The Shack (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Mackenzie Phillips never really trusted God after the abuse he underwent at the hands of his father, but he really felt abandoned by Jesus when his youngest daughter was kidnapped, raped, and left for dead by a twisted man. Floundering in his faith, Mack receives a mysterious note signed by God telling him to return to the place where his daughter was found dead: a shack in the mountainous woods. Mack decides to return, thinking he can avenge his daughter’s death, but instead, he experiences an encounter with God beyond his wildest dreams.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a mainstream production, The Shack hits all the right notes en route to a nearly perfect score. This is due to great camera work, video quality, and audio quality. The sets, locations, and props are effectively utilized and authentic. Also, the soundtrack is very poignant and accessible. One minor nitpick to point out with this production pertains to the editing concerns, but this is mainly a plot issue that inadvertently affects this section. Overall, this is almost as good as it gets for a production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Based on William Paul Young’s slightly controversial novel, the film is actually a step above the book as it takes time to explain more about the characters and their motivations. Even still, there are still some issues that hold The Shack back from being all that it could be. For one, the narration right out of the gate from Tim McGraw’s mysteriously omniscient character is completely unnecessary and calls into question why his subplot even exists. This brief, irrelevant storyline, in conjunction with some rushed and confusing scenes revolving around law enforcement, waste precious time at the beginning of the film and make the movie feel like it’s two different ones put together. This squandered time at the beginning hurts this section and likely keeps it from the Hall of Fame, but once the middle of the film arrives, it’s definitely worth a watch. At this point in the movie, The Shack isn’t afraid to tackle very realistic and raw issues we rarely see discussed in Christian film, including child abuse in the name of Christianity and incorrect views of God as well as the connections between these two concepts. Sometimes, flashbacks are used in very effective ways to present the plot and the character motivations, but it would have been better if all narration and early plot points were replaced with flashbacks to make it more of a non-linear style. However, despite a slightly incomplete view of God, The Shack does an excellent job with showing how God will relate to people on a very personal level via good philosophical discussions about life and power emotional experiences. Although it could have gone just a bit further with theological grounding (but not too much), this is a good place for a lot of people to start if they have a warped view of God. Basically, from the halfway point until the part before the end, The Shack is a nearly perfect film. The beginning and the epilogue that fixes things too easily detract from this section and keep it from being all that it could be. Nonetheless, this movie is definitely worth your time and can be a great tool to use to introduce people to God if they are closed to Him for one reason or another.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Another major detractor that keeps The Shack from being Hall of Fame is Sam Worthington’s accent-suppressing. If you’re going to cast a British-Australian actor for an American role, either train him with a better accent or just make the character British or Australian. As it is, the way he delivers his line is very distracting and comes off as breathy and insincere because of the accent clashing. This really puts a damper on things as it makes his emotions seem otherworldly and causes unsure line delivery, which is difficult to watch since he takes up so much screentime. However, other cast members, most notably Octavia Spencer, work overtime to make up for Worthington’s shortfalls and overall post very professional and noteworthy performances. In the end, this section is above average and rounds out a very commendable effort.

Conclusion

Though many theologically astute individuals like to “debunk” The Shack for its inaccuracies (there are a few small ones), the film as a whole demonstrates just how out of touch many Christian thought leaders are with everyday people. The movie does a much better job of relating to everyone on a personal level than any theological debate ever will, and it shows that God really wants with people: a relationship. While it could have use just a hair more theological grounding, The Shack is a great place for many people to start who have been hurt by Christianity or who may have invalid views of God. It’s unfortunate that it just misses the mark of being Hall of Fame, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a watch. Hopefully, in the future, we’ll see more films that walk the delicate balance of being personal-emotional and grounded at the same time. Once Christian entertainment as a whole learns how to relate to everyone personally, the industry will be unstoppable.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

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Heavens to Betsy 2 (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

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

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Turbulent [2018] (Movie Review)

Oooohh scary

Plot Summary

When a man and his wife have a sudden plane accident in the middle of nowhere, they have to do whatever they can do to fight for survival. However, the strained relationship between them becomes a detriment to their quest as she believes in God while he resists her faith because of the tragedies they’ve endured in their marriage. Will they be able to overcome both the elements and the distance between them in order to survive another day?

Production Quality (-1 point)

With a production this bad in 2018, we don’t even know where to begin. It’s literally terrible in every way you can conceive: weird outdoor lighting, horrible audio quality with loud background sounds, and basically no soundtrack on top of this. Sets, locations, and props are extremely cheap and don’t line up with what they’re supposed to portray. There are also weird special effects and oddly chosen sound effects that contribute to the annoyingly bad quality of this production. Since you almost have to try to make a production this bad, it warrants a negative point. It goes without saying that the editing is very choppy, but that’s just white noise in the bigger picture because there are so many problems here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 point)

In this storyline, there are no breaks in negativity or balanced scenes as everything is dour and dramatic in infantile ways. It has a very juvenile outlook on life as characters do things that have no grounding in reality and as the plot contains unrealistic survival elements. The majority of the film is painfully long and drawn out scenes that are like pulling teeth to watch. It’s obvious that the main agenda of the film is to scare the viewers into being saved (as if any non-believers would ever think about watching this garbage), yet there are a lot of fantastically weird magical concepts that don’t seem to line up with typical fundamentalist ideologies. These elements are connected to a really bizarre twist at the end of the movie that comes off in a very strange and off-putting way. In the end, there’s so much wrong here with so little to deal with, which is why this is a rare feat deserving of negative points.

Acting Quality (-1 point)

With such a small cast, everything stands out, and the acting therein is annoyingly horrible. Emotions are excruciating to watch as if the cast members are being tortured to say them…it’s like fingernails in the chalkboard to watch it unfold. Every little drama is extremely forced to the point of straining, and because of these issues, there’s no way to properly connect with the character struggles. It’s not like the cast members had good lines to work with in the first place, but they make matters worse with their agonizing delivery. Thus, in summary, if you’re looking for the exact opposite of how to make a Christian film, watch Turbulent.

Conclusion

Negative films are absolutely unacceptable in the modern era of Christian entertainment, and survival plots as a whole are worn out and should be used sparingly unless somebody actually has a good idea to share. Basically, from Turbulent, we can learn the same old lessons we’ve seen before: if you don’t have the money for your film, don’t even think about making it because the higher production standards in the field today demand better delivery. Also, even if you have the money for a decent production, please make sure you actually have a worthwhile plot to share and can properly coach your cast to be believable. The time for poor quality Christian films to go away is long overdue.

Final Rating: -3 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

Breakthrough [2019] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

When Joyce Smith’s adopted son John falls through the ice one fateful winter day, she feels like she’s lost him forever. However, after praying over him in the intensive care unit, she witnesses a seeming miracle as her son is able to be stabilized into a coma rather than be on death’s door. Afterward, a battle for healing begins as Joyce faces perceived opposition on every side of her as her son keeps fighting for his life.

Production Quality (2 points)

Breakthrough falls in line with other inspirational productions DeVon Franklin has been involved with, such as Heaven is For Real and Miracles From Heaven. As such, Breakthrough hits all the right proverbial notes, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality. While the soundtrack is sometimes too loud and invasive, for the most part, the sets, props, and locations are fine. This film is really just a by-the-book, run-of-the-mill inspirational production with nothing to set it apart either good or bad. The biggest glaring error therein is the poor editing, but this is mainly due to its plot problems. As a whole, Breakthrough is a safe, non-dynamic film through and through.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

On the surface, the message of the plot is fine as it blatantly panders to an inspirational audience, yet Breakthrough sets itself apart by portraying the main character in unusually perfect and un-flawed ways even though she has plenty of issues in her behavior. This premise is likely due to the original book’s content, but empowering someone who seemingly believes she never really did anything wrong and feels like everyone else in the world needs to change except for her is very suspect. The storyline and characters are required to change according to her (sometimes judgmental) standards, and she never really learns anything as she continues to live in her own little world. This is the real hidden problem with Breakthrough besides the typical spoon-feeding of inspirational messages to a hand-picked audience. While there were some interesting psychological elements in this film that had the potential to make an interesting story about the miracles of God, we are instead left with the miracles of Joyce Smith; in doing so, prayer is mis-handled and poorly portrayed as people deciding what’s doing to happen. Elsewhere, random subplots are thrown together that cause a lot of story confusion and disorganization. In the midst of the swirl, there aren’t any substantial characters to relate to because dialogue is bland and pedestrian. Even though this was a small, focused time frame, we don’t really know who these people are beyond the molds the main character puts them into. Had this story been more about miracles and prayer, we would have had another Miracles From Heaven, which was safe, standard inspirational movie designed to target a specific audience. Breakthrough tries to follow in its footsteps, yet the dictates of the main character decide otherwise.

Acting Quality (2 points)

It’s understandable that this mainly Hollywood cast is professional and appears to know what they’re doing. However, some cast members who have more potential, like Josh Lucas, come off as underwhelming and downplayed, which suggests they’ve been cast wrong. It feels like more could have been done with this cast even though there aren’t any glaring problems. With the money and expertise behind the film, the acting needed to be more dynamic than this, but it overall rounds out a mediocre effort designed as a quick cash grab.

Conclusion

DeVon Franklin loves to make money off of the inspirational audience, and he’s clearly good at it. He’s found something that works, so good for him. Nonetheless, with all the marketing and fluff of this film, there’s no real substance to back it up. We were promised a movie about a miracle, yet we can’t connect with the real story due to tainted views of the main character. What’s more, the disjointed subplots make for a confusing viewing experience as it mostly just boils down to a collection of platitudes you could find in a generic white Christian book for sale at Lifeway. There’s nothing special here, but then again, Franklin never intended to do anything further, so he’s sticking with his business model, which is at least upfront and honest. Regardless, Christian entertainment can do better than this.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Heaven’s War {Beyond the Darkness} (Movie Review)

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The magic of the cosmos…

Plot Summary

Senator Jonah Thomas is a rising political star who wants to be the good guy in Washington, but evil individuals, both human and spiritual, have their own plans for him. Jonah’s political career is pushing his family to the brink, and he doesn’t realize the evil devices that await him in one fateful meeting. As his soul hangs in the balance, he will be given one last chance to battle for his eternal destiny in a very poorly-animated CGI world.

Production Quality (0 points)

Imagine you have this great idea for a complex sci-fi plot that requires a lot expensive CGI and animation tools. Would you go ahead and make it even though you didn’t have the funding to make it on a level we see in theaters today? Essentially, Heaven’s War is a poorly funded attempt at a possibly good idea that will fall totally flat due to how bad the production is. The extremely cheap special effects and the cheesiest possible animation and CGI draw so much attention to themselves that they negate any possible good elements in other parts of the production. They affect everything and make it an unpleasant experience whether via disorienting editing, cheap flashback quality, weird sound effects, or wild and quick cuts between scenes. Even if other elements of the film are fine, the special effects failings are the types of issues that infect everything, which keeps this production rated at zero.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Besides this, the plot is fairly confusing and hard to follow. Even though it’s an interesting idea to explore the spiritual realm, everything is too focused on American politics, which begs the question why the major spiritual battles highlighted here center around raising taxes and finding a vaccine for cancer. If this isn’t the intention, it comes off that way through expository dialogue and devices that move the plot forward, such as news reports and phone conversations. As the story wildly jumps from one random idea to the next, the slightly interesting flashback\psychological vision elements had something going for them, but the way they are presented is a disservice. Poor delivery and unclear direction doomed this plot from the start, not to mention the extremely cheesy portrayal of the spiritual realm that is almost a laughingstock. After lots of disorienting battle sequences and explorations of alternate realities, problems are suddenly quickly fixed at the end with no feeling or reality behind it, and by the time it’s all over, you suddenly realize that this film barely had any actual content in it. Hence, no points can be awarded in this section either.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Surprisingly, as bad as it is, the acting is the strongest point of this movie because it’s the only section that gets any points. Even still, the acting often comes off as un-earnest, overly practiced, and robotic. For the most part, emotions are black, forced, and unnatural. There are some good moments for some of the cast members that are basically just average, but as a whole, the acting is cardboard and the casting poor. This rounds out an unacceptably bad film in the new era of Christian entertainment.

Conclusion

Danny Carrales’ intentions to make different types of Christian films are definitely noted, but their application is way off the mark. It would have been better to make Heaven’s War fully animated so that more time could have been spent on making a real plot. Relying only on special effects of any quality level is never a good idea because they can’t write the story for you. Even the best sci-fi idea will fail if the characters can hold it up for you because the audience has no real connection to the concept without feeling like real people are experiencing it. Basically, better luck next time.

Final Rating: 1 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

The Trump Prophecy (Movie Review)

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Shofars!

Plot Summary

Mark Taylor was burnt out as a firefighter after nearly twenty years of service, and he began having physical symptoms of his exhaustion. He also began having mental symptoms of the trauma he experienced, which led to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. He went on leave from work due to the condition and eventually retired, and during this time, he believed that he received visions both from Satan and from God of how Donald Trump would become President of the United States.

Production Quality (0 points)

So Liberty University wants to make another movie to showcase their expensive equipment and unusual application of it. While on the surface this production seems fine, there are too many film school experiments exhibited throughout, such as bizarre camera work and choppy ‘artistic’ editing. Sets, props, and locations are surprisingly limited for the supposed scope of this film, and it seems like with the budget that was funded for this film, things would look better than this. The audio quality as a whole is unacceptable for a movie of this budget level since there are many weird background noises throughout and since the many musical montages use an invasive and unrelated soundtrack. Besides these obvious problems, it goes without saying that the special effects are horribly bad and very cheap-looking for a film school who purports to have some of the best resources at their fingertips. As a side note, there are too many CBN product placements, probably because they couldn’t license the big networks in a film that depends too heavily on news sequences to move time forward. In the end, any good parts of this production are cancelled out by the bad, which leaves us with nothing here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2 points)

As expected from the build-up and from the divisive political atmosphere surrounding the origin of this film’s idea, this story is utter madness. The fact that a large section of the American Christian population has embraced the bizarre ramblings of a self-proclaimed prophet who has many prophecies that never came true is very disturbing at best. Due to money, Liberty University has chosen to give a platform to these wacky theories, but they packaged them in the most boring and vanilla plot you can imagine. The weird worldview aside, this story has basically nothing to offer the viewers except for boring activities of daily living, random life montages, and off-the-wall acid trip vision sequences that have little to no explanation or understanding of what’s going on. Besides the fact that this film gives a platform to highly unusual and offbeat ideas that borderline on false teaching and peddles cult-life politically Christian propaganda, the main story is actually quite short and irrelevant. There’s hardly anything to it at all, and all of the negative brings it lower than zero, which isn’t really surprising, given the history of this story’s origins.

Acting Quality (0 points)

To combine with one of the most boring plots possible, Liberty University’s film school made sure to cast the most boring cast members we’ve ever seen, and we thought that the cast of Extraordinary was bad enough. The lead actor is extremely dead-faced for most of the movie, and most of the cast members don’t exhibit any substantial emotions except for overly practiced ones. Line delivery is very stilted and robotic, and the interactions between the cast members come off as very awkward and impersonal. In short, if there’s something bad about any movie, it’s probably represented somehow in The Trump Prophecy.

Conclusion

We have to wonder if Liberty University will ever learn from their series of colossal failures (see Extraordinary). Even if you agree with the total drivel propagated by this film of madness, there’s no way you can contort this film to be a quality movie or even an interesting one. Whoever is behind the decision making at LU’s film school clearly has no idea what they’re doing in the entertainment business because they consistently roll out some of the most well-funded and tone deaf movies we’ve ever seen. Words cannot express how far out of touch with reality they are; anyone that even thought about making a film based on a scam-worthy book like The Trump Prophecy has their priorities seriously out of whack and out of tune with what really matters.

Final Rating: -2 out of 10 points

Dead Man Rising (Movie Review)

Image result for dead man rising movie

Plot Summary

Daniel is a death-row inmate awaiting the lethal injection, but he will be one of the first prisoners to receive the new experimental injection drugs. Desperate for an out, he convinces his lawyer to lobby for him to have limited and monitored internet access in order to research the drug in his last days. He is granted this privilege, but a fellow inmate keeps provoking him to research arguments for and against Christianity, and Daniel keeps taking him up on the challenge, even though he has never believed in God. before he knows it, something is changing inside of him, but is it too late?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a more recent film, Dead Man Rising lives up to the expectation of higher production quality, which is evident in the professional camera work and video quality. Audio is also good, even if the soundtrack is a bit generic at times. It’s noted that the sets, locations, and props are relatively limited by the design of the plot, but the props are nonetheless realistic. It’s definitely a better idea to live within your means as far as the production goes rather than to over-extend and look silly. This is really the only issue with this production since the editing is good. Moreover, this limited production design definitely puts more pressure on the plot and characters to deliver…

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

…which they unfortunately do not do as much as they could have. While the plot is a unique idea, it too easily devolves into a boring philosophical conversation between two characters that appears to push a pre-determined agenda a bit too strongly rather than to let things develop naturally. There are also some slightly unrealistic plot circumstances that are designed to make the story happen, even if there are portions of intriguing dialogue that make attempts at character development. However, since there are so few characters, they needed to be developed deeper than they were with more effective flashbacks and clearer character motivations. While there are some attempts at flashbacks, we needed to see more in this area and less in the area of apologetic information dumps that sacrifice precious time that could have been used to increase character growth. We needed a story that tells us about actual people, but we only got half-measured. Nevertheless, the ending is very interesting and effective if you make it that far, but after the wearing apologetic dumps in the middle, many people won’t get to the meaning in the end. Basically, this movie, like most other films, was made or broken by the plot, which didn’t deliver as much as it could have.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, this small cast demonstrates good acting skills even if there are some forced lines and emotions that seem out of context for their situations. Although each cast member assumes his or her respective role well, due to the small size of the cast, each error is more pronounced. There are also some unnecessary yelling scenes that can become wearing. However, as a whole, this is an average performance that rounds out an average film that could have been more.

Conclusion

A common theme in Christian film that few Christian movie-makers have discovered and remedied is that audiences want characters they can relate to as real people. This is done through effective flashbacks and conversations that reveal to us what the character wants, why he does what he does, and how he got to where he is. Filling time with worn-out Christian debate talking points only implies that a film maker doesn’t know how to relate to real people on this level. However, when this trend changes in Christian film and when Christian movie creators begin depicting real characters we can relate to on these levels, that’s when the Christian entertainment field will finally take the culture by storm, which is good food for thought as we begin a new year.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Unbroken: Path to Redemption (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After surviving months being stranded at sea and being tortured in a cruel Japanese prison camp, Louis Zamperini was finally returned home as a war hero.  His family celebrated his safe return, but little did anyone know that the war still raged in Louis’ mind.  His lead torturer, The Bird, never left his dreams, and hate burned inside of him.  Louis decided to drink to cover up the madness in his head, but this got him into trouble, so he was given a chance to start over on a vacation in Florida.  It was there that he met his future wife, and he felt like his life was finally in a good spot.  They married soon after, but the war did not cease in Louis’ mind as it continued to rage and push his marriage to the brink.  There was only one way to end the war–only if Louis was willing to surrender.

Production Quality (3 points)

Harold Cronk has had decent productions in the past, but he and his team really went all out for this one.  They obviously put a lot of time and effort into crafting extremely authentic and historically accurate sets, locations, and props.  This is not just another cheesy PureFlix ripoff because time and money were spent on attention to detail and one making it look real.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are also extremely professional, but these should be a given in higher budget films like this one.  Further, the soundtrack of Unbroken: Path to Redemption is very impactful as Cronk made a wise decision to depart from the typical Will Musser soundtrack PureFlix films usually have.  Finally, the editing in this film is very good as it handles a large amount of content very well.  In summary, this is a rare find as a perfect PureFlix production, and it is definitely a breakout film for Cronk and his team.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Despite what some critics may say, it was an excellent idea for this film to pick up where the Hollywood version left off because this second half of the story is much better than the first.  Hopefully, this film launches Christian entertainment into a new era of effectively using source material to produce great films.  The time jumps in Unbroken: Path to Redemption are handled very well without narration, and the dialogue is very well-crafted and well-constructed in order to build the characters into real, accessible people.  It goes without saying that the psychological elements in this film are exquisite and are perhaps the best in Christian film to date.  The use of flashbacks is wonderful, and the portrayal of PTSD is very accurate and on point.  Further, the plot progression is handled well, and the messaging is effective without being too over the top.  The only issues to raise with this plot relate to some slightly wasted time at the beginning of the film that is felt later when the ending comes off as a bit rushed, but this is really nitpicking because the story is presented very well and is definitely a breath of fresh air to Christian entertainment.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

It was absolute genius to cast Will Graham as Billy Graham in this film, and this is the sort of expertise we need to see more of in Christian films as we hopefully progress to a new era of Christian entertainment.  Elsewhere in this film, the acting is slightly awkward in the first few scenes, as if they were test scenes, but the acting quickly and dramatically improves as time goes on.  Samuel Hunt has a surprise breakout role as Zamperini, and he does a great job playing multiple different roles as the same character.  Conversely, Merritt Patterson cements a great role as the lead actress in this film.  Overall, each cast member owns his or her respective role very well and seems very comfortable in it.  This rounds out an excellent movie that is definitely worth your time.

Conclusion

Unbroken: Path to Redemption earns an x-factor point for portraying psychological elements very well and for having re-watchability qualities.  Much like Jon Gunn did in The Case for Christ, Harold Cronk and his team have found a new voice by effectively adapting source material into Christian film.  This is exactly what we need to be seeing more of by letting someone else take the screenwriting duties.  Building an authentic production and casting great actors and actresses is also key to success.  Unbroken: Path to Redemption will have far-reaching effects and is definitely worth your time to go see.

Final Rating: 9 out of 10 points

An Interview With God (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Paul is a journalist who recently returned from Afghanistan, where he was reporting on the war effort there.  What he saw there changed him forever, and it sent him down a dark path as he began searching for the true meaning of life.  He began to question his childhood faith, and he asked God if He was even real.  However, Paul received an unexpected answer one day when he received a tip to interview God Himself.  Skeptical, Paul decides to follow the lead even though he is on paid leave.  What he discovers is unexpected and is destined to change his life forever.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

The Astute Films team is fresh on the scene, and they have put together a quality first-time production, which is a great way to start out.  It is clear that they put a lot of effort into making a high-quality production in An Interview With God.  This is evident in great video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is creative, and the film has an overall artistic touch as a lot of work is put into establishing things without being too obvious.  Further, the sets, locations, and props are authentic and appropriate.  Finally, the editing is professional, which rounds out a basically perfect production effort.  With this film, the Astute team has sown great seeds for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

On the surface, An Interview With God seems like another version of The Encounter or The Perfect Stranger, but upon closer look, this new film is much more.  Though the plot mostly centers around lengthy conversations, the dialogue is well-constructed and holds up the plot well.  The characters explore some great topics relating to the nature of reality and the work of God.  These philosophical conversations actually hold the attention because they seek to develop the characters as people rather than to throw worldviews at the audience.  The writers were not afraid to go deep with the characters by making them flawed and accessible.  The portrayal of God is also appropriate and intriguing.  Throughout the storyline, there are creative psychological elements that appear to be building towards a possible plot twist, but unfortunately, this seeming creativity never materializes, which leaves the ending to be a bit flat and disappointing.  The story tends to limp to a conclusion with too many unanswered questions after it had so much potential going for it, but even still, the remainder of the plot is good enough to lift this film to an overall good rating.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Though the cast of this film is very small, they carry the film strongly.  Each cast member portrays emotions effectively and carries his or her role very well.  Line delivery is on point, and it appears as though each cast member fits comfortably into his or her respective roles.  There are no flaws in this section, which is enough to lift An Interview With God to Hall of Fame status.

Conclusion

An Interview With God is one of 2018’s surprise breakout films, and it comes from a creative team who is not afraid to get their name out there.  When a film maker crafts a project they are proud of and one that they are not afraid to share, this immediately shows a great mentality as a creator.  It is clear that great production and acting effort were put into this movie, even if the plot department was a little lacking.  Nevertheless, the effort was enough to breach the seven point threshold, and An Interview With God is a great start to a promising career that demonstrates great potential for the future.

 

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

 

Paul, Apostle of Christ (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Paul had completed many full years of missionary work across the continents of Asia and Europe and after carrying the Gospel of Jesus Christ to thousands of people, both Jews and Gentiles, he appealed to stand trial in Rome before Caesar, but this decision only caused him to suffer further for the cause of Christ at the hands of cruel Romans.  With the church in Rome on the brink of total annihilation, Priscilla and Aquila house many wanted Christians in their home, and Luke is sent to tend to Paul in prison.  As many Christians begin to question the words of Christ, Luke begs Paul for a fresh word to strengthen the church in her dark times, yet Paul is plagued by his thorn in the flesh–namely the lives of all he killed while he was a religious zealot.  With darkness seeming to close in on Christ’s people, the story of Paul’s life carries the same message that saved all followers of the Way: where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Gone are the days when ‘Bible plays’ like The Book of Esther are socially acceptable as Christian films.  We are in a new era of Christian productions, and Paul, Apostle of Christ is another hallmark of this era.  Similar to recent Biblical depictions, such as Risen, this new look at Paul’s life is gritty and authentic and has no fear of being painfully realistic.  This is evident in the excellent and historically authentic sets, locations, and props.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are also what a professional production should be.  The soundtrack is very engaging and thought-provoking, and the editing is quite creative and effective in presenting the story.  The only drawback to this production is a collection of very dark scenes that may be realistic but do not make for great viewing.  Nevertheless, this is a top-notch production that we should see over and over again in Christian films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

While most standard Biblical plot fare is very flat, face-value, and vanilla, Paul, Apostle of Christ rejects this mold and upends the Biblical genre once and for all.  By inserting extremely creative and well-crafted psychological elements into the core of this storyline, Andrew Hyatt and his team have created a point of no return for films based on Biblical events.  Much like their work in Full of Grace, which showed the potential they have always had, their portrayal of Paul’s thorn in the flesh and the trauma he went through in his life is revolutionary in this genre.  This is exactly what needs to be done to show the humanness of Biblical characters through the exquisite use of effective flashbacks and through processes that demonstrate real motive.  Elsewhere, dialogue is rich and meaningful, and the other subplots are intertwined very well as each character is very well-developed.  Care is given to demonstrate great historical accuracy, and while there are some slightly slow scenes and areas that could have been fleshed out with further dialogue and flashbacks, this storyline is a breath of fresh air in a world of very poor Biblical screenwriting.  To top things off, the ending sequence completes the film excellently and is well worth the wait.  In short, this film is a job well done in nearly every area.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

While there were a few missteps with cast members that are not entirely culturally authentic, they are trained to appear culturally authentic, which is leagues better than having a fully BRITISH cast.  Elsewhere, there is plenty of culturally authentic casting to make this section great, and there is clearly a presence of professional acting coaching.  There are very few errors to point out here, and costuming and makeup are also extremely realistic.  In summary, there are many positive elements to point out in this breakout effort.

Conclusion

This film receives a full x-factor point for its effective use of poignant psychological elements as Paul, Apostle of Christ takes its rightful place among the greatest Christian films of our time.  Andrew Hyatt and his team are clearly going places, and even though their sophomore effort was somewhat muted by the blockbuster release of I Can Only ImaginePaul is a signal that a new force to be reckoned has finally arrived in Biblical films.  It will be exciting to see what this team puts together next, but for now, we can enjoy this great movie.

 

Final Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points

 

Wraith [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The Lukens family is tired of living in their old, creepy house, so they want to downsize.  However, an unexpected addition to the family throws them for a loop, as does a disturbing presence their daughter keeps seeing and hearing in her room.  As they must make difficult decisions regarding the life of their future child, the evil presence seems to tighten its grip on their lives, pushing them to the breaking point.  Will they be able to survive the onslaught of the paranormal force?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For another independent Christian horror film, Wraith doesn’t have that bad of a production, but it is still mostly average on the whole.  Video quality is mostly fine, but there is some poor lighting throughout, perhaps by design.  A lot of the dark scenes appear to be for dramatic effect, but there are other typically cheesy elements that seem to always come with a cheap horror production, such as wild camera work and dizzying cuts.  Though the sets and locations are somewhat limited, also by design, the props are fine, and there appear to be attempts to create authenticity throughout.  The editing is mostly fine, but there are too many issues with this indie effort to give the production anything more than an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Making a pro-life Christian horror film is an interesting endeavor, and it is not one without potential, but Wraith has too many problems in the plot department to reach this possible potential.  When setting out to make a Christian horror film, it’s like it’s a requirement to totally disregard character development.  This film is no exception as the characters are extremely bland and empty due to cheap and stilted dialogue.  Though there are some interesting attempts at flashbacks and creative psychological elements, they are too muted and downplayed in the midst of wasted time that is mostly filled with stupid jump scares and incoherent moments that are meant to be ‘thrilling’ or ‘scary’ but really just end up being stupid.  Randomly vague things just happen as opportunities to build real characters are squandered by kicking the proverbial can down the road just to get to the ending.  Unfortunately, this storyline gets worse and worse as it goes as it slowly reveals a very ill-advised approach to dealing with demonic entities until it finishes with an extremely cheesy climax that endorses dangerous practices.  Overall, this plot is just a mess and really needed to be completely reworked.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While some of the more experienced cast members, such as Ali Hillis, are mostly fine in their performances, some of the younger cast members, particularly the younger female lead, are quite bad at acting.  Some line delivery is painfully forced, and emotions are uneven throughout.  Other moments are far too dramatic, which is an unfortunate byproduct of the difficult horror genre.  In summary, this film squandered whatever potential it may have had.

Conclusion

Christian horror films desperately need a better basis.  It is important that the core concepts of psychological thrillers are well-thought-out and have some logical basis before they are thrown into a movie.  Pro-life themes are great, but this consistently has been one of the worst sub-genres in Christian film.  Besides the fact that the basis for the horror elements in Wraith are difficult for most audiences to grasp, the practices that are seemingly endorsed (trying to cast demons out of houses) are extremely dangerous to practice in real-life and should be heavily discouraged.  Unfortunately, this is just another awful attempt at Christian genre-busting.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Wild Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After the Civil War, Emmett returned to his hometown to take care of the widow of one of his fellow troops in order to fulfill a promise he made.  Emmett and his son live with the African-American widow and her daughter, which causes them extra scrutiny in the corrupt small town they live near.  Emmett’s father-in-law, the local pastor, is against him, as are several other colorful characters.  Everything comes to a head one day when the circus train breaks down in the forest and unwittingly releases wild beasts into the woods.  The children are caught in the middle of the animal escape and a kidnapping plot aimed at hurting Emmett, and it will take wild faith to overcome to dark night before them.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For years, DJ Perry, Shane Hagedorn, and their team have struggled with poor production quality and overly artistic attempts.  However, while the artistry is still present in Wild Faith, a higher production level has finally been achieved.  This is evidenced by great camera work and video quality even in the realistic and complex war scenes.  There are great action shots, as well as historically authentic sets, props, and locations.  Audio quality is also great, and the soundtrack is creative.  The only nitpick to raise here relates to some slightly confusing editing, but this is a small issue compared to the great improvement that has been shown here.  Perry and Hagedorn have proven that never giving up and working to improve pays off in the end.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Though the beginning of this plot is a bit disorienting at first, if you stick with it, things begin to make more sense.  Where the characters are a bit raw at first, they become more realistic as time progresses with the exception of the cheesy villains.  Some of the dialogue is a bit vague at times, but there are also some good conversations throughout that reveal character motive, which is a rarity to find in Christian film.  The overall plot structure of this film is fairly unique and creative as it effectively uses flashbacks and other psychological elements to keep things interesting.  This story is a great attempt to be different rather than the typical inspirational fodder, but there are some opportunities for improvement especially in the areas of character refinement and storyline organization.  Some of the dialogue is a bit obvious at times, but Wild Faith takes an honest look at corrupt small town Christianity and the pain of racism after the Civil War.  Overall, this film shows a lot of potential in this team.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, the acting of this movie is also fairly good.  This DJ Perry character is likely his best performance to date.  Shane Hagedorn starts out a bit rough at first, but his character is a slow burn and begins to refine as it goes on.  The villain cast members are fairly poor and drag down this score, and there are a few overdone emotional moments, but on the whole, this is a good acting performance that caps off a suprisingly enjoyable film.

Conclusion

We always look for improvement across films, and we are always glad when Christian film makers don’t give up and continue to try things.  Experience is hopefully going to lead to improvement, as is listening to constructive criticism.  The Perry and Hagedorn team has wandered in the film wilderness for a few years now, from Ashes of Eden to 40 Nights and Chasing the Star.  To be honest, I did not have high hopes for Wild Faith when it was first sent to me, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Whether or not this film becomes a series, it is clear that this creative team has a lot of potential in front of them, so it will be interesting to see what they produce next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

I Before Thee (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jeffrey Douglas has recently lost his job as a fireman, so he decides that drinking is the best way for him to escape from his problems–both his present and his past problems.  His wife loves him, and she is pregnant with their first child, but Jeffrey can’t seem to get it together as he runs from his past.  As his life continues to spiral out of control, will he ever reach the point where he decides to rely on God?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

These days, even cheaply made films have the ability to have productions of decent quality.  Before Thee is an example of this.  Its video quality is fine, as is the audio quality and camera work.  The soundtrack leaves something to be desired, and there are some random moments of loud background sounds and obvious overdubs.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly cheap and limited, and editing is fairly poor.  However, this film is a step up from the early-2000s garbage productions that used to be dumped into the market, but that’s unfortunately not saying very much.  While this production is average, the movie doesn’t have much else going for it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

A lot of the time, it is very unclear what message I Before Thee is trying to convey.  It raises some important points and highlights some unfortunately realistic circumstances, but there is a bit too much edgy content.  There are also a handful of unusual elements that are difficult to understand.  While there are some interesting psychological concepts that keep this section from being zero, they are mostly poorly executed.  Characters have next to no development as dialogue is very half-hearted and empty.  There are barely any attempts to make the audience understand who the characters are as real people–they appear to just be pawns in the plot.  Elsewhere, the storyline is too disorienting at times, and the ending generally makes no sense at all.  There is very little redemption for the messes that are created in the plot, which gives little purpose to this plot being made.  Maybe someday somebody can use the slightly interesting portions of this film to make a better one.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

It’s not like the cast members had any good lines to work with, but this acting is fairly poor.  While there is some slight potential here, a lot of it is very forced and unnatural.  Emotions are too cardboard and uninspiring.  Line delivery is vanilla.  On the whole, this is another throwaway film you are unlikely to hear much about.

Conclusion

The Christian movie field is beyond flooded at this point, so new creators have to do whatever they can to stand out for the right reasons.  I want to emphasize “for the right reasons.”  Film making is hard and expensive, and your first film is unlikely to have a very high budget.  That’s why you can set yourself apart by having a dynamic plot and great acting coaching.  Anyone can act well with the right coaching, and a great plot is one that captures real people doing real things without pushing a message.  Unfortunately, I Before Thee fails on most of these fronts and will likely be soon forgotten.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

The Colors of Emily (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Kate Montgomery is a big city art dealer who travels to a quaint small town to purchase some mysterious paints from a mysterious artist whom no one in the art dealing world knows the true identity of.  However, she is also on the run from her psychologist and her dark past.  While running away, she will have to end up facing everything she’s trying to hide from in the most unlikely ways.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

While there are some positive elements in this production, there are also some negative ones.  For instance, video quality and camera work are mostly fine, but there is some poor audio quality throughout.  The soundtrack is also a bit generic.  Lighting can be a problem at times, and the sets, locations, and props are somewhat limited in some areas.  For the most part, editing is fine, even though there are a few too many lagging scenes.  Thus, as a whole, this production is basically average and has some room for improvement.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The Colors of Emily is mostly a departure for the Rossetti group.  This story tries to delve into the psychological\suspense\mystery genre, and it contains interesting attempts at psychological elements, but there is too much wasted time before getting to the substantial mystery elements.  This wasted time mostly consists of tongue-in-cheek dialogue about predictable fish-out-of-water concepts, as well as a seemingly vague premise and loose grip on reality.  At times, the storyline seems very unfinished, and the characters come off as too understated and under-developed.  Further, the villain is fairly cheesy, especially in the ‘climax’ scene that’s full of monologuing.  In short, while there is some potential in this story idea, its final product is too vague and undeveloped.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, most of the acting in The Colors of Emily is very awkward and not well-coached.  A lot of the cast members come off as too unnatural, although Jenn Gotzon posts a more authentic performance than usual.  Moreover, there are some other strange characters in this cast, and there are too many sequences of yelling and screaming, especially in the suspense scenes.  Overall, there are too many forced lines and emotions to warrant any more than half of point here.

Conclusion

The Colors of Emily has a good idea behind it, but its effort is basically half-cocked and incomplete.  On the whole, the production needs an upgrade, as does the acting.  The storyline needs more clarification and deepening, as do the characters and dialogue.  This film appears to be an example of the importance of taking time to make quality films rather than just making another movie most people are going to forget about.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Same Kind of Different As Me (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ron Hall is a successful art dealer who has it all—except for a successful marriage.  He and his wife Debbie have grown apart from each other, and he has been looking in the wrong directions for love.  His marital conflict has now come to a head, so Debbie decides to make Ron exit his safe, affluent world to come volunteer with her at the local homeless shelter.  While there, though his heart is not in the work at all, Ron forms an unlikely relationship with a violent homeless man whose story captivates Ron in a way he never expected.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a clearly well-funded and well-marketed production, Same Kind of Different As Me had a lot going for it from the get-go.  This production is obviously high quality in a lot of ways, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also very intriguing.  Sets, locations, and props are very well-constructed and utilized appropriately, especially the historical components in the flashbacks.  The only minor nitpick to note here pertains to some small editing issues, such as lagging scenes and awkward transitions.  Otherwise, this production is top-notch.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As Same Kind of Different As Me is based on a book and a true story, sometimes it seems like it’s too much like a book turned into a movie.  This is evident in unnecessary narration and obvious dialogue that tends to spoon-feed the story to the viewer.  Some of the characters tend to be portrayed too perfectly, yet this is a great true story despite these flaws.  The flashbacks are used in highly effective ways and are actually the highlights of the film because of the story they tell.  There are a lot of great messages and lessons to learn from this story, but we would have liked it if this film indulged less in drama and more in the opportunity it had to portray an epic story full of realistic, flawed, and accessible characters.  As mentioned before, there are too many lagging and choppy scenes that hurt this goal from coming to fruition.  However, there is enough good to make this at least an interesting movie to watch.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this movie is mostly professionally cast, there are a few issues that keep this section from being all that it could be.  For one, the lead actor and actress sometimes seem to be phoning in their performances, and at times they are too dramatic.  However, Djimon Hounsou and Jon Voight are particularly well-cast and well-acted; these two almost save this cast on their own.  Moreover, other cast members outside of Greg Kinnear and Renée Zellweger are also fine and post good performances.  In the end, this punctuates an above average film that could have gone further.

Conclusion

Same Kind of Different As Me had everything going for it, but it stopped just short of greatness.  The excellent true story and high amount of funding almost forced this film to be above-average from the beginning, but the pedestrian nature of its presentation and its over-indulgence in drama apart from character development tripped it up.  In the end, we can’t help but wonder if this was another one of those movies designed to make a quick cash grab at the theaters rather than make a real difference, which seems like the original intent of the book’s authors.  We may never know, but this is at least a fine film that most audiences will enjoy.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

The Crossing [1994] (Movie Review)

Ah, the good ole days

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Running Forever (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (0 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (0 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

A Distant Thunder [2005] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ann Brown is a successful prosecutor, but when she is tasked with trying a case of a double homicide that involves an unborn child, she begins having strange psychological experiences and attacks beyond her control.  As the experiences continue unexplainably, Ann feels like she is going crazy or being targeted by her opponents.  She has no way to stop them, so she cries out to God for answers, and she gets answers in an unexpected way.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

It is difficult to quantify A Distant Thunder without telling you to watch it.  However, you definitely shouldn’t watch it if you have epilepsy or don’t like horror productions, because it’s a real doozy.  This includes a lot of disorienting and dizzying special effects, with weird sound effects to accompany them.  There are also random lapses in audio throughout.  However, video quality and camera work are surprisingly okay.  The soundtrack is somewhat intriguing.  Yet the editing is fairly poor, which rounds out a confusing experience that is sometimes a pain to watch.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Most of the time, it is very hard to know what in the world is going on in this film.  It makes a strange attempt to combine creepy and off-putting horror elements with an otherwise profound pro-life message.  However, this ‘story’ is just too bizarre and strange to be fully embraced due to its general wackiness and off-the-wall nature.  Yet the legal case therein is interesting and mostly realistic, as are the psychological elements, except that the horror themes constantly distract from anything good.  The ending also has some potential, but the weirdness is too much to overcome.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Despite the other issues in this film, the acting is actually mostly fine.  There are a few overly dramatic moments, but on the whole, line delivery and emotional delivery are on point.  Nonetheless, one can’t help but wonder if this effort was wasted due to the other strange parts of this movie.

Conclusion

The idea behind this film needs a total rework, because as it is, it is not going to have very wide appeal.  The unappealing horror elements will turn off people too easily and will stunt the impact of this important message.  Perhaps one day more improved pro-life films will begin appearing on the market.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

The Debacle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Saber [2007] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Cameron O’Connor joins the military as a cadet and uses his computer skills to make a name for himself.  However, he soon finds himself getting into trouble online with internet pornography that gives him an unrealistic view of women.  As he goes deeper and deeper down a destructive path, he gets kicked out of the military and puts his girlfriend in a very dangerous position.  God finally gets his attention and sends him help to turn around, but not before some serious consequences.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, The Saber is basically B-roll footage of outdoor military maneuvers with some other scenes sprinkled into it in order to try to make it some semblance of a story.  There are no good production elements to point out here.  Video quality is bad, and camera work is inconsistent.  Lighting is very odd, and there a lot of unnecessary zooming shots.  Sets, locations, and props and very cheap and limited.  Audio quality is poor, and the soundtrack is often too loud.  This production feels like a documentary, especially with the stiff way it has been edited.  Thus, there is really nothing good to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With the runtime filled with tons of training montages, this ‘story’ wanders and grasps for a purpose, but never finds one.  This aimless storyline contains extremely empty cardboard characters that have the worst possible dialogue.  There are also strange psychological elements throughout that make it hard to understand what’s going on most of the time.  While this is a very important message to portray, it is horribly presented, with a ridiculous and strawman portrayal of otherwise serious problems.  This demonstrates a lack of comprehension of reality and tends to talk down to ‘bad people.’  As events progress to extreme lengths, the film only offers quick and unrealistic fixes to problems that the writers clearly do not fully comprehend.  This is a huge disappointment.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This amateurish cast has the most awkward and forced line delivery possible, as well as the most uncomfortable and stiff emotions.  Their performances are robotic and unsure as they seem to be just reading lines.  There are also some annoying sequences of yelling, as well as some terrible makeup.  This finishes off a very cringe-worthy effort that I want to forget really hard.

Conclusion

The Saber deals with some serious stuff, but the way it handles the serious stuff is disingenuous and tone-deaf.  After watching this film, it is very hard to believe that the Cross Wind team has a grasp of the real struggles of real people, besides the fact that they have no quality standards.  This whole movie is a microcosm of what’s wrong with Christian film and what needs to be changed about it.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

Heavens to Betsy [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Angels in Our Midst {Bitterblue} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Tobey Marshall lost his parents in 9/11, and now he is seen as a retarded kid at his school.  He lives with his aunt and uncle, but they don’t like him either, so Tobey decides to talk to the angels he sees, so he can be comforted.  However, one day, a girl named Suzy decides to befriend Tobey, even though no one else will.  This make the bullies pick on both of them and forces them to reply on spiritual strength to make it through each day.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

In many ways, Angels in Our Midst has a lot of trouble shaking the ‘cheap Christian film’ image.  Video quality is mostly fine, as is camera work, but there are other issues that plague it.  Audio quality is inconsistent, especially in the outside scenes.  The soundtrack leaves something to be desired.  Sets, locations, and props are fairly limited and cheap-looking.  The special effects that are used are very cheesy.  Finally, the editing is seemingly nonexistent as some scenes drag on, and there is no real semblance of flow to the film.  In the end, this production is below average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While it is great to try to portray the struggles and insight of special needs people, this is definitely not the way to do this.  The Christian message of this film is presented in such a way that it comes off as very childish and even mystical at times.  The fixation on angels is somewhat unhealthy, and this becomes more evident as the movie progresses.  Besides this, even if this was a good story to tell, it is extremely BORING.  The characters sit around without much substantial dialogue and tend to do the same things over and over again.  What little dialogue is contained here is very dry and flat.  Thus, the characters are cardboard cutouts.  There is very little content to speak of here, and the progression goes from childish to weird, ending with a bizarre climax scene that borderlines on creepy.  Therefore, there is basically no justification for this story even existing.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Like the characters they portray, the cast members are less than impressive.  Many of the performances are very underwhelming and empty.  Emotions are rarely believable.  While there are some good moments of line delivery, this section rounds out a very flat and useless film effort.

Conclusion

It is very hard to comprehend what this film was really going for, and we are not sure we want to know.  Sometimes it seems like a joke, and other times it seems like they really didn’t know what they were doing.  Either way, somebody needed to censor this film before it got released to the public because it’s mostly embarrassing.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

The UnMiracle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a group of teens, under the prompting of a college student, becomes involved in illegial drug use, the community is rocked after one of them overdoses herself into a coma.  The police are pressured to find the culprit, but the kids run and hide, except for one brave Christian boy (who was at the drug party that night for some reason) who wants to help his friends (?).  As family is being torn apart by destructive choices, only the power of God can save them from themselves.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The UnMiracle (strange title indeed) is an extremely unique film in many ways.  For starters, the beginning of this film is a different sort of experience, mostly due to some strange and dizzying special effects.  There is also some shaky camera work for drama’s sake.  Also, at first, there is some weird audio quality and odd sound effects, as well as some strange lighting in some scenes.  However, for the most part, these quirks improve throughout to make for a mostly average production.  Video quality is relatively stable throughout, and the soundtrack is at least creative in some ways.  Though the editing can be confusing at times, this production is basically fine and just needs a little tune-up.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

From the get go, The UnMiracle has a clear agenda that is pushed through obvious dialogue and messaging.  While there are many pertinent and realistic issues portrayed here, they are not presented very well.  The characters are very flawed, which is great, but they tend to only be one-dimensional in order to represent the issues that are being pushed here.  At first, there are some strange undertones to the film that are mostly driven by the creepy Stephen Baldwin narration.  It seems like sometimes this film is trying to tell us something deeper that it never quite conveys properly.  Yet these cryptic factors are not all bad, as they also include some intriguing psychological elements, as well as a relatively fair portrayal of mental health issues, even though it could use a little deepening.  But this does not make up for the confusing and disorienting sequences throughout, as well as the trite and simplistic approach to problems and the very easy fixing of characters’ struggles by throwing Bible verses at them.  There are also tons of characters and subplots here with very little focus.  Thus, there is too much going on that needs severe organization, yet there it still potential even in all of the confusion.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With Kevin Sorbo and Stephen Baldwin pulling Eric Roberts roles (very brief and small appearances) in this film, the remainder of the cast is hard to figure.  For one, there is a lot of strange and loud makeup throughout.  At first, a lot of the acting is unsure and amateurish and even lethargic and passive at times.  The drug acting is odd and needs work.  However, emotions are mostly realistic, and there is concerted improvement throughout, which is enough to make this an average score.

Conclusion

This film is mostly a hot mess and needs a major remake or rework.  It could potentially be a series if done properly.  But this would mean serious acting coaching (and possible re-casting), way more focus in the storyline, fewer ‘fancy’ production tricks, and some education and research on mental health and substance abuse issues.  In the end, it could be done, and this creative team has some potential, so it will be interesting to see what they come up with next.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Rust [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Former pastor James Moore, who is running from his faith and his career, returns to his hometown to discover it the grounds of a dark mystery and closely held secrets that has put one crazy man in prison for arson.  With nothing left to lose and nothing else to do, Moore decides to take it upon himself to solve the mysterious case that was too open and shut.  As he looks at all the angles of the fire and the events of that night, Moore finds himself turning to God again as he rediscovers the faith he left behind.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Corbin Bernsen and his teams have always been committed to high production quality.  Rust is the earliest example of this commitment, as it sports great video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The soundtrack is also intriguing.  Sets, locations, and props, for the most part, are professional.  The only issues to point out here pertain to some choppy editing and some slightly poor lighting in some parts.  But otherwise, this is a professional and model production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

From the beginning of his foray into Christian film, which was this film, until now, Corbin Bernsen’s creative motivation has always been an enigma.  What is he ever going for?  Rust adopts the mysterious and semi-dark approach that was seen later in Beyond the Heavens.  Neither film truly makes much sense or has any driving purpose behind it.  Yet the mystery portion of Rust is intriguing and somewhat engaging.  The characters, while a bit eccentric, are also interesting in their own way, sometimes due to unique and cryptic dialogue.  Movies like this one always seem to be hiding something, like a private joke or secret, but they never let us in on the puzzle.  At least the ending is slightly unexpected, even though it takes a somewhat predictable path to get there.  If there were some more clarity in this plot, it could have been interesting and more highly rated, because there was a lot of potential here.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Much like the production of this film, the acting quality is professional and above average.  For the most part, actors and actresses are cast appropriately, and their line delivery is on point.  Sometimes emotions tend to be a bit forced, but they are good as a whole.  There are also some other moments of underwhelming performances, but they are not enough to keep this section from being highly rated.

Conclusion

Corbin Bernsen always has a lot of potential in his films.  He usually maintains high production and acting quality.  However, he is also committed to plots that are seemingly purposely unusual.  Rust is no exception to this trend, especially since it is his first Christian film.  One can understand why ‘secular’ film makers want to dip into the Christian market, but we have never understood Bernsen’s odd approach to movie making, despite his quality productions.  Yet perhaps we will never understand.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Saint Street (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Percy believes that he has to work long hours in order to be more successful in his business so that his family has more possessions.  Yet his family just wants to see him from the holidays.  One fateful night, when he insists on driving all night to a family gathering, a car accident changes his life and his family’s lives forever.  Will Percy be able to find faith and hope in the tragedy’s wake?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Overall, Saint Street is a fine production, including good video quality and camera work.  Audio quality is fine except for some odd sound effects; however, the soundtrack is fine.  Sometimes lighting is also not what it should be, but there is improvement throughout.  For the most part, sets, locations, and props are what they should be.  At first, the editing is a bit disorienting, but this also improves throughout.  In the end, this is an above-average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

At the beginning, Saint Street is a typical businessman-is-forced-to-slow-down Christmas plot, combined with some ‘magical’ elements.  However, it is sometimes hard to follow, and it tends to have too much wasted time without enough substantial content.  It seems like most of the time it’s just trying to get to the end, and it has some slightly obvious allegorical content.  However, there are some good psychological elements, as well as a good message.  Yet the characters come off as cheesy and under-developed due to unsubstantial and underwhelming dialogue.  While things tend to happen because they need to, the ending is at least interesting and thought-provoking.  Yet this movie still leaves a lot to be desired.

Acting Quality (1 point)

At first, there is a lot of overdone acting and forced, unnatural emotions.  However, some improvement is shown throughout as coaching seems to improve in some areas.  Yet there are some other unusual performances by some cast members that do not change.  In many areas, it seems like Saint Street leaves a lot of potential on the ground.

Conclusion

These types of psychological Christmas plots can sometimes be predictable and worn out, but they usually contain enough elements to be interesting.  Some audiences will still enjoy Saint Street, and there is something everyone can learn from it.  There is just a collection of lingering issues that keeps it from being all that it could be.  Perhaps Rob Diamond and his team will continue to improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Elevator to Salvation (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

On Christmas Eve night, two random guys, one of them your stereotypical evil Christmas-hating workaholic, get stuck in a weird construction elevator that constantly goes up and down infinitely and keeps trying to show them all kinds of strange things like notes falling from the ceiling and creepy hands reaching through the elevator doors.  This seemingly endless ride has no purpose or function except to waste your time with another bizarre Christmas movie.

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

Faith House Pictures has had bad production in the past, but Elevator to Salvation is hands-down their worst to date.  There is nothing good about it, and it is actually quite offensive.  Video quality is bad, and camera work is terrible.  Audio is abysmal, and the soundtrack is weird.  There are no sets, locations, or props to speak of except for a poorly constructed elevator.  The special effects are medieval and annoying.  Finally, the editing is highly disorienting.  Essentially, this production joins the special ranks of those that earned negative points for being especially offensive, which makes us wonder why and how Faith House continually makes films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

But that’s not all that is annoying about this weird film.  The premise is not only trumped up and ridiculous, but it is also downright bizarre and creepy.  What’s the point of trying to force half-hearted horror elements into this?  There is really no sense of understanding what is even going on in this so-called story.  The dialogue is very wacky and absurd, thus creating off-the-wall characters, even though there are basically only two of them.  The psychological elements are poorly delivered, and the ending makes zero sense, just like the rest of the ‘plot.’  There is no question that this is the strangest and most off-putting Christmas movie ever, except for things involving Kirk Cameron and British Bible characters.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

Much like the other parts of this train wreck called a movie, the acting is very forceful and annoying.  Watching these people try to act is like undergoing a painful surgical procedure.  Every line is like fingernails stretching a chalkboard due to forcefulness, mumbling, and general awkwardness.  In the end, this rounds out a very eye-rolling and face-palming experience that should never, ever be repeated.

Conclusion

Faith House has had some real doozies in the past, but Elevator to Salvation really takes the cake.  It goes beyond the typical bad movie conventions and crosses into the territory of unreasonably terrible and offensive.  So if you’re looking for a good holiday film, steer clear from this one.

 

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

 

Paranormal [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Novelist Greg Evans doesn’t believe in all that paranormal stuff, even though his son regularly goes to Ouija board ‘meetings.’  But then he begins experiencing paranormal events that he cannot explain, so he calls in a group of paranormal investigators to come check out the weird stuff going on in his house.  Meanwhile, Greg’s wife prays that he will finally see the truth about the supernatural.  Will Greg seek the truth before it’s too late for him?  Will anyone be able to make through this film in its entirety?

 

Production Quality (-2 points)

From the studio that brought you the awful Pray. trilogy comes another cringeworthy horror production literally filmed with a camcorder that somebody carries around their houses and some abandoned buildings they commandeered for this madness.  In this other worst possible production from Cross Shadow, everything is wrong.  Sound quality is terrible, including the always unacceptable overdriven audio.  The soundtrack is also strange.  Video quality is blurry at times and lighting is inconsistent, including a lot of night vision scenes.  Sets, locations, and props are very lacking and sad.  Probably one of the worst elements of this film are the cringeworthy special effects that seem like they were pasted on top of the video.  Basically, with nothing good to say here and many extremely bad elements, this is another negative production from Cross Shadow.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Much like Pray., Pray 2, and Pray 3D whatever, Paranormal is full of the worst possible portrayal of the spiritual\supernatural realm.  Demons can only gain power over people through Ouija boards and extreme hauntings are apparently very commonplace in this universe.  Stupid jump scares are used to make this movie ‘interesting,’ as if that’s possible.  The whole thing is designed to scare you into not playing with the devil, but it’s done in such a juvenile fashion that this movie is only good for laughs.  The characters are so poorly designed due to impossibly bad dialogue that there’s no way to take this seriously.  The Christian message is equally silly.  All drama is completely forced and manufactured as time is wasted on pointless night vision footage and exposition.  Essentially, the Christian horror genre is among the worst.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Much like their other awkwardly titled movies, the Cross Shadow casts are stiff, awkward, and sometimes annoying.  Of course, it’s not like they had actual lines to work with, but the lack of coaching makes matters way worse.  Emotions are forced and unnatural, thus making for an even more painful experience.  Unfortunately, there is nothing positing to note about this film.

Conclusion

Why do we need another one of these after Pray., Pray 2, and Pray 3D whatever?  Why does this sort of horrifically low quality film making need to be perpetuated?  Why is the Christian horror genre so bad?  There are all pressing questions, but none of them are answered in this film.  All we are left with is another embarrassing display of ineptitude and an example how to not make a movie.

 

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

 

Scattered [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a group of friends gathers at a mutual friend’s house to celebrate her graduation from law school and upcoming bar exam, none of them could have anticipated or predicted what would happen to them that night.  Some of them are frustrated that their old friend has become a Christian and refuses to get high with them, so they decide to have their own ‘party’ secretly in her house.  However, what they do not know is that supernatural forces beyond their control are at work and they will be taken for the psychological ride of their lives—whether they want to or not.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Much like The Basement, Scattered begins with very poor production quality, including too many tight, awkward camera angles and too much shaking camera work for dramatic effects.  Though video and audio quality are relatively stable throughout, there is really only one set in this film with no outside locations except for within flashbacks.  Props are mostly fine throughout, but there are some cheesy ‘horror’ special effects that really need to be eliminated.  There are also too many choppy cuts and transitions, as well as a lot of disorienting editing to try to add to the psychological effect.  However, relatively halfway through the film, a switch if flipped and it suddenly becomes a respectable production.  Thus, it ends up average in the end, but that is not all that changes throughout this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Scattered begins as annoying as The Basement was throughout, including a lot of stupid and mindless dialogue that makes non-Christian characters very bad and Christian characters too good.  It’s also hard to keep up with all the characters at first as the first half of the plot really has no coherent thought or direction.  However, it is clear that the first half is trying to kick the can down the road to get to the big twist this movie hinges upon, however, this is not done in a very good fashion.  The tone and premise of the first half is very strange and off-putting, including ridiculous horror elements.  Though this part drags on way too long due to wasted, pointless conversations and empty scenes, the middle of the story totally flips the script and suddenly becomes the best Christian horror plot written to date.  Flashbacks are used very effectively to suddenly build the characters into real people and the ‘horror’ elements become justified and actually realistic.  The plot is not afraid to take on realistic gritty issues that people endure and suddenly makes its characters more gray rather than so black and white.  Thus, the ending is interesting and actually makes one want to see more.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like the other elements of the film, the acting is quite bad at first.  The makeup is a standout problem in the beginning.  A lot of the cast members are trying way too hard at first, including forceful line delivery and wooden emotions.  However, even these issues demonstrate improvement as things completely change in the middle of the film.  The difference between the two halves is so stark that one has to wonder if the creative team completely changed in the middle.

Conclusion

Scattered bears a strong resemblance to Pendragon as a rare film that changes and improves throughout and is actually sustained by a strong and unique plot idea.  Yet the question still remains: since they showed they could improve, would it really have been that hard to go back and fix the beginning?  Sure, it would have taken more time, but think of the impact this film could have had.  This is likely the only good Christian horror concept on the market right now, and it most definitely needs to be reused in some way.  After the debacle of The Basement and the first half of this film, it seemed like JCL Production was just another failed venture, but with the total turnaround in Scattered, they have demonstrated that there is more to them than meets the eye.  Thus, it will be very interesting see what they can come up with next.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Basement [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

You’ve heard the story before: in one second, everything is changed on the planet when millions of people suddenly disappear in the Rapture and millions more are left behind, even those who though they were Christians.  A whole bunch of random people are confused by the recent catastrophe and struggle to survive in the dark new world that is immediately created by the Rapture.  Will they ever learn the truth about what happened?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

In yet another poorly produced Rapture film, video quality is the only positive element to mention here.  Otherwise, the camera work is very shaky and inconsistent, as well as full of wild cuts and extremely close angles.  Flashbacks are set in weird sepia tones, and there are too many flashes throughout.  There are lots of poorly lit and very dark scenes.  Audio quality is very poor as well, including a generic sountrack and those annoying background sirens from Final: The Rapture.  On that note, sets, locations, and props are cheap and limited, as usual.  Finally, the editing is typically dizzying and disorienting.  Basically, this is another slipshod production about the End Times.  What else is new?

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Like many plots that lead up to the Rapture event in the middle and then depict the aftermath in the second half of the story, The Basement has no clear direction, purpose, or focus that guide it.  It is full of too many cheesy characters that crowd out the runtime so that it’s impossible to get to know any of them or remember who they are.  The non-Christian character are portrayed ridiculously, as usual, and the Christians are too perfect, all due to laughable dialogue.  There is no way to know where the story is going or coming from as there is tons of useless content and a lot of the runtime is wasted on flashbacks to events that happened minutes before.  All of this aside, the manufactured suspense is full of typical apocalyptic tropes and contains no creativity whatsoever.  After jumping all over the place for nearly two hours, basically all the problems are solved in a vague, indiscernible ending that was likely left open for a sequel.  But hey, the market needed another cheesy Rapture movie.

Acting Quality (-.5 point)

The acting is likely the worst section of this film, as a majority of the cast members act in very juvenile fashions.  Their line delivery is painfully forced, like someone is pulling the lines out of them.  Emotions are also over the top like this.  There is too much yelling throughout and too many sequences of cast members talking over each other.  This is overall an annoying and obnoxious portion, thus warranting the negative score.

Conclusion

Note to future film makers: please do make different genres of Christian films, but please please please refrain from making anymore Rapture films.  There are so many tropes in the apocalyptic genre that are complete and laughably overused, so it’s best to steer clear of this unless you have a really, really good idea.  There are plenty of other ways to make good Christians suspense plots that don’t involve End Times opinions.  But no matter what, there’s no excuse for having production and acting this bad.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Saint John: The Apocalypse [2000] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a Roman soldier is exiled to the island of Patmos for insurrection, he does not expect to meet the infamous and fabled Theophilus, who happens to be the aging Apostle John.  A group of Christians whom the Roman solider knows also comes to the island in search of the mysterious Theophilus, all the while John is experiencing the visions from God that later became the Book of Revelation.  All of their lives intersect in a way they could not have previously believed.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

There is a lot going on this early 2000s production from Trinity Broadcasting Network and others.  Though there are plenty of attempts to create historically and culturally authentic sets, locations, and props, there are some other issues here that hamper the production.  These include some randomly poor lighting and wild zooms for dramatic effect, as well as some unnecessarily overdubbed audio.  The voice of God that echoes throughout the film is also a bit annoying.  A lot of the special effects used are very obvious and poorly done—if you are making a production about the Book of Revelation, you’d better have some well-funded special effects.  Yet on top of this, there are plenty of realistic gritty elements throughout, as well as good video quality and average editing.  Essentially, this is a very unique production and is a mixed bag at that, thus warranting the average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, the plot writers decided to consult The Robe and the old Ben-Hur for how to make a first century Roman\Jewish story and cast of characters most like a soap opera.  This includes a cheesy romantic subplot and a lot of overly dramatic dialogue.  All of the characters are impossible to access due to their lofty and inhuman demeanors.  However, there is a very realistic historical context portrayed here, as well as a lot of good plot ideas that are basically wasted.  Yet these elements save the plot from being a total loss.  There is a lot of content here, and in the right hands it could have made a great two-part movie or miniseries.  They needed a better writer to be able to handle the complex content from the Book of Revelation properly.  But unfortunately, anything that involves TBN is guaranteed to be overly dramatic.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The same can be said for the casting and acting, as nearly every cast member uses a breathy line delivery reminiscent of Nicholas Cage and the actresses from the old Ben-Hur and The Robe.  Thus, line deliver is too measured and drawn out, like a Bible soap opera.  However, though the cast is not entirely culturally authentic, the costuming is at least historically accurate.  There are also some good acting moments that save this section from being a total loss.

Conclusion

One thing can be said for this film: it’s not your run-of-the-mill cute\boring Christian film.  It’s ambitious, but perhaps too ambitious for the resources the creators had at their disposal.  It’s very difficult to depict the visions of Revelation properly—this requires state-of-the-art special effects, which usually do not exist in Christian films, unfortunately.  Yet there is no excuse for having acting this bad, even though it’s not BRITISH.  This plot needed a total rewrite, but the idea definitely needs to be retained for future reworking and improvement.  Maybe one day it will be remade.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Just a Measure of Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jacob refuses to let go of all of his problems and let God deal with them.  He goes around yelling at people all the time and can’t seem to shake those weird red demons that keep following him around.  He doesn’t want to surrender to God, but his life is falling apart.  Will Jacob ever be able to find his way?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

It’s painfully obvious that this film was not very well funded, so it’s very difficult to justify its creation.  From blurry video quality to shaky camera work, this production is your typical zero-pointer.  Audio quality is very poor, allowing many background sounds to cover things up.  The soundtrack is also very stock.  Sets, locations, and props are very cheap and limited.  There are also too many dizzying sequences filled with weird special effects.  Thus, the editing is awful and some scenes even cut off in the middle of a sentence.  There are too many obvious cuts and continuity errors as well.  Basically, this is a real mess.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

But it doesn’t end there.  Not only does this ‘plot’ have no focus, direction, or substance, it includes many wacky and laughable spiritual\psychological elements that temporarily turn the film into the cheapest possible ‘horror’ film.  The Christian message presented is extremely cheap and trite.  Too much time in this film is wasted on ridiculously forced and manufactured drama to the point of annoyance.  The characters are absurdly empty do to plastic dialogue.  In the end, this plot warrants negative points due to its abrasive and wildly off-the-wall nature.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As if the other elements of this film weren’t bad, the acting is among the worst.  Emotions are painfully forced and almost desperate at times.  Line delivery is excruciatingly awkward and completely unnatural.  Everything is very much over the top and unprofessional, thus rounding out a very sad and wasted effort.

Conclusion

These ‘let’s make a movie with our church’ projects rarely end well, but few of them mess up in such a memorably horrible fashion as this one does.  No matter how well they meant, there is no excuse for putting this kind of nonsense out there as a Christian film.  This entire project needed to be scrapped and started over.  Alas, this is another example of how not to make a Christian movie, part 3930942.

 

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

 

I Was Broken [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jesse and Wayne are two brothers who have been separated by a tragedy, but they come back together so that Wayne can assist Jesse in overcoming his addictions by taking him to rehab.  On the road trip, they struggle with their faith and their relationship as they recall the past and try to find reconciliation for the future.  When they are pushed to their limit, will they be able to find their way back to where God wants them to be?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

I Was Broken is a unique and ambitious film that seems like it had the funding to have a great production.  Video quality is up to standard, yet camera work is unnecessarily shaky.  Audio quality is also overdriven for no particular reason, yet the soundtrack, though loud, is quite creative.  Sets, locations, and props, however, are probably the highlight of this production as clearly a lot of time was spent on them.  Sometimes the editing can be confusing, but most production elements show improvement throughout the runtime.  Overall, this is an artistic experience that has room for improvement.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The storyline is also extremely artistic, sometimes to the point of being extremely vague and hard to comprehend.  There are a lot of good points made in this plot, and the Christian message is presented in a unique way.  However, too often, this plot is hard to follow.  There are really only two characters in this story, and while dialogue is relatively well-constructed, we still need to get to know them as people beyond too brooding, troubled men.  The ending of the plot is unexpected and utilizes some intriguing psychological elements, yet it could still be better explained so that the point is driven home better.  Essentially, this idea needs a remake.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With such a tiny cast, the entire film’s weight is squarely on their shoulders.  Though they are pretty good, the case members are sometimes too dramatic.  Other times, their lines are mumbled.  But they have enough good moments to post at least an average performance.

Conclusion

Indie films like I Was Broken are often hard to figure.  The creators are clearly trying to do something different, yet they did not do the best job communicating exactly what that was.  Their ideas, though they can be somewhat ascertained, are too vague for wide appeal.  Yet perhaps they will use this film as a launching pad for their next project.  In the future, they need to hone their artistic style to create a more accessible film, because they have plenty of potential to make waves in the industry.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 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

 

Just Let Go [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Chris Williams loves his family, but when they are all either tragically killed or injured in a senseless drunk driving wreck, he struggles with why God would allow such a thing to happen to him and his family.  He and his two sons wrestle with grief, anger, and survivor’s guilt as they try to navigate the new and ugly life they have been given.  Will Chris ever be able to let go and forgive the privileged young man who took his family from him?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Unfortunately, it’s rare you see a production this high quality in the Christian realm.  Video quality, audio quality, and camera work are all what they should be.  The car wreck scenes are constructed excellently, even though this is likely very difficult to pull off properly.  Other sets, locations, and props are also well-created.  The soundtrack is very creative and appropriate.  The only small issue to point out here is a minor editing concern pertaining to some scenes lagging too long.  But in the end, this is a highly respectable production that other films should be modeled after.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This film is based off of a powerful true story, yet you have to make it all the way to end to make things worthwhile.  The body of the film contains too much heavy-handed narration, as well as a heavy dose of melodrama that is hard to take in.  It’s difficult for the middle of the movie to hold the attention as it is too brooding and contains too many repeated sequences.  Though there is not quite enough dialogue throughout, there are a lot of interesting artistic elements, as well as a realistic portrayal grief, trauma, and mental health.  There are also good psychological and legal elements, but we would have liked to get to know the characters a little better without so much extreme emotion.  Even though the Christian message is unnecessarily muted and vague, the ending is definitely worth waiting for and makes this film what it is.  In the end, this is a great story with a lot of great elements, yet it could have been presented a little bit better.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Much like the production of this film, this cast is quite professional and well-coached.  Though they have some brief moments of being underwhelming and one too many dramatic touches, this is a very wall-cast and well-acted film.  This caps off a respectable and commendable effort.

Conclusion

These types of movies are very frustrating because they have almost everything going for them, yet there are some small issues that keep them from being all that they could be.  There are so many good things that can be learned from a movie like this, and it is definitely something to build off of for the future.  Many audiences will still enjoy this film, and it’s definitely worth your time.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Invisible Enemies [1997] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jackson decides it’s time to tell his son about a mysterious pair of glasses he came into possession of while in college.  Jackson tells his son of how this pair of glasses reveals the spiritual realm to whomever God has allowed to see it.  Jackson recounts how his discovery of the spiritual realm made his faith real to him and helped him to save his family and friends from certain destruction.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a 1997 production, this one is unfortunately not up to par.  It’s likely that funding was limited for this ‘educational’ drama, but it makes one wonder if it was justified.  Video quality is okay, as is audio quality, yet there are a lot of weird sound effects throughout, as well as strange lighting and wild special effects.  The soundtrack is also cheesy, yet sets, locations, and props are mostly fine.  Furthermore, this relatively short movie has choppy editing that stunts its development.  However, it may have never intended to be a real movie.  But if this was the case, why is it marketed like one?

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Despite its meager origins, Invisible Enemies is actually based on an interesting idea that has potential, yet this story is neither well-constructed nor well-presented.  The characters are too one-dimensional due to stiff information-dump dialogue.  There is not enough time in this plot to do any real story work; it needs a lot of complexity and development.  This film has an overly simplistic portrayal of spirituality and it all culminates in a very cheesy climax that is hard to reconcile.  In the end, this was almost like a test idea that really wasn’t ready to be released to the public, but it’s been twenty years now, so here we are.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, the acting is the best part of this film, as the cast members post mostly average performances.  Some lines seem overly practiced and some emotions tend to be over the top, but on the whole, this is a fine effort.  The good thing is that at least this section demonstrates work towards the semblance of a film.

Conclusion

Films like Invisible Enemies are very hard to quantify.  They are put out there like a movie, so they are reviewed like a movie.  Yet there are many lingering elements that make it an overall odd experience to watch.  I feel like more could have been done with this concept beyond a simple ‘educational’ film.  But alas, budget constraints are always going to be an issue with independent Christian movies.  So once again we have another sub-par film that could have been better.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

We Are Stronger (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Victor Raphael returns home from his final deployment, he is not the same as he was.  Though he insists nothing is wrong, his wife knows that he has been profoundly affected by the traumatic experience he had while in the service, especially the recent vehicle explosion that has left him temporarily paralyzed.  Yet their relationship is strained as Victor refuses to get help and as his wife reaches out for comfort in the wrong places.  Will they be able to reconcile before God and let Him heal them and their relationship?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a first-time production, We Are Stronger has a handful of minor errors, yet it is overall a very impressive effort, considering the limited resources.  Video quality is great, as is camera work.  There are some minor audio errors pertaining to some background noises picked up, but the soundtrack is appropriate and interesting.  Sets, locations, and props, though slightly limited, are utilized quite well and are realistic.  Finally, there are a few small editing errors pertaining to some lagging scenes and dead sequences, but otherwise, this is a very good production to begin with.  This production team definitely put a lot of work into this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Since We Are Stronger is based on the true stories of real people, it gives a very realistic and honest look at life and the struggles people go through.  Though there is some expositional dialogue, it is mostly good and serves the build believable characters that the viewers can relate with.  This story has a very strong and meaningful message—yet sometimes it is a little flat and linear.  The plot presentation is at times a bit too straightforward and simplistic, yet nonetheless, refining screenwriting always comes with time.  In the end, this creative team shows a lot of potential and hope for the future.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Though this cast consists entirely of ‘amateurs’, they all post very good performances, especially since they are each playing a character that reflects their true-life story.  Though there are some minor emotional errors, these performances are nearly flawless as each cast member plays out their real-life story on the big screen.  Casting inexperienced people is often a challenge for new independent films, but this one is a slam dunk.

Conclusion

With the constant flow of Christian films being created, one has to stand out in the market by producing quality content.  This has been done with We Are Stronger has real-life stories have been brought to the movie, along with great production quality and a nearly perfect casting job.  This film is definitely worth a watch and is a great start to a movie career.  You can never go wrong by adapting true stories along with the quality presented here.  It will be interesting see what this creative team has planned next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Pray 3D: The Storm (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

On one autumn night, when a young couple leaves their children with a teenage babysitter, they have no idea what’s in store for the teenager and her friends.  The storm outside gets worse and worse and the babysitter’s friends keep randomly showing up at the house.  Yet little do they know that a strange and sadistic stalker is hanging around again—even inside the house!  Will they be able to survive the strange storm and the stalker’s evil?

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

In the long-awaited conclusion to this horrific series, nothing really improves.  Production is still as bad as ever.  Video quality is bad and camera work is very shaky, including weird camera angles that look like they came directly from camcorder footage.  Audio is very muted and soundtrack is absurd.  Lighting is very poor throughout, and the sets and locations are severely cheap and limited.  There are also weird special effects and overlays throughout.  Finally, as can be expected, there is no editing to be found.  In the end, as this trilogy limps to a close, the end can’t come soon enough.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Much like the first two installments, this third go at off-the-wall yet ‘family-friendly’ horror is as pointless and aimless as ever.  This idea wears very thin after three attempts, especially since there’s no real content except for stupid and childish attempts at horror.  This so-called story is once again laughable as we are forced to watch a bunch of awkward teenagers being ‘chased’ by a figure in a cheap mask.  There is zero purpose to this and no lesson to be learned here except never, ever replicate this sort of madness ever again.  Future Christian horror writers can take notes from this display of ineptitude and learn how not to write such a film.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

Much like the previous two casts, this one is just as amateurish, unsure, and awkward.  Only this time, Rusty Martin Jr. is thrown into the mix for some reason.  I guess he really will do anything.  Elsewhere, emotions are extreme and over the top and line delivery is off-kilter.  In short, we’re very glad this trilogy has come to a close.

Conclusion

Thus, this concludes the strangest Christian film trilogy to date.  We hope films like this are never again repeated.  The creators of this three-part train wreck have some serious soul-searching to do, as would anyone who achieved the rare feat of creating an entirely negatively-rated film trilogy.  The only thing this series is good for is serving as an example of how not to make a film.

 

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

 

Pray 2: The Woods (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Laurie Curtis survives her harrowing night being stalked by an evil man, she writes a book about her experience and becomes an instantly popular bestseller.  She goes on talk shows and stuff, but little does she know that she is about to be captured again by her nemesis.  Meanwhile, some random youth group is having a camp retreat and they encounter the same evil she does.  Will they be able to run, hide, and pray?

 

Production Quality (-2 points)

The second installment of this deplorable series is just as bad as the first.  Production is still horrible in every way—video quality is bad and lighting is awful.  Audio quality is still a bust, including a loud, creepy soundtrack and bizarre sound effects throughout.  Camera work looks like a camcorder is mounted on someone’s head while they’re running and walking around.  Sets, locations, and props are as bad as can be expected.  Finally, there is once again no editing.  We are still very unsure what the intent of this series is, but it’s setting records for consistently horrible production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Besides this film’s rehashing and shameless plugging of Pray 1, there is little plot content in this film except for constant forced suspense, talk show sequences, and sequences of random dialogue and activities of daily living.  It’s basically in the same vein of the first installment, just with some different characters and ideas.  The villain character is still a total joke and there are no attempts at all to make the protagonists seem real or even remotely interesting.  There really isn’t even a plot to speak of here, which warrants more negative points.  If you were wondering, the ending of this film is a blatant attempt to get a third installment, which unfortunately worked.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Though this acting job is not as bad as the first, it still doesn’t have anything going for it.  The performances are either flat or over the top in attempts to be interesting.  We get to see more of the villain actor, which isn’t a good thing.  In the end, the Pray Trilogy is going down as one of the most half-cocked, nonsensical experiences in Christian film.

Conclusion

If you fail at something, try a little harder next time.  I guess they did try harder in Pray 2, but they’re still not out of the red.  If something is bad the first time, don’t make three versions of it.  Yet apparently, nobody told this team that what they are making is garbage, because we need more Christian films or something.  Actually, we need more quality Christian films, not trash like this.  Flooding the market with this yard sale fodder isn’t going to cut it.

 

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

 

Pray. [2007] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After a group of friends goes to a Christian rock concert, they return to their hotel and experience some creepy goings-on, thus they decide to abandon their trip early and return home.  However, even when she returns home, one them feels herself being stalked by an unknown entity.  Elsewhere, a new mother of a baby feels herself being watched by someone, but she can’t put her finger on it.  Will any of them be able to trust in God to overcome the evil?

 

Production Quality (-2 points)

So you want to make a Christian horror movie, huh?  How about you examine the ones already made (like this one) and do everything the opposite way of how they did it.  The production of each of these Pray movies couldn’t be worse.  From dizzying camera zooms to weird camera angles to generally shaky footage, it’s a harrowing experience for all the wrong reasons.  Video quality is mostly poor and lighting is very inconsistent.  The soundtrack is far too loud and the audio is better at picking up the background sounds than the actual dialogue.  Sets and locations are severely limited and there is no editing whatsoever to speak of.  In the end, this production is definitely among the worst.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

A ‘Dove-Approved’ ‘Horror’ film can’t actually exist, right?  This means anything ‘horror-like’ has been stripped from it, thus we are left with activities of daily living, local news sequences, television preaching sequences, and most laughable jump scares rivaled only by other films made by these people and the new Left Behind.  There is barely enough dialogue in this film, and what dialogue exists is mostly confusing crosstalk conversations.  With so many sequences of ‘regular life’, there is not enough real suspense.  Any suspense therein is bizarre and manufactured.  Finally, the ending of this film is one of the most laughable and head-scratching experiences ever.  We let asking whether or not it can get any worse than this.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

As if the rest of the movie wasn’t bad enough, let’s add an extremely amateur and awkward cast to this mess.  The performances therein are goofy and unsure.  There is far too much yelling and screaming.  It’s so sad that this many people were roped into this nonsense.

Conclusion

The Christian horror genre is among the worst of Christian film, and this should not be.  It’s inexcusable to have so many basement-dwelling films in one genre, especially when this genre offers such a great opportunity to reach outside the walls of the church.  Yet it’s a very difficult genre to pull off, so it would be better to not even attempt it unless you absolutely know what you’re doing.  But wait…there’s two MORE of these films?!?

 

Final Rating: -4 out of 10 points

 

In God’s Time (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Everyone’s lives are intertwined in some way, and everyone lives according to the timing God has given us.  We have no idea what God’s plan is, but our job is to trust Him no matter what.  This film follows the interconnected lives of a desperate doctor and his cancer-ridden wife, a belligerent homeless man with a past he wants to forget, a struggling military vet trying to move on with his life, and a pregnant girl who feels like she has no one to turn to.  As their lives converge together, they discover that God’s timing really is perfect.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a first-time production effort, this film isn’t half bad.  Video quality is good, even though the camera work is randomly shaky at times.  Sometimes audio quality isn’t what it should be, but it’s mostly fine.  The soundtrack is very creative and intriguing.  Sets, locations, and props are all well-constructed and appropriate.  Yet the editing is not very well thought out as a lot of the subplots seemed to be tossed together like a salad, as we will discuss further in a moment.  But overall, it’s clear that effort was put into this film, and with some small improvements, this team will go a long way.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Storylines that depict intertwining yet seemingly unrelated subplots are hard to execute properly.  Much like Do You Believe?, In God’s Time is sometimes too much of a tangled web that comes off as disjointed rather than smooth.  However, it is interesting and realistic to show how people’s lives are connected to one another, yet this story needs more organization to be effective.  Nonetheless, realistic issues are explored throughout this plot in the context of believable and accessible characters.  Dialogue is good, but it could be a little deeper.  There are also a lot of confusing psychological elements throughout the movie that seem interesting but need more explanation and exploration in order to be understood fully.  Due to these confusions, it’s sometimes hard to know what’s going on, even though there is a meaningful message presented here.  The ‘magical’ plot device utilized throughout this story is a bit cheesy and tends to fix problems too easily, but at least audiences can make realistic connections to the people presented here.  In the end, this plot shows a lot of creative potential that needs organization and clarity to make it great.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is semi-amateurish, they post some professional performances.  They are mostly believable in assuming the roles of their characters, yet there are some overdone emotions throughout.  Some performances tend to be underwhelming, but on the whole, this is an above-average section.

Conclusion

In a field crowded out by tons of small groups making movies designed to dip into the inspirational market, writing a good plot that contains realistic characters is the key to success in standing out.  This creative team has a lot of the tools and talents they need for success—now they just need some refinement and organization skills.  They would do well to consult some seasoned film makers in how they can go about this, because they are on the precipice of greatness.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Angels Love Donuts (Movie Review)

The whiniest man alive

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1 point)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (0 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

90 Minutes in Heaven (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Don Piper was driving home from a church conference one rainy day, he was blindsided by a rogue eighteen-wheeler semi-truck, which crushed his car and killed him on the spot.  When he passed into the afterlife, he entered Heaven and saw people who has gone before him.  However, due to the prayers of a man at the crash site, Don was pulled back to earth, full of injuries.  For months, he was confined to a hospital bed and his wife and children went through many trials due to Don’s uncertain medical condition.  However, through it all, God showed Himself to be faithful.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

90 Minutes in Heaven is one of those mainstream films about Christian concepts that puts many Christian films to shame due to its commitment to a high production quality.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what it should be.  The soundtrack is very creative and engaging.  Sets, locations, and props are highly authentic and realistic, especially for the time frame.  Finally, the editing is relatively good considering the large amount of content that is taken on in this film.  In the end, this is the standard production quality we should see with each movie that comes out.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though this is a very interesting and realistic true story that definitely warrants a movie of its own, it’s hard to think that it was handled very well in this particular film.  For one, unnecessary and heavy-handed narration forces the plot along and explains things that should be allowed to develop on their own.  The narration stunts character development and subverts the use of effective flashbacks.  There are plenty of characters in this film, but it’s hard to get to know any of them very well due to the constant voiceover.  Besides this, the presentation of this otherwise good story is very slow and boring, perhaps in attempts to be overly dramatic.  Nonetheless, it doesn’t come off right as there are too many stop and start scenes and dead sequences before all of the important information is shoved at the end.  In the end, this movie carries an important message that is not handled very well.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This movie clearly has a professional cast with plenty of recognizable names, yet sometimes the cast members appear to be overconfident in their abilities.  There’s no question that they have talent, but they underwhelm in their performances, like they are just phoning it in.  But for the most part, this section does reflect a professional effort.

Conclusion

Movies like this one, that are made by ‘Hollywood’ for Christians are usually a mixed bag.  Professional production and casting is rarely shirked on, but there always seem to be those lingering problems that drag it down.  The story behind 90 Minutes in Heaven is worthy of the Hall of Fame, yet this film is not due to a handful of small issues that hold it back.  Yet regardless, many will find this film to be enjoyable and it’s certainly worth your time.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Out of the Darkness [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Eli is a troubled man with a strained relationship with his father.  The only person who shows him love, his ailing grandmother, is dying, thus leaving him seemingly alone in the world.  He continually has conflicts with his wife and threatens to leave her because of their financial struggles.  One night, he storms off into the woods and quickly finds himself lost—however, not all is at it seems.  He is about to undergo a psychological experience he will never forget as he will have to decide who he is and where he stands with God.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, as a rookie production, Out of the Darkness starts out very raw, with inconsistent audio quality that emphasizes background noises and odd lighting that gives the film an odd feel.  There are also some strange special effects that make the move seem cheap.  Camera work is random and inconsistent, although the video quality is okay.  Moreover, some production elements improve as the movie goes on, but the editing is always poor, as the strangest scenes are included in the final cut.  This is overall a disjointed effort that needs a lot of rework.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though Out of the Darkness portrays some unfortunately realistic circumstances and characters, it does in a very disorganized and confusing manner.  As previously mentioned, the oddest elements and sequences are included that have no bearing on the ultimate point and only serve to waste time.  Once the plot gets more interesting, it presents some creative psychological elements that need way more explanation and exploration.  It feels like as it is, this plot is a rough draft of an idea that needs more development, yet somehow this was approved as the final draft.  It needs more content, more coherency, and more complexity for it to be any better, because, though it’s a good idea, it’s still an unfinished idea.  To top things off, the ending suggests way too many quick fixes for problems.  In the end, there is potential here, but it needs to be skillfully mined.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this cast has experience behind it, they don’t always show it.  They need way more coaching, as their emotions are very forced and amateurish.  Line delivery is okay, and both line and emotional delivery have some slight improvement throughout, which prevent this section from being hopeless.  But the bottom line is that not enough effort was put into this film to make the most out of what was provided.

Conclusion

The Justice Pictures team appears to be making attempts to have creative and different plot structures, but they need better characters to pull them off.  They also need to maximize their resources better and employ coaching for their cast members.  If they made just slight changes to their approach, they would find themselves getting better, which would lead to more investment, etc.  A lot of times, it’s the little problems that hold film makers back from being truly great.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Unwanted Presence (Movie Review)

Deliver us from stupid Christian horror films

Plot Summary

When Lindsay Parker moves to a new area for a new job, she looks forward to living in her newly-purchased home.  However, the longer she lives there, the more she realizes that evil is afoot in her home.  Things are moved on their own and she encounters strange noises and presences.  There is an ancient evil there she has no idea how to handle, so she turns to so-called paranormal ‘experts’ for help.  However, little does she know that only faith in God can save her now.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

So you set out to make a Christian horror film and you make sure to use the worst production quality possible.  Like many other independent Christian horror flicks, Unwanted Presence is an unwanted production.  Video quality is blurry and camera work is randomly shaky.  Lighting is also quite inconsistent.  Audio quality is terrible as it’s sometimes too loud but other times too quiet.  The soundtrack is also very cheesy and there are some screeching noises and ‘sound effects’ throughout.  Other special effects relating to the horror genre are also very stupid and juvenile.  Sets and locations are limited to basically one or two houses and the props are pedestrian.  Finally, there is no editing here as all possible content is included.  Basically, there’s  just nothing good to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Is there such a thing as a good Christian horror film?  They are always either extremely cheesy and obvious or too vague.  The portrayal of spiritual elements and ‘quirky’ characters in this movie is so laughable that one has to wonder if this is another one of those parody films.  But in all seriousness, the spiritual circumstances portrayed in this story are downright unrealistic and actually suggest some dangerous practices.  Besides this, there is barely enough plot content to sustain a full-length film and the subplots are completely disjointed.  There are too many sequences depicting activities of daily living or some zany character’s antics.  None of the characters are believable or accessible.  Whether or not this film is to be taken seriously, it’s still awful.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast oscillates from being very robotic, practiced, and overly enunciated to downright mumbling their lines.  Facial expressions are not an issue dealt with very often, but the ones used by this cast are extreme and atrocious.  Emotions are flat and empty.  Need we say anything else about this mess?

Conclusion

Spiritual activity in a house is not something to play around with.  If this were actually happening to someone (it’s not likely to happen in the fashion this movie suggests), then I would advise them to move out because a haunted location is not something you can just pray away, unless for some reason God has given you special authority over an area.  For this movie to suggest this is childish and dangerous.  Regardless, Christian horror is a lost and confused genre that should probably be put on hiatus until someone can come up with a real story that is actually funded.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Last Days in the Desert (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jesus was in the desert for forty days and forty nights, he supposedly helped out a random family who lived there.  He was also tempted by the devil in various ways to see if He would fall before beginning His earthly ministry.  Though the battle was difficult, He prevailed and was ultimately prepared to do His Father’s work on earth.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s very clear that this film was mainstream produced, as its high production quality unfortunately sets it apart from most independent Christian films, especially other Biblical films.  This production is virtually flawless—it boasts professional video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also creative and intriguing.  Sets and locations are highly realistic and appropriate for the story.  Props are also historically authentic.  The only nitpick to raise here is some slightly odd editing, but it’s not enough to keep this production from being great.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Despite its high amount of funding, this story is a total wash.  The first half of the movie is extremely empty and boring, with hardly any dialogue to speak of.  Hardly anything happens except for the introduction of bizarre spiritual elements and the development of a very unusual take on the Biblical account of Jesus’ tempting in the desert.  There is little justification for altering the historical account in this way, as the alterations seem utterly pointless and just for the sake of altering it.  As what little conversations there are meander on and on, they never go anyway and thus serve little purpose.  But without dialogue, what is a plot?  From start the finish, this story is useless and serves no purpose whatsoever, except to further muddy the waters of Biblical films.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though the costuming is very authentic and well-constructed, there is little else good to point out here.  Though this is a professional cast, and though they certainly have their good moments, they are all overly dramatic and too serious.  Also, it goes without saying that it’s ridiculous to cast Jesus and Satan with the same actor, regardless of who the actor is, just saying.  There are also shades of British accents among this cast, but what do you expect at this point?

Conclusion

Hollywood certainly knows how to fund a production, unlike a lot of independent and struggling Christian film makers, but their plots are just as bad or worse as independent plots.  Biblical films like this are so stupid because they alter historical accounts for fun, it seems like.  What if someone altered another historical account?  There would be an outcry.  Nonetheless, until Christians start making better Biblical films, there’s really not much else to say.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Dialtone [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a disillusioned Christian lawyer receives a very unusual visit from a man that claims to have access to a special phone that allows the caller to call people in the past who have died in the present, he is very skeptical at first.  However, he finds himself intrigued enough to try to call his recently deceased wife in the past.  But the deeper he goes, the more he discovers that he needs to get right with God before he is ready to truly make a difference.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is a very low-key film, attempts were made to make the production worthwhile.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all good, including a creative and intriguing soundtrack.  However, there is some unnecessarily poor lighting and a lot of the sets and locations are quite limited, probably due to budget limitations.  Also, the editing of this film is not really what it should be, especially considering how short it is.  Nonetheless, this is a good effort for a low-budget production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Dialtone is based on a very unique idea, but it is still a time travel plot, and like other time travel plots, it has a lot of continuity and logic problems.  Sci-fi is one thing, but a logic-defying story is hard to justify, even though the effort to be creative is commendable.  Since this idea is so short and underdeveloped, it’s hard to see the justification for it except to beta-test movie-making.  It’s great to have a creative idea, but it needs to be expounded upon.  The characters are also pretty well-developed, but we need to know more about them since there are so few of them.  In the end, creativity should be rewarded, but time travel plots should mostly be avoided.  An idea isn’t enough to carry a film—you need characters to do that for you.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this is a small cast, they post good performances that lack glaring errors.  Emotions are believable and line delivery is on point.  The only drawback is that they can be underwhelming at times, but they really showed effort to make this portion good.

Conclusion

Movies like Dialtone are hard to figure.  It seems like the creative team behind these sorts of films really has potential to do something great, but they just don’t go quite all the way.  It could be that films like this one were started projects, but there isn’t any follow-up, which is unfortunate.  But perhaps one day they will pick it back up again and improve on what they already have.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Visitation [2006] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a stranger comes to a small town begins performing miracles, he gains an immediate following.  However, a Baptist pastor and his friends are skeptical of the man, especially as his work grows more and more sinister.  As the town descends into spiritual chaos and demons take over people’s minds, will the Christians be able to stand against the growing evil that threatens the very soul of their town—or they be sucked into evil themselves?

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

As an early 2000s Fox Faith production, this team had the resources to make this film at least somewhat professional.  However, the production is neither respectable nor presentable.  It’s an absolute wreck full of cheesy special effects, constant jumps, and epilepsy-inducing flashes.  Camera work is extremely shaky and video quality is very blurry.  The lighting is very inconsistent and the sets, locations, and props are very cheap-looking.  Finally, as previously mentioned, the editing is atrocious, which makes for an unpleasant experience.  In short, there is nothing good whatsoever to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Frank Peretti was known in his time as a ground-breaking author who wasn’t afraid to breach different genres, but that doesn’t mean he always wrote good stories.  The Visitation is extremely thin on plot and character development in general.  It is beyond cheesy and includes tons of ridiculous horror elements that make for an extremely confusing and dizzying experience.  It’s really unfair to make someone watch this train wreck of a movie, as it jumps from one thing to the next, leaving the audience in a dazed wake.  It doesn’t even seem like this plot is trying to present a real story but is instead checking the box of having a Christian horror film for the sake of having it.  Needless to say, it doesn’t work—not in the least bit.

Acting Quality (0 points)

It’s probably safe to say that any cast that involves Randy Travis already has something wrong with it.  Otherwise, this cast is extremely dramatic, with lots of yelling and extreme emotions.  If they were going for a C-grade horror movie, they reached their goal on every single level.

Conclusion

It’s one thing to breach a new genre in Christian film, and it’s entirely another to butcher a film so badly that it creates a laughingstock.  Non-Christians might watch this film because it’s a horror flick, but they will find a total disaster with the name ‘Christian’ stamped on it.  To date, Christian horror is a genre that greatly suffers, but perhaps someone will turn it around one day…soon…

 

Final Rating: -2 out of 10 points