Run the Race (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

It seems like Zach and Dave Truett have always been dealt a bad hand in life. Their mother died, and their father soon after fell into alcoholism. Dave suffers from a medical condition, so when Zach tears his ACL at a party, his chances of a football scholarship, their only clear way out of their small town, are jeopardized. This forces Zach to do the soul-searching he had always avoided since their mother died, and it leads the brothers to unexpected places.

Production Quality (2 points)

As the first production funded and facilitated by the Tebow brothers, they have definitely shown that they can aggregate funds and put them to fairly good use. For the most part, this production is quite good and hits all the right notes, including good video quality, effective camera work, professional audio quality, and a great soundtrack. Sets, locations, and props are also adequately used and constructed. While the music is good, one drawback is the many dizzying sports montages that seem to eat up most of the runtime. Because of the time spent on this part, other scenes in the film are awkwardly and abruptly cut off with poor transitions. However, on the whole, this is an above-average production that is great for a first time effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, the money put into the production didn’t reflect well in the plot department. While something good is trying to be portrayed in this story, it doesn’t come through well at all, mostly due to the quick, clipped scenes that leave little room for proper development. Much of the dialogue refers to off-screen content or is very punctuated; this makes for awkward conversations that are inadequate in building characters effectively. While there are some attempts to take a real look at issues facing small towns in America and the people in them, too much time is spent on sports and training montages, which makes for a fairly choppy story presentation that doesn’t flow very well at all. There are too many missed opportunities as mindless sequences crowd the runtime, and many of the characters are too basic and one-dimensional. Difficult topics are mishandled with cliches, and unexpected time jumps leave the viewer disoriented to the story’s progression. Besides a handful of good scenes near the end of the film, this movie mainly talks about things without really showing them to you and fixes things without any heart behind them. In better screenwriting hands, this could have been a great exploration of relevant issues facing ordinary people, but we are left wondering what could have been.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

On the whole, the acting of this film could have been good, and while there aren’t any glaring errors, it’s still a bit thin. Better coaching would have likely brought out the potential in the cast members, and even so, it’s not as bad as it could have been. However, it’s not really dynamic either, which makes this an average section that rounds off a middle-of-the-road film.

Conclusion

In summary, Run the Race is fine for a freshman film effort, but with higher standards being set in the Christian entertainment market, new film makers will need to aim higher if they want to make their mark. Good productions have become more of a benchmark than they once were, and acting should at least be above average. The films that will truly set themselves apart moving forward are those that have dynamic plots and effective storytelling techniques. Perhaps in the their next attempt, the Tebow brothers can wield their fundraising skills to support a truly talented screenwriter.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

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On Wings of Eagles [2016] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

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

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

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

Acting Quality (2 points)

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

Conclusion

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

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Shifting Gears [2018] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

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

Production Quality (2.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Shake Off the World (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Austin is a talented football player, but his coach has it out for him for no particular reason, which has forced Austin to stay on the bench for most plays.  Whenever he gets a chance, Austin makes big plays, but when some off-the-field issues begin to change and move him in a different direction, Austin isn’t sure if he can live without football or his girlfriend.  However, Austin discovers a new group of friends who introduce him to Jesus, and his life is never the same after that.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a fairly new production, Shake Off the World has a good enough production to get by.  This is evidenced by clear video quality and fine camera work, including good sports action shots.  Audio quality is okay throughout, but there are too many moments where the soundtrack is simply too loud to hear anything.  Sets, locations, and props are also mostly fine, but there are quite a few scenes that are randomly dark for no good reason.  Further, there are too many quick fade-outs and transitions that appear to interrupt the flow of the film at times.  Overall, this production does just enough to get above the average mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While Shake Off the World appears to begin as a slightly interesting true story, it quickly devolves into a big nothingburger.  Predictably present are all the typical sports story elements, but it still lacks an effort to be interesting.  In between the expected sports montages are very dry and drab conversations between characters that do nothing to develop them as people.  They aren’t accessible, and the empty dialogue makes them come off as wooden and stiff.  Thus, they are hard to relate to, and they appear to be swept along in random plot circumstances that have no continuity, logic, or feeling.  Due to the high amount of time spent in montages, the story line is rushed and actually quite short and small in scope.  Most scenes and subplots come off as disconnected from the others, and by the time the film ends, it feels like it barely got off the ground.  When a film feels like it’s over before it began, something went horribly wrong in the plot department.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite not having many lines to work with, the acting is actually just average.  The cast definitely means well even though they are underwhelming at times.  Some lines are mumbled, and some emotions appear to not reach their full potential.  However, they did enough to keep this area at the middle mark.

Conclusion

It’s quite hard to understand why this film was made and what it was going for.  If the creators meant well, their messaging was totally lost in translation.  They either cut too many scenes or didn’t plan enough to begin with.  While it was a good idea to make a film based off of true events, the true story definitely did not come through, and this frustrates many audiences.  Maybe this creative team will have better luck next time.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Extraordinary [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dr. David Horton is known as a great professor in Lynchburg, and his ‘running’ class is extremely popular.  His reputation is that he helps all of his students by connecting with them on a personal level.  Dr. Horton is also a marathon enthusiast, but his passion often takes away his time from his family, which is something his wife greatly struggles with.  Much to her chagrin, David embarks on a dangerous cross-country marathon for two months, even though he is secretly battling health problems.  Will his health and their marriage survive the trek?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Liberty University has all of the toys and resources an independent film maker could dream of, yet they consistently settle for just above average productions.  There’s no doubt that Extraordinary has some great cinematography, even if it’s mostly a collection of American landmark shots.  Nevertheless, camera work is excellent, and video quality is great.  Sets, locations, and props also make this production a mostly good experience.  Editing is standard, and on the surface, this is a well-produced film.  However, beneath the surface, there are some head-scratching inclusions, such as silly production gimmicks and weirdly bad special effects.  These elements are reminiscent of film school professors playing around to see what they can do with what they have.  However, most audiences will likely look past these issues and see the above-average production that it is.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Based on a true story, the Liberty University team had a lot to work with, even though they have struggled in the past with storylines.  However, in Extraordinary, the Curlee\Schultze team continued their issues with very thin and empty plots and characters.  Though this is based on real people, they clearly had no idea how to craft realistic characters as the story does not translate well at all.  The characters are empty due to dialogue that is full of title-dropping, pedestrian platitude-pushing, and repeated content.  Many scenes are basically filler with no substantial contribution to the overall plot.  There are one too many ‘funny’ scenes, and the majority of the movie is packed with musical montages and dramatic moments that have no meaning.  In the end, though the basic idea behind this story was great, the film version leaves the audience with no real focus or purpose as it tried so hard to drive the point home that it fell flat.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Acting coaching and casting is another area the Curlee\Schultze team struggles in, which is a shame since they claim to be prodigies of the Kendricks.  The lead actor of this film is particularly weak and awkward, and several supporting cast members are annoying.  Kirk Cameron is beyond obnoxious, and Shari Rigby struggles without better directing.  However, there are enough good areas here to make this section at least average; one has to consider that this cast didn’t have many substantial lines to work with.  Nonetheless, the Liberty University team continues to disappoint.

Conclusion

Scotty Curlee and Stephan Schultze have the film world at their fingertips, yet they constantly settle for half-measure and expect you to deal with it because at least it’s a Christian movie or something.  Unfortunately, they are consistently wasting the time and money of Christian audiences as all of their marketing is for nothing but a quick cash grab.  Extraordinary is another example of a squandered opportunity because Curlee and Schultze refuse to retain a truly talented screenwriter (like Sean Morgan) and have demonstrated time and again their lack of regard for improvement.  Now we can just wait with bated breath for their upcoming Trump film.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Greater: The Brandon Burlsworth Story (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Brandon Burlsworth always wanted to play football at the top college level, but he was always told he was never cut out for the sport due to his size problems.  However, Brandon defied all odds by adapting a strong work ethic that helped him train to become fit to walk-on and play SEC football at the University of Arkansas.  His life affected all of those around him as he made the football team better with his faith and his work ethic.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Greater is clearly a well-funded production as it is very professional.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The action sports scenes are filmed very well, and the sports props are highly realistic.  The soundtrack is adequate, and sets and locations are great.  The only small nitpicks to raise here pertain to some small editing issues, such as some lagging scenes and seemingly unnecessary content.  Otherwise, however, this production is top-notch and checks all the right boxes.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

While this film is based on a great true story, there is a lot of content that is covered in this plot.  Thus, character development suffers as the characters tend to only be pawns in the storyline.  The dialogue primarily serves to move time forward rather than to develop the characters as people.  There are also a lot of typical sports clichés and training montages.  With so much content to handle in one film, there are too many wasted sequences like this that could have been used to build the characters.  However, not all is bad here as this is a great story to tell with a worthwhile message.  Moreover, it had a lot going for it and definitely could have been better.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The acting is perhaps the strongest section of this film.  This is a very professional cast with no glaring errors committed.  Emotions are believable and realistic, and line delivery is on point.  In the end, this section brings this movie close to the fullest potential it could have had.

Conclusion

Greater had many key elements and advantages in its corner, but it didn’t quite get the job done.  I can help but think that in different hands, this film would have been a Hall of Fame epic.  With some slightly deeper characters and dialogue, along with a less choppy presentation, it would have breached the Hall of Fame threshold.  Nonetheless, this is an enjoyable film that many audiences will enjoy.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

Carman: The Champion (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Orlando Leone is not in good health, but after inheriting his father’s gym, he finds himself with mounting debt and not enough income to cover his bills.  His only choice is to re-enter the boxing scene and win a high-stakes prize fight in order to earn the money he needs to save the gym.  However, the fight will be against his gravest rival.  Will Orlando’s medical condition keep him from being the hero?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For an early 2000s film, Carman’s self-titled ego trip is not a bad production all around.  This means, as usual, that video quality and camera work are good, even in the sports action scenes.  Audio quality is adequate, even though there are some minor background noise issues and the soundtrack is sometimes too loud.  Yet there are plenty of good sets, locations, and props, especially pertaining to the sports elements.  However, there are also some editing concerns, mostly pertaining to the sports montages and the slightly choppy presentation.  But on the whole, this is an acceptable, above-average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While there is some potential in this story, mostly pertaining to the realistic circumstances portrayed in this plot, there are also a lot of formulaic elements here.  This film is basically your average sports redemption arc combined with a predictable save the farm with an impossible sports feat subtext, mixed with a dash of the medical complications subplot.  Thus, the characters are too shallow as they mainly function as pawns in the plot’s circumstances that are inevitable regardless of what they do.  Things happen because they need to and mostly consist of typical scenes and sports montages, as previously mentioned.  The romantic subplot is cheesy and rushed and the villain is a strawman.  There are also some unnecessarily edgy elements just because.  Basically, while this was a nice try, it’s not good enough.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite Carman being a lead in this film and putting a damper on things, the other cast members aren’t really half bad in this film.  However, there are moments of emotion that are too dramatic and forced.  The villain cast member is basically annoying.  On the while, this is just one of those films that has good elements but is mostly forgettable.

Conclusion

Carman the Champion was a part of an early 2000s push from Trinity Broadcasting Network and others to bring a diverse collection of Christian films to the big screen, but the effort was not entirely successful.  While this movie was sort of the first of its kind in Christian circles, replicating the basic Rocky plot using Carman isn’t really worth doing.  Christians should be more creative than this, so maybe future film makers can take cues from this.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Basketball 3:16 (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Calvin Nichols never thought he would be able to find God on the basketball court, but God sent someone to share him the Gospel, and his life turned around for the better.  He began trying to get his life in order and became involved in the local church.  When a man comes to the church whom everyone thinks is a hopeless, lost cause, Calvin talks to him and share his story of conversion in the hopes of bringing him to Christ as well.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, like many small church films, Basketball 3:16 suffers from lack of funding.  This is evident in the cheap and limited sets, locations, and props, as well as the marginal audio quality.  Though the video quality and the camera work are fine, there is not enough substantial soundtrack in this film.  Also, in keeping with most movies of this level of funding, the editing is relatively poor and amateurish.  Thus, while films like this can mean all the best in the world, it’s just not enough to overcome the low production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 points)

This story seems to mean well and tries to portray real people in real circumstances, but it also projects a deception that everything is automatically fixed when you become a Christian.  Yet it does also try to show the need for making amends, so it’s not totally lost.  The characters are quite realistic, perhaps even too realistic, yet the dialogue is lazy and unengaging.  The Christian characters are too perfect and the non-Christian characters are too ‘bad’.  Overall, since this story is rough around the edges, it needs some refining and deepening in order to be successful.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Too often in this small cast, the cast members are overplaying their characters and trying too hard.  Other times, the line delivery is mumbled and lazy.  There are some good moments, however, but not enough to overcome the negative.  All in all, this statement tends to describe the movie as a whole.

Conclusion

Small church films are a tough sub-genre to review because funding is always going to be a problem.  For this reason, the plot and the characters need to be outstanding to show what the creative team can do with better funding.  There are always meager beginnings in independent Christian films, so it’s what you do with what God has given you that counts.  Most of the time, unfortunately, we feel like the best as not been done with what is provided.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

The Potential Inside (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

The Investigator [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sergeant James Buanacore loved his job as a leader on the police force, but when he got caught up in a street fight that ended with a gang member shot to death, he is pressured to retire from his post to mitigate bad publicity.  At the same time, tragedy strikes his family and blindsides him, which causes him to lose his faith in God.  Thus, James’ brother gets him a job as a baseball coach and criminal justice teacher at a local private Christian school to help him find new meaning in life.  But what James finds there is students searching for hope and a corrupt leadership, so he sets out to use his investigative skills to determine whether or not Jesus was a historical figure.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For a slightly unknown independent Christian film, The Investigator has a surprisingly good production.  Video quality is great, but the only issue in this production is the odd camera work that is sometimes employed.  Otherwise, audio quality is professional, as is the soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are well-funded and appropriate.  The editing is quite good and is successful in most ways.  If it weren’t for the unusual camera usage, this would have been a perfect production.  In the end, this is an excellent example of how an independent production can succeed.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The Investigator has a lot of interesting ideas and takes big risks in breaching less-discussed topics such as corruption in private Christian schools.  However, the story is all over the place and is somewhat disorganized as a lot of ground is attempted to be covered.  The circumstances portrayed are realistic and honest, and the characters are actually quite believable and realistic, but the organization of this story is greatly lacking.  The creativity here needs some serious honing and better development.  Too much time is wasted on sports montages and unrelated scenes.  In the end, this is a very unique plot, so it’s a shame it couldn’t have been better.  Yet it does show potential for the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is a semi-professional cast, and they post mostly good performances, but emotions tend to be too extreme at times.  Line delivery is nearly perfect and it’s evident that acting coaching is present.  Only a few minor problems hold this portion back.

Conclusion

There is a lot of good content packed into this film, but there is perhaps too much that is included here.  It’s great to deal with the issues of tragedy, corruption, and apologetics, but in this disorganized fashion, it’s difficult to follow.  Yet the production and the acting successes show that independent films can be professional if the proper resources and effort are put towards them.  Regardless, it should be interesting to see what this creative team comes up with next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Break Away [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Francois is a hard worker, but when he suddenly loses his job in the struggling Johannesburg economy, he is at a loss as to how he is to provide for his family.  He feels like God gives him an idea to start his own bicycle delivery business, and he does so, aided by a friend.  But as his financial situation goes from bad to worse, out of desperation, he decides to enter a cycle race in the hope of winning money.  Will he be able to recover what he has lost and keep his family from poverty?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though a lot of good efforts were made with this production, there are still some pesky errors that hold it back.  Camera work and video quality are good, especially in the actions scenes, even though there are some odd camera angles throughout.  However, audio quality is sometimes poor, including a random soundtrack and outside noises.  Yet sets, locations, and props are quite good and authentic.  Also, the problem areas do tend to improve throughout, which is a plus.  The editing is also a mixed bag, with some good moments and some poor moments.  Overall, this is a good first-time independent production and something to build off of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Break Away is based on a realistic and interesting story, even if it is somewhat boring at times.  There are unfortunately too many montages that fill up the runtime, thus hurting the development of the characters and causing dialogue to be shallow and stunted.  There are quite of few interesting subplots besides the main plot that warrant further explanation.  It’s difficult for this plot to hold the attention as it is, even though the struggles of the characters can be appreciated on some level.  Though it’s sometimes overly dramatic, it’s clear that this creative team meant well in writing this.  Once again, this is something to build off of.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a semi-amateur cast, these actors and actresses do a decent job, even if they are a little stuffy and robotic at times.  Sometimes lines are mumbled, but emotions are mostly believable.  In the end, this is an average performance to round off a decent effort.

Conclusion

It’s never easy to make a movie of your own, especially since funding is hard to come by for international films.  Regardless, all that matters in this sort of situation is that you do your best, and it seems like, for the most part, this was done in Break Away.  It always feels like plots are suffering in Christian film, however.  Sometimes it’s better to use a plot that’s already written, but perhaps one day, the stories that are told in Christian movies will be more creative and engaging.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

The Frontier Boys (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a tight-knit group of high school basketball players and fans is directly affected by a seemingly random drive-by shooting, they band together to discover the truth behind the evil deed.  However, unbeknownst to the others, one of them is holding a terrible secret that would affect his very life if he disclosed it.  But as the trail grows cold, will be speak the truth and risk it all to save his friends?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Frontier Boys starts off as a very raw and rough production, which is not characteristic of Echolight Studios.  Camera work is quite shaky at first and video quality is inconsistent.  However, audio quality is always good and the soundtrack is creative.  Sometimes lighting is randomly poor, but this and other productions elements at least improve as the movie goes on.  Sets, locations, and props are stable throughout the film, but for some reason it takes until the middle of video quality, camera work, and lighting to improve.  However, the editing is bit odd as it leaves too many lagging scenes and unexplained sequences.  Overall, this production is a roller coaster and probably should have been redone.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The Frontier Boys is a rare circumstance in which the creative plot saves the film from total mediocrity.  Though it begins in a confusing fashion, the story becomes more interesting as it goes, even though it does take a while to get to the point.  Regardless, the characters are surprisingly well-developed through unique dialogue and realistic circumstances.  However, there are some typical sports and mystery story elements and sometimes it seems like the creativity of this suspense idea is not reaching its fullest potential.  It feels like this film was just a beta test because a lot of factors are too downplayed and not taken seriously enough.  Had they been taken more serious, this would be a whole different ballgame.  But in the end, though things tend to be fixed too easily in this plot, it is still a commendable effort and one that demonstrates story-writing talent, which is hard to come by in the Christian movie field.  Perhaps this talent will be utilized further in the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is some off-putting and unusual at first, they work well together and assume their roles very well.  Line delivery is on-point and emotions are believable.  This is a professional casting job and one that should be replicated in the future.

Conclusion

There’s really not a movie out there that’s like The Frontier Boys.  It actually follows a non-typical plot structure and dabbles into an untapped genre.  If the production were upgraded and the plot even slightly improved, this would have been a Hall of Fame film.  Perhaps with the backing of Echolight, this creative team has a chance to really make a difference in the field, if they put their mind to it.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Pitching Love and Catching Faith {Romance in the Outfield} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Heather and Tyler meet on a softball field in the heat of a game and of course don’t like each other at first until they are randomly thrown together in a quirky relationship in which Tyler doesn’t want to kiss her until the right time.  Heather makes it her goal to kiss him, but she soon discovers that his faith is more important than she realized.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a freshman production, this confusingly-titled movie is pretty good.  Video quality is professional, as is the camera work, even though there is some unnecessarily poor lighting.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack leaves something to be desired.  Sets, locations, and props are fine but slightly limited.  Finally, the editing is too amateurish, including very choppy cuts and transitions that make the viewing experience confusing.  But in the end, this is fine for a first-time effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It seems like this film with the long title was pitched (haha) to Hallmark, UP, INSP, or even the abysmal ION in the hopes of a TV deal, but there were no home runs (lol).  It has all the trademarks of Hallmark cheesiness, including a cheap Christian message and the most juvenile romantic plot ever.  Every romance cliché and conversation in the book of stock romances is used in this film.  The plot progression is so predictable that it seems like someone wrote it in their sleep.  Their nothing new or creative here as two empty and cardboard characters are inevitably thrown together into a plastic romance full of forced drama, fake breakups, and an unhealthy obsession with kissing.  Maybe even Hallmark was tired of this.  Then again, maybe not.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Though this cast is not all bad, it is a small cast, thus amplifying the errors.  Most cast members are very awkward and flat.  Many of them are unsure in their line delivery, while emotions are forced and stiff.  This is definitely not a good way to top off a textbook romance movie.

Conclusion

It seems like a Christian message was slapped onto this film just to sell it to a certain market.  There’s really no other reason why it should be considered Christian.  Regardless, there is nothing whatsoever creative about this movie.  Thus, there is zero justification for its creation as it clutters an already-crowded field and genre.  The last thing we need is more of these plastic romances.  But last time I checked Hallmark, there’s still plenty more to come.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

The Playbook [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (2 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Midrange [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Damon Sharp, a new college graduate, must leave his glory days of playing college basketball behind and return to his hometown to live with his mother and brother while he waits to be drafted into the NBA.  However, he returns to find the same old things being done at home.  His brother quickly pulls Damon back into the partying lifestyle as he awaits a big sports contract.  However, Damon is constantly nagged by his newfound faith, wondering how he is supposed to live it out as his brother tries to lead him astray.  Will he find the path that God wants him to take before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Midrange is another typical freshman production that looks good but has a collection of errors that drag it down.  Video quality is fine, but camera work is inconsistent.  Audio quality is also poor, but some effort was put into the soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are commendable but they are slightly limited and cheap.  Furthermore, there is really no editing to speak of in this film as it progresses unimaginatively from one thing to the next.  In the end, this is forgivable as a first-time production and hopefully this team will grow more in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this story is based on loosely interesting idea about the struggles of Christians and their families of origin, it is packaged in a very flat and linear presentation that has no real twists or creative elements.  Everything is given at face value, including the stiff dialogue and the descriptions of vague off-screen content that might have been helpful to include.  Though they mean well in presenting the struggles of a new Christian, the Christian message is too cheap and plastic to be accessed by the audience.  In the same vein, the characters are not deep enough or realistic enough to be related to, even though their struggles are real.  Thus, this story just boils down to a formulaic and predictable storyline that reaches an inevitable conclusion in which everything is fixed.  It would be one thing if the viewers could be taken along for an accessible experience, but this did not happen.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Another mark of an amateur film is an amateur cast.  While this is not inherently a problem, these cast members sometimes seem unsure of themselves.  They are often too robotic and measured and seem like they performed everything in one take.  This is more evident due to some obvious line mistakes.  Though there is some good here, they need a lot of more coaching than this.

Conclusion

Meager beginnings should never be frowned upon, but there are certainly ways budding film makers can learn from their past mistakes.  Without good funding, story writing skills need to showcased to prove that the film maker has something to offer the field.  Amateur casts can be difficult to deal with, but it is possible to make something out of it.  Overall, what we always look for is improvement, so we will see what happens next.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

23 Blast (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Travis Freeman is a popular and upstanding high school football player who everyone in the small town of Corbin looks up to.  However, when tragedy strikes him and leaves him suddenly blind, he loses his purpose in life and retreats into seclusion.  He gives up on life and his parents are a loss as to what to do until his mobility coach breaks through his protective walls and lights a fire under him to get back up and find his new purpose in life.  With the high school football team struggling to find identity and success, the coach decides to put in Travis as center in the hopes that the whole team will rally around him and save their season.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

23 Blast has a respectable production with only small errors.  Video quality is professional and camera work is great, especially in the sports action scenes.  Audio quality is fine, even if the soundtrack is a bit pedestrian.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and authentic.  There is little negative to point out here except for some slightly poor editing that allows confusing leaps in time to hurt this film.  But otherwise, this is a professional effort that we don’t see enough of in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though 23 Blast presents an interesting story that contains honest characters, it commits a huge error by crafting a very rapid progression of events that keeps this plot from being all that it could be.  Massive time jumps leave too many unanswered questions and stunt characters and plot development.  There are too many vague ideas that are not well explained and there are typical sports montages, along with other predictable sports elements.  There are some moments of dry comedy, but we would really have liked to get to know these characters better through deeper dialogue and more personality-forming circumstances.  It’s a shame this plot could have been better because it’s a good story.  Even so, it’s probably still worth a watch.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is only semi-professional, they post some good performances.  Blind acting is difficult, yet one of the cast members pulls this off well.  Though sometimes lines are mumbled, emotions are mostly believable.  This is another respectable effort.

Conclusion

23 Blast is an enjoyable sports film that many audiences will find interesting and fun to watch.  Though there are some plot issues, the production and the acting are good enough to make this film fine on the surface.  It’s always frustrating to see a story that does not reach its full potential, but this movie shows that this creative team can do greater things in the future, so we can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Adrenaline [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Joseph Jenkins is a hotshot drag race car driver, but when he is suddenly crippled in a wreck, he feels like his life is over.  As he sulks in a hospital room, he doesn’t want to see anyone, but his roommate pulls him out of his shell and gives him a new purpose in life.  Then Joseph suddenly reconnects with an old friend of his father, whom he never knew.  Joseph soon finds a new lease on life and a chance at redemption, but will he be able to make his newfound faith his own?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Adrenaline is overall a mixed bag, including the production.  Video quality is fine, but camera work is too shaky, including a lot of odd camera angles.  Lighting is poor at first, but it improves as it goes.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is sometimes too loud.  However, sets, locations, and props are very professional.  Yet Adrenaline commits a common error of indie films—imperfect editing.  Cuts and transitions are very confusing and even sometimes spastic, thus making for a lot of choppy editing.  In the end, this is a good production effort, but some kinks still need to be worked out of it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, though it has some good messages, Adrenaline is a formulaic sports redemption plot with a predictable sequence.  The characters are somewhat stereotypical, though attempts are made to develop them.  However, it would be better to see them deeper because they are intriguing characters.  This can be done by making the dialogue more creative and complex.  Elsewhere, there are too many (unfortunately expected) sports and training montages, as well as a lot of wasted time.  It’s too bad because it feels like this plot has a lot of potential that it doesn’t reach.  Perhaps things will improve next time.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Even as a slightly amateur cast (except for John Schneider), the acting isn’t really that bad.  Even John Schneider is better than he has been in the past.  The cast members embrace their characters well.  The only issue to point out is some overdone emotions, but that’s easily fixed.  This shows great hope for the future.

Conclusion

With some experience working under the Kendricks, this creative team did pick up on a thing or two that they will likely be able to use to get even better in the future.  First movie mistakes can easily be forgiven, so it will be interesting to see what they have planned next.  With some better production funding and a more creative plot, as well as a continuously good cast, this team will be going places.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

One Hit From Home (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Jimmy Easton gets injured and gets into trouble, he is under scrutiny from his team and from the law.  Though all he wants to do is sit at home and feel sorry for himself, this not an option as a friend of his pulls some strings with the judge to force Jimmy to coach a failing college baseball team as part of his penance.  Jimmy agrees only because he wants to give no effort to coaching, but a passionate player makes him change his mind.  Will Jimmy be able to rediscover the love and faith he once had?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

One Hit From Home is one of those stereotypical PureFlix-distributed productions that looks good on the surface.  Video quality is fine and camera work is professional.  However, the audio quality is inconsistent and the soundtrack is odd.  Yet sets, locations, and props are very realistic and professional.  Moreover, this production commits the common sin of choppy editing.  It feels like this film is just slapped together just to force it to happen—which probably isn’t that far off, knowing what PureFlix did in the 2007—2013 era of film making.  Essentially, One Hit From Home is a churned out, run-of-the-mill production that is made to be sold easily.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The production is not the only thrown-together aspect of this film.  The storyline borrows from every other troubled drunk sports character plot ever made (and return to hometown plot) and is easily confused with Home Run.  In One Hit From Home, things happened because they need to and the story is based entirely on coincidences and moments of necessity.  Each character fits a neat little yet one-dimensional mold and employs pedestrian dialogue.  The romantic subplot(s) boxes are checked.  Sports and training montages are present, which checks another box.  Furthermore, the Christian message is forced and time speeds by at a rapid progression as problems are fixed too easily and too quickly.  Essentially, this plot was bought from a stock plot supplier and repackaged for the Christian bookstores.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast is not all bad, though they are sometimes unsure of themselves.  Most the time they are flat and seemingly uninterested, but some cast members post good performances.  Overall, the acting is not terrible, but it’s certainly not very memorable.

Conclusion

Do we need plots about troubled characters?  Absolutely.  Do we need sports plots?  Sure.  Do we always need the two of these ideas mashed together in films that do nothing whatsoever to make us interested in the characters and their struggles?  Most definitely not.  Films like this one reek of not even trying to be interesting in the pursuit of making a quick buck off of unsuspecting Christian\inspirational audiences who are desperate for any wholesome entertainment.  Give us something wholesome, creative, and dynamic—something that will actually make a difference, not just another carbon copy.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Birdie and Bogey (Movie Review)

EVERYBODY’S HAPPY!!!!!!!!

Plot Summary

Pro-golfer Danny O’Connor loves his daughter Birdie, which is why he makes the unorthodox decision to make her his caddy in a tournament.  She begins to have a positive effect on his game, and he inches closer to his dream of playing on the PGA tour.  However, their dreams are tested when a disease threatens their relationship and puts their faith to the test.  Will they be able to withstand the trials before them?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

It is very confusing as to why this film was ever produced, because despite the big names behind it, the quality is quite low.  Video quality is grainy, especially in bright outside scenes, and camera work is shaky.  Audio quality is medieval, including loud outside sounds and a clanky soundtrack.  Sets and locations are underwhelming.  When it comes to the editing, there are far too many sports and scenery montages.  It seems like hardly any effort was put towards this production due to its cheap quality, which begs the question, was this film a necessity to make?

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Birdie and Bogey follows the predictable storyline of a typical sports plot and is saturated with golf content that isolates most audiences.  Other than golf references and training sequences, not much really happens in this story.  The premise of the film is very thin and flimsy, and the Christian message is very plastic and shoehorned in.  What little dialogue there in in this movie is very childish, and the characters therein are so over-the-top happy and sappy it’s enough to make you sick.  The end is very predictable and anti-climactic, if you make it that far.  Basically, we are unsure of what this film’s creators were really trying to convey here, but whatever it was, it never came through in a way that made any sense.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Just like the overly sappy characters, these cast members also act as fakely Hallmark as they can.  Their performances are very juvenile and over-the-top, obviously lacking in proper coaching.  Emotions are plastic and overly enthusiastic.  Also, the makeup jobs are atrocious.  In short, this is another example that causes us to ask why.

Conclusion

There are simply too many films on the Christian market like this one that have already been forgotten by most audiences and remain forever locked in the basement of Christian film.  We’ve said this before and will unfortunately continue saying this: making a film for the sake of making a film is never a good idea.  Just because you have a little bit of funding doesn’t mean you need to use it up on a knee-jerk movie.  Take your time, think about what you’re doing.  Make sure you have a good plot and the proper equipment and a cast who can at least be coached.  It’s simply not worth it to rush things.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Champion [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sean Weathers is an up and coming dirt track racer who is obsessed with becoming the best and doing whatever it takes to do that.  He feels like he is close to becoming the top dirt track racer, but when one rival stands in his way, Sean does the unthinkable to secure his position.  However, tragedy sends Sean spiraling out of control as he begins to lose his sanity and everything he holds dear.  The only path forward is to face the pain he is trying to avoid and to seek forgiveness in the hardest places.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a student of the Kendrick film model, Judd Brannon and his team have mastered professional productions skills early on in their careers, which will be a major advantage for them down the road.  All aspects of Champion’s production are excellent—video quality is superb and camera work is very good as difficult action shots and outside scenes are executed nicely.  Audio quality is also on par and the soundtrack is reminiscent of a Kendrick soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are highly professional and appropriate, thus enhancing the film’s overall quality.  The only minor issues to raise here are some editing mistakes that cause for a small amount of viewing confusion, but this is something that will be rectified with more experience.  Overall, you can’t ask for a better production start than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Judd Brannon and his team have also taken a page from the Kendrick playbook when it comes to plots, as they used a non-linear plot structure with interlocking subplots.  This is mostly a good thing, yet there are a few too many unnecessary tangents that hamper with the storyline’s focus.  The characters therein are realistic and the circumstances they encounter are also believable.  However, they could use a little bit more deepening through better dialogue and more complexity.  It is clear that a lot of thought and effort was put into this plot, and there is certainly great messaging that many audiences will enjoy.  Yet this story is held back by its predictable progression and reliance on coincidences.  But in the end, like the Kendricks, Judd Brannon and his team are making the most of the inspirational genre plot structure and have great potential for the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is a professional cast, and for the most part, each cast member is appropriately placed in their roles.  Andrew Cheney and Robert Amaya clearly know what they are doing.  Yet some other cast members are not very convincing in their roles and sometimes come off as disingenuous.  But overall, emotions are believable and line delivery is on point.  This is a great cast to begin with.

Conclusion

The good news for Christian film is that the bar is being raised by new film makers entering the field.  Although hardly anyone can make a freshman blockbuster like October Baby or Priceless, films like Champion certainly make for a great start in the field.  You can’t argue with this type of beginning, especially since most viewers will enjoy it.  We firmly believe this team has the ability and the resources to take that next step, as long as they add a little more complexity and creativity to their plots and make sure to avoid pesky acting errors.  Regardless, Brannon and company are well on their way to greatness and will find great success in this debut, as it is certainly worth your time to see.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Cutback [2010] (Movie Review)

Dude…

Plot Summary

Luke Harris and his friend Casey have one thing on their mind as they finish up their last year of high school: surf!  But Luke’s parents are constantly pressuring him to grow up and choose a college for him to further his education.  Luke is focused on making the local surf team and beating out a new ‘popular’ guy—not to mention getting the attention of the girl he likes—but little does Luke know that despite his own plans, God has plans for him that he could never imagine.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Cutback is different from most Skipstone films, in that it is less artistic than usual.  Video and audio quality are on par, yet the soundtrack is far too loud and tends to be too ‘surf’ oriented.  There is also some shaky camera work in the action scenes.  Outside scenes are otherwise relatively fine, and the sets and locations are acceptable.  However, the editing leaves something to be desired as it falls into the sports film trap of including too many musical sports action montages.  The good news is that the Skipstone team’s production skills did improve after this effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Though Cutback is mostly a formulaic high school sports plot, there are some interesting twists and turns in the middle of the film that we did not see coming.  At first, the dialogue is far too ‘cool’ and ‘surfer-dude’, almost to the point of embarrassment, and this creates very cheesy characters.  However, this subsides as the movie goes on and they actually become believable characters.  As usual, Johnny Remo and team deal with realistic life circumstances that really make the viewer think.  The messaging of this story is quite good.  However, though everything overall improves by the middle of the film, issues tend to be resolved too easily.  Yet in the end, despite some errors, Cutback becomes a somewhat meaningful film.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast is fairly professional, though sometimes they seem unsure and\or lazy.  They also tend to play the whole ‘dude’ thing too much, but they are mostly fine.  Emotions are believable and line delivery is average.  Thus, an average score is warranted.

Conclusion

Like many Johnny Remo movies, we would like to see a remake of Cutback.  It has the tools for success, even if they are not always applied properly.  Remo always demonstrates a special creativity and ability to craft different types of films, but he is often hampered by a collection of small errors and some poor execution.  We believe he and his team have great potential for the future as they continue to become better film makers.  We anticipate what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

For the Glory [2012] (Movie Review)

Your guess is as good as ours

Plot Summary

Kurt Kuykendall is a highly gifted basketball player who has it all, including a possible Olympic future.  But his home life is a wreck, which leads to tragedy and his being cut from the basketball team.  He feels like his life is over, but all is not lost, because God opens up a new door for him—playing soccer—that he would have never thought was possible.  The only question is, will Kurt seek God or remain bitter about the past?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

While some measures were taken to make this production good, too many corners were cut here.  Video quality and audio quality are on par, though the soundtrack is pedestrian, but there is too much shaky camera work, especially in the sports sequences.  Speaking of the sports sequences, they are too repetitive and redundant, including some unnecessarily recycled footage.  Thus, there are too many sports montages, which reflects poor editing and a general lack of content, even though this film is supposed to be an epic about a real person’s life.  Sets and locations are also fairly limited.  Therefore, though this production looks good on the surface, it does not do enough to warrant more than one point.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This is an interesting true story to depict in movie form, but it overall lacks focus and causes too much confusion for the audience.  For the Glory commits the amateur epic mistakes of creating too many time jumps and referring to off screen content too often.  Besides the constant sports montages, there are too many head-scratching sequences and random occurrences that do nothing to help us get to know these characters at all.  Time is not spent wisely, thus making it hard to be able to relate to the struggles of these characters.  Dialogue also meanders and is generally hard to follow, which creates cheesy and empty characters.  In short, while For the Glory highlights some true-to-life issues, it does so in a very lazy fashion that will unfortunately have no real impact.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, cases that include Jason Burkey and Richard Swingle that have no connection to the Erwin Brothers do not fair well.  They are their usual awkward selves, as are other cast members.  Emotions are over the top and forced and line delivery is sometimes hesitant.  This cast would have benefited from coaching.

Conclusion

In the grand scheme of things, films like For the Glory are very easily forgettable and fall into the massive heap of Christian movies that just blow over your head after you’ve watched them.  There is nothing particularly good or bad to remember about this category of films—you just watch them and then you’re done and never watch them again.  What we need is greatness in Christian film, not more failed attempts like this one.  Perhaps movies like this one can serve as reminders of how film makers can improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

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

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (0 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

The Perfect Summer (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jake and his mom move from Chicago to Hawaii to start a new life with her father, Jake is less than thrilled about the change of pace.  He has to adjust to new surroundings and new people who do not always accept him.  He also has to endure his eccentric grandfather, who tries to rebuild their relationship.  Jake is ready to give up when he discovers that he has a thing for surfing and that his grandfather can teach him.  Perhaps the worst summer ever for Jake will turn into the perfect summer.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Perfect Summer is such a clean, stock made-for-television film.  From the opening sequence to the loudest soundtrack ever to lots of nature footage, this movie checks all the boxes of mediocre production quality.  While the video quality and camera work are fine, the poor audio quality is very distracting as it picks up all kinds of unwanted sounds.  However, the sets and locations are fairly professional and interesting.  Finally, the editing is standard and moves the plot along at a predictable pace.  In short, this production is average, but we’ve come to expect more from professional television channels.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The Perfect Summer is a predictable inspirational cookie-cutter plot depicting a city character moving to a remote location and having to adjust to a different culture with limited internet access.  The constant jokes about the internet and other forced comedy gets really old.  The local characters are stereotypical; none of the characters are developed enough for there being so few of them.  This film’s premise is a fairly thin sports\training story complete with lots of music videos, empty conflicts, and a typical romantic subplot.  Unfortunately, the Christian message seems manufactured and plastic.  However, this story has a slightly realistic ending and sort of redeems it to a point.  But otherwise, if you’ve seen this kind of movie before, you’re probably not missing anything.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This cast is actually the best part of the film, even though Eric Roberts is involved.  He is strange and overdone as usual and singlehandedly holds this section back.  His presence poisons the entire film.  But the rest of the small cast is okay, though there are some slightly over emotions and cultural stereotypes.  In the end, this is a good effort, but we would have liked to see a little more from this professional team.

Conclusion

This plot has really been done before, may too often.  Channels like UP and the like need to be brave enough to take a risk with a different plot.  What’s it going to hurt?  They have the resources to make pretty much any kind of inspirational plot they want, so why not go for broke?  The Perfect Summer is one of those forgettable movies that you might watch while flicking the TV channels and then forget about in a few days.  With the money and abilities companies like this have, they need to set the bar higher for themselves and do something original and memorable.  It’s fine to make clean entertainment, but why get stuck in mediocrity?

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Texas Rein {The Ride Home} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Cassie Roberts receives word that her father is having medical complications, she is forced to return to the small town of Texas she grew up in, the one she tried to get away from.  While back in town, she is reminded of her horse riding days and reluctantly agrees to help her father and his young trainer to train her old horse for a reining competition.  Will she be reminded of what she left behind and of the new life she can start anew?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

While Texas Rein has good standard production elements, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality, there are still some other issues to raise.  The soundtrack is very stock and uninspiring.  The sets and locations are quite limited to a few houses and outside areas and don’t even give off that small town feel.  Finally, the editing is quite poor and causes the film to be very choppy and confusing—just a collection of random scenes.  There are also too many musical montages.  In short, while this movie looks good on the surface, it’s really just an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

So a character returns to their hometown they don’t want to be in because of some extenuating circumstance and finds a reason to stay (usually a horse is involved) and meets a significant other and so on and so forth.  We’ve seen this plot before and this is a 2016 movie, so why are we seeing it again?  Besides the predictable plot structure, the characters therein are extremely juvenile and simplistic.  The dialogue is typical and full of small town statements.  Nothing really substantial happens as the passage of time is hard to follow.  We can’t feel like these people are real or are doing real things as their unrealistic high school dramas are resolved too easily.  Basically, there’s really nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This is really a very poor casting job.  The actors and actresses are awkward, wooden, and robotic in their line delivery.  They don’t express any believable feeling or emotions.  On the bright side, this is possibly Erin Bethea’s best role to date.  But otherwise, this is a big disappointment.

Conclusion

It’s great to want to make a movie, but sometimes you need to take a step back and see if it really is worth marking.  Texas Rein probably would have done better as a short film, to work as sort of a springboard for better things.  With no creative plot content and very weak characters, this was unfortunately not a story worth telling.  Also, it’s great to have production elements down, but having such a poorly coached cast is unacceptable.  Perhaps things will improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Hometown Legend [2002] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In a struggling small town in rural Alabama, a high school is struggling in many ways, not only financially, but also emotionally.  But now that a famous football coach is back in town to revive the team, locals have a new reason to hope.  A teenager running from home finds sanctuary in this town as he uses his work ethic to get onto the football team in route to turning his life around via a university football scholarship.  But when trouble strikes again, the townspeople will have to decide whether or not they will give up or rise up.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

With a modest budget behind it, Hometown Legend certainly spent the money pretty well.  Sports movies have to be able to nail the action shots and the outside scenes, and this film does that, including respectable camera work.  As usual, the video quality and audio quality both pass the test.  The soundtrack is a bit too pedestrian and borderline Hallmark; this is something that needed a change.  Another common theme in these types of films is weak editing, and Hometown Legend also has this attribute.  A movie like this one needs a strong edit, and this simply does not happen, as some scenes carry on longer than they should while others are underdeveloped.  In short, Hometown Legend is a very average film in pretty much every way.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

While Jerry B. Jenkins’ original novel is memorable, the film adaptation does not capture its authenticity.  Where the characters are down to earth in the book, they fail to be in the movie.  The underdevelopment of these characters is likely due to the number of flat scenes throughout the film.  The storyline of Hometown Legend is neither cheesy nor dynamic—it’s very static and safe.  A plot like this one needed to have an abstract yet down-to-earth feel to it, but it does not.  It’s too generic and does not stand out in a crowded genre.  There aren’t enough plot twists and the ending is anti-climactic.  In short, where this plot could have been great, it falls short.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This movie is cast fairly well; people are placed in appropriate positions.  Emotions are fairly believable and line delivery is pretty good.  However, in keeping with the other aspects of this film, there is really nothing dynamic here, even though there could have been.  This is really the theme of the movie.

Conclusion

Hometown Legend portrays the simplicity of small town life in Alabama—with a stereotypical diner and a high school football team to cheer for.  It lives up to its simple message in every way, with a simple production, a simple storyline, and simple acting.  There’s nothing wrong with simple.  In fact, simple can be groundbreaking and profound.  However, this movie is a little too simple and does not touch the authentic thread that it needed to.  Many will find it enjoyable and it’s not half bad, but we would love to see a remake, because it can definitely be greater than this.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

The Climb [2002] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Derrick and Michael are professional mountain climbers who collaborate after assisting in a mountain rescue mission together.  With the backing of a top mountain climbing sponsor, they endeavor to scale a massive peak in Chile in a way that no climber has ever done before.  But the more they spend time together, the more obvious their differences are.  Michael is an outspoken Christian who believes Derrick needs to take more responsibility for his personal life.  But as they clash, they also find a common bond and becomes extremely important in a pivotal moment of crisis.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Even in the earlier days of Christian film, when Worldwide Pictures was the only reliable producer on the market, they were still committed to quality production.  The Climb is no exception.  Camera work and video quality are state of the art for the era, including complex outdoor filming and action shots.  The sets and locations are fairly diverse, including great mountain scenes and realistic surroundings.  Props are used effectively and appropriately.  However, the soundtrack leaves much to be desired.  Also, the editing job isn’t the best it could be, as some scenes last far too long.  But overall, even though this film has obvious flaws, WWP made sure that its production quality was above average.  If only all low quality Christian films adhered to this practice.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As the film arm of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, WWP was always committed to presenting a clear-cut gospel message in their films; The Climb is no exception.  However, coupled with this message is a major turn-off for most audiences.  Non-Christians in the movie are portrayed as very ‘bad’ and reckless, while Christians in the movie are portrayed as very ‘good’ and wise.  Important issues that are presented in the film are too black and white; causes and effects are too obviously stated.  Thus, the characters are not able to be related to.  Their dialogue is forced and ridden with empty textbook theology; a connection to real life is not made and leaves the viewer feeling cheated.  While the end is interesting and thought-provoking, there is much wasted time throughout the film that will cause many viewers to glaze over.  In short, there was so much that could have done here—the plot is unique and interesting—but it was wasted.  It’s so frustrating to watch movies like this.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Using the typical model of some popular actors and other not-so-popular, The Climb assembles an okay cast.  On paper, it seems to work, but not in reality.  Line delivery is sometimes good, but sometimes not.  Emotions are not realistic—either too extreme or too muted.  Basically, this cast had the potential to be successful, but they just didn’t quite make it, thus contributing to further frustration surrounding this film.

Conclusion

Worldwide Pictures actually had a great thing going.  They had funding, good production, and name recognition.  But unfortunately, The Climb only contributes to the stereotype of Christian films—they appear out of touch with real people and portray otherwise important issues in very black and white terms.  Christians are not perfect, yet this film makes it seem like they are.  It’s a shame to see this money go to waste, but hopefully someone was converted by watching this movie.  The gospel message is clear, and we can’t fault anyone for that.  This film can simply serve as a lesson on how to improve Christian movies in the future.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

New Hope [2012] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

When the Evans family comes to the small town of New Hope to pastor the church, they inadvertently walk into a hurting town that’s still lost and confused following the unexpected suicide of their basketball star.  The oldest son, Michael, suddenly realizes that he has accidentally filled the shoes of the late town legend, and immediately becomes a target for the angry best friend of the dead hero.  The Evans family and the town must together navigate the wake of suicide and determine how they are going to discover a new identity together.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For a little known independent film, the production of New Hope is decent enough.  The camera work is average and the angles are good.  The video and sound qualities are consistently above par.  However, the musical score is uninspiring and there are quite a few editing errors.  Scenes are cut off at odd times, some scenes are awkwardly placed, while others seem completely unnecessary.  While most of the surface issues are covered, there is simply too much amateurish editing for the production to be rated any better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Dealing with life after the suicide of a family member and friend is an issue that needs to be discussed in the context of film, but New Hope is either too melodramatic, too inauthentic, or too inappropriate.  Dialogue is too obvious and dramatic, thus making extreme characters.  Michael is an okay character, but the others are not accessible.  There are too many screaming matches throughout.  There is a generally offbeat flavor to New Hope, like there’s something the characters aren’t saying out loud.  There is also some inappropriate content that doesn’t belong in a supposedly family-friendly movie, all in the context of a bizarre and forced romantic subplot.  Overall, this plot meanders along with emotional outbursts, picture taking, and basketball games, without really accomplishing anything.  The end is very rushed and the implied scenes during the credits are absurd.  In short, there is little to be positive about here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The story here is much like the production quality—it’s good, but not good enough.  Some actors and actresses perform well while others do not.  Emotional delivery and line delivery are inconsistent.  Costuming is average.  Overall, this is just average.

Conclusion

New Hope had the right idea to try harder on production than most Christian films, but it never found its story identity.  The plot is a vague idea that it slapped together with sports elements and a pathetic attempt to be edgy.  The bottom line is that the creators rushed ahead too quickly and didn’t think this movie through.  We feel that the resources could have been used more appropriately, as will your time in watching this film.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Uphill Battle (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Erica Stratton wants to move on from her divorce and from the wounds it caused, but she is struggling to connect with people and to guide her teenage children in life.  She has taken up cycling as a pastime and is trying to spend more time with God, but she has mostly shut herself off from other people, except for her coworkers.  But when a fellow cyclist takes interest in her and pursues her, she doesn’t know what to do.  She is also preoccupied with trying to keep her kids out of trouble so that they do not end up like her husband.  In the end, she will have to decide if she wants to move forward or keep looking back to the painful memories of the past.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For a film of this caliber, the production of Uphill Battle isn’t really that bad.  The video quality is mostly clear, but the camera work is somewhat amateurish.  Some of the angles are awkward, while others are not.  The sound quality is inconsistent, but most of the outside scenes are filmed fairly well.  The sets and location aren’t very creative or professional.  There are flashbacks that are presented in a cheesy fashion.  In this same vein, the editing is all over the place.  In the end, the production is just average—not horrible nor great.  Unfortunately, this cannot be said about the remainder of the film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Somewhere, there is a good idea hidden in Uphill Battle.  Divorce needs to be explored on the big screen, as do addiction and post-divorce scars, but Battle just muddles all the issues.  Characters are portrayed as black and white, as either perfect or evil.  Erica is almost a mockery of women, as she seems empty and air-headed, always forgetting things and hiding from people.  Her ex-husband is over the top and unbelievable.  Other characters are mindless.  The plot meanders along with no real direction—things just happen randomly, characters talk about things without engaging the audience, and then the movie just ends awkwardly.  It seems like this was an idea that never really panned out and needed to be re-thought at the storyboard.  The good message is lost in another poorly made Christian film.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This cast needed some serious coaching that they do not get.  They show potential that is not tapped.  Emotions aren’t believable and line delivery is either lackadaisical or overdone.  In short, this film wouldn’t have been nearly as bad with better coached actors and actresses.

Conclusion

Another film review, another wasted idea.  There are countless Christian movies like Uphill Battle that take a vague interesting concept and run with it, forcing a movie to be made without any real thought or effort put into it.  The end result is a continuously flooded movie market that further defames the title ‘Christian film’.  If you have a great movie idea, then take your time to make it great so that you can truly make a difference in culture.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Seven Days in Utopia (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When he blows his chance to make it big on the golfing scene, Luke Chisholm has a televised meltdown that leads to him running from his controlling father and crashing into a farm fence.  The owner of the land, rather than take him to the authorities, decides to let him stay there and learn some finer points of golf.  Frustrated and skeptical, Luke begins taking eccentric golf lessons from the older man and soon finds that the farm, Utopia, is more than it seems, just as his new mentor is more than he seems.  Little does he know that he is about learn more than just how to play golf better, but how to win in life, and that seven days in Utopia can change everything.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Seven Days in Utopia is obviously a well-made project.  The creators did their production homework and scored.  The camera work is great and enhances the film, including artistic camera angles and clear video quality.  Outside scenes are filmed well.  The musical score is intriguing.  The surroundings are authentic.  The only caveat to raise here is that some parts seem like they need to be edited better—there are some wasted scenes that only fill time.  But otherwise, Utopia is a top-notch first-time production that should serve as a model to follow.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

For a sports plot, Utopia is very unique psychological journey.  It reminds the audience that there is more to every sport than just technique—athletes are people with pasts that need to be dealt with appropriately.  While the message is not as explicitly Christian as it could have been, the point is clear: behavioral tendencies need to be explored head-on into order to live up to one’s full potential.  The plot of Utopia is a slow burn, and is more than it seems, which is also conceptualized in the plot.  Flashbacks are used exquisitely to strengthen the story.  Dialogue is profound and the characters are solid.  As previously mentioned, there are too many filler scenes that keep this plot from being all that it could be.  However the end of the movie is extremely epic and changes everything for it.  Without this end, this movie wouldn’t be what it is.  Utopia has arguably one of the best sports ends on the market.  In short, while it had room to grow, this film is definitely one of the best of its genre.

Acting Quality (3 points)

This is obviously a professional and well-coached cast.  This is not an exclusively Christian cast, but there are no acting errors here.  Emotional delivery is great and line delivery is solid.  There is nothing to complain about here.

Conclusion

Utopia is a one-of-a-kind movie; there has never been one like it and there likely won’t be again.  It should serve as an example to the inspirational market of how to make a niche movie that stands out among the rest that are easily forgotten.  We were disappointed in its lack of a clear Christian message, but Christian elements exist.  Nevertheless, it earns a Hall of Fame spot and its concepts should be replicated in different and creative ways.  The Christian market desperately needs more movies like this.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

 

Hoovey (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jeff and Ruth Elliot are living their ideal life on a Midwestern farm with two great teenagers before everything starts to change for them.  Their lives are forever altered when their son Eric “Hoovey” collapses during basketball practice, thus leading to a medical examination revealing a brain tumor.  Hoovey is not given long to live at first, but he is given a second chance by having the tumor removed, leaving him a fraction of what he used to be.  Unable to play basketball anymore due to danger and having to relearn motor skills, Hoovey and his family are also suddenly faced with possibly losing their dream farm to the bank.  As a family, they will have to pull together in order to face the challenges ahead.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Echolight Studios has a commitment to producing quality Christian films, and Hoovey is no exception.  The camera work is clearly professional, along with the video and sound quality.  Disability plots are difficult to pull off because they require unique props, but Hoovey does it with ease.  The only negative points to raise here are slightly isolating editing and some generally inauthentic surroundings.  For the most part, the editing is good, but there are some parts that are confusing.  The same goes for the surroundings—sometimes it seems like this film is taking place in a realistic Midwestern setting, while other times it does not.  But in the end, there are only minor issues and Hoovey passes the production bar.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Stories based on true events are almost always more complex than an average inspirational plot.  Hoovey proves this.  Believable events happen to the characters and unexpected twists occur.  Not everything turns out neat and tidy.  However, since this is a character-based plot, the deepening of the characters throughout the film is important.  Unfortunately, this does not occur to the extent it needed to.  Dialogue is pretty good, but it rarely delves below surface conventions into deeper character development.  The plot uses narration as a crutch far too often.  Also, the Christian message is not very clear—in the end, the audience is just left with a feel good story rather than a life-changing message.  In summary, the plot of Hoovey is average—it started out with a lot of potential on its side, but it only found part of all it could have been.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is clearly a professional cast and they are coached fairly well.  Emotions, for the most part, are believable.  However, sometimes line delivery is slightly lackadaisical.  Some of the casting choices don’t seem to fit very well.  But these are just small issues—the important thing is that Echolight followed through on their commitment to produce quality Christian films.

Conclusion

Every Christian studio should be committed to rolling out quality movies on a very regular basis.  Some are willing but not able, while others are able but not seemingly not willing.  Hoovey broke into mainstream markets, which makes it even more of a shame that it did not carry with it a stronger Christian message.  Had it delivered a meaningfully obvious but not preachy Christian message, Hoovey likely would have made it in the Hall of Fame.  But regardless, it is still an enjoyable film and is worth a watch.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

The Perfect Wave (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Ian McCormack has always been in search of adventure and has always wanted to escape from what he perceives to be confining, namely responsibility and the domestic life.  After selling his car, he finally convinces his parents that as an adult, he needs to go out into the world and ‘find himself’.  An avid surfer, Ian has always been searching for one elusive thing: what he considers to be ‘the perfect wave’.  So he journeys from one surfing landmark to the next, along with a group of buddies, in order to find what he is looking for.  But his journey changes one day when he finds Anabel, a mysterious girl living in Indonesia.  He has never truly loved before, so when Anabel disappears, he feels like he has to search for her.  But what he doesn’t know is that what he has been searching for all along is something to fill the void in his soul.  Little does he realize that he will have to come face to face with what he really believes about the God he has only heard about as a child.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For a freshman movie, The Perfect Wave is a great start in the production department.  The sets and locations, perhaps the central factor of the movie, are excellently chosen and presented.  The camera work is great, including skillful action shots and clear video quality.  The musical score is decent.  The only two caveats that keep this film’s production from being all that it could are the choppy editing and the inconsistent sound quality.  Sometimes dialogue is hard to hear because of loud background noise.  The editing confuses the viewer—too many things happen off screen that should be on the screen, and vice versa.  Yet despite these problems, The Perfect Wave puts many Christian movies to shame when it comes to production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The true story of Ian McCormack was definitely one worth portraying on the big screen.  However, after watching the story play out, we were left with the feeling that something was missing.  The story is non-linear, which is not surprising for a film portraying true events, and the characters are obviously flawed, but this plot just didn’t quite make it all the way.  There are some surprising twists and turns, but the dialogue is inconsistent—sometimes profound and sometimes simplistic.  Some characters seem unnecessary.  There is bit too much edgy content.  But in the end, there is a great Christian message.  It seems like the movie was written for its psychologically thrilling end that clearly communicates the gospel.  The end is worth waiting for, but some people will be lost in the middle.  Overall, the plot is average and had a lot of room for improvement.

Acting Quality (2 points)

With a professional cast, The Perfect Wave scores plenty of points here.  Scott Eastwood and Rachel Hendrix are great in their roles, but some others leave something to be desired.  Granted, this is still an above-average cast, but it seems like more could have accomplished with greater acting.

Conclusion

More obscure true stories like this one need to be adapted to movies for multiple reasons.  For one, they are better than writing another small town made-for-Hallmark romance.  For another, they let both Christian and non-Christian audiences know that God is at work in the lives of many different types of people.  God can work however He wishes, and The Perfect Wave shows this.  The unfortunate thing is that this movie was not good enough to be considered Hall of Fame, yet it is still a movie worth watching.  We look forward to what is next on the agenda for Bruce MacDonald and company.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Home Run [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Cory Brand is a seemingly successful baseball player, but he has an anger problem on the field and an addiction problem off the field.  Following the advice of his agent, he decides to return to his hometown to reconcile with painful memories of the past.  As a part of the deal, his agent signs him up for an addiction counseling group at a local church in order to work through his issues.  Cory’s brother, still a resident of the hometown, takes him under his wing to help him, but Cory doesn’t want any help.  He shuns all help until he is forced to come face to face with the choices he has made and people he has hurt.  He must deal with his personal hurt and learn to love again if he expects to change his ways.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Home Run is produced fairly well, especially where the camera work is concerned.  The video is clear, but some of the shots are awkward.  The editing is confusing and it seems like there is a lot of unnecessary content in the film.  The flashbacks put a strain on the film, although flashbacks are usually a positive aspect to assist the film.  However, in Home Run, they are accompanied by annoying flashes that isolate the audience.  While the audio quality is good, the soundtrack is uninspiring. In short, the production of Home Run is a nice try, but not good enough.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

For starters, it is commendable to make a movie dealing with the troubled personal lives of athletes, along with highlighting addiction issues in popular culture.  The counseling aspect is interesting and the gospel message is well-communicated, but it also seems like an advertisement for Celebrate Recovery.  Outside of this, there is not much good to say.  As previously mentioned, the flashbacks are an interesting touch to give background to Cory’s character, but they are not done well and seem to repeat too much.  There are too many characters that are not well-developed; some characters are so vague that they are easily confused with other ones.  The dialogue is lackluster and contains unnecessary profanity.  Most of the subplot conclusions are hard to understand.  In short, Home Run was an interesting idea that never materialized.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

There is a severe absence of acting coaching in this film.  The acting is not glaringly bad, but there is little positive to bring up about it.  A lot of the delivery is forced and the emotions are not believable.  It seems like this movie would have been better with better acting.

Conclusion

Alcohol addiction is an uncomfortable topic that needs to be dealt with appropriately on the big screen, especially from a Christian perspective.  Proper counseling also needs to be portrayed as necessary for people from all walks of life.  Home Run attempts to do all of these things, but their attempts fall short.  It seems like they forced this movie to happen for the sake of the issues, but the only thing that happened was just another forgettable film with a Christian tag on it.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

When the Game Stands Tall (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The De La Salle High School Spartans football team accomplished the seemingly impossible when they won a record 151 games in a row and won multiple championships during that timespan.  However, everything came crashing down the day they finally lost a game.  The team began to splinter and tragedies hit close to home.  Due to health concerns, Coach Bob Ladouceur takes a leave of absence only to discover how disconnected he has become from his family.  When the dust settles, a second chance emerges for Coach Ladouceur, his family, and his team to redeem themselves and begin a new legacy.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The production quality is not as bad as some movies this caliber, but it is not the best that it could be.  The camera work is the strongest element, as the scenes are filmed well, especially the football action scenes.  However, the editing is very choppy, probably due to the fact that there is a large amount of content.  Time marches quickly without much warning and important scenes seem to be missing from the final cut.  Finally, the movie is replete with product placements that were evidently needed to fund this movie.  Box Office Revolution realizes that independent Christian films are difficult to fund, but overt product placements give the movie a cheesy feel.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Tracking back to the large amount of content in the movie, it seems like the creators bit off more than they could chew, so to speak.  This is a large scale story that spans multiple football seasons, and in the wake of covering a lot of time, character development is sacrificed.  In an epic, the dialogue is precious and must be used to its full potential.  When the Game Stands Tall does not do this and instead wastes dialogue by making it shallow and\or forced, thus affecting the characters.  A lot of people were affected in this true story, but there are too many characters in the movie, some of which only have a handful of scenes.  It is noble to attempt to make an epic that spans multiple years, and it is possible to be done, but this movie doesn’t stand up to the challenge.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While there is not much meaningful dialogue for the actors to work with, the delivery is vanilla.  Believable emotion seems absent from many of the actors.  Jim Caviezel is pretty good in his role, but that is the extent of the dynamic acting.  Again, the acting is not terrible, but it is just not compelling.

Conclusion

Many poignant issues are dealt with in When the Game Stands Tall, but they are not packaged well.  The audience is alienated and lost in a sea of movie content, which unfortunately could have made for a good movie.  Since a real life story is followed, there was a lot of opportunity for a realistic and believable movie, but this movie was not successful in capturing this.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Woodlawn (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Coach Tandy Geralds only believes in what he sees in front of him.  All he sees is a broken high school in Alabama forced to integrate two racial groups who desperately do not want to associate with each.  Coach Geralds, also the assistant principle, is overworked, is unpopular with the school board, and is failing as a husband and father.  His players are frustrated with integration and racial tensions flare easily.  Tony Nathan, an underappreciated African-American athlete, is among them, yet he has been raised to treat people, regardless of skin color, the way Christ treated them.  Everything changes for the team one day when Hank, an itinerant and seemingly offbeat sports chaplain, convinces Coach Geralds to let him talk to the team.  At the end of his rope, Tandy reluctantly agrees.  What ensues from there is a miracle that transforms the football team, the high school, and the city.  One thing leads to another in a miracle season for the Woodlawn Colonels, but everything grinds to a halt one day when they are faced with adversity after adversity.  But in the grand scheme of things, each character learns in one way or another that there is one Way, one Truth, and one Life—Jesus.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

The Erwin team went all out for this blockbuster production that was designed to reach outside of the Christian movie circles.  The camera work is phenomenal, ranging from difficult football scenes to character canvasing.  As an epic, the story covers a lot of time, but the editing is seamless.  It is very difficult to make an epic without being too long or without letting important plot elements fall by the wayside.  The editing team walked this tightrope flawlessly.  The inclusion of alternate and historical footage throughout the movie is an artistic flair that was pulled off nicely.  This is not a cheap production, and it shows.

Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)

As previously mentioned, epic plots are very hard to craft.  Too long, and the audience is lost.  Too quick, and no points are driven home.  Too often in potential epics, character development is discarded and scenes are wasted.  Neither of these mistakes occurred in Woodlawn.  Despite the large amount of plot and character content in this movie, nothing is missing.  The dialogue is concise yet profound.  There are no wasted scenes.  As a side note, Box Office Revolution maintains that movies based on real events are among some of the best on the market.  Nothing could be more true regarding Woodlawn.  The plot twists and turns just as real life does and the historical characters are adapted well.

Acting Quality (3 points)

BOR has long called the Erwin brothers the Masters of Casting.  There has never been a character in their movies that was not cast in the absolutely appropriate role.  Veterans Sean Astin, Nic Bishop, Sherri Shepherd, and Jon Voight are excellent in their roles, along with newcomers Caleb Castille and Joy Brunson.  All actors are coached well.

Conclusion

BOR can find no flaws in Woodlawn.  It also can be awarded the x-factor point for delivering an important topic packaged in a masterful epic.  The Erwin brothers have reached the pinnacle of their career, and there is no turning back now.  The Christian movie industry is at their fingertips, and BOR expects nothing less than the best.

 

Final Rating: 10 out of 10 points

Facing the Giants (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Nothing ever seems to work out for Grant Taylor, high school coach of the Shiloh Eagles football team.  His team is the laughingstock of the conference, his job is perpetually on the hot seat, his income is sub-par, and he and his wife cannot seem to have any children.  What’s worse, the allegedly Christian football players have horrible attitudes toward the game and toward life, thus causing their new season to go from bad to worse.  Everything comes to a head one day when Coach Taylor overhears the top men of the private school discussing his potential exit with one of his trusted assistant coaches.  This causes Grant to cry out to God for help, and He answers, telling him to disciple his players and to foster a new attitude on the team.  This is all confirmed by a faithful praying man who refuses to give up on the spiritual state of the school.  When Grant gives everything over to God, he is shocked at the results that are produced not only at his job but also in his personal life.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

Giants was a landmark work in the Christian movie industry.  It upped the standard of Christian movie production quality, something that was long overdue.  The Kendrick Brothers invested in better equipment, and it paid off.  Gone are the days of poor Flywheel production.  The camera work, which could have easily been poorly done due to difficult football game scenes, is flawless.  There is no more grainy video or medieval sound; the lighting in Giants is excellent.  The soundtrack and audio quality are professional.  Box Office Revolution sees little to nothing negative about the Giants production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This is perhaps the weakest area of Facing the Giants.  The plot is fairly predictable, but it is done in the best way possible.  The characters are believable and the Christian message is meaningful without being preachy.  Dialogue is meaningful and real life events play out that the viewers can relate to.  There are no real surprises or plot twists, but after all, this was the Kendricks’ second movie on a relatively small budget.  One breath of fresh air is their continued commitment to well-thought-out comedy scenes, something that makes average movies great.  Overall, this is not a creative plot, but it is done well.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Who needs ‘professional’ actors when the Kendricks are the acting coaches?  ‘Amateur’ actors are made great in this movie.  They make their characters believable rather than stereotypical.  Dialogue is delivered well.  BOR sees no real errors here.

Conclusion

In short, while Giants is not the best movie, it is certainly an above average movie.  This is due to superb leadership and a commitment to a meaningful Christian message.  Production is top-notch and the acting is excellent.  This movie’s only weak area is its average plot, but this is only a small issue when compared to other Christian movies.  The most important thing is that the Kendrick Brothers were not done yet.

 

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points