The Man Who Went to Heaven (Movie Review)

Watch The Man Who Went To Heaven | Prime Video

Plot Summary

When David Burrows is fatally shot in the line of duty as a security guard, he is rushed to the hospital but medically dies. However, David comes back from the other side with a wild story to tell. Will anyone believe his experiences in the afterlife?

Production Quality (1 point)

This film contains another sub-pair production due to shaky camera work and inconsistent audio quality that includes loud sound effects and background sounds as well as a stupid free soundtrack. There are also some very tight shots and terrible special effects. Nonetheless, this section is kept from being worse by fine video quality and acceptable sets, props, and locations. Thus, a meager score is awarded here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In a generally off-the-wall storytelling style, this narrative is full of mindless sequences that don’t accomplish anything. The writers managed to squeeze content out of nothing and filled the runtime with total nonsense as the plot jumps all over the place. Thus, it’s very difficult to keep up with the timelines. Dialogue is ridiculous obvious, and the overt message-pushing produces blank characters. There are also too many characters in general. There is no focus or purpose in this story, and there is a bizarre tone that overshadows everything. In the end, with no notable potential, zero points is the appropriate rating for this aspect of the film.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, the acting of The Man Who Went to Heaven is not horrible. However, this doesn’t mean that the performances are any more than generic and average. Line delivery and emotions are okay but not dynamic. Therefore, an average scored is awarded here.

Conclusion

At this point, it’s painfully clear that the JC Films team will continue to pump out random screenplays however they can. It’s commendable to base movies on source material, but the JC Films model just isn’t the way. Thus, there’s nothing further to say here as constructive criticism has no effect on this team’s choices.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

A Horse for Summer (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The Walsh family is struggling financially because of their overly expensive horse boarding farm. Matters are complicated when a troublemaking cousin is forced to live with them due to her mother’s criminal activity. Together, the must all learn to trust God no matter what and to not take matters into their own hands.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, this film has an average production. Despite fine video quality and acceptable camera work and lighting, the audio quality leaves something to be desired. This is due to loud background sounds and a generic soundtrack. Also, editing is somewhat choppy although sets, locations, and props are good. This mixed bag of elements leads to the run-of-the-mill rating.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This narrative is unfortunately filled with expository dialogue as each scene is overly staged. Every conversation is robotically engineered to spoon-feed the audience and leave nothing to chance. A major component of this is forceful Christian messaging and convenient sermonizing about how going to church will fix all your problems as well as other cheesy platitudes. Some sequences make absolutely no sense, and tons of wasted time drowns out whatever small prospects there are in potentially realistic character backstories. The writers expect the viewers to care about the characters, who could have been good, without properly developing them. In the end, issues are fixed way too easily, and with nothing significantly positive to note here, no points can be awarded in this section.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Most of the time, the acting in A Horse for Summer is quite bad. The performances are very mechanical and lack conviction. Emotions are empty, and line delivery is procedural. Many cast members seem unsure in their acting, but not all of them are unconvincing. There are some moments of good performing, especially from some actors and actresses. Thus, a small score can be given here.

Conclusion

In the end, this screenplay was extremely formulaic in its creation. This idea has been done time and again, and although this movie had some potential to be different, it didn’t live up to this. Thus, A Horse for Summer becomes just another throwaway film that will be forgotten.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

To the Ends of the Earth [2018] (Movie Review)

Watch To The Ends of the Earth | Prime Video

Plot Summary

When the Apostle Paul went to Philippi, this was the first time that the gospel of Jesus Christ had reached the continent of Europe. However, Paul faced much opposition and many trials in his mission to follow the Lord’s calling. Nonetheless, his obedience changed countless generations to come.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Although video quality is fine and the soundtrack is culturally sensitive, dizzying camera work and confusing special effects hold the production back from being what it could have been. Sets, locations, and props are great, but sound effects are poor. Further, editing is inconsistent, which goes with the overall theme of this production being a mixed bag. Thus, an average scored is granted here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While it’s commendable that the writers of this narrative focused on one short aspect of Paul’s ministry, the apostle himself is too perfect of a character, which means that it’s hard to relate to him as a person. Also, demonic elements are too sensational as too much time is spent on dark spirituality. Elsewhere, the story presentation is confusing since it makes the progression of events very unclear. Most of the characters are inaccessible and hard to connect with due to procedural dialogue. Unfortunately, although this plot could have been interesting, it doesn’t offer any potential because attention is given to all the wrong things.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though the casting is sometimes culturally authentic, this is not always the case. Nonetheless, the actors and actresses make some good attempts at accents. Sometimes, the acting is believable while other times, the performances are too theatrical and stoic. Emotions and line delivery can be a bit uneven at times. Unfortunately, the bad outweighs the good in this section, which leads to a sub-par score.

Conclusion

Period pieces about well-known Bible characters are very difficult to effectively execute. There are many moving parts and small details that are easy to get wrong. As a whole, it seems like that the creators of To the Ends of the Earth had the right motives but not always the correct philosophy. Unfortunately, there are just too many pitfalls in this screenplay that kept it in the basement of Christian entertainment.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

30 Day Promise (Movie Review)

30 Day Promise (2017) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Heather Winslow’s life has gone from bad to worse. In a short amount of time, she receives news that her husband wants to divorce and that she has cancer. However, she convinces her husband to wait 30 days to see what happens. During this time, Heather must have faith that God is still in control.

Production Quality (1 point)

Despite fine video quality, this film contains on overall cheap production. Audio quality is very inconsistent, including background noises and hard-to-hear lines. Camera work is mostly acceptable except for some moments of shaky cam. Sets, locations, and props are fairly limited, and the screenplay is full of disorienting montages and the use of split screens. Editing is poor, but there is a tiny bit of improvement as time goes on. Nonetheless, it’s not enough to warrant any more than a low score for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Due to stock and vanilla dialogue, the characters of this narrative are simply pawns in whatever scheme that the writers want to use them in. Bland conversations do nothing to aid character growth, and the creators give no real reasons for why the characters do what they do. Expository dialogue takes the place of scenes that show the audience what’s happening, and mentions of off-screen content are annoying. Events just happen randomly throughout the plot, and the viewing experience is confused by unnecessarily large time jumps. Lacking regard for realistic divorce proceedings and medical facts, the writers elect to advocate for unusual methods of getting a married couple to love each other again, demonstrating how little they understand about real relationships. In the end, with no potential in this aspect of the movie, no points can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting is actually the strongest aspect of 30 Day Promise. Although the performances are generic, they are neither horrible nor dynamic. In some scenes, it feels like the cast members are awkwardly standing around and reciting lines. However, some actors and actresses are better than others. The finished product is enough to justify an average score.

Conclusion

It’s possible that the creators of film meant well. However, it’s hard to tell based on their portrayal of Christian relationships. 30 Day Promise is essentially a half-finished idea that needed a lot more fleshing out before it was released to the public. In the end, there’s really nothing memorable about this creation, relegating it to the stockpile of forgotten Christian entertainment.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Promises to Keep [2020] (Movie Review)

Promises to Keep (2020) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Jonathan and Evelyn were engaged when they were young, but mistakes drove them apart. Now that they are both older and widowed, they have come back into each other’s lives because their children have fallen in love. Will they be able to heal the old wounds while looking to the future???

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Despite a mostly acceptable production, including fine video quality and camera work, the beginning of this film is quite rough. Audio quality leaves something to be desired, such as an in-your-face soundtrack. Flashbacks have an unnecessarily weird quality to them. Also, sets, locations, and props are slightly limited. Further, editing is incredibly choppy and disorienting. However, there is some improvement as the production goes on, which is enough to warrant an average score for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Throughout this narrative, there is a generally odd tone as the writers try very hard to force their specific doctrines onto the viewers, which include some very unusual beliefs about Christian behaviors. As such, the dialogue is very obvious, creating perfect characters that are inaccessible as they spout Christian platitudes at the other characters. Besides this, some of the characters make really weird decisions for no reasons at all, and in general, events occur simply because the creators wanted them to happen. The “bad” characters are ridiculous stereotypes while the “good” characters push the lie that becoming more religious fixes all one’s problems. Nearly every scene is either about imposing the writers’ worldview or an exploration of edgy content. Basically a long monologue of propaganda, this plot has no potential and is thus awarded no points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The acting in Promises to Keep is very sub-par. The performances are quite matter-of-fact, including overly practiced and forced emotions. Some scenes have over-the-top drama, such as yelling and screaming. Though line delivery is mostly acceptable, this isn’t enough to keep this section from receiving a low score.

Conclusion

As has been said many times before, when the creator of a screenplay intends to push propaganda in their movie, there’s no way that the film can ever be good. Two main goals of Christian entertainment should be to invite the audience to think and to responsibly present the writers’ worldview without shoving in down viewers’ throats. It’s unbiblical and un-educational to force agendas on audiences, which is why the reputation of Christian media is so poor today. The only way to fix this problem is to focus on quality over quantity as we move forward.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Dispatched [2020] (Movie Review)

Watch Dispatched | Prime Video

Plot Summary

Carl Thomas is an embattled police officer being questioned about his past actions. Thus, Carl relates why he made the choices that he did and how he’s now a different man. Will his interrogators believe his story before it’s too late?

Production Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, the past production transgressions of JC Films have not been atoned for. Dispatched has all the same problems of past films created by this team, such as loud background sounds and echoes, not to mention the generally grainy audio quality. Despite moments of a surprisingly good soundtrack, many aspects of the score don’t always fit the mood of the scenes. Elsewhere, lighting is inconsistent, and camera work is incredibly random, including weird angles. Video quality is acceptable, but editing is quite choppy. Thus, with a tiny amount of potential, this section receives a small score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

One of the main strength areas of Dispatched is its shockingly honest portrayal of the complexity behind police problems. In this endeavor, authentic flashbacks are used to build character motive and personality. However, it all goes downhill from there as convenient and random things happen when the writers need them to occur. Similarly, obvious dialogue steers the plot in the direction that the creators want it to go rather than letting events develop naturally. The interesting exploration of the protagonist’s backstory is overshadowed by the contrived nature of the narrative. Part of this trumped-up premise is the assumption that one spiritual experience will magically make someone the most perfect Christian who ever lived. These steep character arcs are impossible to relate to, and these concerns make for very cheap messaging. Christian platitudes are used in place of meaningful lessons, thus leading to an empty conclusion. Therefore, with only a small dose of potential, this section is awarded a meager rating.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Although the acting of this screenplay leaves much to be desired, it’s still the strongest aspect of the movie. Emotions are forceful, such as cast members trying too hard to be angry. Line delivery often lacks conviction and natural register. However, the acting generally improves with time to the point where an average score is warranted.

Conclusion

When will the JC Films team ever learn? The last thing that the Christian entertainment field needs is more quantity to full up our streaming services and further turn people off to the genre. Just imagine if the budgets and efforts for each individual film were bundled together into one or two screenplays. Less is always more, so one day, we’ll hopefully see this play out in Christian entertainment.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

A Cowgirl’s Story (Movie Review)

A Cowgirl's Story': Movie Review | HORSE NATION

Plot Summary

Dusty Rhodes has had a hard time due both of her parents being in the military and being called out for duty at the same time during the Iraqi War. While she lives with her grandfather, Dusty has an idea to force her school to start a horse program by riding her horse to school. As a result, she gets a whole bunch of her classmates together to compete in horse competitions, but things get even more complicated from there. Can Dusty rely on her faith to make it through?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, A Cowgirl’s Story has an average production, including fine video quality but odd camera work as some scenes appear to be filmed in busy public places. Audio quality is acceptable, however, and the sets, locations, and props are run-of-the-mill. Other aspects are okay, but the editing is a big detractor. The cuts and transitions are very poor, making for a choppy viewing experience. Due to this mixed bag, a middle-of-the-road score is warranted here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With absolutely no substantial plot content to speak of, this film lacks meaningful conflict and story focus. The narrative jumps all over the map as one thing happens after another without any clear connections to other events. A disjointed and spastic narrative presentation takes the audience on a wild ride through cheesy high school romances and horse subplots that just happen for no good reason other than the writers’ whims. The characters experience extremely unrealistic and absurd circumstances just for the sake of coincidences, and there’s so many things to keep up with since more and more new concepts are continually being introduced. This is disorienting to the viewer, and it makes matters worse that the characters are incredibly blank. Stiff and forced conversations accomplish absolutely nothing as they’re full of vanilla and stock dialogue. Therefore, due to purposelessness and pointlessness in this section, no points can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Despite some average performances from a handful of cast members, much of the acting in this movie is cringeworthy, especially the teenage and young adult actors and actresses. This includes forced line delivery and emotions. It’s hard to take some of the cast members seriously, especially when Pat Boone posts creepy performances. Thus, this section can only receive a meager score.

Conclusion

A Cowgirl’s Story is just another pointless screenplay littering the Christian entertainment landscape. There’s no point to films like these except to make an attempt at a cash grab. Hopefully, however, these days are ending as we look forward to an improved market where creators actually care about producing quality content that can connect with audiences.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Romance in the Outfield: Double Play (Movie Review)

Review: Utah-made 'Romance in the Outfield: Double Play' strikes out in the  rom-com department — The Movie Cricket

Plot Summary

Kenzie and Tyler used to be in love, but after their falling out, they haven’t spoken for years. However, a string of coincidences has now thrown them back together, and they’ll have to decide what they’re going to do about it. Also, Tyler’s sister has her own relationship issues to sort out.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, this film’s production is acceptable, including fine camera work and good video quality. Lighting is okay throughout, but there are some background echoes along with an inconsistent soundtrack. Sets, locations, and props are somewhat limited in scope, but the editing is at least average. As a result, these factors produce a run-of-the-mill score for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As a sequel to a movie that no one can remember, Romance in the Outfield: Double Play expects the viewers to understand what’s already happened in this narrative. However, this is poorly communicated, leaving the plot purposeless. It feels like every scene is constructed to happen just because the writers want them to, therefore producing blank characters with vanilla and cardboard dialogue. Lots of time is wasted on long and meaningless sequences that use the characters as pawns in a stupid romance agenda. Ridiculously fake conflicts fuel the romantic tug-of-war, and extremely convenient situations force strangers into baseless relationships with each other. The most absurd romance tropes are presented in the most infantile ways until the story mercifully ends, leaving the audience without anything substantial or useful. Thus, no points can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

On the whole, the acting in this screenplay seems unsure although it’s not all bad. Oftentimes, line delivery is too muted, and the emotions are quite mechanical. With nothing truly dynamic yet some potential, only a point is warranted in this section.

Conclusion

Romance in the Outfield: Double Play is essentially a follow-up just for the sake of it. There was nothing in Pitching Love and Catching Faith that justified a sequel, especially when the sequel just rehashed the same narrative while still somehow leaving the audience mostly in the dark as to what the first installment was about. This failure was difficult to pull off, but this creative team did it effortlessly. In the end, a lack of effort is this film’s biggest downfall and the reason why it didn’t need to exist.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Charity [2012] (Movie Review)

Watch Charity | Prime Video

Plot Summary

Megan and Jake were happily married with six children. However when Jake is suddenly killed in a military training accident, Megan the the kids are almost immediately thrust into poverty. Megan is forced to scrape by on a tiny income while she worries where her family will live. Will anyone come to help them? Does God still care about them?

Production Quality (.5 point)

There are many problems in this production, beginning with the very poor audio quality, which is evidenced by echoes, loud background noises, and an invasive soundtrack that overtakes the audio and doesn’t fit with the scenes. While camera work is pedestrian at best, the lighting is quite random. For the most part, sets, locations, and props are generic, but some of them don’t adequately represent what they’re supposed to portray. Elsewhere, the editing is inconsistent, which rounds out an underwhelming effort only worthy of a meager score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As this story jumps around without much coherent thought, some scenes drag on too long despite the fact that they’re totally lifeless. It really doesn’t make much sense for a military family to suddenly fall into total poverty after the father was killed in training…logically, there would be other extenuating circumstances that would lead to the economic downturn. Besides this plot hole, there really isn’t any character development due to very bland and procedural dialogue. Narrative focus and themes are lacking in the first half of the film, but this surprisingly changes in the second half as the movie actually presents some slightly interesting ideas using a unique storyline structure. Nonetheless, this doesn’t make up for the fact that the characters are lacking in development, which doesn’t change later in the screenplay. As such, just a small amount of potential reflects a low rating for this section.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite some poor costuming and bored acting, the performances of Charity tend to improve as the film goes on. Although there aren’t any truly dynamic cast members, none of them are terrible either. Emotions begin somewhat flat yet become more realistic with time. Thus, due to this mixed bag, only an average score is warranted here.

Conclusion

This movie is basically a short story idea that needs to be repackaged into a more complex series. The plot concept needs more buildup because it’s interesting but requires more background than we’re given in Charity. Though the final rating is quite low, there was a surprising amount of potential here, so maybe, in future projects, this creative team will improve with increased collaboration.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Second Chances [2021] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After his father dies, Cameron Taylor is confused and frustrated with life. This is only compounded by a tragedy that he witnesses and feels guilty about. Thus, Cam’s mother decides that he needs to spend the summer with his aunt, uncle, and cousins in a small town. There, Cam has a life-changing experience that he could have never expected to happen.

Production Quality (1 point)

This production has some acceptable areas and some aspects that are not up to standard. Audio and video quality fall into the acceptable category. However, inconsistent lighting, amateurish camera angles, and terrible sound and special effects detract from this. Also, sets, locations, and props are quite cheap. Further, editing is fairly choppy, and despite some slight improvement as time goes on, this section just doesn’t make the cut for 2021.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Although this narrative jumps all over the place and meanders around with little to no purpose, there are actually some slightly interesting ideas contained in the shuffle. One of these is a surprisingly good portrayal of trauma via flashbacks. Another is the protagonist’s relatable struggles with the problem of pain. However, vanilla dialogue and overly scripted conversations short-circuit character development and accessibility. The characters seem incomplete, and the Christian ones are simply too perfect. After a random collection of scenes fills time in the story’s first and second thirds, the final third is ruined by very steep character arcs that lack adequate build-up. As a whole, even though it’s clear that this writing team meant well, the plot is too unfocused, lacking a central theme to tether the random concepts that are mixed together within it.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, the acting of this film leaves something to be desired as it’s overly practiced and stilted. Many of the scenes are very awkward as the cast members simply stand around and recite lines without conviction. Nonetheless, some of the actors and actresses seem to mean well, and they demonstrate slight improvement as the movie goes on. However, it’s only enough to warrant a small score.

Conclusion

This creative team obviously wanted to do the right thing with Second Chances. For this reason, they have lots of future potential. Moreover, while it was a nice idea to explore a character-based narrative, this screenplay would have been better suited as a short film. Alternatively, more writing support was needed to make it complex enough to justify the runtime. Taking all of this into account, it will be interesting see what this group comes up with next.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Trust {The Life of Daniel} [2018] (Movie Review)

Trust (2018) | Full Movie | Suzan Marie Ghaleb | Danny Elacci | Chelsea  Bennett - YouTube

Plot Summary

Daniel Rainwater had everything going for him in life: a good job, a nice house, and the family he always wanted. However, when things suddenly take a turn for the worst, Daniel is unsure what to do. Some people tell him to turn to God, but Daniel isn’t too sure about the Christian faith. Little does he know that he’ll have to face what he doesn’t want to talk about before it’s too late.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

In some respects, this production seems to have good effort behind it. For instance, video quality is acceptable, and the sets, locations, and props are at least above average. Audio quality is also fine, including an okay soundtrack. However, the camera work is quite inconsistent, sometimes involving odd camera angles that disorient the audience. Additionally, by far the worst aspect of this section is the severely choppy and confusing editing that nearly negates any good there was in other production elements. It makes for a very difficult viewing experience and overall reduces this rating to middle-of-the-road.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Much like the disorganized editing, the scenes of this narrative jump from one thing to the next, going by so fast that it’s difficult to know what’s going on. Offscreen content makes things confusing, and the characters are simply pawns in the plot’s manufactured circumstances. Despite some slightly meaningful attempts at dialogue, it’s simply not enough to keep the characters from being distant and abstract cardboard cutouts. The protagonist goes from being a downtrodden victim to being a perfect Christian as the writers assert that nothing can’t be easily fixed by a Christianese speech and a musical montage. Because of this, the real issue explored in this story are portrayed in very trite and shallow ways. Further, strangely forced humor is framed in weird contexts. In the end, Trust is a wasted effort due to its childish handling of otherwise heavy topics, vaguely inaccessible characters, and spastic plot presentation.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though there are some good performances, awkward and forced acting is another pitfall in this movie. Emotions seem very forced throughout, including a lot of yelling and screaming. Also, line delivery is quick, choppy, and stilted. Thus, the negative outweighs the positive here, giving this section a below-average rating.

Conclusion

Screenplays like Trust start out with possibly good intentions but easily go off the rails due to poor planning and lack of collaboration. This film has the potential to offer a meaningful message to viewers, but it’s extremely jumbled in the delivery. Without vital components and clear direction from God, movies like these will unfortunately always come up short.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Sweet Sunshine (Movie Review)

Sweet Sunshine' movie: Arizona-made film streaming on Amazon Prime

Plot Summary

TJ Millhouse was a poor farmhand with a fleeting dream of being a recording artist. However, this dreams seemed to die along with his sister in a tragic car accident, but a local talent scout accidentally discovers TJ’s songs and brings him in to record some more. Before TJ knows it, he’s super famous, but this fame comes crashing down when he’s suddenly afflicted by an unknown medical condition that prevents him from singing. Will he ever be able to recover?

Production Quality (1 point)

In keeping with most Faith House/Inspiriter productions, Sweet Sunshine leaves something to be desired in this category. Though video quality and lighting are fine, there are too many background echoes and sounds. Camera work is acceptable, and the soundtrack is back and forth. Sets, locations, and props are passable but could be better. The worst element of all that drags down this section is the extremely choppy editing. Some scenes drag on for no reason while others are abruptly cut off. Thus, with little dynamic and too much negative, a low score is all that can be offered here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Despite some slight attempts to establish character motive in this plot, most of the dialogue leaves a lot to be desired. While one personal tragedy after another strikes in this narrative, some characters seem unaffected by these circumstances, which makes them feel like cardboard cutouts. Silly coincidences fuel the story’s progression as things unnaturally happen because the writers what them to. This shows just how weak the premise is. What’s more, incredibly disconnected subplots and wild time jumps leave the viewer very confused. Stupid and pointless scenes waste tons of time, and the screenplay can’t decide what it’s actually about. The Christian message is extremely vague, and there’s some bizarre edgy content that’s very unnecessary. It all concludes with a ridiculous ending that magically fixes the invented medical problems with no explanation. Basically, Sweet Sunshine is just another lame Faith House offering.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, the acting of this film is stock. Line delivery is acceptable although some lines are mumbled. Emotions are a bit blank, but it’s overall enough to produce an average score for this section. This rounds out an unacceptably low quality effort for 2020.

Conclusion

What’s with Faith House’s (now Inspiriter) weird obsessed with off-the-wall medical tragedies and concepts in their movies? Before All Others, Desert Redemption, A Calling of Courage, So Help Us God, and A Time for Heaven are examples of this. Now, Sweet Sunshine joins these ranks with a nondescript voice condition that can be magically healed for no reason. Inspiriter is wasting their good platform as a direct-to-Amazon-Prime independent creator. People are watching their offerings, but the films are only further contributing to the bad reputation that Christian entertainment has. Audiences want easy-to-access movies, but quality definitely matters.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Can I Get a Witness Protection? (Movie Review)

Can I Get a Witness Protection? (2016) movie posters

Plot Summary

When Jack and Julie are forced into the Witness Protection Program to prevent criminals from killing them because of what they saw, the only obvious option is for them to pose as Christians in a local church. Jack is supposed to be a new associate pastor, but when the lead pastor suddenly dies, Jack has to take over the church! However, Jack isn’t even a Christian, so of course, he has to fake it! Can the couple pull the wool over the flock’s eyes and avoid henchmen who are after them?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Although the video quality and camera work are fine, the audio quality is quite inconsistent throughout, including a cheesy soundtrack. Sets, locations, and props leave something to be desire, and special effects are quite cheap. Editing is mostly pedestrian, but there’s enough production improvement as the film goes on to warrant an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It seems like the forced premise wherein a non-Christian character is forced to be Christian has really been done before and is quite worn out. If it must be done, the characters should at least be accessible and realistic, but instead, the comedy in this narrative is extremely forced and unfunny. It’s hard to determine where this story is intended to be a parody, but the dialogue and circumstances therein are quite absurd. The characters seem purposefully over-the-top as the writers try way too hard to make sure you know how funny it’s supposed to be. Nonsensical plot turns happen just because the need to and only lead to predictable conclusion. Besides these typical pitfalls, strange crude humor and bizarre jokes make for an overall unusual experience. Thus, with no creativity or potential, this section receives zero points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Extreme emotions accompany the movie’s overall in-your-face feel, and comedy acting is eye-rolling. Many performances are overdone, annoying, and cheesy, and the line delivery is mostly uneven. Nonetheless, there are some acceptable parts in this section that are enough to warrant at least one point.

Conclusion

What can audiences really get out of these types of quasi-Christian attention getters? Just trying to make a play for faith-based viewers is a worn-out tactic that people are becoming more and more wise to. If you’re desperate to make a Christian film or series, there’s plenty of source material from books, both fiction and non-fiction, that would be ten times more successful than more mindless comedies like Can I Get a Witness Protection?

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Grace of the Father (Movie Review)

index

Plot Summary

When a family’s mother dies, the father decides to move with his kids back to his wife’s birthplace. Tired of being under the thumb of a ruthless land owner, they want to have a farm of their own like the mother always wanted. However, the adopted son doesn’t want to live their new life and promptly leaves when he’s old enough. Will he come to his senses and return to the family who loves him?

Production Quality (1 point)

Despite acceptable camera work and video quality, the lighting in this production is inconsistent, including some dark indoor scenes and weird soft light in random places. Audio quality is all over the place due to poor microphones, background echoes, loud background sounds, and a generic soundtrack. Special effects are very cheap, and production elements, such as sets, locations, and props, don’t adequately portray what they’re supposed to represent. Nonetheless, some slight production improvement in the film’s second half is enough to earn a point for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Although the characters in Grace of the Father are slightly realistic at times, they mostly tend to be stereotypical due to obvious dialogue and circular conversations. The perfect Christians have unrealistic responses to tragedies and seem unaffected by a key family death, choosing to rely on mindless platitudes and exhibit random emotional outbursts that don’t fit the contexts. Elsewhere, it’s difficult to know what to focus on as the random subplots are simply strung together, causing the narrative the aimless wander in purposelessness. Valuable time is wasted on musical montages that accomplish nothing, and the story meanders all over the place without giving the audience a reason to be interested in it. However, in the final fourth of the plot, a slightly interesting twist is revealed that could have been interesting. Nonetheless, it’s not enough to redeem the other pointlessness in the movie, and many viewers will never make it far enough to see the ending. Thus, only a small score can be granted here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

For the most part, the acting in this film is passable even though the emotions tend to be flat and unrealistic. There’s nothing particularly dynamic or awful about these performances. However, they trend negative as the movie progresses. Therefore, only a point can be warranted here.

Conclusion

Lazarus Filmworks consistently puts out screenplays but has never been able to hit the average mark. They seem to mean well in what they do, but there’s always too many things holding them back from better ratings. Grace of the Father is no exception to this tendency, and there’s simply no more room in Christin entertainment for subpar efforts. In the future, creative teams like this one need to reassess their current direction and see where God wants them to go in the future. Collaboration is likely the best option for most creators.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Adam’s Testament (Movie Review)

Adam's Testament (2017)

Plot Summary

Joseph Gable is a police detective with a troubled past, but he never gives up trying to bring his son Adam back to the faith they once both had. However, a creepy businessman has come to city and seems to have some kind of magical hold over Adam, along with others in the area. Thankfully, there’s some ninja angels in the neighborhood who can help Joseph fight the forces of evil and take back his son!

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Despite acceptable video quality and camera work except for some randomly shaky moments, there are a lot of dark scenes throughout this production. The soundtrack is interesting, but audio quality is inconsistent. Special effects are very cheesy, and there are several awkward fadeouts. Further, the editing is mostly average; there are also some improvements with various elements as the movie goes on, which is enough to warrant an average score for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Besides the typically absurd spiritual horror premise, the dialogue of Adam’s Testament is very obvious and message-pushing, making the characters feel like mere representations of issues rather than actual people. Despite a few interesting psychological elements, the spiritual warfare aspects are not handled well at all as they are too heavy-handed, leaving nothing to chance. Flashbacks are present but fail to properly build character personality and motive. What’s more, the audience can easily become isolated by the world built in this narrative since it’s hard to know where or what is happening as too many concepts are thrown at the viewers. At times, the writers become lost in their own philosophizing and their obsession with portraying Satan as a cheesy figure with more power than he actually possesses. Further, legalism and the unusual elevation of angels pollute the storyline, and it all concludes on a very bizarre note that only muddies the already murky waters. In the end, there’s just too much negative here to warrant any points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Between forced emotions and line delivery, it’s clear that this cast was coached to as dramatic and serious as possible. Overall, the performances are trying too hard, and things only get worse as they go. Though some of acting is somewhat acceptable, it tends to get worse as it proceeds. Thus, one point is all that can be warranted here, which rounds out an overall absurd film.

Conclusion

Pretty much every spiritual horror screenplay in Christian entertainment history is a total bust. Adam’s Testament just falls into the already long line of awful offerings in this so-called genre. It seems like all these types of movies want to do is create a lot of sensationalism, using faith-based elements as props to reach a certain audience, whoever it may be. Thus, the next time a creator thinks about making one of these, they might should think twice and see if that’s what they’re actually supposed to do.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

End of the Trail [2019] (Movie Review)

End of the Trail | 2019 Movie | Drama | HD | Full Movie | English - YouTube

Plot Summary

When their father dies, three brothers are tasked with taking his ashes to their dad’s favorite place in the California wilderness. However, because each son knew their father at different stages in his checkered life, they all have different perspectives of him. As a result, each brother lives completely different lives. However, they will have to learn how to overcome their differences in order to face the future together.

Production Quality (.5 point)

End of the Trail has a surprisingly bad production for 2019. This includes poor lighting, odd camera angles, shaky camera work, and off-putting zooms. The video is a bit blurry at times, and while the audio is mostly acceptance, the soundtrack seems out of place and too loud. There are also some echoes, background noises, and extremely obvious overdubs. Flashbacks tend to have a weird quality to them. What’s more, the editing is incredibly choppy, sometimes cutting off scenes for no reason. Odd occasions of slow motion sometimes disrupt the viewing experience, and despite some very small improvements as the production does on, it’s just not enough to warrant a higher score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

From the very start, End of the Trail is guided by heavy-handed narration that comes and goes at will. It attempts to tie scenes together that seem randomly thrown together without continuity between them and out of place in the big picture. Besides being mostly boring and aimless, mindless conversations and unnecessary language produce empty characters, including strawmen depictions of non-Christians. Also, ‘bad’ characters have incredibly steep arcs and unrealistic conversions just for the sake of it. Despite this narrative’s tiny amount of potential, exploring broken family systems through intriguing flashbacks, it’s overshadowed by terrible storytelling. The plot finally crashes into a forced conclusion that lacks believable buildup and tries to claim unearned victories. In the end, this is just another one of those forgettable experiences.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Even with vanilla acting, this section is surprisingly the film’s best aspect. With nothing particularly special or horrible, the acting earns an average score. Through emotions are forced at times, there are enough good elements to justify this rating, yet it doesn’t help the movie’s overall abysmal performance.

Conclusion

As we’ve said over and over again, 2019 is not the time for such low-quality offerings. That year was particularly bloated with new screenplays, and a vast majority of them were extremely unnecessary. All they did was further contribute to the already-negative view of Christian entertainment. Hopefully, in the coming days, future creators can reverse this tide.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

The Saint Tammany Miracle {Heavenly Hoops} (Movie Review)

The St. Tammany Miracle (1994) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Father Thomas Mulberry hired Lootie to coach the girl’s basketball team for the small Episcopalian college he was the chancellor of. He didn’t want her to change anything about the team, but she did anyway and, in the process, won the hearts of the girls on the team. Nonetheless, as time went on, Thomas found himself growing fonder of Lootie, but he would have to learn to open up to people if he expected to move forward in life.

Production Quality (1 point)

The Saint Tammany Miracle has unnecessarily blurry video quality even though the camera work is acceptable. Audio is a problem, however, as the loud and annoying soundtrack covers up talking and other sounds. Sets, locations, and props are fine, but the editing is by far the production’s worst element. Some scenes shockingly begin in the middle of others, and many sequences are abruptly cut off. Needless to say, there’s too much negative in this section for it to earn a score higher than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Because this story jumps all over the place, it’s very unclear what its actual purpose is. There’s basically no continuity between the scenes as the screenplay is like a collection of unrelated skits lacking an actual storyline to connect them together. Full of clunky dialogue and meaningless conversations, the characters are generic, blank, and based on ridiculous gender stereotypes. What’s more, they make unusual decisions that lack logic and consistency, including perpetuating a nonsensical love triangle that has no basis in reality. Aided by an extremely vague plot development, the narrative races to a mindless ending scene that easily fixes whatever half-baked problems it created. In the end, with no clear point or direction, The Saint Tammany Miracle flounders at a score of zero for this section.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite the other problem areas of this film, the acting is actually its strongest element. However, it’s still just average. Emotions and line delivery are just run-of-the-mill as the performances are neither all good nor all bad. Thus, this middle-of-the-road section rounds out an overall underwhelming effort.

Conclusion

The good thing is that we’re (hopefully) long past head-scratchers like The Saint Tammany Miracle. When production quality is so low and the story is so empty, there’s really no point in moving forward with the idea until something substantial can be offered. Making something just for the sake of it is never a good foundation.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

The Crossroads of Hunter Wilde (Movie Review)

The Crossroads Of Hunter Wilde - Full Movie | Mike Norris, Abel ...

Plot Summary

In the aftermath of a world war that left mutants and ISIS rebels roaming the earth in search of their next victims, Hunter Wilde fights to survive and protect those close to him. However, when a new threat emerges that he has no idea how to fight, Hunter does what he typically does: run away. Will he be able to rekindle his faith before it’s too late?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Despite seemingly having adequate funding, this production fails to meet quality standards. This includes background noise that sometimes conflicts with spoken audio as well as a loud and generic soundtrack. The sets, locations, and props don’t effectively portray what they’re supposed to portray. Also, the camera work is wild, including poor shots in action sequences. The video quality is mostly stable throughout, however, and the editing is average. Despite some less-than-inspiring special effects, some elements of the production do improve as it goes on. Nonetheless, it’s only enough to earn a middle-of-the-road score for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Besides the fact that this film is based on a ridiculous premise and bizarre plot elements, it also contains a really bad and slightly incorrect portrayal of the spiritual dimension. The writers seemed to be obsessed with sensationalism, shock, and awe as well as fixated on pro-prepper messaging that seems to want the world to descend into chaos so that they can do whatever they want. Despite being a large-scale idea, the story is based on clunky narration and stock footage. It’s also full of forced drama and purposely creepy supernatural elements. In the character department, the so-called protagonist almost always saves the day via unrealistic action sequences. Other characters are built on forced cardboard dialogue and awkward conversations that make everything drag out. The villains are extremely cheesy, and the narrative decides what happens to the characters and what random things they’ll do without good reasons for doing them. Things only get more ridiculous as they go, mostly due to the fact that the movie confuses itself with wacky inter-dimensional subplots and terminology. The concepts of other realms are extremely difficult to grasp, and the screenplay’s questionable view of spirituality tends to play fast and loose with reality. In the end, this is a pointless storyline full of madness and nonsense.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Between overly theatrical emotions and forced line delivery, the cast was seemingly coached to be very serious for no good reason. Too often, tones and feelings don’t seem to appropriately fit the situations. Makeup is also an obvious problem, and the villain acting is laughably ridiculous. In the end, despite some okay moments that keep this section from being zero, the acting tends to worsen as it goes forward, which rounds out an overall absurd creation.

Conclusion

It’s difficult to understand what the makes of this film were really going for. Mixing a dystopian premise with muted political overtures, much like The Reliant, is basically a losing formula from the get-go. Combing this with poor production and acting aspects sends this movie down to the basement of Christian entertainment. However, the market is thankfully changing for the better, which will no longer allow screenplays like this to exist.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Runnin’ From My Roots (Movie Review)

Runnin' from My Roots (2018) - IMDb

Plot Summary

After country music star Faith Winters receives some bad publicity for a bad decision of hers, she’s obviously forced to return to her hometown, where she happens to reconnect with her high school sweetheart, also known as the local pastor. Coincidentally, the church is about to go under from lack of funds, so it’s possible Faith might be able to help there. However, she’s being stalked by her sort-of boyfriend and will have to rediscover the way she used to be in order to move forward or something.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Runnin’ from My Roots has a mixed bag for a production, including very shaky camera work and inconsistent lighting. Some of the audio is fine, but some of it is quite over-driven, echoed, or too quiet. The soundtrack is also random and sometimes conflicts with itself, yet the sets, locations, and props are acceptable. Further, the editing leaves something to be desired as there are awkwardly abrupt cuts and transitions. Even still, there’s some slight improvement as the film goes on, which is enough to warrant an average score for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As if Runnin’ from My Roots wasn’t already basically the most typical plot ever, invasive narration interrupts whatever flow it could have had. Even still, since the storyline is so chock full of predictable small town stuff, stock dialogue, and generic stereotypes, it’s basically a fruitless effort. One random thing happens after another, and it all seems surprisingly disconnected from itself, such as the vague, unexplained conflicts and the very fast pace that the narrative moves at. Due to the speed, things are forced on the viewer without them naturally developing or having a basis for occurring. Besides this, there are too many confusing subplots that don’t fit together, and what the characters claim to experience doesn’t realistically translate to what the audience feels. Conversations are full of stupid one-liners and nonsensical big city/small town dichotomies, which makes the entire movie seem unserious and phoned in. In the end, without a little dose of save-the-church elements, this story really has something for everything in the category of lame screenplays and nothing for points that matter.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though there are times when the acting of Runnin’ from My Roots is average, a lot of the time, it’s quite forceful. An example of this is the myriad of fake accents and overdone makeup work. Also, some cast members try to draw a lot of attention to themselves with over-the-top drama and pageantry. Elsewhere, line delivery and emotions are too deliberate and pronounced. While it’s not all bad, this section rounds out a very low-quality effort.

Conclusion

There’s no longer a place in the market for films like Runnin’ from My Roots. Run-of-the-mill, half-baked offerings like this one are unacceptable and easily forgotten. It’s an unfortunate waste of resources, and hopefully, Christian audiences will continue to ignore movies like this so that they are no longer made.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Scion [2018] (Movie Review)

Kingdom Sight

Plot Summary

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

Production Quality (1 point)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

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

Conclusion

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

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Finding Grace (Movie Review)

Finding Grace | Home

Plot Summary

Alaska Rose has been a troubled youth ever since her mother left her life. Allie has gotten in and out of trouble, but now that she’s 18, the stakes have risen since a judge has ordered her to complete community service and to avoid run-ins with the law in order to avoid prison. Hence, Allie has been tasked with volunteering at a nursing home, which she immediately hates. However, as time goes, Allie discovers things about herself and about those around her that change her perspective on life.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

All throughout, Finding Grace is uneven in the production department, including some shaky camera work and poor audio quality, such as obvious background sounds and a generic soundtrack. While the sets, locations, and props are mostly okay, some of the lighting in scenes in inconsistent. Also, there is a lack of logical transitions between scenes and quick, abrupt cuts that make for a choppy editing experience. Although there is some improvement as the production progresses, it doesn’t do enough to get past the halfway mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From start to finish, Finding Grace has a mostly typical premise and is based on very stereotypical characters due to vanilla dialogue and predictable circumstances. Most things done in this film have been done and seen before, yet it’s hard to understand what the purpose of some of the characters is. Many of the scenes are very vague and black such that they don’t properly present the story in way that the viewer can clearly understand. This makes it difficult to comprehend the actual point of the narrative and the focus of the plot since it just feels like a random collection of instances strung together for the sake of making a movie. The storytelling is all over the map since some characters have erratic personality changes and lack justification for some of their actions. However, after some sermonizing and meandering, the final third of the film tries to pull itself out of the nosedive by inventing important character motive out of thin air. It’s unfortunate that the idea behind why the characters act the way they do is actually very believable and well-concealed until its reveal since it was completely wasted on a train wreck movie that many audiences will give up on after about twenty minutes. Further, the screenplay concludes with some rather suspect legal procedures, which caps off a wasted effort.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Besides the other concerns with Finding Grace, many of the cast members force their emotional and line deliveries throughout the movie, and many lines actually come off as mumbled rather than clearly spoken. While it’s likely not their fault, a lot of the actors and actresses don’t seem to really understand what type of characters they are playing as they post lackadaisical and disingenuous performances that demonstrated boredom for the whole experience. However, based on the hacked-together script they were given, it’s very difficult to blame them. There is some potential in this section, which keeps it from being zero, but it overall puts the icing on a very bad cake.

Conclusion

While it’s evident that this film’s creators had an interesting idea concealed somewhere in this mess, this was one of the worst possible ways to package it. Even the best concepts can be greatly ruined by bad storytelling, which is the tale of Finding Grace. This fact, combined with the unforced production and acting errors, make for a very disappointing experience and can only be used as an example of how not to make a movie.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Joseph, Close to Jesus {Joseph of Nazareth} (Movie Review)

Image result for joseph of nazareth movie

Plot Summary

Joseph never chose to be the earthly stepfather of the Messiah, but by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, he accepted his role to take care of Mary and the Christ Child for as long as God wanted him to. Joseph was there before, during, and after the birth of Jesus, so he had a unique perspective on Yahweh’s plan to save humanity from sin.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Like many other Lux Vide\Trinity Broadcasting Network biblical presentations, the production of Joseph, Close to Jesus is typically fine. It has authentic sets, locations, and props, along with good video quality and audio quality. As a whole, it seems realistic even though the action scenes sometimes employ wild camera work and though some shots are unnecessarily close. The soundtrack is a bit generic and dramatic at times, but most aspects of this production are acceptable. The editing sometimes leaves something to be desired due to some lagging scenes and quick cuts, but on the whole, this is at least an average effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From start to finish, Joseph of Nazareth adopts a very quick and forceful plot progression as the story is forced forward at a breakneck pace that doesn’t let things naturally develop or allow time for characters to be deepened. Besides this poorly constructed premise, Joseph comes off as a basically perfect and all-knowing character even though he appears a bit crazed at times. In focusing on his inaccessible qualities, some key biblical scenes are brushed over or portrayed in extremely vague ways, which confuses the audience. Other scenes are very muted and blank, and dialogue in general leaves much to be desired. Elsewhere, there are a handful of fantastical and ethereal elements that cause spiritual themes to be painted either in a magical light or as untouchable. In summary, the combination of the speedy storyline and the general oddness of some of the characters and plot points prevents this section from having any points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

While some cast members appear to be culturally authentic, many of them, especially the lead ones, are not and obviously belong to cultures other than those who lived in first century Judea. Moreover, while the costuming of all characters is fine, the acting is extremely theatrical and dramatic. It feels like many of them are putting on a play rather than trying to become the characters, which further gives this film an air of elitism and other-worldliness. Further, emotions are inadequately depicted, and some lines are very forced, which rounds out a disappointing effort.

Conclusion

Joseph, Close to Jesus had a lot going for it since it promised to provide a unique perspective on the Nativity and on Jesus’ early years. However, it committed many unforced errors and was more devoted to making the Bible seem like a Shakespearean experience rather than a Spirit-inspired historical account that still has profound application for us today. Unfortunately, this was the case for most Scriptural entertainment prior to The Passion of the Christ. Thankfully, in recent years, God has provided the market with better options for accessible biblical depictions of the First Christmas on both the big screen (The Nativity Story) and the small screen (The Chosen). These offerings are much more interesting for your family to enjoy this holiday season.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Life Changes Everything: Discover Zac Ryan (Movie Review)

Image result for life changes everything movie

Plot Summary

Dr. Zac Ryan is a clinical research oncologist searching for a cancer cure when he discovers that his trial patient is his biological father. This is significant because Zac’s mother had him at a young age, and Zac never knew who his father was other than the man who wanted to abort him. Will they be able to reconcile and find a cure for cancer before it’s too late?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, the production of Life Changes Everything is average. Audio quality is inconsistent, and the soundtrack is generic. Lighting is mostly fine with some odd moments. Video quality and camera work are respectable, and sets, locations, and props are passage. However, the editing is quite choppy and a bit disorienting at times. Another dominant quality of this production is its extreme generic-ness. There’s really nothing special about it, and it’s hard to differentiate from a lot of run-of-the-mill Christian films. Thus, it receive a middle-of-the-road score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Moreover, the story is a bit convoluted at times. Narration cripples any chance of deeper development, and a lot of the happenings are squarely based on childish coincidences and unexplained happenings that have little basis in reality. However, there is a good use of flashbacks that saves this plot from being null though both the present and past storylines are very slow, boring, and empty. It’s hard to know who these characters actually are beyond being stand-ins for social issues. While some of the pro-life concepts are slightly intriguing, the core concept (trying to find a cure for cancer) is almost laughable since the writers had a very difficult time explaining how it actually works or answering legitimate questions some of their own characters ask other characters. It’s not clear whether or not they actually thought about how the medical breakthrough would look since they were so focused on engineering another pro-life gotcha moment. When dealing with such a huge topic, sound research and expertise is extremely necessary. In the end, however, the confusing concepts, combined with the drab nature of the storytelling, just aren’t enough to make this film worthwhile.

Acting Quality (.5 points)

To top things off, the acting of Life Changes Everything is unfortunately quite blank and vanilla, especially the lead actor. The performances don’t have anything substantial to offer since there is almost no emotion exhibited by the cast members. Line delivery is average, and there aren’t any glaring errors, which keep this section from being zero, but it’s not enough to save this movie from itself.

Conclusion

Some of the pro-life concepts put forth by this screenplay are worth seeing in some type of remake, but the idea of a person not being able to change the world if they are aborted is a bit of a red herring. Even still, the central components of the plot would be passable if the production was improved, the acting was upgraded, and the cancer cure was better explained. These alterations would have at least made it an average film, which could have been a good starting point. However, as it is, we’re left wondering what could have been.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Amazed By You {The Faith Club} (Movie Review)

This has basically nothing to do with this movie

Plot Summary

When Christian Andrews gets a call to attend the funeral of a friend in an obscure New Mexico town, he has no choice but to immediately hitchhike his way there.  However, when he arrives, he finds that someone told him the wrong day of the funeral, so he’s actually too late.  Nevertheless, he decides to take the opportunity to go and stay at the ranch where his friend once lived, even though he has never met the ranch owners before.  He meets the family who owns the ranch and inevitability becomes immediately interested in dating the oldest daughter and decides he wants to start building a chapel on the ranch.  Other than tangling with two drunk convicts who work on the ranch in close proximity to teenage girls, not much else happens in this story.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a newer Christian film, about the only thing going in the favor of Amazed By You is its mostly average production quality.  However, by today’s standards, this should be a given.  In this film, the video quality and camera work are fine, as are the sets, locations, and props, but there are other issues to contend with, such as the stereotypical soundtrack and the audio that is often very quiet and sometimes hard to discern.  Also, there are a lot of awkward cuts and fadeouts and seem to cut scenes short, which also relates to the choppy editing of this movie that makes it difficult to follow at times.  As a whole, this production is average and looks good on the surface, but it leaves a lot of be desired.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Exactly, what is the plot of this movie?  From start to finish, the story is hard to follow as odd things appear to just happen for no particular reason.  It really isn’t rooted in reality very well, and the plot has no clear flow or purpose other than a predictable romantic subplot.  Each character comes off as plastic, empty, and unfeeling as they just spout uninspiring lines.  Any hope of character development is definitely subverted by the many montages that fill this movie’s run time.  It goes without saying that the view of women in the film is unusual, and as a side note, the ‘villains’ are extremely cheesy.  Overall, this is mostly a half-hearted movie effort with no clear direction and no concerted attempts to make characters into real people.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Although there weren’t substantial lines to work with in the first place, the acting of Amazed By You is awkward and wooden.  Emotions come off as forced, and line delivery is not convincing as there is a definite need for more coaching.  Unfortunately, this movie really don’t have much going for it.

Conclusion

It feels like Amazed By You was slapped together and forced to go into production without even deciding upon the messaging of the film.  It’s so vanilla that it lacks the typical worldview-pushing of a fundamentalist Christian film and the predictable elements of an inspirational horse film, even though on the surface it looks like it is both of these.  It’s hard to find a movie that’s so bland and empty that there really isn’t much to comment about.  If this was an attempt to make some quick cash off of inspirational audiences, the marketing really wasn’t that great.  In summary, in nearly every aspect, it’s impossible to understand how this film came to be or what it was even going for.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Only God Can {Heaven’s Grace} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sara, Coley, Patrice, Glen, and Gracie were close college sorority sisters, but now that they have grown into their middle ages, they have each taken different paths in life.  Sara is weary of going to the annual get-together of the girls because of her newfound faith, but her pastor encourages her to go to witness to her friends.  However, the weekend getaway does not turn out as plan as each woman is hiding their own secrets, which lead to intense conflicts between them.  To cap things off, tragedy strikes the group of friends in a way they never expected.  Will they be able to pick up the pieces and change their ways?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though on the surface Only God Can seems like a good production, there are a handful of hiden problems that keep it from being all that it could be.  For example, the audio is strangely quiet except for the blaring and generic soundtrack.  Video quality and camera work are standard caliber, but the sets, locations, and props, though they are professional-looking, are fairly limited and underused.  Further, the editing is very disorienting and choppy, but this is likely primarily due to the poor plot structure.  However, as a whole, this production is good enough to be average, even though it could have been more.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Only God Can follows a story-telling style similar to that of Do You Believe? as it juggles many under-developed and hard-to-fully-grasp subplots and tries to make nearly every scene a dramatic climax.  The presentation of the many subplots is dizzying for this reason, and flashbacks are used very poorly.  Each character is developed as a representation of an issue rather than a real person, and this is done through very forced and stilted dialogue that is designed to push a certain agenda rather than to create relatable characters.  The back stories of the characters are therefore flat and empty, and scenes that could have been used to develop them better are instead used for empty and mindless montages.  Sometimes it’s hard to understand what’s happening from scene to scene, but it all comes down to a predictable and forced conclusion that fixes everything.  In short, this plot unfortunately had no potential from the get-go.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, many of the cast members in this film appear to be overly made-up and overly fake.  Emotional delivery comes off as plastic and unrealistic as many cast members don’t appear comfortable with their lines or their respective roles.  However, there are a handful of cast members that are okay and thus prevent this section from being null.  Nevertheless, this film is overall a disappointment and doesn’t really have much to offer.

Conclusion

Overall, Only God Can is another moderately-funded, partially-marketed inspirational film from PureFlix that falls flat and doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.  On the surface, it has good production qualities, but there are hidden issues that undermine this.  The plot is very empty and wanting as it tries to push typical agendas, and the acting missed the mark as well.  It’s very predictable and formulaic, yet this is the type of Christian film that no longer needs to be seen in the market.  The reputation of Christian movies is bad enough as it is, so we don’t need anymore examples of ineptitude.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Kindness Matters (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Hudson doesn’t want to do anything except hang around his house and go to work.  His nosy mother is worried about him, which is why she keeps trying to set him up with blind dates.  However, Hudson’s world changes one day when he finds a dog near his trash can and decides to take it in.  Moreover, his world changes again when the dog runs away from their camping trip and finds a new home with a single father and his son, who struggles with a speech impediment.  Perhaps this dog will bring them all together in a really sappy way.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

One thing you can say for Faith House Pictures (now re-branded as Inspiriter Pictures for no particular reason, even though they kept that same pixie-dust splash logo) is that they don’t give up.  Also, their production quality has slightly increased over the years, with the exception of Before All Others.  Still, they have figured out a way to mass produce sappy inspirational films that at least seem passable on the surface of production.  This is evidenced by good video quality and camera work.  They still use the same old sets, props, and locations we’ve seen before, such as the desert from Desert Redemption and the houses from So Help Us God and A Time For Heaven.  Also, they make themselves known with a typically cheesy and carefree stock soundtrack that was either cheap or free from some website.  At times, the audio is a bit too quiet, but the editing is basically face-value and fine.  Overall, Faith House is proving that if you stick with something long enough, you might get better at it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Another defining quality of a Faith House film is a safe and predictable inspirational plot that is extremely sappy and is based on coincidences.  This time around, we get another rendition of the Black Beauty-style pass-the-narrating-animal-around plot.  This worn-out plot device is accompanied by the expected blank and vanilla characters that are written in Faith House scripts.  There is also a strawman ‘bad’ character, and each character has a special brand of quirky yet flat dialogue that makes things just interesting enough to keep watching, if only to see what they might say next.  However, the entire film basically boils down to being a collection of empty scenes that have just enough sappy inspirational themes (coupled with a totally pandering title) to make it a click-bait film that is ready to be added to your Amazon Prime suggested list if you frequent Christian films on this streaming service.  The Christian message is clearly fake,  but it is just enough to get you to watch, which makes this film’s only purpose to pander to a desperate inspirational audience.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Julie Van Lith, Suzanne McGown Brown, and Bill Wetherill are certainly committed to the Faith House cause.  Julie alone has appeared in every Faith House film.  Re-using cast members is another budget-conserving tactic of this company, but retaining good actors and actresses is the ideal.  Still, Faith House and company do just enough to make the acting seem realistic for their audience, even if a majority of the performances are extremely dry, flat, and boring.  Emotional and line delivery seem like they’re phoned in, and there are basically no extras in this film, but it’s not all bad.  Once again, Faith House does the bare minimum to stay relevant.

Conclusion

You can’t fault Faith House’s marketing model: they are running circles around other Christian film makers and their ‘lucrative’ distribution deals that run their ideas into the ground and conceal them in the closed world of Christian film festivals.  After watching every Faith House film to date, we are convinced that they are trolling Christian audiences, but they have proven their point: if you want to get your movie out there, put it directly to Amazon Prime Video.  No exclusive distribution deals, no film festivals, not even review screeners–put it straight to the audience you want to reach and spoon-feed them the message they want to hear.  Doing this is a marketing genius, and our analytics team has confirmed its success as Faith House reviews are among our most viewed posts.  This is not a coincidence, and this is an important message to aspiring film makers: for your first film, you won’t make much money, and it’s likely that Amazon won’t help you turn large profits, but it’s worth it to get your content out there at the beginning so that people know who you are.  Granted you have a good story to tell in the first place, you can grow from there.  Amazon may be Buy-N-Large, but they’re a platform that better Christian film makers can use to gain a voice in an increasingly crowded market.  Marketing matters.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

The Second Coming of Christ [2018] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The end of the world is nearing, and all of the bees are dying.  Thus, Dr. BEEatrix Cera has been enlisted by the mysterious Chairman of New World Genetics to create the Immortal Bee, an experiment that will causes bees to live forever and produce food that makes humans live forever.  Simple right?  Well, with the food stores running out, even though cancer has been cured by a random Catholic guy who gives food away, the Chairman demands immortality from BEEatrix.  However, at what cost will BEEatrix go to save the world and try to get rid of the dreams of Jesus she keeps having?  What will happen when the end finally comes?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

While it’s clear that time and effort was spent on this independent production, which is evidenced in the good video quality and camera work throughout, this film still seems quite indie.  While the sets, locations, and props are fairly well done and while the soundtrack is intriguing, there is quite a bit of obvious CGI and cheesy animated overlaying throughout this film.  However, audio quality is fine, and the only other issue to point out here is that the editing is quite choppy.  Nevertheless, there is enough effort and funding here to make this an overall above-average production that is reminiscent of the modern productions we see in Christian film today.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

What the world doesn’t need is another half-baked Christian apocalyptic film, but at least The Second Coming of Christ gets past that overused speculative beginning of the tribulation known as the Rapture.  We rarely get a look at the end of the apocalypse in the Christian cinematic universe, but we get that opportunity in this film.  However, it doesn’t deliver at all.  The plot is very incoherent as it is based on flimsy dialogue and very thin and empty characters.  A lot of the end times elements are presented in a very juvenile fashion, and key concepts of this storyline are not well-explained at all as the entire world hangs in the balance waiting for immortal bees to be born.  Umm, what?  Besides this, the villain is very cheesy, and there is a lot of Catholic message-pushing.  There is very little to hold the interest, and this seems more like a regular sci-fi plot rather than and end-of-the-world depiction.  It’s really quite boring, actually.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The acting of this film is particularly bad as all of the emotions are painfully forced, as if through a sieve, and the cast members are extremely dramatic with their line delivery.  Some cast members, however, are just lackadaisical or clueless.  There is a tiny amount of good here (how did Quinton Aaron get stuck in this movie?), but on the whole, this section wraps up a very poor film effort.

Conclusion

It seems like this movie started off with half of an idea and just tried to run with it without realizing that it was running on fumes and had nothing substantial to show for it at all.  How are films like this even made?  Think of all the projects that get abandoned, but stuff like this one gets put through.  Well, at least we can say there’s never been a Christian film about the bee apocalypse before this one.  There are new ideas being born daily, apparently.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

I Before Thee (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jeffrey Douglas has recently lost his job as a fireman, so he decides that drinking is the best way for him to escape from his problems–both his present and his past problems.  His wife loves him, and she is pregnant with their first child, but Jeffrey can’t seem to get it together as he runs from his past.  As his life continues to spiral out of control, will he ever reach the point where he decides to rely on God?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

These days, even cheaply made films have the ability to have productions of decent quality.  Before Thee is an example of this.  Its video quality is fine, as is the audio quality and camera work.  The soundtrack leaves something to be desired, and there are some random moments of loud background sounds and obvious overdubs.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly cheap and limited, and editing is fairly poor.  However, this film is a step up from the early-2000s garbage productions that used to be dumped into the market, but that’s unfortunately not saying very much.  While this production is average, the movie doesn’t have much else going for it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

A lot of the time, it is very unclear what message I Before Thee is trying to convey.  It raises some important points and highlights some unfortunately realistic circumstances, but there is a bit too much edgy content.  There are also a handful of unusual elements that are difficult to understand.  While there are some interesting psychological concepts that keep this section from being zero, they are mostly poorly executed.  Characters have next to no development as dialogue is very half-hearted and empty.  There are barely any attempts to make the audience understand who the characters are as real people–they appear to just be pawns in the plot.  Elsewhere, the storyline is too disorienting at times, and the ending generally makes no sense at all.  There is very little redemption for the messes that are created in the plot, which gives little purpose to this plot being made.  Maybe someday somebody can use the slightly interesting portions of this film to make a better one.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

It’s not like the cast members had any good lines to work with, but this acting is fairly poor.  While there is some slight potential here, a lot of it is very forced and unnatural.  Emotions are too cardboard and uninspiring.  Line delivery is vanilla.  On the whole, this is another throwaway film you are unlikely to hear much about.

Conclusion

The Christian movie field is beyond flooded at this point, so new creators have to do whatever they can to stand out for the right reasons.  I want to emphasize “for the right reasons.”  Film making is hard and expensive, and your first film is unlikely to have a very high budget.  That’s why you can set yourself apart by having a dynamic plot and great acting coaching.  Anyone can act well with the right coaching, and a great plot is one that captures real people doing real things without pushing a message.  Unfortunately, I Before Thee fails on most of these fronts and will likely be soon forgotten.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

The Colors of Emily (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (.5 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

My Daddy’s in Heaven (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Becca Smith suddenly loses her husband in a tragic car accident, she feels like her world is falling apart.  Then she meets an old friend from the past who decides to introduce her to a new lifestyle of partying and drinking to help drown her sorrows away.  However, Becca is unable to fill the void.  Will she come back to the faith she was always taught before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

On the surface, My Daddy’s in Heaven has a fairly good production, as evidenced by some great outdoor scenes and good video quality.  For the most part, camera work is good, except for some weird camera angles.  Audio quality is sometimes too echoed, especially in indoor sets.  Lighting is somewhat inconsistent, including some odd sequences of soft lighting.  There are also some sequences of disorienting sound effects and special effects, but there is some slight production improvement shown throughout, thus warranting an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, though this film is based on a book and tries to have a good point, the storyline is quite thin.  There seem to be a lot of scenes grasping for substantial content as the plot meanders aimlessly and purposelessly for nearly sixty minutes.  During this time frame, a good portion of the time is spent on the main two characters getting drunk.  Dialogue is all over the place, including too many instances of forced comedy.  Though this film is billed as a family movie, there is a lot of embarrassing content within, including long and pointless bar scenes.  However, the last ten to fifteen minutes of the film take a slightly interesting turn based on some intriguing ideas.  Unfortunately, with no buildup to this point and no support from the rest of the film, these ideas are wasted, and there are too many quick fixes employed.  Thus, only half a point can be awarded for this section.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The two female leads of this cast, outside of a few good moments, do their best to make fools of themselves.  Most of the acting in this film is oddly forced and awkward, but it’s likely that the cast members didn’t have much good to work with in the first place.  There are also some mumbled and whispered lines that make for a frustrating experience.  Overall, unfortunately, there is little good to mention about this film.

Conclusion

While the effort and the heart behind this film might have been there, the good intentions were terribly misplaced.  Production was almost passable, but it’s unsure what the intention of this plot was.  Audiences who are expecting a family-friendly film will likely be disappointed at the number of drunken scenes of this film.  While it great to show the struggles of real people in film, there is a way to do this without being so embarrassing.  Unfortunately, the interesting pivotal scene near the end of the film is out of place and could have been used in a better film.  Better luck next time, I guess.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

The Crossing [1994] (Movie Review)

Ah, the good ole days

Plot Summary

Matt and Jason were best friends, but when Matt dies of cancer, Jason is left asking why.  Matt was a Christian, and he wanted Jason to be as well, so Matt appears to Jason in a vision and shows Jason where God keeps the sins of everybody written down, where Jesus died on the cross, and what will happen if Jason’s mother tries to save herself without God.  Jason wakes up so scared that he has to become a Christian!

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Much like other older films affiliated with the Christiano Brothers brand, The Crossing is an archaic production with a loud and outdated soundtrack.  While video quality and camera work are mostly fine, and sets, locations, and props are okay, there aren’t any other positives to note.  There are a lot of very cheesy special effects used throughout, and there are too many background noises.  Editing also suffers, including choppy cuts and a very abruptly awkward ending.  Unfortunately, while this was intended to be a youth group film (probably from the Christian Film Library of Pamela’s Prayer), youth leaders will be hard-pressed to get anyone interested in this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

On the surface, this film has a good message, but it still has the typical overtures of films associated with the Christiano brand, such as the Christian characters being perfect non-sinners and the non-Christian characters being very obvious sinners.  Thus, the characters serve as stand-ins for plot points and spout programmed dialogue that is designed to push and project a specifically forceful and fundamentalist message.  As usual, the plot is out of touch with real people and uses tactics designed to ‘scare’ people into being saved, which are highly questionable and unlikely to be successful.  Besides this, the ‘storyline’ has a quick and rushed progression and completely lacks substance.  Unfortunately, there’s nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The Crossing reveals some of the origins of the crazy, overly dramatic acting of the dynamic duo Kevin Downes and David A. R. White.  Other cast members in this film bear the resemblance of stoic Christiano cast members.  However, there are some good moments somewhere in here that keep this section from being zero.

Conclusion

All we can do with a film like this is hope it serves as a reminder of how not to make a ‘youth film.’  People that like this sort of garbage also complain about all the ‘bad movies young people watch these days.’  Well, with stuff like this being shown in church, who’s really to blame?  Until Christian entertainment is top-notch quality, we really don’t have much to say, do we?

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

HAV Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Hamilton A. Vaughn (HAV) was a party boy who had a prison turnaround that led him to be the right-hand man to the prominent pastor of Mission Church.  The pastor tells HAV that he wants HAV to take over the Mission Church, but the pastor’s son objects and decides to get HAV in trouble with a woman to get him sent to prison.  There’s also a woman who runs a social services program and another couple who wants a baby, even though it’s hard to know what they have to do with HAV.  In the end, HAV will have (lol) to come to terms with his faith and who he really believes God is?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Unfortunately, like many small church films, HAV Faith (what kind of title is that?) is somewhat cheap in its production.  However, in some ways, it is better than most small church films.  Video quality is fine, but camera work is shaky in some parts, and lighting is poor in some places.  Audio quality is sometimes fine, but other times it is weird.  The soundtrack is generic.  Sets, locations, and props are slightly cheap and limited, but they improve as the film progresses.  For what it’s worth, the production ends in a better way than it began, but the editing is too all over the place.  In the end, this is just an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As previously alluded to, although this is supposed to be a modern-day retelling of the Old Testament story of Joseph, HAV Faith is all over the place and certainly does not only focus on this.  Thus, it is very hard to follow what is happening, and the story is very disorienting at times.  The plot is presented in a very confusing fashion as lots of very disconnected and unrelated subplots, which have no relation to each other, are thrown into a proverbial bowl and mixed up.  As the story jumps from one thing to the next with no continuity to speak of, most of the characters, especially the Christian ones and the cheesy villain, are very annoying and stereotypical as they spout programmed dialogue.  Also, part of this story is basically a save the church plot, even though most of it is spent on rushing through parts that have nothing to do with the Joseph parallel.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to understand why this movie was made.

Acting Quality (1 point)

A lot of the time, these cast members are amateurish and are overly-enunciated in their line delivery.  Emotions are over the top and overly practiced.  While there are a few good moments and some improvement throughout, it’s not enough to overcome the overall futility of this film.

Conclusion

Bible story transpositions always problematic because of issues that come up when trying to convert historical plots to modern ideas.  However, things really get complicated when you shove a handful of unrelated subplots into the film that basically have no relation to the original idea in any way.  All I can ask after watching this film is what were they exactly thinking?  One would think that there were multiple writers throwing ideas into this pot, but that is not the case.  This one is a real head-scratcher, to say the least.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

The Christmas Dragon (Movie Review)

It’s magic!

Plot Summary

After her parents are kidnapped, Ayden and her new orphan friends will have to retrieve the magical orb that keeps Father Christmas alive and will have to save the Christmas Dragon from being killed.  Will they be able to prevail against the evil creatures and people that are chasing then?  Will everyone be able to find out what the true meaning of Christmas is?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

It’s very hard to make a fantasy movie on a low budget, so it should probably be avoided.  Nonetheless, while The Christmas Dragon has some good production elements, it also has some glaringly bad ones.  As usual, video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  Yet there are many obviously cheap special effects used throughout, including a lot of poorly animated overlays.  Unfortunately, the fantasy props used are among the worst; it also does not help that the sets and locations are fairly limited.  One consolation is that the editing in this film is fine, which keeps this production from being below average.  In the end, fantasy productions require a lot of funding, so a low budget will always be exposed by this type of film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

First off, it’s very hard to discern how The Christmas Dragon is really a Christmas film, but at least John Lyde and his team are trying to do something different.  However, it still seems like he and his team are better than this silliness.  With no clear Christian message or purpose to guide it, this storyline meanders along as a vague allegory that simply copies concepts (very poorly) from popular fantasy stories.  The characters are too one-dimensional and not dynamic at all.  They seem to be pawns in the plot, and their dialogue is stunted by action sequences.  Allegory and fantasy plots need a driving purpose that keep them from going off the rails, and some creativity is not discouraged either.  Unfortunately, this movie lacks these parameters.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Besides having the most terrible makeup jobs ever, these cast members are forced to don obviously homemade costuming (and sometimes stupid masks) that attempts and fails to make them look like mythical creatures.  Elsewhere, emotions are either too dramatic or too matter-of-fact.  There is too much yelling and forced drama, as well as poor action acting.  While some roles are poorly cast, there are some good moments here that keep this section from being any worse.  In the end, the potential here was not fully reached.

Conclusion

A word to the wise: do not make a fantasy movie with this sort of budget and don’t make one just to rip off other ideas and to smash Christmas into it for no good reason.  John Lyde and his team usually produce quality content, but this movie is an exception because they overextended themselves with a complex production.  Fantasy plots need to be well-planned from the beginning, and if they are, they can be very dynamic.  Perhaps John Lyde and his crew will continue to improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Basketball 3:16 (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Calvin Nichols never thought he would be able to find God on the basketball court, but God sent someone to share him the Gospel, and his life turned around for the better.  He began trying to get his life in order and became involved in the local church.  When a man comes to the church whom everyone thinks is a hopeless, lost cause, Calvin talks to him and share his story of conversion in the hopes of bringing him to Christ as well.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, like many small church films, Basketball 3:16 suffers from lack of funding.  This is evident in the cheap and limited sets, locations, and props, as well as the marginal audio quality.  Though the video quality and the camera work are fine, there is not enough substantial soundtrack in this film.  Also, in keeping with most movies of this level of funding, the editing is relatively poor and amateurish.  Thus, while films like this can mean all the best in the world, it’s just not enough to overcome the low production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 points)

This story seems to mean well and tries to portray real people in real circumstances, but it also projects a deception that everything is automatically fixed when you become a Christian.  Yet it does also try to show the need for making amends, so it’s not totally lost.  The characters are quite realistic, perhaps even too realistic, yet the dialogue is lazy and unengaging.  The Christian characters are too perfect and the non-Christian characters are too ‘bad’.  Overall, since this story is rough around the edges, it needs some refining and deepening in order to be successful.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Too often in this small cast, the cast members are overplaying their characters and trying too hard.  Other times, the line delivery is mumbled and lazy.  There are some good moments, however, but not enough to overcome the negative.  All in all, this statement tends to describe the movie as a whole.

Conclusion

Small church films are a tough sub-genre to review because funding is always going to be a problem.  For this reason, the plot and the characters need to be outstanding to show what the creative team can do with better funding.  There are always meager beginnings in independent Christian films, so it’s what you do with what God has given you that counts.  Most of the time, unfortunately, we feel like the best as not been done with what is provided.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Blossoms of Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Betsy McLean’s sister suffers a stroke less than a month before Betsy is to be married, and the stress of it all comes down on Betsy.  She feels like she cannot go on with life and wants to break off the engagement because of all the loss she has suffered in her life.  But she must learn how to rekindle her faith even in the darkest moments.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Even though this is a 2016 production, Blossoms of Faith struggles to get its head above water.  Video quality is mostly fine, but there is some shaky camera work throughout.  There is also some odd lighting throughout.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is lacking.  There are really no locations in the film, and sets therein are limited, even though the props are realistic.  Furthermore, there is no real editing in the film as everything is presented at face value.  In the end, this is a below average production.  It might have been better to wait for increased funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With very little content to speak of, the characters are not enough to carry the storyline of this film.  Even at that, the storyline is very hard to follow as it has strange undertones and becomes fixated on the oddest thing, like the ever-present flowers.  It also offers a strange brand of Catholicism and Christianity that is somewhat isolating.  Thus, the Christian message of this film is questionable.  Though the circumstances depicted are somewhat realistic, the characters are not enough to make the audience appreciate the film.  The ending is formulaic and predictable.  Unfortunately, there isn’t really anything good to say here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting in this film is actually a brighter spot than the rest, even though it is mostly average.  At times, the cast members can be underwhelming, and at other times they are too blank and vanilla.  There are also some overdone emotions throughout, but there are also plenty of good moments.  Most cast members also show improvement throughout, which rounds out an average performance.

Conclusion

It’s still very unclear what is trying to be accomplished in this film.  It carries a strange message and doesn’t have very high quality production.  The acting is average, but it’s not enough to bring this film out of the nose dive.  When making a new film, it’s better to know where you are going and how you are going to communicate that to your audience.  Otherwise, it just flies over their head and it’s another wasted effort.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Paul the Emissary: A Biblical Epic (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Paul was called out by God to become a world-shaking Apostle for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  God took him from being Saul the persecutor of Christians to becoming Paul the Emissary.  He took the Gospel to the furthest reaches of the Roman world and literally turned the world upside down.  His work for God still has a lasting impact on Christianity today.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a 1997 production, Paul the Emissary is fairly good, but it still comes out at average.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine, as they should be.  The soundtrack is also okay, but it is somewhat generic.  Sets, locations, and props are surprisingly well-constructed and realistic, but most of the good elements in this production are marred by the most ridiculous special effects you can imagine.  If you don’t have the funding for professional special effects, just don’t do them at all.  Furthermore, the editing of this film is horrific, as tons of content was shoved into a short runtime, as will be discussed next.  Basically, this is another run-of-the-mill Bible production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s simply not possible to condense the entire life of Paul in fifty minutes.  Paul the Apostle couldn’t even do it properly with nearly two hours under their belt.  There is little to no point in trying to accomplish this impossible task.  Why not focus on one element of Paul’s life, like in Saul: The Journey to DamascusPaul the Emissary is way too condensed, which causes the story to jump from one high point to the next with no continuity or flow.  It’s basically a collection of random scenes about characters that are lofty and inaccessible.  There’s no way to get to know them as the dialogue is too theatrical.  Essentially, there’s no way you can call this movie an epic when it’s less than an hour.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this isn’t an overly BRITISH cast, most of the cast members sport weird fake accents that off-putting.  Besides this, most line delivery and emotional delivery are overly dramatic and theatrical.  However, the performances are not all bad and there is some authentic costuming to save this section from the abyss.

Conclusion

If you only have fifty minutes to make a film, do not try to make an entire life epic about a Biblical character with a lot of known content.  Either focus on one aspect of their life, or choose a different character.  Also, don’t use any special effects if you can’t use them properly.  In the end, while there were some good elements in this film, it simply wasn’t enough.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

A Question of Faith [2017] (Movie Review)

Have you donated your organs today?

Plot Summary

When David Newman’s son dies tragically from a texting and driving accident, the doctors come around looking for his son’s organs to harvest so they can save a dying white girl who has a budding musical career ahead of her.  David is trying to take over head pastor duties from his Scripture-reading-robot father, but the pressure is too much, especially when his wife fully embraces advocating for organ donation in the schools.  Kate Hernandez feels like she has no hope left when her daughter is thrown into jail for texting and driving, but somehow, all of these characters come together in the end in an underserved church sing-off so they can feel good about themselves again.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Despite past production snafus, Kevan Otto has found himself more financially successful in A Question of Faith due to PureFlix’s assistance.  This newfound funding has paid off, as there are very few errors in this production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all professional.  The soundtrack leaves something to be desired, but it’s not that significant.  Sets, locations, and props are all appropriate and well-constructed.  The biggest issues to point out here are some small editing issues due to the confusing plot presentation.  Yet when you compare this great production with the plot that accompanies it, it’s like daylight and dark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Kevan Otto has not lost his unusual storylines of old, yet A Question of Faith manages to somehow be worse than WWJD, Lukewarm, Online, and Decision.  Even though it seems like on its face that this movie is going to be a ninety-minute public service announcement on the dangers of texting and driving, the plot actually has a very sick and twisted obsession with organ donation.  Don’t get me wrong—organ donation is fine if you want to do that, but trying to force the issue like this is downright strange and off-putting.  Combine that with the plastic and empty portrayal of Christians (as usual) and basically no substantial dialogue, this plot is a real doozy.  Time is wasted on meandering ideas that have no real purpose or focus except to be threaded together by that annoying guy who’s always slapping Bible verses on everyone’s problems.  Tragedies are treated very lightly and callously, thus warranting some of the characters to ask other characters if they even care, which is a valid point.  In the end, the only purpose to this film is to push public service announcements and strange causes and culminates in a ridiculously endless sermonizing concert sequences that rivals God’s Not Dead.  Needless to say, Kevan Otto still hasn’t learned anything.

Acting Quality (1 point)

A lot of these cast members are fearfully lifeless, but then again, they really don’t have much to work with in the line department.  Emotions are bland and most performances are very stock.  T. C. Stallings always posts above average performances, but everyone else seems lost and confused.  It seems like the idea here was to paste a bunch of ‘big name’ cast members into this movie and hope it stuck.  It didn’t work.

Conclusion

These days, all you have to do to get a large budget signed off on your film is a random cause, some recognizable cast members, and maybe a big musical number.  Don’t get us wrong—it’s extremely important to promote great causes in films—but this isn’t the way.  Even if this was a palatable cause, it’s not presented well at all.  None of these characters are able to be related to as people; they’re just pawns in an obvious money-making game.  Any opening weekend hype surrounding this film is sure to die away as Christian audiences once again quietly wonder where all the good Christian movies are.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Finding Faith [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Faith gets too close to a ‘boy’ she met online but never met in real life, she never imagined the trouble it would cause her.  In one fateful moment, the stalker behind the fake profile kidnaps her as Faith’s hometown descends into panic over the incident.  The local sheriff has a bone to pick with online stalkers, so he immerses himself into the case unlike any other.  What they find is a vast human trafficking scheme bigger than their small town.  Will they be able to find Faith before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As an early production for Liberty University and team, the quality of Finding Faith isn’t really what it should be.  Video quality is okay, but camera work is randomly shaky.  Audio quality is also poor, even though the soundtrack is trying to be suspenseful.  Sets are okay, but locations and props are somewhat limited.  Editing is mostly average and still leaves something to be desired.  Overall, with many other people involved in this film, Liberty University took a step back with this production, and it’s hard to see how it was justified.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Full of heavy-handed narration from Erik Estrada, the messaging of this story is certainly not subtle.  Yet at the same time, it’s also full of dead air and wasted sequences.  It’s a shame too, because this is an interesting and different idea with a meaningful message that needs to be shared.  However, the characters are so empty due to bland and vanilla dialogue that it’s hard to relate to them as real people, only as cutouts playing a part.  There was so much that could have been done with this story—with better characters of course—but the writers only barely scratch the surface.  It’s unfortunate to see ideas like this one fall so short of the mark.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this is a relatively large cast, they lack adequate coaching.  The cast members post very stiff and blank performances, but then again, they didn’t have many lines to actually work with.  They also have their good moments, and it’s not all bad, but any cast that includes Erik Estrada is always dominated by his odd demeanors and personas.  In the end, this film as a whole is mostly a disappointment.

Conclusion

The Liberty University team and the JC Films team always had big ideas and ambitions that rarely follow through and meet the expectations that are set for them.  They have plenty of resources and connections, but little to no creative screenwriting.  It seems to be consistently difficult for them to portray real people on the big screen, so it might be time for them to invest in some better writing.  Only then will they make the difference they want to make.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Message of Hope (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

A group of six kids grows up together in the same neighborhood for over ten years and they always have want they want.  However, their parents do not always give them what they really need.  As they encounter various life struggles, each one of them has a different way of dealing with what life throws at them.  Unfortunately, these families do not begin to look at life in a different way until tragedy strikes.  Will they be able to see what really matters in life?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a relatively amateurish production, Message of Hope has its good points, but it also has quite a few errors.  Video quality and camera work are okay, except for some weird close-ups and some random shaky cam.  Audio quality is also quite random, including loud outside sounds.  However, the soundtrack is fine.  Sets, locations, and props are somewhat limited, yet they have some bright spots.  Furthermore, there is really no editing to speak of in this film as it’s just a conglomerate blob of random content.  When making a new movie, it’s best to know where you are going from the beginning and to communicate that well.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

There is basically no way to know what this movie is actually about.  Basically nothing happens for about an hour of runtime as character just wander around and random things happen to them.  It’s hard to keep up with all the characters, especially since they’re so one-dimensional due to empty dialogue.  The Christian characters in particular are overly perfect.  Though there is a lot of message pushing in this film, it’s still aimless and lacks overall purpose until it just comes down to a random end.  Unfortunately, there’s nothing really good to say here, even if they do mean well.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, the acting is actually the strongest area of this film, even if it’s still an average performance.  Some emotions are overdone, but line delivery is mostly okay, even though they didn’t have much to work with.  Some performances in general are overplayed, but overall, this cast shows more potential than the rest of this film.

Conclusion

It’s very hard to understand what this creative team was really going for with this film.  It’s likely that they meant well because there is a good message in here somewhere, but the delivery and presentation is all wrong.  Perhaps it would have been better to go over this film again before it went to production to make sure it came across clearer.  But maybe they will learn from their mistakes and do differently in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Seventy Times Seven [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

David and Brayden are best friends, but when David marries the woman Brayden always loved, their friendship is greatly strained.  Brayden buries his sorrow in a relationship of his own, but he still stews and lets his anger grow.  Eventually, he is unable to contain it all and acts in desperation.  In the aftermath, will David be able to show the forgiveness that his wife always talked about?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As another well-funded low-key production, Seventy Times Seven at least appears to have some funding well spent.  Video quality and camera work are fine, as is audio quality for once, even though the soundtrack is mindless.  Sets and locations are limited like usual, but props show some improvement.  Finally, there is once again no editing present as pretty much all available content is presented.  In the end, while this production shows some better stewardship of resources when compared to other Strong Foundation Films, it still only comes out as average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Similarly, this storyline is really no better than other Strong Foundation attempts at plots.  The characters are still empty and one-dimensional due to be drive by juvenile and simplistic dialogue.  There isn’t really enough plot content to sustain a full-length film, thus there are a lot of filler scenes.  Random things seem to happen for no particular reason, including some strange and laughable asides.  Finally, the Christian message doesn’t seem authentic and the overall thrust of the film is uninspiring.  Though it’s likely that Sun Hui East and her team mean well, they need to invest in better screenwriting.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this cast shows some more skills than past Strong Foundation casts, Josiah David Warren’s constant screen-time dominance always puts a damper on things due to his very unsure nature.  There is a lot of forced drama among these cast members and not enough professional line delivery.  While there is some good here, it’s not enough.

Conclusion

The film-making model adapted by companies like Strong Foundation, the one that advocates putting out as many films as possible, can give the company experience making productions, but it certainly does not produce quality movies.  We don’t need more low-quality Christian films flooding the market.  It would be one thing if companies would make beta test films that were not released, but this is not usually the case.  Maybe one day companies like Strong Foundation will finally hit the mark they are aiming for.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

The Prophet’s Son (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Brothers Alex and Abel Benjamin are a famous Christian musical duo and they seek to not only entertain people but to reach people with the gospel and their spiritual powers of discernment.  They encounter many people on their travels that desperately need the love of Jesus and they also see that the world is descending into chaos as the end times approach.  Will they be able to reach the people they need to reach before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

To have an over $2 million budget, it’s difficult to see how this production ended up so bad.  Video quality and camera work are the only good elements to speak of.  Audio quality is laughable and the soundtrack is pedestrian.  Sets, locations, and props are limited and not on the standard of this type of budget.  Furthermore, editing is nonexistent as the film jumps all over the place with no sense or understanding what’s actually happening.  Basically, we have no idea how this crew got that much money to spend, because they squandered it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though there are some slightly interesting ideas hidden somewhere in this mess, there is absolutely no continuity as the story jumps all over the place with disjointed subplots and unrelated sequences.  Random things just happen and there are a lot of references to off-screen content.  The Christian characters are overly perfect and have dialogue that contains obvious message-pushing.  There is also too much expositional dialogue.  It’s also hard to understand what the deal is with the unusual and low-key apocalyptic premise that constantly nags at the undertone of this film.  Overall, it’s all very hard to understand and quantify, so it’s hard to justify this film’s existence.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This small cast that is typical of Strong Foundation Films is in need of better coaching.  They are emotionless and robotic and even forceful at time.  Though they actually demonstrate some improvement throughout, they are too unsure of themselves.  Some lines are under-emphasized while others are forced through.  This section rounds off a very off-the-wall film.

Conclusion

There is probably a part of the Strong Foundation team that means well, but their delivery is very misguided and their management of resources is embarrassing.  The premise of this movie is too isolating and the cast is very underwhelming.  In the future, this creative team needs to have a reevaluation of where they are going as a company.  But if they can continually accrue this kind of capital, who knows what they might do next.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

An Encounter With the Messiah (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

What if Jesus came in the modern day and ministered to everyday people and the circumstances they dealt with?  This is a different take on the story of Jesus that follows the lives of recast Biblical characters in a modern setting to show that Jesus can touch anyone and reach anyone, regardless of background or era.  He is still affecting people’s lives today.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

It’s really hard to understand how and why these sorts of productions are made.  When the budget is low, is it worth making a feature length film?  While video quality is mostly fine and the soundtrack is creative in this film, there are plenty of errors here.  Lighting and camera work are inconsistent and cheap, and the audio is sometimes too loud and disproportionate.  Flashbacks are black and white for no reason and sets, locations, and props are relatively cheap.  Finally, as usual, the editing is poor and allows the storyline to jump all over the place with no real continuity.  In the end, first-time productions are somewhat forgivable, but they’re still frustrating to watch.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Creating modern takes on Bible stories is always a problematic idea because parallels and paraphrases are usually forced to fit and cause awkwardness, which is also the case in An Encounter with the Messiah.  It’s a commendable and understandable idea that has a lot of potential, but it’s not executed correctly and is too hard to follow.  There are too many confusing transitions and disconnected subplots as the story speeds along to hit the high points.  There are also too many characters and tons of wasted time; thus, it’s difficult for the story to hold the attention as it is very flat and isolating.  The one redeeming quality is the interesting ending but it’s hard to get to and doesn’t do enough to redeem the other issues.  In the end, this is a nice idea, but not good enough.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this cast sometimes puts in effort, they are often half-hearted or overly dramatic.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are all over the place.  There is some good here, but not enough to make a difference in this film.

Conclusion

Films like An Encounter with the Messiah so easily slip through the cracks of Christian film, and it’s a shame when the creators seem to mean well.  But when potentially interesting ideas are not packaged properly, it sends the film down a completely different trajectory.  It’s hard to make your film stand apart when so many typical issues plague it.  But perhaps there will be second chances for film makers that have trouble getting started.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Slow Fade [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Since Thomas grew up without a positive father influence in his life, he was influenced by the television and by the wrong crowd of friends.  As he embraces violent behavior, his mother is at a loss of what to do with him except to pray for him.  One day, his violence finally catches up with him and gets him in trouble with an elderly man.  But rather than press charges, the elderly man takes Thomas under his wing and decides to positively influence him.  Slowly but surely, Thomas’ life turns around.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

This production begins very roughly, with very cheap video quality and some poor lighting.  Camera work is relatively stable throughout, but audio quality is very poor, including loud background noises and an overbearing soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are relatively limited.  However, most production elements improve as the movie goes on.  Yet the editing is consistently a problem as it allows too many montages and lagging scenes.  Overall, this is a very raw production that needed better funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though on its face this is an interesting plot idea, it does not translate to reality.  Heavy-handed narration stunts character development, as does the cheap dialogue.  The message presented here is very juvenile as it treats all entertainment as evil (what about this film?) and offers an extremely simplistic and childish view of why people act the way they do.  Large time jumps cause a lot of off-screen content to be referred to, which makes the storyline vague and hard to pin down.  As previously mentioned, there are too many flat and meandering scenes that simply boil down to a conclusion that unrealistically fixes all the problems with no real consequences.  The story leaves too many vague concepts unexplored and will likely cause viewers to roll their eyes at the simplicity and silliness of how these otherwise important issues are handled.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this small cast has some potential, they are too often unsure of themselves.  Line delivery is inconsistent, as are emotions.  There are some good moments here, but the bad moments hold the cast back from being all they could be, thus warranting an average score.

Conclusion

Movies like Slow Fade feel like beta tests that were not necessarily intended for full release to the public.  The good thing is that most people will likely not see this film, but that’s so unfortunate to wish such a thing on a movie.  This creative team may mean well, but they are lacking in proper presentation.  They need to try to connect their plots with reality rather than vaguely and childishly explore important concepts.  Then they will possibly find themselves with some better funding and more success as film makers.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Redemption of the Commons (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Victor Clay tried to make it on his own in the business world, but he soon finds himself bankrupt, evicted, and living in his van.  With no more options on the table and not enough money, Victor decides to return to the Commons, where he grew up, in hopes of a new beginning.  But what he finds is a struggling community with no real options.  Will he be able to use what he has learned to help them all succeed?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Redemption of the Commons is another one of those slightly under-funded productions the raises the question of its own necessity.  While video quality and camera work are good, there is far too much dead air in this film, as well as inconsistent audio quality.  However, the soundtrack is at least interesting.  Sets, locations, and props are quite realistic, even if they are little uncreative.  As is common for this type of movie, there is no obvious editing as content is presented at face value.  In the end, this production is passable, but it could have been more.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Redemption of the Commons is trying to inspire, but it does not inspire much.  As narration guides the story along, there are too many confusing subplots, empty sequences, and time-filling montages.  The plot follows a formulaic return-to-struggling-hometown-plotline in which the returning character is down on his luck in his ‘city’ life but then uses his ‘city skills’ to fix the problems of the small town.  But even this small town seems tiny—the premise and scope of this story is almost insignificant as it really only focuses on one neighborhood.  All the characters fit into predetermined molds and do nothing to hold the attention of the audience.  Dialogue is very flat and empty.  The storyline is extremely linear and leads to an inevitably ‘fixed’ and patched-up conclusion that really teaches nothing useful.  Unfortunately, there is really nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this cast is realistic and raw, it also includes some slight cultural stereotypes.  There is some good here, but there are too many lazy performances and uninteresting acting.  Emotional and line delivery don’t seem to be taken seriously enough.  This rounds out an overall disappointing effort.

Conclusion

Films like Redemption of the Commons likely mean well, but the idea is almost doomed from the start.  Is there really a market for this sort of predictable plot anymore?  As Christian film makers, we need to be reaching higher and aiming to be better than the mainstream market, rather than constantly letting the mainstream market dictate creativity.  We should be the leaders in creativity, and so far, we are unfortunately not.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Bound [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Cheri Harper is always on the run from the law and from men who want to use her for their own gain.  She has gotten good at running, but when she is finally captured by police, she expects that all is over for her.  However, the sheriff who finds her does something completely unexpected—he takes her to the house of a mysterious man who seems to keep her in captivity once again, only he treats her differently than any man has ever treated her.  Will Cheri be able to learn to stop running and surrender?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Especially in the beginning, Bound is a very cheap-looking production.  There is poor video quality and lighting at first, as well as shaky camera work.  Audio quality is quite inconsistent and the soundtrack is lacking.  Sets and locations are very raw underwhelming.  There are too many montages and repeated footage throughout.  However, the production overall tends to improve as it does, as is the case with many freshman productions.  This demonstrated improvement saves the production from being abysmal and shows potential for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While the first eight minutes of this film have zero dialogue, like other elements of this film, the dialogue does at least improve as it goes on.  However, there are some bizarre characters and jokes in the beginning.  The character start off as very one-dimensional and cardboard, yet they show marked improvement later on, even though they still have work to do.  The premise of this plot is slightly unusual and unrealistic, yet at the same time, this idea is slightly interesting, even though it needs further development and exploration.  Though the flashbacks are cheesy, there are good attempts at crafting the backstories of the characters.  However, there is too much wasted time and the Christian message presented is cheesy.  There is also a rushed and empty romantic subplot that is a part of fixing things too easily in the end.  Basically, this is an interesting start that needs a lot more work.

Acting Quality (1 point)

At first, like other elements in this film, the acting is lazy and very stilted.  Some cast members do not fit the culture they are supposed to be representing.  Yet the acting tends to improve and it seems like coaching is employed later on.  This amateur cast has potential—they just needed to be brought to life better.

Conclusion

Bound is a commendable attempt to do something different, but it needs deepening in order to be realistic.  The characters need to be more realistic and need more engaging dialogue.  The premise needs to be explained and fleshed out a little more.  The production needs an overall upgrade and the acting coaching needs to be expanded.  But it seems like this team has potential, so it will be interesting see what they come up with next.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Closer to God: Jessica’s Journey (Movie Review)

Grandpa’s angry

Plot Summary

Jessica is struggling in her battle with cancer while her mother struggles to hold it all together emotionally and financially.  The last thing her Jessica’s mother expects is for her father—Jessica’s grandfather—to show up at their house unannounced in the midst of it all.  Her mother has no choice but to let Jessica’s grandfather watch over her daughter while she is at work.  Through it all, will they be able to mend their broken family ties even in the midst of the battle with cancer?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Closer to God is another one of those productions that has good effort behind it but not enough funding or creativity to sustain it.  As is usual for these types of productions, video quality and camera work are fine.  Audio quality is good, but there is virtually no soundtrack.  Sets and locations are quite cheap and limited to a few houses and vehicles.  Another common element for this sort of production is blasé editing, which is also true for Closer to God.  There are a lot of lagging scenes and confusing transitions.  Overall, this is an average production that could have been more.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While based on true events, Jessica’s Journey follows the predictable progression of a simplistic disease plot.  It is less dramatic than this type of story usually is, but it is instead filled with a lot of activities of daily living and meaningless sequences.  The characters are somewhat flat and one-dimensional due to uncreative and non-starter dialogue.  Perhaps the most identifiable element of this film is the creepy grandpa character depicted above.  A majority of the story is him wandering around the house spouting unusual dialogue.  While there is a vague recollection of meaning in the ending of this film, the rest of it is simply too much for it to matter.  We are unsure what was trying to be insinuated by the grandfather character, who dominates most of the movie, but perhaps they had no control over this actor…

Acting Quality (1 point)

It seems like the grandfather actor has been set loose on this set with no real direction except to use annoying and overly-enunciated line delivery.  He overshadows the other cast members, some of which are fine.  However, casting Ben Davies as a character older than he is simply does not work at all.  Some emotions are overdone throughout this cast, but there is some positive here, yet not enough to compete with creepy grandpa.

Conclusion

Films like this are very safe and marketable, but they have no staying power.  They don’t make the difference they hope to make and they rarely return the money that is wanted.  They are especially bad when they are remembered for weird offbeat characters like the grandfather in this film.  Elements like that are all that is remembered of these types of films because they have no dynamic elements to truly affect the market.  Once again, this is another one to throw on the pile.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Awakened [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jacob Harker loses his job as a newspaper reporter, he and his wife Haley are forced to move to a small rental house so they can regroup.  While Jacob looks for a new job, he becomes fascinated with some of the belongings left in the rental house’s basement, especially a strange record player that contains hypnotic recordings of a singer that draw Jacob in.  The more time Jacob spends with the recordings, the more he and Haley are attacked by an evil spirit.  Who will prevail in the end?  Will they ever escape the clutches of evil that are hidden in the recordings?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Making a horror movie is not an excuse to cut corners on production.  Awakened doesn’t even attempt to use the found footage crutch; it’s just one bad production.  While video quality if fine, basically only one set is utilized in the entire film, and with it comes poor lighting and unprofessional camera work.  Audio quality is also below standard, including overdubs and an almost non-existent soundtrack.  Editing is very much lacking as the runtime is very linear.  Unfortunately, there is not really much positive to highlight here; this is just another example of a lazy production effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Horror is already a very difficult genre to pull off.  Adding in typical cheesy Christian movie elements is not a winning combination.  First of all, why do we care about this obscure collection of recordings from an unknown artist?  Second of all, is this plot actually supposed to be scary?  Most of the time it seems like it’s trying to suggest horror elements without actually going all the way.  Hardly anything happens in this lame story as the clueless characters mindlessly sit around and do random things.  The premise and the coincidences therein are so trivial that this movie is more unintentional comedy than horror.  As the story goes on, things get more and more bizarre and thus are likely isolate most Christian audiences.  It’s one thing to go after a niche audience and it’s another to make people roll their eyes at another sloppy effort.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is tiny, they are actually the bright spot of the film as they make the most of the little help they are given.  There are not really any glaring errors to point out here as they are mostly professional.  Some emotions seem overdone, but on the whole, this is a surprisingly respectable acting and casting job.

Conclusion

There is definitely a place for Christian horror films in the field, but this is definitely not the way to make one.  Whenever you deal with spiritual matters, especially the demonic, it’s not to be taken lightly.  Horror can be used to reach people outside of typical Christian entertainment circles, but only when it’s done with purpose, prayer, and redemption.  Willy-nilly nonsense like Awakened isn’t going to cut it.  Stuff like this only produces more laughs at the expense of Christian entertainment’s already-flimsy reputation.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

A Path in Time (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Tom is grief-stricken when his father suddenly and mysteriously dies, but he soon discovers a strange artifact his father left behind that opens up a whole new world for him that he never knew existed.  Using the device, Tom travels back in time to find that all he ever knew is not as it seems and he is caught in a battle that spans decades.  Only he can stop the evil that is coming, if he has enough faith and courage.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

It seems like the entire point of A Path in Time was to show off the professional special effects and animation the production team obviously had access to.  There are also other good production elements to be found, such as fine video quality and camera work.  Audio quality is also on standard, though the soundtrack leaves something to be desired.  Unfortunately, sets and locations are fairly cheap and limited.  Finally, there is next to no editing as scenes are dragged out and expounded upon just to make the runtime reach barely sixty minutes.  In the end, it is clear that some thought was put into this production, but this movie is still only half of an idea.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While we always welcome different genres of Christian film, time travel plots are always going to be problematic, illogical, and unnecessarily mind-bending.  Sci-fi plots are already hard enough to craft without introducing all sorts of isolating concepts through constant information dump dialogue.  As the characters drone on about ideas foreign to the audience and speculative lingo, there is little chance to get to know them as people.  There are too many convenient turns and highly confusing plot ‘twists’ that are associated with the time travel concept.  This is not even to mention the fact that the concepts and premise presented in this barely-one-hour film are far too expansive and complicated to cram into this time frame.  We need more gradual development of these ideas rather than an uninvited dump of ideas.  Also, was this film meant to be continued?  It’s been twelve years and there is no plan for a sequel, even though the story clearly leaves the viewer hanging.  Overall, this story is far too confusing to warrant any points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

All too often, this cast exhibits very lifeless emotions and monotone line delivery.  While the performances are certainly not all bad, they could also use a lot of work.  Some effort was put towards historical costuming at least.  It seems like this cast has potential, but it goes untapped.

Conclusion

It’s very hard to determine exactly what the purpose of A Path in Time was.  The creators had a vague idea and some special effect software, so they charged right ahead to make a beta test.  Perhaps they were just experimenting, but was this really worth releasing to the public?  It seems like they could have built off of the ideas here over time and not rushed through them.  There are certainly many struggles to independent film making, but time and consistency are almost always on your side.  If God wants to make a film, the provision will always be there.  We just need to make sure we aren’t rushing things.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

The Widow’s Might (Movie Review)

Please stop singing

Plot Summary

The widow Grace Jackson is being persecuted by a small Texas town local government—her property has been valued too high, thus causing her taxes to skyrocket.  To make matters worse, the incumbent mayor will have nothing to do with it.  Will the injustice in America ever end?  Thus, two aspiring filmmakers take it upon themselves to create a western musical about Grace’s plight, which is the most natural thing you would do in this situation.  But the mayor’s nephew, a corrupt media figure, is trying to undermine them at every turn.  Will their film be able to make the case to free Grace from her persecution, or will the liberal media win out?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For starters, at least the HeuMoore team put some thought into how their movie looked, whatever you may think about it.  Video quality is fine and camera work is professional.  Sets and locations are decent enough, but some of the props are slightly cheesy.  Audio quality is fine, but the original soundtrack, which includes characters literally singing, is atrocious.  Not only is the singing bad, the lyrics are absurd.  One of the songs is actually five minutes long and is extremely painful.  Elsewhere, the editing isn’t really that impressive as scenes cut off awkwardly and transitions are hard to follow.  In the end, though this production looks good on the outside, the beauty is only skin deep.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It is very difficult to take this plot seriously because of its musical elements and because of its basically patriarchal fundamentalist Christian worldview.  While the issue discussed therein has some basis in reality, its presentation is very poor and its messaging is too in-your-face.  The dialogue that isn’t sung comes off as manufactured, thus creating very cardboard characters.  The ‘villains’ are extremely cheesy strawmen.  There is too much fake outrage that attempts to fuel this half-baked nearly-propaganda piece.  Whatever point is trying to be driven home here is too easily lost and generally contributes to a further negative view of Christian entertainment.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Consisting of a mostly amateur cast, there are some talented performances here, but a lot of the emotions are seemingly ingenuine and overly practiced.  Line delivery is very measured and stilted.  Costuming and makeup is not the best.  Also, did we mention the singing?  Overall, this is neither the worst nor the best performance.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, you can tell without asking what this film group is trying to push.  While they are not as extreme as some, they tend to push fundamentalism in its usual unpalatable forms.  Women are cast in a silently offensive light and opposing viewpoints are made a mockery of.  Even though The Widow’s Might is not even as blatant as some fundamentalist propaganda (see Last Ounce of Courage), it still has its undeniable elements and its fixation on subjective traditionalism.  However, it seems like the makers of this film have moved on from this worldview, which is a breath of fresh air.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Edit: The review was edited to reflect accuracy, as brought to light by the film maker.

I’m in Love With a Church Girl (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Miles Montego has everything money can buy, but he is restless and is under investigation by the federal government.  When he talks a Christian friend of his, he is inadvertently introduced to a girl he cannot stop thinking about.  The only problem is she is an outspoken Christian while Miles hasn’t been to church since he was a kid.  But in order to pursue her, he begins to play the part of a Christian, all the while running from his past as a drug dealer.  Eventually, it will all catch up to him so what choice will be make?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though there was a modest amount of money behind this project, it doesn’t seem like it was spent very well.  Camera work is fine, as is video quality, but there are one too many poorly lit scenes here.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is very standard and typical.  Sets and locations are fairly cheap and limited and have room for improvement.  There are too many product placements in this film, which make it seem plastic.  Finally, the editing is not the best as there are too many montages and wasted scenes.  In the end, while there is some good here, it simply isn’t up to standard.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this film was based on a true story, this story is not necessarily portrayed well.  There is too much narration that serves as a crutch to move the plot along.  Dialogue is mostly okay, but characters tend to be too one-dimensional and need further depth.  There is also some suggestive content that could have been avoided.  The purpose behind this film is also questionable—the idea here could send a wrong message about ‘missionary dating’.  It doesn’t really seem like the seriousness of the issues presented here are really grasped.  Though there is a somewhat good message of redemption, its conclusion and quite forced and rushed—it’s very hard to appreciate what is going on here because it all seems too surface.  Unfortunately, this was not the best way to portray a true story.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this is a ‘big name’ cast, and though there are some bright spots, there is too much over-acting and there are too many awkward performances in this effort.  A lot of the cast members seem forcibly cast to the point where they don’t seem real.  Of course, Stephen Baldwin is as ridiculous as can be expected.  Also, costuming and makeup is largely overdone in most of the cast members.  Essentially, this film is a case of too much of the wrong thing.

Conclusion

True stories are great in film—they can portray real people that audiences can connect with and learn from.  However, I’m In Love With a Church Girl crafts an unusual message that can confuse Christians when it comes to dating.  We certainly aren’t about to get into a debate over this topic in this forum, but we definitely have to be very careful when it comes to becoming emotionally involved with non-Christians.  Besides this, the gospel is presented, perhaps unconsciously, as a quick-fix method for problems and is thus cheapened.  But maybe next time this team will improve.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points