God Bless the Broken Road (Movie Review)

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I need a loan from the pawn shop!

Plot Summary

When Amber’s husband is killed in an overseas bombing while on tour in the Middle East, her entire life seems to come apart piece by piece. She struggles to support her and her daughter in a small town because she obviously didn’t get any military benefits from the government. She also pushes everyone away and doesn’t go to church anymore, but thankfully, a semi-bad-boy race car driver has crashed in town because he needed some time off from doing whatever it was he was doing before. This gives him time to do stuff with all the kids in town, which is where he becomes obsessed with Amber’s daughter and eventually Amber herself. However, Amber still is struggling financially to the point where she needs an old-fashioned loan from the pawn shop. Will the madness ever end?

Production Quality (2 points)

As per usual for most recent Harold Cronk and PureFlix productions, God Bless the Broken Road has a fine, generic one to offer with nothing particularly special or negative about it. The sets, locations, and props are somewhat limited, but camera work, video quality, and audio quality are all fine. The vanilla soundtrack leaves something to be desired, and the editing is poor because of the nature of the story, but on the whole, this is a fine attempt. However, this brand of production is also becoming very common place in Christian entertainment, so it’s time for deep-pocketed outfits like PureFlix to show us a little something more.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2 points)

Regardless, any good this film has to offer is totally negated by the total nonsense of this plot. At times, it feels copied from a Karen Kingsbury novel since this idea has been done so much before, but it’s actually worse because of the logical inconsistencies and flimsy premise. Too many unrealistic things happen that don’t appear to be rooted in reality, and this makes a mockery of real problems people may face in life. Most of the scenes are cheesily forced to convey a certain point in typical PureFlix Obvious style. An example of this is an old standby: awkward sermonizing of lessons they want the audience to be force-fed. Another instance is shown through the most generic dialogue and conversations that were surely purchased (or stolen) from Acme Stock Dialogue, Inc. The characters are just pawns in the inevitable progression of the plot as convenient turns happen to drive home certain agendas. Perhaps the worst part of it all is the fact that every horribly overused inspirational cliche is car-crashed into this one epic fail of a film…an exploration of how this is done would require a completely separate analysis. As a whole, God Bless the Broken Road is just another example of PureFlix Drama wherein every scene has to be an emotional climax as the characters are just extremely stereotyped caricatures designed to represent issues rather than people. If you’re looking for a corny Christian movie all-in-one deal, this one will be worth your money and time. Otherwise, avoid it like the plague.

Acting Quality (1 point)

While plastic white people take center stage to bore us with bland performances (in their defense, they weren’t given much to work with in the line department), better cast members are forced to take backseat as they watch the madness unfold before them and likely wonder when they’ll ever make a big enough break to no longer be trapped in PureFlix World. Main cast members come off as dead-faced and emotionally blank a lot of the time, which makes the forced emotional climaxes of the plot even worse. In the end, there’s some good here, but this sections rounds off an overall unacceptable effort in today’s Christian entertainment world.

Conclusion

If we wanted the sappiest, most unrealistic Hallmark film we could find, we would watch this film because it at least isn’t constantly interrupted by drug commercials. But who’s got that kind of time? Instead, let’s hope films like God Bless the Broken Road will become less and less commonplace as Christian audiences demand more quality from Christian entertainment creators. We’ve finally gotten to where above-average productions are commonplace, so it’s time to let the writers be the writers when it comes to screenplays.

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

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

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The magic of the cosmos…

Plot Summary

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

Production Quality (0 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1 point)

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

Conclusion

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

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

Clara’s Ultimate Christmas (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Clara wants to have the ultimate Christmas or something, but her dad is always working on ‘projects’ and ‘contracts’; he even has to fly out to finish a project in NEW YORK on CHRISTMAS EVE!!!!!!  Thankfully, Clara has plenty to keep her busy with her VLOG and her dog, which keeps getting lost.  She also hangs out with her awkward cousin, uncle, and aunt while her mother sees how bored she can be with this movie.  The real question with this film is can it get any less creative?

Production Quality (1 point)

As Clara’s Ultimate Christmas is basically an enhanced collection of home videos, production is greatly lacking.  This is manifested in random and off-the-wall camera angles and shaky camera work.  While video quality is fine, audio quality is inconsistent as there is basically no soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are severely limited for good reason since the entire movie basically takes place in one house.  In keeping with the home video theme, editing is virtually non-existent, which rounds out a very poor production score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The home video theme continues with basically no plot content as Clara’s Ultimate Christmas is essentially Clara’s and her family’s activities of daily living (ADL’s), including eating breakfast, playing with dolls, walking the dog, crafting, cooking, vlogging, and talking on the phone.  I don’t know about you, but one-sided phone conversations aren’t what Christmas is all about.  In pursuit of ADL’s, characters and dialogue fall flat as we don’t really know these characters as real people but as pawns in the chess game played by the Hallmark Holiday Syndicate.  Granted, this isn’t a Hallmark movie, but the plot might as well be.  Every scene is squeezed and stretch to manufacture any possible content out of it, and the Christian messages are extremely vague and forced.  Essentially, there’s nothing good to say here since there’s nothing to this ‘plot’ at all.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The horrific child acting in this film is almost enough on its own to make this section negative, but the vanilla acting from other cast members just makes it zero.  Since this cast is so small, errors are greatly pronounced, especially when the child acting is forced through a strainer.  The adult cast members come off as very awkward and uncomfortable in their interactions with each other, and some cast members seem very bored with the film.  Emotions are either over the top or too bland, and line delivery is mostly lazy.  As a whole, there’s really very little good to say about this ‘film.’


Conclusion

It’s great that Bridgestone gives independent Christian film makers chances to get their content out there, and it’s been helpful for films like Altar Egos that people disregard for no reason, but movies like Clara’s Ultimate Christmas have literally nothing going for them.  There’s no purpose or point to them, and they just used worn-out and recycled ideas that nobody cares to see again.  Maybe we will see fewer and fewer of these sorts of films moving forward.

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

Healed By Grace 2: Ten Days of Grace (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jessie really wants a horse, but her mom hates horses, so it’s probably not going to happen.  However, her father decides to send her to horse camp for the summer while her mother secretly gets treatment for the cancer she’s hiding from Jessie.  Unfortunately, the summer camp is full once her father gets there, which causes him to divert his plans to asking his wife’s long-lost father, Gauff from Healed by Grace, whom he has never met, to watch Jessie for a while.  Will their family be able to reconcile because of this?

Production Quality (.5 point)

For a 2018 production, Healed By Grace 2 is a major letdown and is actually a decrease in quality from previous Blended Planet films, with the exception of Disconnect Reconnect.  The poor production of Healed By Grace 2 is manifested in very poor audio and weird sound effects, as well as poor lighting and strange video quality.  The camera work is mostly fine, however, which is the only positive element in this production.  A lot of the audio seems overdubbed, and there are weird sequences of dead air, as well as a generic soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly limited and uncreative.  There are also a lot of awkward and strange cuts and transitions, including unexplained portions that may or may not take place in the minds of the characters.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Where the first installment of this ‘series’ had a tiny amount of potential, this sequel bears little to no potential at all.  The dialogue therein is extremely vanilla and pedestrian thus creating empty characters.  A lot of the plot elements seem to completely disregard the previous film, as if it really matters.  Some characters seem purposely off-the-wall or even ‘magical.’  There are also a collection of cringe-worthy ‘comedy’ sequences that are like fingernails in the chalkboard.  As this plot meanders with little to no purpose, there are also other odd elements included, such as odd suggestions about people getting cancer due to lacking forgiveness.  Overall, there is very little content to work with in this extremely forced and basically purposeless sequel, which suggests that it was misguided from the beginning.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The acting from the original movie was partially awkward in its own right, but the acting of this second film is much worse.  There are many very awkward moments, as well as blank emotions and half-hearted line delivery.  Many cast members appear to be trying far too hard to make their mark, and there is basically no coaching present.  Unfortunately, there was really little to no point in making this film.

Conclusion

Do we really need another horse film?  Until somebody produces a substantial, creative, and non-regurgitated film in this genre, we really need to have a moratorium on inspirational horse movies.  Besides this fact, productions and acting this bad are no longer acceptable in this era of Christian film, so it’s more than likely that Healed By Grace 2 will soon be forgotten.

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Holly’s Story (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Holly is a popular Christian teenage girl, but she has a much older boyfriend named Chad whom grows much too close to.  The end result is an unplanned pregnancy for Holly, and her parents become livid over this.  They allow her to go in for an abortion in order to salvage their reputation at church, but the procedure causes Holly to descend into depression and poor self-worth, which then leads her to begin doing drugs with her neighbor.  Will she be able to get out of the spiral of guilt and shame before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though the production of Holly’s Story is still bad, it’s an improvement over other Cross Wind films like The Saber and In the Mirror Dimly, believe it or not.  The positive elements include fine camera work and okay sets, locations, and props.  However, there are also plenty of negatives to note here, including blurry video quality that makes the movie look very archaic and poor audio quality that consists of a generic soundtrack, some obvious overdubs, and distracting outside noises.  There are also some bouts of poor lighting.  Further, the editing is basically non-existent.  In short, Cross Wind productions still suffer for low quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While this story depicts unfortunately realistic circumstances, once again, the characters are simply pawns in the plot’s obvious message-pushing agenda, even though we do agree with their worldview.  However, the dialogue is very strange to the point of being programmed with talking points, which in turn crafts strawman characters that depict a mindless portrayal of people.  In other rousing storyline centered on a social issue, Cross Wind continues to demonstrate an out-of-touch with reality feel to their films, even though this is a rare look at post-abortive syndrome and post-abortive counseling in Christian film.  While these are highly important issues that would otherwise make a good plot, they are completely bungled—AGAIN—in a Cross Wind film.  Thus, this is another completely wasted idea.

Acting Quality (0 points)

In another repeat sequence, the acting of the film is very unnatural and overly practiced.  There are too many moments of forceful line delivery and downright yelling.  The performances are very much terrible and completely uncoached, as are the poorly portrayed emotions.  Any good idea can be completely derailed by bad acting and casting, as this film demonstrates.

Conclusion

The concept of a character with post-abortive syndrome absolutely needs to be used in another film that actually has an internal locus for quality and has a true to life grasp of how to actually portray real people.  The ways that Cross Wind largely treat their characters is basically insulting to those who have walked through the tough issues they like to talk about in their films.  As Christians, we need to be more in touch with the real struggles of real people, but movies like this one do not demonstrate this fact.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

The Path of the Wind (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Lee Ferguson has just been released from prison, so he intends to get his life back on track by getting a job and making a living for himself.  But he did not expect to meet a girl like Katie, who is a Christian and challenges him to do better in life.  However, outside circumstances and their own feelings get the best of them as they let their relationship go further than they intended.  Will they be able to reconcile before God?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

From start to finish, The Path of the Wind is a very cheap production in every way except for camera work.  Video quality is blurry, and there is odd lighting throughout.  Much of the audio is obviously overdubbed, there are loud outside noises, and the soundtrack is uninspiring.  Sets, locations, and props are very limited.  Furthermore, there is really no substantial editing to speak of.  Essentially, the creation of this film has to be called into question due to the severe lack of funding and due to the unusual nature of the plot.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The first three quarters of this plot are completely aimless as it is mostly a pointless exploration of people wallowing around in their own problems.  Thus, characters are overly realistic, and even though there are some pertinent life issues raised, they are not handled very well as edgy content is mishandled.  Dialogue does nothing to help the characters, and there are a lot of disjointed subplots with not much coherency.  However, while the ending is somewhat unexplained and unusual, it actually tends to make a powerful point that saves this plot from being totally inept.  But on the whole, this movie either needed to be totally scrapped or totally reworked.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Hands down, the worst part of this film is the acting.  Every cast member is very amateurish, as evidenced by their very stiff and unfeeling approach to acting.  Barely any emotion is even exhibited here, and line delivery is overly practiced and awkward.  Some characters seem highly stereotyped by their casting.  Unfortunately, there is very little to mention about this film.

Conclusion

You can’t base your entire film on one good idea.  Presentation is everything.  When you mishandle content, create a film with an abysmal budget, and do nothing to assist struggling cast members, your movie is doomed from the start.  In the future, film makers need to make sure not to force their ideas out there without the proper backing.  If God wants your movie to happen, we strongly believe He will help you do it in a quality way.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Joseph’s Epiphany (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Joseph is a successful collections agent, but he hates his job and his workplace.  Thus, he wonders what his true purpose in life is.  Yet when he is given a chance to be promoted, he takes a serious look at his life to see where he is with God and how he can improve.  Then his world is upended by an unexpected turn that will leave him searching for answers on how to properly respond.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, Joseph’s Epiphany is another low quality independent Christian film.  Video quality is the only positive element to speak of.  Camera work is either shaky or stationary, and there are too many close shots.  Audio is far too quiet and includes over-dubs and a nearly nonexistent soundtrack.  There is also some odd lighting throughout, as well as extremely limited sets and locations.  To cap things off, editing is very poor as well.  Basically, this is just another verse of the same old song.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though it is interesting based a film off of the concepts of Ecclesiastes, it’s hard to follow exactly how that applies in this film, except for the fact that that verses from the book are sprinkled throughout the movie with no real connection to the story.  Thus, there is really no clear direction to this plot.  The plot is very boring, as are the characters, due to very flat and bland dialogue.  It’s hard to see this film as anything more than a collection of random scenes as characters sit around and talk without really saying anything substantial.  To cap things off, the ending is too vague to be understood, which leaves us wondering what we are supposed to learn from this movie.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Much like the other elements of this film, the acting is also underwhelming.  The small cast is often too serious and matter of fact in their line delivery, and sometimes they are too quiet.  They rarely exhibit significant emotion, yet while there is some over-acting, there are a few brief good moments that keep this section from being nothing.  But it’s not enough to save this film from itself.

Conclusion

Films like this one really need to be short films rather than feature length for many reasons.  It’s very difficult to watch these types of films from start to finish due to their boring nature.  They hardly have anything going for them, no matter how well they may mean.  Thus, we will never really know what was intended here, unless they are given the chance to give movie making another go.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Forgiven [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1 point)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (0 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

A Time for Heaven (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ronald Mitchell lays dying in his own bed as his organs are shutting down, so home healthcare nurse Julie is called upon to make him comfortable as he passes into the next life.  However, she doesn’t just want to make her patients comfortable—she wants to leave a lasting difference on their lives.  Ron is all alone, so Julie sets out to find his long-lost children, whom he gave up for adoption.  Little does she know that the search will lead her to surprising results.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As usual for Faith House’s newer productions, there are a few good production elements, but not enough.  Video quality is fine, as is audio quality, yet there is some randomly shaky camera work, and the soundtrack is Faith House’s usual silliness.  Sets, locations, and props are okay, but they are very limited and cheap.  Lighting is also sometimes an issue.  Furthermore, the editing is poor, including lagging scenes and awkward fade-outs.  Basically, at the rate that Faith House puts out these dumb movies, there’s no way they can be quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It never fails that the Faith House team can come with a childish, silly story that’s based on a flimsy premise and unrealistic occurrences.  Do they even research the situations they want to portray in film before making them?  Their stories are based too much on coincidences and leaps in logic, not to mention the fact that the characters therein are ridiculous.  Faith House also writes the strangest dialogue, and all of these goofy elements are present in A Time for Heaven.  There is no sense of reality in the pursuit of forcing a childish conclusion with a cheap Christian message.  Basically, much like Before All Others and their other wonders, A Time for Heaven is another pointless film that never needed to be made.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Constantly casting Mitch Etter and Julie Van Lith in your films is not a good idea if you want to have a good cast.  Not only is this cast very small, but it’s not really any good.  Every cast member just does their own thing with no much direction.  There are quite a few obvious line errors and emotions are laughable.  In the end, this is once again a newer film that had no reason to be released.

Conclusion

Though we know that outfits like The Asylum are purposely creating parody films, it’s very difficult to know if companies like Faith House, Stronger Foundation, Tender Shoot, etc., are actually serious.  Films like this one are funny for all the wrong reasons and only further serve to continually muddy the waters of the Christian film market.  Whoever is funding these nonsense films needs to seriously stop and demand some quality.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Two Steps from Hope (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rebecca and her family have always lived a so-called perfect life and have all the money and success they could want, but when tragedy strikes their family one night, they immediately turn against each other in their pain.  Rebecca, mistreated by her mother, turns to alcohol and contemplates suicide, but she is stopped by a childhood friend who won’t give up on her.  He invites her to a Christian camp, where her life is changed forever.  Will her family be able to work through their pain and find hope as well?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Although this is a 2017 production and although there were plenty of people working on this project, the production is still low quality.  Resources were not as limited as most independent films are, yet there are still a lot of issues, such as shaky camera work and odd lighting.  Video quality is fine, but this is really the only good element to point out here.  The soundtrack is uninspiring.  Sets, locations, and props are too cheap and limited.  Finally, there is no editing to speak of since the story appears to be presented at face value with no real twists or turns.  In the end, with the amount of people that were involved here, the quality should have been higher.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The same principle goes for the plot—when there are more than five screenwriters on the film, the plot should be high quality and complex.  Yet once again, this is not the case for Two Steps from Hope.  Though the story has a good message and seems to mean well, it has too much forceful and heavy-handed messaging.  It is too melodramatic and it unfolds one tragedy after another, even though it does deal with some unfortunately realistic issues and circumstances.  Dialogue is okay throughout, but it needs more development and less drama.  Thus, the characters are also unfinished.  Furthermore, there is one too many montages in this film and the ending leaves something to be desired.  In summary, this creative team definitely has the tools to succeed, now they just need to apply them better.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The acting is the biggest detractor in this film.  It’s painfully obvious that no coaching was present here as there are a lot of truly awful performances.  Emotions are very forceful and over the top.  Line delivery is sometimes whiny and unsure, and other times it is stilted.  Essentially, this cast needed a lot more assistance.

Conclusion

It’s commendable to make a project like this utilizing the skills of a lot of different people, yet their skills are not completely manifested because the talent is not fully tapped.  What they likely would have benefitted from was a lot of consultation and mentorship from more experienced film makers.  In order to make a great film, there is no shame in asking for help from the more experienced.  The finished product being quality is always worth it in the end.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Broken Chains [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Benny Trevors has just gotten out of prison and has decided to hitchhike back home to his mother’s house, where he can decide what he wants to do with his life.  He is almost immediately contacted by ‘old buddies’ of his, who ask him to help them with a new crime plan.  Benny is torn between the good and the bad and has a series of conflicts with his daughters that cause him to want to leave town.  However, he stopped from doing this when he steps in to protect a woman from her violent husband.  Little does he know that he is about to be sent on a journey to face the past he doesn’t want to ever see again.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

As a very underfunded and amateurish production, Broken Chains really doesn’t have anything good going for it.  Although it’s likely that the production team meant well, they really couldn’t get anything to work here.  Video quality is blurry, camera work is shaky, and audio quality is not what it should be.  The soundtrack is too loud and out of place and there are some unusual camera angles.  Sets, locations, and props are severely limited.  Finally, there are too many odd transitions that make for a disorienting editing experience.  In the end, it’s sad to see this finished product because it’s likely that they meant well.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Broken Chains is a rare instance in which the plot is significantly better than the production and the acting.  Though it takes a while to get into, this is actually an interesting plot idea that contains a lot of intriguing psychological elements.  However, there are a lot of overly dramatic moments and not enough substantial content.  Random things tend to just happen without much explanation.  The characters are in need of deeper development and the conclusion, though somewhat interesting, is a bit contrived and convenient.  Overall, since this is based on true events, this plot definitely has a lot of potential, but this movie as a whole needs a total rewrite.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is unfortunately very amateurish and not well-versed in acting skills.  They are forceful and practiced, as well as very measured and stilted.  There are some sequences of painful singing.  Also, emotions are very flat and empty.  In the end, this film is extremely B-grade or worse.

Conclusion

Only because of the good ideas presented here does this movie deserve a remake.  The production and acting are on the basement level of film.  It would have been better to wait and use this idea in a production that was better funded and more well-cast.  Perhaps one day it will get the remake that it deserves, but for the most part, this film will likely go very much unnoticed.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Angels Love Donuts (Movie Review)

The whiniest man alive

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1 point)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (0 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Guided by the Word (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Right before Steven’s wife dies, her dying wish is for him to reconcile with their estranged daughter by taking her the Bible she used to use in Sunday school.  Though reluctant at first, after his wife dies, Steven honors her wishes and makes a trek across the country to find his long-lost daughter in order to give her the Bible.  Along the way, he reconnects with the faith he forgot he still had.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though this is a 2017 production, it is still relatively underwhelming.  Video quality and camera work are really the only good elements that can be highlighted here.  Audio quality is too inconsistent, including loud outside sounds and an overbearing soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are too limited and are obviously cheap.  There is also some randomly poor lighting.  Editing is basically non-existent as one long diatribe is presented here.  In the end, it’s hard to see a justification for this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Much like Almost Home, Guided by the Word us another half-baked idea that is better suited as a short film rather than a feature-length film.  The story wastes tons of time in an attempt to be longer and is full of empty dialogue and one-dimensional characters.  There’s probably a good message in here somewhere, but it feels too plastic and childish.  It also suggests a lot of quick fixes to problems.  It’s very hard to connect to these characters and their circumstances when they don’t even seem like they are real.  Unfortunately, it’s very hard to justify the existence of films like this.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Much like Almost Home, this cast is overly practiced and stilted in their line delivery.  They are also not very good at showing any emotions as they come off as monotone and lifeless.  It is unclear that John Lina should be in a lead role.  In the end, this film is just another disappointment that will be forgotten.

Conclusion

It’s sad that movies that have well-intentioned motives behind them like this will be washed away in the ever-increasing tide of Christian films being made.  In order to stand out, you absolutely must have professional production quality.  You need at least a marginally realistic plot that contains accessible characters.  Finally, you need a cast that can carry the film by becoming the characters.  Movies like this will only find themselves as thrift store fodder.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

A Golden Mind (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Seth’s father leaves under the guise of getting a new job, he never returns, which leaves the family in their financial straits.  Then Seth’s mother dies from selling her blood too much, which leaves Seth to take care of his little sister.  He decides that he needs to go to college and invest in gold so that he can become rich.  But he will have to decide what he thinks about his late mother’s faith in order to move forward.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though this film had a decent budget, it still does not have a good enough production.  Video quality and camera work are once again the only good elements.  Audio quality is quite poor and the soundtrack is very generic.  Sets, locations, and props are very cheap and limited.  There are a lot of montages and dead sequences, which reflect the terrible editing work.  Basically, we haven’t figured out where the Stronger Foundation team gets their money from, but they are squandering it at a rate only rivaled by Timothy Chey.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, it seems as though most of Strong Foundation’s plots are utterly pointless.  This so-called story is reminiscent of a FaithHouse creation due to its childish and empty characters and its extremely juvenile dialogue and premise.  The main character is very downtrodden and there is a lot of laughable and forced melodrama.  The Christian message is also, of course, extremely plastic and off-putting.  It feels like this story was written by a five-year-old as everything is fixed in the end and just generally has a juvenile feel to it.  It’s very difficult to understand how movies like this are made.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Josiah David Warren and his typical cast comrades are at it again in this film, with very unsure and sometimes whiny performances.  Emotions are either over the top or nonexistent and line delivery is stunted.  Basically, this cast is in need of some serious coaching.

Conclusion

We are interested to know who gives Strong Foundations Films a basic blank check to allow Sun Hui East and Josiah David Warren to do basically whatever they want.  The stories they come up with really seem like they came from a bunch of kids making up stories while playing with their toys, combined with a cheap Christian message.  We are greatly unsure as to what the ultimate goal with these movies is, but we hope to forget they even exist.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

In Over My Head (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Nathan is the spoiled young adult of a well-to-do business family who believes he can do whatever he wants.  But his world comes crashing down one day when both of his parents suddenly are killed in a car accident, leaving Nathan to run the family business and take care of his two younger siblings.  Nathan is forced to rely on the faith he always thought was silly to make it through.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

With a clearly limited budget, it’s difficult to see the justification for this film.  The sets and locations are quite cheap and limited, although the props are okay.  Video quality and camera work are also fine, but audio quality is not.  There are too many loud background noises and a loud yet generic soundtrack that covers up things.  The transitions are also too abrupt and choppy to make any sense.  In short, the money used for this production should have been saved for a different film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The entire premise of this forced and juvenile comedy is very thin and flimsy.  There is a lot of fake drama yet not enough real plot content as the story jumps all over the place as a collection of random ‘goofy’ scenes.  The characters are very one-dimensional thanks to lame and empty dialogue.  The Christian message presented is very plastic and lazy.  There is also a very cheesy love triangle subplot that takes up a lot of this film’s time.  But it’s not like there were any better ideas to include here.  Basically, it’s very difficult to understand how movies like this are made.

Acting Quality (0 points)

While these cast members may mean well, their performances do not always reflect this.  They are a lot of times very robotic and overly practiced.  Their emotions are hard to connect with.  Since this is such a small cast, any errors are automatically amplified.  It’s hard to see anything positive here.

Conclusion

What if struggling film companies like Strong Foundation saved all of their money for one good film rather than making a handful of cut-rate cheap films that will never have any impact on the market?  We are sure people like the ones behind these sorts of films do mean well in what they are doing, they just need more direction in their work.  Yet perhaps they can build on mistakes like this one and become better as a result.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Streams in the Desert, Part 2: Words of Life (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Lettie and Charles Cowman answered God’s call to missions, He called them to Japan to minister.  However, they faced many obstacles in their ministry, including health struggles.  Though they were forced to leave and come back to the United States, their hearts were always set on missions in Asia as they gave their lives to the calling of God.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Words of Life at least looks better on the surface than Discovering God’s Call.  Video quality is still fine, and camera work has improved in the second installment.  However, audio quality is still quite poor, including the same old loud soundtrack.  Care is still given to historical authenticity, for the most part, but sets and locations are still limited, which makes this attempted epic look cheesy.  Editing is also an issue in this part as there is still a lot of unnecessary content to boost the runtime, yet there is also a great amount of off-screen content that is neglected.  In short, the Streams in the Desert experiment totally failed production standards, especially since it was recently made.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As if we missed anything in the first part, the first ten to fifteen minutes of Words of Life rehashes what you might have missed in Discovering God’s Call.  Actually, this little recap renders the entire first part useless because it gives you the boring highlights.  Much like the first part, Words of Life relies heavily on narration and long, extended sequences that could put an audience to sleep.  Once again, there are no meaningful attempts to help the viewer to connect with the characters by making them even the slightest bit realistic.  The dialogue is still very archaic, empty, and stilted.  As previously mentioned, there is a great deal of off-screen content that is talked about but not shown, likely due to budget constraints.  There are too many scenes that depict characters doing things that don’t really look like that’s what they’re actually doing.  In short, despite over two hours of plot content, there is nothing to help us believe this is a realistic story, thus making it a failed epic.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This is same song, different verse once again.  Acting is very unsure, with the same unnatural and measure line delivery, and the same flat, nonexistent emotions.  A new feature of Words of Life, however, is the cultural shortcuts taken.  What is the point of making a film about Asian missions when you have no intention to cast a single Asian cast member?  This is beyond tacky and further begs the question as to why this two-part disaster was even allowed to be made.

Conclusion

Though this true story is long, it is presented in such a way that two and a half hours of content are completely unnecessary.  What puzzles me is that there was enough funding to produce this much film but not enough funding to make it a quality project.  What if they reduced the runtime and put more money towards actually making the production respectable?  What if they tried to write a better story with more realistic dialogue?  What if the cast was coached to be more natural?  There are a lot of ‘what ifs’ in the Christian film world that are never really answered, and Streams in the Desert is just another example of a well-intentioned effort with nothing to back it up.  Thus, we must return to the rule of thumb in Christian film making: if the budget is not there to make a quality film, don’t make it.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Streams in the Desert, Part 1: Discovering God’s Call (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

While on a train ride to Chicago, a Christian movie actress ends up sitting across from Lettie Cowman, the author of her favorite Christian devotional, Streams in the Desert.  While in route to their destination, Lettie relays the story of her early life and how she came to know her husband.  After they married, Lettie and her husband felt the Lord’s call to the mission field, so they answered the call and found many great things in store for them.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

For such a new production, the low quality demonstrated by this film is unacceptable.  The only good thing about this production is its video quality.  Otherwise, camera work is unusual, including odd zooms.  Audio quality is deplorable and very echoed.  The soundtrack is stock and is sometimes too loud.  Sets and locations are severely limited, although most of the props are historically accurate.  There are far too many long and empty scenes that demonstrate a lack of adequate editing.  It seems like a lot of content is included just to pad the runtime and make it possible for two of these films to be produced.  In short, when compared with the rising standard of production in Christian film, Discovering God’s Call is very much below par and is very disappointing.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

To make this story into two films, Discovering God’s Call is literally one long conversation between two characters with nothing to break it up except for extremely drab and dry flashback scenes, which are also quite lengthy.  Though it is based on a true story that could have been interesting, the plot is incredibly boring and in no way holds the attention.  The dialogue is very archaic, awkward, and cumbersome, which causes the characters to be extremely cardboard and stiff.  The way this story is presented makes us even wonder why we care about the mundane activities of daily living these people did.  Even though this idea could be meaningful and interesting, it is not presented that way in this film, which shows a lot of wasted potential here.  In the end, this is just another embarrassing disappointment.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Not that they were given much help or that their lines were easy to say, but this incredibly tiny cast falls short of standards.  Without coaching, they are extremely robotic and wooden, using overly practiced and downright unnatural line delivery.  Emotions are nonexistent and flat—everything seems monotone.  The only redeeming quality here is the good historical costuming.  Otherwise, this section tops off a big waste of time.

Conclusion

Since a lot of this historical account takes place off screen from this film, what was the point of making two parts to this?  It would be one thing if the two parts actually formed a real historical epic, but this is just an extended and awkward local news interview.  It might as well be a docu-drama.  This is certainly not the way to make a modern film, especially one that is supposed to be an epic.  Streams in the Desert is nothing short of a disappointment…but wait…we still have another one of these to review…

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

A Horse Called Bear (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Ethan’s mother dies in a car wreck, he inherits everything she owned, especially her horse, called Bear!  Therefore, he decides to forsake all of his other possessions and his college scholarship to learn ‘computers’ and go to live with his aunt and uncle so he can be near his new horse.  As he wrestles with his life’s purpose and meets new friends, Bear is always there to bring them all together.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

This is likely one of Crystal Creek Media’s best productions, as it has good video quality and professional camera work, although some of the camera work tends to be too artistic.  Audio quality is fine, though the soundtrack is incredibly boring.  The same old sets and locations from all the Crystal Creek films, with some exceptions, are used again.  Finally, there are a lot of editing problems, including too many lagging scenes and not enough fluff being edited out.  There are too many repeated and useless sequences, as well as scenery sequences, that just fill time.  Basically, though they have made some strides, they still have some work to do.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s extremely difficult to grasp the purpose of this film.  The plot summary above is basically it, sans a few extra rabbit trail subplots that never seem to come to anything.  There are too many meandering and disconnected elements, thus causing the story to overall lack focus and direction.  From one scene to the next, it is hard to tell what is really happening or what the viewer is supposed to focus on.  Dialogue is extremely formal and empty at the time, thus creating cardboard characters.  There are too many trite and plastic Christian platitudes with no substance or meaning behind them.  Next time, the Crystal Creek team needs to give better scrutiny to their plots before letting the movie go to production.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Utilizing the same cast members over and over again can be cheap and easy, but it doesn’t pay off unless you have some serious acting coaching.  With this many films under the belts of these cast members, they should be getting better with experience, but they’re not.  There is a severe lack of emotion among this cast and too many lazy performances.  Unfortunately, this is another disappointing effort.

Conclusion

We still believe that the Crystal Creek team has good intentions—they just need a lot of direction and deepening.  They certainly persevere as they continue to put out film after film.  Since they have this drive, we ask that they use each film as a learning opportunity to get better and better.  Their production skills have slightly improved over time, but other areas are still suffering.  Perhaps as they continue to truck along, they will keep learning how to get better.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Hiding in Plain Sight [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Almost overnight, the Blackmon family finds themselves unemployed, homeless, and running out of funds.  As they try to make their way on the streets, they discover that the world is hostile towards the homeless and that they will need to figure out how to fend for themselves.  As the going gets tough, will they reach out for help where they know they can find it or will they continue to hide in plain sight?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Possibly in an attempt to be overly realistic, this film looks like it was literally filmed on the sides of busy roads with cars constantly driving by either in front of the camera or behind the set.  There are also many other artistic angles, such as filming through fences and from behind other barriers and objects.  But randomly, the video quality and lighting of the scenes are professional, which seem out of place in this production.  Most, if not all, of the audio is either severely muffled or obviously overdubbed in post-production.  The soundtrack is also very loud, probably to cover up outside sounds.  Furthermore, editing is atrocious as scenes jump all over the place and transitions are very choppy and disorienting.  In the end, this production is unfortunately a train wreck.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While the writers appear to mean well, this storyline is next to impossible to follow.  There are some interesting points in here somewhere, but they are hard to decipher amidst this story’s general lack of focus.  It’s mostly just a collection of random scenes about people wandering around and sitting around outside, with some montages thrown here and there.  There is no plot continuity whatsoever and no depth to these characters.  Whatever dialogue is even discernable does nothing to help the plot or the characters.  There are too many off-the-wall elements and goofs to take this movie seriously.  Unfortunately, this was a swing and a miss.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Though there are some cast members that appear to mean well and it is likely that this cast had no coaching or assistance, this is still a mess.  There are too many mumbled lines that are completely indecipherable.  Emotions are also forced and extreme, with either too much yelling or too little expression.  It really seems like in many ways that this film was thrown together on the fly.

Conclusion

Though there were some well-meaning intentions here and there is certainly potential to be found in Hiding in Plain Sight, as it is, this is nothing but a disaster.  The team clearly tried to patch up some of the glaring problems in post-production, but the problems were too great.  This film needed to be totally scrapped and started over.  Yet it is highly possible that this was not financially feasible.  Thus, this further shows the importance of doing things right the first time and making sure you don’t take on more than you can handle.  Sometimes it’s better to start out small before moving to bigger things.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Lucky’s Treasure (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

May Landis knows there’s a coin hidden somewhere on her property, and she spends her life looking for it, much to the chagrin of her husband, Henry.  However, one day, May is sure she has found it, but she pays for it dearly.  Henry is sent into depression and drinking following his wife’s untimely death and is reluctant to take in his granddaughter Emily when she comes to live with him to go to college, but he agrees if she will take care of May’s horse Lucky.  Then Emily starts searching for the coin, even though there are also ‘bad guys’ searching for it.  Will they ever be able to find it in time?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

When compared to his past projects, Saving Winston and Camp Harlow, Shane Hawks’ production quality has somewhat increased.  However, the production of this film is still not up to industry standard.  Video quality and camera work are professional, but audio quality is lacking, especially in outside scenes.  The soundtrack is also very stock.  There are too many musical montages that waste time.  However, sets and locations are clearly given thought.  Yet editing is almost nonexistent as lots of useless content is included.  In the end, though Lucky’s Treasure looks better than past films, it’s still not there yet.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

If you could think of the most stereotypical and juvenile plot premise that involves a horse, a girl, a ranch hand, a treasure, and some ridiculous villains, then it would be Lucky’s Treasure.  Though it is Shane Hawks’ most complex plot (not saying much), its presentation is very disingenuous and lackadaisical.  Time is spent on the most childish things, like the cheesiest high school college romance since Barbie and Ken.  Every character fits into the most plastic mold you can think of—dialogue (the parts you can understand) sounds like it’s been bought from a stock dialogue company.  Things happen because they need to as time is filled with montages, romance stuff, activities of daily living, vague treasure hunt concepts, and lectures on French history.  With no real direction or purpose, Lucky’s Treasure (the horse is actually fairly insignificant) meanders along a predictable progression until time runs out.  Basically, this storyline is so stereotypical and stock that it in no way warrants creation.

Acting Quality (0 points)

With perhaps the most thrown-together cast ever, Lucky’s Treasure just keeps getting better and better.  The cast members post very awkward and unsure performances.  Some lines are mumbled while others seem phoned in.  Some are overplayed while others are underplayed.  The costuming is also atrocious.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to believe that any time was spent on this portion.

Conclusion

It’s noble that Shane Hawks and his team want to keep making movies.  They have the rare opportunity to do something great with the resources and platform they have been provided.  But they are utterly wasting it.  Our advice at this point for Hawks and company would be to stop trying to write plots and focus on directing and producing.  Find a better writer and get some help with your casting and coaching.  At the very least, do the best you can with what you have, because this is by far not the best you can do.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

One More Round [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jake Taylor is a down-on-his-luck former boxer who is plagued by a mistake from his past that cost him his boxing career.  Ever since then, he has been struggling to hold down a job, his marriage is a mess, and his house is about to be foreclosed on.  When it seems like everything is about to fall apart, he suddenly stumbles upon his old trainers again and decides that his only shot at life may be through picking up the gloves again to fight.  Will Jake be able to fight through one more round to save his family and his finances?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

In One More Round, Rossetti Productions has taken on more than it can handle in a production.  Though camera work and video quality are mostly fine, many other production elements are not.  Audio quality is very poor, as background noises and echoes are very loud.  The soundtrack is also loud and out of place, sometimes covering up dialogue.  Sets, locations, and props are quite cheap-looking and seem like they are just slapped together.  Finally, the editing is poor as scenes awkwardly cut and as they abruptly transition between each other.  In short, though sports productions require extra effort to make them quality, this effort was not present in One More Round.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This plot unfortunately falls into the trap of a typical sports premise depicting a down-on-his-luck former athlete that has to get back into the sport in order to save something in his life, usually for financial reasons.  The troubled athlete is usually hated by some people and is typically having relationship problems and struggling with his identity.  The athlete has an epiphany moment that causes him to get back into the sport of choice, usually under the guidance of his old trainer, and training montages ensue.  The climax is always the ultimate showdown between the troubled athlete and his arch-nemesis, which the athlete wins against all odds and reclaims glory and his broken relationships.  All of these clichéd ideas are present in One More Round, except that this story also slaps a trite Christian message on top of this to make it marketable in Christian circles.  Thus, in this one-track-mind plot produces flat, one-dimensional characters that are based on empty and forced dialogue.  As the plot jumps from one thing to the next, trying to cover all of the high points, the audience is easily lost in the shuffle.  In the end, unfortunately, this story was not really worth forcing to become a movie.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This is a very poor casting job that leaves the cast members with no real assistance or coaching.  A lot of the performances are juvenile and childish, with some being over the top.  Line delivery is very punctuated and stiff and emotions are not very accessible.  Some cast members look very fake.  Needless to say, the Rossetti team has not had much success with casting.

Conclusion

There’s not really much else to say that hasn’t been said.  One More Round is based on a worn out idea and is not even executed properly.  It would be one thing if the idea was unoriginal and the execution was positive, but this is not even the case.  The Rossetti team is decent at marketing their films, but at what cost?  Their reputation is becoming very disappointing and this will hurt their future work.  The main lesson that can be learned from their films is always focus on quality over quantity.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Running Inside Out (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Since Kim does not live the way her strict and legalistic parents want her to live, she jumps at the chance to get out from under their thumb and takes her dream business job as soon as she graduates from college.  She thinks she has it made in life, especially when she meets her dream boyfriend.  She decides to take up running as a hobby.  However, all is not well as she becomes pregnant and her job is threatened by this.  Her family turns on her, except for her New Age-obsessed Aunt Sally.  She will have to decide what she is going to do with her unborn child before it’s too late.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

When you watch a horrible production like Running Inside Out, you wonder what standards PureFlix has for carrying a film.  This film has terrible camera work, with constant cuts and transitions that make for a dizzying experience.  Video quality is also grainy, and audio quality does not meet standard.  The soundtrack is sub-par.  Sets and locations are also quite poor, including several poorly filmed outside scenes.  As previously mentioned, the editing is horrific and confusing.  We understand the constraints of a limited budget, but we have seen more done with the amount of money allotted to this film.  Also, if the budget isn’t there, maybe you should reconsider if you’re supposed to make the film yet or not.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Similar to other social issue films, Running Inside Out carries an important pro-life message packed in a ridiculous fashion.  Though the situations characters find themselves in are realistic, it is difficult to connect with them as real people since they come off as empty and wooden due to poorly written dialogue.  Some characters, most notably Aunt Sally, are extremely bizarre and eccentric for no particular reason.  Also, as previously mentioned, the story is hard to follow as it jumps from one thing to the next.  While there are some attempts at good here, there is just too much bad that detracts from it.  It’s disappointing to see this type of idea go to waste.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, this cast reflects the eccentrically-crafted characters therein.  Some cast members act off-the-wall most of the time, and all of them are one-dimensional in their deliveries.  Sometimes it seems like they are putting forth a half-effort.  It’s possible that coaching could have improved this group, as there is some potential here.  But as it is, it’s simply not enough.

Conclusion

We have seen a lot of low-budget efforts in our times as reviewers, yet some film makers seem to be able to do better with less than some do with more.  We maintain that if you have a solid plot idea, the money will be there and will be enough to put you on the map—just look at the Kendrick brothers as an example.  If God wants you to make a film, all will be provided for.  We wonder sometimes if movies like Running Inside Out have been forced to happen just because.  Thus, the end result is not good.  Hopefully this team and others will learn from the mistakes of this film.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

The Trail {Let God} [2013] (Movie Review)

What am I doing in this movie?

Plot Summary

When Amelia and Levi decide to head West to score a fortune in gold, they never anticipated the hardships they would have to face.  After Levi dies, Amelia is forced to survive in the wild alone.  Watch with bated breath as she tries to light fires, searches for food, arranges rocks to call for help, rummages around empty covered wagons, stumbles around the terrain, and breathes heavily in an attempt to fight for her very life.  You will be left in suspense as you are forced to endure long sequences without dialogue and wonder if there is really any talking in this film.  The drama builds as Amelia thinks back to days gone by and wonders why this is even a movie.  Who will outlast the other: Amelia or her bored audience?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

So it’s clear that whatever this film is called is an attempt to be a creative and artsy Christian survival movie thingy.  But it just totally fails.  First off, production is very cheap-looking, including poor lighting, cheap audio quality, and a nonexistent soundtrack.  Camera work is shaky in an attempt to be dramatic.  Video quality is okay, and at least the sets, props, and locations are realistic-looking, but there is really not much going on here.  This was a very limited idea that required no editing—this film simply exists.  Since there’s not much else going for it, this production needed to be flawless, yet it fell short.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Believe it or not, if you last until the ending, there is actually an interesting idea somewhere here, but it’s not likely to be discovered by most viewers.  The trailer for this movie is better than the actual movie itself and sets up the viewer for huge disappointment.  The true bulk of this story of a woman performing activities of daily living in the wilderness—like, literally everything she does.  Aside from some pathetic flashbacks that do nothing to build the few characters there are, there is zero dialogue for a full hour of runtime.  Even when there is dialogue, it’s a one-sided conversation.  There is truly zero storyline here as the viewer is forced to endure fake drama and sequences of the main character staring and breathing hard.  This story was clearly written for the end, but this cripples any good idea that was had since no one will ever know what it is.  Creating movies for one tiny idea should always be a no-no, but apparently people keep getting funding for this sort of nonsense.

Acting Quality (0 points)

In a movie with so few characters, the few people that are cast are highly crucial to the film’s success.  Unfortunately, in this one, the cast members do not come through.  Their performances are amateurish and forceful, and have far too much heavy breathing.  Emotions are not felt or believable.  In short, this rounds out a pathetic effort.

Conclusion

As a rule, one-character survival plots should be greatly avoided.  Half-baked ideas that have no surrounding elements such as professional production and well-developed characters are always going to fail.  Even if your idea is small and limited in scope, you can still develop your characters.  But alas, this is another failed movie that represents more money flushed down the toilet.  2013 sure was a landmark year for Christian film, but not in a good way.  Let’s hope we can move past those dark days.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

The Watchers: Revelation (Movie Review)

Yup.

Plot Summary

Creatures claiming to be extraterrestrials are controlling the world’s leaders by revealing information on weapons to some.  The humans who know about this are either controlled by the beings or are ordered to be killed.  It seems that no one stands a chance against these alien forces, but a small group of Christians claims to have to tools necessary to fight these creatures.  Thus, it comes down to a battle between good and evil inside a warehouse (where else?), where all will be revealed, including some end times stuff.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

So another random company sets out to create a Christian sci-fi\horror film with a very limited budget.  These are the most difficult genres to craft, so doing so with a limited budget makes it nearly impossible to do properly.  Sets, locations, and props in this film are very cheap and limited.  There is poor lighting in some of the scenes, although camera work, video quality, and audio quality are mostly okay.  One of the biggest detractors in this production is the existence of ridiculous and over the top special effects that come off as very juvenile.  Finally, the editing is horrible as scenes cut from one thing to the next, leaving the audience very confused as to what is happening.  In short, no care was given to this production as it was just slapped together for the purpose of pushing an agenda.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Filled with heavy-handed propaganda messaging and isolating information dump dialogue, Watchers: Revelation is a real doozy.  The characters are very empty and only exist to robotically download ideas and theories the writers have, which are actually quite absurd and childish.  There are also a lot of conversations about things that happen off-screen as the storyline jumps all over the place with no continuity.  Things just randomly happen that leaving the viewer scratching their head.  On a lighter note, this plot has an interesting spiritual concept that is of course wasted and used improperly.  However, this fact is not enough to overcome all of the other glaring errors here.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This film contains the most robotic acting I have ever witnessed.  The overly practiced line delivery sounds like a computer is talking instead of a person.  Thus, there are zero emotions and many cast members do not have a future in acting.  There are also some amateurish makeup errors.  Basically, this entire film is a wash.

Conclusion

It never pays to use a cheap film to push your personal propaganda.  It also is a bad idea to try to make your first movie a complex idea that requires special effects and explanation of foreign ideas to the audience.  Also, if you’re going to write a sci-fi plot, please make sure it’s actually a good idea and not some half-baked theory that invites unintentional comedy and mockery.  Writing a story because of a theory never pays off, so please don’t continually clutter up Christian entertainment with it.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Paul the Apostle {St. Paul} [2000] (Movie Review)

Creepy Paul…….

Plot Summary

Saul of Tarsus was a ruthless man bent on destroying the church of Jesus Christ, until he had an unforgettable encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.  From there, his life was never the same as he became Paul and effectively switched sides and became zealous for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Though many were still skeptical of him, God was with him all of his life and used him to turn the world upside down.  His work as an Apostle of Jesus Christ is still affecting the world today.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

It’s clear that there was money behind this film—you don’t get the opportunity to make a more than two hour film every day.  For the most part, this production is average, with okay camera work and historically authentic sets and locations.  However, some of the video quality is blurry and some of the lighting in outside scenes is poor.  There is also an unusual use of weird special effects throughout, including an annoying use of negative video quality in an attempt to be dramatic.  We also are provided with unnecessary location subtitles as a crutch for bad editing.  With a such a large idea, editing is key, as it is in any epic.  Yet the editing of this film is totally off and allows the plot to focus on all the wrong things.  In short, a lot of wasted money was thrown at this production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Paul the Apostle gets caught up in the all-too-common trap of Bible films: using a movie named after a well-known Biblical character to focus on all kinds of useless side issues and peripheral characters.  It’s fine to make a movie about a character or group of characters who shadowed a well-known Biblical figure, but don’t pretend like the movie is actually about that figure.  Though there is a substantial amount of content in this film about Paul, this movie is not about Paul’s life, but about things that happened around Paul during random parts of his life.  It’s not like Paul has a small story—there is tons of content about him that would make an awesome movie.  Yet we are left with half-measures and allusions to what could have been.  As extra-Biblical events take up the time of this story, pointless time jumps are taken and tons of off-screen content is alluded to.  Dialogue is designed to move the plot along and only crafts characters who seem lofty and inaccessible rather than like real people.  Alas, what could have been with this very important and engaging historical account.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Once again, another Bible movie commits the cardinal sin of casting: British people trying to portray Middle Eastern people.  Thus, there is a lack of cultural authenticity that is not helped by the partially unrealistic costuming, the creepy makeup jobs, and the obviously fake beards.  This is not to mention the overly theatrical, dramatic, and breathy delivery of lines and emotions.  Unfortunately, there is not much good to mention here.

Conclusion

So you have over two hours of runtime and virtually only a third of your content actually pertains to the Biblical historical account of the Apostle Paul.  Very few film makers have the luxury of having this much time on their hands to craft a movie, yet this team decided to waste it on tons of non-Biblical and quasi-historical content, complete with large time jumps and completely unnecessary characters.  Besides this, the characters don’t even feel like realistic or authentic Jewish people, which is not helped by the fact that they are played by British people.  It’s no wonder so many people are weary of films that have the “Bible” stamp on them.  We eagerly await the day when Biblical movies are honest about what they are depicting and create historically realistic and culturally authentic portrayals of people in the Scriptures.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

A Box of Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Dior’s father is framed and arrested for something he did not do, she has no choice but to abandon the motel room they were living in so that she can hide from the social worker who wants to help her.  Because otherwise, this movie wouldn’t have a plot.  As Dior walks from one park bench to another and one street to another, her social worker does crossword puzzles and randomly drives around hoping to find her.  Dior must live in a storage unit during all of this and wait for the plot to come to an end so everything can be fixed.  The question is not will things for resolved, but will you stick around for them to be resolved?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The one thing we can say for this half-baked production is that it has clear video quality.  Otherwise, there are no positive aspects.  Camera work is very shaky and lighting is very inconsistent.  Audio quality is very poor, including loud outside sounds and an annoying soundtrack.  Sets and locations are very limited, as usual for Faith House.  Once again, there is no editing present as every possible amount of content is squeezed out of this non-film.  Essentially, A Box of Faith is another lame excuse for a production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With barely any plot content to work with whatsoever and a completely aimless story, what is anyone supposed to learn from this.  Due to the silly dialogue and a shallow and trumped-up premise, it’s very hard for the audience to connect with the struggles of the characters.  They just wander around the whole time and do absolutely nothing of note.  With so few characters, we should know a lot more about them as they stand around and talk, but we don’t.  The plot overall is too trite and unserious and there is thus no real justification for its creation.  The Faith House team needs to take a serious look at the content they are spitting out.  Constantly generating half-wit ideas just for the sake of creating more movies is a blight on Christian film.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

While there is some good here, A Box of Faith provides yet another empty and robotic cast.  We’re sure these people mean well, but they have absolutely no coaching.  Just stiffly sitting there or standing there saying lines doesn’t cut it.  There is no emotion exhibited at all.  But this is just another day at Faith House.

Conclusion

Complex story ideas are hard to come by, but extremely limited yet forced plots like this one should be a thing of the past.  There is very little potential and\or purpose to movies like A Box of Faith.  Faith House movies are a total embarrassment to Christian film, and we hope the day comes that movies like it are no longer so common place.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

I Am Gabriel (Movie Review)

Yes, this happens in this movie

Plot Summary

Promise, Texas is a sad town with little hope for the future.  That’s why an angel boy named Gabriel is sent there to fix everything up.  There are several townspeople who wish miracles would happen, and there are others who believe miracles are impossible.  So Gabriel has to show off what he can do in order to convince them are turn them back to God (?).  Will he be able to convince everyone before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

For some reason, this production was invested in.  While the camera work and video quality are fine, there is not much else to redeem this film.  The original soundtrack is okay, but sometimes the music is far too loud.  In an attempt to be dramatic and spiritual, the special effects used are cheesy and childish.  Sets and locations look very cheap and there is generally a lot of wasted time in this film as the story jumps all over the place and demonstrates horrid editing work.  In the end, this is a big disappointment compared to the work EchoLight usually produces.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Since this story is filled with heavy-handed melodrama about how hard everything is in the small town, the viewer cannot appreciate the struggles of the characters since they seem so manufactured.  Despite attempts to be ‘interesting’, this plot is very slow and flat and full of wooden dialogue that forces the plot along.  Though there may be some good messages somewhere in this mess, they are made juvenile and silly by the stupid ‘magical’ miracle elements and the child angel premise.  Finally, after jumping from thing to the next and fixing most of the problem subplots, this plot culminates in the dumbest ending ever.  In short, I Am Gabriel started in the horrible position of having no potential and became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Similarly, this cast starts off already skewed by throwing John Schneider, Dean Cain, and Carey Scott into one movie together.  Thus, the cast lives up to its expectations by being very amateurish and robotic, with quick and forced line delivery.  As a side note, makeup is as ridiculous as the childish angel costuming.

Conclusion

What is the point of even making a movie like this?  A child angel plot is doomed from the start, as is any story including juvenile miracles and quick fixes.  EchoLight should be ashamed of distributing this type of movie because it only makes them look silly.  Movies like this contribute nothing to Christian entertainment and only further create a laughable image of Christian film.  But hopefully that image is changing, slowly but surely.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

The Omega Code 1 (Movie Review)

There’s these codes, see…

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1 point)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (0 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

In His Steps [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a homeless man comes to the town of Raymond and does not find that the Christians there do not practice what they preach, he interrupts a church service to tell them just that.  But when he collapses in the middle of his speech, he spurs some on to action.  Though he dies, five church members commit to changing their ways and beginning to live their lives as Jesus did rather than as Christians in name only.  However, their decision is hard than they first thought.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

While money was spent on the ‘surface’ of production, that is, camera work and video quality, the beauty is only skin deep, so to speak.  Sets and locations are average, and the lighting therein is inconsistent.  Also, some outside scenes have quite loud background noises and there is a loud stock soundtrack that covers up far too much dialogue.  There was basically no editing present—pretty much all content was included to make the film long enough, including filler scenes.  Essentially, In His Steps is a generic bad production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Based on the famous novel by Charles Sheldon, this film unfortunately ruins the book’s original idea and alters the original plot for convenience.  The storyline is very slow and melancholy and struggles to hold the attention.  The characters begin as empty but quickly progress to annoying as they try to become better Christians.  This is such a travesty because it doesn’t make anyone want to be stronger in their faith, but rather may turn some off.  After their recommitment, the Christians in this film become legalistic, forceful, and sometimes offensive, while those who oppose them are laughable.  Because of this dichotomy, there is far too much unintentional comedy that ensues, thus making a mockery of the novel’s original intent.  In short, though there is some potential here, this plot is mostly a disaster.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This moderate cast appears to be overly practiced in their line delivery and they come off as stiff and wooden.  Also, their emotional delivery is awkward and sometimes over the top.  Makeup is not a strong suit either.  While it seems like this cast had potential, they did not reach it.

Conclusion

Like eerily similar films What Would Jesus Do? and Do You Believe?, In His Steps carries an important message about Christians truly living out their faith.  However, this message gets lost in translation as audiences cannot ignore poor production quality, a vanilla plot, and obnoxious acting.  Why do movies like this have to be packaged this way?  It’s so disappointing to review one movie after another that all commit the same old mistakes.  We plead with Christian film makers to get second and third opinions on their works before releasing them—this will do a world of good.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

The Sound of the Spirit (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rivka and her father are Messianic Jews, but when her father dies, she must go live with her aunt and uncle, who still follow Orthodox Judaism and do not believe Jesus is the Messiah.  As the time approaches for Rivka’s Bat Mitzvah, she becomes increasingly divided as to which path she is supposed to follow.  As she meets different people and tries to keep ties to her father’s friends, she will have to decide if she will try to please her aunt and uncle or follow Jesus.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

The only two positive qualities in The Sound of the Spirit pertain to production, and they are the clear video quality and the pretty good camera work.  However, there is literally nothing else good to say about this movie.  The audio quality is deplorable, including a blaring soundtrack and loud background noises.  The sets and locations are very limited and cheap.  Finally, the editing is nonexistent as this two-hour film is filled with wasted time and the same things happening over and over again.  Unfortunately, the negativity doesn’t stop there.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As previously mentioned, it feels like the one-dimensional characters of The Sound of the Spirit continually have the same meandering conversations over and over again as literally nothing is accomplished for two hours.  Even so, the dialogue therein is disjointed and the subplots are very confusing.  Things happen because they need to as the viewer is forced to constantly witness obscure Jewish concepts and conflicts as the non-Messianic\Messianic Jew split is forced down your throat over and over again.  This could have been an interesting idea if the isolating ideas were explained better, but as it is, it’s very hard to follow or understand.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is full of tons of offbeat cast members and unfortunate Jewish stereotypes.  Their emotions are incongruent and they constantly talk over each other.  Line delivery is either forceful or robotic to the point that it sounds like someone is dragging the words out of them.  Needless to say, this was a total fail.

Conclusion

The Sound of the Spirit had the opportunity to showcase a unique and intriguing topic in Christian film—Messianic Judaism.  But audiences will only come away from this film frustrated and some Jews may find it offensive.  We have no idea who these characters are except flat stereotypes and their conflicts are isolating.  We needed to be able to understand and appreciate their struggles, but we never got the chance.  It’s just another disappointing day in Christian film.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Me and You, Us Forever (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Dave is left behind and divorced by his wife, he begins to think about what could have been.  As he begins to pine after an old high school girlfriend of his, one of his friends advises Dave to go to a church support group for divorced people.  There he meets a creepy woman who takes it upon herself to vicariously live Dave’s life and to help him in going back to meet the old girlfriend he’s pining after.  As Dave finally plans to go meet her, the suspense builds as he drives back and forth outside her house and borderline stalks her.  Will he ever get to talk to her again?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

This awkwardly-titled film has one good merit, and this is some production quality.  While the video quality and camera work are good, as well as some of the sets, it’s beyond us why anyone would spend money on such a useless piece of entertainment.  Audio quality is also okay, but the soundtrack is snore-inducing.  There was clearly no editing in this film as tons of useless and empty footage was included, probably in an effort to make this painful slog longer than it was.  Besides a few production high marks (which should be standard), this movie is all downhill from here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In perhaps the most useless and pathetic plot we have ever seen, immature conflicts dominate the silly dialogue as a bunch of middle aged people whine about what could have been in high school.  As the scenes progress from melancholy to melodramatic to boring, nothing really happens as we are forced to witness Dave drive around, go to work, talk on the phone, go to support group, and hang out with a creepy and desperate woman.  Sometimes there are huge gaps without a single spoken word as characters just stare at things while the piano music plays.  Besides all this, there is no way to make this sort of plot interesting or palatable, so why make it at all?

Acting Quality (0 points)

As usual for Christiano casts, the cast members are overly practiced in their line delivery.  The emotions are empty and they generally leave much to be desired.  Unfortunately, the cast is so small, there is really no potential here.

Conclusion

What was even the point of making this plot?  The idea literally has no potential and is so absurd that we have to question whether going after (married!) old flames should even be encouraged among Christians.  Was this really all the Christiano brothers could come up with?  We would expect something much more sanctimonious and pious than this.  Where is the potential in watching a middle aged man pine after his old girlfriend, who’s now married?  Don’t even get me started about using divorce support groups as a dating service.  We can’t even comprehend the motive behind this film and must just leave it as a useless movie you shouldn’t waste your time on.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

Christmas Grace [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Gary is a local toy shop owner, but when a rude rival toy shop owner comes to town and tries to sabotage Gary’s business, Gary suddenly has to close down and look for work elsewhere.  He knows that he shouldn’t be angry so he trusts God for the next step in his life.  As his wife has their first child, Gary suddenly has an idea for a business venture and decides to pursue it.  But little does he know that the rival toy shop owner is still miserable inside…

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

There’s not much to get excited about with this production.  The only positive thing to mention is the clear video quality.  The camera work is poor and some scenes have bad lighting.  The audio quality is quite inconsistent, including an annoying Christmas soundtrack and sound effects.  The sets and locations are limited and seem amateurish.  Furthermore, the editing is quite choppy—some scenes are too long while others are too short.  In short, there is really nothing much good to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

In an attempt to include more plot content, the writers had to also include large time jumps, spanning from one Christmas to the next (since everything has to happen at Christmas time).  While there are slight attempts to be spiritually meaningful, there is too much heavy-handed messaging.  There are also some slightly interesting flashbacks that attempt to build characters, but a majority of the characters are still cheesy stereotypes.  This is mainly because the dialogue is very pedestrian and stock.  This is not to mention the fact that the entire premise of the film, which is warring toy shops, is absurd and unrealistic.  There are other happenings that are equally unrealistic, created for the sole purpose of the plot.  In the end, this plot is quite predictable and needs to be reworked.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The casting work, unfortunately, brings out the amateurism of the creators.  The acting is extremely wooden and stiff and line delivery is quite forced.  There are really no emotions to speak of.  Perhaps the worst part is the makeup, especially the eye makeup, which makes some people look like they have black eyes.  Basically, there’s nothing good to say here.

 

Conclusion

The creators of Christmas Grace seemed like they meant well, but they needed to choose a more realistic premise for their plot.  Honestly, in the advent of online ordering, nobody shops at toy stores anymore.  Yet the provision of God during hard times could be communicated in a different way that is less cheesy and more realistic.  At least there was some slight justification for this being a Christmas movie, and it definitely could have been better.  This creative team has some potential in them, and it will be interesting to see what they do next.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

The Mark 2: Redemption (Movie Review)

Eric Roberts as himself

Plot Summary

After jumping out of that plane to save their lives, Chad and Dao find themselves on the run for their lives in Thailand as they try to remove the secret chip from Chad’s arm while being pursued by agents of an all-powerful rising world leader.  The Rapture has occurred, leaving the world mired in chaos.  As they try to grapple with the God of the Bible, Chad and Dao find themselves involved in multiple international conspiracies, including a human trafficking scheme that involves Dao’s sister and Chad’s former employers.  As they fight for survival, who will prevail in this brave new world?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

In keeping with the usual poor PureFlix production mode, clear video quality is all that can be found here that is remotely positive.  Anything else related to camera work is dizzying and annoying.  Much of the footage is recycled, both flashback footage and non-flashback footage, which demonstrates extreme laziness.  Other scenes of the film are extremely long and drawn out, trying to delay the inevitable to build up some kind of fake suspense.  Action sequences are over the top and poorly executed.  The use of special effects and sound effects is very amateurish and obnoxious.  For such a big plot, the sets and locations are quite limited and the surroundings are almost entirely confined to Thailand, PureFlix’s favorite international location.  There is little to no editing—I’m convinced that the production team just went with what they had from filming.  Basically, The Mark 2 is same song, different verse for PureFlix.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Picking up where The Mark left us hanging, The Mark 2 is the most slow to development suspense plot ever.  Inevitable confrontations between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters are painfully dragged out over a ninety-minute runtime full of coincidences, convenient plot devices, information dump dialogue, stupid action scenes, and scenes of characters sitting around or pacing around and talking.  There is basically no purpose to this plot as John Patus once again shoves his apocalyptic opinions down our throats in the most awkward fashion possible.  Multiple scenes appear to be directly copied from the original Left Behind series, which is no surprise with Patus involved.  Only this time, the antichrist character is borderline unbearable and sports the fakest European accent possible.  In the middle of the film, a cheesy Christian message is shoehorned in, along with a random human trafficking subplot that tries to improve the runtime.  The mark of the beast concept, though slightly interesting, is only toyed with in the film and never seems complete.  In the end, as the characters tell us through narration what we’re supposed to learn, it is unclear whether or not the story is to continue—obviously not, since there’s no Mark 3, but what were they really expecting?  Did they actually have any ideas beyond the Rapture?  Basically, we learned nothing from this plot, thus making it completely useless.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This typical C-grade PureFlix cast is complete with fake accents, lame attempts at diversity, racial stereotypes, and Eric Roberts.  Multiple cast members appear to have no place in the film, opting to pace around and talk about important things.  Other cast members appear to take themselves too seriously and try to be as serious as you can be in a PureFlix action plot.  At least not all of the acting is bad, but across the board, line delivery and emotions are very poor.  But what else is new?

Conclusion

Why are so many PureFlix action plots at least partially set in Thailand?  Also, if we are to endure so many apocalyptic Christian films on the market, can’t we at least see one that doesn’t involve the alleged ‘Rapture’ in some fashion?  Haven’t we seen that enough from the original Left Behind series, that horrible new Left Behind, the first Mark film, The Remaining, Jerusalem Countdown, In the Blink of an Eye, the Revelation Road series (with the exception of The Black Rider), Six: The Mark Unleashed, etc.?  With the money spent on this film and every other wasted apocalyptic film, you would think that it could have been saved for a truly groundbreaking Christian action\adventure or suspense movie that would have made a difference in the culture.  But instead, we are left with a littered collection of could-haves and cut-rate productions.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

Mandie and the Cherokee Treasure (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Against the wishes of her Uncle John, Mandie Shaw and her friends decide to ‘assist’ him in his quest to find a hidden cave containing lost Cherokee treasure.  But when they stow away on a train for their adventure, Mandie and her friends soon discover that they are not the only ones after the coveted goods.  A mysterious mountain man (?) and two troublemakers are also searching for the cave for their own purposes.  If they are ever going to keep the treasure from falling into the wrong hands, Mandie and her friends will need to procure a scrubber (?) and brave bats and low oxygen levels in the secret mine shaft, using only memorized poetry from some old map to guide them.  Will they be able to get the treasure for themselves or will it fall into the wrong hands?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

It must be noted that Mandie and the Cherokee Treasure is worse than the first installment, Mandie and the Secret Tunnel.  This isn’t good at all for the production team, considering Secret Tunnel wasn’t that great to begin with.  More corners are cut in Cherokee Treasure and the strained budget is painfully obvious.  With such low funding, was this movie even worth making?  The only positive about the production is the diverse sets.  The camera work is amateurish, the video quality is sub-par, and the sound quality is inconsistent.  Background noises litter the landscape, especially in outside scenes.  The soundtrack is hideous and there are obvious continuity errors, such as characters doing one thing before a cut and then doing something different after the cut.  There is an overall unrealistic feel to the movie, including poorly constructed scenes.  The editing is hard to follow, making the storyline confusing.  In short, it’s really hard to even justify the existence of this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The original novels of Lois Gladys Leppard have been marred by the movie adaptations.  The only shred of positive in the plot is the slightly interesting twist at the end of this film.  Otherwise, it’s unbearable.  Characters are more ridiculous than ever, with childish dialogue and stupid portrayals.  The characters are obvious, exaggerated, and stereotypical.  The storyline is nonsensical and is historically and technologically questionable.  There is no real driving purpose to this movie; the Christian message is either watered down or made to look clownish.  As previously mentioned, the story is hard to follow, defies logic, and isolates the audience into either boredom or light comic relief.  Whatever the writers were going for is unclear; this plot should have never left the storyboarding stage, if they had one.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This film ranks among the worst casting\coaching jobs in Christian film making, flirting with the possibility of negative points.  Line delivery is either lazy or completely overdone.  Emotions are exaggerated to the point of making the viewer believe this is a satire.  Perhaps the most ridiculous element to the acting is the fact that the audience is supposed to believe at first that one of the characters is a man, when they are obviously a woman with terrible acting skills.  It is ‘shockingly’ revealed later that this character was just pretending, but only after everyone has figure it out.

Conclusion

If the creators of this movie were going for a clown show to make fun of the original books, it worked.  If they were not intentionally making a satire, then the creative team needs to seriously reconsider their calling in life and think about how their film making comes off.  It would have been better for movies like this to have never been made, because such films only further contribute to the laughingstock of independent Christian films.  Quality always, always, always matters more than quantity.  Were half of all Christian films never made, we would all be very grateful, especially if we missed out on gems like this one.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

Your Love Never Fails {A Valentine’s Date} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Laura Connors is a high-powered executive in New York with demands at her job while at the same time trying to be a mother to her lonely daughter, Kelsey.  Laura would like to forget that she is still technically married to her husband Dylan, who still lives in a small town in Texas.  But she can’t forget that fact when the local court has ordered her to appear over Valentine’s Day weekend to settle her unknown marital status and questionable custody arrangements.  She is forced to leave behind an important business deal in order to face a judge who never liked her and a husband she wants to forget.  But what she doesn’t realize is that this is exactly what she needs—to slow down and remember the values she has been ignoring for years.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The one consolation in this film is that the video is clear and the oft-used outside scenes are not butchered.  However, this is the extent of positivity to mention.  The sets and locations are quite cheap and lackadaisical.  The movie is populated with Texas stock footage of locations we never see the characters go, accompanied by a cheesy country music soundtrack.  The makeup is overdone.  In short, Your Love Never Fails fulfills the bill of a typical Hallmark movie—easy to watch on the surface, but absolutely nothing underneath.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This movie is a typical, very overdone small town plot complete with typical small town dialogue like “I remember when you used to…” and “She never liked me after I did such and such…” and “You look so different since I last saw you!”  Thus, the characters are very empty and seem clueless to reality.  We are not certain if this is supposed to be funny, but any attempted comedy fails miserably.  The Christian message that is inserted into the movie comes off as very manufactured and forced.  The entire premise of the story is unrealistic and slightly improbable, just to fulfill the requirement of a Christian-themed movie taking place during Valentine’s Day.  Surprisingly, the central idea of the film—repairing a broken marriage—is interesting but has no substance whatsoever.  It is hard to even connect with the struggles of the characters are see them as real people.  The bottom line is that the idea behind Your Love Never Fails should have been handed to a more thoughtful team.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The clichés seemingly never end, as the actors and actresses sport obviously fake Southern accents.  As previously mentioned, the makeup is terrible, making all the characters look plastic.  The delivery of lines is too bubbly—even when characters are supposed to be sad, it is hard to believe that they are actually sad.  Thus, the emotions are contrary.  In short, there is really not much good to say here.

Conclusion

Your Love Never Fails is a different romance than most Hallmark films, as it portrays two characters already married.  If we are to have more romances on the market, then film-makers might as well do different things than having two random people thrown into an improbably situation together and portraying them as hating each other before falling madly in love with each other, all in the span of a week or less.  The struggles of American marriages are real, but Your Love Never Fails only makes a flippant mockery of them.  This idea needs to be used again in a better way.  After all, who’s going to complain about another copycat romance?

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

The Mark [2012] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Chad Turner, a former criminal, has been chosen to be a human prototype for a biometric computer chip some call the Mark of the Beast.  After the chip is inserted into his skin, Chad becomes a different person, more powerful than before.  But he soon finds himself on the run from a powerful world leader, Joseph Pike, who seeks to take the chip and use it for his own means: world domination.  Chad takes a businessman, Cooper, hostage and convinces him to assist him in keeping the chip away from Pike.  But they suddenly find themselves trapped on a place in the middle of a global catastrophic some refer to as the Rapture.  With multiple assailants after them, Turner and Cooper must navigate the uncertain waters and avoid death at all costs.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Beyond a clear video quality, there is little to be excited about in The Mark when it comes to production.  The movie is filled with poorly constructed action scenes, wild explosions, and maddening gun-wielding chases.  Not much effort was put into sets and locations, as a majority of the film takes place on a plane, which brings to mind many other apocalyptic movies.  The editing is passable, but there is little true content to deal with.  The musical score is a stock action soundtrack.  Basically, this type of movie is been there, done that.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In this possible sequel to In the Blink of an Eye, several potentially interesting characters are thrown together on a transatlantic flight to discuss the world’s political scene and to escape from the antichrist’s henchman.  John Patus has used this plot before and used it again after this movie.  With the chip in his skin, Turner is basically an invincible character, not that plot devices like this have stopped action protagonists from being invincible before.  With mind-numbing action sequences, there is little to no actual plot in The Mark.  Character development and meaningful dialogue are traded for firing guns and yes—crawling around inside of a plane’s engine area while it’s in flight.  While Turner and Cooper could have been interesting flawed ‘heroes’ with agendas of their own, they were not.  The antichrist character is unbearably cheesy.  The bottom line is that the apocalyptic stuck-on-a-place plot has been done before and needs to be put to rest once and for all.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This particular PureFlix cast is not extremely cheesy, but they are just not that great.  In the wake of cheap action, emotions are discarded and line delivery is reduced to monologuing and pontificating.  Where there was potential in the actors and actresses, it is not harnessed.

Conclusion

Centering a plot around a character that has been forcibly given an artist’s conception of the Mark of the Beast is not entirely a bad idea.  Such an idea has the possibility to breach new genres and reach different audiences than usual.  However, movies like The Mark only cause the apocalyptic genre to become further viewed as cheesy and not worth anyone’s time.  As it stands, Christian apocalyptic movies mostly are not worth your time.  No matter where you land on eschatology, movies like The Mark are pointless and empty.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Stand Strong (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Matt Webster and his family are more wealthy than the average American, and they make sure everyone knows it.  However, they don’t even like to be around each other and are always trying to find ways to cover up the emptiness inside each of them.  But when a series of adverse financial events begin affecting them, they are faced with the choice to live differently or lose everything.  Unfortunately, they do not curb their lifestyles and instead are forced to vacate their immaculate home, sell most of their possessions, and move in with Matt’s brother and his family, who do not share their lavish ideals.  In order to truly fill the emptiness inside, the Websters will have to be willing to learn and to live differently.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The one good thing about Stand Strong’s production is the video quality—at least it’s clear and professional-looking.  However, there is really nothing else good to say.  The sound quality back and forth depending on the type of scene that is being filmed.  The sets and locations are very limited, mostly taking place inside of the two Webster houses, even though other locations are unsuccessfully attempted.  Due to the confusing editing, sometimes the viewer has to guess what is actually happening.  The camera work is only good when the camera is obviously stationary.  In short, it seems like more could have been done here, but nothing materializes.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

There is a profound point somewhere buried in this amateurish plot: people with a lot of money and not enough character often have disjointed family lives and unstable emotions, even when things seem good on the outside.  However, this point is communicated somewhat too obviously—dialogue is over-the-top and extreme, thus creating characters with lots of mood swings.  On the other hand, the ‘good’ characters are perfect robots with schedules and basements full of canned goods.  Stand Strong has the components to be a creative non-typical plot, but it is reduced to unwatchable due to poor planning.  Some parts are over-stated while others are understated, almost like this script underwent different cuts and edits at different times.  The end is not necessarily neat and tidy, but the ‘bad’ characters become replicas of the ‘good’ characters, forming their own robotic dialogue.  In the end, the idea behind Stand Strong needed to be given to a more thorough crew that wasn’t going to just throw something together to have a movie.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast seems like a collection of random people were chosen to play parts and then given no help in this endeavor.  The actors and actresses are not necessarily cast inappropriately, but no care is taken to make them palatable to the audience.  There is potential in each one of them if it is mined properly.

Conclusion

Like we have said many times before, Stand Strong is one of those movies that desperately needs a re-work and a re-write.  This idea doesn’t have to go to waste; it is interesting enough to help us overlook this movie’s negative elements to a point.  It is unfortunate that the team behind this film was not given more help or did not seek out help when making this movie.  If important messages are to be properly communicated, they must be done so in a way that people will listen.  We feel that this is done through a professionally made movie, something that Stand Strong is not.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

Fenced Off (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Josh and Anne has recently moved into a new house in a neighborhood that is considered ‘the hood’.  While Anne is away on a short business trip, Josh tries to settle into the house before beginning his new job, but he cannot help being unnerved by the surroundings.  He is seemingly the only white guy in the neighborhood, and he keeps thinking he is witnessing crimes occurring around him.  In order to cope with his new life, Josh will have to decide whether or not he believes in stereotypes or if he is going to love his neighbor.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Fenced Off is obviously a very cheap production.  The sets are very limited and the camera work is terrible, sometimes showing very tight shots and other times showing cutoff shots.  The sound quality is inconsistent and there are a lot of cheap music montages that cover up the need for a boom mic.  The video quality is at least clear, but the editing is bad.  Granted, there is an iota of content to work with, so it is difficult to know what they were supposed to do.  In short, based on the production quality alone, Fenced Off should have been rejected in the early stages or sent back for a makeover.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

There is only a small amount of potential in this plot, since it tries to deal with race relations and stereotypes.  However, in doing so, it seems to reinforce stereotypes and make a joke out of real life struggles.  It is hard to discern whether or not Fenced Off is an overt comedy.  Sometimes it seems like a sick satire.  The dialogue is grade school level and a majority of the movie is focused on Josh wandering around his house and property, pretending to do yard work, having childish phone conversations, getting a car wash, and yes—trying to cook meat.  The conversations between the retired couple next door have little to no point and are grasping for meaning.  There is also some edgy content that is misplaced and unwelcome.  In summary, while it is noble to try to talk about racial stereotypes and collaborations in a small scale plot, Fenced Off never finds the point and needed a severe rewrite from the beginning, since it seems like this is a rough draft that accidentally got recorded.

Acting Quality (0 points)

There is no good acting in this film, absolutely none, only awkward and forceful delivery.  Many lines seem impromptu and most of the actors seem unsure of how to perform simple everyday tasks like yard work and cooking meat.  One actress in particular seems to be making a joke of the movie since it seems like she is always trying not to laugh.  Some actors poorly mimic the racial stereotypes this movie is trying to speak out against.  It appears as though the actors were just handed a vague script and told to follow it however they wished since they were only going to do one cut per scene.

Conclusion

Fenced Off is an idea that needed a lot more brainstorming and thought put into it before it left the proverbial roundtable of discussion.  We have seen time and time again filmmakers who claim the name of Christ decide to just quickly make a cheap and rushed film about an interesting topic without putting any real effort into it.  The issues need to be portrayed, but how are they being portrayed?  In order to make a lasting impact, time and effort must be put into the movie’s production.  Otherwise, it’s just a waste of everybody’s time.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Marriage Retreat (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Mark and Claire Bowman, James and Donna Harlow, and Bobby and Melody Castle are all close friends, but they are also all struggling in their marriages.  Mark has unresolved issues with his father, James is gone all the time, and Bobby has a gambling problem.  That’s why they decide to take advantage of a marriage retreat sponsored by their church.  They go into the experience with the wrong intentions and quickly find out that they are not all they thought they were.  They will have to dig deep in order to save their marriages from disaster.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

To begin, the camera and sound quality are pretty good, but that is the extent of the positive elements.  The sets are very cheap and limited.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to pinpoint how this film could have been edited better, since it is hard for us to quantify its actual plot.  There is little else that can be said about Marriage Retreat’s production since much of the movie appears to be mostly impromptu work.  One other thing that should be noted is that some of the wedding photos used in the beginning credits are obviously photo-shopped, but when the rest of the movie is considered, this should not be surprising.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As mentioned, there is little to no plot in this film, not only because it is very limited in scope, but most of the dialogue is very impromptu.  A majority of the scenes do not appear to have a clear script, so they meander along a path of horrific attempts at comedy, replete with clownish dialogue.  Therefore, the characters greatly resemble the actual actors themselves.  This plot’s one small redeeming quality is that it has a good message, but it is lost in a sea of cheap and ridiculous attempts at humor.  There is plenty of potential here to showcase different marital issues among Christian couples, but it is reduced to a C-grade cable channel movie that will never make any impact in Christian culture.

Acting Quality (0 points)

It is noble and notable to cast married couples together in this sort of movie, but like everything else potentially positive in this film, it is washed away.  There is zero acting coaching for this small cast, which seems to indicate a certain amount of overconfidence on the part of the actors.  With coaching, some of the comedy could have been actually funny, but alas, it is just another item on the list of lost potential.

Conclusion

True comedy is needed in Christian movies, as are movies that take on the struggles of Christian marriages.  However, Marriage Retreat only serves to further make a laughingstock of Christian films.  Instead of quickly spinning out more and more movies, PureFlix crews need to stop and think on the implications of quantity over quality.  It is not worth it to simply make movies about good topics—we cannot stress this enough—care and attention must be given to production, plot, and acting quality.  Otherwise, the valuable message is completely lost.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points