Joshua [2002] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a mysterious young man named Joshua suddenly appears in the small town of Auburn, the entire town is astir, especially when he begins rebuilding the Baptist church.  The local Catholic priests are disturbed at his coming, however, especially after he spends time with the ‘sinners’ and even performs a few miracles.  However, those who are impacted by the work of Joshua are changed forever, even those who least expected it.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Although this production looks slightly old at times, it is still a good production.  It checks all the right boxes, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The original soundtrack is fine.  Sets, locations, and props are all what they should be.  However, this production is held back from perfection by some avoidable continuity errors, as well as some cheesy transitions and awkward cuts.  However, on the whole, this is a fine production with no obvious errors.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Based on a novel, the plot of Joshua has some obvious issues that come with the territory of stories that attempt to transpose Biblical events on top of modern day settings.  Using these conventions is almost always mind-bending and problematic for a number of reasons.  In Joshua, it is impossible to know whether or not this is supposed to be a retelling of the original historical account of Jesus, or if this is supposed to be some kind of modern day reappearance before the Second Coming.  The story tries to convince you it’s the latter, but why include all of the repeat miracles in this case?  Even so, there is very little conflict in this tale as useless narration tries to spoon feed the plot to you.  There are also too many characters that are under-developed and one-dimensional due to the narration and the shallow dialogue.  The story jumps from one thing after the next with no real continuity.  Unfortunately, this section is a disappointment.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

However, the acting is the best part of this film, as there are only minor errors to contend with.  For the most part, this cast is professional and on-point in their line delivery and emotional delivery.  Costuming and makeup are also appropriate.  Overall, this section punctuates a mostly average film.

Conclusion

We definitely need more Christian novels made in movie form, as we have said before.  However, this really isn’t the sort of thing we’re looking for.  There’s nothing truly dynamic about this movie.  While it is fine and pedestrian with no obvious goofs, is it really going to make a difference?  Making more cute little Christian films isn’t good enough anymore.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

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The Crossing [1994] (Movie Review)

Ah, the good ole days

Plot Summary

Matt and Jason were best friends, but when Matt dies of cancer, Jason is left asking why.  Matt was a Christian, and he wanted Jason to be as well, so Matt appears to Jason in a vision and shows Jason where God keeps the sins of everybody written down, where Jesus died on the cross, and what will happen if Jason’s mother tries to save herself without God.  Jason wakes up so scared that he has to become a Christian!

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Much like other older films affiliated with the Christiano Brothers brand, The Crossing is an archaic production with a loud and outdated soundtrack.  While video quality and camera work are mostly fine, and sets, locations, and props are okay, there aren’t any other positives to note.  There are a lot of very cheesy special effects used throughout, and there are too many background noises.  Editing also suffers, including choppy cuts and a very abruptly awkward ending.  Unfortunately, while this was intended to be a youth group film (probably from the Christian Film Library of Pamela’s Prayer), youth leaders will be hard-pressed to get anyone interested in this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

On the surface, this film has a good message, but it still has the typical overtures of films associated with the Christiano brand, such as the Christian characters being perfect non-sinners and the non-Christian characters being very obvious sinners.  Thus, the characters serve as stand-ins for plot points and spout programmed dialogue that is designed to push and project a specifically forceful and fundamentalist message.  As usual, the plot is out of touch with real people and uses tactics designed to ‘scare’ people into being saved, which are highly questionable and unlikely to be successful.  Besides this, the ‘storyline’ has a quick and rushed progression and completely lacks substance.  Unfortunately, there’s nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The Crossing reveals some of the origins of the crazy, overly dramatic acting of the dynamic duo Kevin Downes and David A. R. White.  Other cast members in this film bear the resemblance of stoic Christiano cast members.  However, there are some good moments somewhere in here that keep this section from being zero.

Conclusion

All we can do with a film like this is hope it serves as a reminder of how not to make a ‘youth film.’  People that like this sort of garbage also complain about all the ‘bad movies young people watch these days.’  Well, with stuff like this being shown in church, who’s really to blame?  Until Christian entertainment is top-notch quality, we really don’t have much to say, do we?

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Footprints [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When David Hyler loses everything, he almost gives up on life—that is, until he meets Cadie the German Shepherd.  Cadie changes his outlook on life and shows him that God has a plan for all of His creatures.  Not only does Cadie protect David and his family, but she also heals the lives of others with her presence.  Even though Cadie was abused and left for dead, her second chance on life makes a difference everywhere she goes.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Although this production had something going for it, it doesn’t go quite enough to be dynamic.  Errors like long black and white flashbacks and very poor and distant audio quality hold it back from being what it could have been.  There are also too many background noises, along with a cheesy soundtrack.  However, other elements are fine, including video quality and camera work, except for the odd use of zooms throughout.  Sets, locations, and props are appropriate and realistic.  Editing has some issues, however, including some odd cuts and transitions.  On the whole, this production ends up being average, but it really should have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though this is a nice, touching true story, this plot really doesn’t have the substance necessary to make us interested in its contents or sympathetic to the characters therein.  Character development is stunted by extended and heavy-handed narration.  Dialogue isn’t substantial enough, even though there are some interesting attempts to develop characters through flashbacks.  However, there isn’t really much conflict to contend with here, and the storyline is too focused on being all about the dog.  There is also a laughable and forced persecution subtext that can hardly be taken seriously.  In the end, this plot suffers for lack of meaningful content.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Much like the production, while this cast had a lot going for it, they can’t seem to close the deal.  They begin with forceful emotions and line delivery, as well as some unnatural acting and sequences of juvenile arguing.  Although there is some improvement throughout, it’s not enough to bring this section above average, which tends to be the story of this film.

Conclusion

True story films almost always mean well, but too much of the time, they get lost in translation.  It’s great to portray real life stories in movies, but this isn’t the way to make an impact.  In order for movies like this one to be dynamic, they need flawless production and acting, along with deep characters and a complex storyline.  Otherwise, like Footprints, they fall by the wayside and are easily forgotten.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Sunday School [2008] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rachel is a new girl in town, and she is challenged to attend Sunday school for the first time in a while.  She reluctantly goes, but she finds herself interested in the new young pastor, even though she wants to travel to Hollywood and leave the small town behind to find fame.  Rachel’s presence in church causes a stir, especially due to her interest in the pastor.  Torn between two worlds, what choice will Rachel ultimately choose?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

With a very small budget, Sunday School struggles to have a quality production.  This includes some randomly poor lighting and inconsistent audio quality that has a loud soundtrack at times and other times includes too many outside noises.  However, the camera work and video quality are fine; they are the best elements of this production.  Sets, locations, and props are fine but could use some improvement.  Finally, the editing leaves something to be desired, but when looking at this film’s budget, one can’t expect much more than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this is a very limited story that doesn’t really contain anything truly creative, there is a small amount of potential here pertaining to the divide between church people and ‘worldly’ people who seek the truth.  However, the characters are too generic and not accessible enough, mostly because the dialogue is very stock.  A lot of the time, the characters talk without saying much substantial.  Also, the storyline tends to have typical prodigal character elements, and the ending is fairly rushed, even though it has some good points.  Essentially, this is a nice try, but not good enough.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is a small church film with a limited cast, the performances therein are actually average rather than below average.  There are some forceful performances from some cast members, but some cast members are better than others.  Emotions are mostly fine, but line delivery is inconsistent.  Overall, this section is par for the course.

Conclusion

Small church films are hard to pull off.  Budgets are almost always limited, yet films like this can redeem themselves by having deep, dynamic characters and a complex, thought-provoking storyline.  Unfortunately, Sunday School does not do this.  While the acting is better than it could be, this movie struggles to be relevant and will likely unfortunately be forgotten as time goes on.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Upcoming Christian Novels: The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo

The Pirate Bride: Daughters of the Mayflower - Book 2 by [Y'Barbo, Kathleen]

Release Date: April 1, 2018

Author: Kathleen Y’Barbo

Kathleen Y’Barbo is partnering with Kimberley Woodhouse to write the Daughters of the Mayflower series. This novel, titled The Pirate Bride, will be the second installment in the series that is set to come out in April of this year. The plot features a woman named Maribel who happens to be the daughter of a famous pirate. She is trying to find her father’s missing treasure. In the pursuit of this treasure, she runs into an attorney who has a less than forgiving attitude towards pirates. Will the two be able to part ways as unlikely friends, or will they fall in love? My opinion is that the latter is true. I mean, come on, the title of the book contains the word “bride”. I hope that this author will focus more on the mysterious side of the plot than the typical Hallmark-style romance elements.

Upcoming Christian Novels: The Mayflower Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse

The Mayflower Bride: Daughters of the Mayflower (book 1) by [Woodhouse, Kimberley]

Release Date: February 2018

Author: Kimberley Woodhouse

Kimberley Woodhouse is a Christian romance author known for bringing characters together through extraordinary circumstances. In the past she has written novels with Tracie Peterson and on her own, and has been mostly well received by critics. Some accuse her books of being to predictable, and at times I would have to agree. Woodhouse is beginning a new historical romance series titled Daughters of the Mayflower, and is set to release the entire series this year. She is collaborating with four other Christian authors to write the series, and I find it encouraging that she did not attempt to write the entire series on her own, as this will hopefully ensure more original content. The first installment is coming out next month and is titled The Mayflower Bride. The plot features a man and a woman who are both seeking new lives in the New World. Mary Elizabeth Chapman boards the Speedwell, and William Lytton boards the Mayflower. Mary is seeking freedom of religion, and WIlliam desires new career opportunities. However, William falls in with the wrong crowd, which will have a negative impact on his dreams. As we all know, the passengers of the Speedwell had to eventually join those on their sister ship, the Mayflower, because of damage to the former ship. Therefore, if my suspicions are correct, Mary and William will eventually be thrown together in a whirlwind romance. However, I hope that Woodhouse will take the time needed to develop the characters and focus on the plot as a whole.

The First Stone [1993] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Murrell is released from prison for serving time on drug charges, he is hired as a charity case at a local church as the janitor, even though there was opposition to him.  As he is quietly going about his work one day, he notices that the youth group has gotten out of control in the absence of the leader, so he decides to step in and teach the lesson for the day.  To everyone’s surprise, the kids respect him, so the head pastor makes a bold move to make Murrell the new youth leader.  The results of this move are surprising and unprecedented.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

As an early 1990s production, The First Stone is fairly archaic, which is evidenced by blurry video quality and poor lighting.  While camera work is fine, the sets and locations are cheap.  The props are okay, even if they are a bit outdated.  There also really isn’t any editing to speak of as this film is shorter than most.  While this movie might have meant well, it has an overall feel that screams very old and worn out.  This one was definitely due an upgrade, but funding was likely hard to come by.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

However, The First Stone is one of those rare instances in which the plot is much better than the production.  This movie tells an actually interesting story about problems in churches and in pastor’s families without white-washing it.  It contains realistic and flawed characters and exposes church secrets and broken family systems.  The circumstances therein are believable, and the dialogue is substantial enough to be interesting.  However, there are still some areas for improvement as this is basically an unfinished idea that didn’t get much funding.  The ending is unexpected and interesting, thus making this film somewhat worth your time.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Unfortunately, there are also some acting errors that hold this film back from being what it could be.  The cast members can be too stiff and stilted at times—they basically need some better coaching.  The costuming is old-fashioned, but it’s probably realistic for the time period.  Also, there is acting improvement throughout, as well as plenty of good moments, thus warranting an average score for this section.

Conclusion

You never know what random movies you might stumble upon.  Films like The First Stone are only halfway done, but they have potential to go further.  This movie is definitely worthy of a remake, but it’s unlikely to happen due to the age of it.  Perhaps someone can use the ideas therein to create a truly interesting small church film one day.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Saving the Tin Man (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

As one teenager lies in a hospital bed waiting for a heart transplant, the lives of several families around the small town are impacted in different ways.  One family waits for the father to return home from prison, while another prays for their son to live.  The pastor’s family wants to know why he is rarely home, but all of them want to know where God is in all of the pain as they try to medicate their hurts with many different things that will not satisfy.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The opening sequence of Saving the Tin Man is interesting, but it’s still a bit confusing.  However, the soundtrack is definitely creative, even if there is a lot of shaky camera work and poor lighting in the beginning of this production.  There are also some weird sound effects and some moments of randomly bad audio and loud background noises.  Flashbacks are also of an odd quality, and the editing has a strange penchant for cutting to the characters being talked about.  There are also quite of few awkward and even abrupt cuts and transitions.  Nonetheless, there is definite improvement throughout in all production areas, which is enough to earn this section an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this story tends to be a bit vague and artistic, it portrays the realistic struggles of the characters, even if they are a bit hard to access at times due to the fact that there are many of them.  In fact, this plot has a hard time deciding on which character to wants to focus on, and thus elects to present their stories in an odd overlapping fashion.  This makes the film very fractured and disjointed, and the sheer number of subplots hurts character development and makes dialogue too shallow.  Also, the Christian message is a bit too trite at times.  However, there is plenty of potential in this plot, and the ending is fairly though-provoking.  With a bit more organization, this could have been a great film.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Portions of this section show an amateur nature, such as strange makeup work and some out of place line delivery.  Other lines seem like they were done in only one take, while others are overly robotic and practiced.  However, most mistakes are near the beginning and are mostly ironed out as the film proceeds.  Thus, the acting becomes much better in the second half of the film, thus earning it an above-average score.

Conclusion

Movies like Saving the Tin Man are frustrating because it seems like they have the potential to go further than they do.  Most of the time, movies like this one appear to be rushed, which prevents them from being all that they could be.  With some improved production quality and a more focused plot, this film could have gone further.  However, it will be interesting to see what this team does next.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Running Forever (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After September 11, 2001, when he mother died, Taylor Sims is separated from her father for years.  However, she is given a chance to rebuild a relationship with him at the horse ranch he owns.  Taylor predictably finds a horse to bond with and a new boyfriend as well.  But when adversity faces the horse ranch, will Taylor and her father be able to get along and win the competition to save everything?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Though Running Forever (which was repackaged as the scam ‘Christmas’ film A Horse for Christmas) had a $5 million budget, this is one of the worst productions ever made.  Besides cheap video quality and shaky camera work throughout, audio quality is terrible as it frequently uses overdubs and a generic loud soundtrack to cover up loud background sounds that even still bleed through.  Sets, locations, and props are very cheap, and there are too many close-up shots throughout.  There are also unforced issues like obvious continuity errors and awful transitions and cuts.  Overall, despite the money sunk into this sinking ship, this production is a disaster of epic proportions.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

A Horse for Christmas Running Forever is one of those stories that is trying to make you think it is bigger than it is.  In reality, everything about this half-wit plot has been done before, from the trouble character going to a rural area to bond with a horse and fall in love with the stable hand, to losing the beloved horse, to mending an estranged family relationship.  These clichés are not even executed in a good fashion, as dialogue is extremely thin, which creates cardboard characters.  The Christian message is plastic and seems very forced.  There is barely any substantial content in this plot, and the psychological elements that are attempted are laughable.  In the end, there is nothing good to say about this movie.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Clearly no acting coaching whatsoever was employed in this film as the film’s makers largely make up a majority of the cast.  Line delivery is awful, while emotions are painful.  Everybody is unnatural and stiff in their performances, and no care was given to casting people according to the ages of the characters they are supposed to be portraying.  Like the rest of the film, it seems like it’s all done on the fly.

Conclusion

New Kingdom Pictures seems like a total scam.  Not only did they try to re-release this film as a Christmas film, they didn’t even attempt to add any Christmas elements to it.  I guess they realized this film was so bad it needed a PR boost two years later.  Regardless, Running Forever is basically a train wreck of a film that had no business being made, not only because of its highly uncreative premise, but also because so much money was mishandled in a terrible production.  Somebody needs to stop giving these people so much money to waste.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

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