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

 

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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

 

Jackson’s Run (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jackson is a troubled teen with a terminal illness who just can’t seem to stay out of trouble.  Ever since his father died, Jackson cannot find any direction in life.  His mother is at a loss for what to do with him as he continually gets in trouble, so she sentences him to a troubled youth work program at a local church.  Jackson balks at first but soon finds a mentor he desperately needs and begins to wrestle with what is truly important in life.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though this production is overall average, at the beginning, all production aspects are fairly cheap, almost like the introduction was a beta test.  Video quality and camera work are inconsistent throughout but do improve by the end of the film.  Audio quality is also poor at first and better later.  The soundtrack is somewhat interesting, however.  Sets, locations, and props are standard.  Yet editing is quite poor as transitions are choppy and the general flow of the film lacks direction and clarity.  In the end, it seems like more time could have been spent on this part of the movie, especially since the plot is so forgettable.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Jackson’s Run (not to be confused with Jackson from Decision) follows a typical and formulaic troubled character plot with no real surprises or twists until the end, and even so, the main ‘twist’ is quite cheesy.  There is really nothing creative to note here—characters are very one-dimensional and shallow due to uncreative and empty dialogue.  A lot of meandering ideas are present in this incoherent storyline that never really come to fruition.  It’s almost like the writers had to come up with a bunch of content to fill in the middle of the story because they just wanted to jump to the end.  Writing the end first can be helpful, but writing a plot only for the sake of the end reduces your chances of the audience actually making it that far.  Overall, Jackson’s Run seems like an incomplete idea that needed more fleshing out before going into production.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With ‘famous’ Christian actors Rusty Martins Sr. and Jr. and T.C. Stallings, it seems like it was assumed that this cast would be automatically good.  There are some bright spots, but there are a lot of moments where the cast members appear to either be not trying or to be unsure of what they are doing.  Sometimes it seems like they are phoning it in and they overall lack direction in the absence of proper coaching.

Conclusion

Jackson’s Run falls into the massive pile of low quality, forgettable Christian films that have no impact on anything whatsoever.  Though there may be a good message in a lot of these films and they are ‘family-friendly’, they are not making a difference.  Why are they not making a difference?  Production is not what it should be, the plots are lacking creativity and development, and casting is underwhelming.  What if all the money that was poured into these myriad forgettable films was pooled for a few truly dynamic movies?  The entertainment world would be turned upside down.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Sacred Vow (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Doug and Amber married when they were young, in college, and hopelessly in love.  However, as they grew older, they slowly but surely grew apart.  Then Doug does the unthinkable: he becomes involved with another woman who makes him want to get out of his current marriage.  But Amber refuses to sign the divorce papers until they both give their marriage a chance.  With secrets between them and their faith in tatters, will they ever be able to repair what is broken?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, the production of Sacred Vow is good.  Video quality and camera work are on par.  However, audio quality is sometimes poor, which seems out of place in this production.  The soundtrack could also use some work.  Sets and locations are acceptable, but the reality-television confessional style presentation seems counter-intuitive.  It’s very odd to have characters tell you things like this—it would be better for these things to be shown rather than told.  Thus, editing is somewhat lazy and relies on these odd confessionals.  Overall, this is an average production, but it feels like it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The confessionals also hamper with the plot structure.  Are we supposed to pay attention to the characters telling us about the story or to the story itself?  The “interviews” serve as a crutch for actual dialogue and character development.  Besides the interviews, there are also flashbacks that are fine but need more development to make sense rather than constant voiceovers.  Though this story has a good message and point, it is sometimes too shallow and simplistic, and at other times, it is too edgy.  It’s really hard to know who these people are outside of their interview spots.  There are also a few too many cheesy elements that hold this idea back.  In the end, what started as a likely good idea became too clunky to work well.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, this cast screams amateurish.  Sometimes their performances appear to be overly practiced, while other times they are quite awkward.  Some line delivery is too breathy and measured.  Also, costuming and makeup are very odd and off-putting.  Overall, though it seems like they meant well, it’s not really good enough.

Conclusion

Films like Sacred Vow start off as something interesting but all too quickly and easily fall short of their original intentions.  Though some decent money was spent on this film, it wasn’t applied in a way that makes it worthwhile.  The story is too underwhelming and the cast is not adequate enough.  In the end, unfortunately, Sacred Vow is just another one of those random Christian films that easily gets tossed aside and lost in the shuffle.  What we need is more dynamic films, not more five-dollar-bin fodder.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Johnny [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Johnny is a foster boy with cancer who sees it as his mission to show people the truth and love of God even though he is suffering.  When he encounters Dr. Carter, little do they know that both of their lives will be changed forever as a result.  Dr. Carter and his wife are still hurting from the death of their young son, and though they are not ready to believe that Johnny could offer healing for them.  However, God has other plans for all of them.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

In keeping with most recent PureFlix productions, Johnny is most fine.  Video quality is on standard, but there are some unexplainable moments of shaky camera work.  Audio quality is mostly what it should be, but the soundtrack is extremely uninspiring and sometimes it seems like the audio is overdubbed.  Sets, locations, and props are professional.  However, there are far too many montages in this film that serve as a crutch for actual content.  Thus, the editing work is poor.  Overall, this is an average production that should have been better than this, considering the funding it had.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though there is a somewhat good message behind Johnny, there is far too much melodrama that distracts from it.  It is very difficult to connect with the struggles of the characters because they come off as very manufactured and plastic.  The main character is very cheesily sappy and perfect, almost to the point of embarrassment.  A lot of the dialogue from all the characters is very obvious and forceful in moving the plot along rather than developing the characters.  Thus, the story follows a predictable progression that is obvious from the start.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with the plotline itself, the way it is presented and the lack of authenticity really derails this film.  Also, things are fixed too easily, which doesn’t really help us learn anything.  In the end, these sorts of movies are very formulaic and are unfortunately designed to make money.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Though this cast is intended to be professional, there is really no coaching present.  While it is not all bad, there are far too many over the top emotions and yelling sequences.  Everything is overly dramatic, which makes for a very distracting experience.  This is not the way to make a meaningful film.

Conclusion

Johnny is one of those films that uses a generic and predictable plot structure to churn out a made-for-bookstore film that can be easily sold on the shelves.  It contributes nothing to the field and only serves the purpose of generating revenue for the production company.  A few weeks after the release, it is totally forgotten and eventually turns up in the cheap Walmart bins and in thrift stores.  Christian film should not be about profit ventures, even though PureFlix has done this for about a decade now.  However, hopefully that tide is turning.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

For the Glory [2012] (Movie Review)

Your guess is as good as ours

Plot Summary

Kurt Kuykendall is a highly gifted basketball player who has it all, including a possible Olympic future.  But his home life is a wreck, which leads to tragedy and his being cut from the basketball team.  He feels like his life is over, but all is not lost, because God opens up a new door for him—playing soccer—that he would have never thought was possible.  The only question is, will Kurt seek God or remain bitter about the past?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

While some measures were taken to make this production good, too many corners were cut here.  Video quality and audio quality are on par, though the soundtrack is pedestrian, but there is too much shaky camera work, especially in the sports sequences.  Speaking of the sports sequences, they are too repetitive and redundant, including some unnecessarily recycled footage.  Thus, there are too many sports montages, which reflects poor editing and a general lack of content, even though this film is supposed to be an epic about a real person’s life.  Sets and locations are also fairly limited.  Therefore, though this production looks good on the surface, it does not do enough to warrant more than one point.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This is an interesting true story to depict in movie form, but it overall lacks focus and causes too much confusion for the audience.  For the Glory commits the amateur epic mistakes of creating too many time jumps and referring to off screen content too often.  Besides the constant sports montages, there are too many head-scratching sequences and random occurrences that do nothing to help us get to know these characters at all.  Time is not spent wisely, thus making it hard to be able to relate to the struggles of these characters.  Dialogue also meanders and is generally hard to follow, which creates cheesy and empty characters.  In short, while For the Glory highlights some true-to-life issues, it does so in a very lazy fashion that will unfortunately have no real impact.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, cases that include Jason Burkey and Richard Swingle that have no connection to the Erwin Brothers do not fair well.  They are their usual awkward selves, as are other cast members.  Emotions are over the top and forced and line delivery is sometimes hesitant.  This cast would have benefited from coaching.

Conclusion

In the grand scheme of things, films like For the Glory are very easily forgettable and fall into the massive heap of Christian movies that just blow over your head after you’ve watched them.  There is nothing particularly good or bad to remember about this category of films—you just watch them and then you’re done and never watch them again.  What we need is greatness in Christian film, not more failed attempts like this one.  Perhaps movies like this one can serve as reminders of how film makers can improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

The Imposter [2008] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Johnny C is a wildly successful Christian rock star with a dark past.  He knows how to entertain Christian crowds and how to say the right things, but he still struggles with the demons inside him.  He has had a secret addiction that he constantly lies about and consistently has struggles in his topsy-turvy marriage.  When he finally can’t hold it all together and his world comes crashing down all around him, he has no one to turn to except for God.  Left with virtually nothing, will Johnny be able to pick up the pieces and start over for real?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

As an early 2000s production, The Imposter seems like a film searching for identity.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t really find it.  In attempts to be artistic and ‘creative’, strange production conventions are embraced, such as shaky camera work and very dizzying special effects.  Audio quality is fine, and the original soundtrack is intriguing, but there are too many songs, musical montages, and confusing music videos.  Lighting is also inconsistent, especially in some outside scenes, which are too bright.  Furthermore, editing is choppy and makes the story hard to follow.  In the end, while there was adequate money spent on this production, it is mostly wasted and disappointing.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though The Imposter is not afraid to deal with difficult yet realistic issues and to take an honest look at Christian ‘stars’, it’s just not enough.  The constant narration stunts character development.  They need to be deepened through improved dialogue because it’s difficult to understand why they do what they do—the characters seem to be too swept along by circumstances.  Unfortunately, some of the Christian characters are portrayed as too high and mighty.  Also, too much of the messaging is heavy-handed as the story jumps all around and is somewhat hard to follow.  The story seems too aimless and sometimes lacks purpose and even hope.  However, the ending is interesting and realistic, although it lacks proper buildup and leaves something to be desired.  In summary, The Imposter is an honest look at life, but at the same time, it lacks the true authenticity that is required to properly deal with the issues dealt with here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this is a ‘popular’ Christian cast, they are fairly unconvincing and sometimes appear to be phoning in their performances.  Emotions are too unrealistic and all over the place.  Sometimes the performances are fine, but on the whole, these cast members are without direction and need better coaching in order to reach their full potential.

Conclusion

Movies like The Imposter start with good intentions but without a real focus on where they are going, their plots wander aimlessly and try to use Christian ‘celebrities’ as crutches for their mistakes.  There are some poignant issues portrayed in this film that need to be discussed in the context of Christian entertainment, but as this movie is, it just comes off as unserious and sometimes unprofessional.  You need more than a base idea and some ‘big name’ cast members to make a good film.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Deceived [2002] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a secret space observatory in Nevada picks up a mysterious and erratic signal from outer space, a powerful billionaire who owns the observatory forms a team made up of his spiritual guide, two investigative reporters, and his company’s computer technician to fly out to the observatory to find out what happened.  Some of them believe they have been contacted by intelligent beings from outer space, while others believe something more sinister is going on.  The signal also draws the attention of a specialized squadron of troops, some of whom have questionable abilities.  As they all meet up at the observatory, who will prevail?  Will they ever discover the truth of what is really out there?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As an early 2000s Cloud Ten production, Deceived is mostly average in its production quality.  the biggest detractors are the grainy video quality and poor lighting in most scenes.  There are also too many cheesy special effects that are used in an attempt to be different and sci-fi.  However, the sets, locations, and props seem realistic enough.  Audio quality is also fine and the soundtrack is intriguing.  Finally, the editing job is decent and overall rounds out an average production.  It certainly could have been better, but it could have also been worse.  However, there is not much we can say for the plot.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With a cheesy sci-fi premise that’s full of technological mumbo-jumbo and empty dialogue, Deceived tries to be creative and different, yet misses the mark badly.  There is far too much time wasted on petty conflicts and not enough time spent on character development.  While some of the characters could be interesting, we barely get to know them in the midst information dump dialogue and monologuing.  The Christian characters are too perfect while the non-Christian characters are too flawed.  There are also too many spiritual elements that come off as a bizarre in an attempt to bridge the horror genre.  The ending is quite confusing and seems like the writers just ran out of ideas.  In the end, this is a very disappointing story that could have been interesting.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With a cast made up of semi-professionals, these cast members have their good moments, but unfortunately, the bad moments outweigh the good.  There are too many overly dramatic and theatrical performances.  Emotions are hard to connect with.  In the end, they do not live up to their full potential.

Conclusion

The early 2000s era of Christian film had some noble attempts to bridge different genres Christian film had never bridged before, and John Patus and Cloud Ten Pictures were on the forefront of this attempt.  However, for the most part, these attempts did not fulfill their fullest potential and settled for half-measures, probably because the market was so thin then.  Much has happened since these films came out, but they can certainly serve as an example of how and how not to expand Christian film into unique genres.  Yesterday’s disappointments can certainly be remedied in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

The Perfect Stranger [2005] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Nikki, a lawyer living a fast-paced life, gets a strange invitation to go to dinner with a man who claims to be Jesus Christ, she decides to take him up on the offer, if only to prove him wrong.  Throughout the course of the evening, as their conversation ranges on a wide variety of topics, including world religions and the nature God, Nikki begins to see this man for Who He really is, but will she let Him into her heart?  By the time the last course comes around, who will she surrender to?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

For 2005, this is a very poor production effort.  Though the sets are very limited and the budget seems adequate for this small scale of a production, the Kelly’s Filmworks team did not deliver.  Video quality is grainy and there is a lot of poor lighting throughout, including some cheesy-looking soft light.  Though most of the props are okay and audio quality is decent, the soundtrack is very cheap sounding.  The editing is very basic, but there is not that much content to work with here anyway.  In the end, this is a disappointing effort that should have been easy to execute.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As the original proprietor of the Encounter-style movie, Jefferson Moore was definitely on to something interesting in The Perfect Strange.  This was an original idea that had a lot of potential, yet we feel like it did not reach its full potential.  Though there are very few characters that have long monologuing dialogue, we don’t really get to know them all that well.  The portrayal of Jesus is pretty good, but Nikki just seems like a cardboard cutout.  She talks a lot without every really saying anything substantial to build her character.  There are some interesting issues raised in this plot, but the plotline is fairly linear and lacking in deep content.  It’s all very surface where it should be deep and concludes predictably.  Basically, where The Perfect Stranger could have been truly dynamic, it only scratched the surface.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This small cast is mostly average, yet they are the brightest spot of this film.  There are no real embarrassments or glaring errors, but they also seem like they’re holding back.  Jefferson Moore is fine as Jesus, but other cast members seem inhibited for some reason.  Emotion doesn’t really come through properly.  But in the end, this section is just average.

Conclusion

The Perfect Stranger is a good concept that needs deepening and more creativity.  Having two people talk over dinner about pertinent issues is not really the best way to present this otherwise good idea.  Monologuing becomes old and wearing, thus boring the audience.  Unfortunately, the entirety of this film doesn’t hold the attention very well, so important points will be lost.  Christian film makers need to make sure they are packaging their good ideas properly so that their messages can be properly conveyed.  This is the biggest movie lesson one can learn from this film.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Courageous Love {Rather to Be Chosen} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Alex Shelby inherits his father’s real estate investment company, he feels like he is in over his head because he does not know how to lead.  But he decides to trust in the experienced people who assisted his father all of his career.  However, when he is faced with an impossible situation involving accusations against an employee of his that he is falling in love with, Alex will have to make hard decisions as he tries to discover who is really trying to sabotage his company.  Will love win out in the end?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

While Courageous Love is an improved production effort compared to the track record of Crystal Creek Media, it is still just average.  For example, video quality and camera work are fine, but inconsistent audio issues still plague this film, which is an error Crystal Creek has yet to rectify in their films.  Also, the soundtrack is very stock.  In this film are many of the same limited sets from Unexpected Places, especially the office sets.  Finally, the editing of Courageous Love is very sloppy, with very confusing and abrupt transitions and cuts.  Overall, while this production looks better than the past ones, there are still commonly recurring issues that plague it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unlike past plots from this studio, Courageous Love has an interesting and slightly complex idea behind it, even though it gets severely covered up by incompetent writing.  There is really no way to follow what’s happening as the audience is presented with a dizzying amount of unconnected and underdeveloped subplots.  From one scene to the next, there is little continuity or understanding of what is happening.  Many sequences and scenes are empty and wasted, doing nothing to deepen the story.  This story’s characters are one-dimensional, act disingenuous, and demonstrate no real purpose or personality as they are driven by mindless dialogue.  Finally, the plot rests on unrealistic yet extremely convenient occurrences in order to make the story go where it ‘needs’ to go.  In short, while we believe the Knudsens and company have good intentions, their messaging is all wrong.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

While this is another film filled with the same old under-coached Crystal Creek cast members, there is still some potential here.  Tim Kaiser seems to be improving with time.  However, there are still many errors that plague this section, including useless fake accents and overdubs and the usual emotion and line delivery problems.  This group may mean well, but they are in severe need of coaching.

Conclusion

After a handful of movies under their belt, has the Crystal Creek team really made it anywhere?  Following such poor productions like Unexpected Places, Indescribable, Christmas Grace, and Creed of Gold, they are just now getting the hang of a proper production, even though they still have a ways to go.  But what of their writing?  We sincerely implore the Knudsens to reach out for help in this area, because whatever good ideas they have are being wasted as they are lost in translation.  Furthermore, please find some new cast members or at least try to coach the ones you have.  Movies like Courageous Love are easily forgotten for all of the previously listed reasons.  If you want to make an impact, aim for quality over quantity.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

The Apostle Peter: Redemption (Movie Review)

A creeper

Plot Summary

The Apostle Peter followed Jesus zealously once he was called, but when faced with the darkest hour in history, Peter fell away and denied that he even knew his Lord.  Yet after His Resurrection, Jesus forgave Peter and made him the head of His church.  All his life, Peter sought to never forsake Christ again, so when faced with martyrdom, he only wanted to please his Lord and witness to those around him—even a skeptical Roman soldier who was seeking the truth.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Productions PureFlix has had a hand in are usually average or above, as is the case with The Apostle Peter: Redemption.  However, we can’t help but feel that there could have been more here.  While all the typical elements—camera work, video quality, audio quality, and soundtrack—are okay for the most part, it feels like this production isn’t going the extra mile.  This is mostly demonstrated by fake looking sets and locations that are actually quite limited.  Some historical authenticity is present, but it seems too plastic.  The editing is fine, but leaves sometime to be desired.  In short, this is just a standard production that seems slapped together; it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

With themes similar to Apostle Peter and the Last Supper, this plot is very slow to develop and hard to follow.  Not much happens as unfeeling characters have boring and stiff conversations filled with stilted theatrical dialogue and discourses on obscure Roman politics.  We can’t feel like these characters are real or relatable people since they act like they stepped out of one of those horrid 1980s Bible movies.  They don’t really do anything except ramble on and pretend like things are happening.  The only redeeming qualities here are the okay use of flashbacks and the interesting end that is slightly meaningful if you make it that far.  Otherwise, this story is a big disappointment.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This film is poorly cast, and even though it stays away from the BRITISH errors, the cast members are still not historically authentic.  The costuming also seems fake and cheaply made.  The actors and actresses are stoic and robotic in their line delivery and unfeeling in their emotions.  John Rhys-Davies is the only exception here, as he is always the same in every movie he’s in.  As a side note, Stephen Baldwin seems like he’s in his natural habitat, since he’s as creepy as ever and exhibits random unwanted outbursts.  But basically, this is a mess.

Conclusion

It’s commendable to create Biblical films, but once again, this is not the way to do it.  This is an interesting look at the latter life of a Bible character, but the storyline simply does not hold the attention and seems disingenuous.  It’s hard to believe that this wasn’t just a movie thrown together for the sake of having a Bible movie.  We implore film makers to put effort into their work and to not create half-measures.  It is simply not worth it.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Online [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When John is encouraged by one of his coworkers to check out the site Social Friend Pages to see if he can find his high school girlfriend, he begins a downward spiral.  Though he is already married, he begins meeting his old girlfriend just to ‘catch up’.  Things get out of hand and John soon finds himself hiding from his wife and from God.  Everything comes to a head and John will have to make a decision on which path he is going to take.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Online is a surprisingly okay production with good video quality and camera work, but it is not error-free.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is very stock.  There are also too many scenes with poor lighting.  Sets and locations are fine, but we would have liked to see more diversity.  Finally, the editing is a major problem in this film as there are far too many empty scenes.  Most of the runtime is filler content and wasted time.  In short, this is an average production, but it doesn’t save this movie from itself.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This is perhaps one of the worst so-called plots written.  Besides the ridiculous and boring premise that continually repeats the same drudging scenes over and over and again, most of the characters are total strawmen.  A majority of the dialogue is obvious and designed to force the plot along.  While we certainly agree that many problems can come about from the internet, this film suggests that the internet causes all problems known to man today.  Thus, many issues are portrayed incorrectly, as if sin is only available in the digital age and as if these characters had no pre-existing issues before they ventured onto social media.  Besides this, no depth or meaning is conveyed—struggles cannot be appreciated not only because they are out of touch with reality, but also because the characters are not believable.  In the end, there was little justification for this plot being written.

Acting Quality (1 point)

While this acting is sometimes okay, the cast is overshadowed by one cast member that has a loud, ridiculous, and obviously fake French accent.  Elsewhere, emotions are stiff and line delivery is sometimes strained.  Though not all is bad, it’s certainly not all good.

Conclusion

We sincerely believe that Kevan Otto means well, but his delivery is often misguided.  Non-plots like Online are unfortunately laughable because they are based on flimsy concepts that suggest that sin is worse now than it has been in the past.  The characters therein are also so shallow that they can’t be understood.  Also, no story has any chance when it consists of a series of scenes that repeat cyclically.  Furthermore, when casting, it’s best not to have such a glaring error as a fictitious accent that draws so much attention to itself.  Unfortunately, there is little that can be done for this mess.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

In-Lawfully Yours {Jesse and Naomi} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jesse catches her husband Chaz cheating on her, she immediately files for divorce.  But as they are trying to finalize the details, Chaz’s father dies, leaving his mother in turmoil as she fights against an evil company trying to buy her house so they can tear it down. Jesse feels an obligation to take care of her ex-mother-in-law as her ex-husband tries to hurry her out of her own home.  As she helps her ex-mother-in-law pack up her belongings, Jesse finds herself falling for Ben, the local pastor, who is actually her ex-brother-in-law and used to be married to her ex-husband’s sister.  But as the two of them grow closer, Chaz works to stir up the small town of Bethel Grove against them, possibly threatening to end their relationship forever.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In-Lawfully Yours checks the box of having a nice surface appearance.  Money was obviously spent on camera work, video quality, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is a silly ‘small town’ composition, but it’s obviously a jab to stupid Hallmark soundtracks.  The sets and locations are pretty good for this type of movie and obviously showcase the ‘small town’ elements this movie is trying to make fun of.  The biggest problem here is the editing.  Even if you’re creating a satire, this does not mean that editing should be ignored.  In-Lawfully Yours is just a random collection of spliced together ‘funny’ scenes with little continuity between them.  In short, this film meets the minimum production standard Christian films should meet, but this does not mean that it’s flawless.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

In-Lawfully Yours is obviously an attempt at satirizing a stereotypical Hallmark small town romance film.  The problem is that the satire is not completely committed to.  At times, the satire is painfully obvious, though not always funny, yet at other times, satire is arbitrarily abandoned.  Dialogue is purposely nonsensical, ripe with offhand swipes and nods to cheesy movie concepts.  But sometimes meaning is awkwardly forced into the dialogue.  Characters are noticeably empty, but they don’t live up to their full comic potential.  Satirical scenes and concepts, like the infamous interrupting-church-services bit from Hidden Secrets, are vastly overused to the point of embarrassment.  This aside is actually the entire purpose of this plot, and its overuse is cringe-worthy.  In the end, everything is neatly fixed in purposefully childish ways.  Essentially, In-Lawfully Yours is a poor man’s Christian Mingle.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, satires still need good acting.  Throwing your cast members into scenes without giving them coaching is no better than Hallmark.  Had the acting been better, this film might have actually been funny.  Emotions are either stale or over the top.  Line delivery is mostly lazy.  It’s disappointing that the acting wasn’t better, because I think there was potential here.

Conclusion

Corbin Bernsen has become somewhat infamous for creating subtle parodies of Hallmark movies, but In-Lawfully Yours tries a bit too hard.  Where Christian Mingle was organic satire, this new film wears out the same concepts over and over again and forces comedy down your throat.  It could have been interesting—tongue-in-cheek references to small town movie clichés are perfectly adequate when executed properly.  But when it comes to satire, familiarity breeds contempt.  Silly Hallmark concepts deserve to be made fun of, but this one is just too repetitive to be funny.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

The Reckoning [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Now that she is now the rightful owner of her late mother’s charity foundation, Katie Mayfield sets out to make a difference in the Englisher world she is now a part of.  Everything in her life seems to be lining up perfectly, especially when her boyfriend, Justin, proposes marriage to her, which she accepts.  But as she becomes more immersed in the affluent lifestyle she inherited and becomes closer to Justin, she realizes that some things are just not meant for her.  Katie becomes especially confused when her childhood boyfriend, Daniel Fisher, whom she thought was dead, suddenly reappears in her life.  Despite her disgust at him, he reminds her of things she had almost forgotten about herself.  In the end, Katie will have to come to a reckoning of who she really is in order to move forward in the direction God wants her to go.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As per usual Hallmark conventions, there are enough positive production elements in The Reckoning to make this the strongest point of the film.  The camera work is professional and the video quality is solid.  The audio quality is above par.  For the most part, the sets and locations are realistic but not very diverse.  The surroundings seem fairly realistic, but sometimes they are forced.  The soundtrack is stock Hallmark music, but what do you expect at this point.  The biggest problem here is the editing, which is choppy and isolating.  A lot of contradictory content is crammed into ninety minutes, especially when you take into account the previous arcs of this trilogy.  Transitions between scenes are awkward—the general flow of the movie is disjointed.  In other words, The Reckoning is just another slapped together Hallmark production that looks good on the outside but lacks inner substance.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From where The Confession left off, The Reckoning begins upending the continuity of the storylines and abandoning original themes.  What is left in the aftermath is another run-of-the-mill Hallmark love triangle with an obvious conclusion.  While Katie Mayfield seems like the same character she was before, all other characters from previous films are drastically transformed into caricatures with obvious roles in an inevitable plot.  Believability and authenticity are stripped from the characters, leaving them as empty shells to be played in Hallmark’s money game.  One interesting thing that is addressed in this film is the values conflict between Katie and Justin, but why is Justin made out to be such a rigidly godless character with no basis?  If Katie wanted to get away from the strict Amish ways, why did she vaguely return to them by the end of the trilogy?  What was even the point of her leaving?  Basically, The Reckoning feels like a cheaply rushed and forced conclusion to an otherwise okay film trilogy.  Little thought was put into this work, because who can dare to stop the Hallmark machine from churning out another cheesy inspirational movie?

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Katie Leclerc, the only returning cast member, is also the only good actress in this film.  The Lancaster County Trilogy has already been plagued by lack of cast continuity, but The Reckoning really takes the cake.  A majority of the replacement actors and actresses bear no resemblance whatsoever to previously portrayed characters.  It’s like they’re not even trying.  In addition, no effort is placed on acting coaching, as line delivery and emotional delivery are very flat and straightforward.  Also, these characters have been #Hallmarked with overuse of makeup and costuming.

Conclusion

This is, in short, a disappointing end to a trilogy that had a lot of potential.  Instead of trying to follow closer to the original novel or at least putting some amount of thought into portraying the characters as realistic, another good idea gets swept along in the wake left by Hallmark’s pursuit of money.  The powers that be of Hallmark constantly treat their viewers as stupid, seemingly thinking that their mindless movie content and gross alterations will go unnoticed because people just want to watch another Hallmark movie.  We beg to differ and choose to believe that audiences are better than this, which means that production companies need to offer better options than this.  Instead of constantly churning out stupidly forgettable movies and ruining otherwise good storylines, Hallmark needs to put their money to good use and provide a platform for those who are truly gifted and creative—without inserting their own agenda into it.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Changing Hearts [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

James Reed is a successful consultant in the big city, glad that he left his rural life behind. However, his old life starts calling him back when his father begins to have health problems, prompting James’ mother, brother, and sister to call on him to come help them run the family business: a rural bed and breakfast.  James returns home, saying he will stay for a week.  When he arrives, he finds his family’s business is not as good as they portrayed it.  But he also finds that he still has feelings for one of the employees there.  Even though James does not want to be home and his brother doesn’t want him there either, the Reed family will have to band together and work hard in order to combat a business rival who wants to buy out the bed and breakfast.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Starting off, Changing Hearts is the typical story of a cheap Christian movie.  The video quality and camera work is the strongest point of the production, giving this movie and good surface feel.  However, as we usually say, there isn’t much past the surface.  The sets are limited to the bed and breakfast building and property and some random ‘big city’ scenes.  There’s nothing creative about the soundtrack and at times, there is loud background noise that overpowers the scene.  There is really nothing to say about the editing—the movie just drags on and until it’s finally done.  Perhaps the worst element of the production is a scene at the end in which a large crowd of people is supposed to be depicted, yet it’s an obvious production blunder, with a handful of people copied over and over again to make it look like a large crowd.  Beyond this, there is nothing obviously wrong with the production of Changing Hearts, but there is nothing dynamic enough to cause it to stand out.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Leading off the previous comments, the plot of Changing Hearts is extremely linear, with no twists or turns or creativity.  It’s a simplistic prodigal son plot done quite poorly.  The characters fit nicely into their predetermined molds: the prodigal character, the angry brother, the parents, the love interest, and the optional villain (in this case, I can sympathize, since it disturbingly reminds me of a real life person).  Little is done to deepen these characters beyond their stereotypes.  Dialogue is not utilized properly and is very vanilla.  Characters are swept along by the inevitable plot that concludes abruptly and predictably.  Life lessons are obviously taught throughout, but not in a way that causes the audience to connect with the real life events.  The plot comes off in such a way that it seems like it takes place in a location outside of real life.  But if it’s meant to be an allegory, it’s not indicated.  In summary, this would have been fine for a first time film if more thought was put into it.  From the get-go, the plot is very limited in scope and potential, so the most needs to be made of every element.  This did not occur, thus warranting zero points.

Acting Quality (1.5 point)

In a strange twist, the acting is the strongest element of this film.  It’s rare that the acting overshadows the other elements; usually acting goes hand in hand with the others.  In this case, the acting is only better because it’s average and the rest of the film is sub-par.  There is nothing glaringly horrible from this cast.  Line delivery is pretty good.  Emotions sometimes seem plastic, but sometimes they are not.  This cast seems like it has a lot of potential, but it only comes out as average.

Conclusion

As time goes on, Christian films like this will unfortunately be forgotten and lost amidst a sea of cheap movies on thrift store shelves and yard sale tables.  It frustrates us to see this sort of potential do to waste.  Despite the uncreative plot, the tools were there to make this movie stand out, at least as a freshman creation.  But unfortunately, Changing Hearts is just another one of those movies that will fade away.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Mandie and the Secret Tunnel (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When her father dies, Mandie Shaw is forced to live with her mother who doesn’t like her.  Therefore, she decides to run away and try to find her elusive Uncle John.  With the help of her Cherokee native friends, she discovers his estate and is taken in by his staff.  However, she receives the devastating news that her uncle is also dead.  After more emotional turmoil, Mandie decides to join in the search for her uncle’s mysterious will in order to determine who is the heir to the estate.  As they do so, however, more and more unusual characters begin appearing, obviously in search of the will for their own gain.  Mandie and her new friends must band together and discover the will before it’s too late.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Mandie and the Secret Tunnel is obviously a low budget production.  Thankfully, the money was at least spent on cameras, for the video quality and camera work are the best production elements.  Otherwise, it’s pretty raw.  There is some potential, however, if you can endure the grating soundtrack, the inconsistent sound quality, the limited surroundings, and the sloppy editing.  When it comes to production, Secret Tunnel is not the worst of the worst, but it really doesn’t have much going for it either.  Yet for a low budget production, it’s definitely commendable.  Were this the weakest area of the film, it would be understandable.  But alas, it’s not.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Adapted from books by Christian children’s author Lois Gladys Sheppard, this should have been an interesting plot.  The premise of the books is unique and definitely deserved a movie.  However, Secret Tunnel just doesn’t cut it.  From start to finish, the plot is confusing and key elements are understated.  Character development is very inconsistent and dialogue ranges from slightly comedic to downright childish.  Every character has a lot of potential that needs deepening.  This could have been a really well-done character-driven plot with witty dialogue, but that ship never sails.  This ‘treasure hunt’ plot sputters and wastes time before jumping to a slightly interesting conclusion.  On its face, this plot should be way better than it is.  Low budget production can be excused, but bungling an above average plot like this one is inexcusable.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Probably the worst element of this film, the acting is very poorly coached, if at all.  It seems like this cast has potential and could even be funny, but they have no clear direction and just say things awkwardly.  A handful of them are quite professional on their own, the rest really drag down the score.  Emotional delivery is inconsistent and at times, the delivery of lines if very forced.  Overall, casting needed a rework.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, Secret Tunnel is forced to join the ranks of movies that wasted good ideas.  Christian novels should be adapted to more movies than they are, but it must be done so properly.  For a first film, we are likely to excuse production errors that pertain to poor funding, but bungling a plot and poorly coaching a cast are fundamental errors are all levels of movie-making, no matter how much money is sunk into the project.  If you are a Christian film maker or an aspiring one, please heed this advice: before charging ahead for the sake of making another Christian movie, take time to work on your plot, making the characters deep and believable and the plot as realistically complex as possible.  For a virgin voyage, cheap production can be excused; just make sure your plot is sound and your cast doesn’t ruin your film.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Uphill Battle (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Erica Stratton wants to move on from her divorce and from the wounds it caused, but she is struggling to connect with people and to guide her teenage children in life.  She has taken up cycling as a pastime and is trying to spend more time with God, but she has mostly shut herself off from other people, except for her coworkers.  But when a fellow cyclist takes interest in her and pursues her, she doesn’t know what to do.  She is also preoccupied with trying to keep her kids out of trouble so that they do not end up like her husband.  In the end, she will have to decide if she wants to move forward or keep looking back to the painful memories of the past.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For a film of this caliber, the production of Uphill Battle isn’t really that bad.  The video quality is mostly clear, but the camera work is somewhat amateurish.  Some of the angles are awkward, while others are not.  The sound quality is inconsistent, but most of the outside scenes are filmed fairly well.  The sets and location aren’t very creative or professional.  There are flashbacks that are presented in a cheesy fashion.  In this same vein, the editing is all over the place.  In the end, the production is just average—not horrible nor great.  Unfortunately, this cannot be said about the remainder of the film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Somewhere, there is a good idea hidden in Uphill Battle.  Divorce needs to be explored on the big screen, as do addiction and post-divorce scars, but Battle just muddles all the issues.  Characters are portrayed as black and white, as either perfect or evil.  Erica is almost a mockery of women, as she seems empty and air-headed, always forgetting things and hiding from people.  Her ex-husband is over the top and unbelievable.  Other characters are mindless.  The plot meanders along with no real direction—things just happen randomly, characters talk about things without engaging the audience, and then the movie just ends awkwardly.  It seems like this was an idea that never really panned out and needed to be re-thought at the storyboard.  The good message is lost in another poorly made Christian film.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This cast needed some serious coaching that they do not get.  They show potential that is not tapped.  Emotions aren’t believable and line delivery is either lackadaisical or overdone.  In short, this film wouldn’t have been nearly as bad with better coached actors and actresses.

Conclusion

Another film review, another wasted idea.  There are countless Christian movies like Uphill Battle that take a vague interesting concept and run with it, forcing a movie to be made without any real thought or effort put into it.  The end result is a continuously flooded movie market that further defames the title ‘Christian film’.  If you have a great movie idea, then take your time to make it great so that you can truly make a difference in culture.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Love Finds a Home (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dr. Belinda Owens agrees to let her now-pregnant medical school friend Dr. Annie Watson stay with her while Annie’s husband goes out of town for a short-term job.  Believing that his wife needs help, Lee Owens sends for Annie’s controlling mother-in-law, who is impressed with her natural midwife advice, as opposed to Belinda’s medical training.  In the midst of this, Lee feels himself torn between worrying about his wife’s desire for a child and his new apprentice’s interest in his adopted daughter Lillian.  In the end, they must all learn to work together as they face a medical emergency and other small town tragedies.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As the main Love Comes Softly series comes to a close, the production is no better than it ever was, only coming in at average.  The video quality is just okay, and the camera work is stock.  The musical score is generic.  The sets and locations are pretty good, but are still quite limited.  Costuming and makeup are not terribly authentic.  The editing is not up to par, but as we will see next, there really wasn’t much to work with.  In summary, the production quality of Love Finds a Home is not as bad as it could be, but with the resources available to Hallmark, it should be better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

There is no way to quantify what the true plot of Finds a Home is.  There is no driving storyline or compelling arcs.  This story is a collection of recycled inspirational frontier scenes and incidents, interspersed with discussions on medical lingo.  There are too many disjointed subplots thrown together, so that the movie hops from one thing to the next without creating a common theme or giving the audience a reason to keep watching.  In this final installment, Love Comes Softly boils down to a generic family-friendly cable show or a frontier television program rerun.  The dialogue is straightforward and non-compelling, thus creating cardboard characters.  A bunch of stuff happens and gets resolved just in time for the movie to be over.  It doesn’t even end like a typical Love movie, but just stutters to an inevitable conclusion that leaves the viewer wondering what happened to this movie saga that once had such great potential.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With the complete exit of Dale Midkiff and Erin Cottrell from the franchise, the acting is certainly not terrible, but neither is it dynamic.  Line delivery is procedural and emotions are absent.  As previously mentioned, the vanity of these ‘frontier’ characters does not cease.  In the end, poor acting, combined with bad plots, ultimately was the demise of this otherwise epic saga.

Conclusion

The Love Comes Softly saga limped to a close with this eighth installment, another movie that borrowed the title and some character from a Janette Oke book and completely disregarded the original plot that was far more interesting than another generic Hallmark movie.  Gone are epic journeys and conflicts, just another small 19th century town filled with people doing stuff.  Having finally fulfilled a commitment to rip off all eight of Oke’s better novels, Hallmark then set their sights on a new money-making venture: prequels and sequels!

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Ring the Bell (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Rob Decker is a successful sports agent who has his eyes set on capturing another prize: Shawn Hart, a top high school baseball recruit who resides in a small rural town.  When Decker personally travels there to try to scoop up the young athlete, he finds that he is up against more than he thought.  He also discovers a long lost athlete whom he tries to convince to come back into the sports world.  But instead of making converts of his own, Decker finds himself questioning his very purpose in life due to his encounters in the small town.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

It is obvious that the creators of Ring the Bell were going for a film that looks good on the surface, but has no substance.  The video quality is clear and outdoor scenes are filmed well, with consistent lighting and sound.  The camera work is solid across the board, but this is the extent of the movie’s overtly positive qualities.  The soundtrack is very stock and only adds the movie’s cheesy image.  The editing is very choppy; it feels like this movie is a collection of random scenes glued together.  It jumps along, hitting high points and movie the plot along at breakneck speed.  But the plot itself is an entirely different story.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Ring the Bell is a typical stuck-in-a-small-town with an extra large dose of cheesiness.  Typical Southern backwards characters populate the plot, but they are all more absurd than usual.  There are also the typical ‘off-beat’ personalities who make themselves too well known to the audience.  There’s also the town pastor, who serves the purpose of inserting awkward theology into the film at opportune moments.  Then there’s the female lead who has long debates with Decker about what really matters in life, including hashing both of their life stories after knowing each other for a few days.  All of the dialogue is forced and robotic.  As previously mentioned, the plot does not flow well at all and it is hard to get a bearing on the true meaning of this movie.  The only positive thing we can detect in Ring the Bell’s plot is its clear presentation of the gospel for whoever is paying attention.  Otherwise, there is little to nothing to be excited about in this film.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Barring a few cast members, the acting is overall very in-your-face and extremely obvious.  Emotional delivery is overdone; some actors are like walking commercials.  Steven Curtis Chapman is a really nice guy, but it feels like he was forced to be in this movie with no help.  In short, there is simply too much negative in Ring the Bell.

Conclusion

Ring the Bell falls into an overflowing recycle bin of Christian movies that should have either never been made or greatly reworked early in the pre-production process.  Were all of these films combined into a handful of excellent movies, the Christian movie scene would look vastly different than it does now.  We at Box Office Revolution hope to change this trend by promoting more quality films and by pointing out how low quality films could have been better.  Unfortunately, Ring the Bell is one of those screenplays that had very little potential from the beginning.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Finding Normal (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

While driving to her destination wedding location in the Hamptons, Dr. Lisa Leland has an unfortunate run-in with the local law enforcement of Normal, Louisiana.  Due to her new speeding ticket and unpaid parking tickets, a local judge decides to give Lisa a choice between community service or jail time.  Lisa chooses community service and finds herself as the new town doctor.  While begrudgingly performing her duties, Lisa clashes with the town lawyer, who is in the middle of a heated legal battle.  Finally forced to slow down in her fast-paced life, Lisa realizes there is more to her existence than just making money.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The production quality of Finding Normal is better than usual, but it is still only average.  The camera work is passable, as are the video and sound qualities.  The sets and locations are limited and seem cheap.  The editing is all right, but there is not really much to work with.  Overall, Normal is a step above other PureFlix movies that contain glaring errors, probably since it was made for TV, but it is still not as good as it should be, knowing how much funding PureFlix has available to them.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The plot content is really where this movie takes a nosedive.  For starters, it is a typical small town hostage plot in which a big city character gets stuck in a small town with every cliché imaginable: little to no cell phone coverage, a local judge with an agenda, a police officer that pulls over newcomers, a small church with typical church events, a predictable town event, and even fishing.  Besides this, the storyline is trumped up and inaccurate—local jurisdictions cannot enforce parking tickets in other states.  It is a stretch to believe that being a doctor could count as community service.  In other news, an unrealistic religious freedom case is inserted into the film, along with some save the farm plot elements.  In the wake of this nonsense, the characters are empty and the dialogue is painful.  The ending makes little to no sense—the whole movie seems like it was forced to happen.  Unfortunately, there is nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The acting is not as bad as it could be, but it is also not as good as it could be.  Candace Cameron Bure is average at best.  The surrounding cast tries too hard to have a ‘small-town feel’.  Overall, there is nothing dynamic enough here to warrant any more points.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that this type of movie has been done before, too many times.  There is nothing new about a big city character getting stuck in a backwards small town and being forced to slow down their fast-paced life.  When these types of movies are being pitched, creators need to be challenged to change it up and do something that hasn’t been done before, even something slightly different.  Christian films are already too replete with mediocre nonsense and we certainly do not need anymore.  We implore Christian film distributors everywhere to use the funding they have to make one truly dynamic movie, one that can change cultures, not five more that will be forgotten in a few years.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Hope Bridge (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jackson’s life has never been the same ever since his father committed suicide.  Searching for reasons why, he begins examining his late father’s belongings and begins to go to the places he went in order to discover his father’s secret double life.  In order to do this, he teams up with a girl he met in the office of his new psychologist.  Their journey takes them further than they ever expected as they discover a terrible family secret that could bring healing if reckoned with.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, the production quality of Hope Bridge almost renders it unwatchable.  The camera work is very poor; the camera angles confuse the audience and the video quality is grainy.  The sets, in an assumed attempt to be realistic, are sloppy in their construction.  The editing is questionable, since some scenes repeat over again for no particular reason and since some scenes cut back and forth with no warning or meaning.  Any good elements in a movie can be greatly detracted from by poor production quality; such is the case with Hope Bridge.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Hope Bridge is a noble attempt to present the important issue of suicide in a meaningful way.  However, the attempt falls flat.  The plot is very vanilla and not dynamic at all.  The dialogue is head-scratching and un-compelling.  All the characters seem perpetually somber and appear generally lifeless.  Too much time is spent ‘investigating’ in night clubs and driving around and not enough time is spent developing the characters or presenting the issues in a palatable manner.  Furthermore, the few elements related to psychology and counseling are incorrect and misleading.  Were more correct elements included in regards to mental health counseling, this plot could have improved.  As it is, the only positive about the plot is its noteworthy attempt to discuss suicide and generational patterns.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

While the actors did not have much dialogue to work with, the delivery of the lines is facepalm-worthy.  Some of the actors seem aloof and detached from the story while some seem mired in self-pity.  Believable emotion is absent.  One actor in particular seems to make sarcastic jokes out of everything—Box Office Revolution is unsure whether or not she is making fun of the movie or if she is just an awkward actor.  In short, the acting is another element that can make or break a movie with most audiences, and Hope Bridge does not pass the test.

Conclusion

Suicide is a very important subject that does need to be portrayed in Christian movies.  The same can be said for mental health and generational patterns.  While Hope Bridge tries to incorporate these issues into the movie, all that ends up happening is the creation of another low-quality Christian movie, thus a disservice to the Christian cause.  BOR realizes that everyone has meager beginnings, but they should not include unintentional detraction from Christianity.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Flywheel (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Jay Austin is a typical used car salesman: dishonest and unashamed of it.  He will do anything to make good margins, including cheat old women and lie outright about the quality of his vehicles.  However, his financial situation is not what he wants it to be, as he is at risk of losing his business to foreclosure.  He calls himself a Christian, but he does not feel conviction for his actions until one day, when he is desperate, he happens upon a television sermon that pricks his conscience regarding his common business practices.  In order to receive God’s favor, Jay turns his philosophy around and begins to build a reputation of integrity for himself.  This causes him to part ways with some of his salesmen, who learned Jay’s former dishonest ways.  On the brink of losing his business, Jay cries out to God and obeys His prompting to return money he cheated out of people.  Following this, a miracle occurs when Jay sells nearly every car on his lot on the day his bill is due at the bank.  It was that day that Jay truly learned what it meant to serve God in all areas of his life.

Production Quality (.5 point)

Anyone who knows anything about the Kendricks knows that Flywheel is not their best movie by far.  The camera work is very poor, as is the editing.  Sometimes the video is hard to make out and there are frequent background noises that disrupt viewing.  Camera angles are not the best.  There are quite a few lighting issues.  While this looks like an overall cheap production, first time film makers get a break on production quality, especially if the budget is tight.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The plot of the inaugural Kendrick film is not bad, but it could be better.  It showcases the beginnings of the trademark Kendrick non-linear plot style, but not to its full potential.  Most of the characters are stereotypical and the dialogue is un-compelling.  There is really nothing dynamic here except for some brief comedy scenes that hold the attention.  The ending is fairly predictable, but Kendricks do a pretty good job at driving home the parable narrative.  They showed great potential, even early on.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The poor acting can be excused by not only the early stages of Kendrick productions, but also the fact that this movie is made of entirely inexperienced or semi-experienced actors.  While many of the actors are seemingly down to earth and realistic in some respects, they are not up to par with high quality productions.  Thankfully, Kendrick movies did not remain on the level of Flywheel.

Conclusion

In the end, Flywheel shows a lot of raw talent, initiative, and want-to.  The production is raw and honest.  The plot is semi-complex and the actors are close to home.  However, it is not enough to warrant a re-watch.  Flywheel will forever serve as a reminder of how blockbuster moviemakers get started.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points