The Prince of Egypt (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In this animated retelling of the Book of Exodus, upon discovering his roots as a Jewish slave and upon promptings from God. Egyptian Prince Moses embarks on a quest to free his people from bondage. When his plea is denied by his brother Ramses, the new pharaoh, a series of horrific plagues strike Egypt. However, upon following Gods instructions, Moses finally leads the Israelite’s to freedom by parting the Red Sea and drowning the Egyptian army. God then gives Moses the Ten Commandments, a list of rules for his people to live by.

Production Quality (3 points)

The Prince of Egypt is still today the best animated christian film to date. Dreamworks surprised everyone back in the late 90’s with the idea of making a musical/biblical rendition of the story of Moses (The Prince of Egypt), in his early life. The production quality of this movie is superb especially considering the age. Not only is it a well done Biblical epic it is also a wonderfully orchestrated musical. It is very rare to have not only a well done animated christian production but also one that manages to add an original soundtrack on top of it all. The music as mentioned already, is excellent one main reason for this is that it really adds to and tells the story very effectively. It’s not like other animated productions where there are mindless sing along sessions where the characters randomly burst out into shallow (not to mention really annoying) singing for a “montage” or a “funny moment”. This brings us to the other main point for why the music is top notch. The characters can actually sing! Not to forget of course that the music is composed by Hans Zimmer and Stephen Schwartz, so you know you can’t get much better than that. Anyway to sum it up you won’t be able to find a much better quality production in an animated christian film than this one.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The plot of The Prince of Egypt is overall excellent like the rest of the movie, they slightly altered and added to the original Bible story only slightly. Although we are not sure what actually occurred in the real story as far as moments with Ramses and Moses or the scenes with Egyptian Priest’s Hotep and Huy (which are not their real names by the way). Another aspect of the plot versus the events in the Bible, is that of Moses’s age when he confronted Pharaoh. As stated in Exodus 7, Moses was eighty years old as well as was Aaron when confronting Pharaoh. Which we are not clear of in the movie as far as how old Moses is, however, it is pretty obvious he is not eighty years old in said moments. This is not to even mention the total absence of Aaron alongside Moses in the movie. Compared to what the Bible says concerning that God sent Aaron alongside Moses to confront Pharaoh because Moses was worried about having to speak. Nevertheless this is not the case in the film, they basically combined Moses and Aaron into one character and the Aaron in the movie is for the most part absent from the film. In the end these are just nit picky complaints, however, just so it’s made known that it is not entirely accurate to what the Bible states. For the most part though the plot is very well done and authentic in that they tried to stick to the true story for the most part. Nonetheless, we cannot overlook inaccuracies of the Bible that is why it has received a lower rating in this area.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The cast of The Prince of Egypt is also of course excellent. All the characters are very well cast and their quality of acting is superb. It certainly makes a massive difference in the quality of a film especially an animated film to have a capable cast. It would be very easy to say that The Prince of Egypt also steals the prize for the best acting quality for a Bible based animated film. There are really no complaints here at all for acting quality, characters do not put on an overbearing or glass half empty performance.

Conclusion

This film is one of the best ideas Dreamworks has ever had, what better way to make a movie than one based off of a Bible story. Even better still one that manages to pull of a wonderful musical (yes I’ve mentioned this a lot already:) that manages to add to the plot of the film. In conclusion this film is a must see for all ages and all demographics.

Final Rating 8 out of 10 points

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A Candle in the Dark: The Story of William Carey (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

William Carey always knew that God had called him and his family to be missionaries in a foreign country, but he never expected God to open a door in unreached India.  Unlike English missionaries before them, Carey and his family immersed themselves in the culture of the people rather than try to impose religious culture on people.  In getting to know the people and meeting their everyday needs, God opened doors of opportunity for them, but their stay in India was certainly not without hardships.  Through it all, God was faithful to them.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Although this production is somewhat cheap and under-funded as a curriculum companion, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not all that bad.  Sometimes the sets look fairly cheap, but outdoor locations and cultural props are fine.  Video quality, audio quality, and camera work are all fine as well, even if the soundtrack is a bit generic.  While the editing is a bit odd at times, there is definite improvement throughout this production, which is enough to warrant an above-average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The story of William Carey is a great historical account to present in the form of a film, but this rendition tends to make the characters a bit too lofty than they should be.  This is done through dialogue that is too formal and unnatural, as well as some whitewashing of family struggles.  There is also a crutch of narration through journaling that moves the story along too quickly.  The time jumps stunt character growth as the story just tries to hit all the high points.  However, it is clear that this plot means well, and it does become more realistic as it goes on.  There are plenty of good marks here, and the ending is appropriate.  It just seems like it could have been presented in a more accessible fashion.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Plenty of care was given to making the costuming historically and culturally authentic.  There are also good efforts to have culturally authentic cast members.  However, sometimes the acting can be too theatrical and programmed.  There are one too many dramatic moments, but there are also plenty of other good moments that outweigh the negatives.  For the most part, emotions are realistic, thus warranting an above-average score here.

Conclusion

It’s frustrating when Christian films like this are so ‘Christianese.’  This curriculum clearly had an agenda to push, so it’s surprising that the film turned out this well.  As Christians, however, we’ve got to get out of our little boxes and make truly great movies that will make a difference.  We can really do without even more cute little Christian films.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Stephen’s Test of Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Stephen doesn’t like to be picked on by bullies at school because of his Christian faith.  When he complains about it to his father, his dad decides to tell him three stories of Christian martyrs in history, including the stoning of Stephen from the book of Acts.  Thus, when Stephen falls asleep that night, he has three dreams about the three stories, in which he is also a character.  Will his visions teach him how to not be afraid of the atheist bullies at his school???

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though Voice of the Martrys has crafted quality productions in the past, Stephen’s Test of Faith is not one of these.  This film contains somewhat cheap and limited sets, props, and locations, which doesn’t bode well for the historical parts.  There is also some poor lighting throughout.  Further, this production has some odd camera angles and slightly shaky camera work, although the video quality is fine.  Audio quality is also fine, even though the editing is somewhat poor.  Overall, the low quality of this production, combined with the shortness of its duration, makes its creation slightly unjustified.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This is combined with the fact that its premise is very unusual and almost insulting.  Equating real martyrdom and persecution with getting made fun of by immature kids at school is very odd and off-putting.  Did Voice of the Martyrs mean to tell kids they don’t have it as bad as people who are killed for their faith?  That’s almost worse.  Either way, it’s a mishandling of first-world problems.  Besides this, the story of this film has a disorienting progression and sequencing, which is helped by its short time frame.  Even so, the plot jumps from one thing to the next as it tries to cover far too much content in a small amount of time.  It seems like it is unable to focus on any one thing, and this makes the characters too one-dimensional and swept along by the plot’s circumstances.  Unfortunately, though Voice of the Martyrs might have meant well with this film, it’s a swing and a miss.

Acting Quality (1 point)

For the most part, this cast tends to be dominated by child actors that have an annoying delivery style.  Other cast members tend to be too forceful and dramatic, while others are unsure of themselves.  However, not all is bad in this cast as there are some good moments, yet this is not enough to save this film from itself.

Conclusion

With films like Bamboo in Winter, Behind the Sun, The Eastern Bride, and Closure, Voice of the Martyrs is usually able to capture the real struggles of persecuted Christians around the world, but trying to transpose these struggles onto the first world problems in modern America is just wrong.  This may have not been intentional, but it came off that way in Stephen’s Test of Faith.  We have to be careful not to demean the actual persecution Christians experience outside of the Western world by trying to make our minor issues into persecution.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Jeremiah [1998] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jeremiah grew up in the reign of Josiah, the last golden era for Judah as a nation.  As a young boy, God called him to be a prophet; however, he did not always accept this call.  As he grew, he knew he was destined to be a Levitical priest, but God gave him a message to tell the people that no one wanted to hear.  Jeremiah was persecuted for what he had to share and suffered terribly as Jerusalem’s days were numbered by the Babylonian siege.  Yet through it all, God was with him as he carried out the Word of the Lord.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For a late 1990s production, Jeremiah has plenty of good elements.  Affirm Films’ older Bible movies were certainly not perfect, but they definitely showed good effort.  The biggest plus to this production pertains to the excellent sets, locations, and props, which all demonstrate historical authenticity and great attention to detail.  Video quality and audio quality are also what they should be, including an effective soundtrack.  However, there are some drawbacks to point out, such as weird lighting in some scenes for dramatic effect, quick and rapid time jumps, fast cuts and transitions.  Thus, this production is overall average, but this is very good considering the time period.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Like too many other Bible movies like it, such as Affirm’s rendition of Esther, Jeremiah tends to portray Biblical characters in a too lofty fashion through the use of odd and cumbersome dialogue styles.  It would be nice if Biblical characters were not so inaccessible and theater-like.  But nevertheless, this is an interesting and noteworthy portrayal of a different Biblical account that often goes unnoticed.  It’s refreshing to see a different story, but at the same time, it is frustrating to watch because it had such potential that was wasted.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Much like the cumbersome dialogue, too often in this film, the cast members use weird, archaic annunciation, like this is a 1970s or older Bible film.  In a similar vein, a lot of the acting is too dramatic and theatrical at times, and too much of the line delivery is breathy.  While some cast members are culturally authentic, others are not, including several British people.  Yet there are plenty of good moments here and some cast members tend to improve throughout.  In the end, this rounds out a nearly average film.

Conclusion

It would be great to see this idea remade because it is a very interesting story that deserves to be portrayed.  Yet this movie can also serve as an example of how not to portray Biblical characters.  Audiences want to see people they can relate to, not lofty characters in a play.  The Bible needs to be brought to life in authentic and even gritty ways because it’s real life and deserves to be portrayed that way.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 pointsj

 

Pamela’s Prayer (Movie Review)

What would my father say?

Plot Summary

After her mother died tragically, Pamela’s father threw himself into obsessing over how he was going to raise her.  Though they prayed together every night, Pamela’s father micromanaged nearly every aspect of her life and kept her in a fundamentalist bubble.  He determined that God’s will for her life was and wouldn’t let her date anyone until he hand-picks the first guy who comes to work for his archaic film ministry for her to hang out with.  After being brainwashed all her life, Pamela goes along with it, even though this relationship has no substance, because she too must be the guardian of the fundamentalist-patriarchal flame.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

If you’re going to make a movie about patriarchal propaganda, the least you can do is make the production good.  But no, Pamela’s Prayer sports a medieval production quality reminiscent of Bob Jones University’s Unusual Films (that’s not the only reason this movie is similar to those).  It’s very cheap overall, including grainy video and audio quality, very pedestrian camera work, and an extremely clanky soundtrack that sounds like it was recorded in some tiny Bible Belt church (no offense).  The sets and locations are severely limited (just like the minds of the writers), and there is absolutely no editing as the condensed life of an unsuspecting girl raised in a cult-like atmosphere is portrayed in just under sixty minutes.  But that’s not all that’s wrong with this disaster.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Pamela’s Prayer is not a fitting enough title, since this story is entirely centered around normalizing a creepy ideology of patriarchy that seeks to control every aspect of a girl’s life. Using completely empty and one-dimensional characters, including extremely perfect white Christians and very bad ‘worldly’ Christians (like Timothy Chey’s carnal Christians), the patriarchal worldview is shamelessly shoved down your throat.  If you want people to convert to your cause, at least try to depict real people, not cardboard cutouts the spew talking points.  also, try to actually write a realistic story that is accessible to most people, not some alternate universe portrayal of life.  Nevertheless, this film is very legalistic propaganda that aggressively pushes an agenda and has no place in Christian entertainment.  Hence, negative points are warranted.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Once again, the Christiano team shows us how to distribute propaganda in the worst fashion possible.  Choosing the most extremely white and awkwardly stiff cast possible, they fed the cast members lines and made sure they looked like good little white Christians, and that was about it.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are very wooden and robotic, but this was probably mission accomplished for the Christianos.  Yet people wonder why people cringe at the thought of Christian films.

Conclusion

After watching a movie like this, one can only conclude that the people who push this sort of legalism on others also believe that those who are not perfect little white Christians cannot be redeemed or restored.  The type of parenting that is portrayed in this film as good is exactly the reason why young people ‘fall away from Christianity’ or ‘lose their faith’.  God didn’t tell Christian parents to keep their children in little fundamentalist bubbles all their lives or to micromanage every aspect of them, but to create a loving environment where the children learn Who God is (based on actions more than words) and how they can follow Him.  Of course children need to be protected from harm and wrongdoing, but raising them in a cult-like atmosphere is equally detrimental.  We need Christian families that actually care about each other, not dictate lists of specific rules to follow that are geared toward patriarchy and are designed to create little ‘perfect’ robots.  If there’s one reason why a lot of people dislike Christianity, this movie embodies every aspect of it.

 

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

 

End of the Harvest (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Matt, Scott, and Jess are college buddies just trying to work for the Lord in the oppressive world around them.  The atheists seem to have all the fun—they even have their own philosophy club (not God’s Club).  Scott decides to challenge them to a debate when he discovers a groundbreaking paper written by a former student decades before that could upend everyone’s worldview.  It tells of how the end of the world will come and though no one believes him at first, that’s about to change somehow.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

As a late 90’s production, End of the Harvest is very underwhelming.  While camera work is okay, the video quality is very grainy and audio quality is less than inspiring, including weird sound effects.  The soundtrack is loud and annoying.  The sets are severely limited and cheap-looking.  There is also no editing present as the entire story is presented at face value, with useless panning and zooming sequences.  Essentially, with such low quality, there is little justification for this film being made, except for the fact that the Christianos needed an outlet to push their odd agenda.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The first half of this film depicts characters sitting around talking about what’s going to happen in the second half of the film—thus, nothing much happens except for the same old rehashed conversations over and over again.  The entire movie is less than sixty minutes long, so there’s not really much of an idea at all here.  The second half of the film externalizes the bizarre worldview of the Christiano brothers that is mostly ripped off from Hal Lindsey and focuses on trying to predict the end of the world based on stupid Bible ‘codes’ and loose associations.  They pick random verses here and there to use to their advantage but then passive-aggressively say they don’t really know if that could be true or not.  Besides the fact that these stupid ‘scare people into Christianity’ arguments and absurd Biblical insinuations will convert no one, the characters are juvenile and the portrayal of atheists is embarrassing.  This is the kind of garbage that makes people (including professing Christians) roll their eyes about the term ‘Christian movies’.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As this film utilizes the typical lineup of David A. R. White, Kevin Downes, Brad Heller, and Lance Zitron, the acting quality is as good as can be expected.  They seem like they are barely trying as their line delivery is rambled, slurred, and generally incoherent.  Emotions are inconsistent and random.  With such a small cast, there’s really nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

As previously mentioned, there is no point in this film except pushing an agenda that is basically propaganda.  This view of the end of the world is ridiculous and indefensible.  It adds nothing to what should be the mission of Christian entertainment and only further detracts from it.  The problem is that movies like this one are not from just some random, fly-by-night movie creators.  The Christiano brothers are regarded as pillars in the field, for some reason.  It won’t be easy to change this image of Christian film, but hopefully it is happening sooner than later.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

Apocalypse 1: Caught in the Eye of the Storm (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Helen Hannah and Bronson Pearl are two of the world’s top new reporters, but they are about to experience a breaking story like never before—the Rapture has come to the world and everyone left behind is left wondering what happened.  As the world descends into violence and chaos, everyone looks to a new world leader to answer their problems.  But at the same time, this leader turns everyone against those who hold the true hope for humanity—namely, the Christians.  Will Pearl and Hannah find the truth before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

As a production created in 1998, there really isn’t a lot good to say here.  Yet the fact that it was made in this year doesn’t mean it has to be this bad.  Video quality is cheap and camera work is maddening with constant zooming.  Sets, locations, and props are limited and cheesy.  Audio quality is poor with a loud and annoying soundtrack.  Many scenes have poor lighting and look like they were recorded in a closet.  Besides all this, the film is just one giant advertisement for Jack Van Impe, but it’s not even presented well.  With production this bad, nobody’s going to watch this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

I’m sure there is a good message in here somewhere, but with Van Impe propaganda constantly being shoved down your throat and with this plot being so bad, it’s hard to find.  All typical apocalyptic concepts are conveniently inserted and forced into the story in obvious ways as Van Impe finds a way to shove every single one of his beliefs into the plot.  With this going on, there is no real plot as a majority of the story is told through childish news reports.  Character development is non-existent, since dialogue is stunted as the pot rushes along quickly to hit the apocalyptic high points.  Unfortunately, there is really nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (0 points)

To fit with the rest of the film, this acting is very awkward and amateurish.  Line delivery is very measured and forced, while emotions are wooden.  This cast seemed like it had potential, but it was never found.

Conclusion

One can understand a ministry leader’s motivation to get their message and beliefs out there through means of entertainment, but this is just unacceptable.  Combining extremely low quality with propaganda is one of the worst combinations you can make.  While there is somewhat of a gospel presentation at the end of this film, who’s watching it?  Who wants a gospel packaged in this way?  As Christians, we need to move past the whole ‘scaring people with the apocalypse’ convention because it’s not working and people who need to hear the gospel are laughing at this.  But wait, there’s three more of these films…

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Movies That Are So Bad They’re Not Even Worth Our Time, Part 4 (MTASBTNEWOT 4)

In our vast Christian entertainment viewing experience, we sometimes come upon films that we can hardly justify writing a full review for.  Therefore, for your convenience, so you don’t have to go watch those free films that invade your suggested watch list in on-demand video services, we’ve provided a quick overview here.  Someday we might post more, if we’re fortunate enough to find more.

 

Living Water [2006]

From the obnoxious blaring harpsicord soundtrack to the generally terrible production quality, Living Water is possibly one of the worst films on record.  Based entirely off of borderline offensive racial stereotypes, there is really no pot here to speak of except for a save the church concept and a bunch of heavy-handed radio preaching that drives the so-called story.  As the movie goes from one juvenile drama to the next, the viewer (if they last through it) finds themselves either laughing or crying from embarrassment.  A word of advice: steer clear of this one unless you’re really bored.

 

Running [2015]

Made by a ministry of some sort, it’s unclear whether or not the creation of this film was justified.  The production money was spent on the wrong things, such as fancy vehicles, instead of spending it on practical things, such as better audio and video equipment.  The story is very thin and empty—it seems like nothing is really happening except characters pretending like they’re doing stuff.  Finally, the acting is deplorable, rounding out a very uninspiring movie you probably won’t ever get around to watching.

 

Only Once [1998]

Only watch this barely-one-hour Mormon movie if you like to laugh at extremely awkward and wooden teenage cast members trying to convey an otherwise important message.  There is an unbelievable amount of silence in this film as mindless and empty characters just stare at each other and as useless montages go by.  This story is overall childish and overly simplistic.  There is no way to understand the end, much less what we’re really supposed to get out of this.  But if you want a laugh, have a go at it.

 

Well that’s all for now!  Maybe we’ll post another one someday…maybe not…

Movies That Are So Bad They’re Not Even Worth Our Time, Christmas Edition (MTASBTNEWOT Christmas)

In our vast Christian entertainment viewing experience, we sometimes come upon films that we can hardly justify writing a full review for.  Therefore, for your convenience, so you don’t have to go watch those free films that invade your suggested watch list in on-demand video services, we’ve provided a quick overview here.  For now, here’s a collection of Christmas films that fall into this category.

 

It’s very hard to explain

Beverly Hills Christmas

This is barely a Christmas movie at all except that it’s based on the typically bizarre magic premise you find in many knockoff holiday films.  Dean Cain and a Meryl Streep lookalike star in this movie that’s filled with wacko works-based theology and abstract vague fantasy lingo and concepts.  Apparently some dead woman has to get into heaven by making her spoiled brat daughter act good, so she decides to bring a nice kid back to life by shooting lightning into his skull even though Dean Cain told her not to touch people.  It’s a shame this off-the-wall movie wasted a decent character arc and a remotely interesting idea.

 

Look, a rose!

Natalie’s Rose

Also barely a Christmas film (or a Christian one), this time about a horse named—guess what—Rose.  Basically, this movie wastes an hour of your time on farm footage and sitting around talking before coming to the shocking conclusion: the horse is a “special” horse that turns into a rose.  [ENTER GIANT FACEPALM HERE].  No joke.  The production is terrible and most people won’t even make through the entire slogfest to see the main character having hallucinations about glowing horseback riders at night.  How this garbage gets made is beyond us.

 

DAX!

The Heart of Christmas

When you use kids with cancer as props and parade vain Christian actors and actresses in front of the camera in some kind of lame attempt to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in a shameless commercial soliciting you for money, we don’t have much respect for you.  Sure, St’ Jude’s does some great things and helps families in need, but can’t we just have a normal movie without all the advertising, drama, and pageantry?  They didn’t even try to make this true story a realistic plot.  It’s really shameful when you have characters telling you to make donations.