China Cry (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Sung Neng Yee was glad when the Chinese Communists rose to power in her homeland to drive out the occupying Japanese, but she never anticipated the ultimate consequences this would cause. First, it cost her father his wealth and respect as a successful doctor, and then, the Communists began to tighten their grip on every aspect of Chinese life. However, she and her fellow people adjusted and went forward. Moreover, after beginning a family of her own, Sung Yeng Nee was accused of consorting with Westernizers and Christians. In the darkest moment of her life, she reached out to the God she had always shunned for the help only He could give her.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As an early 1990s production, China Cry has a handful of concerns with it, such as a loud, outdated soundtrack and odd soft lighting at times. Video quality is also sometimes blurry even though the camera work is overall fine, including good establishing shots. For the most part, audio quality is average, and the sets, locations, and props are very realistic, culturally accurate, and historically appropriate. Although the film overall seems outdated and has a lot of quick cuts and awkward transitions due to time jumps in the plot, the production does enough to achieve an average rating, especially considering the time period it was made in.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Right out of the gate, unnecessary narration tends to hurt the plot development, but once it ceases, things begin to unfold naturally without hindrances even though the narration does pop up here and there afterward. Had more substantial and qualitative flashbacks been employed to replace the narration, this plot would have been even better. This would have better helped to bridge the large time jumps throughout the story (non-linear plot structure is the only way to effectively handle lots of content), yet on its face, this narrative is still engaging and very intriguing due to the obscurely interesting portions of history it explores. Key themes are subtly introduced in order to let the character feel more authentic and real than they otherwise would be; the writers definitely did a good job at presenting people at face value rather than trying to push messages via strawmen. Even still, there are some lagging scenes that could have been better re-purposed to improve character growth even more, especially since the second half of the story tends to rush through a lot of content that would have been better explored slowly. This is why a non-linear plot style centered around the weak explanation for the narration would have been appropriate. In the end, China Cry still packs a very powerful message that’s still relevant for all Christians today. It’s too bad that’s is hidden behind poorly designed storytelling, but this true account is nonetheless engaging for all audiences.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Although many of the cast members tend to be dramatically stiff, the lead actress and lead actor are standouts for their comfortably real line delivery and believable emotions. Others tend to lack natural flair for acting, but it’s refreshing to see a culturally authentic cast. Costuming also reflects this commitment to cultural accuracy. In the end, the acting improves enough by the second half of the movie, and the lead acting carries it most of the way.

Conclusion

China Cry definitely deserves a remake, possibly in a miniseries form to further explore alternate subplots and to present the story in a more comprehensive and non-linear fashion. In the end, this film was made very early on in Christian entertainment, but it was onto something we don’t see in many newer movies: a poignant message about relying on God during difficult times and witnessing His miraculous intervention. Thus, many audiences will enjoy this movie, and maybe, new film makers will be inspired to try something outside the norm.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

Bonhoeffer, Agent of Grace (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Dietrich Bonhoeffer didn’t want to get involved as the Nazis rose to power in Germany and demanded absolute submission from all institutions, including churches. However, after taking time away in America, he sensed God calling him back to his homeland. Then, the Nazi regime hit home as his twin sister and her Jewish husband had to escape Germany for fear of Nazi nationalism. Thus, when a close friend invited him to get involved in the underground working against Nazi power, Bonhoeffer felt he had to do something to stand against tyranny. Nonetheless, he never anticipated how far he would have to go and what he would experience as a result.

Production Quality (2 points)

For an early 2000s production, it’s clear that a lot of effort was put into Agent of Grace to make it historically authentic, which is evidenced by a great use of realistic-looking sets, props, and locations. Also, the video quality is mostly good except for some outdated-looking portions, and the camera work is standard. Audio quality is on the mark, but it would be nice if there was a more substantial soundtrack to enhance the emotional experience. At the beginning of the movie, the editing is commendable as it uses an overlaying style with effective out-of-order storytelling, yet this is discarded in the last two-thirds of the film and replaced with a very standard linear style. There are also some abruptly awkward cuts that put a damper on things, but overall, this is a respectable production, especially for the time period, and is good enough to be above-average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

There’s no doubt that the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is an excellent and worthwhile one to tell, and in this endeavor, this storyline makes good attempts at character development via adequate dialogue. Where the beginning and the end are interesting, the middle of the story tends to sag a bit as it’s not very engaging and merely presents a collection of isolated and disconnected scenes where things sometimes happen without much lead-up. The good thing is that narration, while it would have been easy to lean on, is entirely avoided, and the conversations between characters are realistic enough. The quick passage of time in the narrative is often difficult to deal with, so it might have been better to frame the entire story as a flashback from the ending sequence since bridging large time gaps while also keeping audience isn’t an easy feat at all. Even still, many sequences are quite good and make the movie worth your time although the amount of off-screen content shows there’s too much in this story to cover in one film. In the end, Agent of Grace is a great effort and is one that was rarely seen in the early 2000s, so at the very least, it makes for a good historical experience.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The best part of this movie is the culturally correct acting and the culturally authentic casting. The costuming is also historically accurate. Besides this, the actual acting quality is very professional, including line delivery and emotional expression. There are very few errors to note here…there are just a few lapses, but this may be due to other elements. Overall, this strong section is enough to push the film past the halfway mark.

Conclusion

This historical account would definitely work better as a miniseries, especially since there are many side plots that didn’t have a chance for exploration in Agent of Grace. There’s a lot of interest and intrigue surrounding this period of history, so more time would have been good. Unfortunately, this film was made before Christian series were even considered outside the children’s entertainment realm; thus, a remake of Bonhoeffer’s narrative and the related elements would be pertinent. Nevertheless, this movie is still worth your time as it portrays a highly important tale that’s still relevant for us today.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

Blackbear {Submission} [2019] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Blackbear was a covert military operative tasked with secretly taking out terrorists in the Middle East, but an unexpected turn of events led to his unit’s capture. While a prisoner of war, they were subjected to cruel torture, and even though they were able to escape, they were each left with serious health consequences due to the drugs that were forced upon them. Back the US, their minds are still at war as they each try to find ways to cope with the pain. Blackbear decides he needs to take up boxing again under his old coach, but he never anticipated the journey he would have to go on to find healing.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For a first-time, slightly underfunded production, Blackbear (formerly known as Submission) has some positive aspects but also some negative elements. For one, the attempts are constructing realistic sets, locations, and props, especially in the war scenes, are commendable and feel authentic. However, audio is sometimes unbalanced, and at times, the camera work is quite dizzying due to dramatic effect. While the video quality is very crisp throughout, a lot of spoken lines are obviously overdubbed, and there are some loud background noises throughout. Despite some cheap and disorienting special effects and one too many dark scenes, the soundtrack is quite good as it includes relevant NF songs. Moreover, the biggest drawback to this production is the poor editing; there are a lot of quick cuts and awkward transitions that make the viewer feel like things are rushing too quickly. For these reasons, the story comes off as choppy, but there are other concerns there as well. As a whole, while this is just an average production, there is potential here, and the complexity of the subject matter is definitely taken into consideration.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

All around, Blackbear is one big mixed bag. It’s clear that the creators really wanted to do something creative with this plot, but it got lost in its own head, so to speak. For one, the dialogue includes authentic military lingo that speaks to good expertise and research on the topic, but the plot itself moves forward too quickly as events occur without good reasons and as storytelling is overall disorganized. It seems like things happen because the writers need them to happen rather than natural events unfolding or characters making choices based on personality and motive. Moreover, there are still good things to note here, such as a good exploration of how self medication of military trauma comes to be and how secret government operations mistreat and abuse people for their own purposes. Nonetheless, all of these themes are just thrown into the proverbial pile since there aren’t any central purposes or focuses that keep the story grounded, which allows it to meander around various topics, like unethical value imposition in the medical field, cheesy portrayals of non-American characters, obscure boxing events, strawman sports villains, and vague references to abstract medical treatments that go over the audience’s heads. Throughout all of this spider-webbing, the dialogue isn’t enough to build believable characters, which is a shame due to the empty sequences of staring that waste precious time, not to mention some of the vague and understated subplots that need to be either integrated better or edited out. All of these issues are rolled in with typical sports movie tropes: training montages, impossible sports feat conversations, random local news reports, and unrealistic looks at heroin recovery; as a side note, this is the most addictive substance known to man, and nobody can just quit it cold turkey. Nonetheless, despite all of these complex issues, there is a surprisingly interesting and actually realistic twist at the end of the film that tries to tie things together in some fashion. The conclusion is very non-typical in most ways, but the monologue by one of the characters at the end isn’t enough to fix what could have been an interesting story. Characters all of a sudden become more interesting at the end, but it’s too late at this point; it would have been better to showcase the creative concepts throughout the movie rather than putting it all at the end. Even so, the way it ends still shows potential for future projects.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While a lot of the acting in Blackbear leaves something to be desired due to quite a bit of forceful and unnatural delivery styles, there are some good attempts at culturally authentic casting. Although there are a lot of blank and emotionless performances at key moments in the film, at least some of them can be explained by the psychological torture the protagonist underwent. In this vein, Scott Pryor is definitely good at playing a mind control victim. Elsewhere, some line delivery is very quick, and Eric Roberts is poorly cast as an incongruous character, but there are enough good performances throughout to keep this section average, which aligns nicely with the other sections of the movie.

Conclusion

No matter how convoluted it seems at times, on the whole, Christian entertainment is getting braver. New film makers are trying different things, and this is encouraging to see because it’s what we desperately need. The final sequences of Blackbear demonstrate creative ideas that can be used in more efficient ways, such as a series collaboration. This forum would allow the good concepts to be packaged in better ways that would reach audiences and get their messaging out there. The concept behind this film needs some type of redo, so hopefully, we’ll see more from this creative team in the coming days.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

The Christ Slayer (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Longinus was raised by the Magi, but he never fully believed the stories they told of the Messiah as he rose through the ranks of the Roman army. he was at the pinnacle of his career, but an injury led to blindness, forcing him out of service. As he languished in darkness with a servant to guide his daily activities, he never dreamed that his life would be forever changed when he helped end a seemingly meaningless crucifixion of the One they called the King of the Jews.

Production Quality (2 points)

Over time, DJ Perry and his creative have definitely improved their production skills as The Christ Slayer demonstrates good camera work, effective camera angles, and professional video quality. The audio quality is also fine for the more part, and the soundtrack is culturally authentic. While the sets, locations, and props are great, the outdoor scenes are better since some of the indoor shots are a bit too dark and disorienting. Some of the editing could have been more consistent and understandable, but on the whole, this production is adequate and shows commitment to improving.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The Quest Trilogy has taken many different turns, and at this point, the ending is better than the beginning. At its inception, some parts were hard to grasp and a bit too abstract, but the unique turn in The Christ Slayer definitely helped things. This is a unique extra-Biblical plot that gives a fresh perspective on the events surrounding the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, and it sports the typical abstractly creative concepts of the CDI team. The spiritual elements from Forty Nights and Chasing the Star are included in this third installment, but they are presented in more accessible fashions. Similarly, the psychological themes of The Christ Slayer are fairly well-utilized, and integration of Biblical accounts is creatively woven together with the main plot. There are a few drawbacks, however, that keep this plot from being all that it could be. For instance, there are quite a few slow scenes that tend to be too artistic such that the audience has trouble understanding them, and some of the characters’ dialogue is a bit archaic and drawn-out. There are some expository conversations that replace better character development, and sometimes, the Jesus character is a bit too ethereal and inaccessible, but as a whole, this is a fine Easter plot that demonstrates unique storytelling.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Probably the brightest spot of this film’s cast is the awesome idea to cast a special needs cast member in a role that doesn’t over-emphasize his condition. Treating him as a regular actor is a huge step forward for disability rights, so this creative team’s decision to do this shows a deeper care for inclusion in the arts. Elsewhere in this cast, some of the main cast members are good while some could use more efficient coaching to avoid being too theatrical and dramatic. As a whole, the acting is average, but it could have been better if emotions were more accessible. In the end, The Christ Slayer is a good end to the Quest Trilogy.

Conclusion

DJ Perry and company have a lot going for them, so it will be interesting to see how they will be able to collaborate with other talent in the future. Throughout their careers, they have only gotten better as they have adapted and changed, which is encouraging to see. Sometimes trilogies end worse than they begin, so since the Quest Trilogy has ended on a good note, this will hopefully be a springboard to better things in the future for CDI entertainment.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

40: The Temptation of Christ (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

After Jesus’ baptism and before his earthly ministry officially began, he went into the desert for forty days, where He was tempted by the devil to forfeit His work before it even began. Satan used many tactics to convince Jesus to fall, yet Christ remained without sin in the trials. As Jesus endured the hardship, He experienced human pain and suffering that prepared Him to relate to those who needed His power the most.

Production Quality (2 points)

While this film’s budget was somewhat limited due to its independent nature, resources were clearly allocated responsibly. Although there are some cheap special effects and sound effects, mostly toward the beginning of the film, there is plenty of positive to note here. The first thirty minutes of the movie are the hardest because these contain some poor editing and lagging scenes, but once the film progresses past this point, things begin to look up. There are some elements of shaky camera work throughout, but the outdoor locations used are very engaging and professionally shot. The perspective filming is effective, and the soundtrack is highly engaging in many parts as it adds to the viewing experience. Further, video quality is crisp throughout, and even though it takes a bit, the production slowly becomes a great one, which is a testament to what this team could pull off with more resources under their belt.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Like the production, the plot is a bit shaky at first, mostly due to immediate and unnecessary narration. Jesus is also a bit too theatrical and inaccessible as a character at first, but He definitely gets better as the story goes on. It’s somewhat difficult to get through the first thirty minutes of the film because of these issues and because of some lagging scenes, so it’s possible that this idea may have worked better as a short film. However, once the thirty-minute mark has been passed, things change for the better since a really good idea is revealed. The use of flashbacks and flash-forwards is very effective to bridge time and to reinforce the psychological elements that the temptations are based on, which are very well-constructed. The core of the plot is based on a collection of very engaging and creative conversations that clearly show what the film was made for. Old Testament prophecies are integrated very well into the dialogue, which is something we don’t see enough of in Bible films. As a whole, this creative team’s take on the temptations of Jesus is very interesting and innovative, mostly due to well-executed psychological sequences that go hand-in-hand extremely well with the flashbacks, mostly because the viewer doesn’t always see the temptation coming. In the end, the use of symbolism and artistic elements are effective in presenting a familiar Bible story in a new, creative way, and the horror elements are handled well without being too sensational. Thus, there is a lot of potential for this creative team through future collaborations.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While the cast is not entirely culturally authentic, this can be forgiven due to the limited budget of the project. At first, the line delivery and emotions come off as too forced and theatrical, but they moderate as the film progresses and show concerted improvement. Due the small cast, they carry the whole film on their shoulders, and for the most part, they post good performances by the movie’s conclusion. This rounds out an overall refreshing independent effort, which plants promising seeds for the future.

Conclusion

It’s difficult to portray the temptations of Jesus properly without a good understanding of human psychology. As a whole, this creative team appears to have such an understanding. The Temptation of Christ is everything a first-time, self-funded project should be: as good of a production as possible, a well-written plot that demonstrates talent that can be developed in the future, and a good enough acting performance to carry the day. Thus, we can’t wait to see what these film makers have to offer once they are given better funding opportunities.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Mary Magdalene: Close to Jesus (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Mary Magdalene lived a dark life before she encountered Jesus of Nazareth, and her bondage and past mistakes always tried to call her back. However, her experience with Jesus forever changed her life. She sought to serve Him and follow Him whenever she could, and her influence that came as a result of her time with Jesus had a positive effect on those around her.

Production Quality (2 points)

The early 2000s Bible films produced by the collaboration between the Trinity Broadcasting Network and Lux Vide were certainly well-funded, which translated to great attention to historical detail. Other production elements were also professional, including video quality and camera work. The sets, locations, and props reflected attempts at authenticity, and the editing was streamlined. However, there were a few issues with audio in Mary Magdalene. For one, there are a lot of very obvious overdubs that seem unnecessary. On paper, the audio seems fine, but the soundtrack is sometimes archaic and incongruous, and any presence of overdubbing speaks to sound problems. Nevertheless, this film has an above-average production that is good enough but not dynamic.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The story of Mary Magdalene is definitely an interesting Biblical account this isn’t focused on enough; however, this rendition gives an odd take on the story since there isn’t enough exploration as to how she became originally possessed. This is a central point in the story, so focusing on tangential content instead of this core concept is unusual at best. Lacking a coherent bondage storyline makes it hard for the viewer to appreciate Mary’s redemption arc. Elsewhere in the story, time seems to move too quickly, and there are some unnecessary alterations to the historical account. All of this hampers proper character development due to stunted dialogue and little continuity. While the portrayal of Herod is fine, John the Baptist is too nutty, and Jesus is too inaccessible and ethereal. There is also some unnecessary suggestive content that could have been shown more tastefully. In the end, while the movie’s plot had a lot of potential, it falls flat for a number of reasons and shows that unskilled screen writing can hurt any good idea.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, the cast of Mary Magdalene is not completely culturally authentic, which is manifest in unrealistic accents. However, the historical costuming is one of the stronger points of the film. Nonetheless, emotions among the cast members are often too forceful, dramatic, and theatrical. Line delivery is too robotic at times, but there are some positive elements that keep the acting from level zero. In the end, this section is still below average, and this movie is another not-good-enough Bible film.

Conclusion

The TBN\Lux Vide combo definitely tried to blaze some trails in the early 2000s with regard to Bible films, but they too often missed the mark. It wasn’t for lack of budget; rather, inadequate screenwriting held their Biblical accounts back from being all they could have been. Having the characters cross back and forth between the different films was a great universe-connecting idea, but it was in vain since they didn’t have wide appeal. For future learning, current film makers can take notes from these films on how to go about crafting Biblical epics without repeating the old mistakes.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Palau: The Movie (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Luis Palau, a world-renowned missionary, had meager beginnings in his life, but this did not hold him back from being all he could be for God. Under the mentorship of key people God placed in his life, Palau brought the Gospel to the countries and locations God laid on his heart and set an example for evangelism. Even today, the impact of his work is still being felt.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

While this is obviously a good idea on paper for a Christian film, it seems like the execution was only partial due to budget constraints. This fact is evident in the limited sets, locations, and props, even though they still demonstrate great attempts at historical and cultural accuracy. The lighting of the scenes is back and forth with indoor scenes mostly poorly lit while outside scenes are fine. The camera work is also acceptable, along with the audio quality. At times, there are background noises, however, and the soundtrack, while culturally authentic, seems forced at times. Further, the editing is somewhat choppy, but on the whole, this production is basically average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As previously mentioned, the story of Luis Palau is a great true story to base a film upon, but the way it was conducted with this rendition wasn’t adequate in fully communicating the important messages therein. From the beginning, the attention of the audience isn’t effectively held due to an overall feel of the film being a sort of docu-drama. This attitude is demonstrated by collections of boring scenes that simply depict characters sitting around or standing while reciting lines. As such, the dialogue isn’t enough to drive the character development to where we can relate to them; we don’t know character motivations well enough even though there are some backstories portrayed. It’s a nice authentic touch to use the original language, but it tends to cloud things when it the whole film already comes off like a collection of Bible study skits. Because of this dynamic, it’s hard to see the characters as anything but representations of ideas, which is a real shame since the movie could have been a true epic story. The time jumps are a disservice both to continuity and proper development of concepts, and it ruins any chance of having central themes or concepts to center the movie around. In the end, this film is mostly benign, which also means it’s not ground-breaking.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While the acting mostly means well, it tends to fall flat due to its vanilla nature. The attempts at cultural authenticity are definitely commendable, but each cast member would benefit from improved coaching. However, it has to be considered that the lack of good written lines puts a damper on their ability to deliver them well. Nonetheless, the smaller cast tends to amplify the errors, and in the end, this is basically an average performance overall.

Conclusion

In summary, it can’t be discounted that commendable effort was made to craft a film depicting an important true story that has impacted thousands of people around the world. Since it’s such an important account, we would have liked to see a much more substantial approach that did it justice and sought to produce a dynamic experience for the viewer. However, the film makers definitely meant well, so it will be interesting to see what they put out next.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The Least of These: The Graham Staines Story [2019] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Manav Banerjee only wanted to be a successful journalist in the late 1990s India, when the country was full of social unrest due to religious persecution and restlessness. Thus, when Banerjee was given a chance at big story – finding a reason to arrest American missionary Graham Staines – he jumped at the chance to infiltrate the Christian cell who cared for the leper outcasts in order to trap Staines with Indian religious laws. However, the longer he knew Staines, the more perplexed Banerjee became, and he inadvertently set off a chain of events that would change both of their lives forever.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The Least of These is a production that was a long time coming, and the finished product was definitely worth the wait as the on-location filming location paid off. This gives it an air of authenticity that there wouldn’t otherwise be in an international film. Video quality, camera work, sets, and props also live up to these high standards set by the hard work put into it. Audio quality is also mostly adequate, and the soundtrack is culturally appropriate, even if it is a bit loud and invasive in some scenes. The only other minor error to point out here relates to some quick cuts and abrupt scene transitions, but the editing is overall good, including some artistic overlays that are executed well. As a whole, as we kick off 2019 in the world of Christian entertainment, The Least of These is an almost-perfect production in the new era of Christian film that demands higher quality productions.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

It’s definitely clear why this true story was chosen for a film, and it’s refreshing to see a unique, non-Western perspective on white missionaries coming to a third world country, which can be attributed to the Indian creators of this film. We’ve had plenty of films told through the eyes of the ‘benevolent’ white missionaries, so seeing a culturally authentic perspective on this true story makes this plot very worthwhile. However, there are still some pitfalls of freshman story-telling to note here, such as the heavy-handed narration that doesn’t allow the plot to unfold naturally. Nevertheless, for the most part, character development appears to survive mostly intact, which can likely be attributed to their being based on real people. A good use of effective flashbacks also aids in this effort. Further, the Christian message is presented very well without being too forceful. Unfortunately, while the beginning and middle of this plot are quite good, it tends to lag at the end and to not discover the dynamic feel that it needed to push it onto the Hall of Fame. There are one too many abstract scenes that don’t have enough meaning attached to them. Nevertheless, this is still a great film about an excellent real-life story that is definitely worth your time.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

It seems like there were better cast members to cast for Australian roles than non-Australian cast members Stephen Baldwin and Shari Rigby, whose Australian acting accents are either non-existent or extremely inconsistent. Despite these obvious errors, however, Baldwin and Rigby do well in fulfilling their DVD-cover roles by being in less than half of the film’s run time. They are definitely overshadowed by the excellent cultural casting for all of the other characters, which is a refreshment. Not only do the Indian cast members fit into their roles very well, but they are also skilled in line execution and emotional delivery. Further, costuming throughout the film is authentic and culturally accurate, which rounds out an overall above-average effort.

Conclusion

While The Least of These didn’t go as far as it could have been, this is absolutely a great start to a film-making career for all of those involved. Not only did Stephen Baldwin show that he can actually pull off a semi-normal role, but Aneesh Daniel and his team have showcased great skill and talent that will hopefully be applied to even better movies in the future. While we can’t wait to see what they have next, this film is definitely worth your time.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

On Wings of Eagles [2016] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Eric Liddell was a Scottish Olympic gold medalist, an accomplished educator, and a dedicated family man who was called to take the Gospel to China in the 1930s and 1940s. He faced hardship and persecution from the Communist government, but he never gave up in his mission to run, to educate children, and to share the Gospel with whoever he came in contact with. Though he died in captivity, he left a lasting legacy with all who knew him and beyond.

Production Quality (2 points)

It’s apparent that good effort was put into making this production professional, which is evidenced by great video quality and camera work, as well as a good use of international sets and locations. The props are culturally authentic, and the soundtrack is very effective. However, this production is kept from being perfect because of some inconsistent audio quality and some fake-looking special effects that should have been better. Further, the editing is fairly poor as there are some awkward cuts and transitions and since there is a lot of content that is not handled very well. Even so, this is a good production that is above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Due to taking on a large amount of content from the life of one person, this plot relies too heavily on time jumps and excessive, unnecessary narration that short-circuits any hope for actual character and plot development. While this is a great true story with a lot of potential to be an epic, we have a hard time understanding who the characters are beyond historical bios. Any hope of dialogue is mostly rushed and choppy due to the storyline jumping all over the place. There are also too many wasted and drawn-out scenes that could have been maximized to fuller potential, but they cause the story to not flow well at all. However, there is still a lot of good content here due to the fact of it being based on a real story, and the ending likely makes it worth a watch, even though it could have been much better.

Acting Quality (2 points)

As a whole, this cast is fairly culturally authentic and professional as each cast member does a good job assuming his or her respective character role. If they had more lines to work with, things would definitely be even better, even if there is some inconsistent line and emotional delivery in some places. Though there is some over-acting, this section is overall above average, which rounds out an average film that could have been much better.

Conclusion

On Wings of Eagles had so much going for it: a well-funded production, culturally accurate casting, and an excellent true story that had the makings of a real epic. Nevertheless, this great potential was seemingly forgotten as half-measures were settled for. Just fixing one of these elements listed would have likely qualified it for the Hall of Fame, but it unfortunately fell short of the mark. Even still, many audiences will still enjoy this film, and it can serve as a blueprint for how to take things one step further into greatness.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Tortured for Christ (Movie Review)

 

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

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

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Indivisible [2018] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

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

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

 

Born to Win [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (1 point)

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

Conclusion

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

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Beautifully Broken [2018] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

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

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (.5 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Summer of ’67 (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Samson [2018] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Echo Rhyme (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Frank is a known counterfeiter and professional all-around criminal.  He has is hands in a lot of dirty businesses, but his fast and checkered lifestyle catches up with him finally, when he is faced with a medical complication he cannot overcome.  Thankfully, he is able to secure a heart donation to improve his medical condition, but this miracle sends him on a journey he never thought he would travel as he crosses paths with the family of the man whose heart he now has.  Will Frank be able to find redemption in the unlikeliest of places?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

From the studio that brought us 2 to Tangle and Time Collectors: Return of the Giants comes another poorly funded and poorly executed production mess.  However, Echo Rhyme surprisingly has the highest production of the group.  Still, this film has a lot of production problems, such as very obvious overdubbed lines, a loud and generic soundtrack, and sound effects that are not natural to the scenes they are stuck in.  Video quality is fine, but lighting and camera work are inconsistent throughout.  There are also some sequences of unnecessary slow-motion.  However, there is some improvement throughout as it seems like some parts of this film were better funded than others.  Even still, the editing is horrific, with very abrupt and choppy cuts and transitions in very awkward places.  Having a one-point production as your best achievement isn’t saying much.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unlike the severely limited scopes of their previous two films, Son Films went all out with Echo Rhyme.  They attempt a level of plot complexity that even the audience cannot understand at times, as subplots are very disjointed and confusing, especially in the first thirty minutes.  As things unfold, the premise becomes more and more cheesy as it is fixated on the organ donation of the heart and how this affects all of the characters involved in the most far-fetched ways.  This story is based entirely on very juvenile coincidences and a childish outlook on life as content meanders along endlessly for over two hours.  Everything is too connected yet not rooted in reality as one chance encounter after the next prolongs this story far beyond its welcome.  This goes without mentioning the very thin dialogue and empty characters in this story.  Although this ‘unique’ plot structure had some potential, it did not manifest in this presentation.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Son Films has put together some notoriously awkward casts, and this one isn’t much better, even though there are a few good moments that keep this section from being zero.  Nevertheless, this group needs some serious acting coaching, as they are very robotic and overly practiced.  As a whole, this movie needed a total redo, if it needed to be made at all.

Conclusion

Besides all of the other obvious issues with this film, what on earth does this title mean?  I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise coming from the studio that brought us 2 to Tangle and Time Collectors.  However, despite the myriad of problems in Echo Rhyme, there was actually a chance for a unique storyline here that was totally bungled.  Centering the plot around an organized crime character is a creative idea, but the sheer amount of coincidences and childish version of Christianity in this plot are just too much to bear.  Maybe somebody can responsibly reuse a portion of this idea in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Squad 77 (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Allen Davis is a former military special forces operative who is pressed by a friend to train a squadron consisting of a random collection of young adults from churches in order to pull off a dangerous mission to deliver Bibles to missionaries in a harrowing location.  Though he is not completely honest about the mission’s true nature at first, he trains them hard to prepare for the worst.  Will they be able to make it through the mission alive?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Squad 77 is a classic example of biting off more than you can chew.  Action adventure and suspense films, especially in international contexts, need well-funded and responsibly-allocated budgets to meet expectations.  Unfortunately, though Squad 77 is trying to fit into these genres, it fails miserably in the production department.  This is evident in the wild and dizzying opening sequences, as well as the crazy camera work and poor video quality.  Audio quality is equally bad, with loud background sounds, dead air, overdubs, cheesy sound effects, and a generic soundtrack.  There are also dumb special effects used throughout, not to mention the poor lighting and horrific editing.  Essentially, if you don’t have the money to make it good, don’t make it all, unless you have a game-changing plot idea.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

However, Squad 77 does not have a game-changing plot idea.  The premise is silly and unrealistic, and basically half of the film boils down to endless training montages.  The plot throws a bunch of faceless and empty characters together for a vague mission of unrealistic proportions.  There is basically no substantial content to work with here, and what little dialogue there is comes off as very hollow.  Thus, there are no attempts to develop the characters.  It goes without saying that this story is not believable as the action premise is very forced and disingenuous.  Basically, this film really doesn’t have any positive elements.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Though this cast of random people does not show any substantial acting skills to their bland and blank delivery, it’s not like they were given many chances to act or to be coached properly.  Emotions are too awkward and robotic, but again, there was little to no support in the acting department.  In the end, this punctuates a disappointing effort.

Conclusion

If the creators of this film meant well, it doesn’t show.  It feels like this film was misguided and mishandled from the beginning.  With a small budget, it’s better to start out with a small production and a truly creative plot.  Unfortunately, Squad 77 joins a long list of independent Christian films that failed on this front, among others.  Perhaps future film makers will learn from these mistakes.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Under Jakob’s Ladder (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jakob is a former Communist teacher, but he was relieved of his position when he began dissenting from the Communist ideals.  After talking about Jesus at a friend’s funeral, he and several others of various Christian sects are rounded up and locked in a Communist dungeon to be starved and psychologically tortured into submission to the Communist rule.  However, Jakob leans on God for strength and helps the men he is locked up with to find common ground and faith in God, even in the darkest times.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Under Jakob’s Ladder is a mostly under-funded independent project, so its collection of production errors is understandable.  For one, the opening sequence is unusually produced with several disorienting features.  Also, there is some poor lighting throughout, and the sets and locations are severely limited.  However, there are some attempts at realistic and historical props, and the soundtrack is good throughout.  Moreover, the use of black and white flashbacks is a bit off, as is the unnecessary use of slow motion.  Editing could use a little work as well, but there is some improvement throughout the film that is enough to make this production average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

From the beginning and on into the movie until the end, there is annoying and echoing narration that forces the plot along in completely unnecessary fashion.  Regardless of this, however, this is a very intriguing true story that could have been a true war epic had it been presented in a different way.  Despite some of the odd flashbacks, some of them are normal and very good at providing insight into character motives.  However, there are a lot of meandering ideas in this film that do not come to full fruition, such as the creative chess themes.  There are also some parts that are too dramatic, and the plot overall needs better organization and focus, as well as better character development through deeper dialogue.  Moreover, the ending is very interesting and thought-provoking; it could have been even more impactful if the leadup was more palatable.  Unfortunately, while this story had a lot going for it, there was a lot of potential wasted here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While this film’s creators were definitely putting effort into the realistic costuming, the obviously unnatural accents need a bit of refinement.  There is definitely a lot of potential in this cast as their performances demonstrate effort and care, even if some cast members can be too drab and underwhelming at times.  Nevertheless, their performances are enough to make this section average.

Conclusion

The idea behind Under Jakob’s Ladder is definitely worth a remake.  Though this film was not funded as well as it could have been, this strong plot idea could have come through a bit better than it did.  This was a character-based plot, so we needed deep characters with strong motives and back stories, which we almost got.  Unfortunately, this rendition fell short of high marks.  Perhaps one day we will see a new version created.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

A Candle in the Dark: The Story of William Carey (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

William Carey always knew that God had called him and his family to be missionaries in a foreign country, but he never expected God to open a door in unreached India.  Unlike English missionaries before them, Carey and his family immersed themselves in the culture of the people rather than try to impose religious culture on people.  In getting to know the people and meeting their everyday needs, God opened doors of opportunity for them, but their stay in India was certainly not without hardships.  Through it all, God was faithful to them.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Although this production is somewhat cheap and under-funded as a curriculum companion, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not all that bad.  Sometimes the sets look fairly cheap, but outdoor locations and cultural props are fine.  Video quality, audio quality, and camera work are all fine as well, even if the soundtrack is a bit generic.  While the editing is a bit odd at times, there is definite improvement throughout this production, which is enough to warrant an above-average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The story of William Carey is a great historical account to present in the form of a film, but this rendition tends to make the characters a bit too lofty than they should be.  This is done through dialogue that is too formal and unnatural, as well as some whitewashing of family struggles.  There is also a crutch of narration through journaling that moves the story along too quickly.  The time jumps stunt character growth as the story just tries to hit all the high points.  However, it is clear that this plot means well, and it does become more realistic as it goes on.  There are plenty of good marks here, and the ending is appropriate.  It just seems like it could have been presented in a more accessible fashion.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Plenty of care was given to making the costuming historically and culturally authentic.  There are also good efforts to have culturally authentic cast members.  However, sometimes the acting can be too theatrical and programmed.  There are one too many dramatic moments, but there are also plenty of other good moments that outweigh the negatives.  For the most part, emotions are realistic, thus warranting an above-average score here.

Conclusion

It’s frustrating when Christian films like this are so ‘Christianese.’  This curriculum clearly had an agenda to push, so it’s surprising that the film turned out this well.  As Christians, however, we’ve got to get out of our little boxes and make truly great movies that will make a difference.  We can really do without even more cute little Christian films.

 

Final Rating: 5 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

 

Freedom [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Samuel Woodward and his family escape a cruel Virginia plantation one night, they are aided by Christians on the Underground Railroad.  However, they are also pursued by cruel slave bounty hunters.  When Samuel wants to give up on his faith because of what they are going through, his mother tells him the story of his great grandfather, who was a boy on board one of John Newton’s slave ships.  The two lives parallel as they each face their own struggle for freedom and discover faith in God.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

With a hefty budget and cable television backing, Freedom had many positives going for it from the get go.  For the most part, the money is well-spent, including great video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  Obviously, the standout feature of this film is supposed to be its historical live soundtrack sung by the characters like a musical, but this is an area that needs some further refinement.  There are also some lingering small issues in this production pertaining to some fake backgrounds and some slightly rushed editing, yet on the whole, this is a very respectable production that was helped by the money behind it.  The one caveat to point out is that with this kind of money, Freedom *should* have been flawless and likely would have been in the right hands.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Freedom is an attempt at a historical musical epic, and it succeeds on some fronts, even though it fails on other fronts.  For one, there is a lot of unnecessary narration throughout that hurts natural character growth.  Characters are also not helped out by the fact that there are so many of them.  Also, the parallel subplots from two different historical time periods is an interesting touch, yet it is not handled very well as time tends to jump all around.  The sheet amount of content that is being handled here may just be too much for one film, and the dialogue is not substantial enough for the epic style this movie is trying to adopt.  However, this is a mostly realistic and touching story that has a lot of historical backing and interest.  It is extremely important for more Christian movies to be made about history, especially the Underground Railroad.  However, Timothy Chey makes a mistake in portraying most, if not all, the pro-slavery characters as atheists, which is not entirely accurate.  Nonetheless, the second half of Freedom does show improvement, even if the better parts tend to be squeezed out by the wasted time at the beginning.  In summary, Freedom is a good film, but it is frustrating to see the higher potential that it did not reach.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

With professional cast members and fairly good coaching, Freedom had a successful acting run.  Line delivery is on point, and emotions are effective, except for some minor moments of unnecessary drama.  Also, the costuming is very authentic and historically accurate.  There is some odd makeup work in some parts, but as a whole, this is a job well done.

Conclusion

As a side note, John Newton died almost 70 years before the hymn “It is Well” was ever written, so there’s no way his fiancée was able to sing it in church.  Also, it’s also highly unlikely John Newton sang “Amazing Grace” at his own wedding since he wrote it almost 15 years after he got married.  This isn’t the first time Timothy Chey has disregarded historical facts in his films, but his ambition to create a Christian historical epic\musical is noted, even if it is misguided in the beginning.  Nonetheless, there are a lot of positive elements in this film, likely because Chey had assistance from other sources.  However, there were definitely areas it could have been improved in, especially since this was a rare chance for a film with a Christian worldview to show that it was a great historical epic on a cable television channel apart from it being a Christian movie.  There was so much going for this film, especially the budget, so it really should have achieved a higher rating.  Even so, many audiences will still find enjoyment and meaning in it.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Stephen’s Test of Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Stephen doesn’t like to be picked on by bullies at school because of his Christian faith.  When he complains about it to his father, his dad decides to tell him three stories of Christian martyrs in history, including the stoning of Stephen from the book of Acts.  Thus, when Stephen falls asleep that night, he has three dreams about the three stories, in which he is also a character.  Will his visions teach him how to not be afraid of the atheist bullies at his school???

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though Voice of the Martrys has crafted quality productions in the past, Stephen’s Test of Faith is not one of these.  This film contains somewhat cheap and limited sets, props, and locations, which doesn’t bode well for the historical parts.  There is also some poor lighting throughout.  Further, this production has some odd camera angles and slightly shaky camera work, although the video quality is fine.  Audio quality is also fine, even though the editing is somewhat poor.  Overall, the low quality of this production, combined with the shortness of its duration, makes its creation slightly unjustified.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This is combined with the fact that its premise is very unusual and almost insulting.  Equating real martyrdom and persecution with getting made fun of by immature kids at school is very odd and off-putting.  Did Voice of the Martyrs mean to tell kids they don’t have it as bad as people who are killed for their faith?  That’s almost worse.  Either way, it’s a mishandling of first-world problems.  Besides this, the story of this film has a disorienting progression and sequencing, which is helped by its short time frame.  Even so, the plot jumps from one thing to the next as it tries to cover far too much content in a small amount of time.  It seems like it is unable to focus on any one thing, and this makes the characters too one-dimensional and swept along by the plot’s circumstances.  Unfortunately, though Voice of the Martyrs might have meant well with this film, it’s a swing and a miss.

Acting Quality (1 point)

For the most part, this cast tends to be dominated by child actors that have an annoying delivery style.  Other cast members tend to be too forceful and dramatic, while others are unsure of themselves.  However, not all is bad in this cast as there are some good moments, yet this is not enough to save this film from itself.

Conclusion

With films like Bamboo in Winter, Behind the Sun, The Eastern Bride, and Closure, Voice of the Martyrs is usually able to capture the real struggles of persecuted Christians around the world, but trying to transpose these struggles onto the first world problems in modern America is just wrong.  This may have not been intentional, but it came off that way in Stephen’s Test of Faith.  We have to be careful not to demean the actual persecution Christians experience outside of the Western world by trying to make our minor issues into persecution.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

The Glass Window {The Troubadour} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Stuart Wright is a successful businessman in New York, but the untimely death of his father grinds his fast-paced life to a halt.  Confused about his direction in life, he decides to visit his father’s favorite place in the Bahamas to try to clear his head.  However, all he ends up doing is drinking himself to sleep.  One morning, he wakes up in another man’s makeshift house, and this man proceeds to change Stuart’s outlook on life by sharing with him the true love of Christ.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Unfortunately, The Glass Window begins as a fairly rough production.  This includes some shaky camera work and inconsistent lighting.  There are also some odd sound effects and cheap sets and locations at first.  The soundtrack is generic, and there are several disorienting flashbacks in the beginning.  However, this production makes a concerted effort to improve as it goes on, especially when it comes to the international locations and cinematography.  Camera work calms down, as do the sound effects.  Further, the editing is relatively fine throughout.  In the end, this is an average production due to the latter improvements.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Much like the production, this story begins very predictably with a city character who is forced to return to his backwoods small town that contains all of the cliched elements and dialogue imaginable from this concept.  It’s also basically another prodigal character plot, and it contains several Bible verse clichés.  However, this trend totally changes up in the middle as the story turns into something totally different.  There are many interesting ideas contained within the second half of this plot, even though are somewhat randomly presented.  The Christian message is very good, but it tends to be a bit spoon-fed.  There are very interesting parallels here, but they need deepening.  Also, there are some plot holes in the second half due to the wasted time in the early parts of the film.  Nevertheless, it is a very creative idea with a slightly unexpected end that is likely worth a watch.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Once again, the acting begins fairly rough as the cast members tend to be stiff, overly practiced, and stoic at first.  However, they demonstrate good effort and definitely improve in all aspects in the second half of the movie.  Emotions are mostly realistic throughout, thus making for a good section.  In the end, it many ways, it seems like this film was made in two halves by totally different teams.

Conclusion

The Glass Window joins the ranks of Christian films that contain ideas that are worthy of a remake.  It’s obvious that this creative team has a lot of potential and just needed some further direction when starting this film.  They definitely knew where they wanted to go, but they had trouble starting the journey.  However, they showed that improvement in the middle was possible, which also shows potential for the future.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Savior [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

What if Mary and Joseph lived in modern day Britain rather than the fantasy world of British Judea?  What if the Magi were random business people who read about it all in the newspaper?  This unique movie reimagines the Christmas story in a way that even BBC has not thought of yet.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

This film is basically a small church production, and thus it has its share of quality concerns.  This includes a lot of shaky camera work and sequences of odd lighting.  While video quality is fine, there are also a lot of strange close-up shots of cast members that are off-putting.  There are also some minor background sound issues to content with, as well as some weird sound effects and not enough soundtrack.  As is customary for these types of productions, sets, locations, and props are fairly limited and low-budget.  Furthermore, the editing has some signs of amateurism.  In the end, this is a nice try, but not good enough.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

At least since they had a lot of British people at their disposal, they decided to go ahead and commit to the idea properly by setting the story in modern day Britain rather than in an imaginary location like British Judea.  But even so, there are plenty of problems that come of these sorts of modern-day Bible allegory things, as usual.  For one, time progresses far too quickly to the point of stunting proper character growth.  Thus, they come off as stiff and unnatural due to rushed, uninspiring dialogue.  There are also too many unrelated asides that waste time, as well as a lot of boring conversations that do nothing to help the characters.  The ending is confusing and isolating, thus hurting any chance of meaningful impact.  In short, while it is always problematic to transpose Biblical events over modern-day circumstances, the plot doesn’t have to be this drab, boring, and confusing.

Acting Quality (1 point)

As an amateurish cast, these cast members would have benefitted from upgraded coaching.  Most of the time, they come off as flat and forced.  There is too much melodrama and yelling throughout.  However, there are some good moments that redeem this section from being worse.  Yet this film overall struggles to find identity.

Conclusion

When a Biblical event is recast in a modern setting, a lot of care needs to be taken and a lot of planning needs to be employed.  This is not a venture to take lightly.  Even so, we don’t try to reconstruct other historical events into modern venues, do we?  This method of storytelling is somewhat questionable, but even if you’re going to use it, it has to be done right, not haphazardly, as this movie was.  Better luck next time.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

1500 Steps (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jobe O’Brien has never been treated right by his drunken father, but he finds an outlet for control and energy when he takes up track and field.  However, even there, he finds himself plagued by cruel bullies.  But he keeps on working to become the best runner he can be.  Along the way, he seeks to discover what Christianity really means as he pursues the prize and a girl he is falling in love with.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As an indie, likely under-funded production, 1500 Steps is a bit raw at times.  Camera work tends to be random and there is some poor lighting and odd video quality throughout.  Audio quality is fine except for the very loud soundtrack and some obvious background noises.  However, not all is bad here as the outside scenes are mostly filmed well and props are used well.  It’s hard to pinpoint what the editing plan here was, because there isn’t really much to speak of.  On the whole, it’s clear that funding was stretched for this film, but it’s hard to know if they did the best with what they had.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, this film is very aimless in its storyline and mostly consists of mindless sports montages.  The first half of the film especially has no clear purpose or direction.  A majority of the dialogue is quite empty, thus creating vague characters, except for the strawman villain character.  Other characters tend to be off-putting and annoying.  The Christian message is very vague as it tends to focus on a lot of dumb and fruitless high school subplots.  The rest of the story focuses on a predictable sports redemption arc that leaves us without the ability to appreciate the characters and their struggles.  While there are attempts at realism here, the presentation doesn’t do enough to make the film interesting.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast is mostly inexperienced, it seems, but they are at least trying to be realistic.  A lot of the time, they are quite drab in their performances, while some cast members tend to be loud and uncouth.  However, not all is bad here, and further coaching would help some of the cast members show more emotion.  Unfortunately, there was a lot in this film that just didn’t come through properly.

Conclusion

It’s really hard starting out in the indie film world, but even when funding suffers, you can always amplify your plot to make your work stand out in the sea of ambitious film makers.  This is what we really need anyway: dynamic plot writing to transform the Christian movie field.  Once this happens, the entertainment world will never be the same.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Road 2 Damascus (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Paul used to be a successful performer, but then he had an encounter with Jesus and made a 180 degree turn to become a minister.  He married a local psychologist and settled down with her.  However, he grows restless in his ministry work and is offered a handsome sum of money to come back to perform one last time.  Paul rationalizes that he will use the money to save the church from ruin, but once he returns, he gets sucked back into the old life he left behind.  Will he be able to find his way back to being the man of God he needs to be?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, as an international production, the funding of this film suffers.  However, it seems like this team did not really do the best with what they had.  Camera work is shaky and video quality is blurry.  Audio quality is too inconsistent, and the soundtrack is confusing.  Sets, locations, and props are cheap and limited.  Editing is very disorienting and there are too many cheap-looking special effects used.  Basically, Road 2 Damascus is a typically low-quality production with not much going for it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this story contains realistic characters doing realistic things and having honest struggles, it is at times too realistic.  Edgy content is not managed very well.  The issues presented are too in-your-face and not presented tastefully enough.  The dialogue is too forceful and information-filled to build the characters properly, even though they are flawed.  However, there are always many issues that come with transposing Biblical stories into a modern-day allegory\parallel setting.  Thus, there is no clear organization or direction in this story, making it very difficult to comprehend at times.  The redemption elements are too muddy and do not outweigh the nonsense enough.  Basically, this movie probably should have gone unmade until these issues were fixed.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is amateur, and they make this too well known.  They come off as overly practiced, and their emotions are too extreme.  Line delivery is unnatural and forced.  But then again, some of their lines weren’t much to work with.  Yet in the end,

Conclusion

What is it with films that have digits in the title?  Unfortunately, the whole feel of this film is just cheap and amateurish.  There is hardly anything good to say about it.  Perhaps, like too many movies, it can just serve as a reminder of what not to do in film making.  If the funding is not there, please wait for it to come, because if you are meant to make a Christian film, God will make sure it happens.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

The Eastern Bride (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Pete de Jaeger is a successful South African businessman who never before considered the plight of the underground Christian church in the Middle East until he is forced to watch it play out before his eyes.  However, his girlfriend is skeptical of Asian persecution of Christians as she embarks to complete a news story on the modernization and Westernization of China.  Yet together, the two of them discover worlds they never thought existed as they try to help their fellow Christians around the world.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As an early 2000s, limited resources production, The Eastern Bride is fairly good.  Though it begins with some blurry video quality, this improves throughout.  Some camera work is also shaky at first and changes for the better.  Audio quality is fine throughout the soundtrack makes attempts to be culturally authentic.  The best portion of this production are the realistic and accurate sets, locations, and props, since this was likely difficult to pull off.  Yet editing is a concern as there is a lot of disjointed content here.  But in the end, this is at least an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though this story likely means well and has a lot of potential, it’s difficult to understand at times.  Is it about persecution in China or persecution in the Middle East?  It’s likely about both, but cramming them both into one film is ill-advised.  There is too much random, meandering content that makes the film take a while to get to the point.  As it is, there are too many ideas to fit into the short runtime.  While it seems like the characters begin to be developed and are mostly believable, we don’t get to see enough of them, mostly because there are too many to introduce into this short of a story.  This is a large-scale idea that needed at least two different movies to support it.  It could also be a series, especially since the ending comes off as very unfinished.  In summary, it’s clear that the writers meant well and knew what they were talking about; it’s possible that they didn’t know just how big of an idea they had here.

Acting Quality (2 points)

As usual for the Open Doors International films, the cast of The Eastern Bride is culturally authentic and mostly well-coached.  At times, however, the cast members can be too practiced in their line delivery and emotional delivery.  Yet this is a very good, above-average effort all around.

Conclusion

Ideas like The Eastern Bride, Bamboo in Winter, and Behind the Sun are much bigger than their movies allow them to be.  What if each of these ideas took place in a mini-series format?  If the budget made it possible, the impact would be much larger.  But then again, the same could be said for many lost-in-the-shuffle Christian films.  Perhaps one day ideas like these will be brought back out and improved through better funding and plot writing.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Bamboo in Winter (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Su Ming decides to find out for herself what the Christians who live near her Chinese village believe, she discovers a new opportunity in life to have faith that she never thought was possible.  She is drawn to the teachings of Christ and asks the local preacher every question she can think of.  However, though she finally surrenders to Christ, she does not expect the governmental persecution that follows.  As she sees other Christians giving their lives for the sake of Jesus, Su Ming will have to decide whether or not she will one day do the same.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though Bamboo in Winter is an archaic 1990s production, it is actually not half bad, considering the time period and the limited resources.  Video quality is a bit blurry at times and audio quality is sometimes poor.  Camera work, however, is fine, yet the soundtrack is outdated.  However, considering the time period, the sets, locations, and props are very realistic and culturally accurate.  It’s clear that attention was given to this area, and there are other production improvements throughout.  Finally, the editing is okay, which rounds out an overall average production, yet it is certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Though the first half of this story is dominated by a lot of narration, it is still a unique, realistic, and believable storyline, even if it is a very short idea.  Better care is given to developing the characters in this plot than in most movies newer than it.  This is done through effective dialogue and authentic circumstances.  The audience can appreciate what the characters are experiencing for this reason.  The ending is also thought-provoking and non-typical.  Overall, though it is short in duration, this story has a great message that probably deserves to be reused in the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

It’s surprising that a Christian film of this age had the resources to assemble such a culturally authentic cast.  It also seems as though each cast member is coached well as line delivery is mostly good and emotions are believable.  There are just some small errors here pertaining to over-practiced lines, but this is not enough to hold this section back.  In the end, this film is real standout in its time period.

Conclusion

This idea either needs to be remade or a newer, upgraded version needs to be created.  With a little more complexity and improved production quality, this could be a Hall of Fame worthy movie.  Regardless of all of this, Bamboo in Winter will always serve as an example of what can be done, even with a limited budget, if the film creators actually put care and thought into what they are doing.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Journey to Grace: The Hansie Cronje Story (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Hansie Cronje was one of the world’s best and more famous cricket players, and he used his sports platform to glorify God.  He was passionate for the game and for his family, but the pursuit of a better retirement for him and his wife consumed him.  He always wanted to do better and wanted his game to be better, but this got the better of him as Indian bookmakers relentless pursued him to pay off his team in a match-fixing scheme.  Hansie continually refused them until he could do so no longer.  In the aftermath of things, will he accept God’s grace for what he did?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Though this is an early 2000s production focused on international locations, it is very well done.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are what they should be.  The soundtrack is culturally appropriate.  Sets and locations, though difficult to construct and capture, are executed well.  Also, sports props are well presented and constructed.  The only issue to raise here, of course, is the editing, as too much content—almost an entire life story—is shoved into this seemingly brief runtime.  But in the end, this is a production to be proud of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This account is a great true story and one worth bringing to the big screen.  Though the characters are mostly realistic, due to the rapid passage of time and the large amount of content dealt with here, they are hard to get to know very well.  They are accessible as people, but there are a lot of side characters that get left by the wayside.  Also, lots of otherwise important sidebar topics are introduced briefly and then forgotten about.  Yet this story is historically authentic and accurate and certainly has a lot to offer as a lot of complex ideas are woven together.  Epics are very hard to make, so this effort is commendable, and most audiences will enjoy it.  In the end, the story is very realistic and leaves an important lesson to be learned.

Acting Quality (3 points)

This historically and culturally authentic cast can hardly be faulted.  There are no glaring errors here as great care was taken to make sure each character was cast appropriately and realistically.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are impeccable.  This is a casting job to be proud of.

Conclusion

It seems like this creative team did everything they could do to make this movie the best it could be, yet they fall just short of the Hall of Fame, only due to amount of content that is taken on here.  Yet we know that a longer runtime was probably out of the question due to budget constraints.  In the end, however, is this an enjoyable movie that will be well-liked because the creators definitely put their full effort into making it quality.  It is definitely worth your time.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

Masterless (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

As Kane Madison works as a successful architect and lives his seemingly perfect life with his wife, in the spiritual dimension, a battle rages for his soul.  Little does he know that while Satan and his demons want Kane to continue fighting on his own, another Master, Whom Kane does not know, wants Kane to surrender to His power so that Kane can win the battles at hand.  When tragedy suddenly strikes, where will Kane turn?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

This unique and creative film concept is difficult to pull off production-wise, but it is executed relatively well.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all up to industry standard.  The soundtrack is also excellently constructed.  Sets, locations, and props are diverse, realistic, and appropriate.  Outside of some minor editing concerns, the biggest production error to point out here is the odd use of sepia tones in the fantasy scape, but it’s not enough to keep this production from being nearly excellent.  This is a model production that should be replicated.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

A lot of spiritual\psychological plots are hard to pull off, but Masterless is based on a very creative idea that is relatively well-presented.  Though it is sometimes too simplistic, the spiritual warfare component makes this story what it is.  However, it could be improved through better explanation, because as it is, the fantasy scape is slightly isolating and vague.  Granted, this is a difficult feat to accomplish.  The characters in this story are mostly believable, but they could use some further deepening through more meaningful dialogue.  This would in turn make the plot more dynamic.  Moreover, the ending is certainly not predictable and is very thought-provoking.  The entire concept behind this film is very creative and deserves further exploration, perhaps in an improved follow-up.  In short, this is one of the better and more original plot ideas crafted in recent memory, so it’s a shame that it didn’t go all the way.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this is a semi-professional cast, they are in no ways below average.  They are actually quite good, even though they are a small cast.  At times they can be underwhelming and exhibit unnatural emotions, but with better coaching, the deeper potential could be brought out.  Even so, this is a respectable effort.

Conclusion

Masterless joins the growing list of Christian films that really deserves and needs a remake.  The idea behind this plot is enough to drive a trilogy concept, if executed properly.  There are so many directions that this story concept could take; it seems like the surface has only been scratched.  With slightly improved production and acting, along with better plot explanation and character deepening, this idea could be Hall of Fame worthy.  Thus, it will be interesting see what this creative team has planned next.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

All Saints [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Michael Spurlock leaves the sales world under less than honest circumstances, he decides the most natural thing for him to do is become a pastor so he can have more time for his family and so he can give back to the world rather than take from it.  Thus, he is assigned by the parish to head up a dying church in small town Tennessee as a training ground under the church closes up.  Then Michael is promised to move on to better things.  However, the longer he is at the small church, the more Michael sees that there is purpose for it, especially since it is serving hundreds of Burmese refugees who have no one to turn to.  With God’s intervention, they begin to see miracles happen right before their eyes.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In keeping with the traditions of Affirm Films, All Saints is a good production on the surface and has no obvious errors.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all on the professional standards they should be on.  The soundtrack is effective and is culturally relevant.  The sets, locations, and props are all well-constructed and realistic.  However, this film needs some serious editing work.  Time is spent on all the wrong things and the plot overall lacks flow and continuity.  However, Affirm has likely done enough to meet minimum market standards.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this is a very intriguing true story that had a lot of potential, this potential is not reached.  There are so many things that could have gone into this film that did not finish developing.  The story is too dominated by the whining, unsure main character.  Unfortunately, there is very little focus or purpose to this plot, even though there were plenty of opportunities to have this.  There are a lot of disjointed and unrelated sequences that fill up the runtime and stunt character development by crowding out any scenes of meaningful dialogue, of which there are few.  In the end, it’s sad to see how this story turned out because it had so much going for it.

Acting Quality (2 points)

John Corbett really puts a damper on this cast since he comes off as very fake and unsure of himself at the same time.  Yet if you can look past him, the other cast members post some good performances.  There is especially good multicultural casting and acting, even if we don’t get to see enough of them.  Overall, this is a good section and makes this movie at least palatable.

Conclusion

Most people will probably be fine with this film, but it’s still a very disappointing experience.  Why can’t we at least see some flashbacks of the Karen people in Burma?  Their subplots are barely developed or explored as John Corbett dominates the runtime with his awkwardness.  In short, though there was a chance for some interesting stories here, it barely materializes and wastes an amazing opportunity.  We believe it’s time for Affirm Films to step out in faith and take a chance on a new genre of Christian film rather than churning out run-of-the-mill films like this one.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Seven Days Away (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Clayton’s father dies on the mission field, Clayton commits himself to serving God through missions just like his father did.  Thus, when Clayton is given the chance to go to Mexico with some friends, he takes it.  However, he finds that all is not as it seems as his friends are only there to party and mess around.  Clayton finds himself alone and suddenly kidnapped by local criminals.  Will he be able to trust God to him out alive?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Seven Days Away is a return to basement production quality, as video quality is the only good element to mention here.  Camera work is too wild in attempts to be dramatic and action-packed.  Audio quality is off and the soundtrack is constantly interrupting things.  The sets, locations, and props are the worst possible.  Finally, the editing is awful as scenes sometimes cut off in the middle of things.  The film jumps all over the place and is overall disorienting.  In the end, this is a very unimpressive effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This story is another forced drama fest that gives Josiah David Warren a venue to do whatever he wants.  There is no focus, direction, or purpose in this plot as it unfolds in a very confusing and isolating manner.  It contains a lot of nonsensical elements, such as forcing people to go to church, and all the usual childish dialogue and characters.  Unfortunately, there is basically no potential in this vague and limited idea and only serves to be another Christian film embarrassment.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is the same old story as most other Strong Foundation Films.  Josiah David Warren is still in the forefront and is still unsure of himself.  There are too many extreme emotions throughout this cast in attempts to be suspenseful or something.  There is also a lot of yelling and off-kilter line delivery.  To say the least, this rounds out another basement-dwelling Christian movie.

Conclusion

Seven Days Away had a lower budget than usual for Strong Foundation, and it shows.  It’s rarely a good idea to make two movies in one year, yet Strong Foundation makes a habit of this.  All of Josiah David Warren’s forced melodrama is just too much for any film, especially since it dominates all of the movies put out by this outfit.  We hope they mean well, but their delivery is just all wrong.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

Countdown: Jerusalem {Countdown: Armageddon} (Movie Review)

Discount Natalie Grant

Plot Summary

A reporter is doing a regular live new report when the whole world starts falling apart!  Buildings begin crumbling to pieces and roads start cracking up.  The only answer is that everything points to Jerusalem and Armageddon.  The reporter suddenly realizes that her daughter and husband are missing, so she follows in their footsteps to find them again, meeting bizarre characters along the way.  Will she ever be able to find them before the world to irreparable pieces???

 

Production Quality (0 points)

The Asylum’s Faith Films venture boasts that hardly any money is spent on these parody films they make, and it definitely shows.  All the weird, crazy, and basically terrible special effects and sound effects used reflect both lack of funding and lack of care.  Most scenes look like they’re done in one take and just slapped together in every way.  It’s also likely that little post-production work was performed in these films.  The only reason to even highlight them at all is to show how the only reason films like this are able to be made is because there are hundreds of terrible Christian films that are supposedly serious.  Thus, The Asylum is able to hide among them and parody familiar titles.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Countdown: Jerusalem pretends like it’s from the makers of familiar apocalyptic titles by lifting the same old predictable apocalyptic elements and storylines and regurgitating them into a nonsensical movie.  Again, this is easy to do because Christian film makers have set the bar so low.  Everything about this movie is a total ripoff and a joke, but then again, this wasn’t the first or last time someone replicated the Left Behind concept and ‘rebranded’ it (see the Apocalypse saga, the new Left Behind, the other new Left Behind reboot, The Mark saga, The Moment After saga, Jerusalem Countdown, etc.).  This concept is so worn out that it’s almost worth making fun of at this point.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this cast is clearly not trying and is phoning in performances, they are not all bad, which saves this film from being negative.  But for the most part, they are overly dramatic and forced.  Thus, this rounds out a full-scale parody.

Conclusion

At this point, it’s hard to tell what the difference between a parody Christian film and a so-called serious Christian film is.  That’s why suspiciously-titled films like this one are so easy to put out: because the Christian film market is such a mess, nobody can tell who’s serious anymore.  If the Christian entertainment world raised the bar and didn’t just elevate anything that claims the name of Christ because ‘persecution’ or something, then these sorts of films wouldn’t exist.  But maybe some things are worth making fun of.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

The Playbook [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The Thomas family is successful and seems to get along on the surface.  However, they struggle with as many issues as anyone does.  They are involved in their community, including local sports, and are well-liked, but when tragedy strikes one of their own, they all find themselves struggling with forgiving those closest to them.  Will they ever be able to reconcile and find healing?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Although The Playbook is a somewhat rookie production, it is mostly good and is at least average.  Video quality is fine, but some of the camera work is shaky, especially in the sports action shots.  Lighting is sometimes inconsistent, but sets, locations, and props are all above board.  Finally, as usual for films of this caliber, the editing is lacking the necessary push.  Yet in the end, this is a respectable production is something to build off of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though the idea behind this plot is interesting and has potential, the story gets too lost in melodrama at times.  There is too much wallowing in self-pity and anger without any real plot focus or meaningful redemptive elements.  Rather than developing the characters so we can appreciate their struggles, this film spends a lot of time on sports montages, musical montages, and other useless sequences that really put a drag on the viewing experience.  Stuff just happens but nothing holds the attention or is enough to sustain a full story because the characters are under-developed due to poor dialogue.  The Christian message is also a little bit too vague.  In the end, it’s likely that this creative team meant well—they just need some help with their execution.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is ‘amateur’, they do a decent job without any real errors early on the film.  Yet their performances tend to digress in the middle due to extreme emotions and poor drama acting.  However, by the end, they have righted the ship again.  Despite the errors, this is a good model for amateur casting.

Conclusion

Tragedy plots are notoriously difficult to pull off without stepping into common pitfalls.  The same goes for sports plots.  When combined together, there are all kinds of issues that can come up.  Yet despite the rocky road plot, this movie isn’t all that bad, even though it may not have mass appeal.  It shows raw talent and could be a stepping stone for future work.  It will be interesting to see what becomes of this creative team.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Homefront {The Things We Leave Behind} [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When three American soldiers are taken captive by the enemy and trapped in a dungeon awaiting their fate, their minds wander back to the lives their left behind in their home country.  As they share stories and regrets, one of them tries to help the others come to Christ before it’s too late.  Will they be able to leave behind their regrets and embrace a new future with Jesus before time runs out for them?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, throughout his film career, Chip Rossetti has struggled with production quality.  Homefront is no exception.  Camera work is stationary and video quality is grainy.  Lighting is terrible in a lot of the scenes.  Audio quality is also bad and the soundtrack is basically nonexistent.  Sets and locations are severely limited.  Furthermore, editing is not what it should be, although there are some efforts to make it that way.  In the end, it’s unfortunate that the production quality of this film is so low because it had some potential.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

It is clear that this film was intended to be a big military epic, but it fell very short of expectations.  The story is very flat and boring, even though the dialogue has some potential.  Flashbacks barely keep the movie alive, but they need a lot more development, as do the characters.  There is a part of this film that is interesting and makes us want it to be better because we can see what Chip was trying to do here, but it just didn’t work.  As it is, Homefront does not have the stamina or powerful content to sustain a two-hour film.  Though it was intended to be an international suspense epic, this dream unfortunately did not come to fruition.  Thus, we are left wandering what could have been.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast, while they are not as bad as they could be, is very dry and cardboard in their emotions and in their line delivery.  Some lines are severely mumbled, yet sometimes they surprise you with a randomly good performance.  Since they were so underwhelming yet showed potential, they desperately needed some acting coaching.  With that, this section could have been improved.

Conclusion

Homefront is the bare bones skeleton of an idea that needs serious fleshing out and a huge production and casting upgrade.  It’s not like there’s not potential here—the potential is the one thing that keeps this film from being zero points.  But with a production this bad, a film can never succeed.  With a plot this understated and under-developed, there is no way a movie can make a difference.  Furthermore, when your cast does not reach its full potential, you are in for disappointment.  The good thing is that Chip Rossetti is making strides to improve his brand, and is having some success at this (see 94 Feet).  This is all we ask from Christian film makers.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Behind the Sun [1995] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a young Muslim convert to Christianity returns home to Iran from America, he wrestles with how he is going to tell his staunch Islamic family and community about his conversion to ‘treason’.  He is also trying to understand God’s call on his life and to continue to grow in his newfound faith.  As he comes to grips with the persecution of Christians in his country, he must decide whether he will run back to safety or face the hard road in front of him.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though the production of Behind the Sun is archaic, it is good for its time frame.  Camera work is shaky and video quality is somewhat grainy.  Yet audio quality is fine, even though the soundtrack could use a little improvement.  The strongest point of this production is the highly culturally realistic sets, locations, and props throughout the film.  Editing is okay, but there are some abrupt cuts and transitions.  Overall, this film was unfortunately made in a time frame that did not allow for better production, so a remake might be in order.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Behind the Sun addresses a storyline that is often never addressed in Christian film and does so in a realistic way.  The characters are interesting, but we would like to see a little more development from them, yet we can appreciate the struggles they encounter.  What they need a little more backstory and dialogue to help deepen them as people.  We would also like to see some of the subplots developed more to give the film more content and effectiveness.  As it is, the story is engaging but would be better with a more flowing plot and fewer leaps in logic.  Too much of the story is told through headlines and not enough through dialogue.  However, the ending is interesting and is worth a watch.  We only wish it could have been better.

Acting Quality (2 points)

International films are notoriously difficult to cast due to limited resources, but this team did an excellent job finding cast members that fit the depicted culture properly.  Costuming is also authentic.  The acting is also great, except for a few bouts of extreme emotions.  Otherwise, the acting and casting is the strongest point of this film.

Conclusion

Behind the Sun is an obscure Christian film, yet it carries with it a lot of potential.  Had it been better funded and had the plot been written a little more complex, it could have been Hall of Fame.  As it is, it seems a bit rushed since it was perhaps not completely intended to be a Christian film to be sold on the market, but rather an awareness-raising project.  However, think of the impact it could have had if a little bit more time had been invested in it.  Perhaps one day someone will remake it or make one similar to it.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Printing [1990] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When the Communists and the KGB had a vice grip on Russia, they did everything they could do to stamp out any form of Christianity that did not adhere to their standards.  But no matter how hard they tried to control everything, even the churches, they could not control a secret group of underground Christians who was committed to printing the true words of a Bible on their secret printing press.  The Word of God spread regardless of government control—these historical events are depicted in this film.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a film from 1990, it’s clear that compared to others films in the time frame, a lot of money was put into The Printing, even though it still looks extremely archaic.  Video quality is sometimes blurry, but camera work is good.  Sets and locations are pretty good considering the limited budget.  Audio quality is inconsistent throughout, and the soundtrack is too dramatic.  However, some action scenes are actually filmed pretty well.  As usual, editing is fairly poor as the film slogs on for over two hours.  But in the end, for the early 90s, this was probably as good as it was going to get in independent film making.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though it’s based on interesting historical events and intriguing ideas, The Printing is far too long, boring, and protracted to be even remotely interesting.  There are far too many wasted sequences and long, drawn-out scenes.  Dialogue is too robotic, thus making stiff and wooden characters.  The premise is somewhat realistic, yet it is overly dramatic.  In contrast to the Communist propaganda depicted, The Printing borderlines on some capitalistic propaganda of its own.  Overall, the idea behind the film has potential, but the presentation is awful.  Thus, it would be worth a remake one day.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

As their casting pool was severely limited to those associated with Bob Jones University, they were unsuccessful in casting many culturally correct actors and actresses.  Some the attempts at faking Russian accents are laughable.  Though the costuming is culturally correct, most of the performances are too theatrical and dramatic.  Emotions are not very believable.  Thus, this is a disappointing section.

Conclusion

It is commendable to make this ambitious of an independent film in the early 1990s, and one can rarely go wrong with a good historical film.  Unfortunately, the presentation of The Printing is too drab and boring to reach any audiences.  It might be interesting to history enthusiasts, but it has no wide appeal.  This film, however, is better than other disasters produced by this studio (The Treasure Map, Project Dinosaur, and Appalachian Trial), but it still doesn’t make the mark.  Perhaps someone will make a better version of this film one day.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Like Dandelion Dust (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When the Campbells adopted little Joey from the struggling Porters, they thought it was forever.  But when the Porters get back on their feet after Joey’s father gets out of jail, they file to regain custody of their son.  Heartbroken, the Campbells do everything they can do to keep their only son, but they cannot prevail.  Therefore, they resort to a drastic measure that could land them in prison, but they are committed to protecting their son from evil.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a pilot production from Jon Gunn and company, this production quality is not what it could be.  But on a shoestring budget, it is not that bad.  Camera work is sometimes shaky and video quality and lighting are sometimes poor.  The standard soundtrack is sometimes loud enough to cover up dialogue, but audio quality is mostly fine.  For a first-time effort, the sets and locations are quite realistic, even the international ones.  The editing is a pretty good effort considering what they had to work with.  In the end, every movie maker has to start somewhere, regardless of the budget or resources.  When put in that perspective, Like Dandelion Dust is an applaudable effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Based on a novel by Karen Kingsbury, this plot is somewhat slow to develop and has one too many flat scenes and dead spots.  Yet the story is true to the book and depicts unfortunately realistic happenings.  Too much time tends to be spent on trashy elements, although what happens therein is believable.  This film is a fair portrayal of real people and their struggles and highlights important issues with child welfare.  Dialogue is mostly accessible and helps to build the characters.  Unfortunately, the first three-fourths of the film may not hold the attention of most audiences.  However, once it gets to the point at the end, it suddenly becomes really good and is worth the wait.  Overall, Like Dandelion Dust improves at the end and shows great potential for the future.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast is semi-professional and mostly knows what they are doing.  Through they are small, they have some bright spots, such as well-played and believable emotions.  Their line delivery can be wooden at times, but overall, this is a good effort that shows talent in casting.

Conclusion

It is always good to choose a book plot for your first film, but we have to wonder if this was the best Karen Kingsbury book to choose.  The story is intriguing as a book, but it doesn’t translate very well to the big screen.  Yet nonetheless, it is a good effort and something to build off of for the future.  There is great potential in this team and we can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Home Beyond the Sun (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Since Jenna was raised by a missionary, she feels that it is her duty to give back by becoming a missionary herself.  So when an opening presents itself in China, she jumps at the chance.  She travels to Beijing to work as a teacher to children there, but as she works there for a few weeks, she finds an entirely different mission field: orphans whom no one wants, not even the government.  However, the orphanage leader has to keep everything a secret since she is teaching the orphans Christian values.  Who will prevail in the end?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, though this movie means well, it is packaged in a very poor production.  After the long opening sequence that would be interesting if it was produced better, the audience is subjected to grainy video quality and poor audio quality, including a loud and cheap soundtrack.  Camera work is average, especially since most of the scenes are pedestrian shots.  However, the international locations are pretty good and demonstrate an attempt at authenticity.  Finally, editing is okay, but there is not much complex content that requires any rigorous editing.  In the end, it’s clear that this creative team has good intentions, but their delivery is lacking.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Additionally, though some care is revealed through this touching story about Chinese orphans, not enough care is given to making this a palatable plot.  Home Beyond the Sun contains a slightly amateurish portrayal of Chinese people, including some strawman cultural aspects and characters.  Though important social issues are raised, they are sort of forced down the audience’s throats and do not develop naturally through the use of realistic characters.  Instead, the characters use information-packed dialogue to drive the story along.  But at the same time, the story is quite slow and does not hold the attention; any conflict therein is too trite.  There is a better way to depict an otherwise important story about Chinese orphans, and unfortunately, Home Beyond the Sun does not cut it.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Though there is some good here, the acting is overall quite amateurish.  There is some realistic cultural casting, but in all cast members, emotions seem plastic and line delivery is quite forced.  Yet it seems like this case has potential that could have been brought out through proper coaching.  But alas, coaching is not present here, thus creating another disappointing performance.

Conclusion

This really could have been an interesting movie.  It focuses on a different topic that needs to be depicted on the big screen, yet Home Beyond the Sun does so in such a way that makes it all seem so silly.  There are definitely good intentions here, but good intentions are not everything.  There must be follow-through that manifests itself in professional production, an engaging storyline full of realistic and accessible characters, and acting coaching that brings the cast members to life.  Yet when these elements are not present, even if a good idea is present, it makes for a very frustrating and disappointing film.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

New World Order: The End Has Come (Movie Review)

This cover has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual movie

Plot Summary

With the New World Order clamping down on all aspects of life as they know it, a group of people decide to band together against the regime and refuse to take the mark that is required to buy and sell.  The evil world leader is coming down hard on people and sending out his troops to enforce the receiving of the mark even in small towns.  When this small group of people, who now identify as Christians, gets word of this, they start taking in more refugees.  But how long will they be able to hide, especially when the tyrant comes to town?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

If you can make it through the long opening sequence of this production, you’re still in for plenty of nonsense.  For starters, the video quality is fairly grainy, and camera work is quite shaky.  There are also a ton of audio problems, including outside noises, weird sound effects, and an odd soundtrack.  The sets and locations are fine, but they are quite limited considering the fact that this plot is trying to cover international issues.  Finally, there is far too much wasted time in this film, thus demonstrating a lack of sufficient editing.  In short, this is a highly disappointing production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

New World Order: The End Has Come is just another typical apocalyptic plot with a predictable setup and progression.  However, there is hardly any true apocalyptic content as vague concepts are lazily tossed around and toyed with while still being confined to basically one neighborhood.  There are also unnecessary time jumps that are made up for with obvious information dump dialogue that talks about all kinds of off-screen content.  Sometimes things happen with no real explanation, and there is lot of juvenile forced drama and cheesy conflicts.  Finally, the characters seem very fake and exhibit ridiculous dialogue.  In short, there is really no reason for this plot to exist because it has nothing to offer.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As usual for this type of film, which is unfortunately all too common, this cast is very amateurish.  While there’s nothing inherently wrong with using amateur cast members, like all actors and actresses, they need coaching, which is clearly not present in New World Order.  Lines and emotions are very forceful and awkward, while some cast members are overly theatrical and sometimes even bizarre.  Basically, this is just another mess.

Conclusion

With all the horrid apocalyptic films that have already been made, we don’t need another one, yet they are still being made!  It used to be that apocalyptic was the different genre in Christian entertainment, but now it’s become its own caricature.  Until somebody can actually create an engaging and professionally done apocalyptic film, there needs to be a moratorium on this genre.  The biggest reason for this is that some non-Christians may watch these types of movies more than other Christian films, and if they do, what will they see?  More often than not, they’ll see another laughable disaster.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

Unlimited [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When an old friend of his reaches out to him to give him a second chance, Simon takes the opportunity to cross the south border into Mexico, but soon finds himself on the run from a drug cartel.  With his passport stolen, Simon is forced to take refuge in a local orphanage, where he learns of his friend’s untimely death.  Strange things are happening around him and the only way he can solve the mystery is to face dark past he is running from.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s clear that a lot of thought and time was put into making the production of Unlimited.  Shot on an authentic location with realistic sets, this film is very quality.  Video quality is crisp, and audio quality is flawless, including an excellent culturally relevant soundtrack.  However, there is some out-of-place shaky camera work that makes no sense, considering the quality of the rest of the production.  The editing is error-free, thus making this a top-notch production that should be commonplace in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though Unlimited is based on creative ideas and concepts, the plot itself is a fairly typical and formulaic suspense storyline.  The characters are fairly realistic, but they tend to fit too easily into predictable predetermined molds.  However, though the progression is predictable, the story is still crafted well and is very engaging.  There is a lot of professionalism here and with this much positive, we really wish the plot scope wasn’t so limited by mediocrity.  There is so much to offer here, yet we feel that full potential was unfortunately not reached.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Unlimited is cast very well with highly professional cast members.  However, just because they have ‘big names’ like Robert Amaya and Fred Thompson, they do not neglect acting coaching, which has a clear presence.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are on point.  The cast is also culturally authentic.  There are no errors here.

Conclusion

It’s a shame that Unlimited couldn’t take that next small step forward onto the Hall of Fame, but this is still an enjoyable movie nonetheless.  While the plot is not super creative, it’s in a different genre than usual and shows just how much we need a breath of fresh air like this in Christian film.  We can’t wait to see more from Gundersen Entertainment and others that have unique ideas like this.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

My Refuge [2013] (Movie Review)

Yeah, this picture pretty much explains this movie

Plot Summary

A whole bunch of Americans were minding their own business when BOOOOM!  New York City blew up in an atomic holocaust!  The lives of who knows how many random people are all impacted in various ways as they watch their televisions and listen to their blaring radios in the midst of having other conversations and posting stuff online (and dusting).  Through split screens, you can see multiple subplots happening at once to save time!  Will all these virtually unknowable characters be able to find the meaning in life after the off-screen explosion threatens to destroy their very lives (and Israel)?

 

Production Quality (-3 points)

What. In. The. World. Did. We. Just. Watch.  Seriously, there is nothing since Final: The Rapture or Saving Christmas that is remotely comparable to the disaster that is My Refuge.  There are so many things going on at once in this movie that I have no idea where to start and I doubt I’ll be able to cover it all.  Besides the fact that it looks like it was made on Windows Movie Maker and recorded a flip phone camera, what’s with all the split screens?!?  Why do we need multiple views of the same scene at once?  We can’t handle watching three subplots all play out at the same time, combined with the loud, clunky soundtrack and news reports!  We can’t hear what people are saying when a news report is blaring in the background.  Also, the cuts and transitions of this film rival that of Mercy Rule.  Sets and locations are severely limited to people’s houses and cars.  In the end, there is too much bad here to fit into one review, but the bottom line is that this disaster should have never been made.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-3 points)

Why are we expected to keep up with so many characters?  At minimum, there are the characters we have identified: a newscaster trying to come to grips with the nuclear event (radiation levels are very high), a generic family whose father went to New York City for business and was never heard from again (we’re not sure if the family is ever seen again either), a young couple who is expecting their first child, a woman who works at a nondescript office who wants to spend more time with her daughter and more time writing, a retired police officer with a troubled past who wants to marry a single mother, a random family who wants to build a shelter and who takes in the father’s daughter from a previous marriage since her mother is incompetent (this daughter has lots of social media posts), a couple having marriage trouble (she dusts all the time and they have no real connection to the nuclear blast), a random guy who tries to OD on meds (again, no real connection to nuclear holocaust), two old lady neighbors who discuss the nuclear blast, a random pastor and some church people, and probably several others we missed.  There are some loose connections between all of these, but there is absolutely no way to follow what is even happening.  Continuity is in the negative range and dialogue is schizophrenic.  There is literally nothing to be learned from this train wreck and it should have never even been made, not in someone’s wildest dreams.

Acting Quality (-3 points)

Need we go on?  The acting is as horrible as the rest of this movie.  Random outbursts, screaming, mumbled lines, forced emotions, general insanity—what else is there to say?  If I were a part of this chaos, I would be embarrassed and do everything I could to keep it off of my resume.

Conclusion

When your budget is limited to $50,000, it’s never a good idea to try to portray a massive nuclear holocaust, since it mostly has to happen off-screen.  Nobody wants to see a film with at least twelve subplots that is shot in people’s houses with the cheapest equipment possible and with the most annoying soundtrack possible and that is edited by a schizophrenic.  There’s no winning here and no possible hope for improvement.  Basically, if you want to see how bad this one is, you have to see it for yourself.

 

Final Rating: -9 out of 10 points

 

Apocalypse 3: Tribulation (Movie Review)

Creepers…

Plot Summary

Tom Canboro doesn’t believe in God or the supernatural, but his sister does and insists that he should before it’s too late.  However, one day, his brother-in-law begins to go insane, along with other people around the world.  Then Tom falls into a coma and wakes up to an entirely different world.  Everyone is following a world leader and receiving his required mark.  Will Tom turn to God before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Not much about production changes throughout this agonizing series.  Though video quality has finally improved, the film is filled with unwatchable and dizzying action scenes.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is cheesy.  Sets and locations are somewhat limited and there is some poor lighting in certain scenes.  In keeping with the theme of this series, Tribulation is full of more product placements from Jack Van Impe, John Hagee, and even T. D. Jakes for some reason.  Finally, the editing is all over the place and causes a confusing plot development.  In short, though tiny improvements are being made, it’s just not enough.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This installment is perhaps the most bizarre and sensational as it includes a lot of horror and creepy spiritual elements.  There are a lot of strange and bizarre sequences of violence, including sensationalized demonic activity.  The occult is portrayed in a childish manner yet there is still an obsession with the satanic.  All of this is combined with the forceful and ridiculous apocalyptic worldview that is being propagated in the midst of this madness.  The storyline is very incoherent as it jumps all over the place and fills time with information dump dialogue.  Most of the characters, especially the antichrist, are extreme strawmen and really have no potential.  In short, it feels like this movie was only made for the sensational appeal rather than anything meaningful, and it’s still horrible.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

In keeping with the theme of sensationalism, emotions are over the top and obnoxious.  Line delivery is mostly forced.  While there are some good factors, this cast seems overall disingenuous, especially when one finds out that a handful of these cast members didn’t even know they were in a Christian movie when they agreed to this lunacy.  I guess they should have known that a movie this bad would be labeled as Christian.

Conclusion

Besides everything else, how does this installment fit into the series?  There are some connecting elements, but this ridiculous series as a whole really has no continuity or sense whatsoever.  If PureFlix had been named as a contributor to this mess, I would have believed it.  Constantly pushing TV preacher talking points and products transposed on top of a C-grade horror film is only a recipe for disaster.  Once again, scaring people into Christianity is a failing strategy and only serves to feed someone’s obsession with the sensational.  But don’t worry, there’s only one more of these…

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Apocalypse 2: Revelation (Movie Review)

Bluriness…

Plot Summary

After the Rapture rocks the world and leaves millions of people searching for answers as to what happened, agent Thorold Stone is left searching for his family and wondering why the entire world has suddenly turned against Christians.  The world is also following the bidding of a rising world leader who promises peace to all if the Christians are eliminated.  With chaos ensuing around him, will Stone be able to find the truth he needs?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The second installment of this unfortunate series is much like the first.  There is barely any difference in the production quality of Caught in the Eye of the Storm and Revelation.  Camera work is still shaky and video quality is still blurry.  Special effects are very cheap and out of place.  Audio quality is average, but the soundtrack is loud and annoying.  There is some improvement with the sets, locations, and props, however.  But this film is still replete with Jack Van Impe product placements.  The editing is also poor.  In short, while there is some slight improvement here, it’s not significant.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The Apocalypse series is very thin on plot content and heavy on agenda-pushing.  Much of this film is dedicated to sequences of cheesy and stereotypical sitting around talking with robotic dialogue that is designed to force the plot along.  There’s also a lot of technological mumbo jumbo lingo and a weird obsession with virtual reality devices.  The plot has a predictable apocalyptic\suspense progression and is based on lots of coincidences.  Also, it’s worth nothing that it’s extremely hard to follow the cast of characters that is supposed to be portrayed in this so-called series.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s still difficult to find a justification for this series.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Made in 1999, this cast is far too theatrical.  Jeff Fahey is always a head-scratching cast, since he basically whispers all the time.  Emotions are either flat or overblown and line delivery is stiff.  Unfortunately, nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

Once again I ask, who’s going to watch this movie?  It has nothing going for it whatsoever.  There is no plot and certainly no notable production quality.  The casting is horrible.  Most Christians are and should be offended by this nonsense.  Once again, the world is laughing.  This kind of junk reaches no one and only adds to the caricature of Christian film.  But wait…there’s still more of these…

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

Apocalypse 1: Caught in the Eye of the Storm (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Helen Hannah and Bronson Pearl are two of the world’s top new reporters, but they are about to experience a breaking story like never before—the Rapture has come to the world and everyone left behind is left wondering what happened.  As the world descends into violence and chaos, everyone looks to a new world leader to answer their problems.  But at the same time, this leader turns everyone against those who hold the true hope for humanity—namely, the Christians.  Will Pearl and Hannah find the truth before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

As a production created in 1998, there really isn’t a lot good to say here.  Yet the fact that it was made in this year doesn’t mean it has to be this bad.  Video quality is cheap and camera work is maddening with constant zooming.  Sets, locations, and props are limited and cheesy.  Audio quality is poor with a loud and annoying soundtrack.  Many scenes have poor lighting and look like they were recorded in a closet.  Besides all this, the film is just one giant advertisement for Jack Van Impe, but it’s not even presented well.  With production this bad, nobody’s going to watch this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

I’m sure there is a good message in here somewhere, but with Van Impe propaganda constantly being shoved down your throat and with this plot being so bad, it’s hard to find.  All typical apocalyptic concepts are conveniently inserted and forced into the story in obvious ways as Van Impe finds a way to shove every single one of his beliefs into the plot.  With this going on, there is no real plot as a majority of the story is told through childish news reports.  Character development is non-existent, since dialogue is stunted as the pot rushes along quickly to hit the apocalyptic high points.  Unfortunately, there is really nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (0 points)

To fit with the rest of the film, this acting is very awkward and amateurish.  Line delivery is very measured and forced, while emotions are wooden.  This cast seemed like it had potential, but it was never found.

Conclusion

One can understand a ministry leader’s motivation to get their message and beliefs out there through means of entertainment, but this is just unacceptable.  Combining extremely low quality with propaganda is one of the worst combinations you can make.  While there is somewhat of a gospel presentation at the end of this film, who’s watching it?  Who wants a gospel packaged in this way?  As Christians, we need to move past the whole ‘scaring people with the apocalypse’ convention because it’s not working and people who need to hear the gospel are laughing at this.  But wait, there’s three more of these films…

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Fourth World [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Hudson is a young film maker in search of his big break as he tries to find a big story to film on the streets of Thailand.  Then he accidentally stumbles upon an underground world of kids struggling to survive on the streets and to stay safe from the dark world of child trafficking.  Hudson decides to film them for personal gain but soon finds that they are changing him.  As he begins to care more and more, he becomes determined to do more to change their world.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Shot on authentic international locations, Fourth World has an air of professionalism and tough realism about it.  Video quality is clear, as is the audio quality.  The soundtrack is effective.  However, the docu-drama\reality show premise is used to take some production shortcuts, such as shaky camera work and inconsistent lighting.  However, the editing is mostly average with a few minor issues.  Overall, this is a good start for production, especially considering the international sets and locations.  It will be interesting to see what this team does in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Fourth World is based on a good idea and built on a realistic premise that highlights important issues that need to be highlighted in film.  There is no doubt that this film supports a very worthy cause, but the story leaves something to be desired as it seems to lack general focus.  The storyline is somewhat simplistic and the characters need further deepening with more meaningful dialogue.  There is also too much unnecessary narration that could have been used as transformative dialogue.  However, the ending is touching and includes a slight twist.  In the end, this is an adequate call to action, but we feel that the impact would have been deeper with a more complex plot and characters.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While there are fairly good performances from most of the cast members, this is unfortunately not Andrew Cheney’s best performance.  A lot of the child actors and actresses are good and make this section overall above average.  Also, care is given to make this cast culturally authentic.  In short, this is one of the movie’s strongest points.

Conclusion

Human trafficking, especially child trafficking, is a serious issue that must be spoken about in the context of film, especially Christian film.  Non-profits like Bring Me Hope are no doubt leading the way in ending this horrible practice.  We know that this was a first time around film for them and we applaud them for taking a step of faith and making this.  Fourth World is a great start and is something to build off of.  We look forward to whatever else they have planned for the future.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

 

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

 

The Omega Code 2: Megiddo (Movie Review)

Just wait until I turn into a monster…

Plot Summary

Stone Alexander always craved power and always knew that he was meant for something bigger.  As he grew up and rose through the ranks of the military, he was ruthless and unfeeling.  His own family never understood him, especially his brother.  The older he became, the deeper he became involved in darkness and evil.  Stone quickly became a raving, power-hungry madman committed to do anything to achieve world domination.  Ultimately, it comes down to the differing choices of the two brothers and how they affected humanity.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Needless to say, The Omega Code 2: Megiddo has better production than the previous installment, The Omega Code 1.  Sets, locations, and props are all fairly professional and camera work has improved.  Video and audio quality are also improved, and the soundtrack is intriguing.  However, there are still cheesy special effects and confusing crossfades.  Editing is overall okay, but there is too much useless footage that drags down the film.  In the end, this is just an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though it portrays an odd view of the Thousand Year Reign, this story shows an interesting side to the development of the antichrist.  Thus, it jumps back in time to before the first movie ever began and works its way up to where the first film left off.  However, it does fill in missing parts from The Omega Code 1, which becomes sort of a crutch to ‘fix’ the first film.  Also, this filling in is not done in the best way as it relies on information dump dialogue, time jumps, and of course, over-dramatization and sensationalism.  There is, as usual, an addiction to creepy and weird spiritual elements and a fixation on the demonic.  This story gives tons of attention to Satan and barely any to Jesus and Christianity.  Finally, similar to the first one, as this movie goes on, it gets stranger and stranger until it boils down to a very bizarre ending that leaves you scratching your head.  When all is said and done, the plots of the two Omega Code films are the same—ridiculous.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Acting somewhat improves between the two films, but there are still problems here.  Lines are sometimes overly practiced and emotions are often over-the-top and extreme.  However, not all is bad here and there are some bright spots.  In the end, this portion is also just average.

Conclusion

What was ever to be gained from The Omega Code series?  Megiddo barely has any reference to the original dubious premise of printing out codes supposedly hidden in the Torah.  It’s highly unlikely anybody but white evangelical Christians will ever see these disasters, but if anybody else did, they would probably find a good laugh and then forget about them.  The creepy obsession with the demonic in these films does nothing but fuel sensationalism and the messaging only preaches to the choir.  In short, these films are utterly useless and have no part on Christian entertainment.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

The Omega Code 1 (Movie Review)

There’s these codes, see…

Plot Summary

Gillen Lane is a genius who has a massive following as a motivational speaker.  He believes in some form of spirituality, but when he is recruited by the powerful Stone Alexander to work for his new world empire, Gillen doesn’t know what to think.  Times are becoming stranger on earth, especially as someone as discovered that the Torah supposedly holds a secret code that predicts major world events.  With everything spiraling out of control, is there anywhere safe to turn?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

For an independent production created in 1999, The Omega Code 1 is ambitious yet misguided.  While it’s clear that effort was put into the international sets and locations, many other production elements fall by the wayside.  Video quality and camera work are average, but audio quality is quite poor.  The soundtrack is also annoying.  The film is filled with cheap and obnoxious special effects, not to mention the fact that the CGI is cheesy.  Finally, the editing is very choppy as the story attempts to cover too much ground at once.  In short, trying to attain this level of production was not really the best idea in this situation.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The entire premise of this film is that the Torah supposedly predicts key events through a secret code of moving letters around or something, and this plot device is used to move the plot along.  However, this convention isn’t even necessary as the plot does plenty of jumping all over the place without needing printouts from a primitive computer to aid it.  The plot actually focuses more on the inner workings of the antichrist, who is a highly cheesy and sometimes wacky character.  There is no plot continuity as time speeds forward at a breakneck pace in an attempt to cover the entire traditional evangelical Tribulation period in the span of 100 minutes.  No, seriously, it goes from Rapture to Second Coming in less than two hours.  What’s more is that TBN inserts its typical obsession with spiritual sensationalism into the story, which causes things to get weirder and weirder as it progresses.  By the time it’s all over, the audience has either abandoned the film, is laughing at the attempts to portray demonic activity, or is extremely confused as to what they just experienced.  In short, there was little to no justification for this film being made.

Acting Quality (0 points)

A majority of this acting is bizarre and overly dramatic, which shows more TBN influence.  Emotions are sensational and line delivery is lazy.  There are also some inconsistent accents that make it clear several cast members are trying (and failing) to fake them.  Unfortunately, there is really not much good to say here.

Conclusion

I would have liked to hear the rational behind the creation of this disaster.  Was it similar to Timothy Chey, who wanted to “scare people into being saved” with that horrid thing called Final: The Rapture?  Or was it just a sales pitch to try to sell sensationalism to white evangelical Christians who all talk to each other about how the end of the world is near?  Whether it was juvenile evangelism or preaching to the choir, The Omega Code 1 is a train wreck from start to finish.  But guess what!  There’s still a sequel to watch!

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Not Today [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Caden is a spoiled teenager who thinks he owns the world and can do whatever he wants.  So he decides to try to convince his mother and stepfather that he and his friends need to go to India to “experience the world.”  Surprisingly, they agree, so Caden sets out to discover what he is looking for to satisfy his empty soul.  All the while, his mother prays tirelessly for him in the hope that he will come to his senses.  Little does she know God’s plan for him as Caden stumbles upon the dark world of child trafficking and slavery and determines that he must do something about it.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Not Today is a highly unique production, to say the least.  At the beginning of the film, there are tons of odd special effects and captioning drawn on top of the screen to try to enhance the story, but this thankfully subsides as the movie goes on.  There is a professional use of international on-set locations, but some of the camera work is shaky, seemingly on purpose to try to create some kind of documentary effect, even though this isn’t a docu-drama.  Video and audio quality are both clear, however, and the original soundtrack is effective.  Yet there are issues with editing, including choppiness and abrupt scene transitions.  But the production improves in the middle as a whole and some of the minor issues fade away.  However, it’s not enough to make this production above average.  It’s a good effort, but it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Though this premise is slightly forced, it is no less important to discuss in film.  Unfortunately, too much of the film relies on the issue the writer is trying to present, namely human trafficking, and leaves other things undone at first.  For example, the characters start out as very empty and stereotypical, but improve through the film through intriguing character arcs.  Though things are rocky at first, the story improves in the middle and carries a powerful message.  Similarly, the dialogue begins amateurish but becomes deeper and more meaningful as the plot goes on.  There is a lot of content here, along with some interesting psychological elements, but we would have still liked to see more development from some of the characters and less wasted time at the beginning.  Also, the ending is quite rushed and patched up, so we can’t really appreciate what’s happening.  In the end, this is an average plot that we feel could have been better, but it ends up meaningful.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like other elements, the acting starts off juvenile and forceful, but improves as the movie goes on.  The character arcs seemingly cause the line delivery and emotional delivery to become more realistic.  Nonetheless, international casting is realistic and effective.  The frustrating thing is that this was a professional cast, so they certainly could have been better.  But like the rest of the film, this portion just comes out as average.

Conclusion

Though Not Today is a slight advertisement for the human trafficking non-profit behind it, it is still an effective messaging tool and drives its point home in the end.  No doubt a lot of effort was put into the international casting and filming, so this could have detracted from other parts of the movie.  For the most part, many audiences will find this film enjoyable, and it may be worth your time.  It’s not one of the horrible films out there—we just feel like it could have been better.  Nevertheless, you should still probably give it a chance.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points