Mary 4 Mayor (Movie Review)

Mary 4 Mayor — Home Theater Films

Plot Summary

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

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

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

Acting Quality (3 points)

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

Conclusion

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

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

Church People [2021] (Movie Review)

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

Plot Summary

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

Production Quality (2.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

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

Acting Quality (2 points)

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

Conclusion

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

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Why Me? [2020] (Movie Review)

Image result for why me josiah david warren

Plot Summary

All Slater wants to do is goof off while living a life of luxury, but when he’s suddenly forced to be the guardian of his younger siblings due to his parents’ untimely death in a car accident, Slater’s entire world is turned upside down. He desperately tries to find full-time help for his siblings while he messes around with his girlfriend, but things never work out. Then, one babysitter seems to change everything for the family, and Slater has no idea what to do.

Production Quality (.5 point)

As another ridiculous Strong Foundation production, Why Me? has uneven audio, as shown by a very loud soundtrack and loud background echoes. Despite acceptable video quality and camera work, the sets, locations, and props are cheap. Also, the editing is terrible; some scenes suddenly cut off with no warning. There are zero transitions yet very obvious continuity errors. With an overall low-quality feel, this section is another failure for this team.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Full of ridiculously contrived situations and childishly contrived situations, this plot is incredibly juvenile. It lacks purpose and has some of the most absurdly forced comedy sequences ever. The choppy story presentation makes the movie feel like a bunch of random scenes that are poorly strung together. These problems don’t even include the incredibly awkward characters that are pariahs of millennials. The absurd message-pushing about how dumb young people are is incredibly annoying. What’s more, none of the characters seem to have appropriate emotional reactions to life crises like family deaths. Further, after tons of occurrences happen throughout the narrative that lack lead-ups or explanations, it just suddenly ends and leaves the viewer wondering why they just wasted their time on this drivel.

Acting Quality (1 points)

Per usual for the Strong Foundation team, this screenplay’s acting is just bad. Emotions are over-the-top, and line delivery seems mostly unserious. There are lots of awkward performances, and a few cast members are extremely robotic and practiced in their acting. Despite the fact that one of the lead actresses is a standout, it’s not enough to save this disaster from itself.

Conclusion

In 2020, Strong Foundation Films was still making garbage like Why Me?, thus continually making a mockery of Christian entertainment. They continually release unnecessary additions to the market like this one and contribute to the field’s damaged reputation. Thus, in 2021, we’re still saying the same things about movies like this one. Until projects like Why Me? cease being funded, things won’t change much for Christian movies.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

The Mysterious Note (Movie Review)

The Mysterious Note (2019) | Full Movie | Alex Aguilera | Natasha  Diaz-Potter | Peter Tumangday - YouTube

Plot Summary

The Vargas family doesn’t want to accompany their father to a small town for one of his business trips. However, due to various school incidents, the kids are forced to come along. Despite not liking the idea, the youngest accidentally discovers a mystery along with his new friends. Thus, they race to solve it before the vacation time runs out.

Production Quality (.5 point)

This film’s production is very sub-par, including odd video quality and muted audio quality. There are also bizarre echoes, weird sound effects, and background noises that interrupt the viewing experience. Also, the soundtrack is juvenile, and there are obvious overdubs. Lighting is inconsistent throughout, and there are many tight camera shots. Sets, locations, and props are acceptable, but the editing is just pedestrian. In the end, this section only garners a meager score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Using heavy-handed messaging, this narrative forces obvious themes upon the audience, which spills over into the dialogue. This in-your-face approach hurts character development as they become representations of issues rather than relatable people. The plot’s premise is also contrived due to the near-propaganda methods of communication. Christian characters are portrayed as extremely perfect while other characters are magically fixed after doing what the Christians tell them to do. Every conversation is so obviously tied back to the movie’s purpose that it feels like an extended instructional video. Because there’s nothing in this storyline to save it from itself, no points can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As if other elements in this screenplay weren’t bad, the acting is among the worst. Line delivery is extremely accentuated and forced like it’s being printed out. Emotions aren’t any better as each cast member behaves like a programmed android. It’s very hard to believe that performances like these were even approved. Overall, this conclude a very poor effort.

Conclusion

There’s nothing more to say about The Mysterious Note that hasn’t already been said many times over. If the budget isn’t satisfactory, don’t make it. Collaborate with people who know how to write good plots. Consider how your acting is coming off. If God wants you to make a film, He’ll send the right people. Anything else is just forcing something to happen that will do more harm than good.

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

Christmas Wander (Movie Review)

Christmas Wander | MovieTickets

Plot Summary

Amelia Pittman wanted to be independent, but trouble with her business, along with nursing home troubles, has forced her to reconnect with her father over the holidays in a most unconventional way. Believing that he has the key to finding a substantial sum of money that he stole when he was younger, Amelia drags her dementia-suffering father across the country in hopes of jogging his memory. However, what they find along the way isn’t what Amelia initially expected.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Despite a somewhat limited budget, Christmas Wander has an overall good production. Video quality, camera work, and audio are all at or above industry standards. The soundtrack is also creative as it uses typical Christmas music in unique ways. Sets, locations, and props are realistic, and the only concerns to note are some minor editing issues, such as awkward fadeouts and lagging scenes. However, on the whole, this production warrants a high score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Using a creatively comedic premise, this plot stands apart from your average Christmas movie fodder. The comedy therein is actually organic as it arises from the natural flow of dialogue, which also develops good characters, including motive and personality. Flashbacks are also efficiently used to craft realistic characters who are flawed and accessible. Though most of the storyline is initiated by character choices, some some slight coincidences keep the plot alive. Although the narrative as great themes and lessons, leading to characters learning something, the vague ending and slightly cheesy conclusion put a damper on the potential that was here. As the plot comes to a close, it tends to fall flat and lose its focus as if the writers ran out of ideas. This fact, combined with the convenient turns that keep the story alive, prevents this section from getting a higher score than it could have even though this narrative was a mostly enjoyable experience.

Acting Quality (3 points)

It’s clear that this film’s strongest point is its acting. The cast members are solid and honest in their performances without committing any glaring errors. Emotions are believable, and line delivery is on point. Thus, this rounds out a very good screenplay that could have been much better.

Conclusion

Christmas Wander had a lot going for it, and it’s still a good movie to watch. However, it’s hard to overlook how it could have been much more than it is. With a better conclusion and more clear direction for the characters, this would have been a Hall of Fame film. Nonetheless, it’s still a fine holiday screenplay and one that can be learned from.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

Hope for Christmas (Movie Review)

Hope For Christmas (2018) #GLCFF2019 @GLCFF - YouTube

Plot Summary

Pastor Greg randomly wins a shopping spree for Christmas Eve, but this causes him to be late for the service he has to run because he and his staff get stuck in an elevator with a pregnant woman who suddenly goes into labor! Will they be able to get back to the church in time to help those in need?

Production Quality (.5 point)

With shaky cam and terrible special effects, the production of this film leaves a lot to be desired. Although video quality is fine and the audio quality is acceptable, the soundtrack is quite generic. Sets, locations, and props are very cheap and limited. Further, the editing is very weird due to the fact that some scenes are extremely short with shocking fadeouts. Other sequences drag on for no reason, so this section can’t be award more than half a point.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Much like Diary of a Lunatic: Trew’s Calling, Hope for Christmas brings up a lot of problems that exist within the American church establishment, but many of the satire and parody elements are bizarre and isolating. A lot of the plot elements are completely unexplainable as they either try way too hard to be funny or waste true comedic potential. The narrative lacks focus as it tries to explore an overwhelming amount of topics at once, which causes one thing to happen after another without continuity. Random instances happen for no particular reason, and there are simply too many characters and subplots. Obvious dialogue and conversations try to obsessively hammer the same concepts into the audience’s brains. However, this fact is even worse because the story is very purposeless and aimless. Hence, no points can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Surprisingly, the acting is the strongest aspect of this movie although it leaves much to be desired. Some cast members appear to be trying too hard in their performances. Lots of crosstalk muddles scenes; emotions and line delivery is mostly uneven across the board. However, not all is bad here, which is sufficient to warrant a point but not enough to save this screenplay from itself.

Conclusion

Greg Robbins and company always have something to offer, but their packaging is all wrong. It’s understandable and relatable to discuss the problems within the American church establishment. However, doing so in a such an offbeat way delegitimizes the message. This doesn’t even mention the fact that low quality films continually undermine the reputation of Christian entertainment. We’ve said this all before, and there’s nothing new this holiday season.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

The Farmer and the Belle: Saving Santaland (Movie Review)

Movie – The Farmer and The Belle

Plot Summary

Belle Winters is a model who’s been told that she’s aging out of the business. Thus, she decides to revisit a place from her childhood to find the secret to true beauty, which she believes was found on a bracelet she left behind. However, when she returns, she once again crosses paths with the pen pal she thought forgot about her. In seeing him again, what Belle finds is unexpected.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Despite being average, The Farmer and the Belle isn’t quite good enough for a 2020 production. Video and audio quality are good, and sets, locations, and props are acceptable. However, camera work is randomly shaky at times. The generic soundtrack is sometimes too obvious for the situations it’s played in. Editing is quite choppy as some scenes cut off prematurely. Nonetheless, there’s some improvement as the film goes on, but it’s still just run-of-the-mill.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Surprisingly, this plot begins with good attempts to develop character motive via a flashback prologue. Though the often-expository dialogue leaves a lot to be desired, there’s actually a basic narrative focus, including obvious themes albeit slightly juvenile ones. The tongue-in-cheek comedy is sometimes funny and sometimes not. At times, things happen simply because the writers want them to, and convenient turns transpire simply to suit the story’s purposes. The middle of the plot wastes a lot of time, seemingly kicking the can down the road, and a few sequences seem too staged and forced to exist. Overall, there is some potential in this section, but the contrived nature of the narrative and the lack of strong characters holds it back from being all that it could be.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Due to the back and forth nature of this section, the final score comes out as average. At times, the acting is professional while other times, it isn’t. Line delivery and emotions are overall inconsistent. Some scenes are more dramatic than others, but it’s not all bad. In the end, this mixed bag caps off an mostly underwhelming effort.

Conclusion

Movies like Saving Santaland are neither bad enough to be remembered nor good enough to be upheld. In the end, this screenplay is likely to fall into the same bin with other forgettable Christmas offerings that clamor for the attention of audiences. It’s definitely possible that holiday films are more likely to be viewed, so why not give the watchers something to remember rather than forget?

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Trust {The Life of Daniel} [2018] (Movie Review)

Trust (2018) | Full Movie | Suzan Marie Ghaleb | Danny Elacci | Chelsea  Bennett - YouTube

Plot Summary

Daniel Rainwater had everything going for him in life: a good job, a nice house, and the family he always wanted. However, when things suddenly take a turn for the worst, Daniel is unsure what to do. Some people tell him to turn to God, but Daniel isn’t too sure about the Christian faith. Little does he know that he’ll have to face what he doesn’t want to talk about before it’s too late.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

In some respects, this production seems to have good effort behind it. For instance, video quality is acceptable, and the sets, locations, and props are at least above average. Audio quality is also fine, including an okay soundtrack. However, the camera work is quite inconsistent, sometimes involving odd camera angles that disorient the audience. Additionally, by far the worst aspect of this section is the severely choppy and confusing editing that nearly negates any good there was in other production elements. It makes for a very difficult viewing experience and overall reduces this rating to middle-of-the-road.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Much like the disorganized editing, the scenes of this narrative jump from one thing to the next, going by so fast that it’s difficult to know what’s going on. Offscreen content makes things confusing, and the characters are simply pawns in the plot’s manufactured circumstances. Despite some slightly meaningful attempts at dialogue, it’s simply not enough to keep the characters from being distant and abstract cardboard cutouts. The protagonist goes from being a downtrodden victim to being a perfect Christian as the writers assert that nothing can’t be easily fixed by a Christianese speech and a musical montage. Because of this, the real issue explored in this story are portrayed in very trite and shallow ways. Further, strangely forced humor is framed in weird contexts. In the end, Trust is a wasted effort due to its childish handling of otherwise heavy topics, vaguely inaccessible characters, and spastic plot presentation.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though there are some good performances, awkward and forced acting is another pitfall in this movie. Emotions seem very forced throughout, including a lot of yelling and screaming. Also, line delivery is quick, choppy, and stilted. Thus, the negative outweighs the positive here, giving this section a below-average rating.

Conclusion

Screenplays like Trust start out with possibly good intentions but easily go off the rails due to poor planning and lack of collaboration. This film has the potential to offer a meaningful message to viewers, but it’s extremely jumbled in the delivery. Without vital components and clear direction from God, movies like these will unfortunately always come up short.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Small Group [2020] (Movie Review)

3 Things to Know about Small Group the Movie

Plot Summary

R. Scott Cooper is a struggling documentary film maker, but he gets a big break when an investor pays him to move his family to Georgia and go undercover as a local church member. While in disguise, Scott is supposed to record everything he sees using a special pair of glasses. However, halfway through the assignment, Scott and his wife begin to change their minds about the scheme as things in the small group aren’t what they thought. Will they have the courage to do what’s right before it’s too late?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a 2020 production, Small Group‘s is nearly flawless. Video quality, audio quality, and camera work are all on point. The sets, locations, and props are well-funded and well-utilized. There are no lighting problems, and the soundtrack is acceptable. The only thing keeping this section from being perfect is the poor editing, but this is likely a byproduct of a bloated plot. Hence, this section receives a high score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Despite a somewhat forced premise, this narrative has a surprising amount of potential, starting with the mostly realistic portrayals of people in churches. Some comedic scenes are actually funny due to pretty good dialogue, and the writers raise a lot of legitimate points about institutionalized churches. Nonetheless, the storylines struggles with being more than just a collection of funny sequences that are strung together without specific focus. The ‘villain’ is a total strawman, and certain things happen because the plot requires them to, causing the characters to be swept away in the circumstances and hitting on all the expected points. Although there are too many characters and subplots to adequately focus on in one film, some scenes occur for no reason at all except to fill time. Trying to do everything at once causes the narrative to leave behind a lot of unfinished ideas; it feels more like a series than a movie as some elements come completely out of left field and don’t fit with the overall purpose (if there is one). The sheer amount of content in this story is overwhelming for the audience, and some humor is just ridiculously obnoxious. However, though the ending sequence is rushed and tends to magically fix its problems via unrealistic coincidences, the conclusion is better than the beginning if you make it there. Therefore, this sliver of potential, in addition to pretty good characters, keeps this section from being zero.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Much like its production, Small Group‘s acting is actually quite good. Though some cast members tend to have overdone lines and emotions, all performances get better as they go. As a whole, this section exhibits a lot of professionalism and rounds out a big mixed bag.

Conclusion

This screenplay’s central problem is that it can’t decide if it’s about hidden problems within the American church, quirks of American churchgoers, ministries and corruption in Central America, and people doing silly stuff together. Surprisingly, despite the jumbled plot, there’s actually hope for Small Group…in series form. There’s simply too much going on here to make a less-than-two-hour film. Had a series been made instead of a movie, this idea would have had more room to authentically develop. As it is, based on its heavy marketing push, Small Group unfortunately feels like another Christian entertainment cash grab.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

The Accidental Missionary (Movie Review)

Watch The Accidental Missionary | Prime Video

Plot Summary

DJ Miller is a spoiled movie actor who just wants to do as little as possible while still making as much money as possible. However, when DJ gets negative publicity for something he does, his agent suggests he take a vacation to let the bad press blow over. Nonetheless, on the way out of town, a bizarre mix-up forces DJ to go on a mission trip to Africa and take the place of a missionary who was supposed to be there. Will DJ be able to change his ways while he’s stuck in the wilderness?

Production Quality (0 points)

A common shortcoming of nearly every Rossetti film is low quality production, and The Accidental Missionary is no exception. From inconsistent lighting to cheap sets, locations, and props that don’t adequately represent what they’re supposed to portray, there’s little to no positive to note here. Camera angles are quite unusual, there are background echoes, and cringeworthy sound effects annoy the viewers. The soundtrack is too random to fit the mood, and there’s often stock footage included that doesn’t fit the mood. Further, the editing contains poor cuts and transitions as well as several continuity errors. Thus, no points can be awarded for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2 points)

Besides the fact that this plot’s premise is unrealistically contrived, the very obvious dialogue creates simplistic, one-dimensional characters. The narrative is based on stupid coincidences, such as the most ridiculous reason for why two people got mixed up in an airport. There’s no way anyone involved would realistically believe what happens in this story. What’s more, silly and off-putting conversations between the characters patronizes local African cultures and comes close to making fun of them. It’s all wrapped up in a save-the-mission-camp agenda and packaged with a forced romance that nobody can take seriously. Further, there seems to be a tendency to purposely create bizarre situations between some of the characters, including unnecessary levels of weirdness. Capping it off with wild character swings that lack realistic explanations, this section of the movie receives negative points for its offensive elements.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Surprisingly, the acting is the “best” aspect of The Accidental Missionary inasmuch as it’s not zero or less. This is due to somewhat average acting even though much of it seems overly practiced. Emotions tend to be wooden and too earnest. The lead actress posts the strongest performances of anyone, but other cast members don’t match the culture being portrayed. Costuming is also cheesy, and accents aren’t always correct. Further, painfully bad injury acting caps off this mediocre section.

Conclusion

Of all the past Rossetti offerings that are just bad, this one is awful. Tone deaf portrayals of cultures that obviously aren’t properly understood by the creators will almost always warrant negative points. There’s also really nothing to redeem The Accidental Missionary from this pitfall. Everything was all wrong from the get-go, so this idea was doomed from the start.

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

Can I Get a Witness Protection? (Movie Review)

Can I Get a Witness Protection? (2016) movie posters

Plot Summary

When Jack and Julie are forced into the Witness Protection Program to prevent criminals from killing them because of what they saw, the only obvious option is for them to pose as Christians in a local church. Jack is supposed to be a new associate pastor, but when the lead pastor suddenly dies, Jack has to take over the church! However, Jack isn’t even a Christian, so of course, he has to fake it! Can the couple pull the wool over the flock’s eyes and avoid henchmen who are after them?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Although the video quality and camera work are fine, the audio quality is quite inconsistent throughout, including a cheesy soundtrack. Sets, locations, and props leave something to be desire, and special effects are quite cheap. Editing is mostly pedestrian, but there’s enough production improvement as the film goes on to warrant an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It seems like the forced premise wherein a non-Christian character is forced to be Christian has really been done before and is quite worn out. If it must be done, the characters should at least be accessible and realistic, but instead, the comedy in this narrative is extremely forced and unfunny. It’s hard to determine where this story is intended to be a parody, but the dialogue and circumstances therein are quite absurd. The characters seem purposefully over-the-top as the writers try way too hard to make sure you know how funny it’s supposed to be. Nonsensical plot turns happen just because the need to and only lead to predictable conclusion. Besides these typical pitfalls, strange crude humor and bizarre jokes make for an overall unusual experience. Thus, with no creativity or potential, this section receives zero points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Extreme emotions accompany the movie’s overall in-your-face feel, and comedy acting is eye-rolling. Many performances are overdone, annoying, and cheesy, and the line delivery is mostly uneven. Nonetheless, there are some acceptable parts in this section that are enough to warrant at least one point.

Conclusion

What can audiences really get out of these types of quasi-Christian attention getters? Just trying to make a play for faith-based viewers is a worn-out tactic that people are becoming more and more wise to. If you’re desperate to make a Christian film or series, there’s plenty of source material from books, both fiction and non-fiction, that would be ten times more successful than more mindless comedies like Can I Get a Witness Protection?

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Switched [2020] (Movie Review)

New Movie Alert: Switched (Christian version of Freaky Friday):  ohnotheydidnt — LiveJournal

Plot Summary

Cassandra Evans is tired of being bullied by Katie Sharp, a popular social media figure in her school. One day, after a particularly bad episode of mistreatment, Cassandra prays that Katie will know what it’s like to walk in her shoes. Surprisingly, the next day, the two girls wake up having switched bodies with one another. The only way they’ll ever be able to get back to normal is to work together and learn how they need to change their old ways.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a 2020 film, Switched does what it has to do in the production category. Professionalism is showcased with great video quality, camera work, and audio quality. Despite a somewhat generic soundtrack, the sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-used. There are no negatives to point out in this section save for some slight editing concerns. Nonetheless, this isn’t enough to prevent a high score from being awarded.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

In addition to the really worn-out concept of body switching, the heavy-handed and obvious dialogue does nothing to help matters. If you must use a derivative of this premise, the characters have to be good enough to showcase noticeable changes, but in Switched, this doesn’t happen. Although they aren’t the worst characters and actually have some potential, more time was needed prior to body switch to actually develop them as believable people. Some improvements are made to dialogue as the film goes on, and realistic high school issues are explored, albeit in slightly over-the-top ways, such as the cheesy portrayal of “bad kids.” It’s hard to see past the issues the characters are supposed to represent and relate to them as people. Also, the Christian messaging feels a bit forced and shoe-horned at times. Besides these problems, there’s an entire sub-category of errors that are created by the body switching elements, such as characters obviously acting inconsistent with their true selves without drawing suspicion from others. Some scenes defy logic when characters brush off the odd behavior of the central figures, and too many coincidences occur to make things happen that the plot wants to take place. Themes tend to get lost throughout the narrative, and a vague passage of time confuses the audience. Unfortunately, a good point made by the conclusion and a demonstration of how the two protagonists organically changed is washed over with mistakes and a convoluted story presentation. Hence, a small score is warranted here, but not much more.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

In a body switching screenplay, if it must exist, the reverse acting has to be really good. However, in Switched, this isn’t the case as everyone seems generic and carbon-copy in the movie’s first half. Nonetheless, the acting does tend to get better, at least in the areas of emotional and line delivery. For the most part, with a few exceptions, the cast members do the best they can with what they have, which earns this section an average score.

Conclusion

Mustard Seed Entertainment is usually so close to doing something good. Switched had a lot of potential within it, but it failed to attain all that it could have. Body switching aside, there are worthwhile messages in this film that deserve a platform: the one that isn’t too confusing or cheesy. For future success, this creative team might consider bringing in more talented screenwriters so that their resources can be used on more worthwhile stories.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Diary of a Lunatic: Trew’s Calling (Movie Review)

Diary of a Lunatic (2017) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Trew doesn’t really like her life, but she lives with it anyway. She’s not interested in God, but when she wakes up one day to find that He wants her to do something for Him, she just wants Him to go away. However, He keeps pursuing her because He has something she wants to learn if she’ll ever listen. What Trew ultimately discovers is beyond her wildest dreams.

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, Trew’s Calling has a pretty good production. This is shown by good video quality and fine camera work. Sets, locations, and props are also professional. However, there are some annoying comedic zooms. Also, audio can be over-driven at times even if the soundtrack is acceptable. Further, editing tends to be choppy due to poor story structure. However, this is basically a standard production effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

It’s apparent that the plot of Diary of a Lunatic is meant to be purposely quirky and eccentric, which means it’s sometimes truly funny yet other times is either head-scratchingly bizarre or slightly sacrilegious. Some content seems a bit inappropriate and even somewhat blasphemous. A few aspects of the comedy and a handful of the themes are actually quite relatable and interesting, such as problems within the established church. However, there are still sequences that are extremely eyebrow-raising and appear to have no purpose or point whatsoever except to be purposely wacky and off-the-wall. The portrayal of God is odd at times but not all bad; some sequences are beyond explanation and seem totally out of place. The writers’ theology and beliefs seems to be very unusual and even borderline on new age philosophies. As a whole, the narrative is a giant mixed bag of potential combined with complete nonsense. Sometimes, the storyline pretends like it’s hiding a great secret that it never gets to. Its silly rushed conclusion and ending sequence are forced and basically fix everything without providing legitimate explanations for the stranger elements of the screenplay. In the end, if anything is to be salvaged from these ideas, they need a total rewrite in order to preserve the surprisingly worthwhile elements.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, the acting of this film is actually pretty good at times. However, it tends to be a bit over the top in some scenes despite some comedic elements. Emotions are forced at times yet other times are not. Line delivery is mostly even at times. As such, this section does enough to get above the average line.

Conclusion

With some worthwhile elements pulling Trew’s Calling in one direction and really bizarre aspects pulling it in the other direction, the movie’s score falls right in the middle of the scale. It’s very unclear what the screenwriters were going for except that they wanted to make a point about how organized Christianity often turns people away. However, this idea was packaged in such a wacky way because it feels like they just kept sticking random scenes together over time until they had a burgeoning screenplay. Also, it’s not like they just filled with vanilla content; many of the sequences are completely beyond explanation. As a whole, it feels like this movie had something going for it, but it gets completely lost in the shuffle of whatever vendetta this creative team had at the time.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Root of the Problem (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Paul Campbell centers his life around making money. As a realtor, he’s always trying to make the best sales, but his life changes forever when he and his wife suddenly inherit a strange plant from her beloved uncle. This plant actually grows dollar bills on it, but after discovering this fact, Paul hides it from his wife and uses the new money for himself. However, it all comes to a head as his crazy spending finally catches up with him and forces him to come face-to-face with what he’s been running from the entire time.

Production Quality (2 points)

Root of the Problem sports a professional production, including good video quality and camera work. This involves some creatively comedic camera angles, and the sets, locations, and props are also good. However, the audio department isn’t quite enough up to par due to poor background audio, some obvious echoes, and a generic soundtrack. Also, while the editing begins as acceptable, it becomes more and more choppy as the film progresses. Nonetheless, despite these pitfalls, this section does enough to get past the average mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Surprisingly, Root of the Problem has instances of slightly funny dialogue and plot elements. There are a handful of truly comedic moments, and the characters are mostly believable. However, the story sometimes relies too much on the comedy and tends to waste time on silly montages. While the main characters are fairly well-developed, a few of the minor characters seem to do random things that lack logical basis. Also, besides the obvious issues with the money tree concept that this narrative is based on, the screenplay seems to lack solid basis in reality. There are just one too many coincidences that make it feel like a far-fetched dream sequence. Nonetheless, it’s realistic that some of the characters receive real consequences for their actions, but there are some gaping plot holes that are never explained, addressed, or rectified by the conclusion. Therefore, there’s enough good here to warrant a substantial score, but it holds itself back in nonsensical ways.

Acting Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the acting in this movie is pretty good and mostly professional. Sometimes, the acting is a bit disingenuous and unnatural, especially during comedy scenes, but it’s not all bad. Emotional delivery can be a bit forced at times, and some line delivery is breathy, but the acting overall gets better as it goes. Thus, it warrants a slightly above-average score.

Conclusion

Root of the Problem goes right down the middle of the scale as a run-of-the-mill effort. It has plenty to offer, but there are some befuddling aspects that keep it from being all that it could be. These types of films are frustrating because it’s easy to see what small changes needed to be made in order for it to attain a better level. Nonetheless, they can serve as learning experiences for the creators as well as for future makers.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Selfie Dad (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Ben Marcus isn’t happy with his life. He always wanted to be a comic, but he definitely doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps. However, stuck in a job he doesn’t like and aloof from his family most of the time, one day, Ben suddenly stumbles upon how much money some people make on the UTOO video platform. Thus, he decides to use this as a launching pad for the comedy career he always wanted. Nonetheless, it leads him down a path he never thought he would go down.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a 2020 production, Selfie Dad sports a lot of pluses, including great video quality and camera work. Audio quality is also professional, and the soundtrack is acceptable. Sets, locations, and props are also good. The only minor concerns to note here relate to very cheap special effects (even though there are few of them) and some minute editing issues. However, this production is on the level we would like to see all Christian entertainment possess.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Despite some acceptable attempts at comedy, Selfie Dad is mostly full of failed humor that simply falls flat. While the character backstories are okay, the plot seems to meander around without really finding its actual point, fueled by inconsistent dialogue that mostly just forces the storyline forward. Some conversations are quite obvious with the messaging, including a lot of unnecessarily patriarchal ideals and typical gender stereotyping. A lot of the narrative’s important scenes are overly staged and spoon-fed to the audience, and most of the characters seem to say the same things over and over again just to fill time. Even with this, the passage of time is a bit vague, and things mainly happen just because they need to. With a lot of things going on at once, quite a few scenes feel unfinished and disconnected from the others, which makes it very hard to comprehend what the writing team even wanted to do besides string a bunch of cheesy asides together without a common thread to truly connect them. Further, the story’s model Christian characters are super-perfect, and all the stale conflicts are magically fixed by the film’s unearned musical conclusion, which seems to imply that the movie is much more important than it actually is. In the end, though there’s a small amount of potential in Selfie Dad, there are too many other problems that get in the way.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Another reflection of this film’s modern amenities is its professional acting. As such, there are only a handful of problems in this section, such as some overdone funny acting. However, for the most part, emotions are believable, and lines are delivered well. Unfortunately, Michael Jr. doesn’t post a particularly strong performance as the lead, but Chonda Pierce is good in her unfortunately small role. Other cast members are passable in their performances. Hence, this is an above-average aspect.

Conclusion

In Selfie Dad, one character (ironically played by Karen Abercrombie) hilariously asks another if she’s ever seen War Room. The other character says she doesn’t really like Christian movies. This exchange is absurd on a number of levels. For one, Selfie Dad‘s plot is almost synonymous with War Room: a dad is having trouble at work and never pays attention to his family. His wife is frustrated but is directed by a wise spiritual character to pray for her husband. The husband almost commits infidelity but, due to his wife’s prayers, is seemingly prevented from doing so. The dad gets fired from his job but is able to bond with his kids, including a teenage daughter, over activities they like. The parents reconcile their marriage. As added bonuses, Michael Jr. and Karen Abercrombie star in both screenplays, with Abercrombie playing the wise spiritual character in both instances. Moreover, it’s equally absurd to have a character state that they don’t like Christian films (a legitimate concern) in a movie that isn’t even that good. It’s evident that the creative team is aware of the problems in Christian entertainment, but they basically fell into the same old traps that others have also slipped into. This seems to imply a lack of understanding about the overall problems still plaguing the field. Overall, Selfie Dad is just another prime example of how good funding and marketing aren’t the automatic keys to success in Christian entertainment: the storyline is equally important.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

The Big Fix [2018] (Movie Review)

The Big Fix (2018) - IMDb

Plot Summary

The Reynolds family members all have many commitments and obligations, yet none of them want to see anything from the others’ perspectives. However, after asking God to change each other, they get the surprise of their lives when they suddenly switch bodies with each other. This gives each of them a chance to see what it’s like to walk in the others’ shoes, and what they find out is unexpected.

Production Quality (2 points)

Overall, the production of The Big Fix is good without many errors. This includes a great soundtrack and professional audio quality. Camera work and video quality are also up to standards. Sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-utilized. The only drawbacks in this section are some cheesy special effects and some choppy editing. In the end, however, this production is enough to be above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

At times, The Big Fix offers some good dialogue and realistic looks at problems with families and businesses in American culture, but other times, the film is a bit in-your-face with obvious messaging and sermonizing. This aside, the movie’s entire basis is a bit off, to say the least, as it comes with all the expected logical problems and inconsistencies that usually accompany body-switching plots. Despite these obvious concerns, not much actual content actually transpires in this narrative apart from forced comedy, unearned silliness, wasted time, and useless montages, which all pertain to the questionable premise. Along with these errors comes inevitably unusual content and insinuations that make for awkward stop-and-start scenes and meandering sequences that lead to nowhere. In order to effectively pull off any type of character-switching idea, you have to actually have good characters to begin with rather than basic stereotypes. This storyline’s poor character development also gives rise to cheesy views of young people. In the end, the conclusion is forced and cheesy as it basically fixed everything very rapidly, and the last scene is quite bizarre in general. Therefore, not many points can be awarded to this section.

Acting Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the acting in The Big Fix is okay even though it can be too forceful at times. Other times, however, the emotional and line deliveries seem more natural. The biggest issue here is that, in order to properly execute a character switching plot, you need high-level acting. Unfortunately, these performances are just a bit above average. Nonetheless, while the acting is a bit stop-and-start at first, it tends to improve with time, which rounds out a run-of-the-mill effort.

Conclusion

This creative team is usually almost there (see Fat Chance), but a collection of things always holds them back from reaching the next level. They would greatly benefit from improved screenwriting so that they can focus their talents in other areas, like beefing up production and acting. With a more substantial plot and stronger characters, The Big Fix could have really been something. Nevertheless, perhaps we’ll see better things from this group in the coming days.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Home Sweet Home [2020] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

What Victoria mostly cares about in life is going from one relationship to the next so that she can be whoever she wants to be without having too much commitment. However, when one of her attempts to get a guy’s attention doesn’t quite go as she planned, she stubbornly decides to do whatever it takes to make him ask her out. Thus, she volunteers at the non-profit her prospect, Jason, heads up and finds herself suddenly building a house for a single mother and her family. Little does Victoria know that she’s about to gain a surprisingly new perspective on life that she never considered before.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a whole, Home Sweet Home is a near-perfect example of what a 2020 production should look like for freshman Christian film makers. Not only did they wisely use their budget without over-extending themselves, but they also made sure that key production elements demonstrated good quality, such as video, camera, audio, and music work. The sets, locations, and props are also efficiently used, and overall, there are really no negatives to highlight here save for some minor editing concerns. However, some of these issues can be attributed to the plot; in the end, this is a very solid production effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

From the get-go of this plot, it’s very clear that the writers were inspired by very strong and worthwhile themes of people living behind false exteriors versus being comfortable with who God created them to be. Also, Home Sweet Home isn’t afraid to shine a light on fake romantic relationships that may exist in a Hallmark view of the world as well as the ease of finding identity in “scoring” relationships in the Western world. In doing so, the creators gave a lot of attention to detail to produce a truly funny comedy based on mostly good dialogue. However, while many of the characters are spot-on, some of them, such as the male lead, leave a lot to be desired in the personality and motivation departments because it’s hard to get to know him as a person. Elsewhere, secondary characters and subplots could have been a bit deeper than they are had they been provided with more adequate screentime. To make room for them, some romantic comedy cliches, such as the returning ex-love interest, could have been cut out. In the end, even though the narrative follows a basically predictable progression toward a somewhat forced and convenient ending, Home Sweet Home demonstrates tons of potential for future projects because the writers clearly know how to properly integrate themes into their stories.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Despite the small cast, there are not many acting problems to note in this film. One of the biggest drawbacks, however, is the lack of adequate coaching for the lead actor as he seems lost a lot of the time, but then again, his role isn’t very expansive. Elsewhere, Natasha Bure posts an above-average performance while Sarah Kim is also a standout. In the end, like the movie as a whole, there are just small problems that hold this section back from taking the next step.

Conclusion

The 5×5 Productions team is clearly onto something with this unexpectedly refreshing release. With just a few minor tweaks, Home Sweet Home would have easily made the Hall of Fame. Nonetheless, the themes of this film make it worth your time and give us great hope for the future of this creative team’s work. With a bit more funding and collaboration, they could be going great places with their next project.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

The Follower [2018] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Elisha just wanted to get to Pittsburgh on time, and he never intended to cross paths with an eccentric character named Elijah. Elisha reluctantly decides to aid Elijah’s hitch-hiking, but he immediately regrets the choice as Elijah continually delays Elisha’s plans and hampers his progress. Thus, Elisha keeps trying to get Elijah off of his back. However, little do either of them know that they are about to both learn something valuable that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Production Quality (.5 point)

The cheapness of The Follower‘s production is very evident from start to finish. There are loud background noises and a generic soundtrack that tend to cover up other audio, and video quality is inconsistent throughout. The camera work is randomly shaky at times, and there are some obvious overdubbed lines in some portions. In other parts, cheesy sound effects are inserted on top of the video, and there some instances of weird camera angles. Further, the sets, locations, and props are cheap-looking, and the editing has a handful of glaringly obvious cuts. Thus, while there are some slightly positive moments in this production, it’s overall quite negative, which warrants the low score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s unclear whether or not The Follower is supposed to be another modern-day Bible application, but character names like Elijah and Elisha make things very confusing. Besides this, the dialogue is full of corny attempts at comedy, and the cheesy conversations mainly waste time. This causes the middle of the film to be very aimless since it’s appearing to just kill time until the ending, but the storyline actually makes less and less sense as it progresses. The more some hidden purpose is kicked down the road, the more the narrative seems to get lost in its own mind. The story pretends to conceal some great secret, yet the whole concept is too vague to be grasped and only leads to a hollow conclusion. In the end, while there may have been some interesting ideas here, it’s all too rushed and slapped together to make any sense.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Surprisingly, the acting is actually the strongest point of The Follower as Goodwin and Sigler post their best performances to date. They seem very comfortable with their character roles and demonstrate niche talents. Even still, the few cast members that there are seem to be trying way too hard to be funny, and many emotions are quite forced. Line delivery is also uneven, and the acting overall gets worse as it goes even though it started out semi-okay. Therefore, this rounds out a very underwhelming effort.

Conclusion

In the end, The Follower is yet another example of how quantity over quality hurts the Christian entertainment world. Trying to cram more than two movies into one year is very difficult to pull off without sacrificing essentially positive elements. While we do need more Christian movies and series being made each year, we need more Christian entertainment that is not sub-standard and is capable of truly making a difference. Thus, it would be better to have fewer annual releases until the industry is able to consistently produce quality content.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Laughing at the Moon (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Natalie McClay is a selfish businesswoman who wants what she wants when she wants it. However, when her high-dollar lifestyle demands that she get a roommate to share her rent, she has no idea what to expect. When Iris walks into her apartment, Natalie’s whole world is turned upside down. Natalie tries to do everything she can to discredit the eccentric new optimist in her life, the harder she tries, the more her friends like Iris. However, when Natalie goes too far with her mistreatment of her quirky roommate, there are far-reaching consequences, more than Natalie could have imagined.

Production Quality (2 points)

It’s clear that Laughing at the Moon had an adequate budget since the production is quite good, including great video quality and professional camera work with an artistic touch. Similarly, the audio quality and soundtrack are fine, and sets, locations, and props are well-used and well-constructed. At times, the editing is passable, but other times, it’s a bit choppy as some scenes cut off without warning, which suggests that there was a lot more content than they had space for. Also, there are some slight continuity errors between some scene, which seems like an unforced error. However, in the end, this is an above-average production that lays a good foundation for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Laughing at the Moon makes some good attempts at comedy that’s actually funny at times, but sometimes, it’s awkwardly forced, and there tends to be a bit too much quirkiness in some scenes. One of the best thing about this plot is its focus on the human tendency to convince oneself of one’s own superiority over others, especially those who do not fit into societal molds, and this is definitely a story that needs to be told, even if this version is a little (purposely) offbeat at times. The characters are pretty good, but they are hampered by mentions of off-screen content, which lends further credence to the possibility of a quick editing job that chopped out important scenes due to too much original content. Even still, the use of flashbacks throughout the narrative is very effective to establish one of the main characters’ traumatic memories, yet sometimes, it feels like a lot of the scenes are randomly strung together and loosely connected with musical montages that tend to waste time. However, the dialogue in the middle of the plot is pretty good at establishing some believable characters, and there are some very timely themes explored, such as being fake vs being authentic. None of the characters are perfect and each has their own unique flaws. One other weakness of the storyline is the somewhat steep character arcs that occur due to the slightly rushed ending, but there’s a very good point at the end that is worth watching. In the end, Laughing at the Moon is a mixed bag that is pretty good in and of itself; it also shows great potential for future projects.

Acting Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the cast members of Laughing at the Moon naturally and easily assume their respective roles. While emotions can be a bit overstated at times, they are mostly fine, and line delivery as a whole is on point. As a side note, this is one of Erin Bethea’s best roles to date. In summary, this is an above-average acting job that rounds out an above-average film.

Conclusion

This movie boasts a very good idea that’s presented in a fresh way, and the main thing holding it back from the Hall of Fame is its choppy presentation. Thus, Laughing at the Moon deserves some level of remake whether it be a new film about similar concepts or a series format for the original film because this creative team may be better at making Christian series. Either way, it should be interesting to see what this team produces next.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Fat Chance [2016] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Allison has always struggled with her weight, but she doesn’t know what to do to change herself. She feels ostracized by other people, and when she feels like she might be interested in a guy from her church group, she feels like she has no chance due to her image. Thus, she decides she needs to find love on the internet…by using her roommate’s picture on her online dating profile. However, things don’t go as she originally planned them to go, and everyone learns a hard lesson about self-esteem and being themselves.

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, Fat Chance has a fine production, including good video and audio quality. The soundtrack is intriguing, but some of the camera angles are a bit odd at times. Similarly, lighting is good throughout even if the sets, locations, and props are a bit limited. Even still, they are mostly used well, and the editing is adequate. In the end, this is essentially an above average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Fat Chance definitely isn’t afraid to explore some very relevant body image issues, but this film may not have gone about it in the best way. This is a difficult topic to tastefully portray in a movie, and some of the attempts to highlight the weight of the main character are questionable at best. There are also quite a few distasteful jokes about being overweight, but there are also some other areas of comedy that are actually somewhat funny because they poke fun of silly societal trends. Elsewhere, the writers definitely had some good intentions with character development (since the characters are intended to be based on real people), yet there are also some very poorly designed “bad” characters who are basically really obvious strawmen. However, the dialogue throughout the film is pretty good despite the somewhat strong messaging, and these worldviews are agreeable since they explore important topics of how people paint themselves on social media, how some Christians act fake, and how it’s better to be yourself. In a similar vein, while Fat Chance also includes a lot of typical dating service plot elements (two characters are virtually dating and know each other in real life but don’t know that the other one is the virtual date), it does present a realistic parody of the problems these services can cause. In the end, this storyline is a mixed bag of missed opportunities and potential for the future. With deeper characters and subtler messaging, this plot could have gone a lot further.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Despite having a partially “amateur” cast, Fat Chance has a handful of bright spots among its cast members. Many of them definitely make good attempts to become the characters, and while some are a bit awkward at times, they are mostly good at exhibiting emotions and delivering lines. Thus, this rounds out a basically average effort.

Conclusion

More Christian movies and series need to explore the unpopular opinions and topics found in Fat Chance, but there are obviously better ways to go about this particular concept. Self-worth and self image are both important and sensitive issues to look at, which is why they must be done in consultation with people who have struggled with them and in conjunction with the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the creators of this film demonstrated potential for the future by making Fat Chance, so it will be interesting to see how they build off of this movie in their potentially upcoming projects.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Faith, Love, & Chocolate! {Live, Laugh, Love!} (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Following graduation from college, Jessica Miller and her two closest friends are forced to face the harshness of the real world that academia never prepared them for. They all have big plans, but they soon realize that no one in their respective job fields really cares about their dreams. Things don’t turn out like they’re supposed to, and the three friends are left scared and confused. However, this gives them the opportunity to realize that God sometimes has bigger plans for people than they can ever realize.

Production Quality (2 points)

As a whole, the production of Faith, Hope, & Chocolate! is fine for a creation produced from a university film school. They have their proverbial ducks in a row when it comes to video quality, audio quality, and camera work. For the most part, sets, locations, and props are professionally presented and utilized. The only major complaints to raise are some occasional backgrounds sounds and some cheesy flashback quality. Also, the editing is a bit generic, but on the whole, this is a respectable production that shows a creative team headed in the right direction.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, the plot detracts quite a bit from this film, mostly due to the incessant and unnecessary narration that greatly hurts the possibility of character development. As such, dialogue is fairly pedestrian but not awful; however, it doesn’t do enough to build the characters beyond their stereotypical molds and expected backstories. Also, the awkward attempts at comedy throughout the storyline don’t help matters, and the fact that some plot elements aren’t entirely rooted in reality isn’t helpful either. Since the central concept of this film is somewhat interesting yet at the same time slightly standard, this character-based story needed to depend heavily on the personalities of the characters, and this was something that wasn’t accomplished. Doing this would have added a necessary level of complexity to this otherwise straightforward idea; moreover, post-college issues need to be explored as this isn’t heavily discussed in Christian entertainment, but a more meaningful basis would have done better with driving the points home. In the end, the problems presented in the story are too easily fixed with a posthumous artifact, which seems to absolve some of the characters of realistic consequences or help them to avoid real lessons. Thus, this is a nice try that will hopefully yield better results next time.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Overall, the acting of Faith, Love, & Chocolate! is fine. It’s neither dynamic nor horrible–just average. At times, some emotions come off as forced and awkward, and line delivery could be a bit more meaningful, but this is the best that can be expected from presumably volunteer cast members. In this light, each cast members takes on their roles well.

Conclusion

In summary, the creative team behind this movie likely did the best they could with what they had available. The one thing we would have liked to see more of was deeper character development, which could have only been accomplished by banning narration and by spending a little more time on the dialogue. In cases like these, it’s sometimes better to base characters off of real people or to give the characters flexibility to fit the personalities of the cast members. Nevertheless, the people behind this film seem to mean well and likely have a lot of good potential for future projects.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Heavens to Betsy 2 (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

After Betsy had a unique experience in which God allowed her to live in an alternate version of her life due to her pleadings, she was able to return to her normal life and chronicle her journey under the guise of a fictional work. Her novel made her moderately famous overnight and even attracted unexpected attention from publishers and media outlets. However, this new popularity will come at a price as Betsy will have to decide if she’s going to come clean about the true origins of her story.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Although it’s a 2019 production and should be higher quality than this, Heavens to Betsy 2 is a mostly average one. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine and standard, but the soundtrack is generic and cheesy. The sets, locations, and props are fairly limited and come off as cheap. The editing is very basic as it presents the content at face value without any complex techniques. As a whole, it’s a very pedestrian offering that is neither good nor bad, yet it really doesn’t have a place in the current entertainment field. To top things off, silly magical elements really put the nail in the coffin for this plot that was really doomed from the start.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

After a long rehashing of the previous film many people don’t know about, this unnecessary sequel launches into expectedly cringeworthy comedic sequences very similar to the ones we saw in the first one. Much of the dialogue is trying way too hard to be funny, and many of the scenes are downright pointless. As if it doesn’t have anything better to do, this installment decides to go down a localized media persecution rabbit hole in order to keep the story on life support. However, this idea comes off all wrong as the ‘villain’ character is actually remotely funny for the right reasons. It’s commendable for a Christian creator to want to create a universe of characters, but are these the ones people really want to know better? There are too many coincidences in this story-world as everyone knows about the main character’s book, and lot of the conversations feel dragged out and inflated for runtime purposes. The storyline is overall aimless and lacks substantial themes as it just presents a random collection of scenes that don’t seem fully rooted in reality. In a somewhat bizarre concluding sequence, the screenwriters appear to address the logical problems of the first film, but the explanations only create more questions and inconsistencies.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like the production, the acting of Heavens to Betsy 2 is very run-of-the-mill and expected. Some cast members tend to overdo their roles and overplay their emotions while others appear unsure of what they’re doing. In the end, with no dynamic performances or standout roles either good or bad, this section also gets an average rating.

Conclusion

One big question we have to ask about this film is why it was even made. Rarely is a sequel justified, especially when the original film was so low-key. Sequels should be about exploring new horizons with characters who are already well-developed and deserve further screentime. Unfortunately, films like Heavens to Betsy 1 and 2 don’t rally have much to offer and will easily be forgotten as time goes on. If screenwriters are interested in trying to develop characters over time, a series would likely be a better forum for this venture.

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Spent [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Eve believes her husband is going to die soon, so she and her son Lonnie are planning on inheriting his million dollar fortune, so they think. They’ve grown tired of his constantly cheap lifestyle that he forces them to go along with, and with the brain tumor advancing, they feel like their freedom is close at hand. However, when something unexpected doesn’t go quite their way, they are forced to come up with a new plan.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For an indie film, there are several good production elements to note, such as the great video quality and the professional camera work. The sets and locations are also fine and mostly well-utilized. While the soundtrack can be intriguing and creative at times and while the audio quality is mostly fine, there are also instances where the music covers up spoken words and where background sounds can overpower the scene. Also, there is some weirdly soft lighting at times, and some scenes are randomly in black and white for no particular reason. Perhaps the oddest part of this production is the usage of cheesy props from different time periods that creates a lot of confusion as to when this film is supposed to take place. Further, some scenes are strangely drawn out in unnatural ways, which speaks to somewhat of an editing problem. As a whole, this is basically an average indie production that could have been slightly better than it was and seemed to get in its own way.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Even more so, the plot certainly gets in its own way. In a quest to be creative and artistic (the effort is definitely noted), this story comes off in a very strange way with a weird sarcastic tone that’s not explained very well and with a collection of bizarre and slightly inappropriate scenes. It’s very difficult to discern what this film is actually going for without having the confusion about the time period. The attempts at artistic psychological elements fall flat, and a lot of the dialogue is basically cringe-worthy. It’s unfortunately a collection of odd cardboard scenes of nonsensical recitations that is very purposeless and aimless. To top it off, the ending is very strange and leaves a strange flavor in your mouth, which rounds out a section that basically confused itself along with the audience.

Acting Quality (.5 acting)

Indie film acting is fairly difficult to pull off, and while there was a slight amount of potential with this cast, a lot of it is very awkward and forced. The eccentric portions would work better if that’s what these characters were intended to be, but again, it’s very unclear what the film is even going for. This fact is also reflected in the weirdly inconsistent costuming efforts. As a whole, line and emotional delivery are stilted, which doesn’t leave much positive to state about this indie effort.

Conclusion

It’s great to want to try to create an original indie film, but Spent either takes things a step too far or a step too short. It’s a mystery what sort of Christian message is meant to be conveyed by this ‘dark comedy,’ and it’s unfortunately a waste of time due to its jumbled and confusing elements. The best an indie film maker with a small budget can do is to present a masterful plot, but this was unfortunately not done in this film.

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Shifting Gears [2018] (Movie Review)

Image result for shifting gears christian movie

Plot Summary

Tom has worked hard to become a regional manager, which is why he’s so disappointed when his self-absorbed boss lets him know that he needs a four-year college degree to achieve this position. Frustrated, Tom quits on the spot and decides to look into the property he inherited from his recently deceased father. His wife convinces him to take on his father’s old gas station business as their new source of income. Will they be able to handle the new business while patching up hidden family issues?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

One thing that can be said for newer Christian films, especially those in the last few years: no matter how forgettable or lame the plot is, the productions are absolutely getting better. Shifting Gears has a fine production without many issues, as evidenced by good video quality and camera work. For the most part, audio quality is fine, even though there are some loud portions of the soundtrack and some annoying sound effects, but these are the only issues with the production. It’s clear that time is spent on all aspects of the production, especially the sets, props, and locations that make this movie better than it would be without it. Overall, since the editing is also respectable, this is a high-quality production that unfortunately went wasted.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As such, it’s very hard to understand the actual purpose of this plot as it meanders around peppered with head-scratching cliches and under-developed characters. It borrows a lot of elements from a typical sports underdog plot combined with a return to hometown plot, which implies that there’s nothing creative going on here. The forced and cringe-worthy comedy elements and asides waste valuable time that could have been used to craft better dialogue, but we are only left with cheesy half-measures. The story is based on too many coincidences, and the Christian message comes off as plastic and manufactured. As many of the scenes are downright eye-rolling and funny for all the wrong reasons, it goes without saying that there is little to no point in making this movie with a plot this bad.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While some cast members are fairly over the top with their performances, they aren’t all bad since some of them are somewhat professional and seasoned in their work. However, some of the cast members are trying way too hard to be funny most of the time, and many emotions come off as painfully forced. Even so, despite the awkward and unsure moments, there are also plenty of good moments that make up for these, and this overall makes this an average section, which rounds out a below-average film.

Conclusion

It’s difficult to see all this good production go to waste when films that have better plots have worse productions. This is the plague of independent Christian film: if one thing works, another thing doesn’t. The cause of this is obviously a lack of proper collaboration. The writers need to be the writers, and the directors need to be the directors. Until creative-minded Christians lay down their differences and begin working together more, nothing much will change, unfortunately.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

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

 

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

 

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

 

3 Blind Saints (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sam, Jamal, and Frankie are usually up to no good as they wander around the country, hopping from one money-making scheme to another.  However, they end up stuck in a small town in the Midwest when they get on the wrong side of the local law enforcement.  When they are about to be sentenced by the local judge, the local powerful businessman steps in to save them—in exchange for their services as his puppet pastors of the local church.  All they have to do is please the congregation and collect enough money for a month, and then they can be on their way.  However, things never really work out that simply in forced comedy films.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Surprisingly, 3 Blind Saints has a considerably good production, especially for a film with a digit in the title.  It checks all the right boxes, including video quality, camera work, lighting, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is as goofy as can be expected, and sets, locations, and props are mostly standard.  The editing is minorly choppy, but on the whole, this is a high quality production on paper, which garners a substantial amount of points.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Talk abut checking all the boxes—3 Blind Saints fulfills basically every criterion of a cheesy and predictable comedy premise that involves a collection of troubled non-Christian characters who are forced to lead a church, even though they have no idea what they are doing.  There is nothing new or creative about this idea, and this story rushes by so quickly that it seems like the writers are trolling.  The comedy therein is very forced and zany, including off-the-wall jokes, dialogue, and displays of idiocy.  As previously mentioned, the plot progression is so steep that it sometimes makes fun of itself as it hits all of the typical plot points, including a cheesy romantic subplot, an inclusion of goofy locals, and a quick turnaround of the troubled protagonists.  This goes without mentioning the generally childish feel to the film, as well as the shallow Christianity and the bizarre portrayal of God.  Some sequences come off like Mel Gibson’s acid trips, thus warranting some negative points for this section.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast seems to be in on the trolling as they act over the top and try way too hard to be funny.  There is, however, untapped potential with some of the cast members, and there are also a handful of good moments that keep this section from being useless.  However, for the most part, emotions and behaviors are overplayed and mostly annoying.

Conclusion

3 Blind Saints feels like a cheap attempt to get some attention from the Christian audience.  It can almost be passed off as a big joke, but it bears too close of a resemblance to some Christian movies that are supposed to be serious.  Whatever the creators of this film were going for, they mostly failed—perhaps on purpose.  Either way, it’s really quite pointless.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Finding Cooper’s Heaven (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Jake Cooper tragically dies in a car wreck, his younger brother Bobby decides he needs to find heaven, where is brother now is.  With the Cooper family in shock and grieving in all the wrong ways, Bobby and his sister Trish set out on a silly adventure to figure out where heaven is.  What they find as a result helps them grow as kids, maybe?

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

Finding Cooper’s Heaven (whatever that really means) looks like it was filmed with a flip phone, hands down.  This is among the worst productions we have ever viewed, mostly due to weird close-up shots, blurry video quality, and awful background noises, not to mention the general lack of good audio quality and the presence of overdubbed lines.  The soundtrack is also loud and invasive.  Camera work is also very dizzying at times, and lighting is fairly poor in most scenes.  The whole experience seems very amateurish, as random, unrelated footage is included throughout, as well as weird slow-motion sequences that are off-putting.  The use of cheesy sound effects and special effects also makes for an undesirable experience.  Thus, the horridness of this production is enough to warrant negative points.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Besides the extremely childish premise, message, and storyline, the Christian elements are very juvenile as well.  The characters therein are empty and cardboard as they try way too hard in zany fashions to be comedic.  This ‘plot’ is funny for all the wrong reasons, because you either have to laugh at it or become depressed that this sort of garbage is even made.  Full of head-scratching and eye-rolling sequences, this storyline is utterly pointless and purposeless.  Thus, it is not justifiable, and it generally lacks potential in every way.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As if other elements were not bad enough, the acting is basically cringeworthy as many of the cast members are extremely awkward.  Line delivery is downright terrible as many lines are either mumbled or seemingly incorrect due to being done in only one take.  Emotions are quite juvenile and robotic, with heavy doses of obnoxious yelling and screaming.  Cast members seem generally unsure of themselves as coaching is noticeably absent.  In the end, this punctuates a bad experience all around.

Conclusion

Of all the movies that don’t get made, garbage like this film gets made.  How is it possible, first of all, to make a film this bad?  Secondly, how it is possible to get it finished, released, and distributed?  The mind boggles, but that’s the entertainment world we live in, I guess.  We can just hope that no one sees garbage like this and that the prevalence of such things becomes less and less.

 

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

 

Too Saved (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Lisa loves her boyfriend Bobby, but she doesn’t like the fact that he is not a Christian.  Thus, she prays for him to get saved, not realizing the impact her prayers might have.  Unexpectedly, Bobby gets saved one day in church, but he goes from being a drug addict (???) to being the most extremely Christian man ever.  He can’t stop talking about God, and he wanted to be the best man he can be.  Lisa become annoyed with Bobby and wonders why she ever prayed for him to change.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, Too Saved is a small church film with a very limited budget, which yields a very cheap production.  Because of the low funds and misuse of those there were appropriated, there are quite a few negatives to mention here, including poor video quality, shaky camera work, close-up shots, and inconsistent lighting.  Audio quality is also poor, and the soundtrack is cheesy.  Sets, locations, and props are severely limited and uncreative.  Finally, there is no substantial editing, thus warranting zero points for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It is possible that a more juvenile storyline could be written?  Is this meant to be a children’s movie?  The entire premise is based on a man going from being a drug addict—who is not portrayed properly at all, mind you—to being an obnoxiously Christian person.  This plot could almost be a cartoon, but it’s really not all that funny.  The parts that are absurd are just plain boring.  There are no attempts to write a good story here or to craft realistic characters.  This movie is actually barely worth reviewing.  If the writers meant well, there’s no way to know.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Ahh, small church casts—you have to love them.  If a cast member is not acting over the top, then another is acting very awkward and unsure of themselves.  Emotions come off as forced, and this wardrobe really needs some help.  Unfortunately, there is basically nothing good to say about this fill except better luck next time.

Conclusion

Sure, the budget is tiny, but it doesn’t have to be this bad.  As I’ve said a hundred times, a low budget does not affect the plot.  If you have around $10,000 for a film, which is our minimum budget to garner a review, make sure to craft a very deep and complex plot with believable, accessible characters.  In doing so, you will prove yourself worthy to receive a larger amount of funding.  Instead, movies like Too Saved just squander what little they had.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

The Holy Roller (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Luke is a struggling pastor with no real congregation.  Thus, inspired by the rantings of a homeless man, he decides to take his ministry to the streets.  There, he crosses paths with a desperate bar owner, Simon, who’s in need of some quick cash to pay off his gambling debts.  Inspired by a prosperity-preaching televangelist, Simon convinces Luke to start a church in his bar to raise the funds he needs, using a message of prosperity.  However, things don’t go as planned, and Luke discovers what real ministry is about.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The Holy Roller has a surprisingly fine production, including good video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also fine, although there are a lot of musical montages.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly realistic and appropriate.  The only other issue to point out here is the choppy editing that includes too much fluff content and too many odd cuts.  However, despite these issues, this is a pretty standard production that looks good on the surface.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This obviously quirky premise is meant to be a comedy, but it really just comes off as very forced and dry.  The humor is too off-the-wall and awkward to be funny.  It’s really trying too hard to be something it’s not, and it seems like satire is purposely eccentric, even though it falls flat.  Besides this, there is too much forced drama as the story rushes along at a breakneck pace that leaves no room for character development.  This leaves the characters very shallow and empty.  The fast pace of things also stunts any sense of reality and leaves the viewer disoriented and confused, without any ability to relate the struggles of the characters.  Basically, this is a dramedy that skates on top of everything so quickly that it’s over before you know it.  Actually, that might be a good thing.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This amateur cast seems like they are acting purposely awkward most of the time as they struggle to get their lines out.  Emotions are either too dorky or too forced.  However, there are some good moments here, and there would have been more if there had been better coaching.  Some things just weren’t meant to be, I guess.

Conclusion

Small church films like The Holy Roller struggles for identity and specialty in a sea of a myriad small church films vying for attention and views.  Unfortunately, not many of them actually make it to the next level, and most of them get stuck where The Holy Roller gets stuck: in shoulder-shrugging mediocrity.  The status of these sorts of movies can only be ‘better luck next time.’

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Love Letter [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Parker is an entertainment columnist and is best friends with Aaron.  However, Parker is perpetually single, and Aaron just got engaged to a girl he hasn’t know very long.  Parker has mixed feelings about her best friend’s relationship, but Parker’s mother is determined to matchmake her daughter to someone.  Parker isn’t interested in her mother’s attempts, but she finds herself falling love with Aaron, which poses a number of problems for them.  Will they be able to sort it all out before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Although UP usually demonstrates high production standards, The Love Letter seems to slip to the sitcom level of productions.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are fine, even if the soundtrack is stock.  The main element that gives this production a sitcom feel is the use of limited sets, locations, and props, as well as the many references to offscreen locations that were much more complex than inside people’s houses.  Furthermore, the editing of this film is lacking as too many scenes lag on with no real purpose or connection.  In the end, while this production is average, it seems like the creators were just phoning it in.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This feel of being phoned in definitely carried over to the plot as well.  It seems like the writers were barely trying with this plot, as it is full of cheesy comedy sequences and empty characters.  The premise is very trumped up and juvenile.  A majority of the dialogue is trite and silly, and the Christian message is vague and seems like it was added in later.  There is barely enough content to sustain a full-length film here as the same things happen over and over again.  The characters just sit around and talk without ever accomplishing much, like a ninety-minute sitcom that’s not even funny.  As previously mentioned, there is a lot of offscreen content that is only talked about, and the story rushes towards a predictable and neat conclusion.  Basically, not much effort was put towards this film in general.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a small cast, every little thing shows.  Sometimes the cast members are too forceful and awkward in their delivery, and other times they are overly practiced and amateurish.  However, they are not all bad and have enough good moments to make this section average.  However, not much about this film impresses at all.

Conclusion

Channels like UP are definitely in the business of producing as much content as possible to fill the time slots, which is why we get stuff like this.  It’s quite disingenuous to call this film Christian, and it really contributes nothing to the field of Christian entertainment.  Unfortunately, films like this are easily forgotten and probably rightly so.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Debacle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Larry and Vaughn have been long time friends, but Vaughn has never felt like he was worth much of anything, especially after he gets laid off from his job.  Larry, on the other hand, is overconfident in himself and has many ideas of what he should be doing, such as rescuing damsels in distress.  However, neither of them could have expected to be transported back in time to a Western town in need of heroes.  If Larry and Vaughn can save the town, they will have completed their quest, but if they do not, they will be trapped in history forever.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, a lot of time and money was put into this production.  This is shown in the good video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  Though the soundtrack is a bit silly and is sometimes too loud, the sets, locations, and props are excellently constructed and utilized for this genre.  However, there are some awkward cuts and transitions that are likely included to make the movie ‘goofy.’  However, on the whole, this is an above average production that does not fit with the rest of the film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From the beginning to the end, this appropriately-named film is trying way too hard to be funny with cringeworthy comedy moments and eye-rolling escapades.  Not only is the premise completely absurd, but it is full of cheesy Western elements and other asides that make no sense at all.  The Christian message is forced, cheesy, and empty.  This ridiculous story feels like it has been made for the sake of being made, since it has basically no purpose at all.  The characters are dumb due to the half-hearted dialogue, not to mention the fact that the villain concept is very stupid.  Essentially, there’s really nothing good to say about this plot except that it was good when it was over.

Acting Quality (1 points)

Besides the absurd self-casting and acting (Joshua Zirger from Fenced Off should have never been cast again), the cast members over-play and overdo everything.  Line delivery is drawn out, and emotions are laughable.  Though there are some okay moments, most sequences from this cast are annoying as they tend to make fools of themselves.  Unfortunately, there’s not much good to say about this film.

Conclusion

Basically, this movie is a debacle.  Whether or not they intended it to be so appropriately named is beside the point.  Making this sort of comedy that’s in your face and completely obvious is never a winning idea.  Also, the childish time travel notions and cliched Western tropes are very old and worn out.  The only advice that can be offered here is to try something totally different next time.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Heavens to Betsy [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Betsy Simon is a struggling children’s author who wants more out of life.  After her work is rejected again, she complains to God that He never answers the prayers she wants Him to answer.  However, this complaint triggers some unforeseen and unwanted consequences as Betsy suddenly finds herself in a world where God answered every prayer she ever prayed.  While it seems good at first, Betsy soon finds that not all is as it seems and quickly looks for a way out, but finds none.  Will she be able to return to the life God has for her before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a newer production, Heavens to Betsy is an improvement over the previous effort in Angels in Our Midst.  This includes good video quality and camera work.  However, there are some cheesy sound effects, as well as a generic ‘silly’ soundtrack.  There are also some odd background sounds in some scenes, as well as randomly cutoff audio at random times.  Nonetheless, sets, locations, and props are great and appropriate.  The editing is mostly okay, but this story basically writes itself, so not much effort is needed.  On the whole, this is, for the most part, what a modern Christian production should look like.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

In the beginning, Heavens to Betsy is a ridiculously forced comedy that is trying way too hard to be funny.  This is evident in the very cheesy comedy elements and the forced dialogue that causes the characters to be one-dimensional and even mindless at times.  Besides this, the premise is based on the predictable wish-comes-true-in-alternate-reality-to-remind-protaganist-they-don’t-like-that-idea-anymore storyline.  This predictable convention is coupled with a cheap Christian message in the beginning, yet it becomes more meaningful as the movie progresses and even ends with a slightly interesting lesson that is based on a partially creative idea.  Though this story gets better in the end due to some unexpected turns, it is still too little too late as the beginning of the film is likely to lose a lot of viewers before they get to this point.  However, the effort is commendable.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like the plot, the acting begins as awkward, unsure, and trying way too hard to be funny.  Lines and emotions come off as overly practiced in the beginning.  However, there is improvement after the middle point of the film as there are some better, more well-acted moments.  Thus, this rounds out an almost-average film.

Conclusion

Believe it or not, Heavens to Betsy, especially the second half, is an idea that is worth remaking or redoing in some way.  While the premise has been used before, transposing unanswered prayers into it gives it more than just a ‘Christian spin,’ even though it can come off that way at times.  This is a pertinent issue that needs to be explored in a far better forum, preferably not in a comedy.  Regardless, Christian film makers need to continue to shed their ‘silly’ or ‘cute’ image, and this film doesn’t really do its part on this front.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Faith-Filled Christmas (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The Fairway family has three generations of people who want to serve people at Christmastime.  Simon and Emily, the grandparents, live in a retirement facility, and they want to minister to those around them in the time they have left.  However, their trouble-making friend Byron wants to put on a senior Olympics at the facility while the heavy-handed superior is away.  Simon’s and Emily’s adopted son Walter and his wife Ruth have opened their home to foster children, and they have unique struggles to handle during the holidays as they have to deal with biological parents.  Yet all of them find different ways to show the love of Christ to those around them.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Although this is an ‘indie’ production, it is a clear that a lot of work went into it.  This shows up in great video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also engaging, although it tends to get in the way at times by covering up dialogue.  Sets, locations, and props are also well-constructed and well-used.  The only other issues to point are some minor editing issues, such as lagging scenes and dead sequences.  However, as a whole, this is a great effort that shows great potential for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This good effort also spills over into the plot, as there are lots of good ideas in it.  For the most part, the characters are realistic and believable due to well-thought-out dialogue.  However, there are also too many characters and too many subplots going on here.  With so much content, more organization was in order, yet not enough was given.  Though there are some moments of good comedy, there are also some moments of flat humor.  Also, a lot of the time, this movie plays out more like the premiere of a series rather than a film.  It has a very episodic feel rather than the proper arc of a movie plot.  Nonetheless, it’s good to experiment with your first film, as long as it’s not horrible, to see what you’re good at.  Thus, it seems like this was accomplished in this plot.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Though this cast is only semi-professional and contains ‘amateurs,’ the cast members only commit minor errors.  Emotions are believable, and line delivery is usually on point.  The only slight drawbacks here pertain to some measured or awkward line delivery, but it’s not much to write home about.  In the end, this rounds out a very good indie effort that will be something to build off of in the next project.

Conclusion

These days, freshman films seem to be getting better, especially with regards to production quality.  Creative teams like this one have more resources at their fingertips than before, and this particular group did a great job with the inexperienced cast members.  Though some areas of the plot were suffering, with some future tweaks, they could be dynamic story writers.  In the end, it is encouraging to see indie films that give hope for the future.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Rogue Saints (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Nick and Dylan have always been best friends, but they lost connection for several years.  Now they have restarted their friendship after years of traveling, and they have a plan to pull off the ultimate heist to get rich.  Rumor has it that a valuable diamond is hidden beneath a certain church, so Nick and Dylan decide they need to be the one to unearth it and collect the prize.  However, they will have to invent a clever cover story in order to gain access to what they need to find the diamond.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For a relatively small-time church film, Rogue Saints is a surprisingly efficient production.  This is most notable in the interesting and well-constructed sets, locations, and props.  Video quality, camera work, audio quality, and are also all what they should be.  The soundtrack is unique and creative.  The biggest issues to raise here pertain to some oddly unnecessary elements, such as an overuse of split screens and juvenile animation overlays throughout the production.  The editing is also quite wild and sometimes schizophrenic.  But on the whole, this is a one-of-a-kind production that is at least above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While this story is trying to be different in some ways, in others way, it is not so different.  There are slight attempts at creativity, even if the premise is somewhat flimsy.  The comedy is at least partially funny, even if it is somewhat formulaic and predictable.  The progression of the plot is also basically predictable and contains stereotypical characters that could use some upgrading through more developed and meaningful dialogue.  There aren’t really any twists as this storyline is basically linear.  However, there is definitely a lot of potential here, and Rogue Saints is certainly a good start in the comedy genre for future reference.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast mostly contains ‘amateurs,’ they are actually fairly professional.  They certainly have their quirky moments and can tend to overdo the comedy at times, but as a whole, this is a respectable performance.  Emotions and line delivery are each what they should be.  This completes an overall average effort by this freshman film effort.

Conclusion

There aren’t many films that are comparable to Rogue Saints, which is a fact that is both good and bad.  It is a unique film and shows a lot of potential for the future, if they choose to go further in film making.  This is where new film makers should begin rather than in the basement of Christian film.  Even so, this movie is a good blueprint for how to begin in Christian movie making, but hopefully it is not where creative teams will get stuck.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Christmas With a Capital C (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dan Reed is just a nice Christian mayor of a small Alaskan town, but when his old high school rival\friend, Mitch Bright, comes to town, Mitch just wants to mess up Christmas for everybody.  Mitch is mad that Dan took his girl in high school, so Mitch decides to take it out on Dan by suing the town for having a manger scene on public property.  Will the war on Christmas never end?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In keeping with most PureFlix films, Christmas With a Capital C is mostly fine, including good video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The soundtrack is what one can expect from a Christmas film.  Some sets are limited, but there are some good outdoor locations that redeem this.  The prop choices are mostly fine, but there is a slight over-abundance of Christmas décor.  Furthermore, there is one too many montages in this film, yet the editing is mostly standard.  In the end, this production is just one of those assembly line PureFlix deals.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With so many cooks in the crowded PureFlix plot kitchen, Christmas With a Capital C has a little bit of everything in it.  For the most part, it contains every cheesy war-on-Christmas and fake persecution cliché you can possibly shove into one movie.  The film mostly takes up arms in the religion freedom battle in a small town by using propaganda about the opposing side, but there are some surprising moments of sanity when some characters wisely suggest that maybe fighting for manger scenes on public property isn’t going to save people.  However, this is quickly derailed again by cheesy and formulaic subplots, including juvenile romances, that are driven by obnoxious characters and manufactured dialogue.  Unfortunately, any good that was meant in this film is covered up with madness.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This film has another one of those crazy PureFlix casts that is memorable for the wrong reasons, even though it doesn’t contain the usual suspects.  Ted McGinley is his usual fake self, while Brad Stine takes the opportunity to adlib in over the top and unhinged ways.  For some reason, Nancy Stafford allowed herself to be dragged into this nonsense, yet she is always a standout.  Other cast members are also fine and make up for the loony moments that dominate the performances.

Conclusion

Why do we need to constantly roll out movies that ‘fight’ against ‘political correctness’ and try to ‘win back’ religious freedom?  Since when does not being able to display a manger scene on government property persecution?  What if a Muslim ideal was displayed on government property?  One character points out the futility of fighting this fight in light of trying to spread the gospel to people who are hurting, and this contribution is no doubt the sanity of Andrea Nasfell.  However, any good she wanted to accomplish in this movie is drowned out by the militant agenda of PureFlix.  As long as Christian leaders continue to prioritize fighting for political power and influence over doing the real work of Christ, culture will continue to go in the opposite direction.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Fishes ‘n Loaves: Heaven Sent (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Since Pastor Randy Michaels’ inner-city church is being shuttered by the ministry organization that runs it, he and his family are being reassigned to a small town across the country in Arizona.  Though reluctant to go at first, the Michaels family arrives to meet strange and eccentric characters that pique their interest in the town.  They soon find that they have a greater purpose for being there than they ever thought.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As one of those secular-company-tries-to-make-a-Christian-movie-to-make-some-money gigs, Fishes ‘n Loaves: Heaven Sent, one of the most awkwardly-titled films ever, has a fine production.  Though there is some random shaky camera work throughout, other elements are fine, including video quality and audio quality, even though the soundtrack is silly.  Though some sets and locations are slightly limited, they are not all bad, and props are realistic.  The editing is a pretty standard job, but then again, most of this film was taken from the inspirational film factory.  Thus, there is nothing creative to speak of here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This oddly-titled film rips off the old standby plot in which an offbeat pastor and his family gets reassigned to a struggling church in an eccentric small town in the middle of nowhere that’s filled with off-the-wall, goofy characters that are trying way too hard to be comedic.  I’m just surprised there’s no save-the-church elements here.  Basically, this so-called comedy is extremely forced and plastic, mostly due to very juvenile dialogue.  There is really no conflict to speak of as the story meanders along in pointless and purposeless ways.  Random things happen to check plot boxes and then the movie is mercifully over, leaving no impression whatsoever on the viewer.  The Christian message that is forced in is very cheesy and unfeeling, which is no surprise considering this is a secular cash-grab.  The only thing left to ponder is why this is even a movie at all.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though there are some okay moments throughout that keep this section from being worthless, most of the time, this cast seems to be competing for who can have the most screen time.  They are all very impressed with themselves, especially the lead actor, and appear to be auditioning for better roles in other films.  A lot of them have questionable and weird accents and many of them look like they just got rejected from a Hallmark casting call.  Again I ask, why is this a movie?

Conclusion

Whoever pitched this idea was probably rejected by Hallmark and possibly UP for total ineptitude, even by Hallmark standards.  The rating does not reflect how empty this film really is.  Were it not for the strangely high amount of funding, this film would be a total wash.  Even so, it still takes its place in the basement of Christian film, so why bother with more money?  Many audiences will see through this blatant and very poorly executed pandering to Christians.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

A Strange Brand of Happy (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

David Weathersby has no clear direction in life, especially after being fired from his job by his hotshot boss, who is impressed with himself.  He feels like he doesn’t have any purpose and decides to languish away, so his roommate decides to introduce him to a random life coach he ran into so David can find a fresh purpose for himself.  But this introduction only creates a problematic love triable between David, his old boss, and the life coach.  Will this silliness ever be resolved?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In a change from previous Rebel Pilgrim productions, such as Hope Bridge and the awful Fenced Off, A Strange Brand of Happy at least has an above-average production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine.  The soundtrack is a bit silly, however, and there is some odd soft lighting throughout.  There are also a lot of cheesy animated interludes that give the movie a juvenile feel.  Also, a lot of the sets are relatively limited, as well as the props, and there are no real locations.  Finally, editing is just average and contributes to a slightly above-average, but not quite all-the-way-there production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Full of cheesy and quirky characters, this story is just a childish romantic ‘comedy’ based on a silly and manufactured love triangle.  Nearly all the humor is very forced and dry and is thus not funny.  There is too much pointless goofiness throughout, including silliness for the sake of being silly.  At times, this story feels like a joke, and it contains some very vague Christian themes.  With no real direction or purpose, this plot is just a bunch of random content assembled in a formulaic and predictable fashion, with a side of weird edgy elements and a very strange tone throughout.  Any meaning that is tried to be inserted at the end is too little too late, thus making for mostly a waste of time.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast is very stiff and wooden in their delivery, as well as awkward.  There is definitely not enough coaching here, although there are some good moments to note.  However, there is a lot of odd makeup work throughout, as well as some unnecessary yelling throughout.  In the end, this rounds out an overall low-average and basically low-effort film.

Conclusion

Rebel Pilgrim certainly knows how to make a strange brand of movies.  What exactly are they going for?  They’ve attempted the dramatic emotional exploration in Hope Bridge and the stupid comedies in Fenced Off and A Strange Brand of Happy, but what do they really have to show for it?  They also present a strange brand of Christianity in their films, so perhaps the title of this movie is not by accident.  Are they actually just trolling like The Asylum to see what some money they can make off of their efforts?  Your guess is as good as ours.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Bringing Up Bobby [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

James and Bobby have taken care of each other ever since their parents died, but Bobby is stuck in high school identity crisis while James tries to figure out what he going to do about his sister trying to take him to court over their parents’ will.  Meanwhile, their other brother Dennis shows back just in time for the court hearing—especially since he’s on the run from Russian anarchists.  But things begin to change when James and his sister’s lawyer begin to fall for each other and Bobby decides he is going to change himself to impress a girl at school.  Will any of them figure out who they really are?  Will we ever be able to understand what this movie is even about?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though the production quality of this film is mostly fine, the same cannot be said about the rest of the film.  Nonetheless, video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine and what they should be.  The soundtrack is a bit dumb but not all bad.  Sets, locations, and props are fine, even if they are a bit juvenile at times.  There are some weird sound effects throughout, as well as some awkward transitions and ‘artistic’ asides that tend to hamper things.  But on the whole, this production is respectable enough.  However, this trend does not continue throughout the film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

There is literally no way to understand where this plot is coming from or where it’s even going.  Full of zany, eccentric characters that spout childishly comedic and stupid dialogue, this story overall lacks focus, direction, and purpose.  A majority of the scenes are lazily designed to elicit some sort of amused snicker or even eye-roll just because they’re so stupid.  The storyline is aimless and generally lacks arcs.  It most definitely lacks depth and meaning.  The Christian message is forced and awkward.  Any lesson that is trying to be conveyed here is totally lost in the wake of nonsense.  Basically, this ‘plot’ needed a lot of vetting before it was released to the public.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Much like the characters, the cast members are mostly off the wall and over the top in their performances.  Emotions are forced and so-called comedy is painful.  Though there are some good moments here that save this section from nothingness, it’s just not good enough.

Conclusion

One has to wonder why Provident decided to stamp their name on this madness.  What is the true faith-based on even inspirational value to this film?  It’s not even marketable or watchable.  Most audiences will turn this off after about ten minutes.  True comedy takes well-developed characters and witty, well-thought-out dialogue, not just throwing stuff against the wall to see what happens.  Another day, another failed Christian film.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

My Grandpa Detective (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Robert Whitmore III was just awarded a prestigious police award and promoted to lead detective, a role that used to be held by his famous grandfather, Robert Whitmore Sr.  However, Bob III’s world is rocked when he discovers that his new partner is none other than his grandfather, who has been pressed back into service by the force for retiring too early to collect his pension.  Together, they will have to get along to catch a notorious criminal who has come back to town with the goal of stealing the coveted Bronze Basin of Bitterness.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, the production of this film is not as bad as the rest of it.  All the usual elements, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality, are fine and professional.  There are really no glaring errors here.  The soundtrack is a bit silly, which is to be somewhat expected for a comedy like this.  Sets, locations, and props are average and passable, except for the fact that some unusual props are constantly emphasized.  Also, as usual for this sort of film, the editing is somewhat poor and disorienting.  In the end, this production is the best component of this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

My Grandpa Detective is one of the most nonsensical ‘comedy’ plots since The Takeover.  Besides having absolutely no purpose and being completely aimless, this film has an extremely absurd feel to it that includes a lot of head-scratching and deadpan-inducing moments and sequences.  There is no way to understand what is trying to be communicated in this film as a collection of very eccentric and bizarre characters fumble around, looking for a reason to keep this film going.  The premise is very trumped up and the Christian message is very forced and awkward.  Nearly every line of dialogue is stupidity, thus making the storyline impossible to take seriously.  There are also a lot of cliqued mystery tropes and a predictable ending to top things off.  Essentially, the creators of this film were either confused, delusional, or purposely satirical.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Besides the fact that several cast members are made to look much older than they are, nearly all of the acting in this cast is as absurd as the plot.  Everyone seems intent on making a fool of themselves with childish emotions and outbursts, as well as poor line delivery.  In the end, most elements in this film are completely ridiculous.

Conclusion

Why are Christian films like this still being made in 2016?  What does this sort of movie accomplish, outside of making a further mockery of Christian movies?  True comedy takes well-developed characters and realistic, witty dialogue, not all of the raving nonsense you find in My Grandpa Detective.  Alas, this is another embarrassment and one that should be forgotten, unless you need to know how not to make a movie.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Lost in Silver Canyon (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

While on their way to Christian camp, Joe and Vanessa find themselves accidentally left behind in a western ghost town exhibit.  Thus, they decide to explore the area around them, but they find themselves ‘trapped’ in a mine.  An old prospector with no prospects ‘rescues’ them and proceeds to mime the story of the prodigal son for them.  All the while, the obnoxious Sam Starr (brother of Johnny Starr) is searching for the old prospector so he can tell him something.  In this Bob Jones-style story from Mr. Button Family Video, everyone can learn a forceful Bible lesson.

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

As a 1990s production, it’s expected to be archaic, but not this bad.  Not even The Printing (same year) was this bad.  Video quality is blurry and outside shots are glaring.  Inside shots have poor lighting and camera work is mostly stationary.  Audio quality is very poor as a lot of it is overdubbed.  The soundtrack is annoying and the constant juvenile sound effects, especially those punctuating Sam Starr, are enough to drive a person mad.  Sets, locations, and props are extremely cheap and limited.  Furthermore, there is editing to speak of.  Essentially, this production warrants negative points due to its obnoxious nature, especially when it comes to sound effects and all things Sam Starr.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Sam Starr is a bumbling, fumbling complete idiot of a character who is funny for all the wrong reasons and seems like he escaped from the cast of The Rev.  His movements can’t be accomplished without weird grunting, stupid sound effects, and constantly scattering of paraphernalia.  Besides his sideshow, the other characters stepped right out of a Bob Jones\Unusual Films movie like The Treasure Map, Appalachian Trial, or Project Dinosaur.  There are also some shades of Pamela’s Prayer here. The Christian message presented is cringeworthy and full of patriarchy.  Besides all of this, there is basically no story to speak of here as a majority of the runtime is filled with home video footage of a vacation to a western ghost town and a lot of forceful ‘Bible lessons’.  There is little to no purpose in this nonsense, and it’s actually very annoying, thus landing it the rare award of having negative points.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

One has to question if some of these cast members should have been around children due to their erratic and disturbing behavior, especially the idiot who played Sam Starr.  Even if this sideshow is supposed to be funny, it’s only funny because it’s so pathetically absurd.  Other cast members, as previously mentioned, are just on loan from Bob Jones and contribute nothing good except driving home Christian stereotypes.  Thus, this is another negative section.

Conclusion

Lost in Silver Canyon joins the ranks of those Christian films that are so offensive in their presentation that they warrant negative points.  The only reason to watch this film is to get a good laugh at the expense of Sam Starr, but otherwise it’s another total embarrassment to Christian film.  This is how people think Christians act, and sometimes they aren’t very far off.  Hopefully films like these will serve as motivation to make better ones so that any negative movies will be totally forgotten.

 

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

 

The Fix it Boys (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ben and Cricket and their friends make up The Fix It Boys, a group of boys determined to make things that were once broken working again—at least over the summer break.  Together, they hide in their forest getaway and think up ways to make the world better.  However, when a friend of theirs asks them to make her parents’ marriage fixed again, they don’t have any answers for her, and they also don’t know what to think about the faith that she never lets go of.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a 2017 production, this is an understandably professional production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The soundtrack is a bit underwhelming at times.  Sets, locations, and props are all well-constructed and appropriate for the film.  Though there are some minor editing concerns, this is still a great production and is of a type of quality that we need to see more of consistently in all Christian films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

However, the good production does nothing to help the floundering plot quality.  The first half is dominated by narration that stunts character growth and leaves nothing to chance.  But even after this is over, nothing useful as accomplished as the impossible-to-access characters wander around in the forest and sit around and talk with quirky dialogue.  With no clear direction or purpose, this film boils down to a silly kids so-called comedy that’s full of awkward and forced humor that falls flat.  The premise is too juvenile and under-developed to go anywhere.  In the end, it’s very unclear what is meant by this film, but it’s hard to believe it was even made.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With a cast composed mostly of child\teenager actors and actresses, the performances are inconsistent.  There are some bright spots, but there is also a lot of forced line delivery and emotional delivery.  Some cast members seem bored and appeared to be phoning in their performances.  However, there is improvement throughout, making this section at least average.

Conclusion

It’s great to be able to pull off a professional production and halfway decent acting, but if you have no real idea to work with in your plot, then what’s the point?  Films like this one look good on the surface, but they will have zero impact because they have no purpose or direction.  Unfortunately, this is basically just another silly ‘nice try’ Christian movie that will be forgotten in roughly six months.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Congregation: The Hip Hop Gospel Church [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The Church of Truth is gearing up for their new pastor—they tend to go through pastors constantly due to the scandals the pastors create for themselves.  Now the few members that are left do not trust the incoming pastor due to the antics of the previous one, so they have banded together to take their church back.  However, as usual, things do not go as they originally planned.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

It’s very difficult to discern what the creators of this film were exactly going for.  The production is one of the most unique and strange we have witnessed.  Though video quality is fine, this is the only good element of the entire film.  Lighting is weird throughout the film and camera work is extremely dizzying.  Audio quality is below par and the soundtrack is quite annoying.  Sets, locations, and props are very cheap and limited.  Finally, the editing and presentation style are off-the-wall and juvenile.  There is really little justification for the way this film is presented, which is why no one has tried to do it this way before.  Essentially, it’s hard to see the justification for this movie.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This movie is dominated by an absurd and obnoxious live narration trope that directs the main character to constantly interject her comments and lengthy explanations.  This plot device to truly the worst.  But even without this, the few characters that there are very annoying and over the top due to head-scratching and forced comedy dialogue.  None of it is funny—it’s not even unintentionally funny—which makes the entire movie a drag.  The storyline just continually slogs on with meandering and wearing conversations that never really go anywhere or serve any purpose except for the prolonging of this madness.  The plot scope is very limited and it’s once again extremely difficult to justify this film’s existence.  How these sorts of things are continually made is beyond us.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As can be expected, in keeping with the rest of this film’s elements, the acting is overdone, juvenile, forceful, and mostly annoying.  Cast members take their characters to the emotional and ‘comedic’ extremes and lines are forced in very awkward ways.  If this cast meant well, it’s difficult to tell.  However, it is clear that no coaching was present here, thus round out a very wasted effort.

Conclusion

It is increasingly unclear what the creators of this film were going for when they decided to make this.  This idea is barely long enough to sustain a feature length film and it’s certainly not one that ever needs to be repeated.  These sorts of films continue to serve as an embarrassment to Christian movies, but hopefully they will soon be forgotten and their mistakes can be learned from.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

Sunday Morning Rapture (Movie Review)

It’s Final The Rapture all over again

Plot Summary

You never know when the Rapture might happen…it might just happen on a Sunday morning when a long-winded pastor is preaching about how Christians can escape all the current and coming evil.  This story follows a whole bunch of random people that go to this particular church as some of them live for the Lord while others pretend to.  When that moment comes…some of them will be…left behind (oops wrong movie).

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, this awful film has a somewhat decent production, certainly a better one than its cousin Final: The Rapture.  The production of Sunday Morning Rapture is mostly average, with fine video quality and camera work.  However, the soundtrack is quite overpowering at times, as are weird sound effects.  There are also some bizarre special effects, even though the sets, locations, and props are mostly okay.  Furthermore, the editing is very disorienting and off-putting, but one can’t expect much from another strange apocalyptic concept.  Yet all of this aside, the remainder of the film’s elements are just awful.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Besides this ‘plot’ being a random collection of schizophrenically presented scenes that have little to no relation to one another, the film is chock-full of very heavy-handed juvenile message-pushing about obvious Rapture beliefs and apocalyptic concepts.  Dialogue is very in-your-face as it feels like the characters are just reading lines from a John Hagee book.  If this wasn’t bad enough, this movie progressively more insane as it goes on, jumping from Latin American and South Korean media coverage of sudden Rapture-induced natural disasters to people who were left behind literally screeching and rolling around on the floor of the church (without Benny Hinn even present).  Basically, it’s an experience you have to see to believe.  What we can’t believe is how these sorts of drug-laced Christian films are continually generated.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

As you can expect, the acting that accompanies to sheer madness is extreme and over the top in every way.  Line delivery is very forced and eventually just becomes screeching, yelling, and wailing.  Thus, the performances are extremely theatrical and overly dramatic, and cap off an overall embarrassing experience.

Conclusion

This is 2017, and Christian moves like this are still FUNDED and created.  What was the pitch for this film?  ‘Our church needs to make a movie about a Rapture that takes place on a Sunday.’ It sounds okay on its face…if we need another apocalyptic film, that is.  But then to couple this with downright insanity is highly unacceptable.  You have to try to make a film this bad, hence the negative rating.

 

Final Rating: -.5 out of 10 points

 

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

 

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

 

Angels Love Donuts (Movie Review)

The whiniest man alive

Plot Summary

John Money is a successful businessman, but he’s the whiniest man alive and doesn’t like anybody, even though he has a family that loves him, at least somewhat.  He only cares about the bottom line, so when he’s visited by a donut-loving angel of death who tells John that his days are numbered, John throws himself into finding a solution to his eternal problems.  He seeks out the answer to eternity in heaven, but he looks in all the wrong places.  Will he be able to discover what truly matters most?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though this film has a moderate budget, there are still a lot of unforced errors.  Video quality is somewhat blurry throughout, especially since there is a lot of weird soft lighting throughout the film.  Camera work is fine, however, as is audio quality.  However, the soundtrack is loud and annoying.  Sets and locations are mostly okay, but there are some cheesy props.  There is also not really any editing as this film is just a collection of very long scenes and montages.  In the end, this is a underwhelming production to say the least.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Can you seriously not come up with a different title besides Angels Love Donuts?  The cheesy comedy idea surrounding this title is just too much.  There are way too many attempts in this film to be funny, and a lot of comedy is dry and\or falls flat.  Thus, the dialogue and the characters are very cheesy and sometimes downright childish or annoying.  The driving purpose behind the film is too juvenile to be taken seriously; this film almost fits better in a children’s genre than in this format.  The story follows a predictable progression, thus there is no real creativity here.  It’s really hard to believe that movies like this are made.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The lead actor is definitely one of the most annoying we have seen.  He speaks in a constant monotone whine.  Other cast members appear to be making fun of this film, and rightly so.  Some performances are overly practiced.  Emotions are hardly ever believable.  Unfortunately, there’s really nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

Movies like this will likely be forgotten as time goes on, yet they can be remembered right now due to its absurd nature.  The last thing we need is more Christian movies that demonstrate this level of nonsense.  From start to finish, this is just a total waste of time and ranks on the level of yard sale movies.  Hopefully in the future, we will begin to see less and less of these sorts of messes.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Altar Egos (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Pastor John Bridges inherits his father’s church, he is given huge expectations by the congregation, who is led by his suspicious and controlling stepmother, Mary Margaret.  John’s wife Betsy wants him to look for a better opportunity, but John wants to follow in his father’s footsteps.  However, when Mary Margaret leads a church revolt against John, he decides to take matters into his own hands and enlists the help of his theatre-guru son to help him create an alter ego to convince his stepmother to reconcile.

Production Quality (3 points)

For the obviously low budget that was provided here and other limited resources, this is a highly impressive production.  This is a key example of what we want first-time film makers to do: use everything you have to the fullest potential, even if it’s small.  Every aspect of the production of Altar Egos is highly professional and there are no errors here.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all flawless, even though there are both indoor and outdoor scenes.  The soundtrack is a little goofy but it works for the comedy genre.  Sets, locations, and props are all realistic and authentic and demonstrate care.  Finally, the editing is good, although there is only a small amount of plot content to work with.  In the end, this production could have easily been another Flywheel, but it wasn’t.  New film makers are raising the standard for the market.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

As with most church comedies (and Christmas comedies for that matter), the plot of Altar Egos is fairly limited in scope.  It follows a predictable progression and isn’t really all that creative.  However, the characters are highly believable since the dialogue is well-written.  The comedy is subtle instead of obvious and is actually truly funny as it pokes fun of realistic church situations that many can relate to.  Though the message presented in this film is good, this movie tends to overstay its welcome with one too many extended sequences and montages.  As previously mentioned, you can see the ending from the beginning, but nevertheless, like all comedies, the characters make this movie what it is, thus making it worth your time.

Acting Quality (3 points)

You can hardly ask for a better casting and acting job than this for a first-time film maker.  Robert Amaya assume his first lead role very well, and even Erin Bethea is good as a quirky side character.  Victoria Jackson is always hilarious when she’s cast as an unserious and goofy character.  The new cast members also add a lot to this film as each of them assume their characters very well.  Basically, comedy is made or broken by the acting, and this cast passed the test.

Conclusion

Once listed in the Box Office Revolution Movie Purgatory, Altar Egos has made a comeback and has risen to the top of the market, leaving behind other 2017 films that were better funded and marketed.  This just goes to show you what can happen when a film maker really cares about the movie they are making and takes time and effort to make it happen the right way rather than just any way.  Altar Egos demonstrates top-notch production, despite low funding, as well as superb casting and acting.  Though the plot is a little thin at times, effort is put into dialogue and character development.  All of this spells a bright future for Sean Morgan and his team—so far, he’s the best Liberty University has to offer in the writing and directing department.  They should consider using him for their future projects.  Regardless, this film is certainly worth your time.

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

The Takeover [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jadin is an overconfident businessman (?) who trips all over himself and finds himself entangled with an eccentric ‘con artist’ who blackmails him into letting her stay with him.  She quickly takes over his house and invites a bunch of random people over.  All the while, Jadin is trying to please his mother and argue with the booming voice in the sky.  Will they ever be able to make sense of their lives?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Though this was a relatively well-funded production, only the video quality can be considered professional.  Camera work is far too shaky and includes odd camera angles and annoying close-ups.  Audio is unnecessarily overdriven at times and even overdubbed in some places.  The soundtrack is uninspiring.  Sets, locations, and props are fairly limited.  Finally, the editing is confusing and is likely nonexistent, thus making for a disorienting experience.  In the end, we are continually flabbergasted at the productions that are churned out by Strong Foundation Films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-.5 point)

Compared to all of their other sad efforts to write stories, The Takeover is hands-down Strong Foundation’s most laughable and nonsensical story to date.  From start to finish, there is no way to know or understand what is happening from one moment to the next.  Random things keep happening, as if this is depicting a dream sequence.  Many of the elements included in this rambling diatribe either cause you to roll your eyes or double over laughing, including the absurd booming voice in the sky bit.  There is literally nothing good to say about any of this, and it’s so ridiculous that it warrants even a small amount of negative points just for being this way.  As far a screenwriting goes, you really can’t go much lower than this (unless you’re Kirk Cameron).

Acting Quality (-1 points)

Josiah David Warren posts his worst performance to date, as do the other typical cast members included here.  They are absurd, over the top, and sometimes whiny with their emotions, including far too much yelling.  Also, reminiscent of FaithHouse, there is a lot of terrible injury acting throughout this film.  Basically, there is really nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

Strong Foundation has been in a constant identity crisis from day one of their productions.  What do they really want to do in Christian film?  If they mean well and want to make a difference, then they need to take some serious strides to improve.  They need to find a way to spend their funding more wisely.  They need to hire a real screenwriter.  Finally, they need to either stop casting the same old actors and actresses (Josiah David Warren has worn out his welcome) or figure out how to invest in some coaching for them.  They are at a crossroads as a company and have some tough decisions to make.

 

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points