Grace and Gravity (Movie Review)

Image result for grace and gravity movie

Plot Summary

While on a business trip in the United Kingdom, an American man takes a photography hike only to be shocked by a man waiting on a bridge who intends to jump to his death. The American decides to awkwardly climb up the impossibly tall bridge with no other way to get on it, for he intends to share the Gospel with the British man before he ends it all. However, the American doesn’t know what he’s in for as the two men embark on the longest quasi-philosophical debate involving Bruce Marchiano since the original Encounter film.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Since it has very limited sets, locations, and props, Grace and Gravity doesn’t make any major mistakes in the production category, but it doesn’t make any waves either. Video quality and audio quality are both fine accordingly, yet the soundtrack is very generic. Camera work is also adequate, but the presence of weird technological sound effects and other cheap elements put a drag on things. To cap things off, the editing is very basic and almost non-existent, which essentially gives us an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Did we really need another film that’s basically a long-winded conversation between Bruce Marchiano and another person? It’s bad enough that this movie is full of forced dialogue and long, drawn-out portions, but there’s hardly anything to this so-called plot. It’s intent on kicking the can down the road by wasting time as it grasps for content and produces menial flashbacks that give us little insight into character motive. While there are some slight attempts at talking about real issues, they come off as inadequate and empty. This idea is awkwardly forced to be something it’s not as there are a handful of totally dead scenes, which makes the story very fruitless as it slogs on. Further, the worldview is bit odd, and the ending sequence is highly unusual and unrealistic. In summary, with no characters to work with in a character-based plot, we’re left with a lame attempt to do something (not sure what).

Acting Quality (0 points)

With only two main cast members, they carry the weight of the film. Unfortunately, they fumble the ball often. While Marchiano is slightly better than past roles, his delivery still comes off as overly theatrical and practiced. The acting as a whole is very stilted and cardboard. There are too many scenes of only one or two cast members doing all the talking, and there are some cringe-worthy sequences of painfully forced emotions. In the end, this rounds out a very disappointing effort that had little going for it.

Conclusion

Grace and Gravity really is just another version of The Encounter, just without an obvious Jesus character. It seems like Bruce Marchiano always includes his contract that he needs a certain amount of speaking time in the film, including a hefty imparting of wisdom (see The Encounter 2 and Alison’s Choice). To many audiences, this delivery of content will be very off-putting and appear purposeless. There just isn’t anything substantial for this film to offer beyond half-baked philosophical explorations that do little to relate to the struggles of real people.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Advertisements

Mission Improbable [2016] (Movie Review)

Mission Improbable (2016)

Plot Summary

The lives of several substance abusers and a pastor who lives a luxurious ministry lifestyle suddenly become interconnected as God leads each them down different paths to the same place: a Christian substance abuse rehab. They all have different motives and different reasons for being there, but by the time it’s done, none of them will be the same. However, when each person’s past comes calling, how will they respond?

Production Quality (1 point)

One of the most glaring problems with this production is that it’s over-extended and cannot adequately portray what it’s meant to portray. This is evidenced by very cheap and limited sets, locations, and props, as well as poor lighting throughout. The audio quality, both indoor and outdoor, are also both inadequate. While the video quality is mostly fine, there are a lot of strange camera angles. Also, while the editing is mostly fine, this is overall a very cheap production that really has no place in this era of Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While this film seeks to portray unfortunately realistic circumstances that can be found virtually anywhere in America, it does so in a very tone-deaf manner. Substance abuse is a real and serious issue, but this movie treats it solely like a spiritual issue (there are spiritual components, but not only that) and does so in a very legalistic and unrealistic fashion, such as implying that praying and becoming a Christian immediately cures substance abuse. However, there is a refreshingly honest look at church problems, even if the bad characters are total strawmen, especially the ‘bad’ women. It doesn’t help that all of the dialogue is painfully forced and has a very archaic style and tone about it. As such, the conversations do nothing to build or grow characters even though there are very steep character arcs that come as a result of reading Bible verses, which are also highly unrealistic. In the end, everything is magically fixed when the characters act as the plot wants them to act. Essentially, this is a worthwhile topic to explore in film, but screenwriters need to do so in the context of actual research about and\or experience with substance abuse rather than the total ignorance this film displays.

Acting Quality (0 points)

To top things off, this film contains some of the worst acting of the past few years. This poor quality includes weird scenes of cast members talking to themselves and is most represented by the very awkward and overly-practiced tone of the acting. Many cast members seem self-impressed for no reason and demonstrate tone-deaf emotional and line delivery. Elsewhere, emotions are extremely forced to the point parody. In the end, this film has very little going for it.

Conclusion

Nearly every movie starts off with a good idea. One of the most error-prone areas of Christian film is converting that good idea into a movie that’s worthwhile, high-quality, and accessible by several different audiences. If a film can’t be understood or can’t properly relate to people, there’s really no hope for it. This besetting sin of Christian film is an overall symptom of problems facing the church: American Christians, as a generalization (there are always exceptions), have difficult time understanding real people because they don’t know them very well. Until this changes, Christian film as a whole won’t change on the large scale.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Megan’s Christmas Miracle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Meghan and her father were forced to move to West Virginia when he lost his job, she absolutely hated it.  However, in the future, as she looks back upon this time, she likes how she was able to teach some local girls how to dance and how she was in a Christmas play that year.  She was able to reestablish her relationship with her father, which still affected her as she grew older.

Production Quality (.5 point)

Megan’s Christmas Miracle, though it’s a 2018 production, is one of the cheapest-looking in recent memory.  Although video quality is fine, the camera work is a wild ride that includes bizarre camera angles and roving shots that are dizzying.  Besides this, the limited sets and locations are very cheaply lit, like this was literally filmed in somebody’s extra house, and the props are also lacking.  There’s also weird audio quality with obvious background sounds and barely any soundtrack, and there is no editing to speak of or any substantial transitions between scenes.  This rounds out a very poor production effort for 2018.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It was a monumental struggle to even fabricate anything to write for the plot summary of this film because it’s so wanting for content that it’s sad.  With basically no storyline or plot concept to work with, the characters are extremely empty and cheesy due to flat and uninspiring dialogue.  Other than predictable Christmas concepts and stereotypical small-town and ‘bad teenager’ characters, there is little to sustain this movie’s painful runtime other than drab conversations and riveting activities of daily living (ADL’s).  For a brief moment, some confusing ‘magical’ elements are teased out of left field before they disappear just as soon as they came.  Essentially, as one thing after the next happens with no organization or continuity, there is little to no nope of potential in this ‘story.’

Acting Quality (1 point)

Understandably, a majority of the cast members in this film seem bored and uninterested with the job they’ve been subjected to, and who wouldn’t be with this little amount of lines to work with?  No coaching is evident as lines are half-heartedly delivered and as emotions are flippant.  While some cast members appear to actually care about this film enough to put forth some sort or effort, it’s only enough to keep this section from being zero, which surprisingly makes this area the best of the film.

Conclusion

What exactly is this film going for?  I feel like we ask ourselves this question a lot when reviewing Christian films – especially Christmas ones.  It would be one thing if Megan’s Christmas Miracle was from the early 2000s, but 2018 films are expected to be higher quality than this with the recent upgrades and newfound advantages for independent Christian films, especially in the area of production.  A production this bad is unacceptable in this new era, so any production below average is basically an automatic disqualifier because there’s no more excuses.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Believe: The Misfit Pawn (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Julian is stuck in a job he doesn’t like, so he and his buddy decide to start recording their own songs and doing their own shows.  They get popular locally and gain some ground in the local show business.  Julian meets his new girlfriend at a bar, and she introduces him to a ‘big’ record label producer that puts Julian’s gig on the map.  However, they fall on hard times and Julian is forced to get a day job to support him and his girlfriend after she gets pregnant.  Julian soon finds out the hard way what the show business really expects from him, and he’s not sure if he’s willing to make the hard choice he has to make.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Believe: The Misfit Pawn is a mostly cheap production; it seems like it was filmed in people’s houses and yards.  Camera work is low quality, and video quality is inconsistent.  There are one too many dark scenes, and audio quality is marginal at best.  The ‘original’ soundtrack is vanilla and too loud at times.  As previously mentioned, sets, locations, and props are fairly limited and uncreative.  Finally, the editing is okay, but it’s really nothing to write home about.  Overall, this production is just one of those throwaway pieces that will easily be forgotten.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s very difficult to quantify the true purpose or point of this so-called story.  The plot summary is written as incoherently as the movie is written.  The Christian message is very muted, and a lot of the elements included are just offbeat.  The characters are very empty, and dialogue is extremely uninspiring.  Many of the scenes appear to be filler content, and there are no real attempts to engage the audience in a meaningful way.  As mentioned before, the storyline muddles around without explaining why we should be watching it or what we are supposed to be getting out of it.  The underlying worldview is a bit unusual, and the ending really doesn’t make much sense at all.  In the end, this story is purposeless and not worth your time.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With such a small cast, every little error is more obvious.  While there are some good moments with this cast that keep this section from being zero, there is very little acting coaching evident in this film.  Some lines seem off-the-cuff, and most of the seems appear to be one-takes.  Emotions are average, and this section is basically vanilla and boring.

Conclusion

What is there to do with movies like Believe: The Misfit Pawn?  What does this title even mean?  Why did I watch this movie?  Actually, I watched it because I had some Amazon credits to use up before they expired.  I wanted to check it off the list, so I did.  There’s really no other reason to watch this sort of garbage that’s called a Christian movie.  All we can do now is look forward to the day when movies like this are no longer being put out.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 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

 

The Messenger’s Box (Movie Review)

It’s magical!

Plot Summary

Jake Casper is just a random teenager who stumbles upon a magical box while cleaning out his late grandfather’s attic.  He discovers a magic nail inside that was used to piece the hand of Jesus.  Since it’s Christmastime, Jake decides to go around and heal people with the magical power of the nail, even the most evil bully in town, who’s dying in a hospital bed.  But will Jake and his friends be able to get past the security guards to save him?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Messenger’s Box has plenty of issues, but at least the production is mostly average.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all mostly fine.  However, the soundtrack is generic, and sets, locations, and props are somewhat cheap, even though there is definitely effort here.  Some flashbacks have an odd quality about them, and there are some cheesy special effects.  The most obvious error here pertains to the very abrupt scene chances and transitions, like this film was chopped together in post.  Basically, though there is effort here, it still only comes out as average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This film has one of the dumbest magical Christmas device plots ever.  Everything about it is extremely juvenile and overly dramatic.  Even with all of this, there is still not much content to speak of as not much happens outside of the magical elements and the awkward forced comedy sequences.  Most of the dialogue is very forced and scripted, and a majority of it focuses on the magical plot device and other insignificant asides.  Thus, this creates characters that are all fixated on either the magical ‘thing’ or on the dumbest sidebar topics.  Besides this, they come off as uninspiring and flat rather than accessible and realistic.  Essentially, whoever dreamed up this stupid idea of a film needs to seriously revamp their movie making process.

Acting Quality (0 points)

To match their characters, this cast is very robotic, stiff, wooden, and empty in most of their performances.  Emotions are basically non-existent as everything is either very dramatic or very matter-of-fact.  Line delivery is overly practiced.  Unfortunately, there is very little positive to say about this extremely cheesy film.

Conclusion

Gary Bosek and his team obviously did not think this one through very well.  Using Crystal Creek people as cast members is one thing, but basing your entire plot on a stupid ‘Bible’ magical device in a Christmas context is a completely worn out idea and is so juvenile that it has no place in Christian film.  This is just all wrong as a movie and should have been scrapped from the beginning.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

The Taker’s Crown (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When the legendary King Wiglaf becomes stuck in a time period not his own, he is tasked with finding the Titan thief Tome and procuring the Taker’s Crown before Tome can get to it.  It’s said that whoever holds the Taker’s Crown has immense power, but in order to get to it, Wiglaf must find his old friend the Maverick.  Along the way, he is accosted by the two troubled children of Tome, one of whom he tries to befriend.  Will Wiglaf be able to find the Crown before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a first-time production, The Taker’s Crown is an ambitious project that appears to have bitten off more than it can chew.  Video quality is fine, and the soundtrack is okay, yet the positives are limited to those two elements.  Camera work is much too shaky and there are a lot of weird camera angles.  Audio quality is inconsistent, with some overdubs and overdriven audio.  Sets and locations are fairly limited for the idea that is trying to be conveyed here, and props are downright laughable.  Finally, editing is quite bad as the film is very hard to understand and extremely difficult to follow.  Unfortunately, though a commendable effort was here, a successful follow-through was not.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The Taker’s Crown is intended to be the first in a series, and it’s trying to portray a large-scale fantasy idea.  This basic idea is the only thing that keeps this story from being zero, because while it’s a good idea, the intended epic nature of it does not come across in any way.  It was touched on in the production critique, yet setting this fantasy\sci-fi idea in some random woods, a street corner, somebody’s house, a random field, and a playground does not convey what the writers want to convey.  Besides this, the characters are extremely thin and one-dimensional.  Who are these people and how do they fit into this vague fantasy universe?  What is this universe and how does it work?  Is it an alternate world, a parallel universe, or a time travel concept?  These unanswered questions don’t even touch the fact that the dialogue is ridiculous and the plot progression is forced and predictable.  This film was basically written for the prologue and the epilogue and kills time in between them.  Maybe there’s a great idea in store for this series, but it’s certainly not evident in this installment.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Casting a collection of Crystal Creek Media retreads is not exactly the way to create a winning acting formula.  Tim Kaiser, Jared Withrow, and Tiffany Burns need some serious pointers when it comes to emotions and line delivery.  Elsewhere, this cast is very lacking in direction, though it’s not like they had any lines to work with.  Overall, this movie is a mess and needs a total rework.

Conclusion

We will air on the side of believing that Whiteshore Films has better things in store for this series, even though this is not entirely evident right now.  Wherever this series is going, hopefully it can only get better.  As it is, this film is predominantly a wreck and doesn’t have much going for it.  If this idea is going to succeed in the future, the premise needs to be explained way better, the production needs to be improved, and the cast needs to be revamped.  Perhaps then it will be a worthwhile series.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

A Perfect Chord (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Cadence’s parents have always believed that she has musical talent, especially since they own a record label, but she has never been sure of herself.  However, when she and two of her friends discover that they have an ability to play music together, they decide to pursue this ability secretly.  However, the time comes when they have to reveal their secret if they want to make a difference, so they’ll have to decide what they’re going to do.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a first-time production, A Perfect Chord is mostly average, which is fine for beginners.  Video quality is fine, and camera work is pretty good.  Audio quality is what is should be, but the soundtrack is quite silly.  There is some odd lighting throughout, and sets, locations, and props are slightly limited.  Finally, editing isn’t perfect, but it isn’t horrible either.  Thus, the bottom line is that this is a fine starter production with some definite areas to build off of in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, this plot is as silly as the description suggests.  It lacks any real focus and is really just a collection silly scenes of activities of daily living and forced comedy.  The conflict therein is also very forced and fake.  There are too many montages that stunt character development.  They need further deepening since they are based on awkward dialogue and a bunch of silly high school conversations.  Basically, this story feels like it belongs in a short film rather than in a feature length one.  This idea is much too thin and really has no purpose behind it.  It’s hard to see how the creation of this film was justified.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is amateurish, but they don’t really have much support.  They are too awkward and lackadaisical in their performances.  Line delivery is underwhelming and emotions are not believable.  Also, makeup is all wrong.  In the end, this film has a lot of areas for improvement that should have been worked out before it went to distribution.

Conclusion

It’s likely that Kingdom Sight Studios means well, but their work has a lot of refining to do.  Production is off to a good start, but it needs to be developed further.  They need to determine the purpose behind their plot ideas and clearly communicate this purpose.  Finally, they need to employ some acting coaching to draw out the potential in their cast members.  In the end, time will tell how much improvement this studio undergoes.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Sybil Ludington: The Female Paul Revere (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

During the Colonial era, when the Colonists were restless and ready to be out from under the thumb of the British, Sybil Ludington, along with her family and friends, worked secretly for the independence of the Colonies from the British.  Though it wasn’t always easy and they faced plenty of opposition, in the end, they believe it was worth it to achieve freedom.  Even though she is an unsung hero, the work of Sybil Ludington still affects America today.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Sybil Ludington is clearly a first-time effort with poor funding.  What funding they did receive it seems was spent on the historically accurate props.  Otherwise, the rest of the production falls by the wayside.  Video quality is poor and camera work is quite shaky.  Lighting is terrible in most scenes and the sets and locations are severely limited.  Audio quality is also fairly unprofessional and below standard.  Furthermore, as usual for a fledgling independent film, editing is almost nonexistent.  In the end, though Kicks Flicks usually means well, money was clearly a problem here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Much like its successor, The Light of Freedom, Sybil Ludington highlights an important and intriguing historical story that would be easier to understand if it was presented better.  However, as it is, this film has an extremely boring presentation that plays out like a homeschooler’s play more than a movie.  What’s more is the dialogue is archaic and cumbersome in attempts to be historically authentic or something.  Thus, the characters cannot be related to and it’s impossible to even be interested in this story because of the way it’s laid out.  It’s a shame because this is probably a good story that’s worth telling in some other fashion, like one with more money behind it.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Like other sections, good costuming that reflects the historical period well is the only thing that saves this part from being zero points.  Otherwise, this acting job is somewhat unpleasant, including terrible line delivery and painfully forced emotions.  There is far too much yelling and not enough believability.  Even if you don’t have enough money to fund your production, you can still at least try to have a professional acting performance.

Conclusion

Historical fiction is a tricky and ambitious genre to take on early in one’s film making days.  Though the Burns family has had success in this area, it’s certainly not for everyone.  But even the best of film makers sometimes has a meager beginning, so perhaps we haven’t even seen the best that Kicks Flicks can do.  Maybe things will look up for them in the near future.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Set Free [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Danielle relocates to Pittsburgh after her husband dies, she hopes to find a new life for her and her college-age son.  However, the more she tries to run from her past, the more it catches up with her and finds her.  She must have the courage to tell the truth to her son before it’s too late, but will her friends still accept her after she comes clean?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

As a first-time church-based production, funding was obviously limited for this film, which always has a trickle-down effect.  Video quality is fine, but it is the only bright spot in the production.  Camera work leaves something to be desired, as does audio quality and the soundtrack.  Sets and locations are quite limited, which is somewhat understandable, but props also suffer.  Finally, there is no editing work done in this film as scenes cut and transition often without warning and before they seem like they should be over.  In the end, this is another one of those productions that reflects a lack of proper application, regardless of funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

What is this movie about?  Not even the plot summary above sums it up properly.  Nothing really happens in this odd story until the end when a head-scratching twist is revealed.  There are too many characters in this plot, which makes the constantly changing scenes even more confusing.  The audience never knows where the characters are at any given moment or how much time has actually passed since the last scene.  Thus, there is absolutely no continuity, flow, or purpose in this so-called storyline.  There are some realistic issues and circumstances presented, but all in the wrong ways.  In the end, the twist at the end is just too strange, even though some may be able to relate to it.  This entire story needed a total rewrite.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The acting in this film is actually not as bad as it could be, although there are plenty of amateurish moments.  Emotions are sometimes believable but line delivery is too inconsistent.  Yet these cast members show that they have some potential.

Conclusion

It seems like that this creative team meant well in making this film, even if the delivery is bit misguided.  It’s great to be honest and authentic with the struggles of Christians, but they need to be presented in a way that people can understand, without constant confusion as to what is happening.  Low-budget productions can be forgiven for a time, as long as the film making team can prove that they can craft a creative and unique plot with believable characters.  Otherwise, there is not much point in making a movie.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Beyond Acceptance (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Though they have comfortable lives, the Border family feels like God wants them to adopt a child.  As they look into the process, they are somewhat skeptical but their hearts are stolen by a little boy who they feel needs their help.  They begin the adoption process and bring him into their home, buy they soon discover the terror and violence he conceals inside of himself due to the trauma he has experienced.  Will their family be able to survive this new strain or will they give up?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Though this film is obviously a cheap church production, there is no excuse for the production being this bad.  The only good assets are the clear video quality and lack of poor lighting, but that’s not saying much.  Camera work is very shaky and dizzying and sets are very cheap and limited.  Audio quality is very poor and the soundtrack is too loud.  The most obvious and negative standouts pertain to the horrific editing, which includes terrible transitions and far too many repeated sequences.  The editing is disorienting and creates a lot of confusion for the audience.  Overall, this is a highly disappointing production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though Beyond Acceptance can be commended for attempting to highlight good and pertinent issues pertaining to foster care and adoption that need to be discussed in Christian film, this is the worst possible way to do it.  The plot structure is hopelessly disjointed and confusing, mostly because the story jumps all over the place with no continuity or sense of direction.  Mental health is portrayed very well, however, even though there are too many unrealistic occurrences in this story.  Finally, there are no meaningful or tangible solutions to the problems presented here—only magical and unrealistic solutions are given that automatically fix everything.  Unfortunately, though it’s likely this creative team meant well in this film, the delivery is not there.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

As an amateur cast, these actors and actresses have some work to do.  Again, it seems like they really do mean well, but their emotions are either flat or extreme.  There is too much yelling and screaming.  Line delivery is disjointed, but there are some brief good moments here.  In the end, this cast needed a lot more coaching.

Conclusion

First-time, under-funded productions like this one are often better suited as short films rather than feature-length films because it gives the team better opportunities to focus their limited resources on a smaller scale.  Making a short film at first can give the team experience and help them work out the kinks without having to go through the hassle of making a longer film that will only hurt their reputation.  But perhaps this is only the beginning of something greater at hand.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

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

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (0 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (1 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Hollow [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jordan, a drug runner, decides to try to change his ways, he finds that it is neither easy nor safe to do so.  As the drug supplies try to get him back, they go after his girlfriend and everything he holds dear.  Meanwhile, the two detectives tasked with catching the drug supplier have their own demons to wrestle with.  Will they be able to come to grips with who they are in order to make the difference they need to make?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

For some reason, in their earlier days, PureFlix was committed to distributing and promoting all sorts of very low quality films (see Saving Winston, As I Stand, and Running Inside Out for other examples).  The only good production element of Hollow is video quality.  Otherwise, camera work is very shaky and many scenes are filmed from behind and through objects.  No audio quality is recorded on set except for loud outside sounds and train noises—all of the dialogue is overdubbed.  The soundtrack is also nearly nonexistent.  Sets, locations, and props are very cheap and most of the scenes are poorly lit.  There are far too many montages that waste time, as well as lagging scenes that drag out the runtime.  Basically, this production needed a complete redo before it was ready.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Somewhere in this story are some really interesting ideas and realistic issues that need to be dealt with in Christian films, but this is not the way to present them.  Hollow overall lacks real purpose and struggles to gold the attention.  There are too many confusing and loosely related subplots that rely on coincidences and unrealistic occurrences.  Gritty subjects are portrayed very flippantly and the dialogue is very unusual, thus crafting odd characters.  There is hardly enough content to sustain a full length film, as previously mentioned, so time-wasting tactics such as montages and empty sequences are employed.  The bottom line is that though there are some really interesting ideas in here somewhere, they are covered up by wasted time and amateur presentations.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Like the production and the plot, there is a small amount of good in the acting, but the cast members largely lack coaching and are thus extremely robotic and measured in their line delivery.  Hardly any emotion is shown among them.  This is another disappointing effort.

Conclusion

When films like this one are made, it is clear that someone is pushing just to make a Christian movie about blank.  PureFlix needed a film that fulfilled a certain genre or mold they are trying to copy, so they dialed up a desperate independent film making team to spit out something in a short amount of time.  This is how films like Hollow came to mass distribution.  Quality was thrown out the window in the pursuit of flooding the market.  This is how we have the mess we have today.  But hopefully new film makers are picking up the pieces and reforming the field, however slow it may be.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Bells of Innocence (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When their small plane crashes in a weird little town that appears to be controlled by a Satanic cult, three men try everything they can think of to escape the madness as their townspeople, especially their creepy children.  But they find themselves taken captive by them and saved only by a mysterious man who appears to have power over the evil in the town.  He tells them that he has brought them to the town for a purpose—to drive out the evil and save the children.  Will the men be able to dig deep and find faith in the midst of evil?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As some production elements are fine while others are definitely not, Bells of Innocence is mostly an average production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are fine, even though there are some overused and cheesy sound effects.  The soundtrack is average.  Sets, locations, and props are pedestrian.  There are too many montages and choppy sequences designed to waste time, but by far the worst production element is the use of very stupid and cheap-looking special effects that are supposed to be ‘horror-themed’.  They put a huge drag on the movie and make it seem like a joke.  In short, it feels like this film was just slapped together for the sake of having a horror plot featuring Chuck Norris.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As we have mentioned before, horror is extremely difficult to pull off properly.  It must be done with the right motives and must never be taken lightly.  Bells of Innocence appears to be taking the issue lightly with this very bizarre idea that has a fixation on creepy children.  The premise is extremely juvenile and eye-roll-inducing.  As the writers try very hard to make this a ‘scary’ horror plot, it only comes off as desperate, wacky, and outright ridiculous.  The characters are completely empty and the villains are beyond cheesy.  Dialogue only serves the purpose of dumping information on the audience.  There are too many leaps in logic and time jumps for there to be any shred of sense or understanding of what is happening.  If you were wondering, this is another failed horror effort.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Who knew that there was a movie cast that included David A. R. White, Carey Scott, and Chuck Norris all in one package?  This collection of jokers is simply too much, considering the already absurd horror elements present.  Everything they do is overly dramatic and cardboard, like usual.  There are some other cast members too, but they are mostly irrelevant, like this movie is now.

Conclusion

The White\Scott\Norris collaboration has collectively and independently tried a little bit of everything to sell Christian movies just for the sake of being called Christian.  They dabbled into all kinds of different genres to cover the Christian entertainment market with their products.  It matters little at this point what their actual return was, because the legacy they left in their profit-seeking wake was a laughingstock and a blight on Christian film.  Hopefully, as new film makers are succeeding in the market, we can move past this unfortunate era of movies that produced garbage like Bells of Innocence.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

In Gramps’ Shoes (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ty is a 65-year-old retired grandfather, and he is passionate about running.  He is also passionate about praying for his estranged daughter, whom he has not heard from in nearly twenty years.  Therefore, when he suddenly hears from her one day, he is overjoyed.  She reaches out to him for financial help, so he agrees to move in with her and her teenage children to help be a father figure for them.  However, they are skeptical of Ty at first; will they be able to come around and trust God?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Its small budget aside, In Gramps’ Shoes has an unacceptably poor production.  While video quality is fine, the camera work is too stationary, and audio quality is very static and low quality, especially with the terrible outside sounds.  The soundtrack is very generic and almost non-existent.  Further, the indoor sets are fairly cheap and limited, even though the outdoor locations are okay.  Finally, there is basically no editing present in this production.  Essentially, though this production was relatively simple, it’s still low quality for no good reason.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Basing a movie around an annoyingly perfect Christian protagonist who fixes everything he touches is never a winning formula for a movie, but that’s what In Gramps’ Shoes has done.  This is done through very obvious and forceful dialogue that shoves cheesy messaging down your throat, even though the storyline is very vague and meandering without any clear purpose or direction except to force good-ole-days fundamentalism on you.  The non-Christian characters are total strawmen, and the Christian message is very trite.  Too many sequences of this film are just characters sitting around talking about what their characters are supposed to represent rather than using the dialogue to develop the characters.  At that, this film is far too long to have no substantial content or ideas contained within it.  Thus, it’s basically a complete waste of time.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Full of typical Rossetti cast members, this group acts very robotic and overly practiced a majority of the time.  Some cast members are downright annoying, and there is a lot of poor teen acting throughout.  There are some slightly positive moments that keep this section from being zero, but on the whole, like the rest of this film, it’s all very low quality.

Conclusion

It seems like the only purpose of awful films like this one is to push an unpopular message or personal agenda.  We apparently needed another movie like this, so here it is.  In the more modern era of Christian entertainment, low-quality films like this one are unacceptable and mostly unwelcome, unless they have a really good plot to share, which is certainly not the case with this film.  Thus, In Gramps’ Shoes should be forgotten.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

The Return [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Leah of Nod is a thief and has never known anything else.  she spends her days stealing from unsuspecting villagers.  She is being controlled by the evil Dybbuk and doesn’t think she can get out.  But one day, a huntsman named Yadid comes to town and Leah meets him.  He is unlike any man she has ever met and he treats her different than Dybbuk treats her.  But when Leah is accused of wrongdoing and sentenced to death, who will stand up for her?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

With an obvious low budget, the production of The Return is quite cheap, although it seems like it’s the best the team could have done with what they had.  Camera work and video quality are almost passable, but the audio quality is quite bad.  The soundtrack is too loud at times and is too generic.  Though this allegory relies on the quality of its sets, props, and locations, these elements are very cheap and drag the movie down.  Finally, the editing is very unprofessional, with awkward cuts and transitions that make for a choppy presentation.  In the end, since this genre required a more substantial budget, it might have been a better idea to not try to force it to happen with limited resources.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Allegories are always interesting, and it’s refreshing to have a movie from a different genre, but The Return is somewhat simplistic and even childish at times.  The scope and premise are very limited and there are far too few characters.  The small number of characters only highlights the fact that the dialogue is extremely empty and cheesy.  There are too many allegorical concepts that are isolating and need better explanation.  These ideas also need further expansion and development in order to be more substantial.  They are not effective because they are too shallow, thus rendering the allegory almost pointless.  The ending is also confusing and isolating.  In the end, The Return is a nice idea but is greatly short-sighted and underdeveloped.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

While is some potential in this cast, they seem quite amateurish and need further coaching.  It seems like they mean well, but they are misguided.  There are too many awkward moments and emotions.  Line delivery random.  Overall, this cast definitely would have benefitted from substantial coaching.

Conclusion

The Return is a half-idea that needed a lot more deepening before it was allowed to go into production.  With a very limited budget and an incomplete concept, more time needed to be given to this project before it was forced into creation.  Allegorical films can be very powerful tools if used properly, but without careful planning, like in the case of The Return, it can become a big disappointment.  There is absolutely a place for this type of film in the Christian entertainment industry, but it must be done properly.  Perhaps in the future, this will happen.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

The Wager [2007] (Movie Review)

Creepy……..

Plot Summary

Michael Steele, a major movie star, slowly finds his life changing and being turned upside down as he tries to live the way he feels a Christian should live.  Nothing seems to work out and things only seem to get harder as he tries more to do what Jesus would do.  As his friends and coworkers call him crazy and shake their heads at what he is trying to do, Michael Steele finds himself wavering at times.  Will God really help him endure what he is going through?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

If one good thing can be said for this unusual production, it’s that time and money were definitely spent on the sets, locations, and props.  However, not much else positive can be highlighted.  Camera work is quite shaky and video quality is quite grainy.  The soundtrack is bad enough without forcing us to listen to Randy Travis attempt to sing.  Also, there are a number of annoyingly bizzare special effects throughout, including constant flashing that seems to be unfriendly to the epileptic.  Finally, editing is poorly done, thus leaving the film too choppy and punctuated.  In the end, to be a film of this profile, production should have been far better than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Based on a novel by Bill Myers, this really is not the best book plot that could have been chosen to be placed on the big screen.  The plot structure is quite unusual and includes confusing flashbacks that don’t serve much purpose.  There is not real plot content as the story hops from one thing to the next.  The characters therein are very one-dimensional.  Unfortunately, this includes a strawman portrayal of non-Christian characters and a squeaky clean portrayal of Christian characters.  While there is some semblance of a good message lost in translation, all the problems of this story are fixed far too easily, thus making it all seem very trite and plastic.  In short, this movie was written for a vague idea that never materialized.

Acting Quality (1 point)

After watching The Wager, one has to wonder why Randy Travis is ever cast in a movie.  What exactly good acting qualities does he bring to the table.  But hey, on the bright side, this film contains Candace Cameron Bure’s best role to date, surprisingly enough.  Other cast members, such as Nancy Stafford, are not all that bad, but there is a lot of negative here that detracts from the positive—mostly pertaining to Randy Travis.

Conclusion

What is to be accomplished by these sorts of films?  With half-efforts evident in all three categories, what did the creators expect?  Do people expect that they can just barely try to put a movie together and then it will just be fine since it’s a Christian movie?  Thankfully, we are seeing less and less of these types of films today, so films like The Wager can provide a major lesson to today’s film makers: ‘big name’ cast members and writers do not automatically make for a great movie.  Great Christian movies take true effort and care and are unfortunately hard to come by.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

So Help Us God [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1 point)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (.5 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Apocalypse 3: Tribulation (Movie Review)

Creepers…

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1 point)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (.5 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Divine Will [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (0 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out 10 points

 

 

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

 

Milltown Pride (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Will Wright loves to play baseball, even if it means playing with the ‘poor kids’.  Even though this gets him in trouble with his father, Will never gives up on his dream to play baseball.  As he grows older, he joins the local mill league along with his ‘country’ childhood friends.  But when he gets discovered by a scout, Will finds himself following the wrong crowd and doing things that go against the religion he was taught by his parents.  Will he ever find his way back to the religion he grew up in?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For Bob Jones University and Unusual Films, this is a respectable production.  The camera work and video quality are pretty good, and the audio quality is okay, although the soundtrack is very annoying.  Sets and locations are mostly historically authentic and fairly diverse, though since this is supposed to be an epic, there really should have been more.  Also, there is far too much content that is not very useful and there are too many wasted scenes.  Epics are supposed to concisely portray a period of a character’s life or the lives of a group of characters.  This is definitely hard to do, but the Unusual Films crew shouldn’t have attempted this genre if they weren’t going to follow through.  But all in all, this is an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The entire premise of Milltown Pride is based on a strange and over-the-top class warfare conflict between white people, and the writers do not appear to completely condemn looking down on poor people.  Besides this, this films contains the usual fundamentalist and isolationist religious principles that are baked into the fiber of Bob Jones University, including creating a ‘worldly’ strawman out of sports.  As previously mentioned, everything in this failed epic is dragged out and plenty of time is wasted on endless baseball sequences and juvenile conversations.  The plot barely holds the attention as it follows a predictable progression with no twists and turns.  The characters therein are plastic and turn people off to whatever Christian message this movie is trying to convey.  In short, while this could have been interesting, it just wasn’t.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Unusual Films can’t seem to get away from casting awkward white people in their movies.  This cast is very wooden and lacks proper coaching.  Their emotions seem fake and their line delivery is either unsure or forced.  This rounds out a mostly disappointing effort.

Conclusion

We lost count of the time a character says ‘town boy’ in this movie—it got old really fast.  We are also confident that the Unusual Films crew once again just wanted another outlet to propagate their fundamentalist worldview—not that many people are paying any attention.  It’s films like this one that further turn people off to the concept of Christian movies because this is what too many people think Christians are: isolated, prejudiced, backwards, fundamentalist, patriarchal white people.  If we ever needed a major trend reversal, it’s now.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Like a Country Song (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jake Reeson is an aspirational country artist trying to find ‘the big break’ in Nashville.  He’s running from a broken family life and checkered past, always thinking that the next gig and the next drink are the answer to his problems.  However, when he begins to rediscover loved ones from his past that he thought he left behind, the emptiness of his life is finally exposed and he is left dazed and confused.  The only way forward is to determine what he’s going to do with the Christian faith some of his loved ones are trying to introduce him to.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Like a Country Song, in keeping with other Skipstone productions, is a real mess that really could have been something.  The video quality is clear, but the camera work is shaky.  The sets and locations are pretty good, but they could be better.  This creative team usually prides themselves in creating innovative soundtracks, and they usually do.  In some parts, this soundtrack is quite interesting, but it other parts, it feels shoved down your throat.  The live music element is interesting but not used properly, including the stupid title track.  Sometimes artistic elements become too abstract and isolate the viewer.  Also, editing is very much absent from this film as long staring scenes are allowed to stay and many points are understated.  In short, this was a production that had a lot going for it but never found the mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This film is basically an incomplete idea.  Focusing on behavioral and family issues is commendable, but not when the characters are underdeveloped and empty.  We cannot appreciate the potentially meaningful struggles these characters experience because we cannot connect with them as real people.  There is far too much melodrama and not enough redemption.  Issues are resolved too easily with no real explanation as to how they were resolved.  The little dialogue that is in this film is filled with information dumps and clichés.  The timeline of the story jumps all around with no real explanation.  On the positive side, there are some slightly creative albeit unfinished spiritual elements in the storyline.  But this does not make up for the other issues, especially the very confusing ending.  In the end, any meaning that could be derived from this plot is forced upon you and is not conveyed in a redemptive way.  It’s just another wasted idea.

Acting Quality (0 points)

In an attempt to build a ‘star-studded’ cast, the production team struck out on quality.  For starters, all the makeup jobs are horrible.  Cast members either exhibit extreme over the top emotion or monotone nothingness.  Too many lines are mumbled.  Billy Ray Cyrus really never needs to be cast in the film, as he gives off the appearance of druggie the entire time.  Joel Smallbone constantly trying to mask his Australian accent is also annoying and unnecessary.  There is really nothing good to highlight here.

Conclusion

Sigh.  We have to wonder why this film was not cut or reworked during the storyboard process, if there was one.  All we can figure is that they got these ‘big name’ cast members to agree to a vague idea and then ‘had’ to go with it for the sake of making another Christian movie.  Redemption plots have huge amounts of potential, as do movies involving original soundtracks.  However, these concepts in and of themselves are not enough to carry a film.  You need more than this.  The day Christian movie makers learn this for good is the day that the entertainment world is finally turned on its ear.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Left Behind 2: Tribulation Force [2002] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

With the world still reeling from the Rapture, those left behind who became Christians band together to form what they call a Tribulation Force to stand against the forces of evil.  Their leader, Bruce, encourages each of them to not hide from the new evil world but to find a way to reach other for Christ in it.  Rayford struggles with a decision to pilot the plane of Nicolae Carpathia, the suspected antichrist.  Buck Williams chases down a story regarding a messianic prophecy expert and two mysterious men at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.  In the strange new world they live in, they also discover everyday struggles and the realization that following Jesus is no longer easy.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The second installment of the original Left Behind series is a low point.  While video quality and camera work are okay, there are a host of other production errors.  Special effects are cheesy, especially when it comes to action scenes.  Many scenes have very poor lighting.  The sets and locations are pretty good, but they are littered with cheap looking props.  The soundtrack is pedestrian.  Furthermore, the editing is very sub-par and fails to cut down quite a few long and drawn out scenes that drain the viewer’s attention span.  Essentially, not much effort was put into this creation.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Once again, for an apocalyptic thriller, there’s not much apocalyptic or thrilling about Tribulation Force.  The film takes a very melancholy tone, choosing to spend time on silly conflicts like lover’s spats and peripheral character issues.  There is little central focus as the plot meanders from job decisions to church services to turning the church into a hospital to chasing leads in the Middle East.  There is also not enough suspense or plot twists as the monotone dialogue centers on theological discussions and information dumps.  There are attempts at twists and psychological\spiritual elements, but they fall flat.  There are too many one-dimensional characters that are juggled and we can’t really get to know any of them.  Like its predecessor, Tribulation Force just gets ready for the inevitable next film without giving the viewer any reason to watch it except for the book series popularity.  The actual end of the plot is quite cheesy and non-suspenseful.  In short, if you missed this film, you didn’t miss much.

Acting Quality (1 point)

At least they returned all the same cast members.  I hate it when movie franchises try to change out actors and actresses and pretend you didn’t notice.  There is slight improvement among this cast and Kirk Cameron delivers arguably one of his best career acting performances.  My how time has flown.  This cast could have actually been great with better coaching.  Alas, what could have been.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, John Patus and company elected to follow the standard Hollywood path of bringing a popular book franchise to the big screen and relied on the series’ popularity to carry it.  There is little reason for this film to even exist except for the fact that it needed to for the series to continue.  If you skipped to the third film, you didn’t miss anything in this one.  This is the central problem to movie sagas: each one needs to be a good movie by itself without the other ones holding it up.  There are few who have gotten this right.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Left Behind [2000] (Movie Review)

Kirk Cameron, the early years
Kirk Cameron, the early years

Plot Summary

In an instant, millions vanish all around the world, causing the planet to descend into chaos as planes go down, cars drive into buildings, and unrest erupts everywhere.  Pilot Rayford Steele finds nearly half of his plane’s manifest (haha) missing.  Reporter Buck Williams is on the flight at the time and believes it has something to do with the vast globalist conspiracy he has uncovered.  As order dissipates around the globe and as many theories are posited as to what happened to those who disappeared, those still remaining look for a world leader who can bring global peace to the chaos.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a late 90s\early 2000s production, the original Left Behind film has many of the marks of this era of filmmaking.  Opening credits sequences were common back then, but they weren’t ever justified.  The video quality and camera work are fairly well produced.  However, action scenes are not filmed or produced very well and include poorly crafted CGI and other special effects.  Kirk Cameron provides some slight yet unwanted narration throughout the film.  Elsewhere, location subtitles from JAG are awkwardly inserted and the soundtrack is cheap.  Finally, the editing is pretty good, but as will be discussed next, there is too much content to cover and not enough continuity.  In short, this ‘classic’ Christian film has some good quality, but not enough.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Based on the blockbuster apocalyptic fiction series by popular authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, the original Left Behind film is not without its plot errors.  The premise is trumped up, lacking a touch of realism, but this may get a pass since it was based on the international politics of 15+ years ago.  The movie is focused on big world-changing issues, but they come off as simplistic and not groundbreaking enough.  The creators perhaps took on more than they could handle as many subplots are juggled throughout.  While it’s commendable for this early film to take on a new genre in Christian film (apocalyptic), the plot lacks the intrigue necessary to make it great.  For example, there are too many slow and melodramatic scenes—the storyline is anti-climactic and contains to many convenient occurrences.  The dialogue is full of information dumps that overemphasize apocalyptic elements.  This builds empty characters that are swept along by the plot and are thrown together for no particular reason.  On a positive note, the climax scene at the end is slightly interesting and well-crafted.  But overall, this first installment spends too much time getting ready for the next film and not enough time building the characters and a realistic apocalyptic landscape.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Apocalyptic action movies require dynamic acting, but this cast lacks this quality.  Line delivery is stiff and not engaging.  Emotions are overdone and too dramatic.  Kirk Cameron is a better actor than he is of late, but that’s not saying much.  In short, there’s not enough positive here.

Conclusion

This was definitely a groundbreaking Christian film that brought a popular Christian novel series to the big screen.  It was a hit, since the Christian market was starved for quality.  However, this does not mean it was a great film.  It had a lot of good ideas behind it, but not enough quality to back them up.  They had an amazing budget for the time, but it seems like it was mostly squandered.  Needless to say, the old is just marginally better than the new.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Caged No More (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Aggie never thought it would turn out this way.  She had always cared for Elle and Skye, the daughters of the family whose house she cleaned.  But when they disappear along with their father, Aggie feels like she has to care for the distraught mother left behind.  However, when the mother commits suicide, a string of events are set into motion that alert Aggie to sinister activity that Elle and Skye might be caught up in.  Therefore, she takes a leap of faith to get the help she needs in order to get her girls back.  As the journey takes her across two continents, Aggie clings to faith in God and to the hope that she will find her girls again.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

It seems like the creators of Caged No More had good intentions, but not the resources to pull it off properly.  They likely bit off a larger portion than they could chew.  At least the video quality is clear, which is something most new Christian movies are finally getting right.  The audio quality is passable.  The camera work is okay; sometimes it tries to be too ‘dramatic’ and it comes off wrong.  However, the lighting is very inconsistent.  Some scenes are very dark, seemingly on purpose, but it doesn’t make any sense.  What’s more, the sets are too limited for this scope of a plot.  The surroundings are fairly realistic but sometimes seem empty.  Speaking of scope, the editing of this film is deplorable.  As will be discussed next, Caged No More is a collection of spliced together sequences forced to fit together.  In short, while the effort is applaudable, the delivery is frustrating to watch.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Caged No More is built on a very choppy plot that is patched together with constant narration that either reminds us what just happened or explains something that happened off screen.  There is no coherence between subplots, and the one interesting subplot is wasted and underdeveloped.  The storyline contains too many leaps in logic and is based far too much on coincidences and happenchance.  The characters are thin and empty, crafted with stiff and cardboard dialogue.  It’s really a shame that this review has to be so negative, because the genre this film is trying to break into is interesting.  The idea behind this film is quite interesting, but it is very much wasted potential.  Between the vague ending and the rushed plot, this film felt like it was just speeding to the sequel, but it gave us nothing to be interested in for in the sequel.  At this rate, there is little purpose in creating a sequel; money would be better spent on a remake.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

These cast members seem like they mean well, but they have been thrown into the mix with little to no coaching at all.  Emotions are very overdone and not believable.  Line delivery is forced and awkward.  Kevin Sorbo playing two different characters just doesn’t work at all.  Christian ‘celebrities’ are shoehorned into the cast only for the sake of having their name on it.  In short, there is some potential here, but it is not tapped.

Conclusion

Caged No More is a sad production in many ways.  It really could have been a great genre-breaking work based on an important topic, but it fell very short of the mark.  It pretends to be something bigger than it is.  Buried inside of it are good ideas, but they will likely be wasted as this movie is forgotten over time.  We desperately need different genres of Christian\inspirational films, but this is not the way to go about it.  Human trafficking is a highly important topic that needs to be exposed, but this isn’t the way.  I hope a lesson can be learned here that will make a difference.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

A Matter of Faith (Movie Review)

Yes, this really did happen in this movie

Plot Summary

When Rachel Whitaker heads off to a ‘secular’ university to pursue a degree in pharmacology, she is immediately met with a challenge to her Christian faith as a biology professor informs the class that human life evolved from apes.  Though she wavers in her convictions, her father quickly discovers her dilemma and confronts the professor, only to have the professor challenge him to a university debate on the issue of creationism versus evolution.  As Rachel tries to talk her father out of the debate, he finds support from an unlikely ally as he digs deeper into the intrigue surrounding the professor.  In the end, which side will triumph?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

For its many faults, at least A Matter of Faith scored one point for production quality.  This is awarded for clear video quality and pretty good camera work.  However, this is where the positivity ends.  Audio quality is okay throughout, but some scenes are louder than others.  The sets and locations are pathetic and scream low budget.  The surroundings feel very plastic, like the characters are living in a textbook suburban city with no feeling at all.  The soundtrack is glaringly amateurish.  Finally, the editing is deplorable, just splicing a bunch of random scenes together that we’re supposed to believe are related in some way.  Unfortunately, this isn’t where the negativity ends.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Haven’t we had enough of the plot where the student is singled out for their faith by an atheist professor, especially with allegations of copying flying around?  A Matter of Faith seems to go out of its way to create a false dichotomy between ‘creationism’ and ‘evolution’ and throws ‘science’ around like a Frisbee.  The subtle message in the title seems to suggest that the creators don’t care about facts, just about destroying the atheist viewpoint at all costs.  Don’t get me wrong—there’s plenty of problems with ‘evolution’ and we need a meaningful dialogue on this topic, but this film only insults people who oppose its worldview and attempts to scare those who might agree with it.  Besides the philosophical concerns, there are many other problems wrong with this plot, which is actually just a collection of disjointed and unrelated snippets and scenes, mostly infused with an out of touch portrayal of life at a ‘secular’ university.  The storyline does not flow at all as it hops from one thing to the next.  The characters therein are highly stereotypical of a fundamentalist Christian worldview, depicting a controlling father figure, a wallflower mother, a confused younger woman, a heroic younger man, ‘bad boys’, and that evil atheist professor—basically the cast of Princess Cut on a college campus.  The premise of the film is trumped up and makes a strawman of the atheist.  However, the one thing that keeps this plot from going in the tank is a slightly interesting character concept that is wasted by the overbearing ‘plot’.  But in short, A Matter of Faith is a mess that doesn’t even seem to try to be discreet or polite to those who oppose its viewpoint.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This film has accomplished a rare feat.  Whereas many independent Christian films are notorious casting actors and actresses without giving them any coaching, the cast of A Matter of Faith seems to be coached too much.  This is evident in a general sense of over-acting, such as overdone enunciation of words and overly practiced body language.  Cast members say their lines like they’re reading cue cards for a public service announcement.  In an attempt to avoid glaring errors, the Christiano crew actually did not come out any better by turning their cast members into robots.

Conclusion

Did the Christiano brothers actually expect to convert anyone to their viewpoint with this film?  Is asking someone who believes in evolution if any of their family ancestors looked like apes (yes, that’s in there) truly a productive tactic to use?  Is attacking psychology out of left field a winning strategy?  We find it hard to believe that A Matter of Faith will even grow any Christians in their faith, as many are still confused as to what the real dichotomy between Biblical creationism and Darwinism (the truly dangerous philosophy) is.  Creating a strawman out of ‘evolution’ is counter-productive and confuses people.  Real people cannot relate to the events of this film, so it is likely that it will do nothing more than further fuel the fire of contempt between fundamentalist Christians and atheists.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

What Would Jesus Do? The Journey Continues (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

As the mysterious drifter comes to another small town, he encounters another pastor who desperately wants to change the world around him but cannot seem to assemble the team he needs.  As he takes his brother in, who is freshly out of prison, the pastor seeks to do good to those around him and to repair the broken church bell he inherited.  He also comes into contact with a group of troubled teens who seem intent on making everyone around them miserable.  But what they will all discover is that there is more to everyone’s story than other realize, and that all Christians should act as Jesus would act.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

If it’s any consolation, the camera work is better in The Journey Continues.  However, the video quality has not improved, and there are many scenes in which lighting is a major problem.  Audio quality is inconsistent and the soundtrack is as silly as usual.  The sets and locations are okay and slightly more realistic than in the first film, but they still carry an amateur quality.  In a similar vein, the editing is not glaringly horrible, but it’s not particularly professional either.  Scenes are sometimes cut off abruptly while other scenes seem to drag on too long.  In short, the production of The Journey Continues does not commit egregious errors, but it also does nothing to promote professionalism.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

In many ways, The Journey Continues is just a redux of the first WWJD film, just with fewer characters.  John Schneider is still a drifter who spouts wisdom to those in need of it.  There’s a different struggling pastor who wants to make a difference in his city.  There’s other troublemaking characters who change their ways in the end.  The Journey Continues is slightly more concise in its delivery, but still not very compelling.  The premise is less absurd and the ideas are less obvious, but that doesn’t make it an interesting plot.  The characters are slightly accessible and not so outrageously stereotypical, but this doesn’t make the movie a winner.  Dialogue is sometimes strained, like the writers are searching for something interesting to have the characters say.  The issues presented are smile-worthy, but not terribly compelling.  One particular subplot is intriguing and keeps this portion from being zero points; it would have been nice to see this subplot expanded upon and given more thought.  Overall, the plot feels more down to earth than the first installment, but it’s still not very watchable.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

In the first film, it was John Schneider and a bunch of poorly coached amateur actors and actresses.  In the second film, it’s John Schneider and some slightly better coached actors and actresses.  However, the same issues as before tend to trip them up: strained line delivery and either muted or overdone emotional delivery.  There is some better acting than not that keeps the score above water, but once again, there is just not much good to say here.

Conclusion

There really isn’t that much to work with here.  The Journey Continues feels like a sequel for the sake of sequels.  It would be one thing if this were the first movie in the series, but since it’s boring and empty compared to laughable, it easily gets lost in the shuffle and really comes out no better for it.  Whatever the WWJD Trilogy is trying to accomplish is beyond us, but it certainly does plenty to further hurt the name of Christian film.  When it boils down to it, there is really no purpose to either of the first two films in this trilogy—unfortunately, neither one is going to reach anyone, Christian or non-Christian, due to low quality.  Wouldn’t it have been better to, instead of make three films, pool financial resources to make one truly great film that could have made a lasting difference?  These are the types of questions Christian film makers need to ask themselves before charging ahead with more low quality films that waste everyone’s time.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Me Again (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Richie Chaplin is a mess.  He’s struggling to convey meaning in his pastoral ministry.  His wife has separate from him due to his depression and sleepwalking, taking their three children with her.  His two younger children don’t even know who he is.  His older daughter is messing around with a boy.  Basically, Richie doesn’t want to be himself anymore.  He wants somebody else’s life because his life stinks.  He’s forgotten the original purpose God created him for, so he’s about to embark on a wild journey outside of his control to remind him why he is living the life he is living.  In the end, he will have to decide whether or not he likes the life God has given him or if he is going to make one of the biggest mistakes of his life.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

To their credit, at least PureFlix invested in better camera quality than usual for this film.  The sound quality is also fine, but these are the only positive aspects of the production of Me Again.  Throughout this zany drug trip into the creative faculties of David A. R. White and Tommy Blaze, the camera angles can get dizzying, confusing, and downright amateurish in their attempt to be dramatic or comedic.  Cheesy horror effects are inserted randomly and out of context.  Low-quality special effects are overused and invasive.  The surroundings are painfully obviously reused from Marriage Retreat, suggesting that this movie was borne out of that film’s B-rolls.  Finally, all editing sense is thrown out the window as the plot tosses hither and fro with no system or consistency, like they’re just throwing stuff up against the wall to see what happens.  Overall, Me Again feels like an experimental film that either accidentally got released or was released to try to glean desperately needed funds.  Either way, it doesn’t work.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Few screenwriters venture to create a psychological comedy, and Me Again may stand as a testament as to why.  The plot of this film is extremely hard to nail down.  After watching an unusual sequence on television two nights in a row, David A. R. White is suddenly transported into an alternate universe in which he gets to become a random rich guy, a model he saw on TV, a goldfish (?!?!), an infant, a housemaid, the teenage boy trying to date his daughter, and finally his own wife.  The only real explanations that are offered for this potentially interesting psychological journey are vague and trite inspirational quotes from an offbeat angel character he should have already known about (more on that shortly).  The leaps from one impersonation to the next are not only painfully horrible at trying to be funny, but also leave no room for real character development.  The dialogue is horrifically childish and often feels adlibbed and impromptu.  Yet somewhere in the midst of histrionic displays from A. R. White, including a fake (or not) heart attack, a purposeful makeup disaster, voiceovers for a goldfish and an infant, generally idiotic behavior, self-parodies, and an epic conversation with himself in the alternate universe (perhaps his acting dream), there is some interesting meaning hidden here.  If someone was able to ‘walk in someone else’s shoes’, then they would view life a lot differently.  But this potential meaning is covered up due to time wasted on downright stupidity.  This goes without saying that, in keeping with usual White themes, everything is too black and white.  ‘Good’ characters are obviously perfect and wise while ‘bad’ characters are complete over the top strawmen, bringing more disgrace to how people think Christians view ‘worldly’ people.  Also, solutions to problem are far too easy, trite, and shallow, and offer no real help for people struggling with the real issues presented.

But perhaps the worst element of this entire plot is found in the unusual sepia tone flashback prologue and epilogue.  It’s so devastating that it warrants a Box Office Revolution first: a separate paragraph of discussion.  The prologue and epilogue are presumably supposed to depict Richie and his wife as childhood sweethearts drinking honeysuckle tea (whatever that is).  The epilogue completely undermines the purpose of the plot and suggests that it’s all one big joke.  Either that or PureFlix is full of incompetence (probably a little of both).  Richie’s wife, as a girl, tells him that she knows they’ll be married one day because the specific angel he later sees on television and has a conversation with in the midst of his psychological adventure told her so.  If this is the case, then he should have known what was happening when he recognized the name of the angel.  Another alternative possibility is that the entire middle of the movie is just part of the girl’s dream, which suggests that the entire movie is useless.  Whatever the case is, this plot is so slipshod and incompetent that we can’t make heads or tails of it.  All we know is that it’s an experience we’ll both never forget and never wish to repeat.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As usual, the Whites and their comrades have no restraint or direction in their acting but are content to blurt out lines in ‘funny’ fashions and lazily act their way through another cheap movie full of one-take scenes and adlib behavior.  No emotional meaning can be felt here because the acting is so absurd, especially David A. R. White’s zany impersonations of other characters and Tommy Blaze’s generally bizarre behavior.  In short, another zero point acting job is business as usual for PureFlix.

Conclusion

If anything was accomplished through this unique experience, it was that a movie like this has never been made before and should never be made again.  Unfortunately, any attempt at deeper meaning is so shallow that’s easily washed over with a tide of absurdity.  Many elements of this movie seem to suggest that the Whites and company have no grasp on the real world, as they treat important issues too lightly and portray people has completely good or completely bad.  It seems like the only purpose of Me Again is to make fun of everything, including themselves, and to waste another good idea.  The one merit PureFlix has is an acceptance of creating different types of movies, but in most cases, like this one, they ruin the reputation of Christian movies in unique genres.  This is not to mention the fact that Me Again is just another film that makes the name ‘Christian film’ more of a laughingstock.  At some point, the creation of this type of nonsense must end and Christian filmmakers must get serious about generating quality content if we are ever going to make a true difference.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

The Bridge, Part 1 [2015] (Movie Review)

brge3

brge2

Plot Summary

Following a tragic personal loss, Charlie and Donna Barton are driven to pursue their dream: owning and operating a bed and breakfast.  They lease a beautiful property and begin renovating it and open it for business, calling it The Bridge.  They seek to make personal connections with their customers through hospitality and real books.  The Bartons are able to see many personal stories unfold, including the developing love between Molly Callens and Ryan Kelly.  Though Molly and Ryan are from very different worlds, they find common ground in making future goals and in discovering their true purposes in life.  As they grow closer together, little do they know that their relationship is about to be tested to its fullest.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Hallmark is usually known for their high production quality, but corners were obviously cut in The Bridge, Part 1.  For starters, there is far too much soft lens camera used, like they are trying to cover up things.  This only lends to the overall plastic feel of the film.  However, there is some good camera work that mostly saves the production from being horrible.  The sets are severely limited, only showing The Bridge over and over again, a couple of house and outside scenes, and that old truck.  The editing is very confusing, dropping viewers in the middle of circumstances with no explanation.  The 90 minutes of runtime are very poorly utilized.  The Bridge also makes use of Hallmark’s most annoyingly loud soundtrack.  In short, this film was obviously thrown together just for the sake of making it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The Bridge is not up to par with a typical Karen Kingsbury plot, and it can be understood why, since the movie departs from the original book concepts.  In this forced two-part movie, there is far too much repetition.  With 90 minutes to work with, the characters should be very deep and believable.  They are not.  Rather than being authentic, they are swept along by the plot without any control over their circumstances.  They make unexplained decisions, such as poor communication at convenient times, and are affected by coincidences just to extend the plot.  Besides this, the characters have a strange obsession with The Bridge and the Bartons have an unexplained perceptiveness.  The Christian message is watered down and replaced with trite Christmas superstitions and a crusade against ‘downloads’.  The only consolation in Part 1 is that there is a small amount of potential in the plot concept, yet it is squandered.  The end makes no sense and is anti-climactic, thus making this entire movie a waste of time.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Hallmark has coached some infamous casts before, but this collection takes the cake.  Filled with overly syrupy happiness, the actors and actresses seem like they are snorting helium.  With constant overdone smiling, they robotically deliver their lines with no emotion.  This is not to mention the very amateurish makeup jobs.  There is really nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

We maintain that Hallmark contacted popular Christian author Karen Kingsbury and instructed her to write a plot that closely follows the mindless romance storyline they are so deeply obsessed with.  Hallmark essentially used Kingsbury’s popularity among Christians to spin out another two-part movie about their typical themes.  They are obviously convinced that their audience constantly wants to see mindless romances time and again.  This movie was forced to be two parts, thus totaling up three hours of runtime, which was totally washed down the drain.  Karen Kingsbury is not at fault here—this is just another typical Hallmark disaster.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Love Takes Wing (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Following the tragic death of her husband, Belinda Simpson travels to a small town in Missouri to both visit her medical school friend and to become the town’s doctor.  However, the townspeople do not know what to think about having a woman doctor.  Also, Belinda discovers that the town is currently embroiled in a cholera epidemic that they cannot seem to control.  Teaming up with a local blacksmith she might be falling for, Belinda also feels compassion for an orphan girl who reminds her of herself at that age.  In the face of adversity, Belinda must stand up and fight for what she believes in.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

With an entirely different production team, the Love Comes Softly saga takes a different turn and loses its original intent to put a good face on poorly constructed plots.  There is a significant drop in production quality, with barely average video quality, unprofessional camera work, poor lighting, and inconsistent sound quality.  Props and costuming become obviously cheap in Love Takes Wing.  Historical authenticity hovers around the same level it has been throughout the latter half of the franchise.  The only thing that keeps the production from being terrible is the okay editing and the fact that the whole thing could really be worse.  At this point, with the complete departure of Michael Landon Jr., it is extremely obvious that Hallmark is just fulfilling a contract or some type of commitment to force movies bearing titles of Janette Oke books to happen.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It has been stressed throughout this series of reviews that Hallmark and company took great creative license with Oke’s original plots, but Love Takes Wing hits a new low by replicating the basic plot structure of Love’s Unending Legacy.  This structure is as follows: the female lead’s husband from the previous film dies between movies, prompting the female lead to move to a different town, where she finds a widespread conflict to solve with a new broken male lead she will marry in the end after an empty and meaningless courtship.  Also, the female lead adopts an orphan girl.  At this point, it’s painfully obvious that Hallmark is addicted to itself and to its obsession for creating empty romances and courtships that inevitably end in a ‘fairytale’ wedding before the audience can even determine whether or not their basically empty marriage will even last (essentially, that’s the state of marriage in America).  But I digress.  In short, there’s really nothing else to discuss here—overtly copied plots get automatic zero points, especially when it’s contained within the same movie saga.

Acting Quality (1 point)

On a more positive note, the acting quality slighting improves in this installment.  The costuming and makeup is not so extravagant.  Dale Midkiff’s absence is refreshing.  However, there are still obvious problems, such as the poor Belinda replacement.  If you’re going to replace an actress, at least try to keep some measure of continuity so the audience doesn’t have to guess who’s who.  Overall, the acting isn’t really that great in Takes Wing, which warrants another low score.

Conclusion

It should be noted that avid Love Comes Softly didn’t even fully enjoy Love Takes Wing.  Hallmark apparently thinks people want to see the same exact plot over and over again.  In our opinion, production companies should think better of their audiences and not dumb entertainment down to such levels.  As the Love Comes Softly series sputters to an end, we offer this advice to Christian film-makers: please, please, please be original with your plots.  God has given us creativity, let’s use it wisely.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

The Ultimate Life (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jason Stevens has inherited his grandfather’s massive fortune, but he has lost his way in life.  He is successful at putting the money to good use helping others, but he seems to never have any time for his longtime girlfriend Alexia, who he does not realize has plans of her own.  On top of this, Jason’s family is suing him for the family fortune.  When he wakes up one day and suddenly finds Alexia has left the country, he doesn’t know what to do.  Therefore, he goes to his old friend Hamilton, who produces the diary of Jason’s grandfather so Jason can learn from his grandfather’s mistakes before he repeats them.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The video quality is clear, but unfortunately, that’s all that can be said for the production of The Ultimate Life.  The sound quality varies depending on the type of scene.  The camera work is also very random—sometimes good and sometimes shaky.  The sets and locations are pretty good and fairly historically accurate, but some of them are unprofessionally presented.  Perhaps the worst part is the editing.  It is already difficult enough to transpose a past plotline onto a present day plotline, but The Ultimate Life comes off as very choppy and hard to follow.  The scenes are all over the place, sometimes depicting a vague World War II battle and sometimes depicting an awkward 1940s high school (the actors seem too old for high school though) dance.  The bottom line is that where the resources were available to make this a successful movie, they were not utilized.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This plot is meant to be another book adaptation, but it is nothing like the book that bears the same name.  However, there wasn’t really much to work with in the book anyway.  In this film, the life of Red Stevens is displayed at breakneck speed, thus not allowing any time for character development.  While this could have been a very interesting tale of success, decline, and corruption, the story sputters along like an old car.  It seems like multiple different movie ideas were spliced together into one, since the story hops along through time, only hitting the highlights and those moments that can be easily connected to the first installment in the series.  The dialogue is mindless, and thus, the characters are empty.  The only good thing to highlight here is that this plot had potential—the story of Red Stevens is not necessarily a happy one, but it could have been used as an example of how to handle success and how to put family first.  But beyond this, there is nothing to say except that it seems like, rather than actually craft a meaningful plot to showcase an interesting topic, the crew thought up a whole bunch of tongue in cheek references to the more successful Ultimate Gift and transposed it on a post-Depression era backdrop.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The actors and actresses are given no help.  Therefore, the line delivery is very forced and no emotional expression is authentic.  It seems like this cast could have been better than they are in this film, but nothing materializes.  As a side note, it is difficult to cast multiple actors for one character across a timespan, but The Ultimate Life handles this pretty well.  But unfortunately, that is the only good thing to mention.

Conclusion

The Ultimate Gift was a great film, and it is understandable why a prequel was requested.  There was a lot of good content that could have been covered.  Red Stevens’ character arc could have been showcased.  The Ultimate Life could have been a great film, but ‘could have’ is not a winning phrase.  After the success of Gift, Life had no excuses to be so poor, but it did.  This is unfortunate, and The Ultimate Life joins a long line of Christian films that could have been.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Come What May [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Caleb Hogan has always been torn between his parents and their differing belief systems.  He finally convinces his lawyer mother to fund a semester at Patrick Henry College for him, even though they hold beliefs contrary to hers.  Interested in law himself, Caleb joins the mock trial team and begins working with Rachel Morton, a somewhat stodgy girl whom he likes but cannot date right away due to her standards.  They begin to have a conflict over the moot court topic: overturning Roe vs. Wade.  Caleb is unsure of the college’s insistence on full overturn, especially as he and Rachel work as interns at his mother’s firm while they take on an abortion case in real life.  In the end, one worldview must win out in Caleb’s mind and heart.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Come What May is obviously an amateur film, but it didn’t have to be this bad.  While the video quality is okay, there is really nothing else good to say, unfortunately.  The makeup jobs on each actor are poor.  The camera work is stock, and the lighting and sound quality are very inconsistent.  The sets are quite limited, which can be expected, but the outdoor scenes rarely have sound.  Finally, the editing is poor—some scenes are very confusing and others last too long.  However, this may also be due to a lack of good content.  Overall, it is hard to justify this movie’s existence if for the production alone.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Patrick Henry College is supposed to be an expert on winning moot court championships, and make sure to not let the audience forget their greatness in their own brand of product placements throughout the movie.  However, if they are so good, then they should at least get their facts straight.  They do not.  There are multiple moot court championship inaccuracies and untrue facts, including having a former Supreme Court justice judge the final round.  It is great to have a pro-life message, but it comes off very abrasive and preachy, like the creators are trying to force things down your throat.  Some arguments used for the pro-life worldview are so off-the-wall that Box Office Revolution does not support them.  As previously mentioned, there are plenty of unnecessary scenes, and offbeat amateurish dialogue litters the film.  To top things off, this movie reinforces negative Christian stereotypes by purporting strange views of the roles of women in society.  The ‘bad’ characters are caricatures, with the exception of one character, who has an interesting enough arc to save this plot from garnering zero points.  In short, while we need more pro-life films on the market, Come What May only hurts the cause.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This cast must be given a break since they are all mostly inexperienced.  It is great to find new actors for Christian films instead of using the same ones over and over again, but coaching needs to be provided.  There is poor emotional delivery and wooden acting throughout this film.  In short, though these was some potential, the acting only serves to further hurt this movie’s case.

Conclusion

Overall, Come What May is a very bad presentation of the otherwise important pro-life issue.  It would have been one thing to have average production and average acting combined with a strong plot, but none of this happened.  The creators manipulated reality to suit their own means, filled the movie with their bizarre brand of Christianity, and generally did everything possible to force this movie to happen without thinking about the overarching consequences.  Social issues need to be showcased in Christian films, but Come What May only serves as an example of how not to go about it.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

In the Blink of an Eye [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

David, a detective, stumbles into the vacation of his life when he saves a famous pop star from a hostage situation.  David and his wife Lori, along with David’s partner Larry and his wife Sussette, are invited by the pop star’s boyfriend to spend a lavish weekend with them on their private yacht in the waters of Mexico.  But David quickly sense that something is not quite right with the pop star and her boyfriend.  Yet before he can do anything about it, strange things start happening.  Passengers begin disappearing and David keeps waking up to the same day repeating over and over and over again.  No matter what happens, the day repeats over again and David is the only one who can remember anything about the repeats.  In order to solve the mystery of his life, he must face the faith he has been running from all his life.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

For starters, In the Blink of an Eye has pretty good video and sound quality.  However, that is all that can be said.  The film also contains odd camera angles and confusing editing—this may be due to the odd plot structure, but it is difficult to understand the flow of the movie.  There are also plenty of unnecessary scenes that appear to just fill time.  In addition to this, the movie has limited and cheap sets and costumes, like they spent most of the money on the expensive yacht, cars, and jet skis.  There is also bad makeup work on most of the characters and cheesy apocalyptic special effects.  To make matters worse, John Hagee product placements litter the dialogue.  In short, there is little to be positive about here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This plot has basically no potential.  The premise is very trumped up and most of the plot is filler—nothing dynamic or interesting.  There is plenty of out of place and awkward dialogue; some of the lines seem impromptu.  Thus, the few characters within are mindless and empty.  This sort of plot concept, a day repeating over and over again, has been done before and is almost worn out at this point.  To top things off, the entire plot, including the confusing end, is based on bad theology regarding knowing the exact hour of the Rapture’s occurrence, which is directly contrary to the Scripture verse used at the end of the movie.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

It is commendable to cast David A. R. and Andrea Logan White together as husband and wife, but it is not worth it if they are not going to be coached properly.  Most of the lines are forced, and since the cast is so small, they carry the entire movie on their shoulders.  Instead of helping the movie, most of the actors are very poor casting choices, exhibiting overdone emotions and unrealistic actions.  There are really only one or two good actors.

Conclusion

There is nothing wrong with expanding the Christian film genres into action adventure and psychological thriller, but In the Blink of an Eye misses the mark.  The repeating day plot is overused and is rarely justifiable, especially in the fashion that this movie uses it.  Employing such a small cast and limited sets in exchange for using expensive vehicles suggests an air of vanity.  Our advice for the Whites is that they listen to constructive criticism in order to improve their film quality, because they certainly have the potential and resources to do so.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Redeemed [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Paul Tyson’s internet security business is successful, but his colleagues are calling for more.  A larger company wants to use his business’ skills and talents for their own purposes through a buyout deal.  In charge of the transition process is Julia, a seemingly desperate woman with a questionable agenda.  Distracted by Julia and the business deal, Paul continues to put off preparing for his pending vow renewal ceremony with Beth, his wife of many years.  In the end, Paul must grapple with what is really important in his life—business convenience or his marriage.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

In the past two years, PureFlix has improved somewhat in their production quality; some movies are better than others.  The camera work of Redeemed is fine, but the sets aren’t very diverse.  The editing is very poor, which is not something that should occur in a plot that is out of order like the plot of Redeemed is.  Scenes cut back and forth too fast, isolating the audience.  Overall, the final cut of Redeemed seems like a rough draft rather than a finished product.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Building a strong marriage is a very important topic to depict in a Christian movie, but Redeemed only further confuses and almost ruins it.  Along with the inappropriate and suggestive content throughout, all of the wrong elements are focused on.  Besides this, all of the characters are caricatures, built on cringe-worthy dialogue.  Julia is a ridiculous unintentional parody, as is Beth.  So much of the plot is full of wasted time, and some of the characters seem un-genuine.  None of them are believable.  In short, the only good thing here is the idea that was ruined.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This is perhaps one of the worst cast movies of all time.  Ted McGinley and Teri Copley are awkward in their roles as supposed parents of young children.  Kevin Downes’ character and acting are both grating.  Some of the characters that are intended to be Brazilian do not seem to fit the bill.  In other words, there are no positive elements here.

Conclusion

Tommy Blaze’s self-proclaimed expertise is comedy, so Redeemed is a departure for him.  Therefore, what unintentionally happened is that he ended up making a mockery of an otherwise important topic.  The idea behind this plot has potential, but this plot and this cast should have been thrown out in the early stages of production.  Box Office Revolution knows that PureFlix is no longer lacking in the funding department, but they are still not using money wisely.  Better luck next time.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Left Behind [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

All Rayford Steele really cares about is his job as a pilot.  He’s disillusioned with his family due to his wife’s Christian faith and due to his daughter’s growing absence.  That’s why he’s buried himself in his work, overlooking the fact that both his wife and his daughter desperately want to see him again, as does his son.  After briefly reuniting with his daughter, Ray’s job once again takes in a different direction.  Chloe Steele returns home only to conflict with her mother over Christianity.  But before any of them can reconcile, a global tragedy rocks their worlds.  Before long, they realize that their lives will never be the same and they must grapple with the bigger questions they have been ignoring all along.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

The production of this Left Behind redo is the only remotely positive element.  However, the only good aspect of the production is the semi-decent camera work, including average angles and video quality.  However, the movie is also replete with cheap action sequences and poor special effects.  The soundtrack is a stock suspense score.  The editing is confusing, cutting in and out of scenes for no particular reason.  There are also a number of stupid jump scares that give the movie a very odd feel.  Unfortunately, the weirdness doesn’t end there.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Where to start?  The dialogue is among the worst, ranging from Christian clichés to action-adventure clichés to isolating technical lingo.  Thus, the characters are either bland or unbearable.  Also, there are a number of unnecessary characters that only seem to fill time in the already too-long story.  Besides all of this, there is unsolicited profanity and suggestive content throughout.  Overall, the plot line is aimless as it jumps from one trumped up action scene to the next and fills the rest in with wasted time, just trying to set up for a sequel.  There is no driving point as the movie drags on, making the viewer want to get to the end as quickly as possible.

Addendum: With John Patus involved in both movies, this new version of Left Behind is basically the same plot as The Mark.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

A word of advice: never cast Nicolas Cage for an action movie.  Some of the other actors are not awful, but overall, the delivery of lines is vanilla and unconvincing.  Jordin Sparks is a decent actor and deserves a second chance.  Moreover, there wasn’t much to work with, but the acting just gives the movie an overall B-grade feel.

Conclusion

The creators of this new Left Behind won a court battle with Tim LaHaye over using his concepts in a different way.  Box Office Revolution has to wonder why they couldn’t just create their own characters, but we can affirmatively say that winning the copyright way did not pay off.  This movie was really not worth making in any sense.  The creators now blame everything on ‘Hollywood taking away the Christian message.’  BOR holds that this is not the whole truth.  All that has been proven in this movie is that independent Christian films, except for the few exceptions, continue to contribute to their negative reputation by rolling out more and more unnecessary movies.  A word of advice: if you don’t have the budget for and\or a lot of constructive critical feedback on your movie, then don’t make it.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points