Hope Island, Season 1 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

As penance for his past indiscretions, Revered Daniel Cooper is sentenced to take over a small church on the small island community of Hope Island, off the coast of the northwestern United States.  Though skeptical at first, he finds a charming town of quirky people who accept him with open arms.  The days on Hope Island are not without intrigue and conflict, but at the end of the day, they all like each other and everything stays pretty much the same all the time.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a late 90s\early 2000s production, Hope Island can look archaic at times, but it’s not all bad.  On paper, the production is fine, including good video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack leaves something to be desired, however, and there are some dumb sound effects used throughout.  The opening sequence is long and boring, and most of the flashbacks have a very strange and almost un-watchable quality about them.  Further, the editing is pretty standard, and overall, this production is just above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s really no surprise this vaguely Christian series on the old PAX channel didn’t get renewed.  It contains nothing creative and settles for many predictable small-town concepts, elements, subplots, characters, and tropes.  The storylines therein are very safe and pedestrian as each character fits perfectly into their molds: the main character with a secret past who comes to a new area for a new start, his obvious love interest (who doubles as the diner character) who doesn’t like him at first, the young white couple whose relationship we’re supposed to be interested in, the quirky self-seeking schemer and his clueless sidekick, and all those one-episode characters who appear only once in over twenty episodes, even though this is a tiny island with a couple hundred people on it.  Besides this, there are far too many attempts at comedy that aren’t even funny and are actually quite juvenile.  Also, there are some odd attempts at ‘edgy’ content that fall completely flat and feel out of place and desperate.  Christian themes are only used when convenient, and conflicts are easily resolved with coincidences and convenient turns.  Unfortunately, there’s not much good to note here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a professional cast, these cast members are mostly fine and typical.  However, they have some odd, head-scratching moments at times.  Other times, they are too awkward, especially when they are trying too hard to be funny.  However, there are enough good moments here to make this section average.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

Hope Island follows the predetermined inspirational series formula that rolls out one thing after the next.  Each episode is its own 45-minute bubble of time that has little effect on the following episode and receives little effect from the previous episode, except for the predictable romantic subplot arcs, which are the only notable story or characters arcs present here.  This series is basically a collection of shallow conflicts that are introduced and quickly resolved and never mentioned again, thus not warranting any points in this section.

Conclusion

PAX was trying to blaze new trails in Christian\inspirational made-for-TV entertainment before UP existed and before Hallmark rebranded themselves as a plastic dollhouse.  Now PAX has turned into that absurd channel called ION and has even more laughable content than Hallmark.  Hope Island is a microcosm of the late 90s\early 2000s attempts at mainstream Christian content that didn’t work out, not only because of its split personality of trying to please two different audiences or because of its underwhelming production and acting quality, but mostly because it’s so boring.  It was hard enough to sit through over twenty episodes of this; I can’t even imagine what another season would be like.  Alas, we never saw another season, which is a blessing.  Now, as I continually say, it’s time for a real, truly quality Christian series to be made.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 14 points

 

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Noah’s Ark [1999] (Series Review)

Plot Summary

If Hallmark is to be believed, Noah lived in Sodom with Lot and constantly tried to stop people around him from fighting wars.  Then a strange version of God decided to scare Noah into building an ark to save him and his white family.  Once on the ark, the storm comes, and Noah and her family are all stuck there.  Thus, they begin acting crazy and absurd until it’s finally all over with.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Who knew Hallmark dabbled into Bible series in the 1990s?  For the most part, the production of Noah’s Ark is fine, especially when it comes to video quality and camera work.  However, there are some random lapses of audio quality throughout, along with a loud soundtrack.  Sets and locations are also somewhat limited considering the intended scope of this film, but props are fine.  There are also some very cheap special effects and obviously fake backgrounds, but the editing is surprisingly fine, and other elements show some improvement throughout.  In the end, this is just an average production, but there are a lot of other issues to point out in this series.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1.5 points)

When a Bible movie or series begins with a disclaimer telling you that they took creative license with a historical account, they are basically telling you to get ready for a whole lot of crazy.  What is the actual point of altering historical accounts for fun?  What if somebody altered more recent historical accounts for personal enjoyment?  Trying to squeeze Lot, Sodom, and Gomorrah into the story of Noah is just all wrong and cripples this series before it even begins.  Besides these obvious problems, the portrayal of God in this series is downright strange and bizarre, but this is only a part of this series’ overall weirdness.  There are other bizarre characters and insinuations, fueled by strange dialogue and useless asides that waste time.  Along with this comes several off-the-wall attempts at comedy and some totally head-scratching drug-trip moments that come close to making this debacle a parody.  In short, there really isn’t much good to say about this section.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like many attempts at bringing Bible stories to life, Noah’s Ark gives no care to cultural authenticity in casting, mixing American and BRITISH cast members of recognizable names to sell this show.  Besides this, the cast is overall too dramatic, even though they do have plenty of good moments.  The costuming is also fine, but it’s not enough to make this section any more than average.

Continuity Quality (1.5 points)

Though this ‘series’ only has two episodes, the continuity is mostly fine.  There are some interesting character arcs and story arcs, but the many blatant content errors are complete inexcusable.  Thus, this mishandling of historical fact brings this whole series down in flames.

Conclusion

Too often, Bible movies and series become about Hollywood trying to make some quick bucks on a Christian audience.  But don’t get too high and mighty, Christian film makers—you do it too.  Even Christians sometimes take great ‘creative’ license with historical accounts (see The Book of Esther).  The bottom line is that there are so few good Bible movies and series on the market, and this is an absolute travesty.  Biblical films and series should be the best of the best, not a laughingstock.  We’re still waiting for this day to come.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 14 points

 

Resurrection [1999] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When the mysteriously provocative carpenter named Jesus of Nazareth was executed by crucifixion, it was no skin of Claudius’ nose.  That is, until he was forced to be a part of a political conspiracy with the goal of covering up claims of the same carpenter’s alleged rise from the dead.  But as he is drawn deeper into the conspiracy, Claudius finds himself interested in Jesus and His followers and wonders what they have that he does not.  What will he end up believing in the end?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though this was a 1999 production, the creators were definitely trying in this film.  Video quality is fine, as is the camera work, although there is some randomly poor lighting in the indoor sets.  Most of the sets and props are somewhat cheaply constructed, though the outdoor locations are fine.  Audio quality is what it should be, but the soundtrack is extremely generic.  Further, though this film is less than sixty minutes long, the editing is not exactly great as it is slightly choppy.  In the end, this production comes out as average and demonstrates good enough effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this Roman-soldier-becomes-involved-in-the-Resurrection-cover-up is nothing new, Resurrection and the Max Lucado book it is based on actually predates the other attempts at this, such as The Final Inquiry and Risen.  Nonetheless, it is still an interesting idea.  However, this rendition does not contain very much content as a majority of the fifty-minute runtime is bland characters standing around and talking about offscreen content.  Even then, the dialogue that is used is uninspiring, which in turn creates the bland characters.  At times, it is difficult to follow the train of thought this plot is trying to make, and some of the characters are easily confused with each other due to their lack of originality.  In the end, this is really just an extremely pedestrian Christian film that could have been way better, which is the story for a lot of Christian films.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Although this cast is not entirely culturally authentic, at least it’s not full of obviously BRITISH white guys.  These cast members mostly post good performances, including good line delivery.  Their emotions are a bit too theatrical at times, but this is a passable effort overall.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, Resurrection was stuck in an era when Christian movies were so self-segregating and only tried to appeal to very small audiences.  Were this made today, one would think that it would have wider appeal, but nothing is guaranteed.  At the very least, perhaps this film can be a blueprint to build off of to know how to improve a bland film.  In the future, hopefully we will see more engaging Biblical movies come out.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Esther [1999] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When King Xerxes banished his wife, Queen Vashti, for refusing to obey him, he called all the young women of the Persian kingdom to come and audition to be his new queen.  Among them was Esther, a Jewess, whose cousin Mordecai instructed her to hide her ethnic identity from the royal leaders.  Little did either of them know that she had been raised up by God for such a time to save His people from certain destruction.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though this film was made before the 2000s, Affirm Films demonstrated even in 1999 that they were committed to professional production quality.  Video quality and camera work are good in this film, even if lighting is sometimes inconsistent.  Audio quality is average, and the soundtrack leaves something to be desired.  The biggest win for this production is the professional and historically authentic sets, locations, and props which demonstrate care for accuracy.  The editing is fine but it could use a little improvement.  Overall, this is a respectable production and shows why Affirm is where they are today.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This rendition of the story of Esther was likely the first of its kind in the modern era, later to be follow by For Such a Time As This, One Night With the King, and the deplorable Book of Esther.  In this 1999 version, care is also given to an accurate retelling of the story, even if it is a little too literal.  This is the only film we’ve seen that portrays Xerxes very well and likely accurate to the historical figure.  At least this story shies away from the silly ‘love story’ trope that modern film writers try to force into the account.  However, the characters in this version still don’t seem like real people as they are too dramatic and boring at the same time.  There are a lot of dead sequences and not enough substantial dialogue.  Overall, this was a nice try, but not good enough.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast, though semi-professional, is overly theatrical and too practiced.  Though costuming is culturally authentic, the casting is not always this way.  Emotions are also forced and feel manufactured, like this is some sort of Bible play.  Yet not all is bad here and this rounds out an acceptable effort.

Conclusion

A lot of time and money was likely spent on sets and costumes in this film, much like its later relation, One Night With the King.  However, what both of these films forget is substance.  Though Esther is better at adhering to the true historical account, it is still not presented in an interesting way that will engage audiences.  Biblical film makers can learn from this to not abandon accuracy but still develop the characters like they’re real people, not lofty ‘heroes’ that have no connection to us today.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

A Vow to Cherish (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

John and Ellen have been married for over two decades.  They have done everything together over the years and are still in love after all this time.  John and his brother built a successful business while Ellen was a recognized teacher.  They had two children whom they love.  However, one day, their seemingly perfect world comes crashing down when Ellen suddenly develops Alzheimer’s disease.  John is faced with hard choices as Ellen loses memory after memory and becomes increasingly confused.  Will he be able to stand up under the weight of it all and remain faithful?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though Worldwide Pictures did a majority of their movie making in the 1980s and 1990s, they perfected a production model that no other Christian film makers could successfully replicate at the time.  A Vow to Cherish is one of those productions—it has great camera work and good sets, locations, and props.  Audio quality is fine, although the soundtrack is a bit average.  Video quality is also acceptable considering the time frame, yet it could be a little better.  Some of the indoor scenes are poorly lit, but outside scenes are shot well.  Finally, the editing is quite good and makes for a good watch.  Overall, this is a great production for the time period and shows what a film maker can do if they truly care about quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Based on a novel by Deborah Raney, A Vow to Cherish is a very engaging and intriguing story.  It highlights the little-focused-on issue of aging and dementia as it portrays the progression of this debilitating disease very well, including a commitment to medical realism.  The progression of time in this sort of story can be difficult to properly handle, but A Vow to Cherish does so very well.  However, it is not without its issues, as the dialogue is largely designed to move the plot along and to tell information without showing it to the audience.  While the characters are mostly believable, there is a slightly unnecessary and unrealistic dichotomy between Christian characters and non-Christian characters.  Yet the struggles of these characters are meaningful and believable—thus, the audience is able to connect with them on some level.  But at the same time, there are too many underdeveloped subplots and characters that we would like to get to know better.  Overall, with an honest Christian message, A Vow to Cherish is a mixed bag plot with the potential to go further.  Thus, it warrants an average rating.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Worldwide Pictures was always able to assemble professional casts, and this film is no exception.  Line delivery is great, but some emotions seem forced and wooden.  Yet this cast does an excellent job portraying those who struggle with mental illness and those who care for them.  Overall, this is a job well done.

Conclusion

Even during the 90s, when good Christian movies were nearly impossible to come by, Worldwide Pictures demonstrated a commitment to producing quality films that were unfortunately unrivaled for their time period.  Though they are not the best, movies like A Vow to Cherish are still enjoyable today and definitely worth your time.  Current Christian film makers can learn a lot from the models used to make WWP movies; there are many newer films that unfortunately never made it to this point.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Apocalypse 2: Revelation (Movie Review)

Bluriness…

Plot Summary

After the Rapture rocks the world and leaves millions of people searching for answers as to what happened, agent Thorold Stone is left searching for his family and wondering why the entire world has suddenly turned against Christians.  The world is also following the bidding of a rising world leader who promises peace to all if the Christians are eliminated.  With chaos ensuing around him, will Stone be able to find the truth he needs?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The second installment of this unfortunate series is much like the first.  There is barely any difference in the production quality of Caught in the Eye of the Storm and Revelation.  Camera work is still shaky and video quality is still blurry.  Special effects are very cheap and out of place.  Audio quality is average, but the soundtrack is loud and annoying.  There is some improvement with the sets, locations, and props, however.  But this film is still replete with Jack Van Impe product placements.  The editing is also poor.  In short, while there is some slight improvement here, it’s not significant.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The Apocalypse series is very thin on plot content and heavy on agenda-pushing.  Much of this film is dedicated to sequences of cheesy and stereotypical sitting around talking with robotic dialogue that is designed to force the plot along.  There’s also a lot of technological mumbo jumbo lingo and a weird obsession with virtual reality devices.  The plot has a predictable apocalyptic\suspense progression and is based on lots of coincidences.  Also, it’s worth nothing that it’s extremely hard to follow the cast of characters that is supposed to be portrayed in this so-called series.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s still difficult to find a justification for this series.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Made in 1999, this cast is far too theatrical.  Jeff Fahey is always a head-scratching cast, since he basically whispers all the time.  Emotions are either flat or overblown and line delivery is stiff.  Unfortunately, nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

Once again I ask, who’s going to watch this movie?  It has nothing going for it whatsoever.  There is no plot and certainly no notable production quality.  The casting is horrible.  Most Christians are and should be offended by this nonsense.  Once again, the world is laughing.  This kind of junk reaches no one and only adds to the caricature of Christian film.  But wait…there’s still more of these…

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

The Moment After 1 (Movie Review)

The old days

Plot Summary

In one moment, millions disappear and in the next moment, millions are left to wonder what just happened.  As the government tries to sort out the pieces, they send out FBI agents to investigate those left behind (haha).  Adam Riley and Charles Baker are just the agents for the job and they soon become caught up in an intrigue involving trying to find a mysterious former Jewish rabbi who seems to have special powers.  In the end, which path will they choose as the world descends into chaos?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Made in the late 1990s, The Moment After 1 has considerable production deficits.  Though video quality is decent and audio quality is okay throughout, there is a lot to be desired here.  Sets and locations are pedestrian and action camera shots are not what they should be.  The soundtrack is also very standard.  There is really no editing present as the plot slogs from one thing to the next.  In the end, this is just another below average production that does not live up to full standard.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Another year, another carbon-copy apocalyptic film.  Likely a precursor to every unfinished PureFlix apocalyptic idea (Jerusalem Countdown, In the Blink of an Eye, and the Revelation Road series), The Moment After 1 really has nothing to offer.  Empty characters, stock dialogue, and a predictable apocalyptic progression.  Rapture, fallout, Christian explanations and lingo, government takeover, blah, blah, blah.  This film offers nothing special and adds nothing to Christian entertainment.  It’s inevitably continued and offers no real surprises as Kevin Downes and David A. R. White interview a bunch of people about stuff.  Basically, if you watched any of the above mentioned films, you’ve probably seen this one.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though Brad Heller posts a better performance than usual, David A. R. White and Kevin Downes are their usual action-here-wannabe selves.  Though there are no truly embarrassing performances, there are no dynamic ones either.  Line delivery and emotions are below average and don’t really inspire.  Like the rest of film, this is just unimpressive.

Conclusion

Apparently there was a point in Christian film when creators thought the only action or suspense plots that could be made had to involved the Rapture and another apocalyptic lingo and concepts.  The LaHaye pre-tribulation theory has been conceptualized in film too many times to count, and the The Moment After 1 simply adds to the pile.  There is simply nothing interesting to note in this film and you’re definitely not missing anything.

 

Final Rating: 2 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

 

The Treasure Map [1999] (Movie Review)

trsrmp

Plot Summary

Edward White Eyes finds himself in a problematic position when his grandfather has a sudden heart attack while driving through rural Oklahoma, thus forcing him to have to stay in a recently renovated bed and breakfast full of white homeschooled kids.  One of the kids, Nathan, doesn’t like Edward’s Cherokee (?) heritage or the fact that the bed and breakfast is so full with unknown guests that Edward must share his room.  What’s more is that the white kids discovered a treasure map written in a language only Edward can understand, and it could tell the deep secrets of the formerly dilapidated mansion.  In the end, this Bob Jones film attacks the problem of racism against Native Americans (?) head on in a hard-hitting homeschool epic.

 

Production Quality (-3 points)

We are convinced that The Treasure Map was filmed on a videotape camcorder.  Of course, they likely didn’t have access to much else in 1999, but still.  This production is obviously and ridiculously cheap, with grainy video quality and horrible sound quality.  The sets and locations are passable, but everything just screams backwards homeschoolers.  As a side note, I am not discriminatory against homeschooling—I was a homeschooler through high school.  The problem with movies like this and entities like Bob Jones is that they make all homeschoolers look like white racist fundamentalist patriarchal fools.  But I digress.  Treasure Map’s musical score is perhaps the most annoying we have ever experienced, like it was ripped off of some cheesy white Christian kids music video.  There is really nothing good to say here, and we have only just begun,

Plot and Storyline Quality (-3 points)

The movie begins with every other line being narrated.  From there, the unrealistic time-lapse renovation of a ‘haunted’ mansion is displayed, complete with ridiculous homeschooling stereotypes, like kids not getting any education accomplished and matronly mothers constantly working in the kitchen and cleaning up the house.  Then comes the Native Americans, two characters who do not seem even remotely descended from tribal nations.  Edward is likely the most absurdly mumbling character ever to grace a video screen, with more than half of his lines being indiscernible.  How ridiculously obvious can a name like Edward White Eyes get?  Nathan is an immature racist until he gets ‘fixed’ and becomes a perfect character.  It seems like the entire goal of this plot is to ‘Christianize’ the ‘heathens’ and the treasure antidote is just an excuse to make a movie.  Not a single thing is really accomplished in this so-called plot except for running around looking for ‘treasure’, building teepees, doing tribal dances, dressing up in tribal stuff, going back and forth to the hospital, and attempting to deliver dialogue.  This plot is likely a window into the worldview of Bob Jones University, a very scary place indeed.

Acting Quality (-3 points)

Did we mention that the ‘Native American’ actors are actually Caucasian?  Apparently Bob Jones only employs white actors and actresses.  Besides this, this cast is the worst we have ever seen, with terrible mumbling line delivery and no believable emotions.  Those that can actually say discernable words are over the top and robotic.  Once again, another horrible section for The Treasure Map.

Conclusion

As an added bonus, Treasure Map received the first ever negative x-factor point for being especially horrible in every possible way.  It’s no coincidence that Bob Jones University named their filming arm Unusual Films, because that’s exactly what this movie is.  White backwards patriarchal Christian fundamentalism is on display for the world to see in this film, and we found it overall offensive and repulsive, besides the fact that this is just an epic-ly terrible movie, thus garnering the lowest overall score to date from Box Office Revolution.  With no potential whatsoever, The Treasure Map should have never been made and can now only serve as a textbook example of an awful Christian film.

 

Final Rating: -10 out of 10 points