogue, and the main character’s inevitable arc is a too steep.  Nevertheless, the message of the movie is fine, and many audiences will find it to be a good movie.  It’s definitely ten times better than your average Hallmark throwaway.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though the lead actor and the lead actress seem confused and uncoached a lot of the time, the rest of the cast members make up for their deficiencies.  It’s unclear whether or not their characters are meant to be written that way, but it seems like the lead cast members could have contributed a bit more than they did.  However, the other members of the cast demonstrate great line delivery and realistic emotions, which is enough to bring this section over the average mark.  As a whole, this movie is good enough to be watchable.

Conclusion

It is definitely good idea to model movies after novels; if a film like this had not had a story written for it in a book, it likely would have been much worse.  This is definitely a practice we need to see more of on the coming days.  Hollywood has already figured out that using source material is the key to successful entertainment, so it’s time for Christian film makers to follow suit because if they put their minds to it, they can definitely do it better.  There is plenty of Christian source material to use, so it’s a great chance to keep using it.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Undeserved (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dawn’s life is changed when her deadbeat mother is shot dead in a bar parking lot, which prompts the state to assign her custody to her aunt and uncle until she can finish high school.  Despite her loss, things are looking up for her as she is moved to a better area.  However, it doesn’t take long for Dawn to discover that there are just as many hidden problems in suburbia as there are obvious problems on the streets.  Fearing for her safety, Dawn leaves her new home to take up residence on the streets once again.  Moreover, she soon finds herself in trouble again, and only her aunt believes that she is worth the fight.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For a very small budget, Undeserved sports a lot of good production qualities, including good camera work, video quality, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also creative, even though it tends to be a bit too loud at times.  Sometimes, camera work is randomly shaky, and sometimes scenes are too dark and poorly lit.  However, these issues are not completely noticeable, even if the flashback quality is bit odd.  The editing is average overall, and these factors are enough to make this an above-average production, which is a great start for a new film maker with such a limited budget.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Undeserved is definitely not afraid to take on difficult but unfortunately realistic issues within the white suburban church demographic.  Though there is some obvious and expository dialogue throughout, the storyline is intriguing due to its non-typical structure.  For the most part, the story unfolds in a realistic manner with a natural progression of time, even though there are some slight coincidences that help the plot along.  The character are fairly well-developed even though the dialogue could be constructed a bit better.  Sometimes it seems like the main characters are victimized too much, but there are plenty of good attempts to develop character motive and personality through conversations and flashbacks.  However, there are a few too many montages, and issues appear to be fixed too easily in the end.  There are quite a few things tacked onto the end of the film, as if time ran out, which suggests that this idea might have worked better as a series.  However, this plot is overall average.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is mostly inexperienced and ‘amateur,’ they appear to be professional in their performances.  There is definitely evidence of coaching, and although there are some slightly forced emotions and some moments that are partially underwhelming and awkward.  However, there is far more good here than bad, and this is only amplified by the fact that the cast does not have ‘big names’ in it.  In summary, this rounds out a very good first film effort.

Conclusion

It’s hard to get the necessary funding for a first-time small church film, so the best thing a film maker can do is craft a good plot, coaching cast members well, and get the film out there.  This creative team made efforts on all three of these fronts, and for the most part, the efforts paid off.  One can hardly do better than this with a less than $50,000 budget except perhaps forge a more captivating storyline.  In the end, a film like Undeserved is all we really ask of freshman creators, so it will be interesting to see what this team produces next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

An Interview With God (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Paul is a journalist who recently returned from Afghanistan, where he was reporting on the war effort there.  What he saw there changed him forever, and it sent him down a dark path as he began searching for the true meaning of life.  He began to question his childhood faith, and he asked God if He was even real.  However, Paul received an unexpected answer one day when he received a tip to interview God Himself.  Skeptical, Paul decides to follow the lead even though he is on paid leave.  What he discovers is unexpected and is destined to change his life forever.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

The Astute Films team is fresh on the scene, and they have put together a quality first-time production, which is a great way to start out.  It is clear that they put a lot of effort into making a high-quality production in An Interview With God.  This is evident in great video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is creative, and the film has an overall artistic touch as a lot of work is put into establishing things without being too obvious.  Further, the sets, locations, and props are authentic and appropriate.  Finally, the editing is professional, which rounds out a basically perfect production effort.  With this film, the Astute team has sown great seeds for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

On the surface, An Interview With God seems like another version of The Encounter or The Perfect Stranger, but upon closer look, this new film is much more.  Though the plot mostly centers around lengthy conversations, the dialogue is well-constructed and holds up the plot well.  The characters explore some great topics relating to the nature of reality and the work of God.  These philosophical conversations actually hold the attention because they seek to develop the characters as people rather than to throw worldviews at the audience.  The writers were not afraid to go deep with the characters by making them flawed and accessible.  The portrayal of God is also appropriate and intriguing.  Throughout the storyline, there are creative psychological elements that appear to be building towards a possible plot twist, but unfortunately, this seeming creativity never materializes, which leaves the ending to be a bit flat and disappointing.  The story tends to limp to a conclusion with too many unanswered questions after it had so much potential going for it, but even still, the remainder of the plot is good enough to lift this film to an overall good rating.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Though the cast of this film is very small, they carry the film strongly.  Each cast member portrays emotions effectively and carries his or her role very well.  Line delivery is on point, and it appears as though each cast member fits comfortably into his or her respective roles.  There are no flaws in this section, which is enough to lift An Interview With God to Hall of Fame status.

Conclusion

An Interview With God is one of 2018’s surprise breakout films, and it comes from a creative team who is not afraid to get their name out there.  When a film maker crafts a project they are proud of and one that they are not afraid to share, this immediately shows a great mentality as a creator.  It is clear that great production and acting effort were put into this movie, even if the plot department was a little lacking.  Nevertheless, the effort was enough to breach the seven point threshold, and An Interview With God is a great start to a promising career that demonstrates great potential for the future.

 

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

 

Beautifully Broken [2018] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The Hartley Family appears to have it all on the outside; they are a seemingly successful American family.  However, little do they know that their lives are about to become far more complicated than before.  They inadvertently cross paths with William Mwizerwa, a Rwandan refugee who moved from Kenya to America to try to make a new life for his family, whom he had to flee the Rwandan genocide with.  These lives also intersect with another Rwandan family who has been forever changed by the genocide.  Little do they know that collectively, they will experience both brokenness and God’s redemption after brokenness in ways they never before dreamed.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Beautifully Broken is an independent film that has finally come to fruition after being in the works for a while, and it bears some key hallmarks of an indie production.  Though the production begins in a fairly rough manner, including wild camera work, weird light filters, and dizzying flashbacks, this is mainly only the first third of the film.  It seems like this part of the film was produced separately from the rest of the movie since the remainder of the film has a significant quality increase.  This is evident as the camera work, video quality, and audio quality all make marked improvements.  The soundtrack is effective and culturally appropriate; however, sometimes sets and locations do not fully live up to the hype.  Nevertheless, this production does enough in the latter two-thirds to make this section overall above average.  It seems like time was spent to improve this part of the film, and they likely did the best they could with the budget they had.  The one drawback is that the editing does not improve throughout the film, but this is is mainly due to the large amount of plot content.  As a whole, this is a great first-time production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

It’s an excellent idea to begin your movie career with a complex true story rather than to use original content, especially since we have a deficit of creative screenwriters in Christian film.  However, one of the main pitfalls of using a true story is trying to include too much content.  In some ways, it seems like the writing team of Beautifully Broken bit off more than they could chew, but this does not diminish the great message this powerfully true story has to offer.  The downside is that there are one too many ‘filler’ scenes that waste precious time; the sheer amount of content in this plot does not allow space to develop the characters as much as they could have been, and narration and expository dialogue is used too often as a shortcut for full character and story development.  However, despite its rough beginning and inconsistency in the middle, the final third of the plot are definitely worth the wait, and they keep this section higher than it would have normally been.  This writing team definitely has more potential in the future once they master organization and character development.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

It’s possible that the uneven and inconsistent acting is the main thing that derailed Beautifully Broken from a possible Hall of Fame run. While some cast members, like Benjamin Onyango, are very good in their performances, other cast members, like Scott William Winters, cancel out any good that is done.  Once again, Onyango is not given the space he needs to fully show his potential as an actor.  However, for the most part, emotional performances are believable and effective.  Costuming is culturally appropriate, and great efforts were taken to cast culturally authentic cast members.  Overall, this rounds out a great first effort.

Conclusion

A lot of work has clearly been put into making Beautifully Broken happen after a fairly long period of time has passed, and the finished product is both better than most films and not as good as it could have been.  There is plenty of positive in this film, and it is likely worth your time to see when it releases.  There is a great message to learn, and this story is definitely worth being told.  In summary, this film is a great start to a promising career, so it will be interesting to see what they have to offer next.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

God’s Not Dead 3: A Light in Darkness (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Pastor Dave is released from prison for not turning over his sermon notes to the local government, he is immediately hit with a new persecution angle.  His father’s church, which he has pastored for years, sits on the property of a public university, so protests build on campus based on an argument that questions the necessity of the church being on public property.  Dave begins to feel pressure from the university leadership, but things hit a breaking point when the church appears to be attacked and when his close friend Jude is killed in the attack.  Dave decides to reach out to his long-lost brother for legal help as chaos reigns around him.  Will he ever be able to live in peace?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

With the third installment and possible end to the God’s Not Dead trilogy, they have not backed off on their recently attained practice of high-quality productions.  On most production fronts, A Light in Darkness is a very professional production, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is even better than the previous two installments as it is mostly void of the title track and thankfully leaves us without another Newsboys concert to wrap things up.  Sets, locations, and props are also very well-utilized and well-constructed.  The only two caveats in this production are the presence of some cheesy special effects and the somewhat sloppy editing job, but on the whole, God’s Not Dead 3 is top-notch production work.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

In a shocking turn of events, after making us muddle through that horrible second film, the third of the trilogy has one of the best plots.  The first film’s plot had good elements due to its many fractured subplots, but A Light in Darkness has the best central and focused idea of them all.  Though it takes forever to get to the point and though there are plenty of persecution-complex pitfalls along the way, the ending of this film is very significant because it takes the franchise in a totally different direction than the other ones were going in.  Unfortunately, there are still plenty of issues with this storyline, including a lack of adequate character development due to poorly-constructed dialogue and a sloppy story construction that tends to jump from one thing to the next and include too many issues.  However, someone got ahold of the plot and decided to insert some truth about why young people don’t like the church, which was a breath of fresh air, however brief it may have been.  As a whole, this story was a good idea in the end, but it was probably too little too late.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

In spite of the usual awkwardness of David A. R. White as a ‘serious’ lead, other cast members are more natural and believable in their roles, even John Corbett.  Benjamin Onyango was hardly ever afforded a fair opportunity to show his full potential in this trilogy, but his parts are still great.  The reality is that there are actually few acting errors in this film; even the emotional performances are mostly believable.  As a whole, PureFlix has made a lot of strides over the past few years, so if they will just direct their resources in a more responsible direction, who knows what good could be done.

Conclusion

The unfortunate part is that PureFlix managed to isolate everybody throughout the course of the GND franchise.  The first film was a big hit because it filled a void in the market and was basically at the right place at the right time.  It had good qualities, such as better production than usual, but it was still mostly standard and pedestrian.  The second GND film was nothing short of a total trainwreck, and this where the trilogy lost its reasonable audience.  However, A Light in Darkness isolated anyone faithful who were left by taking the narrative in a different and non-persecutory direction.  In short, it pays to know who your audience is, but it also pays to strive for high-quality Christian films that aren’t based entirely on pandering to a specific base.  PureFlix has the resources to truly blow open the Christian industry if they really want to, but will they seize the opportunity before it’s too late?

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

The Hepburn Girls [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Katherine likes her safe life of working at a local library and hanging out with her few friends.  She doesn’t want anything out of the ordinary to happen, so she seeks to live a seemingly controlled existence.  However, this existence is shattered one day when she finds out that she has a long-lost half-sister whom she is now the guardian of.  She will have to come to grips with this new reality and face the past she is running from in order to move forward in life.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Similar to the production of the first film from Proverb Films, No Lost CauseThe Hepburn Girls is a mostly average production with plenty of potential.  Though the audio quality is a bit cheap at times, including some obvious overdubs and some unnaturally inserted background sounds, the video quality is fine, as is the camera work.  The sets, props, and locations are realistic and appropriate for the situations, and there is a general feel with the film that the creators were trying to do the right thing.  The editing is mostly average mainly due to a lot of quick cuts and some scenes that appear to be cut too short.  However, as a whole, The Hepburn Girls is an honest indie film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

When production can’t be at its best, it is always good to maximize the plot potential.  For the most part, Ashley Raymer-Brown and her team do their best to build realistic and relatable characters through witty and funny dialogue.  Though it seems like they are sometimes trying too hard to be funny, there are plenty of truly comedic moments based on character development.  While the plot tends to meander without clear direction at times, there are admirable attempts to build character motive by establishing believable back stories.  As a whole, this simple comedy form of a plot is a good idea for an indie film because it shows off a potential to build characters that can be used in later, more well-funded projects.

Acting Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the cast members of The Hepburn Girls, though someone amateurish at times, appear to be comfortable in their roles, which makes this section above average.  Sometimes performances are a bit overplayed and sometimes line delivery is a bit too quick, but emotions are believable, and the roles seem appropriate for each actor and actress as they appear to be playing themselves.  It is encouraging that this section is the highest rated out of the others.

Conclusion

The Proverb Films team has always shown potential in their films, so it will be intriguing to see what happens once they are able to achieve a higher amount of production funding.  If they stay the course and make sure to always craft accessible characters played by natural-acting cast members, they will definitely be on the right track.  With a better budget and bit more production consultation, as well as deeper plot concepts, they could be on their way to the Hall of Fame one day.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Overcomer (August 2019)

Kendrick Brothers Productions filming a scene from OVERCOMER on the Riverwalk in Columbus, Georgia. Photo credit: Sara Burns, Courtesy of AFFIRM Films and Provident Films © 2018 CTMG. All Rights Reserved.

Currently in post-production

Writer(s): Alex Kendrick, Stephen Kendrick

Director(s): Alex Kendrick

Producer(s): Stephen Kendrick

Starring: Priscilla Shirer, Alex Kendrick, Cameron Arnett, Aryn Wright-Thompson, Shari Rigby

Plot Synopsis: Life changes overnight for coach John Harrison when his high school basketball team and state championship dreams are crushed under the weight of unexpected news. When the largest manufacturing plant shuts down and hundreds of families leave their town, John questions how he and his family will face an uncertain future. After reluctantly agreeing to coach cross-country, John and his wife, Amy, meet an aspiring athlete who’s pushing her limits on a journey toward discovery. Inspired by the words and prayers of a new-found friend, John becomes the least likely coach helping the least likely runner attempt the impossible in the biggest race of the year.

Sense of Urgency [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Izzy already has a strained relationship with her parents, but when she finds out that they have lied to her all her life about her being adopted, she decides to take a road trip to see her biological mother without them knowing.  However, she quickly finds out that her road trip is not what it seems as things go from bad to worse.  A nightmare scenario suddenly unfolds as she finds herself a hostage in a desperate situation.  Though she has resisted the Christian faith for years now, she begins to change her mind when faced with death.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Sense of Urgency is unfortunately a fairly cheap small time production that had some obvious funding shortfalls.  This is evidenced by a weird light filter that plagues the film and gives the video quality a bizarre gray look.  The soundtrack is also generic and fairly loud at times.  The sets, locations, and props are mostly pedestrian, and audio quality is somewhat inconsistent.  While the camera work is fine most of the time, there is some weird lighting in some scenes.  There are also cheesy special effects to contend with, and the editing is choppy in some places.  Overall, while there was some effort here, this production needs a lot of work.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The surprising thing about Sense of Urgency is that the core idea of the film is actually slightly interesting.  While the beginning of the movie is hard to understand since random things seemingly happen, there is some potential for the development of flawed and accessible characters with slightly complex back stories that cannot be typically found in the inspirational world.  However, a lot of this potential never comes to fruition.  Nevertheless, this plot idea is interesting enough as a suspense idea and would probably benefit from some sort of remake.  Even so, this good effort is unfortunately not enough as some of the characters are too cheesy, such as the villain and the Christian characters, and some dialogue is too forced and expository for the moment.  The conversations need to build characters better, and the circumstances need to occur more naturally rather than out of necessity for the plot.  Further, the Christian message needs to be less childish, and the ending doesn’t need to try to fix everything.  Overall, this was a nice effort, and it offers some slight hope for future projects.

Acting Quality (1 point)

As this cast is mostly composed of inexperienced members, the acting is unfortunately pedestrian and basically below average.  This is due to forced emotional performances and line delivery that needs some work.  At times, the cast members are not very convincing in their roles, but there are also moments of potential and more natural performances.  Perhaps they can continue to improve their craft with better coaching.

Conclusion

Overall, Sense of Urgency does what we ask of struggling film makers: when the budget is low, focus on the plot.  While this storyline is not the most creative in the world, it demonstrates potential and is definitely something to build off of.  It’s almost always better to depart from the average inspirational fare that crowds the market, so trying a different type of suspense plot can help you stand out.  However, what is much better is learning to portray real people in more natural ways without the message pushing.  If you get this right, God will send the funding at the right time.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Grandma’s House [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Grandma Margie’s family is a wreck even though she is always praying for them and imparting her fundamentalist wisdom to them.  She lets any and all of them come to live with her in her huge house–as long as they abide by her strict rules.  She aims to fix them up from their problems before sending them back out into the evil world.  With so many things going on in her house, she can hardly keep up, and neither can we.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, this film, which by all outside factors seems like a small church film, has an above-average production quality.  This is manifested in good video quality and good camera work, as well as professional audio quality, even if the soundtrack is very generic.  There are some random dark scenes, however, and sets, props, and locations are fairly limited by the nature of the plot and the resources available.  The editing can be oddly choppy at times despite the fact that there are useless filler scenes throughout.  Some scenes seem cut short while others drag on too long.  With the sheer amount of content shoved into this film, it’s no wonder things get confusing.  However, on the whole, this production is better than expected.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Grandma’s House is a forum to push a very close-minded and fundamentalist worldview on the audience that has an offensive view of women and a slew of quick fixes for all of your neighborhood problems.  While the movie takes an honest look at real family issues and other realistic problems, it refuses to probe the reasons behind the wrong actions and instead settles for cheap spiritualized platitudes and Bible-verse-bandaging.  The story assumes that people just need to stop acting bad and start acting legalistic in order to be ‘fixed.’  Thus, each character is designed to represent an issue rather than a person, which makes them empty and simplistic.  Dialogue is mostly expository and issue-pushing, and there is too much heavy-handed narration.  In the end, everything is fixed without any good explanation or realistic understanding of how issues progress.  

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While most of the cast members in this film are average in their performances, Loretta Devine is particularly annoying, similar to her infamous Caged No More role.  Other cast members are not the worst at acting, but they are not the best either.  There are some attempts to coach them, but there are just too many extreme emotions, including yelling and screaming outburst.  At times, line delivery comes off as too practiced, but there are enough good moments here to justify an average score.

Conclusion

Movies like this one know what they want to push on their audience or simply tell some specific audience what they want to hear.  It’s fine to want to discuss important issues in the context of a film, but treating people like pawns or one-dimensional problems doesn’t do any service to your cause.  Most people will see right through such attempts, which will only further contribute to the negative image of Christianity that films like Grandma’s House seek to reinforce for some reason.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Movies That Are So Bad They’re Not Even Worth Our Time, Part 7 (MTASBTNEWOT 7)

In our vast Christian entertainment viewing experience, we sometimes come upon films that we can hardly justify writing a full review for.  Therefore, for your convenience, so you don’t have to go watch those free films that invade your suggested watch list in on-demand video services, we’ve provided a quick overview here.  Someday we might post more, if we’re fortunate enough to find more.

 

Lazer Us: The Legend of Jimi Lazer

In this strangely-titled film that appears to convey something about Lazarus, a guitarist named Jimi Lazer is depicted as he stumbles upon a magic guitar that gets him in contact with the Devil!  As a musician, Jimi wants riches and fame just like the next guy, so he sells his soul to the Old Liar.  Essentially, Lazer Us is a trippy, LSD-style drug trip from the 60s that has an unhealthy obsession with Satanism and tries to warn aspiring artists to stay away from Lucifer.  Unfortunately, the time spent on Satan is disproportionate, and the storyline is overall extremely confusing and hard to follow, which is why it landed here.

 

Pocket Angel

As a basically unknown new film from this year, Pocket Angel is in a category all by itself–almost rivaling The Rev for cartoonishness.  Apparently some reporter is assigned to a story in Mexico, so she takes her newly adopted son along.  Most of her lines are overdubbed in the most horrible way, and she comes off as a cruel parody of a Hispanic character.  Her son is kidnapped by the most childish cartoon villains you can dream of and held for random.  As a majority of the film consists of ridiculous sound effects from Lost in Silver Canyon, it’s easy to miss the creepy angel characters that peddle Pocket Angel figurines from a Christian bookstore to the characters.  Basically, this film is mostly inexplicable.

 

A Wish For Giants

When a girl who just contracted brain cancer is given a chance to have her wish fulfilled by a non-profit, she does what every girl would do and wishes to see Bigfoot.  The non-profit actually takes her seriously and assigns a summer intern to the case.  This film is full of boring and drab sequences that utilize terrible production quality.  There is also a lot of Bigfoot message-pushing and some vague reference to the Nephilim that are off-putting.  It goes without saying that the acting is basement-level deplorable.  As a whole, this movie is extremely strange and hard to follow, which is why it has found a home here.

 

Well that’s all for now!  Maybe we’ll post another one someday…maybe not…

Love, Kennedy (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jason Hansen has a seemingly perfect family life, but tragedy strikes when his oldest teenage daughter Kennedy is diagnosed with terminal juvenile Batten disease.  As their family grapples with this new reality, they soon find that there is hope even in the hurt and that God does have a plan for Kennedy even if her life will be shorter than usual.  Together, they find that God’s plans are always greater than people’s plans.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

T. C. Christensen has always had a commitment to professional productions, and Love, Kennedy demonstrates this commitment by having good video quality, above-average camera work, and fine audio quality.  However, there are one too many musical montages as a lot of the film is saturated with music.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and appropriate, however.  The main thing that keeps this production from being all that it could be is the choppy editing that contributes to an awkward story-telling style, but for the most part, this production is above average and professional.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though it’s basically obvious the T. C. Christensen pushes Mormon messages in his films, at least he tends to craft films about real life stories and events.  Regardless, the true story of Love, Kennedy is unfortunately stifled by unnecessary heavy-handed narration, which also stunts character development.  Since these characters are based on real people, we need a chance to get to know the characters better, but this chance does not materialize.  Unfortunately, this makes the slight Mormon message-pushing more noticeable since the dialogue is rushed and empty.  It seems like the characters get swept along in the predictable plot progression without any choice of their own.  Elsewhere, Christensen includes his typical magical elements that are a bit much.  As a whole, Love, Kennedy is a nice try but not quite good enough.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Overall, the acting of this film is mostly fine with no obvious glaring errors.  However, the acting is not dynamic either, and there are a handful of minor issues that add up over the course of the film, such as some half-hearted performances and some odd portrayals of cast members.  Moreover, as a whole, this section is mostly above average and is better than a lot of films on par with it.

Conclusion

Christensen and his team outpace many other Christian groups in film making when they make clear efforts to build professional productions and to coach above-average acting performances.  The Mormon message-pushing may be off-putting and not much better than other Christian message-pushing (see: Christiano Brothers), but at least it’s packaged in a semi-acceptable way.  Nevertheless, this still isn’t good enough to get past the halfway mark, so maybe it will be better luck next time for the Excel Entertainment team.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Wrestling With God [1990] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Alexander Campbell was a religious radical in a day when man was seeking to corrupt the true theology of Jesus Christ, so he left Catholic Ireland for religious freedom in America.  However, he finds the same doctrinal problems when he enters the New World, but at the same time, he also meets like-minded people who want to follow the true Gospel and worship God freely without man’s intervention.  Alexander eventually settles down to raise a family, and he faces many new challenges along the way.  Ultimately, he will have to discover God beyond theology and doctrine and meet Him for himself.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a 1990s production, Wrestling With God is understandably archaic, which is evidenced by one too many dark scenes and grainy video quality.  However, camera work is okay, and there is obviously a lot of attention to detail in this production as its sets, locations, and props reflect a commitment to historical and cultural authenticity.  The soundtrack is somewhat generic, however, and the editing is quite choppy, including too many long, lagging scenes and too many leaps in time.  Overall, due to the issues that add up and the attempts at authenticity, this production is just average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While this obscure true story is a bit out of left field to choose for the film, the historical account is slightly interesting, even if it is mostly based on niche theological debates that will likely isolate and bore most audiences.  It is difficult to see the wide appeal of this concept, especially since it doesn’t hold the attention very well at all.  While there is potential here for real historical characters to come to life, this storyline is a bit too long to cram into less than two hours, and the large time jumps short-circuit any ability to get to know these characters as people.  The inconsistent story presentation, the expository dialogue, and the boring conversations about theological eccentricities also hurt the opportunity to develop authentic and relatable characters.  As a whole, historical accounts are typically better than your run-of-the-mill inspirational fodder, but Wrestling With God is just a bit too boring to work out.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Accompanying this 1990s production is 1990s-style acting, which tends to be too theatrical and overly practiced.  While the costuming and accents are historically authentic, the emotional performances are not entirely convincing, and this amateur cast could use a bit more coaching.  However, this area is not all bad, which make this section basically average.

Conclusion

The creators of this older film probably meant well in making it, but they might should have considered using a more recognizable and engaging historical account to make into a movie.  The theological debates encapsulated in this tale might be consequential and important to some people, but it will be lost on most audiences because it is more important to depict real people experiencing a real God Who is truly beyond theology and man-crafted doctrines.  This would be a worthwhile message to share in movie form and one that would have a larger impact.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

One Stop Away (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Richard and Eddie became close friends while in college, and they have maintained their close relationship even though life has taken them each in different directions.  Eddie is battling a terminal illness in the hospital while Richard struggles as a young teacher in the school he was raised in.  Richard tries to do what he can to help Eddie and his family, but Eddie’s brother is having struggles of his own in the school where Richard teaches.  They will each have to return to the faith they were raised in to find a way forward.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

On the surface, the strangely-titled One Stop Away (there’s never any explanation for that title) has a fairly professional production, as evidenced by good video quality and camera work.  Lighting is mostly good except for a few instances of unnecessary darkness.  The soundtrack is a bit generic, however, and the flashbacks have a purposely odd quality about them.  As for audio, there are too many obvious voice-overs and unnatural sound tricks.  Sets, locations, and props are professional-looking, but the editing poses a substantial problem as it is somewhat disorienting due to a lot of choppy and cut-off scenes.  Overall, this is mainly an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The choppiness bleeds over into the plot, unfortunately, as the storyline is very disorganized.  It depicts random characters doing random things without any clear continuity; it is very difficult to discern which character is which due to the confusing use of flashbacks.  The random time jumps that happen with no warning certainly don’t help things.  Usually, non-linear and out-of-order plots using flashbacks are great ideas, but in this case, One Stop Away is presented very poorly, which seems to indicate that the intended plot is fairly unsubstantial and the premise is too thin.  Elsewhere, dialogue is too empty and expositional, which leads to wooden characters.  Thus, it is very difficult to see the point or purpose of this story as it has one too many boring, lagging, and pointless scenes.  In short, whatever was trying to be conveyed in this film is totally lost on the audience.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, the acting of this film is mostly okay, but there are one too many awkward moments.  Line delivery is fine, but the emotional is a bit flat, and there are a lot of scenes that come off as overly practiced.  Costuming is better than usual for this sort of film, but this section is unfortunately not more than average.

Conclusion

Basically, while the effort may be commendable in films like One Stop Away, they will unfortunately be easily forgotten and overlooked.  Their messaging is too vague and confusing to each most audiences, even if there was a good idea in here somewhere.  Non-linear, flashback-based plots need deep character development through poignant dialogue and realistic scenes that demonstrate character motive and accessibility.  This is something we have been talking about for a while, but Christian films continue to show a lack of understanding of real people.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Glorious [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Vince was raised in an abusive household, and he was bullied at school for being small, so when the opportunity presented itself to join a local gang, he jumps at the chance to have power and acceptance.  However, things do not go as planned as he becomes involved in organized crime at a young age, including drugs and murder.  This lands him into juvenile detention multiple times before he reached out to by a Christian ministry that is dedicated to rehabilitating juvenile offenders who are caught in the system.  Vince reluctantly agrees to try out the program, and he has a surprisingly good time, but what he does not know is that his past is still destined to catch up to him.

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

While it’s very obvious that Glorious is a low-budget small to medium church film, it really didn’t have to be this bad of a production.  For one, camera work is unnecessarily shaky, and there are too many moments of over-driven audio in conjunction with cheap background sound effects.  There are also some very dizzying and disorienting sequences that use ill-advised special effects.  Further, the video has a grainy quality to it, and the soundtrack is very stock.  As for lighting, there are too many very dark scenes; it goes without saying that the editing is quite choppy and confusing.  Unfortunately, in pretty much ever way, this production is very cheap, under-funded, and mismanaged.  There may have been good intentions in this film, but they are too easily missed.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Moreover, while the story behind this film seems very interesting, intriguing, and realistic, it is very difficult to ascertain its true meaning due to plot problems that go beyond the production issues.  One of these problems is constant heavy-handed narration that stunts and short-circuits any possibility of having adequate character development.  We have no idea who the real people behind this plot are because we haven’t been given the opportunity to get to know them through dialogue, motives, or real conversations.  The attempts at backstory are noted, but they are unfortunately not good enough.  Large time jumps are another problem area that prevents getting to know the characters and causes flat character arcs.  It’s a shame that this story was so poorly communicated because it seems like it really had a lot going for it.  Maybe we can get a remake one day.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The amateur effort of this film continues in the flat, un-coached acting that demonstrates very forceful lines and emotions.  There are too many scenes of yelling and screaming while other scenes are just lethargic and understated.  While there are some attempts at improvement near the end of the film, it is unfortunately too little too late.  Too many of the performances are awkward and slightly unprofessional, which rounds out a disappointing effort.

Conclusion

Glorious is the ‘best’ negative-point film because even in its shortcomings, it has a ton of potential behind it.  This creative team had the right idea: create a low-budget film using church resources that is based on a realistic true story and put it straight to Amazon Prime.  However, somewhere along the way, production quality and all other elements were greatly neglected.  Somebody dropped the ball on this one, but there is always the possibility of improvement and redemption in the future.  The key is to not give up and to always work to improve from your last film, which is all we really ask for.

 

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

 

Kindness Matters (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Hudson doesn’t want to do anything except hang around his house and go to work.  His nosy mother is worried about him, which is why she keeps trying to set him up with blind dates.  However, Hudson’s world changes one day when he finds a dog near his trash can and decides to take it in.  Moreover, his world changes again when the dog runs away from their camping trip and finds a new home with a single father and his son, who struggles with a speech impediment.  Perhaps this dog will bring them all together in a really sappy way.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

One thing you can say for Faith House Pictures (now re-branded as Inspiriter Pictures for no particular reason, even though they kept that same pixie-dust splash logo) is that they don’t give up.  Also, their production quality has slightly increased over the years, with the exception of Before All Others.  Still, they have figured out a way to mass produce sappy inspirational films that at least seem passable on the surface of production.  This is evidenced by good video quality and camera work.  They still use the same old sets, props, and locations we’ve seen before, such as the desert from Desert Redemption and the houses from So Help Us God and A Time For Heaven.  Also, they make themselves known with a typically cheesy and carefree stock soundtrack that was either cheap or free from some website.  At times, the audio is a bit too quiet, but the editing is basically face-value and fine.  Overall, Faith House is proving that if you stick with something long enough, you might get better at it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Another defining quality of a Faith House film is a safe and predictable inspirational plot that is extremely sappy and is based on coincidences.  This time around, we get another rendition of the Black Beauty-style pass-the-narrating-animal-around plot.  This worn-out plot device is accompanied by the expected blank and vanilla characters that are written in Faith House scripts.  There is also a strawman ‘bad’ character, and each character has a special brand of quirky yet flat dialogue that makes things just interesting enough to keep watching, if only to see what they might say next.  However, the entire film basically boils down to being a collection of empty scenes that have just enough sappy inspirational themes (coupled with a totally pandering title) to make it a click-bait film that is ready to be added to your Amazon Prime suggested list if you frequent Christian films on this streaming service.  The Christian message is clearly fake,  but it is just enough to get you to watch, which makes this film’s only purpose to pander to a desperate inspirational audience.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Julie Van Lith, Suzanne McGown Brown, and Bill Wetherill are certainly committed to the Faith House cause.  Julie alone has appeared in every Faith House film.  Re-using cast members is another budget-conserving tactic of this company, but retaining good actors and actresses is the ideal.  Still, Faith House and company do just enough to make the acting seem realistic for their audience, even if a majority of the performances are extremely dry, flat, and boring.  Emotional and line delivery seem like they’re phoned in, and there are basically no extras in this film, but it’s not all bad.  Once again, Faith House does the bare minimum to stay relevant.

Conclusion

You can’t fault Faith House’s marketing model: they are running circles around other Christian film makers and their ‘lucrative’ distribution deals that run their ideas into the ground and conceal them in the closed world of Christian film festivals.  After watching every Faith House film to date, we are convinced that they are trolling Christian audiences, but they have proven their point: if you want to get your movie out there, put it directly to Amazon Prime Video.  No exclusive distribution deals, no film festivals, not even review screeners–put it straight to the audience you want to reach and spoon-feed them the message they want to hear.  Doing this is a marketing genius, and our analytics team has confirmed its success as Faith House reviews are among our most viewed posts.  This is not a coincidence, and this is an important message to aspiring film makers: for your first film, you won’t make much money, and it’s likely that Amazon won’t help you turn large profits, but it’s worth it to get your content out there at the beginning so that people know who you are.  Granted you have a good story to tell in the first place, you can grow from there.  Amazon may be Buy-N-Large, but they’re a platform that better Christian film makers can use to gain a voice in an increasingly crowded market.  Marketing matters.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

2nd Greatest (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In Golden, Colorado, local business owners are tired of homeless people and low-income housing, so they convene a meeting at their local business gathering to discuss how they are going to run all the people they don’t like out of town.  A homeless drunk drifter has become the central focus of the town’s conflict, but the new pastor in town takes an interest in the drunk’s well-being.  He convinces a local police officer who knows most things that are going on to take him around one night so that the pastor can see what is going on in the town he moved to.  From that experience, he is inspired of how to help the hurting all around him by following Jesus’ commandments.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

After a very low-quality production like A Perfect Chord, Kingdom Sight Studios has shown concerted production improvement in 2nd Greatest.  This improvement is evident in good video quality and camera work, as well as good sets, locations, and props.  However, there are a few moments of odd camera angles, shaky recording, and poor lighting, but this is not enough to completely detract from the overall quality.  The soundtrack is mostly intriguing, but the editing could use some upgrading as there is a lot of somewhat loosely-associated content throughout the film.  Moreover, on the whole, this production is above average and meets the basic standards necessary for modern films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As this movie’s plot line is based on a true story, there are a lot of good ideas contained within it, but the many storylines that are included are a bit too disorganized to drive the message home properly.  A lot of the characters need further deepening, and even though some of them have some adequate flashbacks, their dialogue and personalities are not quite there.  The stunted growth of the characters is likely a product of the many random and seemingly unrelated subplots that are included in the film.  Not enough focus is placed on the main homeless character, even though he has a potentially great back story, and this seems to be a product of not being able to go deep enough with the characters.  This problem also produces a cheesy villain (if we even need a ‘villain’ in this type of film) and an overly fake ‘perfect’ pastor character.  Basically, there was plenty of good ideas to work with here that needed a bit more refining before being released.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

There are several inconsistent performances throughout as some cast members are skilled while some are not.  Sometimes the emotions feel forced, but other times, they are fine.  Similarly, line delivery is natural while other times it is too unnatural.  There doesn’t seem to be any consistency with acting coaching, unfortunately.  As a whole, while the acting of this movie is a bit uneven at times, there are enough good performances to keep this section average.

 

Conclusion

Basing movies off of true stories is almost always better than your average inspirational fodder, but when the story is mishandled, its full impact is stunted.  Kingdom Sight Studios made some great strides in 2nd Greatest, especially with production quality, and the real stories of the characters were good ideas to use, but we needed to see more of what the real people were like besides being pawns in a plot.  Thus, like many films, retaining a better screenwriter would have done wonders.  Also, it wouldn’t have hurt to upgrade the acting coaching.  As a whole, it is always good to see improvement from a studio, so it will be interesting to see what they do next.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

The Genesis Code (Movie Review)

The Cosmic Clock is ticking

Plot Summary

Blake Truman is a hockey star at his small school, Madison College, but he is an agnostic who doubts parts of the Bible, such as the Creation Account, because his mother lies in the hospital in a cancer coma.  However, Kerry Wells, a journalism student whose adviser keeps pestering her about joining the New World order, has been assigned to write a human interest piece on the star hockey player, which forces them to have awkward conversations about their beliefs and stuff they’ve done in life.  Kerry’s brother Marc, a spastic Physics major, also has his doubts about the Bible because he has trouble believing the literal Six-Day Creation theory.  Nevertheless, when Kerry’s father (the local pastor) tells her to read a random verse at dinner time (beef casserole night), she gets an idea of how Marc can use Quantum Physics theories to prove the essential doctrine of the literal Six-Day Creation.  Along the way, a whole bunch of other stuff happens, but you can see where this plot is obviously going.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

With $5 million spent on this glorified docu-drama, it’s no wonder the production was at least above average.  Camera work and video quality are on par with what they need to be, even if there is some poor audio throughout.  The soundtrack is fairly pedestrian, but sets, locations, and props are on industry standards.  There is some cheesy animation in some parts, and the editing is very choppy and disjointed, but it was likely very difficult to handle this large amount of unrelated content.  Overall, this production is fine, but there are plenty of other problems to discuss.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Where to begin?  For one thing, it was very ill-advised to attempt to make this confusing conglomerate of scientific theories and message-pushing into a film.  The movie begins with lengthy sports montages and awkward conversations that showcase a total lack of proper dialogue.  This stilted dialogue causes the characters to be very mindless, and it goes without saying that this ‘story’ is extremely disorganized and schizophrenic in its presentation.  Trying to bundle Christmas, sports, stupid college stuff, the cancer plot, and the Christian-needs-to-use-arguments-to-convert-skeptic-characters storyline all into one film is just cutting yourself off at the knees before you even start.  Besides this, the “woe-is-us-we-have-first-world-persecution” complex that is evident throughout the film is grating and obnoxious.  The characters ride a ridiculous string of coincidences to lead them to “solve” the non-essential doctrine of Young-Earth Creationism by using deceptive theories masked as fact to attempt to reconcile the alleged divide between science and the Bible.  In doing so, a large portion of the movie is spent on quantum physics lectures that utilize flimsy comparisons and childish object lessons to drive home a questionable theory that does not need to be presented as scientific fact.  If this wasn’t bad enough, the cast of characters is replete with strawman non-Christian characters that possess the most absurd and ridiculous worldview-pushing lines.  It goes without saying that the predictable romantic and disease subplots run their expected course as they are padded with forced-humor filler scenes and useless flashbacks to things that just happened in the movie.  It all crashes to a predictable yet head-scratching conclusion that does very little to accomplish its goals of converting more people.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Logan Bartholomew and Kelsey Sanders post very weak lead performances, and a majority of the acting is very very dry, empty, mindless, awkward, and forced.  Line delivery is disjointed, and emotions are overly practiced.  Humor is extremely forced and annoying.  Overall, there is very little good to say about this disaster of a film.

Conclusion

The Genesis Code gets the honor of received a -1 X Factor Point just for being especially ridiculous.  This is a lesson that it is better to shy away from movie titles involving the word “code” coupled with the name of a book of the Bible (or a Bible-ish concept like The Omega Code).  Also, the important lesson that can be learned from this train wreck is that the God’s Not Dead-style of preaching to the choir and pretending to want to convert people with arguments is a dead end road.  Movies like Genesis Code expose the deeper problem among most Christian circles: a lack of understanding about real people.  People matter more than scientific theories, well-crafted arguments, or polished theology, no matter how true they may be.  Thus, it is extremely important to give audiences real and relatable characters that have realistic and accessible lives, choices, and motivations.  Until this happens on a consistent basis, Christian film (and Christian culture as a whole) will still be stuck in neutral.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Paul, Apostle of Christ (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Paul had completed many full years of missionary work across the continents of Asia and Europe and after carrying the Gospel of Jesus Christ to thousands of people, both Jews and Gentiles, he appealed to stand trial in Rome before Caesar, but this decision only caused him to suffer further for the cause of Christ at the hands of cruel Romans.  With the church in Rome on the brink of total annihilation, Priscilla and Aquila house many wanted Christians in their home, and Luke is sent to tend to Paul in prison.  As many Christians begin to question the words of Christ, Luke begs Paul for a fresh word to strengthen the church in her dark times, yet Paul is plagued by his thorn in the flesh–namely the lives of all he killed while he was a religious zealot.  With darkness seeming to close in on Christ’s people, the story of Paul’s life carries the same message that saved all followers of the Way: where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Gone are the days when ‘Bible plays’ like The Book of Esther are socially acceptable as Christian films.  We are in a new era of Christian productions, and Paul, Apostle of Christ is another hallmark of this era.  Similar to recent Biblical depictions, such as Risen, this new look at Paul’s life is gritty and authentic and has no fear of being painfully realistic.  This is evident in the excellent and historically authentic sets, locations, and props.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are also what a professional production should be.  The soundtrack is very engaging and thought-provoking, and the editing is quite creative and effective in presenting the story.  The only drawback to this production is a collection of very dark scenes that may be realistic but do not make for great viewing.  Nevertheless, this is a top-notch production that we should see over and over again in Christian films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

While most standard Biblical plot fare is very flat, face-value, and vanilla, Paul, Apostle of Christ rejects this mold and upends the Biblical genre once and for all.  By inserting extremely creative and well-crafted psychological elements into the core of this storyline, Andrew Hyatt and his team have created a point of no return for films based on Biblical events.  Much like their work in Full of Grace, which showed the potential they have always had, their portrayal of Paul’s thorn in the flesh and the trauma he went through in his life is revolutionary in this genre.  This is exactly what needs to be done to show the humanness of Biblical characters through the exquisite use of effective flashbacks and through processes that demonstrate real motive.  Elsewhere, dialogue is rich and meaningful, and the other subplots are intertwined very well as each character is very well-developed.  Care is given to demonstrate great historical accuracy, and while there are some slightly slow scenes and areas that could have been fleshed out with further dialogue and flashbacks, this storyline is a breath of fresh air in a world of very poor Biblical screenwriting.  To top things off, the ending sequence completes the film excellently and is well worth the wait.  In short, this film is a job well done in nearly every area.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

While there were a few missteps with cast members that are not entirely culturally authentic, they are trained to appear culturally authentic, which is leagues better than having a fully BRITISH cast.  Elsewhere, there is plenty of culturally authentic casting to make this section great, and there is clearly a presence of professional acting coaching.  There are very few errors to point out here, and costuming and makeup are also extremely realistic.  In summary, there are many positive elements to point out in this breakout effort.

Conclusion

This film receives a full x-factor point for its effective use of poignant psychological elements as Paul, Apostle of Christ takes its rightful place among the greatest Christian films of our time.  Andrew Hyatt and his team are clearly going places, and even though their sophomore effort was somewhat muted by the blockbuster release of I Can Only ImaginePaul is a signal that a new force to be reckoned has finally arrived in Biblical films.  It will be exciting to see what this team puts together next, but for now, we can enjoy this great movie.

 

Final Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points

 

Wraith [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The Lukens family is tired of living in their old, creepy house, so they want to downsize.  However, an unexpected addition to the family throws them for a loop, as does a disturbing presence their daughter keeps seeing and hearing in her room.  As they must make difficult decisions regarding the life of their future child, the evil presence seems to tighten its grip on their lives, pushing them to the breaking point.  Will they be able to survive the onslaught of the paranormal force?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For another independent Christian horror film, Wraith doesn’t have that bad of a production, but it is still mostly average on the whole.  Video quality is mostly fine, but there is some poor lighting throughout, perhaps by design.  A lot of the dark scenes appear to be for dramatic effect, but there are other typically cheesy elements that seem to always come with a cheap horror production, such as wild camera work and dizzying cuts.  Though the sets and locations are somewhat limited, also by design, the props are fine, and there appear to be attempts to create authenticity throughout.  The editing is mostly fine, but there are too many issues with this indie effort to give the production anything more than an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Making a pro-life Christian horror film is an interesting endeavor, and it is not one without potential, but Wraith has too many problems in the plot department to reach this possible potential.  When setting out to make a Christian horror film, it’s like it’s a requirement to totally disregard character development.  This film is no exception as the characters are extremely bland and empty due to cheap and stilted dialogue.  Though there are some interesting attempts at flashbacks and creative psychological elements, they are too muted and downplayed in the midst of wasted time that is mostly filled with stupid jump scares and incoherent moments that are meant to be ‘thrilling’ or ‘scary’ but really just end up being stupid.  Randomly vague things just happen as opportunities to build real characters are squandered by kicking the proverbial can down the road just to get to the ending.  Unfortunately, this storyline gets worse and worse as it goes as it slowly reveals a very ill-advised approach to dealing with demonic entities until it finishes with an extremely cheesy climax that endorses dangerous practices.  Overall, this plot is just a mess and really needed to be completely reworked.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While some of the more experienced cast members, such as Ali Hillis, are mostly fine in their performances, some of the younger cast members, particularly the younger female lead, are quite bad at acting.  Some line delivery is painfully forced, and emotions are uneven throughout.  Other moments are far too dramatic, which is an unfortunate byproduct of the difficult horror genre.  In summary, this film squandered whatever potential it may have had.

Conclusion

Christian horror films desperately need a better basis.  It is important that the core concepts of psychological thrillers are well-thought-out and have some logical basis before they are thrown into a movie.  Pro-life themes are great, but this consistently has been one of the worst sub-genres in Christian film.  Besides the fact that the basis for the horror elements in Wraith are difficult for most audiences to grasp, the practices that are seemingly endorsed (trying to cast demons out of houses) are extremely dangerous to practice in real-life and should be heavily discouraged.  Unfortunately, this is just another awful attempt at Christian genre-busting.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Second Coming of Christ [2018] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The end of the world is nearing, and all of the bees are dying.  Thus, Dr. BEEatrix Cera has been enlisted by the mysterious Chairman of New World Genetics to create the Immortal Bee, an experiment that will causes bees to live forever and produce food that makes humans live forever.  Simple right?  Well, with the food stores running out, even though cancer has been cured by a random Catholic guy who gives food away, the Chairman demands immortality from BEEatrix.  However, at what cost will BEEatrix go to save the world and try to get rid of the dreams of Jesus she keeps having?  What will happen when the end finally comes?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

While it’s clear that time and effort was spent on this independent production, which is evidenced in the good video quality and camera work throughout, this film still seems quite indie.  While the sets, locations, and props are fairly well done and while the soundtrack is intriguing, there is quite a bit of obvious CGI and cheesy animated overlaying throughout this film.  However, audio quality is fine, and the only other issue to point out here is that the editing is quite choppy.  Nevertheless, there is enough effort and funding here to make this an overall above-average production that is reminiscent of the modern productions we see in Christian film today.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

What the world doesn’t need is another half-baked Christian apocalyptic film, but at least The Second Coming of Christ gets past that overused speculative beginning of the tribulation known as the Rapture.  We rarely get a look at the end of the apocalypse in the Christian cinematic universe, but we get that opportunity in this film.  However, it doesn’t deliver at all.  The plot is very incoherent as it is based on flimsy dialogue and very thin and empty characters.  A lot of the end times elements are presented in a very juvenile fashion, and key concepts of this storyline are not well-explained at all as the entire world hangs in the balance waiting for immortal bees to be born.  Umm, what?  Besides this, the villain is very cheesy, and there is a lot of Catholic message-pushing.  There is very little to hold the interest, and this seems more like a regular sci-fi plot rather than and end-of-the-world depiction.  It’s really quite boring, actually.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The acting of this film is particularly bad as all of the emotions are painfully forced, as if through a sieve, and the cast members are extremely dramatic with their line delivery.  Some cast members, however, are just lackadaisical or clueless.  There is a tiny amount of good here (how did Quinton Aaron get stuck in this movie?), but on the whole, this section wraps up a very poor film effort.

Conclusion

It seems like this movie started off with half of an idea and just tried to run with it without realizing that it was running on fumes and had nothing substantial to show for it at all.  How are films like this even made?  Think of all the projects that get abandoned, but stuff like this one gets put through.  Well, at least we can say there’s never been a Christian film about the bee apocalypse before this one.  There are new ideas being born daily, apparently.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

When Calls the Heart, Season 5 (Series Review)

Why are we still here?

Plot Summary

When Constable Jack Thornton returns from the North back to the nice little town of Hope Valley, everyone expects him to finally marry Elizabeth Thatcher, which the series has been building up for way too many seasons now.  Thus, the TV couple finally ties the knot and is married long enough for Elizabeth to get pregnant, and Michael Landon Jr. and company follow this up by the long-awaited and long-expected death of the male lead, which leaves Elizabeth (shockingly) free to love again.  Elsewhere in Hope Valley, the other characters are doing the same things they always did with no significant alterations in their character arcs (except Jesse is a good guy now or something like that), but when you have a rabid fan base and unlimited season renewals, why would you try anything creative as a writer?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

If anything improved in this season of When Calls the Heart, it’s that the production got slightly better.  Video quality is still crisp, and camera work is still professional, but the sets and locations seem to have improved somewhat.  Props are pretty much the same old stuff.  The soundtrack is that same recycled and very tired and uncreative score that can be found in pretty much any other Hallmark production.  Further, the editing is pretty standard in Season 5, and overall, there’s not much keeping this production from being nearly perfect (except for the soundtrack), which shows you that it pays to have a good budget.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

What was Season 4 about?  I already forgot.  The railroad?  Anyways, I challenge any Heartie to tell me what Season 5 is actually about except for completing Michael Landon Jr.’s favorite romantic chase storyline with the female lead’s marriage, pregnancy, and eventual husband’s death.  Shocking turn of events, I know.  Well, Hearties can be consoled that Michael Landon Jr. is known for rebuilding the romantic chase for the young widow by introducing a new love interest later in the series.  By killing off Jack and freeing Daniel Lissing from this nonsense, Landon Jr. and company opened up a whole new world of storylines to pursue for at least three or four or five more seasons, so you can rest easy!

Acting Quality (1 point)

Are we still here?  These same old tired cast members are still old and tired.  Erin Krakow, Lori Loughlin, Daniel Lissing, Kevan Smith, Pascale Hutton, et al. haven’t changed much since last season.  Michael Landon Jr.’s approach to casting, acting, and makeup is no better than it’s always been.  However, there are a few bright spots from some of the peripheral cast members that keep this section from being zero.  Nevertheless, most of Landon Jr.’s casting work seems like a plastic surgery pageant.

Continuity Quality (1 point)

At least this season creates a story arc that is somewhat interesting, which is the loss of Jack.  It was really the only card this show had left to play, so now this move opens up a whole new world of plot possibilities.  However, I don’t expect many of them to be any good.

 

Conclusion

As I predicted months ago, after wasting away at least two seasons kicking the can down the road ad nauseum and trolling with his typically pageantry and empty characters that are ripped off from a Janette Oke novel series that doesn’t even remotely resemble the dollhouse show this series has become, Michael Landon Jr. has finally come full circle with his favorite storyline of all: the young widow plot.  As can be seen throughout the Love Comes Softly series, including Love Comes Softly and Love’s Unending Legacy, Landon Jr. is infatuated with the chase of a romance, but once the couple marries and has some kids, it’s time to kill off the husband between movies and introduce a new romantic chase for the young widow.  It’s no surprise to see the long overdue exit of Jack Thornton from this series, especially since Daniel Lissing probably has better things to do.  Expect next season to introduce Elizabeth’s new love interest and her new chase after the grief has subsided (please bring back Charles).  Also, since we’re going to keep mindless renewing this troll-fest, let’s go ahead and experiment with some other cast members this show needs right now.  I vote for Erik Estrada, Morgan Fairchild, Kris Kristofferson, and Corbin Bernsen, to name a few.  Cast-member-guessing is the only thing keeping this show interesting at this point.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 14 points

 

Wild Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After the Civil War, Emmett returned to his hometown to take care of the widow of one of his fellow troops in order to fulfill a promise he made.  Emmett and his son live with the African-American widow and her daughter, which causes them extra scrutiny in the corrupt small town they live near.  Emmett’s father-in-law, the local pastor, is against him, as are several other colorful characters.  Everything comes to a head one day when the circus train breaks down in the forest and unwittingly releases wild beasts into the woods.  The children are caught in the middle of the animal escape and a kidnapping plot aimed at hurting Emmett, and it will take wild faith to overcome to dark night before them.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For years, DJ Perry, Shane Hagedorn, and their team have struggled with poor production quality and overly artistic attempts.  However, while the artistry is still present in Wild Faith, a higher production level has finally been achieved.  This is evidenced by great camera work and video quality even in the realistic and complex war scenes.  There are great action shots, as well as historically authentic sets, props, and locations.  Audio quality is also great, and the soundtrack is creative.  The only nitpick to raise here relates to some slightly confusing editing, but this is a small issue compared to the great improvement that has been shown here.  Perry and Hagedorn have proven that never giving up and working to improve pays off in the end.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Though the beginning of this plot is a bit disorienting at first, if you stick with it, things begin to make more sense.  Where the characters are a bit raw at first, they become more realistic as time progresses with the exception of the cheesy villains.  Some of the dialogue is a bit vague at times, but there are also some good conversations throughout that reveal character motive, which is a rarity to find in Christian film.  The overall plot structure of this film is fairly unique and creative as it effectively uses flashbacks and other psychological elements to keep things interesting.  This story is a great attempt to be different rather than the typical inspirational fodder, but there are some opportunities for improvement especially in the areas of character refinement and storyline organization.  Some of the dialogue is a bit obvious at times, but Wild Faith takes an honest look at corrupt small town Christianity and the pain of racism after the Civil War.  Overall, this film shows a lot of potential in this team.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, the acting of this movie is also fairly good.  This DJ Perry character is likely his best performance to date.  Shane Hagedorn starts out a bit rough at first, but his character is a slow burn and begins to refine as it goes on.  The villain cast members are fairly poor and drag down this score, and there are a few overdone emotional moments, but on the whole, this is a good acting performance that caps off a suprisingly enjoyable film.

Conclusion

We always look for improvement across films, and we are always glad when Christian film makers don’t give up and continue to try things.  Experience is hopefully going to lead to improvement, as is listening to constructive criticism.  The Perry and Hagedorn team has wandered in the film wilderness for a few years now, from Ashes of Eden to 40 Nights and Chasing the Star.  To be honest, I did not have high hopes for Wild Faith when it was first sent to me, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Whether or not this film becomes a series, it is clear that this creative team has a lot of potential in front of them, so it will be interesting to see what they produce next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Summer of ’67 (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In the years of the Vietnam War, families faced many different unique challenges posed by the international conflict.  Milly and Gerald have recently been married, but they have been forced to live with Gerald’s eccentric mother due to financial challenges.  Milly’s sister Kate is torn between the pro-war and anti-war efforts due to her mother’s past suicide.  When Gerald and Kate’s on-and-off boyfriend Peter are called to the war front for various reasons, Milly and Kate must both live with Gerald’s eccentric mother Joanna as the world around them seems to be falling apart.  Together, they must rekindle the faith they were always taught in order to make it through.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Sharon and Fred Wilharm of Mainstreet Productions have always had a commitment to building authentic productions.  Summer of ’67 is no exception, as they demonstrate a clear attention to specific historical detail in the props, sets, and locations.  Video quality and camera work are also quite professional.  Audio quality is mostly fine as well, although the soundtrack can sometimes be too loud and somewhat out of place.  As they are still transitioning from making silent films, some adjustments like this can be expected.  Also, the editing can be a bit choppy at times, which can cause the story presentation to be confusing.  Overall, with just a few more tweaks, the Wilharms are very close to mastering professional productions, especially those in need of historical authenticity.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, as Mainstreet Productions used to only make silent films, the plot of Summer of ’67 is not really what it could be.  It comes off as a loose collection of ideas that need better synthesis and organization.  The good thing is that the story does unfold without narration, but some of the dialogue is slightly expository.  Outside of a few interesting conversations, unfortunately, the dialogue does not do enough to build the characters as people.  Some scenes are too short and not explained very well, and time seems to jump from one thing to the next without very clear coherency or organization.  Thus, a lot of the characters come off as shallow, even though they have potential, and a lot of story ideas seem unfinished.  While the ending is very interesting and realistic, the lead-up is not quite enough to hold the attention of the audience.  Overall, it’s clear that the Wilharms really care about trying to making great films; they are just not quite there yet in the plot department.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Another adjustment from making silent films is obviously going to be acting coaching.  While this cast is mostly fine and has a lot of potential, there are one too many scenes where the cast members don’t appear to know what they are doing.  Some of the acting is too stilted and robotic in both line and emotional delivery.  As a good note, this might be Mimi Sagadin’s best role, but she needed a bit more screen time than she was given.  On the whole, this section is mostly average.

Conclusion

We know that the Wilharms really do mean well in their films, and the historical authenticity of this production has great value.  It’s definitely going to be an adjustment to move from silent to non-silent films, so growing pains are to be expected.  However, since the Wilharms have always been committed to improving however they can, we believe that Summer of ’67 is something that can be built off of for future improvement.  Perhaps next time, if a more substantial plot is crafted, the next Mainstreet film could be Hall of Fame.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Samson [2018] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Samson was chosen to be a judge of Israel by Yahweh, but he did not always do as he was supposed to do.  He was anointed by God with superhuman strength when the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, but when he disobeyed, there were serious consequences.  God used Samson to deliver His people from the oppressive Philistines, and He used an imperfect man to accomplish His will in the most extraordinary ways.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

PureFlix has clearly come a long way since the abysmal production days of The Book of Esther and the half-hearted production of movies like Apostle Peter and the Last Supper.  This newer rendition of Samson boasts a surprisingly high production quality, which is manifested in gritty and realistic elements that are not afraid to make the characters get dirty.  Action scenes are filmed very well with good camera work.  Video quality is crisp, and sets, locations, and props are very well-constructed and culturally authentic.  The editing is also good, but this production is held back from being all that it could be by weird cuts and dramatic zooms that are reminiscent of Revelation Road and by very obvious CGI architectural shots.  However, on the whole, Samson is a huge step forward for PureFlix Bible productions.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Right off the bat, the plot of Samson is hamstrung by immediate and unwanted narration.  Accompanying this story crutch is a typically PureFlix ‘creative license’ that they give themselves to do whatever they want with historical narrative.  As this film was shamelessly pushed as a ‘Christian superhero’ flick, it is full of mostly mindless action scenes and is actually quite violent for a Bible film–even rivaling The Bible miniseries for gory content.  With so many battle scenes and bodies flying around, there is no room for character development as dialogue is instead used to fill time, dump information, and force the story along in the direction the writers wanted it to go in.  In molding the story however they wanted, the PureFlix collective whitewashed the obvious mistakes of Samson the historical figure and made this movie into some kind of romance-revenge plot.  However, in some ways, they made some interesting connections between the true events of Samson’s life, which keeps this section from being zero, but they took too much ‘creative license’ with historical fact to be acceptable.  Regardless, we have no idea who Samson is as a character due to massive time jumps, and the recurring villain character is beyond cheesy.  In the end, plot was basically tossed by the wayside in the making of this pandering film.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Somewhere out there, there is a Christian movie consultant who constantly advises film makers to cast BRITISH people as Middle Eastern characters.  Sure, Middle Eastern cast members can be somewhat difficult to find, but what is the idea behind casting people with such obviously culturally inauthentic accents?  I’m sure with this budget PureFlix could have found some authentic cast members.  This consistent problem aside, the acting of this film is mostly fine except for the overly dramatic moments and forced emotions that are apparent here.  Also, it goes without saying that PureFlix consulted with Timothy Chey on how to give PhilistIne characters the worst possible makeup jobs.  On the whole, this section is average.

Conclusion

What to do with another Bible film?  Samson fulfills the gritty category, and the production is fine, but the other categories are greatly lacking in what is needed.  With a budget this big, better cast members could have been employed and better screenwriters could have been retained.  Then again, it’s doubtful that PureFlix actually cares about making a truly quality film.  Samson was just another attempt at a cash grab–PureFlix adapts with the times as needed to do the bare minimum to get enough audiences to pay for a ticket.  Now most people have forgotten this film even happened.  Oh well.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Healed By Grace 2: Ten Days of Grace (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jessie really wants a horse, but her mom hates horses, so it’s probably not going to happen.  However, her father decides to send her to horse camp for the summer while her mother secretly gets treatment for the cancer she’s hiding from Jessie.  Unfortunately, the summer camp is full once her father gets there, which causes him to divert his plans to asking his wife’s long-lost father, Gauff from Healed by Grace, whom he has never met, to watch Jessie for a while.  Will their family be able to reconcile because of this?

Production Quality (.5 point)

For a 2018 production, Healed By Grace 2 is a major letdown and is actually a decrease in quality from previous Blended Planet films, with the exception of Disconnect Reconnect.  The poor production of Healed By Grace 2 is manifested in very poor audio and weird sound effects, as well as poor lighting and strange video quality.  The camera work is mostly fine, however, which is the only positive element in this production.  A lot of the audio seems overdubbed, and there are weird sequences of dead air, as well as a generic soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly limited and uncreative.  There are also a lot of awkward and strange cuts and transitions, including unexplained portions that may or may not take place in the minds of the characters.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Where the first installment of this ‘series’ had a tiny amount of potential, this sequel bears little to no potential at all.  The dialogue therein is extremely vanilla and pedestrian thus creating empty characters.  A lot of the plot elements seem to completely disregard the previous film, as if it really matters.  Some characters seem purposely off-the-wall or even ‘magical.’  There are also a collection of cringe-worthy ‘comedy’ sequences that are like fingernails in the chalkboard.  As this plot meanders with little to no purpose, there are also other odd elements included, such as odd suggestions about people getting cancer due to lacking forgiveness.  Overall, there is very little content to work with in this extremely forced and basically purposeless sequel, which suggests that it was misguided from the beginning.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The acting from the original movie was partially awkward in its own right, but the acting of this second film is much worse.  There are many very awkward moments, as well as blank emotions and half-hearted line delivery.  Many cast members appear to be trying far too hard to make their mark, and there is basically no coaching present.  Unfortunately, there was really little to no point in making this film.

Conclusion

Do we really need another horse film?  Until somebody produces a substantial, creative, and non-regurgitated film in this genre, we really need to have a moratorium on inspirational horse movies.  Besides this fact, productions and acting this bad are no longer acceptable in this era of Christian film, so it’s more than likely that Healed By Grace 2 will soon be forgotten.

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Like Arrows: The Art of Parenting (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Charlie and Alice began their parenting journey sooner than they expected, but they quickly adapted to their new life as a family, even as their family continued to grow.  They encountered many different struggles and challenges as their family dynamic changed and expanded, but they always did their best to rely on wisdom from God in their parenting.  However, when they reached a breaking point one day, their wise friends invited them to a church conference that helped them fix all of their mistakes and begin building a lasting legacy!

 

Production Quality (2 points)

On the surface, Like Arrows has a decent enough production, which is no doubt due to the consultation of the Kendrick Brothers.  This is evident in good camera work, crisp video quality, and mostly fine sets, locations, and props.  Unfortunately, audio quality is quite up to par as many lines are difficult to discern; however, the soundtrack is mostly fine.  While most scenes are well-lit, there are some head-scratching moments of poor lighting with little to no explanation.  Further, it goes without saying that the major detractor of this production is the atrocious editing, which can mostly be blamed on the ridiculous amount of content that is shoved into this film.  On the whole, this production is fine and passable, but the issues with Like Arrows go much deeper.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This ‘movie’ was originally a collection of skit clips to accompany FamilyLife’s new curriculum called The Art of Parenting.  It’s painfully obvious that this choppy and rough presentation of random ideas was borne out of these beginnings.  What begins as a semi-interesting storyline quickly descends into a roller coaster of content that takes the viewer from one high point to the next at breakneck pace.  The audience is dropped into a moment in time to look at one spoon-fed issue that needs to be highlighted, and just as soon as the sequence began, it comes to a predictable conclusion as the audience is prepared to zoom forward in time to another ‘important’ tidbit from FamilyLife’s outdated worldview that needs to be included.  This wild ride wreaks havoc on any hope of character development as dialogue is stilted and programmed based on what the ministry needed to push to whoever may watch this mess.  This section is only saved from nothingness by a semi-effective final scene that has absolutely no build-up or justification due to the fact that nobody knows who the characters even are at that point even as more characters are constantly introduced.  Also, it goes without saying that the FamilyLife product placements are vomit-inducing.  Essentially, Kevin Peeples was saddled with the impossible task of trying to force a collection of worldview-heavy curriculum skits to be a continuous and understandable screenplay.  No one should have been expected to pull this off since, based on the content provided, the task was a losing one to begin with.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting of this ‘film’ is very uneven.  Alan Powell has had better performances, and a lot of the cast members seem lost and unsupported by coaching.  However, it’s not like they had any good lines to work with in the first place.  Also, the sheet number of cast members required for the constantly changing ages (with the exception of the parents) causes a lot of confusion and extra work for directing.  Once the parent cast members are finally changed (there is a point when they seem like the same age as their adult children) and once other professional cast members are brought on (Alex Kendrick, Garry Nation, etc.), the acting actually improves for the final sequence.  However, it’s simply not enough to save this film from itself.

Conclusion

Space does not permit a full discussion on the myriad issues actually present in this film, including the mindless and patronizing treatment of women (what do you expect?), the trippy ‘futuristic’ elements in the final sequence, and the general lack of regard for understanding the struggles of real people.  This film claims to show real people doing real things, but it actually demonstrates just how far out of touch FamilyLife really is.  Did I mention how horrible their product placements are?  Implying that a family is totally fixed by going to your conference and buying your merchandise is the height of arrogance and is extremely tone-deaf.  Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that this film will make any lasting impact.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Just Grace (Summer 2018)

Coming Summer 2018

 

Writer(s): Karen Abercrombie, Tara Lynn Marcelle

Director(s): Karen Abercrombie, Tara Lynn Marcelle

Producer(s): Karen Abercrombie, Tara Lynn Marcelle

Starring: Karen Abercrombie, Elizabeth Becka, Madison Bailey, Ian Grey, Cameron Arnett, Michael Higgenbotham, Sharonne Lanier, Lillie Ann Oden, Alexandria Benford, Jemarcus Kilgore, Melanie Robinson

 

Plot Synopsis:

When the life of Grace Templeton, an esteemed music professor, is disrupted by tragedy, she finds herself thrown out of her lavish academic world and into the harsh reality of teaching at-risk youth.

I Before Thee (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jeffrey Douglas has recently lost his job as a fireman, so he decides that drinking is the best way for him to escape from his problems–both his present and his past problems.  His wife loves him, and she is pregnant with their first child, but Jeffrey can’t seem to get it together as he runs from his past.  As his life continues to spiral out of control, will he ever reach the point where he decides to rely on God?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

These days, even cheaply made films have the ability to have productions of decent quality.  Before Thee is an example of this.  Its video quality is fine, as is the audio quality and camera work.  The soundtrack leaves something to be desired, and there are some random moments of loud background sounds and obvious overdubs.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly cheap and limited, and editing is fairly poor.  However, this film is a step up from the early-2000s garbage productions that used to be dumped into the market, but that’s unfortunately not saying very much.  While this production is average, the movie doesn’t have much else going for it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

A lot of the time, it is very unclear what message I Before Thee is trying to convey.  It raises some important points and highlights some unfortunately realistic circumstances, but there is a bit too much edgy content.  There are also a handful of unusual elements that are difficult to understand.  While there are some interesting psychological concepts that keep this section from being zero, they are mostly poorly executed.  Characters have next to no development as dialogue is very half-hearted and empty.  There are barely any attempts to make the audience understand who the characters are as real people–they appear to just be pawns in the plot.  Elsewhere, the storyline is too disorienting at times, and the ending generally makes no sense at all.  There is very little redemption for the messes that are created in the plot, which gives little purpose to this plot being made.  Maybe someday somebody can use the slightly interesting portions of this film to make a better one.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

It’s not like the cast members had any good lines to work with, but this acting is fairly poor.  While there is some slight potential here, a lot of it is very forced and unnatural.  Emotions are too cardboard and uninspiring.  Line delivery is vanilla.  On the whole, this is another throwaway film you are unlikely to hear much about.

Conclusion

The Christian movie field is beyond flooded at this point, so new creators have to do whatever they can to stand out for the right reasons.  I want to emphasize “for the right reasons.”  Film making is hard and expensive, and your first film is unlikely to have a very high budget.  That’s why you can set yourself apart by having a dynamic plot and great acting coaching.  Anyone can act well with the right coaching, and a great plot is one that captures real people doing real things without pushing a message.  Unfortunately, I Before Thee fails on most of these fronts and will likely be soon forgotten.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Believe: The Misfit Pawn (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Julian is stuck in a job he doesn’t like, so he and his buddy decide to start recording their own songs and doing their own shows.  They get popular locally and gain some ground in the local show business.  Julian meets his new girlfriend at a bar, and she introduces him to a ‘big’ record label producer that puts Julian’s gig on the map.  However, they fall on hard times and Julian is forced to get a day job to support him and his girlfriend after she gets pregnant.  Julian soon finds out the hard way what the show business really expects from him, and he’s not sure if he’s willing to make the hard choice he has to make.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Believe: The Misfit Pawn is a mostly cheap production; it seems like it was filmed in people’s houses and yards.  Camera work is low quality, and video quality is inconsistent.  There are one too many dark scenes, and audio quality is marginal at best.  The ‘original’ soundtrack is vanilla and too loud at times.  As previously mentioned, sets, locations, and props are fairly limited and uncreative.  Finally, the editing is okay, but it’s really nothing to write home about.  Overall, this production is just one of those throwaway pieces that will easily be forgotten.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s very difficult to quantify the true purpose or point of this so-called story.  The plot summary is written as incoherently as the movie is written.  The Christian message is very muted, and a lot of the elements included are just offbeat.  The characters are very empty, and dialogue is extremely uninspiring.  Many of the scenes appear to be filler content, and there are no real attempts to engage the audience in a meaningful way.  As mentioned before, the storyline muddles around without explaining why we should be watching it or what we are supposed to be getting out of it.  The underlying worldview is a bit unusual, and the ending really doesn’t make much sense at all.  In the end, this story is purposeless and not worth your time.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With such a small cast, every little error is more obvious.  While there are some good moments with this cast that keep this section from being zero, there is very little acting coaching evident in this film.  Some lines seem off-the-cuff, and most of the seems appear to be one-takes.  Emotions are average, and this section is basically vanilla and boring.

Conclusion

What is there to do with movies like Believe: The Misfit Pawn?  What does this title even mean?  Why did I watch this movie?  Actually, I watched it because I had some Amazon credits to use up before they expired.  I wanted to check it off the list, so I did.  There’s really no other reason to watch this sort of garbage that’s called a Christian movie.  All we can do now is look forward to the day when movies like this are no longer being put out.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Grace of God {The Takers} [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

First Church has been robbed by an unknown culprit!  $20,000 is missing!  However, the pastor wants to keep it all under wraps, so he can control the investigation without going to the police.  That’s why he decides to hire a private investigator who’s an atheist to track down the criminal by interviewing everybody in the church.  Though this investigator is skeptical of the faith, he decides he needs to make himself the personal bodyguard of the church secretary, who is having her own family struggles.  Will everyone be able to learn the lesson of stealing?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Kevan Otto’s production models are fairly standardized, and Grace of God is another example of this.  Video quality and camera work are fine, even if lighting is a bit inconsistent at times.  Audio quality is mostly acceptable, even if the soundtrack is sometimes too loud; there are also some unnecessary background\outside noises that come through.  Sets, locations, and props are passable, but they are fairly limited.  Further, the editing is average at best as many scenes drag on far too long and do not hold the attention well.  Overall, this is just another average production with nothing special to write home about.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In conjunction with In the Name of GodGrace of God was intended to be a part of a series about the Ten Commandments.  Undoubtedly, we would have been gifted with awkward iterations and proclamations from John Ratzenberger at the beginning of each film.  Grace of God is shockingly about ‘You Shall Not Steal’ (notice the creative original title), and it’s also somehow supposed to be about Easter (there is no way to derive this concept from the plot at all).  Regardless, this plot is as awful as can be expected from such a limited idea.  Characters are totally blank, and most of the film is filled up with them awkwardly standing around and talking without saying anything substantial.  Dialogue is mostly empty and mindless since it is so full of message-pushing and forceful ideas.  A lot of the plot points and story arcs really lack basis in reality and feel very manufactured.  In the end, the storyline lacks any real impact and falls flat on its face.  It’s doubtful that many audiences will make it through the second half of the film–even though that stand-up-in-church scene is pretty hilarious.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Though there is slight potential in this acting, most of the cast members therein seem lost and struggling without any assistance.  Line delivery is choppy, and emotions come off as forced.  There is no clear presence of acting coaching, and Erin Bethea actually exhibits some of the best acting skills, if you can believe it.  Overall, most acting performances are just too robotic and unnatural to warrant any higher ratings.

Conclusion

Thank heavens there weren’t more of these films made.  I can just imagine the halting, sermonizing grunts of John Ratzenberger on keeping the Sabbath day and not coveting.  Hardly any Christian film makers make ten films period, so beginning with this sort of plan was certainly ambitious.  By now, Kevan Otto has made about ten films, so he could have forced them all to be in this ‘series.’  Online fits perfectly with the adultery commandment.  Lukewarm or Decision could be about honoring your parents or something.  A Question of Faith could reference…organ donation?  Regardless, movies that force messages down your throat in the form of sermons rarely have any real impact, so it’s best that this method is avoided altogether.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Extraordinary [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dr. David Horton is known as a great professor in Lynchburg, and his ‘running’ class is extremely popular.  His reputation is that he helps all of his students by connecting with them on a personal level.  Dr. Horton is also a marathon enthusiast, but his passion often takes away his time from his family, which is something his wife greatly struggles with.  Much to her chagrin, David embarks on a dangerous cross-country marathon for two months, even though he is secretly battling health problems.  Will his health and their marriage survive the trek?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Liberty University has all of the toys and resources an independent film maker could dream of, yet they consistently settle for just above average productions.  There’s no doubt that Extraordinary has some great cinematography, even if it’s mostly a collection of American landmark shots.  Nevertheless, camera work is excellent, and video quality is great.  Sets, locations, and props also make this production a mostly good experience.  Editing is standard, and on the surface, this is a well-produced film.  However, beneath the surface, there are some head-scratching inclusions, such as silly production gimmicks and weirdly bad special effects.  These elements are reminiscent of film school professors playing around to see what they can do with what they have.  However, most audiences will likely look past these issues and see the above-average production that it is.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Based on a true story, the Liberty University team had a lot to work with, even though they have struggled in the past with storylines.  However, in Extraordinary, the Curlee\Schultze team continued their issues with very thin and empty plots and characters.  Though this is based on real people, they clearly had no idea how to craft realistic characters as the story does not translate well at all.  The characters are empty due to dialogue that is full of title-dropping, pedestrian platitude-pushing, and repeated content.  Many scenes are basically filler with no substantial contribution to the overall plot.  There are one too many ‘funny’ scenes, and the majority of the movie is packed with musical montages and dramatic moments that have no meaning.  In the end, though the basic idea behind this story was great, the film version leaves the audience with no real focus or purpose as it tried so hard to drive the point home that it fell flat.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Acting coaching and casting is another area the Curlee\Schultze team struggles in, which is a shame since they claim to be prodigies of the Kendricks.  The lead actor of this film is particularly weak and awkward, and several supporting cast members are annoying.  Kirk Cameron is beyond obnoxious, and Shari Rigby struggles without better directing.  However, there are enough good areas here to make this section at least average; one has to consider that this cast didn’t have many substantial lines to work with.  Nonetheless, the Liberty University team continues to disappoint.

Conclusion

Scotty Curlee and Stephan Schultze have the film world at their fingertips, yet they constantly settle for half-measure and expect you to deal with it because at least it’s a Christian movie or something.  Unfortunately, they are consistently wasting the time and money of Christian audiences as all of their marketing is for nothing but a quick cash grab.  Extraordinary is another example of a squandered opportunity because Curlee and Schultze refuse to retain a truly talented screenwriter (like Sean Morgan) and have demonstrated time and again their lack of regard for improvement.  Now we can just wait with bated breath for their upcoming Trump film.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

I Can Only Imagine (Movie Review)

 

Plot Summary

Bart Millard always loved to sing, but he grew up in a broken home.  His mother left while he was young, and his father beat him and told him he would never amount to much.  When Bart failed high school football due to injuries, he and his father spent as little time around each other as possible.  Out of this, Bart began singing in high school plays and was told that he had a special talent for the stage.  This led Bart to pursue a career in Christian music, but life on the road was hard.  When he was forced to make a pivotal decision at a crossroads in his career, Bart was finally faced with having to go back to reconcile with the person he came to hate the most: his father.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

What else can be said about the talent of the Erwin Brothers at this point?  They have clearly mastered production quality, especially when it comes to historical epics.  The attention to detail in I Can Only Imagine is exquisite.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are flawless.  With Brent McCorkle involved, the soundtrack is always going to be a hit.  Sets, locations, and props in I Can Only Imagine are excellent and demonstrate wonderful historical authenticity.  This content-packed epic is edited nearly to perfection.  In short, it’s rare to have a perfect production, but the Erwin Brothers are still schooling the industry in how it’s done.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Naturally following their epic film Woodlawn, the Erwin Brothers seem to have found a niche in biopics.  The story of Bart Millard is one that is absolutely worth being told, especially since so many people are familiar with MercyMe and their original breakout hit single, which is the title of this film.  What some audiences may not expect is the profound and timely message this film has to offer.  This film is more than just another inspirational film to grab cash from a willing audience.  In typical Erwin fashion, I Can Only Imagine is the film the western church needs now.  Besides this, the characters are very realistic, authentic, and easy to access via believable dialogue and back stories.  Each character is flawed and gray rather than black and white.  The only nitpick to note here pertains to some minor typical elements and a slightly predictable ending, but the story was limited by reality, so this complaint is very minor compared to the excellent work of art this film actually is.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The Masters of Casting did their homework once again in crafting a cast that was true-to-life to the real people behind the story.  Each actor and actress is cast appropriately and assume their roles very well.  Costuming is excellent and correct for the time period.  Dennis Quaid likely posts one of the performances of the year as a very complex three-part role.  In the end, there are little to no errors to raise about this film, which has become the norm of the Erwin brand.

Conclusion

I Can Only Imagine receives an x-factor point for presenting an extremely important issue in a realistic way.  Audiences will flock to this film on the basis of its title recognition alone, but many will receive a message they least expected, yet one that the church as a whole desperately needs.  Many, many Christians and those associated with the church are running from parts of their lives that are broken and are not always their fault because they do not know how to deal with them.  I Can Only Imagine brings this paradigm to front and center at a time when the message of redemption for broken families needs to be heard.  Also, in keeping with their perfect record, the Erwins have notched another one on the Hall of Fame and have possibly taken the top spot of Christian film.

 

Final Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points

 

Saving Faith [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Faith Scott and her uncle Donny live in the struggling small town of Clifton, Tennessee.  Everything’s closing down in town, and people are either strapped for cash or leaving the area.  Thus, the theater that has been in their family for years is on the brink of foreclosure, which is the delight of the evil local businessman Peter Marsh.  Thus, Faith and Donny decide to schedule a desperation attempt to save the theater: a Christmas in June show featuring big names in Christian music.  Will it be enough to save the theater and even the town from extinction?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The good thing for Chip Rossetti is that he has shown great production improvement over his movie career.  This fact is also evident in Saving Faith, as evidenced by great video quality and camera work.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly fine, if not a little quaint.  However, the soundtrack can be too loud at times, and there are a handful of unnecessary background sounds, as well as some cheesy sound effects and special effects.  Moreover, the editing is pretty good, thus rounding out a slightly above-average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, there is little to nothing creative about the plot of Saving Faith as it follows a stereotypical save the _____ with a holiday show plotline.  The progression of the story is very predictable, as are the characters involved.  A good portion of the characters are also cheesy and generally eccentric, such as the head-scratching Elvis character (no, it’s not The Rev).  The villain is also ridiculous and over the top; each character fits into a predetermined small-town mold: the local eccentric, the local business owner, and the local evil bank guy.  While there are some attempts to have a good Christian message, all the problems are very easily solved in the end.  The romantic subplot is also awkwardly predictable.  In short, there aren’t many positives to note here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

For the most part, the acting of this film is awkward and overplayed.  It is at least good to see Jenn Gotzon and Jim Chandler star opposite each other as a couple.  There are some good moments in this cast, but for the most part, unfortunately, it is mostly bland or silly.  Thus, this rounds out an unfortunately disappointing and pedestrian film.

Conclusion

There truly is little point in constantly perpetuating this same small-town narrative over and over and over again.  If we need more of that, we can always watch Hallmark.  There is no creativity or authenticity in this concept, unless a film maker wants to explore some legitimate reasons behind collapsing small towns.  Constantly making movies about the ‘good old days’ in the name of Christian film is disingenuous and worn out.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Colors of Emily (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Kate Montgomery is a big city art dealer who travels to a quaint small town to purchase some mysterious paints from a mysterious artist whom no one in the art dealing world knows the true identity of.  However, she is also on the run from her psychologist and her dark past.  While running away, she will have to end up facing everything she’s trying to hide from in the most unlikely ways.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

While there are some positive elements in this production, there are also some negative ones.  For instance, video quality and camera work are mostly fine, but there is some poor audio quality throughout.  The soundtrack is also a bit generic.  Lighting can be a problem at times, and the sets, locations, and props are somewhat limited in some areas.  For the most part, editing is fine, even though there are a few too many lagging scenes.  Thus, as a whole, this production is basically average and has some room for improvement.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The Colors of Emily is mostly a departure for the Rossetti group.  This story tries to delve into the psychological\suspense\mystery genre, and it contains interesting attempts at psychological elements, but there is too much wasted time before getting to the substantial mystery elements.  This wasted time mostly consists of tongue-in-cheek dialogue about predictable fish-out-of-water concepts, as well as a seemingly vague premise and loose grip on reality.  At times, the storyline seems very unfinished, and the characters come off as too understated and under-developed.  Further, the villain is fairly cheesy, especially in the ‘climax’ scene that’s full of monologuing.  In short, while there is some potential in this story idea, its final product is too vague and undeveloped.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, most of the acting in The Colors of Emily is very awkward and not well-coached.  A lot of the cast members come off as too unnatural, although Jenn Gotzon posts a more authentic performance than usual.  Moreover, there are some other strange characters in this cast, and there are too many sequences of yelling and screaming, especially in the suspense scenes.  Overall, there are too many forced lines and emotions to warrant any more than half of point here.

Conclusion

The Colors of Emily has a good idea behind it, but its effort is basically half-cocked and incomplete.  On the whole, the production needs an upgrade, as does the acting.  The storyline needs more clarification and deepening, as do the characters and dialogue.  This film appears to be an example of the importance of taking time to make quality films rather than just making another movie most people are going to forget about.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

My Daddy’s in Heaven (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Becca Smith suddenly loses her husband in a tragic car accident, she feels like her world is falling apart.  Then she meets an old friend from the past who decides to introduce her to a new lifestyle of partying and drinking to help drown her sorrows away.  However, Becca is unable to fill the void.  Will she come back to the faith she was always taught before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

On the surface, My Daddy’s in Heaven has a fairly good production, as evidenced by some great outdoor scenes and good video quality.  For the most part, camera work is good, except for some weird camera angles.  Audio quality is sometimes too echoed, especially in indoor sets.  Lighting is somewhat inconsistent, including some odd sequences of soft lighting.  There are also some sequences of disorienting sound effects and special effects, but there is some slight production improvement shown throughout, thus warranting an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, though this film is based on a book and tries to have a good point, the storyline is quite thin.  There seem to be a lot of scenes grasping for substantial content as the plot meanders aimlessly and purposelessly for nearly sixty minutes.  During this time frame, a good portion of the time is spent on the main two characters getting drunk.  Dialogue is all over the place, including too many instances of forced comedy.  Though this film is billed as a family movie, there is a lot of embarrassing content within, including long and pointless bar scenes.  However, the last ten to fifteen minutes of the film take a slightly interesting turn based on some intriguing ideas.  Unfortunately, with no buildup to this point and no support from the rest of the film, these ideas are wasted, and there are too many quick fixes employed.  Thus, only half a point can be awarded for this section.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The two female leads of this cast, outside of a few good moments, do their best to make fools of themselves.  Most of the acting in this film is oddly forced and awkward, but it’s likely that the cast members didn’t have much good to work with in the first place.  There are also some mumbled and whispered lines that make for a frustrating experience.  Overall, unfortunately, there is little good to mention about this film.

Conclusion

While the effort and the heart behind this film might have been there, the good intentions were terribly misplaced.  Production was almost passable, but it’s unsure what the intention of this plot was.  Audiences who are expecting a family-friendly film will likely be disappointed at the number of drunken scenes of this film.  While it great to show the struggles of real people in film, there is a way to do this without being so embarrassing.  Unfortunately, the interesting pivotal scene near the end of the film is out of place and could have been used in a better film.  Better luck next time, I guess.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points