Home of the Brave [2020] (Movie Review)

Amazon.com: Watch Home of the Brave | Prime Video

Plot Summary

Drew Thomas returns from active duty and wants to get back to normal, but he finds it difficult due to the trauma he experienced overseas. Nonetheless, he goes right back to working for a nonprofit he started with his brother and friends. Before they realize it, their paths are unintentionally crossing with group of local police officers who want to see change come to their city. They must all come to grips with how God wants them to act and react to the difficult circumstances they are placed in.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Home of the Brave has some good and some bad aspects in its production. The video quality and camera work are acceptable, but audio is very poor at times, including loud background sounds and an inconsistent generic soundtrack. The sets, locations, and props are mostly average, however. Possibly one of this section’s worst aspects is the extremely choppy editing, which involves some weird fadeouts and abrupt transitions between scenes. Though this could be due to the large amount of content within the film, this rounds out an overall middle-of-the-road effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

At its very core, Home of the Brave is trying to do way too much at once. It feels like an entire season of a series was crammed into less than two hours as there are many, many characters who seem like they have potential yet crowd each other out due to the sheer number of them. The plot tries to cover too many topics at once, and in doing so, short-circuits any hope for meaningful themes even though there could have been some. Some of the dialogue is actually pretty good and shows a lot of potential, but the narrative is just a long string of scenes and sequences, some of which seem totally out of place and context. Certain circumstances that characters find themselves in seem very staged and contrived only to force the storyline to go in a certain direction that the writers wanted it to go. As such, characters are pawns in the plot, and many scenes are very unnecessary and waste time. There are far too many coincidences throughout the screenplay, and it all leads to a very rushed ending where mostly everything is fixed in unrealistic ways. In the end, although there was plenty of potential in this movie for a thought-provoking story, it got in its own way by biting off more than it could chew.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, the acting in Home of the Brave is most okay. It could be a bit better than it is, but it’s not horrible. Emotions and line delivery are a bit forced in dramatic scenes, and many instances are fairly bland. Thus, the mixed aspect of the acting in this film makes this an average section.

Conclusion

This screenplay had a lot going for it, but it needed to be slowed down and planned in a more efficient way. The creators needed to strongly consider turning it into a miniseries so that the full weight of their ideas could have been felt. As such, a remake may be in order. In the end, Home of the Brave can be a learning experience for all movie makers: don’t try to do too much at once.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Run [2017] (Movie Review)

Director & Actor Josiah Warren On the Problem of Human Trafficking ...

Plot Summary

After months of anticipation, Levi and Natalie have finally been able to get married. He’s a businessman while she’s a news anchor with a passion to end human trafficking. However, on their wedding night, Natalie is tragically kidnapped by human traffickers who want to put a stop to her activism. Thus, Levi begins a frantic search for his wife that leads him down paths he never thought he would travel and gives him a front row seat to the social issue he only ever heard about.

Production Quality (.5 point)

Strong Foundation Films is notorious for having low-quality productions, even in recent years when the field has evolved for the better. Run is no exception to this, as evidenced by over-driven audio, a loudly invasive soundtrack, and stupid sound effects. Though video and camera quality are average, lighting is inconsistent, and there are some weird zooms and camera angles. Sets, locations, and props are okay, but flashbacks are dizzying. The editing is atrocious since it’s very quick and abrupt; one scene after the next whizzes by at breakneck speed. Therefore, with very little positive to note here, this low score is warranted for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From the beginning, which contains creepy sequences, to the end, which basically resolves everything before cutting off in a wacky way, Run is one of your typically bad narratives. When the plot isn’t heavily relying on coincidences, it’s fully of obvious message-pushing as everything in the storyline is about the central issue rather than actually developing the characters. The dialogue is bland, and the conversations are extremely procedural; there’s also a lot of forced drama and constant suspense. The absurdly strawman villains are unrealistically obsessed with the protagonists and are somehow able to commit human trafficking crimes around literally every corner. This brings up the point that the premise is quite childish and is based on a ridiculous amount of luck and giant leaps in logic. It’s hard to understand why certain things happen except for the fact that the writers need them to occur in order to reach a certain point. Besides all of these problems, there are simply too many characters to keep up with, even if some of them do have flashbacks and though some of the minor characters are actually better than the major ones. Nonetheless, it’s not enough to make up for the sea of issues throughout this movie.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As is typical for Strong Foundation screenplays, Run contains a lot of unsure acting. This includes awkward and muted line delivery, forced juvenile emotions, yelling, and screaming. Josiah David Warren posts a traditionally bad performance due to trying way too hard to be something he’s not. While the supporting cast members are better than the principles, it’s not enough to present this section from earning zero points.

Conclusion

Even after terrible movies like The Takeover, A Golden Mind, and Seventy Times Seven, to name a few, the Strong Foundation team continues to churn out awful creations. Run is no exception to this. Despite the Christian entertainment market moving in a positive direction for the past few years, Josiah David Warren, Sun Hui East, and their team members continue to do the same old thing. With a lot of experience under their belts, they should be trending upward, yet they continue to be mired in the basement of Christian film.

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

Worth Fighting For [2017] (Movie Review)

Amazon.com: Watch Worth Fighting For | Prime Video

Plot Summary

Alex has made a name for himself as an underground prize fighter, which has attracted the attention of the local mob. Thus, when Alex agrees to be one of their enforcers, he doesn’t realize how much he’s agreed to do. This seems to jeopardize the relationship Alex wants to have with Lilly, a girl he met at a local diner. Because of his decision, Alex will have to confront both his past and his present in order to be free.

Production Quality (1 point)

The production of Worth Fighting For is likely its weakest area, with wild camera work in action scenes, loud background sounds, and inconsistent lighting. For instance, some outside scenes are too bright while some inside scenes are too dark. Also, there are very obvious overdubs throughout the film, and the live audio sounds quite cheap. Video quality also leaves something to be desired, but the soundtrack is one of the bright spots. Further, some elements of the production do tend to improve as the movie goes on, such as the video quality, so this section overall does enough to warrant a point.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

From the beginning, Worth Fighting For contains surprisingly well-constructed dialogue that makes the characters mostly believable. However, there are also some drawbacks here, such as cheesy conversations that unnecessarily reinforce gender stereotypes and build thin romantic subplots. Nonetheless, it’s good that the viewers are able to slowly learn about the characters rather than all at once, and most of their dialogue is authentic and organic, which develops realistic character struggles and motives. Even so, there were plenty of chances for the characters to be a bit deeper and to drive the plot with their choices. As it is, the storyline tends to sweep the characters along with some head-scratching coincidences, including the slightly forced romantic relationship. Unfortunately, the narrative tends to worsen as it goes, including a lot of patriarchal messages and things happening without enough precedent, which all culminates into a cheesy against-all-odds sports climax that’s paired with a very forced and rushed conclusion that leaves things too empty. However, the first half of the screenplay is enough to warrant an average score, which is encouragement for the future.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though the acting sometimes comes off as a bit blank and vanilla while some performances are a bit stiff, there are moments when the acting is better. Despite some dramatically forced lines, for the most part, emotions are believable, and the cast members definitely appear to be trying to do their best. At the very least, this is Alan Powell’s best performance to date, and the cast as a whole does enough, even though there are some rocky moments, to warrant an average score for this section.

Conclusion

Films like Worth Fighting For are complicated because they have something to offer, but it’s usually packaged in the wrong way. This is almost always due to some shortcoming within the movie-making process, and it’s typically poor screenwriting. However, that’s not the case in this screenplay; a lack of adequate funding is to issue this time. Nonetheless, all a film maker can do is put their best foot forward and let God take care of the rest. Thus, perhaps we’ll see more from this creative team in the near future.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Where Was God? [2014] (Movie Review)

Where Was God (2014) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Pastor Thompkins has a secret, but his life becomes even more complicated when a desperate man decides to hold him hostage in the pastor’s own home. During their standoff, the man asks Thompkins pressing questions about the problem of pain and life’s true purpose. Will either man come out of the situation alive?

Production Quality (1 point)

With such a low budget, it’s unclear why this production was put forth just for it to contain cheap sets and props, lack actual locations, and have inconsistent lighting throughout. As it’s basically people hanging around in a house, the camera work and video quality are fine, yet it all feels very cut-rate. The soundtrack is very generic, and all audio is quite hit-and-miss, including silly sound effects. There’s also no editing to speak of, which rounds out an overall poor effort that undermines this film’s existence.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As a heavy character-based plot, Where Was God? needed some serious help in the narrative department for it to even have a chance, but with only wooden characters to speak of due to overly constructed, obvious dialogue, there’s really no hope for this movie. The entire premise, full of unrealistic circumstances, feels very contrived, and the storyline is an overused waste of time because it seeks to drag things out as long as possible. Dead time also fills gaps where substantial content could have gone. Instead of a real plot containing believable dialogue, the audience is only left with silly gender stereotypes and a strange endings that both instantly fixes all the problems and almost negates the entire situation at the same time. Due to all of these factors, no points can be awarded to this section.

Acting Quality (0 points)

In nearly every facet of Where Was God?, the acting is extremely awkward, including wooden emotions and incredibly forced line delivery. The drama is also manufactured, and the cast is so small that even the smallest errors are very noticeable. Unfortunately, there’s just nothing positive to say about this category, which rounds out an overall basement-level offering.

Conclusion

What else is there to say? Where Was God? is just another in a long line of embarrassing Christian projects that will fade from memory as time goes on. There’s next to nothing that justifies its existence and no reason for it to be made. The only thing that can be gleaned from it is how not to produce Christian entertainment, but there are already too many examples of that.

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

Modern Prodigal (Movie Review)

Modern Prodigal (2019) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Brian Sanderson is an investigative reports who’s addicted to painkillers and never ceases in his quest to solve the mystery of his son’s untimely death to the same drug he’s hooked on. Even though his obsessions cause him to lose his dream job, Brian will stop at nothing to discover the truth of what really happened while also wrestling the demons inside his head. Ultimately, Brian will have to confront his dark past in order to face the future.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

After an odd opening sequences that seems to suggest Modern Prodigal is part of a crime series, weird gray lighting seems to dominate much of the film. Audio quality is also an issues as there are some obvious background sounds as well as too much dead air, even if the little soundtrack therein has some potential. Sets, locations, and props are are bit cheap-looking, and there are some unnecessarily tight shots and instances stationary camera work. Furthermore, the editing leaves something to be desired with awkward cuts and transitions, but the good news is that the production takes a turn for the better in the film’s second half that amends a lot of the earlier errors. However, this is only enough to raise this section to the halfway mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, the characters are one of the strongest aspects of Modern Prodigal as some of them possess subtle characteristics that make them come off as relatable and human; their dialogue is also not all bad since it establishes them as imperfect people. However, while some conversations are quite good, others are too obvious and over the top. Nonetheless, the narrative makes fairly good use of mystery concepts throughout the plot progression and does a reasonable job at concealing important facts and revealing them bit by bit throughout the film. While there are plenty of positive aspects, there are also nagging concerns with this story, such as the fact that it’s trying to cover too much ground in one screenplay. Much of its content would have been better suited for a series, and a sudden massive time jump at the movie’s conclusion leaves the viewer somewhat confused. Nevertheless, Modern Prodigal offers a lot of hope for this writing team’s future potential.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, the good aspects of this film’s plot are detracted from by a lot of over-acting in many of the screenplay’s important scenes. This includes quite a bit of overdone emotional performances and forced line delivery. While there is some good in this section, such as some good supporting cast members and better acting in the less dramatic scenes, better coaching could have lifted Modern Prodigal to a better level.

Conclusion

This film joins a sizable collection of Christian creations that had a lot going for them but never made the next step in to greatness. Much of this shortfall is due to financial constraints, but a lot of it can be blamed on a lack of collaboration or a tendency to force something to happen before it’s time. Ideas were never meant to be carried out alone, and sometimes, it’s just not the right season for them. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see what this creative team offers next.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Scion [2018] (Movie Review)

Kingdom Sight

Plot Summary

Kendra Williams is tired of the way things are. She never gets to have any fun because her parents won’t let her go to dangerous all-night parties with her “friends.” One of these said nights, Kendra meets a mysterious man who promises to grant her secret wish of living however she wants. Kendra accepts his offer but suddenly wakes up in a world where she was never born. Will she be able to escape the nightmare before it’s too late???

Production Quality (1 point)

For the most part, Scion offers a very cheap production experience, including shaky camera work, tight shots, and bizarre camera angles designed to be “cool.” Audio quality is also uneven as backgrounds sounds are too prevalent and invasive sound effects annoy the viewer even though the soundtrack is somewhat interesting. The video is also sometimes blurry, and lighting is inconsistent throughout. Sets, locations, and props are mostly average if not slightly limited, and cheesy special effects plague the audience with dizzying sequences. Further, though there is some slight improvement throughout, continuity errors and various editing concerns keep this section on the low end of the spectrum, but it’s not even the worst of it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Scion starts off with the completely wrong premise by portraying a tone-deaf view of young people being wayward and throwing in with strawman villains. Also, the psychological fantasy world created for this plot is very difficult for viewers to understanding since its rules seem very subjective. For instance, things in the alternate universe randomly happen for no particular reason, and obstacles are arbitrarily applied to the characters just for the sake of expanding the narrative and illogically getting them where the writers wanted them to go. Similarly, the story’s progression makes little sense as unnecessary time jumps disorient the audience and endless meandering sequences waste time just so that the characters can run all over the place and fill the runtime. Very convenient dialogue also forces the plot to go where screenwriters wanted it to go, and forced suspense scenes crowd out any shred of potential there was for character development. In the end, this screenplay is just a bad version of the typical It’s a Wonderful Life style of psychological narrative.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though it’s a bit average and sometimes even awkward, the acting is the best aspect of Scion. However, emotions still aren’t very believable throughout, and line delivery is pedestrian. Nonetheless, it’s unclear how the cast members could have done much better with how poorly written this movie was. Thus, this rounds out a severely underwhelming effort that should have never gotten past the initial planning stages.

Conclusion

Kingdom Sight Studios has demonstrated some slight potential in the past, such as in 2nd Greatest, but more recent projects, like Scion and A High School Story, have not instilled any confidence in their commitment to quality. Often, being a lone ranger studio rarely pays off, but the least they could do is overcome their low production quality with deeper storylines that would make bigger companies take notice. However, this isn’t the case as they further contribute to the already low image of Christian entertainment.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Harriet [2019] (Movie Review)

Film review: All aboard the freedom train with “Harriet ...

Plot Summary

Harriet Tubman was a Civil War hero although many did not initially regard her in that way. While she was raised as a slave on a Maryland plantation, she heard God call her one day to leave and run to freedom. With the help of her pastor, Harriet persevered through perilous circumstances to reach the free state of Pennsylvania, but it was there where her real work began. She knew God had called her to free slaves on her own…starting with her family… even though the Philadelphia abolitionists were reluctant to help. In the end, Harriet’s obedience to God left a lasting mark on American history.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a well-funded, mainstream project, Harriet sports very high production quality with very few errors to note. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are exceptionally high, and the soundtrack is excellent at tying the movie together, including using real-life singing that was historically authentic. The sets, locations, and props are realistic and well-utilized, and the production overall has a gritty feel to it that shows attention to detail and care for accuracy. The only small concern to point out relates to some slightly choppy editing, but this also pertains to the storyline. As a whole, however, this is a highly professional offering.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The true story of Harriet Tubman was definitely one that was long overdue to be put into movie form. In this rendition, the characters are very well-developed through believable and accessible dialogue, and the high number of them is handled well as even the minor characters are given efficiently used scenes. Also, the major element of Harriet’s faith in and relationship with God is well-integrated throughout the narrative and is presented at face-value so that the viewers can decide for themselves. Other themes are creatively interwoven throughout the plot to tie together an epic biopic that was likely difficult to effectively condense. Moreover, the sheer amount of content covered in this movie does pose a problem that creates some choppiness in the storyline. It would have been better for Harriet to be presented in a non-linear style so that the story didn’t simply jump from one high point to another. Another pitfall of this section is the fact that some of the writing went out of its way to include unnecessarily edgy content (although some of it is unfortunately realistic) and slightly extreme language (though some is still authentic). Nevertheless, despite these shortcomings, this narrative is still high quality and leaves a lasting impact on the viewers.

Acting Quality (3 points)

With professional acting and directing, Harriet has virtually no flaws in this category. The costuming is period-accurate and reflects attention to detail. Line delivery is on point, and emotions are very accessible. Thus, this rounds out an encouraging effort and completes this film’s campaign for the Hall of Fame.

Conclusion

Harriet also receives an x-factor point for being re-watchable and for tackling a highly relevant topic in a memorable way. One thing to note is that this movie could have been even better in the hands of different directors who could have portrayed the story in a more Christian manner, but the current market was unfortunately not suitable for this to happen. Nonetheless, this creative team did enough to preserve Tubman’s Christian worldview and to make this a high-level screenplay, which caused it to earn a spot on the Hall of Fame. Therefore, we highly recommend it for appropriate audiences.

Final Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points

The Islands [2019] (Movie Review)

Image result for the islands christian movie

Plot Summary

John Thornton felt called to be a missionary on the remote island of Hawaii in the early 1800s, so he took his wife, Mary, and went with their friend Hiram to the unknown place. Once there, the missionaries met Chiefess Kapiolani and those her were in her tribe. Although the chiefess was familiar with the English language and American customs, many of her people were suspicious of the Caucasian visitors and preferred to practice human sacrifice to their pagan gods. However, one fateful day, as the island’s volcano raged, they all came face to face with what it truly meant to believe in a god.

Production Quality (2 points)

Overall, it’s clear that this production was well-funded with money that was mostly responsibly spent. All the standard elements are up to par, including video quality, audio quality, sets, props, and locations. However, there are a few pesky issues that hold this section back from being perfect, such as some cheesy sound effects that were obviously added on top of the normal audio and a generic soundtrack that never stops playing. Further, the editing leaves something to be desired as there are some abrupt cuts and transitions that cause some scenes to end without natural conclusions. Nonetheless, this production does enough to stay above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

From the get-go, The Islands‘ plot is nearly crippled by immediate narration that continues throughout the narrative and is sometimes substituted with information dump dialogue, which seems to serve as some type of history lesson. To make matters worse, there are far too many characters for the viewer to keep up with much less for them to have time to be properly developed. Time jumps also complicate matters and make the story seem like just a collection of random scenes strung together as the film goes from one high point to the next and even seems to repeat itself on several occasions. Several interactions between characters feel like they’re on repeat and are simply designed to waste time until the climax. A lot of the conversations and situations seem very contrived just for the sake of the plot-line, and there are no clear or consistent themes that underlay the idea and give it true purpose. Nonetheless, all of these problems aside, Timothy Chey and his team did stumble upon a very intriguing true account that still shines through despite the poor storytelling. This fact is most evident in the famed final sequence that actually demonstrates some potential, which is why this section isn’t zero points. However, it’s too little too late and makes for a disappointing experience.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

One of The Islands‘ strongest points is its encouraging commitment to assembling a diverse and culturally accurate cast, even if the costuming is a bit cheesy at times. However, this main strength is slightly weakened by the fact that much of the acting is fairly robotic at times, and emotions are sometimes difficult to believe. While it’s good to see the proper foreign language being applied in this setting, there is a lot of fight-acting throughout the film that is poorly executed and coached. Moreover, in the end, there is enough positive in this section to keep in at the average mark.

Conclusion

The historical narrative behind The Islands appears to be a very interesting and potentially powerful story that could and should have received better treatment. It’s one thing to have a good idea, but it’s another to successfully execute it, and it’s definitely a difficult feat to accomplish. Nonetheless, the experience Chey and his team bring to the table is enough to ask more of them, and the amount of potential for engaging concepts and overarching themes that was left on the table in this film was simply unacceptable. However, Chey is still on an upward trend in his career when compared to his earlier days, so perhaps his true success is just around the corner.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Why We Breathe (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Carrie Hicks just wants to catch a country music break in Nashville, but her relationship with her current boyfriend consistently complicates things. However, things escalate when he inadvertently paralyzes Carrie’s daughter, leading the aspiring artist to flee town and seek shelter with her great uncle, who she’s barely spoken to in years. Carrie wants to get back on her feet and move on with her life, but her daughter’s new disability often halts her in her tracks. In the end, Carrie will have to not only come to grips with her new reality but with the faith she’s been running from all these years.

Production Quality (2 points)

Despite a limited budget, it’s obvious that great care was taken to maintain mostly good production quality in Why We Breathe. This is evidenced by acceptable video and audio elements. Though there are some random moments of shaky camera work and some obvious overdubs, there is enough positive in the film’s first half to keep this section above the average line. Sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-utilized throughout the movie. Unfortunately, however, the editing tends to become more choppy as things progress, which prevents this area of the movie from being all that it could be. Nonetheless, this is acceptable for a first-time effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

In the beginning of the narrative, the ideas are creatively presented without the use of narration and through the eyes of believable characters with realistic struggles. In the plot’s first half, the dialogue is authentic, and the use of subtlety is commendable. However, by the film’s middle point, things tend to become more abrupt as some montages waste valuable time while a handful of conversations reference off-screen content that would have been better to see. Not a few scenes feel like they’re unfinished or cut off as the storyline unnecessarily rushes to an inevitable conclusion that is fairly cheesy. Unfortunately, in this pursuit, the previously positive elements lose their value as the story’s progression becomes more and more rapid. In the end, since the movie’s premise was mostly typical with some predictable elements, it needed deep character development and a more natural conclusion instead of ending with unrealistic fixes and unfinished ideas. The effort is notable, but more fleshing out was needed before it went into production.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

As a whole, the acting in Why We Breathe is mostly professional. Line delivery and emotions appear natural as the cast members seem comfortable in their roles. Though there are some slight moments of robotic and awkward performances, for the most part, the actors and actresses are definitely working to be earnest. Thus, this rounds out an above-average attempt that could develop into better things in the future.

Conclusion

The creative team behind this film definitely had a lot going for them, and they began very strong. However, somewhere at the halfway point, it seems like the process became rushed in a possible desire to quickly release the movie. It’s a shame because with a little more collaboration and a slight amount of fleshing out, Why We Breathe could have scored much higher. Even so, it’s highly possible that the lessons learned from this project could lead to better things in the coming days.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Life With Dog (Movie Review)

Image result for life with dog movie

Plot Summary

Joe Bigler wants to shut the world out after his wife died a tragic death. However, his daughter won’t leave him alone, the bank wants him to pay his mortgage, and a big company is threatening to turn his neighborhood into a housing development, which prompts them to constantly offer to buy his house. Nonetheless, when a stray dog takes up residence with Joe, his life begins to take a different trajectory. Will he finally be able to make peace with his past and move on with his life?

Production Quality (2 points)

As is the typical custom of Corbin Bernsen and his team, Life With Dog sports a respectable production, including good video and audio qualities along with professional usage of sets, locations, and props. There are really no concerns to note save for the randomly poor lighting and the inconsistent application of editing. Also, the soundtrack is a bit off since it sometimes doesn’t fit the moods of scenes, but as can be seen in the remainder of the film, much of the oddness seems purposeful.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Life With Dog is a capstone of Corbin Bernsen’s erratic and unusual Christian entertainment career because it’s the ultimate encapsulation of everything he’s ever done. Not only does this film boast the typically odd elements he inserts into movies, but it carries an inexplicably unusual tone that can’t be easily quantified. Some example of this intangible bizzareness are evidenced by some actually interesting scenes that appear to make fun of cliched film tropes, some subtle asides that range from eyebrow-raising to borderline inappropriate, and a tendency for the dialogue to frustratingly meander among some actually pertinent topics that need to be discussed, some complex philosophical concepts that are difficult to grasp, and a constant itching feeling that the narrative is hiding some deep secret that’s never to be revealed. Besides this, there are logical inconsistencies in the writing, such as the fact that the main character is seemingly able to do whatever he wants with little to no consequences for his sometimes questionable actions and the fact that there are too many coincidences that allow the plot to exist. Though there are many half-hearted attempts (we suppose) to do something meaningful in the story, like provide an accessible character exploration, nothing specifically significant materializes and is instead left as an unfinished, off-the-wall idea. The climax scene is probably the best example of the entire film in a nutshell because it pretends to keep building to something real but never gets there and only leaves the viewer with something that’s both vaguely significant and head-scratchingly odd, as if the storyline was purposely written to dangle hidden things in front of the audience without actually revealing their true natures. In the end, though there is some potential in this chaos, it’s not enough to keep this movie above water.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Much like other Home Theater films, the acting of Life With Dog is fine without many noticeable errors. Though there are some overdone emotions are certain moments, the cast members’ line deliveries are consistently on point. Also, each individual appears to assume their roles well. Thus, this rounds out a slightly below average effort.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, Bernsen’s career is marked with wasted potential (Christian Mingle, In-Lawfully Yours, 25 Hill, to name a few), and it’s unclear whether or not he ever intends to change. It seems like he’s always striving to make the next great iconic Christian film but consistently falls short due to intangible oddness. The worst part is that he clearly has the connections and the resources to do better than he is, yet he usually comes up short as he settles for second best. Perhaps, in future projects, he will finally unleash his full skill set and collaborate with others who can make up for his shortcomings.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Mountain Top [2017] (Movie Review)

Image result for mountain top christian movie

Plot Summary

Mike Andrews retired from his law career to follow what he thought was God’s call to be a pastor. However, that all changed when Muriel Miller came to his office to ask her to represent her eccentric husband who has gotten himself in trouble with the law due to his self-proclaimed spiritual gift of prophecy wherein he has visions of the future. Through a set of unusual circumstances, Mike agrees to represent Sam Miller pro bono, which sends the lawyer-pastor on a wild ride that he never expected to experience and that will forever change his life.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Gary Wheeler and his team are well-known for their professional productions, and Mountain Top is no exception. There are virtually no concerns to note in this instance, which entails the use of effective camera work, high video and audio qualities, and well-utilized sets, locations, and props. The only minor nitpicks to note are the somewhat generic soundtrack and the minuscule editing issues that are mostly due to the expansive plot. However, this is an overall nearly perfect effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The Level Path creative team has always had the right idea of adapting Christian novels into films, and Robert Whitlow has wisely sought dramatizations of his books. However, it’s unclear whether or not Mountain Top was the best choice of source material. While the psychological elements that make up the core basis of the plot are interesting, they are also a bit over the top and far-fetched since one of the main characters claims to have many supernatural visions covering a wide range of topics and issues. There’s never been historical precedent for any Christian being able to receive so many special revelations in their lifetime. Besides this, the character receiving the dreams is basically perfect and inaccessible as a person. Additionally, the sheer number of characters in this storyline is overwhelming for the audience and makes for a choppy presentation. They crowd each other out and cause dialogue to be inadequate at developing who they are. The many interlocking subplots are difficult to effectively follow and are better suited for a series if this idea must be portrayed in entertainment. However, there are simply too many convenient turns and coincidences that push the narrative along as the writers seek to cover as much ground as possible while at the same time including wastefully slow sequences. Due to Whitlow’s legal expertise, this aspect of the plot is mostly realistic, and it’s commendable to explore the existence of miracles in the modern world, but Mountain Top treats God’s power like a magic charm, which causes its premise to be simply too unbelievable. There was some potential here, but it was squandered in pursuit of sensationalism.

Acting Quality (2 points)

It seems like Mountain Top endeavored to include nearly every recognizable Christian cast member in one film, and it’s not a bad thing to have experienced cast members. There are actually only a few acting concerns here and there, such as some bland moments, but the sheer number of actors and actresses may mask potential weaknesses. In the end, emotional and line deliveries are at least average, if not better, with only a handful of small issues. In the end, this rounds out a basically average offering.

Conclusion

Wheeler and his team have always been so close to the Hall of Fame, and they do many things the right way. Adapting Christian novels and being committed to professional productions and experienced casts are a winning model on paper. However, many of their films still lack meaningful connections with their audiences and require deeper and more meaningful purposes in order to be truly successful. Perhaps, in the coming days, the Level Path team will finally make a breakthrough.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

MBF: Man's Best Friend (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Paul Landings retired from the military after a disability prevented his further service, so now he works at a dog shelter and takes in dogs who have no homes. However, his practices draw ire from locals, and several troublemakers set fire to his house with the dogs still in it. Affected by PTSD, Landings commits a crime in revenge for his dogs and finds himself embroiled in a lawsuit charged with local politics. Will he be able to be set free from the bondage both in his head and in his life?

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the production of Man’s Best Friend is respectable, including good video, camera, and audio qualities. While the sets, locations, and props are mostly well-chosen, there is some inconsistent lighting in the indoor sets. However, the outside locations are better, and these issues overall improve as the film progresses. Elsewhere, the soundtrack is acceptable, and the editing is a bit odd at types although it is mostly fine. In the end, this is an above average production that could have been a little better due to the year it was made.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The opening sequences of MBF are a bit of a drag for the viewer since they are drawn out and full of stock footage and vague voiceover that both isolates the audience and wastes valuable time. However, once it gets to the substantial parts of the plot, there are actually some good explorations of how warfare effects people after the military and how one’s life can be greatly altered by the service. Nonetheless, there are a number of problems in this narrative’s character department, beginning with the fact that most of the ‘bad’ characters are total strawmen who hate the main character for no particular reason, are unrealistically anti-military, and are generally annoying. At the same time, the military characters are painted in perfect lights as they create a very odd dichotomy that tries to force the viewer to choose between the importance of a paralyzed character’s life and the lives of dogs that died in a fire. There are either perfect victim characters (though it’s not clear how some of them are actually victims) or highly corrupt small town characters, which is likely realistic in many contexts but is too over the top for this situation. Moreover, the storyline provides both a realistic look at post-war trauma and a hard examination of corruption in small towns, but many audiences may find the premise to be a bit dark and without significant hope or redemption. Elsewhere, the judge seems unnecessarily biased toward the protagonist, and some of the characters attempt to nearly justify the paralysis-inducing crime that is on trial. Dialogue is inconsistently used for information dumps, and a lot of the characters feel unfinished as they tend to crowd each other out for screen time. Also, there is some inappropriate language throughout the plot, and the ending is a bit hard to follow. Overall, much like this creative team’s previous efforts at crafting complex suspense situations (Wild Faith), MBF tries to interest the viewer in legal intrigue mixed with military drama, but there are just too many issues with this concept to justify any points for this section.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While many of the cast members of MBF tend to force their lines and their emotional deliveries in the beginning, the performances as a whole improve as the film progress. The most significantly positive aspect is the fact that DJ Perry posts an extremely memorable and groundbreaking performance as he becomes a character unlike any other he’s previously played and transforms himself for a very difficult role. This element is very impressive and is one of the main bright spots in this otherwise flawed project. Thus, this rounds out an overall above average acting effort that could have been slightly better.

Conclusion

Man’s Best Friend, like many of this creative team’s past projects, had a lot going for it, but it didn’t quite make it past the finish line. Perry, Hagedorn, Teaster, Hornus, and the rest had a lot of momentum following Wild Faith and The Christ Slayer, but MBF tends to blunt this success with its confusing messaging and dark focus. However, Perry’s breakout performance is a key bright spot that gives renewed hope for the future, so it will be interesting to see what this collective produces next.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Assassin 33 AD (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Ram Goldstein and several other genius scientists are working on a top secret project for a multimillionaire named Ahmed. At first, they’re completely cool with being locked in a room with armed guards patrolling the halls, but when they use their super hacking skills to discover that Ahmed is coordinating with government leaders from Muslim-controlled nations to create time travel, they begin to grow concerned. Ahmed intends to use the mystical power of time travel to return to the past and kill Jesus before He’s resurrected so that Christianity will cease to exist! However, time travel is a bit tricky, and when multiple timelines are created due to the tampering, many different versions of the same characters are apparently created. Also, if they don’t erase the extra timelines before it’s too late, they will all converge into an APOCALYPSE! Can Ram and his friends stop this wicked plot before it’s too late?!?!?

Production Quality (-3 points)

Even though it seems like there was a substantial budget spent on Assassin 33 AD, the funding didn’t pay off as it was wasted on extremely cheap CGI and ridiculous special effects that overtake and overpower all other production elements. They have direct connections to the sets, locations, and props and make it clear that this team had no idea what they were doing when they slapped this project together. While there are some notable positives in this production, they are covered up by the myriad concerns created by the CGI and special effects blunders. Also, the editing has a handful of issues, but this could easily be chalked up to having to deal with one of the worst plots in the history of Christian entertainment. Overall, the glaringly obvious negatives throughout this film overshadow any slightly good elements that could be noted.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-3 points)

Where to begin? Assassin 33 AD has achieved the unthinkable feat of being as incoherent and offensive as Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas. This is not a title to be lightly delivered, but there plenty of ways Assassin goes further than even Timothy Chey has gone (yet). First of all, the entire premise behind Assassin is totally off-base from the get-go. Messing around with time travel and how it relates to Jesus is an absolute no-no when it comes to story-boarding, so there’s no reason to even broach the subject. Then, to take this a step further and actually make a purportedly Christian film about modern day soldiers being able to shoot Jesus with a pistol in the Garden of Gethsemane is borderline insanity. As if this isn’t enough, to create multiple timelines that both alter Scripture and try to twist biblical history into including the movie’s characters in the actual canon is just the end. I literally cannot comprehend the inanity of this proposition, which by no indication is being done in jest. Besides these glowing red flag problems that are part of the story’s very fabric, there are so many other movie faux pas committed in Assassin that space will likely not permit a full exploration. Nonetheless, here is a very quick rundown: characters are poorly developed via expository dialogue and unnatural lines that are designed to force the plot forward, key plot points are supported by unexplained “science” and convenient technical devices that lack basis in reality or logic, the villains basically stepped out of a conservative fever dream about Muslims taking over the world, wild time jumps are only supplanted by the maddening nature of the multiple timelines created by time travel, basically every character has a minimum of two different versions of themselves (“past” and “present”), some of these copy characters end up having conversations with each other, the protagonists can seemingly do whatever they want in a supposedly high-security facility with armed guards all around them, the Jesus character seems just as confused about what’s going on as the viewers are, etc., etc., etc. Did I mention that the writers took a crazily arrogant creative license to replace Biblical characters (like the thieves on the crosses beside Jesus and the man who fled the Garden of Gethsemane with no clothes on) with modern-day characters from the “future” timelines? This notion is only made complete by the scene where two copy characters (the same cast member) are discussing how the modern-day Bible is changing right before their eyes due to the timelines being altered in the past. Further, as if all of this wasn’t an epic trainwreck, the film’s epilogue completely turns everything on its ear by negating the “past” timeline that set the movie’s events into notion in the first place. Therefore, taking all of this evidence into account, this section is awarded the maximum negative score, and this also affects other aspects of the film.

Acting Quality (-3 points)

The horrid nature of the plot bleeds over into acting and causes this section to suffer even though it may not have been as bad if it were paired with a different narrative. Much of the line delivery is robotic and not earnest, and emotions are hard to believe. Some cast members, especially those who are portraying villains, overplay their roles while others seem bored or confused, which may have been justified. In the end, the major negatives at the core of the project drag the entire thing down into the depths of Christian entertainment.

Conclusion

Assassin 33 AD also receives to honor of scoring a negative x-factor point to round out an effort that joins Saving Christmas as one of the worst films of all time. Whenever a creator sets out to make a movie about how biblical accounts and Jesus’ life on earth in general could be altered via time travel as well as how the Bible could be rewritten based on the changing of previous timelines, they are already way off the road and should entirely ditch the project. Going through with such a travesty raises some serious questions about the true motivation behind its creation. There’s literally no way to redeem this awful concept, so the best thing that can be done is to encourage audiences to stay away from it and to help future film makers avoid these types of monumental blunders.

Final Rating: -10 out of 10 points

Sacred [2017] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Barrett Lenox, despite his dark past, aspires to succeed in the boxing ring. However, the pressures of helping his wife, Danielle, build their life together, are weighing on him. Her father, who is training him, also pushes him to do better. Will he ever measure up to who he needs to be before more time has passed him by?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

At the beginning of the film, the opening sequence is intriguing and shows promise of creative potential. Also, the soundtrack is effective, and video quality and audio quality are at least average. For the most part, camera work and lighting are good, even if there are some unnecessarily dark scenes throughout. Unfortunately, the editing is somewhat flat, which puts a drag on things, but these efforts were overall good for the tiny budget the production team had to work with. In the end, this is at least an honest attempt.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Since Sacred is only based on a handful of characters and is basically an extended short film, it would have been good to see more depth from both the storyline and the characters. Working with only one subplot requires a lot of refinement, yet there are good attempts at flashbacks throughout this film, which definitely help things. Even so, there needed to be more substantial character-building dialogue to make it easier to get to know them as real people. As they are, the conversations are a bit too matter of fact and flat, and there are a lot of sports training montages for a less-than-an-hour film. Thus, there is a lot of wasted time that takes away from better possibilities. Moreover, there are a lot of interesting concepts and ideas throughout the movie that make it more worthwhile than it would have been, even if the Christian message needs some refinement. The ending is certainty unexpected and slightly creative though it needed a better lead-up than it had. In the end, Sacred has a non-typical plot structure that shows a lot of potential but didn’t quite go as far as it could have.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, the acting of this film is average since it has some good scenes and some poorly executed ones. At times, emotions are overdone, and sometimes, lines are forced. Some cast members appear to be trying too hard, but there are also a handful of good performances. Also, some of the makeup work is fairly low quality, and there’s an unusual insinuation (without hard evidence) that a Caucasian cast member is playing an African-American character, but it’s difficult to know. In the end, this section rounds out a passable effort.

Conclusion

The creators of Sacred were onto something, but it’s possible that they didn’t quite know how to convey it. With such limited resources, it was wise for them to choose a shorter-than-usual runtime though it could have been better utilized by delving deeper into character development. Because of this, the story concept could use a remake, or the creative team could use this film as a foundation to build on for better ideas in the future. Either way, it will be interesting to see what they produce next.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The Reliant (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

When the American dollar literally collapses overnight, a family is attacked by desperadoes and is forced to take their gun supply and survival gear into the woods behind their house in order to fend for themselves in the elements. However, the men who gunned their father down are still in pursuit (for some reason), which forces the family to either band together or tear each other apart as they try to defend themselves and survive in the brave new world of looting and living off the land. What will become of them all?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

It’s clear that the money that was donated by people (so that they could be listed as executive producers on the credits) was mostly well-used and not only spent on guns and weaponry. Video quality and audio quality are good, and since the film is mostly filmed in the outdoors, this definitely helps things. The soundtrack is also passable. However, much of the camera work is shaky and dizzy in the name of being action-oriented. Also, most of the indoor scenes are unnecessarily dark and poorly lit. Further, the editing is extremely choppy, which makes things hard to follow, but there are likely other factors to this problem, such as the plot.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

From the get-go, the story makes zero sense. There’s no reason why the world would immediately descend into chaos basically in one day due to the sudden collapse of the dollar. How did it happen? What led to this extreme result and knee-jerk looting? This idea is too big and expansive to focus ninety percent of the plot on a collection of characters wandering around in the woods with guns. Did we mention that this movie is OBSESSED with guns? It holds nothing back in being outright propaganda that’s desperate to both create further political divide and garner the attention of powerful lobbying organizations. These concerns aside, there are tons of characters in The Reliant, and while flashbacks are used throughout, it’s not enough to make up for other problems, such as awkward conversations about vague things that are occurring in the world outside the forest, shoehorned Christian concepts, cheesy survival concepts, and outright fundamentalist messaging. Much like Unplanned, there was much fake outrage about The Reliant‘s so-called undeserved MPAA rating, but once again, the rating was actually justified due to the high amount of needless violence without proper balance. Regardless of this, the characters of The Reliant have extremely steep arcs and lack proper motivation for their actions as things just randomly happen one after another, and the plot lacks clear direction or purpose other than to shove certain worldviews down viewers’ throats. Hence, this section’s negative rating is given due to propaganda and due to total pointlessness.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Throughout nearly every scene, the cast members of The Reliant are coached to exhibit extreme emotions, including a lot of yelling and screaming. Though there is some potential despite these annoyances, dramatic and tense scenes are totally butchered either with awkward line delivery, off-beat emotional delivery, or general uncomfortability with the given roles. In the end, there is little good to highlight in this movie.

Conclusion

After the screener was provided for this film, one of the creators strongly requested that they be given the chance to “approve” this review before it was publicly posted. Surprisingly, this was the first and only request we’ve ever received for this to happen. Moreover, it further shows the amount of control that’s surrounding this movie and reflects the mentality behind its creation. Films like The Reliant have a clear agenda to push on their audiences and purposely make themselves lightning rods for controversy with the hopes of garnering attention from certain groups. There were no attempts in this movie to craft a meaningful plot based on accessible characters, so even if the creative team had the best message in the world, it’s still not correctly packaged. In the end, there are just too many issues here to discern any amount of potential there might have been in this half-baked idea.

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

Decision of Faith {365 Decision Time} (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

On the surface, the Miller family is the model of success in Caucasian American culture, but behind the scenes, they’re coming undone. The parents are divorced yet maintain a tenuous relationship in order to aid their grown children. Their daughter is married to a successful political staffer who has his own secrets to hide. Their son is involved with a questionable crowd of people and suddenly has a child on the way with a girlfriend they’ve never met. In the midst of all the turmoil, the Millers have a chance to find the true peace they’ve never had if they will ask for help from the right people.

Production Quality (2 points)

At first, the production of Decision of Faith is somewhat rough, including weird, unnatural lighting, dark sets, and slightly random camera work. The audio quality is also quite inconsistent at first, along with the editing, which includes some abrupt cuts and transitions between scenes. However, the good thing is that the production improves as the runtime progresses, which suggests better funding was provided later on in the process. It gets better to the point that video quality, audio quality, camera work, sets, props, and locations are all passable and even respectable in some parts. The editing remains somewhat inconsistent throughout, but this section overall does enough to go past the average mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

In the beginning of the storyline, many disjointed subplots tend to come out of nowhere and meander around, but once things settle down, the subplot overlaying slightly improves even though it’s still somewhat poorly presented. By the middle of the film, one of the most interesting things about the plot is its exploration of realistic hidden issues in affluent Caucasian lifestyles. Before this point, the characters are extreme: either perfect, platitude-spouting Christians or horribly bad non-Christians. However, once things begin to change in the middle, the characters actually become authentic and believable with obvious flaws and issues that can be accessed by many people. One drawback is that large time jumps in the story are marked by time subtitles, and another concern is the unnecessary use of explicit language and edgy content in attempts to be realistic. Also, as the plot continues on past the middle, random things keep happening that have forced connections to previously highlighted elements, and in a seeming rush for time, there are quite a few very sudden conversations that seem programmed to happen at certain moments in order for the story to hit the high points it wants to hit. These types of dialogue devices create very steep and unrealistic character arcs so that things are fixed very rapidly by the time the credits come around. Overall, despite the intriguing themes that show good potential for future screenwriting, Decision of Faith tries to cover too much time and too many issues at once. Thus, it may have been better to present this story in series form to allow for better character refinement and plot organization.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Unfortunately, there is some poor makeup work throughout this film, and at first, the emotional performances are quite forced and un-earnest. However, like other elements of the movie, the acting tends to improve with time, which suggests a shift in leadership mentalities partway through the process. Nothing significantly dynamic occurs as a result, but the improvement is refreshing. Overall, the acting does enough to be average by the conclusion, which rounds off a mostly middle-of-the-road film.

Conclusion

First-time films like Decision of Faith are tricky because it’s difficult to get things started, but in the new wave of Christian entertainment we’ve seen over the past few years, standards are higher, which makes it harder for new voices to stand out. Thus, the planning process is key. Are you meant to make this film at this time? Has God given you the adequate funding to make it professional? Would it work better as a series? Should you collaborate with other creators? These are all great questions to ask that will help you rise above the fray.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

China Cry (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

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

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

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

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

Bonhoeffer, Agent of Grace (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

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

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

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

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

Dawn [2018] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Carrie Saunders just wants to live her normal life as a businesswoman, but her recurring nightmares about a missing girl continue to haunt her night after night. Her visions cloud her judgment and cause her to begin to suspect her husband of wrongdoing. Police refuse to believe her tales, so she decides to investigate the matter on her own. Little does she know that the wild ride she’s about to experience will change her life forever.

Production Quality (2 points)

At first, the production of Dawn begins in a rocky manner as evidenced by inconsistent camera work and lighting and some slight background sounds. However, the video quality is stable throughout, and the sets, locations, and props are mostly fine. The camera work does seem to improve as the film proceeds, and it becomes quite professional in the end. Another inconsistent area is the soundtrack since it’s generic in some parts yet quite good in others. Further, one other drawback is somewhat dizzying and repetitive nature of some of the psychological sequences, but this is also sometimes an asset. In the end, the editing is good, and the production is a mixed bag that’s overall above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Dawn dares to try something extremely different in Christian film as it takes on a very unique plot that’s often hard to quantify yet intriguing at the same time. The attempts at extreme creativity are well-noted, even if they can get a bit head-scratching at times. Although some may not like it, it’s good that the Christian elements of Dawn aren’t too in-your-face as it tries to primarily rely on good mystery plot content. However, the storyline does have a few flaws in that the characters could be a bit more developed than they are, which means the time could have been better spent on this venture rather than on repetition of key elements the audience is shown over and over again. Still, the characters are fairly good as they are, even if the villain characters are slight strawmen. The psychological elements of the plot are interesting, but they could use a bit more explanation as to why they are occurring. However, the ending isn’t quite expected, and Dawn is an overall very creative attempt at a complex mystery plot culminating with an actually effective climax that’s built throughout the entirety of the film. This is finally a real suspense plot worth watching, but it would be even better as a remake or a similar replication.

Acting Quality (2 points)

On the whole, the acting of Dawn is fine with only a few minor errors to contend with. There were definitely some opportunities for improved emotional delivery and more dynamic line delivery. However, the cast does enough to make this an above average performance, which rounds out an overall above average film that’s worth your time.

Conclusion

The potential that this creative team showed is very encouraging because it could be the start of something great for them. It’s highly possible that streaming series are in their future if they are allowed to collaborate with larger budgets and tighter writing. What we need is more psychological suspense and mystery stories, and seeing these in the context of Christian series would be awesome, so we can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

A Murder of Innocence (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

When Albert and Aimee Anderson move to a small town to pastor the local church, they expect all the typical things of a small town church, but nothing in their lives ever prepared them for what happened soon after they arrived. After discovering the dead bodies of their two newest and closest friends, the Andersons are left reeling in the aftermath as they entire church turns to them for guidance during this dark time. However, answers escape them as the culprit seems elusive and the townspeople grow restless and anxious. Will evil ever be brought to justice? Will they be able to recover a sense of normalcy?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, A Murder of Innocence has a mostly fine production, including good video quality and fine sets, locations, and props, even if they are a bit limited in scope. A lot of the time, the audio is extremely quiet and muffled, and the soundtrack is either lacking or overpowering. Also, camera work is inconsistent–sometimes shaky and sometimes fine. Further, the editing is a concern as there are many awkward fadeouts throughout after scenes have gone on too long while some scenes have very quick transitions that cut things off. It seems like there was more content or some that wasn’t usable, so a lot of it appears to relate to post-production issues. Overall, this is just an average production, which isn’t quite up to modern standards.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Although it initially was a good idea to use a true story to try something a bit different, yet much time is wasted on silent montages and clunky dialogue as everything feels very scripted and robotic, especially the ‘perfect’ Christian characters. Instead of actual character development, we’re just left with offensive gender stereotypes that paint women as less intelligent than men. Besides this, the plot is largely based on very shallow concepts and doesn’t appear to comprehend reality very well. Throughout the story, there’s a mysteriously odd tone like it’s concealing some great secret, but it all comes to nothing substantial. If you’re going to write mystery plot, you need to make sure you’ve done your homework to make criminal investigations realistic and believable. It feels like there’s too much going on here that the writers don’t quite understand, which creates the odd mysticism. Besides this, a vast majority of the scenes are slow and dour without much balance or adequate character engagement as the plot drags on and on and chases fruitless rabbit trails. After using up over an hour teasing a possibly forthcoming purpose via dramatic dialogue and randomly extra subplots, there’s little to show for the effort. While it’s commendable to try a suspense plot centered around mental health in rural areas, the very steep character arcs and magical fixes in the final minutes really do the film in, especially since there’s nothing to hold the audience’s interest or make the film worthwhile. Without a central focus, the movie meanders and flounders until a conclusion.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Much like the other elements of the film, the acting is a bit stifled and lifeless as it comes off as over-practiced. In conjunction with the audio problems, the line delivery itself is very soft and almost muted most of the time. However, the acting is at least average in most places without any majorly glaring errors or standout performances. Though there is some unnecessary drama, this section rounds out a basically vanilla effort.

Conclusion

The good thing is that Christian entertainment is becoming broader and braver as time goes on. There was a time when mystery suspense dramas like A Murder of Innocence would have been unthinkable in some Christian circles, but thankfully, there are at least attempts to be more creative and diverse. However, there are still things to work on, most notably plot and character content. This was based on a true story, so it’s not really acceptable to have such poor characters, along with an aimless storyline. Next time, before making a Christian film, it would be better to count the cost and make sure there’s enough creativity and purpose behind it. The only stories that will be transformative are the ones that feel like real life.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

To Save a Life (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Jake Taylor is one of the most popular kids in school: he’s a basketball star on track for a big scholarship, and he has the girlfriend everyone wanted. He seems to have friends everywhere, but he’s chosen to ignore the only friend he had in middle school because it’s not cool to hang around him anymore. However, this appears to lead to his old friend becoming suicidal and bringing a gun to school one day in an apparent last-ditch attempt for help. In the fallout of the tragedy, Jake and his friends try to get back to normal, but they seem to sink deeper into their vices as a response to the trauma. What is the true purpose of life, and is it possible for high school to have meaning?

Production Quality (2 points)

As an early 2000s production, To Save a Life is good despite some minor missteps. For one, the flashback sequences, while great to include, sometimes come off as a bit disorienting and invasive as they tend to jump back and forth too much and use disruptive flashing effects. In a similar vein, some montages are a bit confusing and protracted in length, especially since they take up time that could have been used on other things. However, there are plenty of positives to note about this production, For one, the soundtrack is fairly good, and the camera work is professionally artistic even if there is some wild zooming and cutting during suspenseful scenes. Nonetheless, much of the production elements improve as time goes on, and video quality, sets, locations, and props are all great in each part of the film. As a whole, the editing is good enough considering how much content is in the story and how many characters there are, so overall, this is an above average production that’s mostly on the mark and improves with runtime.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Even in the beginning, Brian Baugh was always a master of capturing the real human experience, especially of Millennial coming of age years, as he weaves complex storytelling via raw, realistic topics, effective flashbacks, and accessible characters. To Save a Life is a real and honest look at authentic problems facing teenagers both in high school and in the church. It’s a hard but necessary look at the factors leading to teen suicide and teen substance abuse, among other vices; in doing so, the plot unfolds fairly well without dumping too much information onto the audience in the beginning as plot points are developed gradually. The relationships among the characters are very easy to believe as they feel like real people who do real things with real motivations. The psychological material therein is used in very great ways, and the hard look at problems within the church is refreshing. To Save a Life has a very complex cast of characters that makes it feel more like a series than a movie; because of this, some of the characters arcs are a bit too steep due to lack of adequate development time. Even still, the dialogue is well-constructed as the subplots weave together, but the number of storylines is also the slight undoing of the film as we’d like to see some more backstories and more explorations of the issues rather than trying to cover too much in one film. Because of how many ideas are in one movie, the epilogue and the lead-up to it tend to fix things too quickly and easily without many tangible character consequences. The climax scene is also slightly contrived just to have one and only leads to expository dialogue designed to finish things off. In the end, To Save a Life is a massive mixed bag of content that is both rewarding and disappointing, yet Brian Baugh’s talents are still undeniable in his first movie attempt.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

At first, the acting can come off as a bit awkward, but this also tends to work in the film’s favor. This is really the only nitpick to point out since the cast is overall really good despite its large size. There are quite a few standout roles…even Randy Wayne posts a good one. Due to the sheer number and diversity of cast members, they would have done so well in a series, but alas, this film occurred before the era of Christian streaming. Nevertheless, perhaps something similar to To Save a Life will be crafted in the future.

Conclusion

We would definitely love to see Brian Baugh make a series either like this movie or about something else because some creators are just too big for the big screen. Some creators (see Dallas Jenkins) are better the small screen because series provide much better forums to explore complex characters and subplots. No matter what, Baugh is consistently showing today that he has a profound understanding of people, and with two Hall of Fame entries after To Save a Life (I’m Not Ashamed and The World We Make), the sky is the limit for his creative potential.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

Turbulent [2018] (Movie Review)

Oooohh scary

Plot Summary

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

Production Quality (-1 point)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 point)

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

Acting Quality (-1 point)

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

Conclusion

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

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

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

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The magic of the cosmos…

Plot Summary

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

Production Quality (0 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1 point)

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

Conclusion

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

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

The Christ Slayer (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

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

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

40: The Temptation of Christ (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

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

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

The Trump Prophecy (Movie Review)

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Shofars!

Plot Summary

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

Production Quality (0 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2 points)

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

Acting Quality (0 points)

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

Conclusion

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

Final Rating: -2 out of 10 points

One Church (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Cornelius Barlow is a devious politician who has had a vendetta against organized religion ever since his daughter was killed by a cult. Instead of eradicating religion, however, once he becomes President of the United States, he decides to make his own united religion by bringing all faiths together and by forcing them to work together. Unfortunately, this doesn’t go as simply as he planned as he faces opposition from a secret resistance who claims that they know the only truth of salvation: Jesus Christ. Will their numbers be able to survive the coming persecution?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

One Church is one of those Christian suspense films that bites off more than it can chew in the production department. This is evident by the shaky camera work, the loud soundtrack and sound effects, and the inconsistent audio that is sometimes muted. There are also a lot of tight shots and a weird aspect ratio, along with some randomly blurry camera shots and odd camera angles. Some scenes also cut off very abruptly as if this is an early cut that wasn’t finished. However, not all is bad in this production as there are some elements that are fine throughout, such as the sets, locations, and props, which keep this production from being below average. Even still, if the funding and resources aren’t there for a good suspense plot, it’s better to not make it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While this is an interesting attempt at a different type of plot, it’s based too much on far-fetched concepts and ‘bad’ characters that are total strawmen and get worse as the film progresses. The premise also progressively become more unrealistic, and large time jumps hurt any hope there was of plot and character growth. Time is mostly spent on montages, which leaves characters shallow and the purpose of the film unclear. One thing happens after the next in very rapid fashion, and expository dialogue is used as a shortcut. There are too many vague ideas that are started without backup or follow-through, and sequences of boring activities are used in place of actual conversations between characters that could help us get to know them as people. In the end, the story ends in a very awkward and abrupt fashion that makes it even more unclear why this movie was even made.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, the acting is fine without any major problems, even though it’s underwhelming and vanilla at times. Sometimes, dialogue is slightly mumbled, and line delivery is under-performing at times. It seems like some cast members become more and more dramatic as the film goes on, and other case members don’t do enough to make up for these poor performances. However, the early acting does enough to keep this section average, which rounds out an overall blah movie.

Conclusion

The JC Films team still hasn’t found itself in movie-making. They are disjointed and disconnected from both reality and relevance in the film world. They have a lot of ambitions and want to try different things (sometimes), but they have no foundation or basis for what they do. This likely won’t change until they begin retaining real screenwriters and actually put their funding and resources to good use.

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

On Wings of Eagles [2016] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

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

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

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

Acting Quality (2 points)

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

Conclusion

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

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Beyond the Farthest Star (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Anne Wells hates that her family has been forced to move to a podunk Texas town. Her father is a pastor who demands perfection from his family, and she hates him for it. Anne always does her best to get into trouble and to do whatever she wants because she wants to know if God really cares about her and what the actual purpose of life is. She escapes into her music, and her father escapes into his work as he runs from the ghosts of his past. When their family is faced with several life-changing decisions, which way will they go?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s clear that this film has a professional production that was given a lot of care and effort, which is evidenced by good video and audio qualities, as well as skilled camera work. Sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-utilized, even if there are a few unnecessarily dark scenes. Further, the soundtrack is highly effective and engaging. The only drawback to point out here is some choppy editing, but this is also due to the large amount of story content. As a whole, this is a very respectable production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

As Beyond the Farthest Star is based on good source material, it demonstrates a very profound understanding of the real problems facing real people, especially the struggles of people whose personalities are not appreciated by the church. This plot has an exquisite use of flashbacks to develop character motive and backstory, and the content of the flashbacks is extremely believable. Through the flashbacks and dialogue, there are excellent efforts to develop the characters and to develop the interactions between teenagers and adults. However, this plot is almost schizophrenic with its presentation because one minute, the dialogue is great, only to have it undermined with an out-of-left-field scene that makes no sense. There is a strange lack of understanding of certain aspects of reality, such as the acquiring of confidential documents. There is also a highly unnecessary religious freedom\persecution subplot to contend with that wastes tons of time and puts a damper on everything. Further, there is narration present throughout the story in the form of journaling, and sometimes it is tolerable because of its philosophical nature, but other times, it gets in the way and takes up valuable time. Thus, even though there is a large amount of content in this complex storyline, not every scene is used very well as some are unnecessary and contain some edgy content. Even still, there is tons of potential in this plot and in the people who wrote it because it’s not afraid to expose hidden ministry problems and to use unashamed small town satire. The message therein is excellent and very worthwhile, but there are too many dramatic scenes with no break, and the cheesy ending tends to fix everything, even if the climax scene is effective. Basically, Beyond the Farthest Star is a giant mixed bag of potential, some of which panned out, so it’s likely worth your time.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

For the most part, the acting of this film is sharp and adept as each cast member appears to comfortably assume their respective character roles. Emotions are believable, and line delivery is on point. There are only a few minor issues throughout that pertain to some overdone drama and seriousness, but this section rounds out a very respectable film.

Conclusion

Movies like Beyond the Farthest Star are both engaging and difficult to watch because it’s clear that there is a massive amount of potential with this type of idea. A movie about rebels from Christian families combined with hidden ministry problems is exactly what we need now, but there is too much confusion in this film that holds it back from reaching its highest possibilities. Even so, this movie is worth a watch this holiday season, and it bodes well for any future projects from this creative team.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In late 2009 and early 2010, the evil deeds of a rogue abortion doctor, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, were uncovered when his suspect abortion clinic in downtown Philadelphia was raided by multiple agencies due to suspected drug laundering and mysterious deaths of women who went there.  What the authorities found during the raid was shocking and appalling.  A local prosecutor and her detective friend were immediately plunged into a politically-charged trial centered around the controversial social issue of abortion.  As it becomes more evident that Dr. Gosnell exhibited the behaviors of a serial killer, the pushback from powerful lobbyists only increased until the truth was finally exposed for the world to see.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Gosnell had fairly good funding despite their persecution-complex claims.  This translated to a mostly professional-looking production, including good video quality and camera work.  The sets, locations, and props are mostly well-constructed and well-utilized.  There are some randomly dark scenes throughout, but this may be purposeful.  Also, the editing of the film is fairly choppy due to the large amount of plot content that is taken on.  However, overall, this production is above-average even if it could have been a little better than it was.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Gosnell makes many attempts to be overly realistic in its presentation of real events, including unnecessary profanity and edgy content that may be off-putting to a lot of pro-life audiences.  Besides this, there is a lot of expository dialogue throughout that is designed to mask the time jumps and to connect otherwise unconnected scenes together.  Thus, there is lots of content shoved into a small amount of time, even though the writers found plenty of time for shock-and-awe scenes.  There are one too many over-dramatized sidebars detailing the perceived persecution of the pro-life movement, and the ‘bad’ characters are flat-out strawmen.  One bright spot is the interesting use of flashbacks with characters we don’t see enough of, which is a technique that needs to be used more.  If this film’s plot had been more about detailing the real stories of the women who were adversely affected by the negligence and twisted ideas of Dr. Gosnell rather than a politically motivated trial plot reminiscent of God’s Not Dead 2, this would have been an entirely different film.  Thus, while there is some good messaging in this film that keeps it from having no potential, the real stories of real people need to be depicted in film rather than political grandstanding.  Stories and personal experiences are what changes the culture and changes people’s minds on social issues.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Some cast members are hamstrung from the get-go of this film by the poorly written dialogue that is a direct consequence of the time jumps, but Dean Cain posts another weirdly awkward performance regardless.  Cain’s fake attempts at a Philadelphia accent are annoying, and his typical forced line delivery and emotions are wearing.  However, the rest of this cast appears to know what they’re doing, and despite their shortage of things to work with, they are mostly professional and comfortable in their roles.  Overall, this film is basically average.

Conclusion

The pro-life cause does have history and science on its side, but pro-lifers must be very careful to avoid becoming caught up in the political games that are played by the pro-abortion lobby.  There’s no denying that the abortion business is gruesome and downright evil, but the pro-life cause is better than stooping to their level.  Gosnell presents a very important and real-life issue, but one has to wonder how many people will be converted to the cause due to the gruesome nature of this story.  Though it’s extremely difficult to maintain professionalism and balance in a heavily biased and lightning-rod political culture, it’s important that pro-lifers don’t adapt the pro-abortion mentality of victim status and shock-and-awe theatrics just to try to gain political power.  The pro-life movement should not be politically charged, but we are unfortunately far from that reality.  Politics is only a reaction to culture, but changing the culture is much harder to do.  However, it can be done with real stories, and there were real stories to present in this sordid tale, even if we didn’t get to see them very well in this film.  Real women are hurt everyday by the abortion business, and many of them suffer in silence or are compelled to join the pro-abortion political lobby because they feel like the pro-life movement won’t accept them.  We are seeing some change in this area, however, so hopefully we will see more movement in the right direction in the coming days.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Wraith [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Wild Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

The Colors of Emily (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (.5 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Echo Rhyme (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1 point)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (.5 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Squad 77 (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (0 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (0 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Under Jakob’s Ladder (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Freedom [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

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

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Unbridled [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sarah Miller hates her life and wants to escape the clutches of her mother’s abusive boyfriend, but she has no way out.  However, a concerned friend and her fellow college student intervene when she acts strange in class, and they are able to rescue her and help her to start a new life at a shelter.  Sarah is also introduced to Unbridled, a horse therapy center for troubled girls, where she bonds with a stubborn horse.  However, when he mother’s boyfriend comes back for revenge, will she be able to survive?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though the production of Unbridled begins somewhat rough, it definitely demonstrates care and effort.  There is some shaky camera work throughout the film, likely for dramatic effect.  However, video quality is fine, and audio quality gets better as the film goes on.  Sets, locations, and props are excellently constructed and utilized.  There are some slight ministry ‘product placements’ throughout, but it means well.  One caveat to raise in this production is the very awkward editing throughout.  Some scenes lag on too long, while others are cut short.  Still other scenes appear to be unneeded.  However, despite the issues, this is a great beginning production for the Moving Visions team.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As this storyline is based on true events of real people’s struggles, it definitely has its share of positives.  One of these is its excellent use of underlying philosophy that is manifested in well-crafted dialogue.  Thus, this creates believable characters who have unfortunately realistic struggles.  There is also a great portrayal of trauma and mental health in this film, as well good research on the under-explored world of horse therapy.  However, this plot also has its share of drawbacks.  These include some cheesy horse story elements and a lot of unnecessary sidebars and rabbit trails that are underdeveloped.  There are also some concerning plot holes and a lot of scenes that have been read into very much in order to be fully understood.  Thus, some organization of this otherwise good content was definitely in order.  However, it is still likely worth your time to see if only for the good cause of the film.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The acting and casting of this film is somewhat of a mixed bag, as it contains many familiar faces of Christian film.  For one, Eric Roberts is just too much, even though he is appropriately cast as a creeper.  Jenn Gotzon-Chandler is awkward at first, but she gets better as she goes; the same can be said for Rachel Hendrix.  T. C. Stallings is always good, but he has his moments of over-playing.  Tea McKay is a great lead and has a lot of promise for the future.  On the whole, this is an above-average effort that shows great potential for the future.

Conclusion

Unbridled is a rare caused-based film that is worth recommending because it presents a real issue in a way that is not extremely obvious. The creators of this film clearly knew how to portray real people and their struggles.  However, a series of rookie errors kept this film from being all that it could be.  Nonetheless, this is certainly not something that will hold them back in the future, as we believe they will get better as they continue on.  With a few production tweaks and an improved story presentation, the Moving Visions team is going to go great places in the future.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Adrift [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a giant hurricane threatens a non-disclosed area, everyone must take refuge in a high school gym that has been converted into a shelter.  Several trouble characters take shelter there and interact with each other in different ways.  A young mother with an unplanned pregnancy has nowhere else to turn.  A drug addict tries to steal from other people in order to get her fix.  However, there are also some Christians there who want the others to be saved, even the diabetes one of them has threatens his very life.  Who will be able to survive the deluge?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Much like their past attempts at production, Adrift is a rough one for the Cross Wind team.  While the video quality is finally okay and the audio is at least average, there are too many weird and loud sound effects throughout, as well as too many background noises and parts with loud soundtrack.  Camera work is a positive, however, even though the film is constantly interrupted by generic, low quality news broadcasts.  The sets, locations, and props are very uninspiring as they are mostly limited to a handful of rooms and a bunch of stock storm footage that doesn’t have any continuity.  Editing is thus an issue as this film demonstrates why you should never make a ‘disaster’ film when you have such miniscule resources.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The ‘disaster’ premise of this film is so vague that if it were about a bunch of random people sitting around talking, you wouldn’t really know the difference.  The storm takes place largely off-screen and in those annoying news broadcasts.  The concepts and locations of the story are very non-specific and disingenuous, and it hardly seems like a storm is going on at all.  In keeping with Cross Wind habits, the characters of this film only represent the issues they are supposed to represent rather than real people.  While Torry Martin provides some dialogue relief at times, it’s not enough to save this film from itself.  The comedy therein in too forced and cheesy, thus making the film impossible to take seriously, besides the fact that time is wasted on the dumbest asides.  Essentially, Cross Wind still hasn’t found the plot creativity they desperately need.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Outside of Torry Martin’s usual fine performance, the other cast members are awkard and stiff.  Like other Cross Wind films, the actors and actresses are mostly unnatural and overly practiced in their line delivery and emotions.  However, there are some okay moments that keep this section from being nothing, even though this is not enough to right the proverbial ship.

Conclusion

What more is there to say?  Cross Wind still needs some serious upgrades across all categories.  Unfortunately, bringing in Torry Martin wasn’t enough to save them from themselves.  If they mean well in their films, it is impossible to tell as they continually portray people in embarrassing fashions.  Perhaps one day they will finally find what they are looking for.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

The UnMiracle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Rust [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

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

Acting Quality (2 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Scattered [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Basement [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (-.5 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

I Was Broken [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Masterless (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

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

Acting Quality (2 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Invisible Enemies [1997] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1 point)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Ultimate Redemption (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jeff Warner is now a street pastor, but he wasn’t always that way.  He grew up in an abusive home and found solace in being able to hustle people on the streets.  He became involved with dangerous gangs and eventually entered the wrestling scene to make some extra cash.  However, the sport soon consumes him and his family.  Only because of the prayers of his wife does Jeff ever find the redemption he always needed, so he can in turn help others find the same.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though it’s clear that the team behind this film meant well, it’s also clear that they definitely had low funding for it.  This is evident in the random nature of the production.  It has some good elements and showed slight improvement throughout.  However, lighting is too inconsistent throughout, as is the video quality.  Audio quality is fine even though it is sometimes too loud, and the soundtrack is average.  Some portions of the film are randomly black and white or sepia for no particular reason.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly realistic.  The editing is slightly confusing, but it is mostly okay.  That really tells the tale of this production: mostly okay.  They really did mean well in making this, I believe, but they might should have waited for better funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The true story behind this film was definitely worth telling, but the full arc of redemption is blunted by the flat presentation.  Though characters and the circumstances they endure are realistic and believable, they still need some more development and deepening through more meaningful dialogue.  There is not enough focus in the plot as it is quite disorganized.  What the writers are going for here can be seen somewhat, but the impact of what they are trying to do is not as much as it could be due to some rookie plot-writing mistakes.  However, there is definitely potential here that hopefully will be used in even better ways in the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

It’s interesting to have the main character played by the real person.  Though this cast is amateurish and somewhat inexperienced, they are clearly trying to post good acting performances.  Though there are some lagging issues with forced emotions and some unsure line delivery, this cast is mostly good and demonstrate a lot of potential for the future.

Conclusion

Sometimes it’s better to wait for more funding, but other times you just have to get your movie out there to start somewhere.  This is a hard call to make and there is a balance somewhere in between to be found.  Yet sometimes better funding only comes by putting yourself out there.  Ultimately, you have to do what you feel like God wants you to do with your film.  Films like Ultimate Redemption join a long list of Christian movies that are close to being great and show potential for the future.  The question is, which ones of these will rise up and make a movie that improves upon what they already have.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Generational Sins (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

As Sarah is dying of cancer, she makes her oldest son, Drew, promise to take his younger brother back to the hometown they had once escaped from.  Drew reluctantly agrees and is forced to reconnect with the brother he doesn’t know very well in order to return and find what his mother wanted him to look for: redemption.  The problem is, once he’s back home, Drew begins to remember everything he wanted to forget—especially the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father.  Will he be able to grapple with his past in order to find hope for the future?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As production newcomers on the Christian film scene, Spencer T. Folmar and the Third Brother Films team are already making waves.  In Generational Sins, they have demonstrated that they definitely know what they are doing.  Video quality is crisp and camera work is creative.  Audio quality has no issues and the soundtrack is very intriguing and thought-provoking.  Sets, locations, and props are well-invested in and well-constructed.  The only errors in this production pertain to some small editing issues, but on the whole, this is a top-notch effort that should continually yield great results in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

It’s clear that the Third Brother team wanted to do something different with this movie, and it’s completely fine to create ‘edgy’ content in Christian movies for the purpose of demonstrating true redemption.  However, it’s another matter to jump head-long into a typical secular film script and completely overuse profanity and expletives.  While it’s true that this is realistic for the people portrayed, it doesn’t exactly convey the message that I think the writers are trying to convey here.  The characters are definitely realistic—maybe too realistic—yet the dialogue suffers for creativity.  The circumstances portrayed in this film can definitely be related to by an unfortunate amount of people, yet they are not entirely handled well.  There is too much brooding darkness in this movie with very little redemption.  Even the redemption that is offered seems cheap and just for the sake of tacking it on at the end.  On the whole, this plot is somewhat predictable, and it’s not helped by the free-flowing expletives, yet there is a ton of potential here if it’s honed properly.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Though this cast is made of people not well known in most circles, they do a fine job with what they have been given.  Most of them assume their roles appropriately and deliver their lines adequately.  The only issues to point out here pertain to some extreme emotions that seem to be overplaying a lot.  However, this section contributes to a respectable effort.

Conclusion

The last thing we needed was a cheap Christian movie about happy plastic white people, so at least Folmar and crew steered clear of that mold.  But perhaps in reaction to this caricature, they have gone too far in the opposite direction.  Yet despite this movie’s too-honest raw nature, there is still a lot of potential here that, if used in a healthy and redemptive way, could take the Christian movie field by storm.  If we have honest, raw, edgy films like this one that have a palatable amount of ‘realistic’ content, then Christian film makers can change the world.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

My Son [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Cadon and Jess have made bad choices in their lives, but they have each other and they have Jess’ son to keep them going.  However, in one fell swoop of mistakes a ‘friend’ convinced them into, they lose custody of their little boy to Jess’ parents, whom she is still not speaking to.  Thus, in a moment of desperation, they turn to the same ‘friend’ who got them in trouble for help getting out of it.  Together, they concoct a dangerous scheme to get their son back, but little do they know what God really has planned for them.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

As a severely underfunded production, My Son unfortunately has a lot of issues here.  Camera work is quite shaky, including a lot of odd camera angles, and lighting is strange throughout.  There are too many loud outside sounds that crowd out the audio, as well as a loud soundtrack.  Sets and locations are relatively limited, but the props are good and appropriate.  Some of these production elements improve slightly in the end as the final scenes appear to have more effort behind them.  Yet nonetheless, the editing throughout is an issue.  Basically, this was a very ambitious idea for such a limited budget, but the effort is commendable.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

My Son is a rare instance in which the plot is better than the production, as long as you can look past the production issues.  The writers mean well and are trying their best to portray realistic circumstances and accessible characters.  The suspense plot setup is very intriguing and well-constructed.  Dialogue sometimes isn’t as good as it should be, but for the most part, it is realistic and believable.  As the suspense progresses, the movie actually holds the attention if you are committed to it.  In the end, the ending is well written and realistic.  Since this is such an ambitious idea trapped in a bad production, it would be great to see a remake or at least another suspense plot from these writers.

Acting Quality (1 point)

At the beginning of this film, the acting is too forceful and overly practiced, as well as awkward.  However, it seems like this cast means well and is really trying.  The most interesting thing about the cast members is that they are actually better as suspenseful acting than at regular acting, and thus show improvement at the end, like other elements do.  There is tons of potential here that needs to be brought out in another film.

Conclusion

Despite its obvious flaws, My Son is a surprising and interesting burst onto the movie scene.  It likely will not get as much attention as other films, but it embodies a gold mine of potential this church has in making unique and ambitious Christian films in different genres.  Rarely do you see this much potential in a freshman film from a random church group.  It just goes to show you how trying a different genre and really working on your plot, even if you have poor funding, goes a long way.  They are already one step ahead of other film makers, so we can’t wait to see what they have next.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Forgiven [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jack Kincaid is a no-good drifter in the 1800s Wild West who comes to the town of Fairplay looking for a fresh start so he can turn his life around and leave his troubled past behind.  The problem is nobody trusts him fully and is reluctant to help him, even though he knows about a group of dangerous troublemakers that are riding into town in search of a long-lost gold stash.  Will Jack be able to find redemption from his past in time to save the day?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

This is certainly not a production that was wroth distributing in its current form.  The entire film has a very strange and odd-looking quality about it, perhaps on purpose to create some kind of ‘vintage’ effect, but it doesn’t work at all.  Camera work is fine, but audio quality is deplorable, including obvious overdubbed lines and fake outside sound effects that reflect a lack of real audio equipment.  Also, the soundtrack is quite loud at times.  Sets, locations, and props show effort towards realism, at least.  Yet the editing is the worst as scenes cut back and forth with no sense of direction and the entire presentation is generally disorienting.  In the end, this production needed a lot more work before it was distributed.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Besides being a cheesy western full of laughably stereotypical characters, there is no way to understand what is happening throughout this story.  The subplots are very disjointed and confusing as one things after the next happens without any purpose or point.  At times, Forgiven seems more like a parody of a western film rather than a serious effort.  In addition, the character arcs are so steep that any attempts at redemptive elements are just comedic instead of serious.  Essentially, if this movie was supposed to be interesting or make some kind of different, it most certainly fell short of this goal.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Films in which the creator\director is also the star rarely work out.  Every one of these cast members is way too matter of fact in their line delivery, as if they very much over-rehearsed their lines.  They are also far too dramatic in their emotional delivery, like this is some kind of movie from the 40s or 50s.  But maybe that’s what they were going for.

Conclusion

Though we still need more Christian films in different genres, this is definitely not the way to go about it.  The production is sloppy and strange, the story all over the place and laughable, and the acting downright unprofessional.  Perhaps this creative team meant well, but they need to go back to the drawing board and seek out better consultation in their future projects so that they do not repeat these same mistakes.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points