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)

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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 point)

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.  Yet the comedy does run its course.  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 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

 

In Over My Head (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Nathan is the spoiled young adult of a well-to-do business family who believes he can do whatever he wants.  But his world comes crashing down one day when both of his parents suddenly are killed in a car accident, leaving Nathan to run the family business and take care of his two younger siblings.  Nathan is forced to rely on the faith he always thought was silly to make it through.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

With a clearly limited budget, it’s difficult to see the justification for this film.  The sets and locations are quite cheap and limited, although the props are okay.  Video quality and camera work are also fine, but audio quality is not.  There are too many loud background noises and a loud yet generic soundtrack that covers up things.  The transitions are also too abrupt and choppy to make any sense.  In short, the money used for this production should have been saved for a different film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The entire premise of this forced and juvenile comedy is very thin and flimsy.  There is a lot of fake drama yet not enough real plot content as the story jumps all over the place as a collection of random ‘goofy’ scenes.  The characters are very one-dimensional thanks to lame and empty dialogue.  The Christian message presented is very plastic and lazy.  There is also a very cheesy love triangle subplot that takes up a lot of this film’s time.  But it’s not like there were any better ideas to include here.  Basically, it’s very difficult to understand how movies like this are made.

Acting Quality (0 points)

While these cast members may mean well, their performances do not always reflect this.  They are a lot of times very robotic and overly practiced.  Their emotions are hard to connect with.  Since this is such a small cast, any errors are automatically amplified.  It’s hard to see anything positive here.

Conclusion

What if struggling film companies like Strong Foundation saved all of their money for one good film rather than making a handful of cut-rate cheap films that will never have any impact on the market?  We are sure people like the ones behind these sorts of films do mean well in what they are doing, they just need more direction in their work.  Yet perhaps they can build on mistakes like this one and become better as a result.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Camp Cool Kids (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Spence’s older brother Zach never wants him around because he embarrasses him, but their mother wants them to stick together now that their father has died.  Zach is headed to summer camp and Spence is supposed to go with him, but Spence is afraid.  However, Spence’s grandfather convinces him to go and Spence soon finds out that there’s a whole world out there if he will face his fears and not let his overactive imagination get the best of him.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a new production, there are obviously a lot of positive elements here.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all on standard.  The soundtrack is a little silly and it is quite excessive as it dominates the film, especially with the many montages that make up this movie.  Sets, locations, and props, however, are professional and appropriate.  Yet there are some unnecessary ‘silly’ special effects that cloud things, not to mention the fact that there’s really no editing in this film.  In the end, this is a typical new baseline production; it’s good to have a new baseline, but production isn’t the only thing you need.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s unclear what the true purpose or intention of this movie is supposed to be.  Is it a kids’ movie?  It sure seems like one.  Characters are very lazily presented through lame attempts at dialogue and comedy.  There is really no plot to speak of, as the story mostly consists of a lot of silliness, quirkiness, and montages to fill time.  The Christian message presented is very plastic and forced.  In the end, there is little overarching or driving purpose to anything that happens in this film, so it’s hard to understand why it was made or what audience it is intended to reach.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Lisa Arnold and company are reliable in putting together a good cast that mostly knows and cares about what they are doing.  There are no glaring errors among this cast—just some uninspiring and seemingly uninterested performances.  Then again, the cast members really didn’t have much to work with.  The whole film seems like an afterthought.

Conclusion

In the not-too-distant past, a film would have been a basement dweller due to low production quality and unprofessional acting.  Yet the new professional industry standards of Christian film have been raised, and thus raise films like this from the ash heap.  But that doesn’t mean that they are any more justified—it just means more money was spent on them.  Thus, we have to ask why.  We know Lisa Arnold and her team mean well and are capable of great things, so why did they make this film?  It seems like the money could have been spent better on a different idea.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Sunday School Musical (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Two choirs have a shot at winning the all-important Christian choir competition of some sort, but one of them is motivated to save their school, of course.  But with their lead singer and leader moving away, will their group be able to put on an award-winning performance?  As the competition heats up, the participants will have to learn more about themselves and about their faith in order to succeed.

Production Quality (.5 point)

The ‘success’ of this film is that it was shot in roughly two weeks, but I’m not convinced this is something to celebrate.  The final result is random, all over the place camera work, even though the video quality is fine.  However, sets, locations, and props are below standard.  The most notable standout in this production is the amateur laughable soundtrack that includes constant ‘original’ songs and overdubs.  The editing is also very choppy and downright dizzying, thus reflecting what quick post-production job actually produces.  Basically, this is one of those Christian films that’s so bad it draws mockery from non-Christian sources.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1.5 points)

With nearly every line sang by the characters like a blockbuster Hollywood musical about France that actually features tons of British people, Sunday School Musical is an unmitigated disaster.  Not only is the idea of a misfit singing group using their talent to save something copied from other quasi-inspirational films featuring Dolly Parton or Reba, but the way it’s gone about is so laughable that one has to wonder if it’s a satire.  Let’s go on the record by saying that singing dialogue and songs intended to be dialogue are never good ideas, EVER, to use in films.  Elsewhere, there is no real plot in this film and the characters feel like they stepped right out of a bad cartoon.  Needless to say, Sunday School Musical is an utter train wreck that should never be repeated in any fashion.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As if the rest of the film wasn’t bad enough, this cast is among the worst.  They are either unsure, juvenile, or way overplaying in some kind of attempt to get attention.  Of course, trying to singing most of the lines never works, even for professional actors and actresses (see Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, etc., etc., etc…).  In the end, this film was probably doomed from the start.

Conclusion

Sunday School Musical has the rare privilege of not only joining the ranks of Christian films to be made punch lines by mainstream reviewers (along with Saving Christmas and the new Left Behind), but it also has the opportunity to be classified among our negatively-rated movies.  These films find new and creative ways to be horrible and\or offensive, thus achieving this distinct status.  The only thing we can further say is that we hope more negative films (and films containing singing dialogue) are never made again in Christian circles.

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

Mercy Streets [2000] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

John and Jeremiah are estranged twin brothers who were separated by tragedy.  One thinks the other is dead, while the other resents his twin for leaving him behind.  Now one of them is a priest, while the other is a slimy street dealer.  When they accidentally trade places and find themselves in harm’s way, they discover what they are really made of.  Will they be able to reconcile their differences before one of them is killed?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As an early 2000s production, Mercy Streets has a lot of eccentric elements.  A lot of the time, it seems like this film is trying to mimic some cheesy 80s movie.  Video quality is mostly fine, but camera work is strange, with random and unwanted freeze frames at inconvenient times.  Audio quality is good, however, and the soundtrack is actually effective and interesting.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and authentic.  However, the editing, like the camera work, is also unusual and hampers the viewing experience with odd stop-starts and slow motion.  In the end, this is an ambitious production, but it is stuck at average due to some off-the-wall issues.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Mercy Streets is one of those rare movies wherein the plot is better than the casting.  Though the story is built on a somewhat predictable twin-character-switch premise, it is a still a unique standout among Christian films.  The characters are quirky but are at least interesting and flawed.  Dialogue is all over the place—sometimes creative and sometimes ridiculous.  The twists are not really twists at all, and the ending sequence is a bit confusing at times, but overall, the storyline does not follow a very predictable progression, even though it has some predictable elements.  In the end, this story is worth a rewrite at some point—as long as a different cast was utilized.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This is an unusual instance in which the clown cast really drags down the characters and the story.  Unless this movie was supposed to be a comedy, which we don’t think it was, this casting is terrible.  Eric Roberts makes a great comic villain, but not an actual one (although, this is probably his most dedicated performance to date).  David A. R. White can rarely be taken seriously—in this film, it seems like he’s trying to mint his career by copying some iconic performance.  Also, he fulfilled his dream of playing two characters (which he also did later) and laid the groundwork for his later ‘comedy’ preaching.  Need we say anything about Kevin Downes and the others?  This cast really puts a damper on things.

Conclusion

Jon Gunn and his team have always had potential to do something great, but little issues always hold his works back from being great.  But definitely has great things ahead of him if he can continue producing good plots, improve production quality, and find better cast members.  If these three elements come into alignment, there are great things in store for him and his team.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Welcome to Paradise [2007] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Debbie Laramie makes a mistake that causes her to lose her current pastor job, she is demoted by her superior to become the pastor of a struggling small town church in Paradise, Texas.  She tends to be a rogue when delivering her sermons, so she brings her unique style to the stuck-in-their-ways small town in an attempt to shake things up.  Though plenty of gossip goes around about her, she forges ahead and tries to make a difference.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Unlike other Echolight-affiliated productions, Welcome to Paradise does not have the usual professional quality.  Camera work is unprofessional and there is some inconsistent lighting, although video quality is fine.  Audio quality needs some work, as does the random soundtrack.  However, sets, locations, and props are adequate and appropriate.  The editing could also use some improvement, but it is not that bad.  Overall, this is a confusing production because it’s hard to understand what they were trying to do.  They don’t appear to be that limited on budget, so it’s hard to know why quality is inconsistent.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This story was taken from the pages of a proverbial stock plot playbook.  It is the extremely stereotypical tale of a character who is forced to live in a small town and save the church therein.  Thus, every character stereotype imaginable is included, driven by pointless dialogue and very cheesy and forced comedy.  As the story meanders along in a useless fashion, it is driven by laughable coincidences and things that happen because they need to.  There is little to no justification for making this formulaic film because it has been done a million times before and after.  If you’re going to use a typical storyline, at least develop the characters properly.  However, this was not done in this film.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this is a semi-professional cast, they are trying way too hard to be funny.  Though they have their good moments, they are trying too much to exhibit quirky stereotypes.  It’s hard to feel like emotions are taken seriously in this cast.  Overall, this film is a big disappointment.

Conclusion

Welcome to Paradise feels like a dumb TV show or a reject Hallmark movie.  It could have very well been marketed by Hallmark, as long as it was fit into one of their seasonal molds.  Nonetheless, it’s difficult to justify the creation of these types of films.  Is this really what the Christian market needs?  We beg to differ.  Christian film makers can do better than this by a long shot.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Hemingway [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When the patriarch of the Hemingway family dies, the future of the successful Hemingway publishing company is in limbo.  His lawyer discloses his will’s stipulations for succession: his son and his three oldest adult children must reconcile their differences in eight hours or the publishing company will be sold to another company.  They must explore family secrets and be willing to forgive each other in order to save their company.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The production of Hemingway is inconsistent, but it has its good elements.  Video quality is fine, but some camera work is overly artistic and lighting is sometimes poor.  This is a very silent film with very quiet audio and not enough of a soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are fine, however.  There are some abrupt cuts and transitions, but the editing isn’t all bad.  Overall, this film is a mixed bag when it comes to production, thus warranting an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This film is based on a very interesting idea regarding broken family systems, but it is too low-key and underdeveloped.  Random things tend to happen just because as the story jumps around too much.  The characters have interesting backstories and are somewhat complex, yet they are deep enough—it would have been great to get some substantial flashbacks for these characters.  The dialogue is interesting but it needs some fleshing out.  Also, there are one too many attempts at dry comedy.  Good issues are raised in this film, but they are fixed way too easily.  Similarly, the Christian message presented needs far more substance and meaning.  In the end, this is a nice try, but not good enough.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast is sometimes professional but sometimes slightly awkward.  Line delivery is inconsistent, as are emotions.  There are one too many yelling scenes and the makeup is bit off.  But not all is bad, which warrants another average score.

Conclusion

There is something in this film that could have been made into something interesting, but it was never brought out.  This is a non-typical plot about an interesting idea that could have really been something great.  Had the comedy been written by a more skilled writer, things would have been much different.  With a little more investment in production and casting, this film could have gone places.  Maybe next time things will be different.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Life Fine Tuned (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Star is a spoiled music icon who wants everything to go her way, exactly the way she wants it.  When she has a disagreement with her manager and her creative team, she employs a typical and immature method of getting their attention: running away until they beg her to come back.  However, in an unfamiliar state, she gets more lost than she anticipated and finds herself stuck in small town America.  Forced to slow down, Star has to contemplate what her life is really like and what matters most.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

This production is certainly not as bad as it could have been, but it’s also not as good as it could have been.  Video quality and camera work are fine.  Audio quality is also fine, but the soundtrack is silly.  Sets, locations, and props are cheap, but this likely comes with the territory of this sort of production.  The editing is very odd, including abrupt cuts and transitions that make it seem like it was spliced together quickly.  Overall, though it is a bit amateurish, some of these elements are forgivable, considering this was mostly a freshman effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

There is nothing whatsoever creative about this cheesy fish-out-of-water plot.  It’s been used before and will be used again, probably on the Hallmark channel (see God’s Country and Finding Normal).  The story of Life Fine Tuned is very formulaic and predictable, yet it also seems to have a penchant for showcasing homeschool life of rural Virginia.  Don’t get us wrong—homeschooling is great (we were homeschooled), but why do homeschoolers have to isolate and label themselves so obviously?  Homeschooling isn’t about segregating yourself into a quirky subculture.  Besides this, the characters of this film are incredibly shallow and the story relies very heavily on childish coincidences.  Unfortunately, the uncreative nature of this plot renders it scoreless.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this cast is amateur and sometimes awkward, they are really trying.  They show potential, even Victoria Emmons.  Their performances definitely could have been worse.  Had they been a little bit more believable, especially with their emotions, this section would have been better.

Conclusion

We have to hand it to the creators—they tried, mostly.  This film could have been potentially saved with a more creative plot.  Use that advanced homeschool mind to craft a creative plot that silences the critics (like us).  Make a movie that’s better quality than the others.  Don’t just make another silly Christian movie that can be passed around certain circles and then forgotten about.  Take the Christian entertainment world to new heights.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Prodigal [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Levi Layton has grown up under the shadow of his father, the pastor.  Levi feels suppressed and controlled by the church atmosphere and by all the nosy busybodies who want to control his father.  His best friend constantly tries to lead him astray and he eventually lures him away from the church altogether.  With the church under financial pressures and with other churches trying to compete for their members, will the Layton family be able to come back together and pick up the pieces of their faith?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though it has somewhat amateurish origins, Prodigal is at least an average production that demonstrates effort to be mostly professional.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be, even though the soundtrack is a bit goofy.  Sets and locations are somewhat limited to a few buildings around a neighborhood, but it seems like they are used to their fullest potential.  As is common with most amateur productions, the editing of this film is not very professional.  Though some attempts are made to make it work, it still comes off as too choppy and inconsistent.  Nonetheless, this is an average production that can be built off of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Many prodigal son stories have been brought to the big screen, probably too many at this point.  However, despite its packaging, Prodigal is not really a prodigal son story in the traditional sense, as most of the plot focuses on the story before the son leaves, and even when the son does leave, it’s very brief and constricted.  There is nothing inherently wrong with trying something a little bit different, but the way this story comes off is too quirky.  There are too many failed attempts at off-the-wall comedy and too many head-scratching conversations that include some suggestive innuendo.  It almost seems like the writers are making fun of church people (which sometimes isn’t that hard or unjustified), yet it is not done very tastefully.  Trying to develop backstory for the prodigal son is actually a good idea, but it never really leads to anything.  The plot follows a linear, predictable progression with no real twists or surprises.  The Christian message therein feels very plastic and slapped together.  In the end, this was a nice try, but not good enough.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This amateur cast is better than most—they definitely have their good moments.  But they also have their bad moments as some cast members seem to embrace their role too much and others appear to be making fun of the movie (again, not that hard to do).  Though there is good to find here, too much of the acting is disingenuous and somewhat lazy, thus making this an average performance.

Conclusion

We say this all the time, but too many films on the Christian market are just all the same.  Most are neither good enough nor bad enough to warrant much attention.  Films like Prodigal easily fall through the cracks and are never heard from again—our blog is full of films like this one.  Thus, we continue our rallying mantra: as a Christian film makers, use your God-given talents to do something different that truly makes a difference, not that just adds to the endless pile of mediocrity.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Disconnect. Reconnect. (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Mark Vanderberg’s Com 16 project falls through and causes a massive error in the communications grid of the country, his employer tells him to lay low and stay home with his family until it all passes over.  With nothing better to do besides clean their rooms and discuss the curious social media site called Blended Planet, the family decides to practice their survival skills while trying to understand their strange astronomer neighbor and his antics.  But then the unthinkable happens as the power grid nearly reaches its quantum threshold and Mark is the only one who can save the world from reddish orange destruction.  What will they ever do?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Despite trying to create some kind of high-profile premise, Disconnect Reconnect has a very cheap production.  Video quality is quite poor and there are a lot of unnecessarily dark scenes.  Camera work is inconsistent.  Audio quality is unprofessional, as is the juvenile soundtrack.  Sets and locations are severely limited to one house and the surrounding neighborhood and do not give off a professional persona.  There are too many abrupt cuts and transitions in all the wrong places, thus making the editing very amateurish and silly.  Unfortunately, there is nothing positive to say about this production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Disconnect Reconnect is one of the most off-the-wall premises ever constructed.  The story is driven by very quirky and offbeat characters that are built using absurd and childish dialogue.  The writers construct a bizarre world filled with forceful references to their other films, especially product placements for Healed by Grace.  Besides the large of amount of wasted time, there is no way to really understand what is happening except for a bunch of isolating technical lingo that only demonstrates how little the writers really know about how the American communications infrastructure works.  Why center a plot around this obscure concept without attempting to be realistic?  To make matters worse, a cheap and juvenile Christian message is shoved into the story as it all culminates in one of the most laughable climax scenes ever.  In short, though this movie is good for laugh, it’s funny for all the wrong reasons.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The unintentional comedy continues into the acting as cast members unwittingly portray caricatures of themselves, as if their lines were written for a cartoon film.  Some performances are lazy while others are forceful.  Any way you look at it, it’s all one big mess.

Conclusion

It’s very difficult to pinpoint where the Blended Planet team is coming from.  They definitely wanted to be funny and different in Disconnect Reconnect, but it definitely did not work.  True comedy requires believable and accessible characters, not comic strip characters.  A comedy premise can certainly have an air of absurdity and still be good, but not this absurd.  Also, there is certainly no excuse for poor production quality.  Perhaps their work will improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

The Bill Collector [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Lorenzo Adams is a shifty sort of fellow with a past he would rather bury.  But he thinks he has it made when his boss takes a leave of absence and puts Lorenzo in charge of his debt collection call center.  However, Lorenzo suddenly gets a visit from an old enemy who has come to collect an old debt that Lorenzo owes him.  Thus, Lorenzo uses his newfound power to concoct a scheme that he thinks will get him out of trouble easily.  Yet despite his schemes, Lorenzo finds hope in unexpected places.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The production of The Bill Collector is mostly good and above average.  Camera work and video quality are professional.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is cheesy in an attempt to be funny.  Sets and locations are fairly limited but are at least realistic.  Furthermore, the editing is not the best it could be, since there are too many musical montages.  Yet overall, this is a passable production that should be commonplace in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

In an effort to make a comedic take on the parables of the shrewd manager and the unforgiving servant (I guess), The Bill Collector tries too hard to be funny and ends up falling flat.  The comedy therein is not very good since it is too forced and sometimes out of place.  Too much time is wasted, as mentioned before, on musical montages and on silly asides that are trying to boost the comedic spirit, yet fail.  Sometimes the characters are okay, but other times they are far too cheesy.  This variability depends on their dialogue at the moment.  The ending is fairly predictable and leaves something to be desired.  Basically, while it’s always commendable to try to create a comedic parable, the writers of The Bill Collector unfortunately tried too hard with this one.  Maybe they will improve in the future.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With a semi-professional cast, these performances are split down the middle.  Half of the time the cast members act over the top, while the other half of the time they are fine.  Line delivery is respectable throughout, but emotions are variable depending on the moment.  Thus, an average score is warranted.

Conclusion

There are a lot of potentially funny moments in The Bill Collector that are unfinished.  There are too many missed opportunities left on the table.  While the writers were on to something, they didn’t really find it.  Unfortunately, this film is likely to be easily forgotten by most and to get lost in the shuffle of the many Christian films on the market.  In order to truly stand out, you have to do something that is memorable for the right reasons—something that really hits home with the audience you are trying to target.  The audience is there and they’re still waiting for greatness.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Pamela’s Prayer (Movie Review)

What would my father say?

Plot Summary

After her mother died tragically, Pamela’s father threw himself into obsessing over how he was going to raise her.  Though they prayed together every night, Pamela’s father micromanaged nearly every aspect of her life and kept her in a fundamentalist bubble.  He determined that God’s will for her life was and wouldn’t let her date anyone until he hand-picks the first guy who comes to work for his archaic film ministry for her to hang out with.  After being brainwashed all her life, Pamela goes along with it, even though this relationship has no substance, because she too must be the guardian of the fundamentalist-patriarchal flame.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

If you’re going to make a movie about patriarchal propaganda, the least you can do is make the production good.  But no, Pamela’s Prayer sports a medieval production quality reminiscent of Bob Jones University’s Unusual Films (that’s not the only reason this movie is similar to those).  It’s very cheap overall, including grainy video and audio quality, very pedestrian camera work, and an extremely clanky soundtrack that sounds like it was recorded in some tiny Bible Belt church (no offense).  The sets and locations are severely limited (just like the minds of the writers), and there is absolutely no editing as the condensed life of an unsuspecting girl raised in a cult-like atmosphere is portrayed in just under sixty minutes.  But that’s not all that’s wrong with this disaster.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Pamela’s Prayer is not a fitting enough title, since this story is entirely centered around normalizing a creepy ideology of patriarchy that seeks to control every aspect of a girl’s life. Using completely empty and one-dimensional characters, including extremely perfect white Christians and very bad ‘worldly’ Christians (like Timothy Chey’s carnal Christians), the patriarchal worldview is shamelessly shoved down your throat.  If you want people to convert to your cause, at least try to depict real people, not cardboard cutouts the spew talking points.  also, try to actually write a realistic story that is accessible to most people, not some alternate universe portrayal of life.  Nevertheless, this film is very legalistic propaganda that aggressively pushes an agenda and has no place in Christian entertainment.  Hence, negative points are warranted.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Once again, the Christiano team shows us how to distribute propaganda in the worst fashion possible.  Choosing the most extremely white and awkwardly stiff cast possible, they fed the cast members lines and made sure they looked like good little white Christians, and that was about it.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are very wooden and robotic, but this was probably mission accomplished for the Christianos.  Yet people wonder why people cringe at the thought of Christian films.

Conclusion

After watching a movie like this, one can only conclude that the people who push this sort of legalism on others also believe that those who are not perfect little white Christians cannot be redeemed or restored.  The type of parenting that is portrayed in this film as good is exactly the reason why young people ‘fall away from Christianity’ or ‘lose their faith’.  God didn’t tell Christian parents to keep their children in little fundamentalist bubbles all their lives or to micromanage every aspect of them, but to create a loving environment where the children learn Who God is (based on actions more than words) and how they can follow Him.  Of course children need to be protected from harm and wrongdoing, but raising them in a cult-like atmosphere is equally detrimental.  We need Christian families that actually care about each other, not dictate lists of specific rules to follow that are geared toward patriarchy and are designed to create little ‘perfect’ robots.  If there’s one reason why a lot of people dislike Christianity, this movie embodies every aspect of it.

 

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

 

Turn Around Jake (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jake has a dream job, a flashy fiancé, and everything he ever wanted, until one day when it all comes crashing down.  He is forced by his boss to take the fall for something illegal the company did and is left homeless and on the run from the law.  Jake has nowhere to turn, so he is forced to go back to the home he ran from—including the father and the girlfriend he left behind to pursue his dreams.  What he finds is that everything he was looking for was right in front of him.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In the recent days of PureFlix, they have mastered the art of doing just enough to make a production look good on the surface.  Turn Around Jake is no exception to this rule.  Camera work, video quality, and audio quality are all on par.  The soundtrack is one of those childish attempts at comedy tunes, but is mostly typical.  Sets and locations are fairly limited but are passable.  There is really no editing present as the storyline just follows a stereotypical progression.  In short, there is really nothing out of the ordinary to say about this production—it’s standard and a little above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Turn Around Jake is really nothing but a typical city-character-returns-to-struggling-hometown-and-fixes-things plots.  This is also mixed with a dose of a prodigal character plot.  Everything is there: the old girlfriend, the parental character, the city characters who try to pull him back, and the other rural caricatures.  Besides this word-out premise, there are a lot of absurdly childish characters, dialogue, and asides that really make no sense except that the writers tried to force a lot of comedy but failed miserably at it.  As the story rushes through a predictable progression that hits all the expected points, it peddles a very cheap Christian message that cannot be respected and feels like it was shoved in so PureFlix would carry it.  Essentially, there is nothing original, creative, or worthwhile here, thus warranting no points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

While there is some good here, for the most part, this cast is over the top and awkward.  They are painfully lacking coaching as their attempts at being funny and witty completely fall flat.  As a bright spot, Jen Lilley continues to outshine otherwise laughable PureFlix casts.  It would be interesting to see her in a more upstanding film.

Conclusion

In the end, Turn Around Jake is business as usual for the inspirational film business.  Somewhere they keep a database of the very small and limited scope of reusable inspirational plots (we think Hallmark is the gatekeeper of such secrets) and every time a new film makers needs a story they can easily peddle to the masses, they pick one for themselves.  Among these plots are the closely related prodigal character plot, the hometown return plot, and the fish-out-of-water plot.  Turn Around Jake borrows elements from each of these conventions and mixes them into its own awkward comedy style.  Anything that involves all of these elements is probably doomed from the start.  How about trying something original?

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Skid [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Danny McSweeney never asked to co-pilot a plane full of eccentric characters so soon after his girlfriend broke up with him, especially when he has to co-pilot with a difficult female captain who seems to have no mercy for anyone, especially not for their high maintenance flight crew.  The stakes are raised when an airline investigator joins the flight to watch their performance.  Little do they know that besides carrying a Dutch prisoner, a man smuggling diamonds, a woman with her potbellied pig, a jilted ex-girlfriend, and a woman and her elderly mother, an airline spy has been assigned to audit the flight’s customer service.  But when push comes to shove and it comes to life or death situations, the real heroes will be seen.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Skid is truly an ambitious independent effort.  Though production elements are a little shaky at first, likely due to low budgeting in the early stages.  This includes some shaky camera work and odd camera angles, as well as a touch of low video quality and poor lighting.  However, all of this improves as the movie goes on.  Audio quality also improves throughout, and sports an interesting and creative soundtrack.  Though the sets are mostly limited to one airplane, they are used effectively and give off a realistic feel.  By the time the climax is reached, Skid feels like a full-fledged suspense film, despite its limited budget.  This production team should be proud of what they were able to accomplish.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Adapted from the genius of Rene Gutteridge, Skid brings a fresh genre perspective to Christian film.  Though it tends to jump all over the place at first due to the myriad of characters, things settle down as the movie goes on.  There are many characters, yet the plot is deeply dialogue-driven and creative.  This story is an example of why we desperately want to see more Christian novels brought to the big screen, especially novels from authors who put great effort into developing characters like Gutteridge does.  Plenty of genuine and somewhat eccentric comedy ensues in Skid and is captured effectively by the writers of this film.  The longer you stick with it, the better it gets, until it culminates in an extremely well-executed ending sequence.  Though the end is a little predictable, it’s still worth watching and brings fresh air to Christian film.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Though this cast is a little awkward at times, they really pull off a show-stopping performance to be so ‘little known’.  Each cast member assumes their character flawlessly, thus reflecting on excellent casting, especially with so many people to cast.  Like the rest of this film, the acting quality overall improves as the movie progresses, showing an ability to learn on the job.  Overall, this is the film’s strongest suit.

Conclusion

Skid is exactly the way a first-time project should be: making the best of a limited budget and demonstrating true creativity.  Using a book plot is always a great jump start to your career.  This film is your textbook raw beginning that lives up to its fullest potential and demonstrates greater abilities for the future.  We would love to see Tim and Vicki Brown and team do an action-adventure film in the future, although doing more Rene Gutteridge books is certainly a great idea too.  No matter where they go next, we have high hopes for them and wish them well.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

Project Dinosaur [2000] (Movie Review)

The information room? Correct!

Plot Summary

When Mikey crashes his unusual (haha) remote controlled airplane that probably shouldn’t have worked anyway, he sends one of his female friends to retrieve it, since that’s a woman’s job or something.  But she falls into a hole and accidentally finds a so-called dinosaur bone that was clearly planted in the dirt as it was hardly buried at all.  The only conclusion is that it’s a dinosaur bone, so Mikey swipes it for his new ‘science project’.  Now all they have to do is research some creationism versus evolution talking points, use an archaic computer program to look up types of dinosaurs, and avoid the evil bully Simon, who is bent on destroying the science project for some reason.  Just another day in the life of a Bob Jones kid.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Another day, another poor production spewed from the minds of white patriarchal Christians.  So much for making Christian things quality.  Video quality is grainy and camera work is pedestrian.  Audio quality is quite low, including a stupid childish soundtrack.  Sets and locations are limited to that same old ‘bed and breakfast’ from Treasure Map and a few others.  Special effects are horrid, including a stupid little beeping computer program that was clearly made for children.  Finally, editing is thrown out the window as a good portion of the beginning of Project Dinosaur rehashes things nobody cares about from Treasure Map.  In short, there is little to no point in making movies like this except to push an agenda, as we will see next.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

There is zero purpose in an unwanted remake of one of the world’s most horrid films of all time except to push the agenda of creating an extremely rigid dichotomy between creationism and evolution by making a strawman out of everything the writers disagree with.  This propaganda piece is barely an hour long, including rehashing from this movie’s predecessor, as if we care where these characters came from.  These perfect little white robots are programmed with childish dialogue and talking points that expose the ridiculous patriarchal fundamentalist worldview of the creators.  Essentially, with no real conflict or substance, the only reason to waste your time on this mess if you need a good laugh.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Who ever thought it was a good idea to copy over a majority of the Treasure Map cast?  The only ones missing are Edward White Eyes and his grandfather.  But this doesn’t alleviate the fact that not a single one of these cast members should have ever been cast ever again, period.  Yet when you have such a limited pool of perfect little white people who agree with your worldview, what’s a film maker to do?

Conclusion

Sadly, the saga of these white kids ended with Project Dinosaur and we have no more chances to know what happened to them!  As if we cared about what they were doing in the first place.  In all seriousness, it should be noted that the creators of Box Office Revolution were all homeschooled yet we wholeheartedly disagree with the worldviews propagated by fundamentalist Christina groups like Bob Jones.  We have nothing against this model of education, but we do take issue with Christians who purposely isolate themselves in bubbles and refuse to listen to people on ‘the other side’.  This is the real problem with this type of movie, as it further sinks Christian film to new lows.  But hopefully we are past this sort of thing in Christian entertainment.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

A Place in the Heart [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Jason Burkey’s heart is broken by a girl he thought he would spend the rest of his life with, he gives up a basketball scholarship (as he is frequently reminded) and does the most natural thing anyone would do: run away to live on a remote island with his reclusive father, Kevin Sorbo.  But seven years later, Kevin Sorbo get tired of the island and decided to buy a sombrero and live the rest of his days on a boat.  So Jason Burkey is forced to go back to the hometown he bitterly left behind and finds everything very similar to the way he left it.  He’s still angry at Ben Davies and won’t talk to him, but he slowly finds that the plans he originally had may not have been the best for him—including that basketball scholarship!

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

On the surface, like many productions, A Place in the Heart seems fine.  Video quality and camera work are on par.  Sets, locations, and props are acceptable.  However, audio quality is inconsistent—sometimes too loud and other times too soft.  The soundtrack is regularly too loud and is at times juvenile.  As for editing, there are too many awkward transitions and there is too much choppy content as the film jumps from one thing to the next.  In the end, this production is just average, but it seems like it could have been much more than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Loosely based on The Great Gatsby, A Place in the Heart has a mild amount of complexity, yet this complexity is detracted from by a lot of amateur elements.  Narration used as a crutch to fill in the missing parts of the plot that are due to unnecessary time jumps, even though it is a stereotypical return-to-hometown style plot.  Parts of the premise are forced, unrealistic, and based too much on coincidences, while there are tons of manufactured dramas and childish sequences.  Dialogue is very stiff and stilted, including very unusual statements and asides, thus creating very awkward and wooden characters.  However, despite all of these issues, the second half of the film is slightly better than the first half, and contains a partially interesting message and point if you make it that far.  But in the end, the only reason for any plot twists is the fact that this plot is borrowed from other sources.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Any small amount of good that is accomplished in this film is totally derailed by this awful casting job.  Any cast that includes Jason Burkey, Kevin Sorbo, and Ben Davies without coaching is sure to be a disaster.  Every character is represented by a very awkward cast member that exhibits mumbled lines, fake emotions, and generally poor line delivery.  Unfortunately, this film shows that good intentions can be greatly hurt by poor casting.

Conclusion

Romance is a very difficult genre to write because it can very easily become a high-school-level of cheesy.  Regrettably, A Place in the Heart commits almost every common romance error all at once.  On top of this, the production isn’t what it should be and the casting is deplorable.  Movies like this are painful to see because they are so prominent in Christian film.  This is not what the face of Christian film should look like, as we have said time and again.  Yet hopefully, slowly, this trend is changing.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Love Different (Movie Review)

Thug life.

Plot Summary

When a dippy white blonde named Jenn Gotzon Lindsay decides to take a job at an African-American marketing firm, she finds herself in the midst of a major culture shock.  So the head of the firm assigns his best marketer, Neque, to help Lindsay integrate into the new culture that she is completely foreign to.  Little do neither of them know that they are both in for a new look at life, not only their own lives, but also the lives of others.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For the most part, Love Different sports professional production quality.  Camera work, video quality, and audio quality are all on par with what they should be.  The soundtrack is a little quirky, but it seems to work.  Sets and locations are adequate for this story.  There is really little to complain about here, except for some choppy editing as this film tends to jump from one supposedly funny sequence to another.  But otherwise, this is what productions should look like, even if the story is greatly lacking.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

What. Is. Happening.  From one forced comedy scene to the next and from one quirky racial joke to another, there is no sense here and little method to this madness.  A lot of the time, it seems like these cast members were set free to ad-lib with no real direction except to act as juvenile and silly as possible and to make as many racial jokes as they can get away with.  This story feels like it has the zany influence of David A. R. White, Kevin Downes, and Tommy Blaze, but it does not.  As previously mentioned, this story is really just a loose collection of skits about racial differences with a few ‘meaningful’ scenes sprinkled in.  It’s hard to follow the arc of these characters as one is constantly distracted by the outrageous behaviors of Jenn Gotzon that simply have to be seen for yourself.  A lot of the dialogue constantly refers back to racial differences without truly building these characters beyond their skin color.  Yet believe it or not, there is a powerful message hidden somewhere in the midst of the zaniness, if you stick around long enough to find it.  But in the end, any movie that includes Jenn Gotzon trying to act like she’s African-American cannot be taken seriously.  It’s funny for all the wrong reasons and is simply too much to be true comedy.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Sometimes it seems like this cast has potential.  But then it doesn’t.  Jenn Gotzon is a self-parody in this film with all her antics.  Other cast members seem like they have potential and even have good moments, but they short themselves by acting like fools in attempts to be comedic.  They really seem like they are better than this, which makes this performance overall disappointing.

Conclusion

In the opening credits, God is blamed as an executive producer of this train wreck.  Can I just say, please don’t blame God for your disasters.  There is certainly a place for comedy centered around cultural differences and how we tend to isolate ourselves from different people, but whatever good Love Different was trying to accomplish unfortunately falls flat.  There are simply too many outrageous sequences and purposely over-the-top comedy elements for this movie to fully accomplish its goal.  There are so many memorable moments in this movie that are memorable for the wrong reasons.  From a class dedicated to teaching white people about African-Americans to Bon Quisha and Jenn Gotzon’s thug life, Love Different is one for the history books, but we’re not sure if its original intent will be remembered in the midst of the outrageousness.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

So Help Us God [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Eddy gets laid off from Fazzle Glue, whom he has worked for over twenty years, his self-parody gothic daughter decides that the only logical thing to do is to take Grandpa Will to the magical tree where he used to go with Eddy’s mother so Grandpa Will can bury her ashes under it.  Yeah, he carries her ashes around in an urn all the time.  So they decide to take Eddy’s wife, who somehow has Parkinson’s disease, and both annoying daughters along for an RV trip into the middle of nowhere.  And the youngest daughter brought her pet goat along, naturally.  Come along for a goofy ride you’ll never forget!

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Surprisingly, So Help Us God is an improvement from past Faith House productions, but that’s not really saying much.  At least video quality is clear and camera work is somewhat improved.  Audio quality is still a problem, however, and this film has the goofiest soundtrack ever.  Sets and locations are on the rise, if you count having a few buildings besides the RV.  Also, the flashbacks have an unusually different quality about them for some reason.  But as usual for Faith House, there is no editing present—all content is included, which isn’t much to begin with.  In the end, this is Faith House’s best production to date, which really shows how much of a mess they are.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Similarly, this is the most complex plot Faith House has to offer, but once again, this is not saying much, as it still makes no sense.  The entirety of the plot can be found in the trailer.  Most of the comedy is very corny and forced, and thus, it falls flat.  This story is funny for all the wrong reasons.  The premise and the characters therein are highly eccentric, seemingly on purpose.  It wastes tons of time on silly asides and typical activities of daily living, not to mention long and confusing flashbacks that only convolute things.  Finally, everything is easily and juvenilely fixed in the end, leaving the audience feeling like they just wasted their time.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Besides some typical Faith House cast members, we see a few additions in So Help Us God, even though they are all overall wacky and self-parody.  Though they can sometimes be funny and entertaining, there is too much shouting and mumbling.  Emotions seem childish.  Basically, another standard Faith House acting job.

Conclusion

This title is highly apropos as we conclude our Faith House binge.  Faith House certainly needs help from a divine source if they are going to continue to roll out silly and nonsensical films.  For that matter, the whole of Christian entertainment needs divine intervention if these are things that are being made and are being marketed as accessible Christian film.  What are non-Christians and sensible Christians supposed to think of this childishness?  There is such a thing as a good comedy, and there’s also unfortunately such a thing as an unintentional comedy.  Unfortunately, So Help Us God is more of the latter.  But at least we’re done with Faith House…for now…

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Divine Will [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Will Blessing got in too much trouble in the city, so his uncle, the famous rock star Dave Blessing, decides to take a job as a music minister in a church in the small town of Punkyville.  So along with Dave’s eccentric sister Jenny, Will and his uncle pack up and go to the weirdly eccentric, self-parody town of Punkyville and meet all sorts of zany off-the-wall characters that promise to make their life interesting.  Will’s also got this gift of fixing people’s problems or something.  So If you’re looking for a comedic musical sure to entertain, this is the film for you.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The one thing we can say for this diatribe is that they at least attempted an average production quality.  Video quality, audio quality, and camera work are on par.  However, the soundtrack obnoxious as characters randomly burst into song when they feel like it.  The sets and locations are also cheap looking and there are some cheesy special effects.  There is really no editing in this film as it seems like every possible stupid amount of content was included.  Basically, while some money was spent in this production, we have no idea why.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

What is this?  Seriously, what is this?  What do the writers take us for?  Is this film geared toward children?  Trust me, we tried to find some clarity, but found none.  Between the impromptu musicals, the zany characters, the bizarre dialogue, and generally random things just happening for no reason, there is no way to follow this madness.  It jumps from one thing to the next and has the feel of a cheap cable television show on a family-friendly channel.  There is no real plot to speak of and nothing to be gained from these empty-headed characters.  A lot of it is seemingly silly for the sake of silliness and sometimes seems to make fun of disabled people.  In short, there is no purpose to this story except for laughs.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Needless to say, this is not the way to cast a film.  While there was really nothing for these actors and actresses to work with, one has to wonder what exactly is going on here.  Do these people like to be portrayed in this way?  Do they watch themselves?  We really can’t say much beyond this, except that you have to watch it to understand what we’re talking about.

Conclusion

So you have some money for a film and you decide to not only rip off a worn out plot concept parodying a small town, but you do so in such an astronomically ridiculous fashion, that it makes Tommy Blaze look smart.  We even considered putting this film in the special category with The Rev; that’s how ridiculous it is.  Sigh.  There is nothing much left to do but finish another review for another stupidly embarrassing Christian movie and wonder what exactly it is that PureFlix turns away.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out 10 points

 

 

Full disclosure: We were provided by the creator with a copy of this film in exchange for a fair and honest review