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My Son [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Cadon and Jess have made bad choices in their lives, but they have each other and they have Jess’ son to keep them going.  However, in one fell swoop of mistakes a ‘friend’ convinced them into, they lose custody of their little boy to Jess’ parents, whom she is still not speaking to.  Thus, in a moment of desperation, they turn to the same ‘friend’ who got them in trouble for help getting out of it.  Together, they concoct a dangerous scheme to get their son back, but little do they know what God really has planned for them.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

As a severely underfunded production, My Son unfortunately has a lot of issues here.  Camera work is quite shaky, including a lot of odd camera angles, and lighting is strange throughout.  There are too many loud outside sounds that crowd out the audio, as well as a loud soundtrack.  Sets and locations are relatively limited, but the props are good and appropriate.  Some of these production elements improve slightly in the end as the final scenes appear to have more effort behind them.  Yet nonetheless, the editing throughout is an issue.  Basically, this was a very ambitious idea for such a limited budget, but the effort is commendable.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

My Son is a rare instance in which the plot is better than the production, as long as you can look past the production issues.  The writers mean well and are trying their best to portray realistic circumstances and accessible characters.  The suspense plot setup is very intriguing and well-constructed.  Dialogue sometimes isn’t as good as it should be, but for the most part, it is realistic and believable.  As the suspense progresses, the movie actually holds the attention if you are committed to it.  In the end, the ending is well written and realistic.  Since this is such an ambitious idea trapped in a bad production, it would be great to see a remake or at least another suspense plot from these writers.

Acting Quality (1 point)

At the beginning of this film, the acting is too forceful and overly practiced, as well as awkward.  However, it seems like this cast means well and is really trying.  The most interesting thing about the cast members is that they are actually better as suspenseful acting than at regular acting, and thus show improvement at the end, like other elements do.  There is tons of potential here that needs to be brought out in another film.

Conclusion

Despite its obvious flaws, My Son is a surprising and interesting burst onto the movie scene.  It likely will not get as much attention as other films, but it embodies a gold mine of potential this church has in making unique and ambitious Christian films in different genres.  Rarely do you see this much potential in a freshman film from a random church group.  It just goes to show you how trying a different genre and really working on your plot, even if you have poor funding, goes a long way.  They are already one step ahead of other film makers, so we can’t wait to see what they have next.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

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Pawn’s Move (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jimmy unexpectedly inherits the secretly wealthy estate of his eccentric antique-collecting mentor, he doesn’t quite know what to do with it.  Therefore, in order to escape from people who only want him for his money, he decides to take a trip to the small town where his mentor grew up so he can sort things out.  But what he finds there is unexpected and reveals a side of himself he never thought he had.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a first-time, limited-funding production, Pawn’s Move is raw and honest.  Camera work is mostly good, as is video quality.  However, lighting is sometimes inconsistent and audio quality tends to pick up a lot of background noises.  Yet the soundtrack is okay.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and authentic, even if they are a bit limited.  Finally, the editing also needs some improvement, even though it shows plenty of potential.  In the end, this is an average and honest production that definitely showed potential for the future, as we saw in The Matchbreaker.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Much like their second film, the Vetter Brothers’ freshman effort Pawn’s Move is artistic and creative.  It utilizes quirky yet believable characters in a muted romantic comedy setting.  Yet despite the huge amount of potential here, this story is severely underdeveloped and understated.  The characters are accessible, yet they need more exploration.  Comedy is subtle, and sometimes too subtle.  Overall, there are too many random ideas floating around in this plot that need better organization, but it was a great start that led to better things.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this amateur cast is somewhat awkward, they are definitely trying.  Sometimes it seems like they need a little more direction than they are being given.  They would have definitely benefitted from upgraded coaching, especially when it came to emotional expression.  Yet nonetheless, like the rest of this film, it showed promise for the future.

Conclusion

There are few film makers that can pull off comedy properly because true comedy requires an understanding of flawed and human characters, as well as superb dialogue.  While Pawn’s Move does not necessarily fully meet these requirements, it is still a step in the right direction.  All film makers, even the best, sometimes have meager beginnings, so the important thing is to keep moving forward and to keep trying to improve.  The ones who do this are set apart from the rest and make a real difference.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Turning Back [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Dave Patterson returns home after three years of drugs and rehab, his brother, an aspiring local politician and trusted church leader, is skeptical of his change and even envious of how his father accepts Dave with open arms.  Thus, Dave grows bitter towards his brother and seeks to share his side of the story in counseling.  Will they be able to reconcile their differences before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Probably due to a limited budget, this production is slightly cheap in its presentation.  The lighting quality for most the film is strange and camera work is very random.  Audio quality is also inconsistent and soundtrack is very standard.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly okay but still reflect the limited nature of this production.  Furthermore, editing is fairly choppy as it is hard to understand what this story is trying to convey sometimes.  In the end, considering the limited resources here, this is an okay production, but it begs the question of necessity.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this is an interesting idea and is a more creative take on the typical prodigal son idea, it is still unfolds in a vague and confusing way.  Though this movie also actually portrays counseling in a realistic way for a chance, there are too many unnecessary plot tangents that waste too much time, even though there’s just barely an hour of runtime.  This causes the story to ump all around with no real focus, and there are too many random and unrelated characters.  The dialogue is too flat, thus causing the story to not hold the attention.  The ending is also slightly abrupt.  It seems like this film would have been better suited to be a short film.  Regardless, it needs a lot more development.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this cast is slightly amateurish, they appear to mean well.  They are sometimes unsure in their performances, but they put forth a decent enough effort.  There aren’t really any glaring errors, but they aren’t really dynamic enough.  Overall, it comes out as average.

Conclusion

Even though the creators of this film were likely honest in the creation of it, unfortunately, this movie is definitely going to slip through the cracks of the market and be easily forgotten.  This story is interesting and has potential, but it needs a lot more deepening and creativity to make it.  The production needs better funding and the acting needs to be more dynamic.  But perhaps this was just a test run and there are better things in store.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Forgiven [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jack Kincaid is a no-good drifter in the 1800s Wild West who comes to the town of Fairplay looking for a fresh start so he can turn his life around and leave his troubled past behind.  The problem is nobody trusts him fully and is reluctant to help him, even though he knows about a group of dangerous troublemakers that are riding into town in search of a long-lost gold stash.  Will Jack be able to find redemption from his past in time to save the day?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

This is certainly not a production that was wroth distributing in its current form.  The entire film has a very strange and odd-looking quality about it, perhaps on purpose to create some kind of ‘vintage’ effect, but it doesn’t work at all.  Camera work is fine, but audio quality is deplorable, including obvious overdubbed lines and fake outside sound effects that reflect a lack of real audio equipment.  Also, the soundtrack is quite loud at times.  Sets, locations, and props show effort towards realism, at least.  Yet the editing is the worst as scenes cut back and forth with no sense of direction and the entire presentation is generally disorienting.  In the end, this production needed a lot more work before it was distributed.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Besides being a cheesy western full of laughably stereotypical characters, there is no way to understand what is happening throughout this story.  The subplots are very disjointed and confusing as one things after the next happens without any purpose or point.  At times, Forgiven seems more like a parody of a western film rather than a serious effort.  In addition, the character arcs are so steep that any attempts at redemptive elements are just comedic instead of serious.  Essentially, if this movie was supposed to be interesting or make some kind of different, it most certainly fell short of this goal.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Films in which the creator\director is also the star rarely work out.  Every one of these cast members is way too matter of fact in their line delivery, as if they very much over-rehearsed their lines.  They are also far too dramatic in their emotional delivery, like this is some kind of movie from the 40s or 50s.  But maybe that’s what they were going for.

Conclusion

Though we still need more Christian films in different genres, this is definitely not the way to go about it.  The production is sloppy and strange, the story all over the place and laughable, and the acting downright unprofessional.  Perhaps this creative team meant well, but they need to go back to the drawing board and seek out better consultation in their future projects so that they do not repeat these same mistakes.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Finding Faith [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Faith gets too close to a ‘boy’ she met online but never met in real life, she never imagined the trouble it would cause her.  In one fateful moment, the stalker behind the fake profile kidnaps her as Faith’s hometown descends into panic over the incident.  The local sheriff has a bone to pick with online stalkers, so he immerses himself into the case unlike any other.  What they find is a vast human trafficking scheme bigger than their small town.  Will they be able to find Faith before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As an early production for Liberty University and team, the quality of Finding Faith isn’t really what it should be.  Video quality is okay, but camera work is randomly shaky.  Audio quality is also poor, even though the soundtrack is trying to be suspenseful.  Sets are okay, but locations and props are somewhat limited.  Editing is mostly average and still leaves something to be desired.  Overall, with many other people involved in this film, Liberty University took a step back with this production, and it’s hard to see how it was justified.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Full of heavy-handed narration from Erik Estrada, the messaging of this story is certainly not subtle.  Yet at the same time, it’s also full of dead air and wasted sequences.  It’s a shame too, because this is an interesting and different idea with a meaningful message that needs to be shared.  However, the characters are so empty due to bland and vanilla dialogue that it’s hard to relate to them as real people, only as cutouts playing a part.  There was so much that could have been done with this story—with better characters of course—but the writers only barely scratch the surface.  It’s unfortunate to see ideas like this one fall so short of the mark.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this is a relatively large cast, they lack adequate coaching.  The cast members post very stiff and blank performances, but then again, they didn’t have many lines to actually work with.  They also have their good moments, and it’s not all bad, but any cast that includes Erik Estrada is always dominated by his odd demeanors and personas.  In the end, this film as a whole is mostly a disappointment.

Conclusion

The Liberty University team and the JC Films team always had big ideas and ambitions that rarely follow through and meet the expectations that are set for them.  They have plenty of resources and connections, but little to no creative screenwriting.  It seems to be consistently difficult for them to portray real people on the big screen, so it might be time for them to invest in some better writing.  Only then will they make the difference they want to make.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

The Potential Inside (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Chris Carmik is a successful professional cyclist and is an extremely competitive athlete.  However, his great success on the track has caused his family life to suffer.  His wife and daughter barely know him or see him.  But one night, a tragedy changes their family forever and leaves them reeling in the aftermath.  With the rise of a new cyclist who wants to be trained by Chris, will he be able to pick up the pieces and turn back to God before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As usual for Scotty Curlee and the Liberty University team, production is certainly not a major issue in their early film The Potential Inside.  Video quality and camera work are professional, as are audio quality and the soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are adequate and appropriate, especially the sports scenes.  The biggest issue to point out here, as usual, is the fairly choppy editing job.  It’s difficult to follow the story due to this fact and makes the experience uneven.  In the end, while Curlee and team are masters of production quality, they often get lost in film school and forget about real plot content.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The Potential Inside is the same song, different verse for the inspirational sports genre.  This story follows the rock bottom journey of a typical downtrodden and troubled athlete character who needs a comeback to save his career and his family.  All the typical melodrama ensues, even though these characters are circumstances are mostly believable.  Yet it’s difficult to get to know these characters as real people rather than as cardboard cutouts.  As the story jumps all over the place and wastes lots of time, there are way too many sports\training montages to pump the runtime.  Due to this fact, the message of this film is fairly unclear, even as it introduces unwarranted quick fixes to patch things up in the end.  Unfortunately, there’s really not much good to say here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though the Liberty University team usually assembles semi-professional casts, coaching isn’t their forte.  The performances of this cast are mostly okay and passable, but there are some forceful emotions and yelling sequences that get annoying.  Line delivery is mostly on point.  In the end, a lot of parts of this film seem to be checking boxes.

Conclusion

This film was early in Curlee’s career, so perhaps he will only grow from where he has been.  He and his team have all the potential in the world—as well as an amazing amount of resources that some film makers only dream about.  Now it’s time for them to marshal these resources properly and to truly make a film that can turn the industry on its ear—because they definitely have the ability to do so.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Steps of Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Faith Houston believes God has called her to move to Texas on blind faith and try to get a job at a Christian horse ranch that ministers to troubled kids.  Though her family is against it, Faith plunges ahead into unknown territory to see what God has for her.  However, when she arrives in Texas, she soon discovers that not everything will be as easy as she thought it would.  Yet she perseveres and finds out what God really wants for her life.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Much like A Man Called Jon, Poorchild Films has discovered better production quality as of late.  Video quality is clear and camera work is great.  Audio quality is fine and the soundtrack is as good as can be expected.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and diverse.  Really the biggest issue to point out here, of course, is the editing.  Some scenes are too choppy while others lag too long.  But in the end, this is a nearly model production that they should be proud of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Yet also in a similar vein as A Man Called Jon, and especially Hiding in Plain Sight, Steps of Faith, though it is ninety minutes long, just doesn’t contain enough content to sustain a feature-length film.  Even if there was more content here, it is still a very basic and predictable storyline that contains very flat and boring characters.  Dialogue is very uninspiring and uncreative.  The least a writer can do with this type of formulaic story is make the characters accessible, but this does not happen.  Instead, time is wasted on pointless sequences and forced comedy that’s not funny.  In the end, Poorchild Films needs to seriously invest in some screenwriting.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Much like their other films, this movie recycles a lot of familiar cast members, yet some of them show improvement from other performances.  Emotions are mostly believable and line delivery is pretty good.  There are just some minor errors throughout that add up, as well as the dry comedy.  Overall, this film hovers right around the average range.

Conclusion

In the end, it still appears as though Poorchild is getting better at what they do—if they continue to improve in each area, they could be onto something great very soon.  If they seriously invest in some better screenwriting, then they are on their way to greatness for sure.  The day that plots of Christian films overall improve is the day that the entire industry is turned upside down.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

A Man Called Jon (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jon is a pastor who likes to express himself by dancing and running around, but this practice is condemned by his employers since they run a stiff white church.  Thus, they reassign him to new duties: to be the pastor of an African-American church who is begging for a new pastor.  All seems well at first, yet the former pastor of the African-American church is jealous and Jon and seeks to have him removed.  Will they all be able to find a compromise for the sake of the people?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Unlike their previous production disaster Hiding in Plain Sight, Poorchild Films has discovered a better production formula in A Man Called Jon.  Video quality is good, as is camera work.  Audio quality is also professional, even though the soundtrack is a bit generic.  Sets, locations, and props are appropriate and well-used.  The main issue to point out here is, of course, the editing as there are too many lagging and dead sequences as well as some scenes that are confusing and seem unscripted.  But overall, this is a decent production that shows a lot of good effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, this plot is an extremely limited idea and is completely uncreative as it has been done before in movies like The Rev and Brother White.  The awkward white guy is kicked out of the stiff white church and is reassigned to a struggling African-American church in a supposedly comedic fish-out-of-water plot—we’ve seen it all before.  Besides this, there is truly barely any plot content to speak of here as a lot of scenes appear to just be filling time.  Dialogue is fairly empty and does nothing to improve the already cheesy characters.  The scope of this story is severely limited and really doesn’t have anything going for it.  Any attempts at comedy fall awkwardly flat.  Thus, due to lack of character and story development, this plot can’t muster any points.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast demonstrates some potential as at least some of them appear to know what they are doing.  Some cast members appear to be phoning in their lines, while others are cheesy, but there is enough good here to make this section average.  Emotions and line delivery are not quite what they should be, but they are adequate.

Conclusion

It’s possible that the Poorchild team means well and just doesn’t know what they are doing.  They obviously learned how to improve their production quality, so perhaps they have more improvements in store down the road.  They need to write some more creative plot ideas and coach their cast members to be more engaging and realistic.  Also, their characters need to be more accessible and down to earth without being caricatures.  In the end, they have plenty of potential if they will make some improvements.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Open My Eyes [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Paul Sanders was a successful and arrogant model photographer before a car accident took his sight away from him.  After this, he locks himself in his house and refuses to have anyone over except his personal assistant and whichever restaurant employee brings his daily meals.  But when a new employee comes, little does he know the secrets she holds and to what extent he actually knows her.  She treats him differently than anyone else, even though he is still rude to her, which begins an unexpected change in Paul’s life.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Though this is a lesser-known production with somewhat limited funding, it still has a lot of professional elements in it.  The only real issue to point out is the unexplainable shaky camera work throughout, even there are really no other issues with it.  Video quality and audio quality are great, and the soundtrack is very creative and interesting.  Sets, locations, and props are relatively well-constructed and realistic.  Editing is also surprisingly good, which is a plus for this type of film.  Overall, this is a very impressive effort that shows great promise for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Sean Paul Murphy and Timothy Ratajczak were likely held back in their PureFlix days, so it’s probably better that they were able to write this film out from under the iron fist of Byron Jones and company.  Open My Eyes demonstrates an interesting non-typical storyline that’s not afraid to deal with ‘worldly’ characters, even if they still need a little more refinement.  Sometimes the ‘bad’ characters are too bad and the ‘good’ characters are too good.  When a character switches between these two options, their arc is often too steep.  However, the situations and circumstances they experience are realistic and can be related to.  Dialogue is pretty good most of the time, but there are some lapses here nonetheless.  The plot progression is somewhat typical and expected, and there are one too many quick fixes at the end, but it’s clear that this writing team meant well with this story.  It’s just a shame that it couldn’t have been better, because it certainly had a lot of potential.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is not as well-known as other casts, they are still mostly professional in their performances.  The biggest issue to point out here is some overdone emotions and forceful line delivery on the part of certain cast members some of the time.  Yet in the end, this is a commendable effort that demonstrates potential for the future.

Conclusion

Open My Eyes is another one of those films that just misses the mark of greatness due to a few key errors that hold it back.  However, it’s definitely worth a watch and would certainly be worth remaking one day.  Sean Paul Murphy and Timothy Ratajczak certainly have a lot of untapped talent and definitely have experience.  Hopefully they will continue to be able to progress in their work unhindered by the controlling hands of PureFlix.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

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