Sense of Urgency [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Izzy already has a strained relationship with her parents, but when she finds out that they have lied to her all her life about her being adopted, she decides to take a road trip to see her biological mother without them knowing.  However, she quickly finds out that her road trip is not what it seems as things go from bad to worse.  A nightmare scenario suddenly unfolds as she finds herself a hostage in a desperate situation.  Though she has resisted the Christian faith for years now, she begins to change her mind when faced with death.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Sense of Urgency is unfortunately a fairly cheap small time production that had some obvious funding shortfalls.  This is evidenced by a weird light filter that plagues the film and gives the video quality a bizarre gray look.  The soundtrack is also generic and fairly loud at times.  The sets, locations, and props are mostly pedestrian, and audio quality is somewhat inconsistent.  While the camera work is fine most of the time, there is some weird lighting in some scenes.  There are also cheesy special effects to contend with, and the editing is choppy in some places.  Overall, while there was some effort here, this production needs a lot of work.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The surprising thing about Sense of Urgency is that the core idea of the film is actually slightly interesting.  While the beginning of the movie is hard to understand since random things seemingly happen, there is some potential for the development of flawed and accessible characters with slightly complex back stories that cannot be typically found in the inspirational world.  However, a lot of this potential never comes to fruition.  Nevertheless, this plot idea is interesting enough as a suspense idea and would probably benefit from some sort of remake.  Even so, this good effort is unfortunately not enough as some of the characters are too cheesy, such as the villain and the Christian characters, and some dialogue is too forced and expository for the moment.  The conversations need to build characters better, and the circumstances need to occur more naturally rather than out of necessity for the plot.  Further, the Christian message needs to be less childish, and the ending doesn’t need to try to fix everything.  Overall, this was a nice effort, and it offers some slight hope for future projects.

Acting Quality (1 point)

As this cast is mostly composed of inexperienced members, the acting is unfortunately pedestrian and basically below average.  This is due to forced emotional performances and line delivery that needs some work.  At times, the cast members are not very convincing in their roles, but there are also moments of potential and more natural performances.  Perhaps they can continue to improve their craft with better coaching.

Conclusion

Overall, Sense of Urgency does what we ask of struggling film makers: when the budget is low, focus on the plot.  While this storyline is not the most creative in the world, it demonstrates potential and is definitely something to build off of.  It’s almost always better to depart from the average inspirational fare that crowds the market, so trying a different type of suspense plot can help you stand out.  However, what is much better is learning to portray real people in more natural ways without the message pushing.  If you get this right, God will send the funding at the right time.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

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Grace of God {The Takers} [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

First Church has been robbed by an unknown culprit!  $20,000 is missing!  However, the pastor wants to keep it all under wraps, so he can control the investigation without going to the police.  That’s why he decides to hire a private investigator who’s an atheist to track down the criminal by interviewing everybody in the church.  Though this investigator is skeptical of the faith, he decides he needs to make himself the personal bodyguard of the church secretary, who is having her own family struggles.  Will everyone be able to learn the lesson of stealing?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Kevan Otto’s production models are fairly standardized, and Grace of God is another example of this.  Video quality and camera work are fine, even if lighting is a bit inconsistent at times.  Audio quality is mostly acceptable, even if the soundtrack is sometimes too loud; there are also some unnecessary background\outside noises that come through.  Sets, locations, and props are passable, but they are fairly limited.  Further, the editing is average at best as many scenes drag on far too long and do not hold the attention well.  Overall, this is just another average production with nothing special to write home about.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In conjunction with In the Name of GodGrace of God was intended to be a part of a series about the Ten Commandments.  Undoubtedly, we would have been gifted with awkward iterations and proclamations from John Ratzenberger at the beginning of each film.  Grace of God is shockingly about ‘You Shall Not Steal’ (notice the creative original title), and it’s also somehow supposed to be about Easter (there is no way to derive this concept from the plot at all).  Regardless, this plot is as awful as can be expected from such a limited idea.  Characters are totally blank, and most of the film is filled up with them awkwardly standing around and talking without saying anything substantial.  Dialogue is mostly empty and mindless since it is so full of message-pushing and forceful ideas.  A lot of the plot points and story arcs really lack basis in reality and feel very manufactured.  In the end, the storyline lacks any real impact and falls flat on its face.  It’s doubtful that many audiences will make it through the second half of the film–even though that stand-up-in-church scene is pretty hilarious.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Though there is slight potential in this acting, most of the cast members therein seem lost and struggling without any assistance.  Line delivery is choppy, and emotions come off as forced.  There is no clear presence of acting coaching, and Erin Bethea actually exhibits some of the best acting skills, if you can believe it.  Overall, most acting performances are just too robotic and unnatural to warrant any higher ratings.

Conclusion

Thank heavens there weren’t more of these films made.  I can just imagine the halting, sermonizing grunts of John Ratzenberger on keeping the Sabbath day and not coveting.  Hardly any Christian film makers make ten films period, so beginning with this sort of plan was certainly ambitious.  By now, Kevan Otto has made about ten films, so he could have forced them all to be in this ‘series.’  Online fits perfectly with the adultery commandment.  Lukewarm or Decision could be about honoring your parents or something.  A Question of Faith could reference…organ donation?  Regardless, movies that force messages down your throat in the form of sermons rarely have any real impact, so it’s best that this method is avoided altogether.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Stephen’s Test of Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1 point)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Adrift [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a giant hurricane threatens a non-disclosed area, everyone must take refuge in a high school gym that has been converted into a shelter.  Several trouble characters take shelter there and interact with each other in different ways.  A young mother with an unplanned pregnancy has nowhere else to turn.  A drug addict tries to steal from other people in order to get her fix.  However, there are also some Christians there who want the others to be saved, even the diabetes one of them has threatens his very life.  Who will be able to survive the deluge?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Much like their past attempts at production, Adrift is a rough one for the Cross Wind team.  While the video quality is finally okay and the audio is at least average, there are too many weird and loud sound effects throughout, as well as too many background noises and parts with loud soundtrack.  Camera work is a positive, however, even though the film is constantly interrupted by generic, low quality news broadcasts.  The sets, locations, and props are very uninspiring as they are mostly limited to a handful of rooms and a bunch of stock storm footage that doesn’t have any continuity.  Editing is thus an issue as this film demonstrates why you should never make a ‘disaster’ film when you have such miniscule resources.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The ‘disaster’ premise of this film is so vague that if it were about a bunch of random people sitting around talking, you wouldn’t really know the difference.  The storm takes place largely off-screen and in those annoying news broadcasts.  The concepts and locations of the story are very non-specific and disingenuous, and it hardly seems like a storm is going on at all.  In keeping with Cross Wind habits, the characters of this film only represent the issues they are supposed to represent rather than real people.  While Torry Martin provides some dialogue relief at times, it’s not enough to save this film from itself.  The comedy therein in too forced and cheesy, thus making the film impossible to take seriously, besides the fact that time is wasted on the dumbest asides.  Essentially, Cross Wind still hasn’t found the plot creativity they desperately need.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Outside of Torry Martin’s usual fine performance, the other cast members are awkard and stiff.  Like other Cross Wind films, the actors and actresses are mostly unnatural and overly practiced in their line delivery and emotions.  However, there are some okay moments that keep this section from being nothing, even though this is not enough to right the proverbial ship.

Conclusion

What more is there to say?  Cross Wind still needs some serious upgrades across all categories.  Unfortunately, bringing in Torry Martin wasn’t enough to save them from themselves.  If they mean well in their films, it is impossible to tell as they continually portray people in embarrassing fashions.  Perhaps one day they will finally find what they are looking for.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Angels in Our Midst {Bitterblue} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Tobey Marshall lost his parents in 9/11, and now he is seen as a retarded kid at his school.  He lives with his aunt and uncle, but they don’t like him either, so Tobey decides to talk to the angels he sees, so he can be comforted.  However, one day, a girl named Suzy decides to befriend Tobey, even though no one else will.  This make the bullies pick on both of them and forces them to reply on spiritual strength to make it through each day.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

In many ways, Angels in Our Midst has a lot of trouble shaking the ‘cheap Christian film’ image.  Video quality is mostly fine, as is camera work, but there are other issues that plague it.  Audio quality is inconsistent, especially in the outside scenes.  The soundtrack leaves something to be desired.  Sets, locations, and props are fairly limited and cheap-looking.  The special effects that are used are very cheesy.  Finally, the editing is seemingly nonexistent as some scenes drag on, and there is no real semblance of flow to the film.  In the end, this production is below average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While it is great to try to portray the struggles and insight of special needs people, this is definitely not the way to do this.  The Christian message of this film is presented in such a way that it comes off as very childish and even mystical at times.  The fixation on angels is somewhat unhealthy, and this becomes more evident as the movie progresses.  Besides this, even if this was a good story to tell, it is extremely BORING.  The characters sit around without much substantial dialogue and tend to do the same things over and over again.  What little dialogue is contained here is very dry and flat.  Thus, the characters are cardboard cutouts.  There is very little content to speak of here, and the progression goes from childish to weird, ending with a bizarre climax scene that borderlines on creepy.  Therefore, there is basically no justification for this story even existing.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Like the characters they portray, the cast members are less than impressive.  Many of the performances are very underwhelming and empty.  Emotions are rarely believable.  While there are some good moments of line delivery, this section rounds out a very flat and useless film effort.

Conclusion

It is very hard to comprehend what this film was really going for, and we are not sure we want to know.  Sometimes it seems like a joke, and other times it seems like they really didn’t know what they were doing.  Either way, somebody needed to censor this film before it got released to the public because it’s mostly embarrassing.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Mister Scrooge to See You! (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

What if a year after his transformation, Ebenezer Scrooge, with the help of Jacob Marley, was randomly transported through time to the modern era, where the descendant Jacob Crachit was being just as miserly was Scrooge once was?  Puzzled by modern things, Scrooge tries to fulfill his mission to save a struggling small town diner from the cold heart of Crachit.  Will he be able to do it in time?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Much like other productions from Salty Earth, Mister Scrooge has its share of drawbacks.  Video quality is fine, as usual, as is audio quality, except for some weird echoes for dramatic effects.  The soundtrack is generic.  However, there are some very cheap special effects throughout that make for an odd experience.  There are also some cheesy props to contend with, as well as limited sets and locations.  Furthermore, as is to be expected, the editing is relatively choppy.  Thus, this is just another low-quality production with too much ambition.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s one thing to craft a creative take off of a familiar story, but this film goes a bit too far.  The intertwined past\present plots are too confusing to follow, and creating a cinematic universe for the characters of the famous Charles Dickens novel is problematic.  What’s the point of the unexplained time travel elements?  As we’ve said before, all time travel should be avoided in stories.  Besides this, Mister Scrooge is just a blatant retread of the former story, just with a Christian spin and a worn out save-the-diner plot.  There are also too many strawman characters, including a cheesy and stereotypically evil anti-Christmas businessman villain.  In addition to this is mindless dialogue, forced comedy, and too many head-scratching moments to take this movie seriously.  It’s very hard to understand what was meant by this plot.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Most of the time, this cast is overplaying their roles, as if they do not trust the audience to understand what they are doing.  This comes off as annoying, as do the plastic emotions.  However, there are a few good moments here, such as Torry Martin playing Santa.

Conclusion

We can understand the desire to be creative and to offer a unique take on a familiar story, but this is just all wrong.  You can’t be so different that you isolate your audience.  Besides this, the production is too low quality, and the acting is too off-putting for the film to truly be taken seriously.  Most of the time, it’s difficult to understand what exactly Salty Earth is going for, but maybe one day they will find their niche.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Savior [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

What if Mary and Joseph lived in modern day Britain rather than the fantasy world of British Judea?  What if the Magi were random business people who read about it all in the newspaper?  This unique movie reimagines the Christmas story in a way that even BBC has not thought of yet.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

This film is basically a small church production, and thus it has its share of quality concerns.  This includes a lot of shaky camera work and sequences of odd lighting.  While video quality is fine, there are also a lot of strange close-up shots of cast members that are off-putting.  There are also some minor background sound issues to content with, as well as some weird sound effects and not enough soundtrack.  As is customary for these types of productions, sets, locations, and props are fairly limited and low-budget.  Furthermore, the editing has some signs of amateurism.  In the end, this is a nice try, but not good enough.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

At least since they had a lot of British people at their disposal, they decided to go ahead and commit to the idea properly by setting the story in modern day Britain rather than in an imaginary location like British Judea.  But even so, there are plenty of problems that come of these sorts of modern-day Bible allegory things, as usual.  For one, time progresses far too quickly to the point of stunting proper character growth.  Thus, they come off as stiff and unnatural due to rushed, uninspiring dialogue.  There are also too many unrelated asides that waste time, as well as a lot of boring conversations that do nothing to help the characters.  The ending is confusing and isolating, thus hurting any chance of meaningful impact.  In short, while it is always problematic to transpose Biblical events over modern-day circumstances, the plot doesn’t have to be this drab, boring, and confusing.

Acting Quality (1 point)

As an amateurish cast, these cast members would have benefitted from upgraded coaching.  Most of the time, they come off as flat and forced.  There is too much melodrama and yelling throughout.  However, there are some good moments that redeem this section from being worse.  Yet this film overall struggles to find identity.

Conclusion

When a Biblical event is recast in a modern setting, a lot of care needs to be taken and a lot of planning needs to be employed.  This is not a venture to take lightly.  Even so, we don’t try to reconstruct other historical events into modern venues, do we?  This method of storytelling is somewhat questionable, but even if you’re going to use it, it has to be done right, not haphazardly, as this movie was.  Better luck next time.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

1500 Steps (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jobe O’Brien has never been treated right by his drunken father, but he finds an outlet for control and energy when he takes up track and field.  However, even there, he finds himself plagued by cruel bullies.  But he keeps on working to become the best runner he can be.  Along the way, he seeks to discover what Christianity really means as he pursues the prize and a girl he is falling in love with.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As an indie, likely under-funded production, 1500 Steps is a bit raw at times.  Camera work tends to be random and there is some poor lighting and odd video quality throughout.  Audio quality is fine except for the very loud soundtrack and some obvious background noises.  However, not all is bad here as the outside scenes are mostly filmed well and props are used well.  It’s hard to pinpoint what the editing plan here was, because there isn’t really much to speak of.  On the whole, it’s clear that funding was stretched for this film, but it’s hard to know if they did the best with what they had.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, this film is very aimless in its storyline and mostly consists of mindless sports montages.  The first half of the film especially has no clear purpose or direction.  A majority of the dialogue is quite empty, thus creating vague characters, except for the strawman villain character.  Other characters tend to be off-putting and annoying.  The Christian message is very vague as it tends to focus on a lot of dumb and fruitless high school subplots.  The rest of the story focuses on a predictable sports redemption arc that leaves us without the ability to appreciate the characters and their struggles.  While there are attempts at realism here, the presentation doesn’t do enough to make the film interesting.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast is mostly inexperienced, it seems, but they are at least trying to be realistic.  A lot of the time, they are quite drab in their performances, while some cast members tend to be loud and uncouth.  However, not all is bad here, and further coaching would help some of the cast members show more emotion.  Unfortunately, there was a lot in this film that just didn’t come through properly.

Conclusion

It’s really hard starting out in the indie film world, but even when funding suffers, you can always amplify your plot to make your work stand out in the sea of ambitious film makers.  This is what we really need anyway: dynamic plot writing to transform the Christian movie field.  Once this happens, the entertainment world will never be the same.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Checkmate [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Aaron Carlson has a dreamt to go to law school, but he feels like this will never happen because everyone keeps telling him he’s not smart enough or rich enough.  However, one night, when a secret chess society visits him, he is inspired to take up the riveting sport of chess in order to somehow win admission into law school or something.  It doesn’t have to make sense, so just sit back and watch the exciting chess montages.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Like many films PureFlix has enabled over the years, Checkmate has basement-level production quality.  Camera work is inconsistent, but video quality is mostly fine.  Audio quality is also fine except for those scenes that are obviously overdubbed and except for the loud soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly cheap and limited.  Also, editing is not really present as those chess montages and other boring sequences tend to dominate the runtime, while some scenes are cut very short.  Basically, this is not a production that should have been approved.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Between the laughable seriousness that is portrayed in this riveting tale and the overly dramatic moments with no justification, it’s very hard to put your finger on this ‘story.’  Are we supposed to believe this plot is based in reality?  Not only is it incoherent and pointless, but it’s also dominated by snore-inducing activities of daily living and you guessed it: chess montages.  It has a juvenile portrayal of life through the eyes of eccentric and weird characters.  In the end, this story is so inept and pointless that I can’t even imagine what the pitch for it was.  I guess it didn’t matter back when PureFlix was rolling out movies like Twinkies.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though there are some okay moments that keep this movie from acting purgatory, this cast is still dominated by stiff and robotic performances.  Many cast members are overly practiced with their lines, while others appear to be making a joke of the whole thing (for good reason).  Emotions are almost nonexistent.  Essentially, this rating doesn’t reflect how useless this movie is.

Conclusion

The only thing left to say is to offer another plea to future Christian film makers to work extra hard to make sure these sorts of films are no longer commonly found in the Christian movie world.  Take cues from films like this to check, re-check, double-check, and triple-check your ideas and production before sending them to distribution.  Please give us quality over quantity.  We desperately need it.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

My Grandpa Detective (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Robert Whitmore III was just awarded a prestigious police award and promoted to lead detective, a role that used to be held by his famous grandfather, Robert Whitmore Sr.  However, Bob III’s world is rocked when he discovers that his new partner is none other than his grandfather, who has been pressed back into service by the force for retiring too early to collect his pension.  Together, they will have to get along to catch a notorious criminal who has come back to town with the goal of stealing the coveted Bronze Basin of Bitterness.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, the production of this film is not as bad as the rest of it.  All the usual elements, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality, are fine and professional.  There are really no glaring errors here.  The soundtrack is a bit silly, which is to be somewhat expected for a comedy like this.  Sets, locations, and props are average and passable, except for the fact that some unusual props are constantly emphasized.  Also, as usual for this sort of film, the editing is somewhat poor and disorienting.  In the end, this production is the best component of this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

My Grandpa Detective is one of the most nonsensical ‘comedy’ plots since The Takeover.  Besides having absolutely no purpose and being completely aimless, this film has an extremely absurd feel to it that includes a lot of head-scratching and deadpan-inducing moments and sequences.  There is no way to understand what is trying to be communicated in this film as a collection of very eccentric and bizarre characters fumble around, looking for a reason to keep this film going.  The premise is very trumped up and the Christian message is very forced and awkward.  Nearly every line of dialogue is stupidity, thus making the storyline impossible to take seriously.  There are also a lot of cliqued mystery tropes and a predictable ending to top things off.  Essentially, the creators of this film were either confused, delusional, or purposely satirical.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Besides the fact that several cast members are made to look much older than they are, nearly all of the acting in this cast is as absurd as the plot.  Everyone seems intent on making a fool of themselves with childish emotions and outbursts, as well as poor line delivery.  In the end, most elements in this film are completely ridiculous.

Conclusion

Why are Christian films like this still being made in 2016?  What does this sort of movie accomplish, outside of making a further mockery of Christian movies?  True comedy takes well-developed characters and realistic, witty dialogue, not all of the raving nonsense you find in My Grandpa Detective.  Alas, this is another embarrassment and one that should be forgotten, unless you need to know how not to make a movie.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Unexceptional Love (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Demetria and Shaun always wanted a family and prayed to God for a child, but when He answered, they never expected Him to answer the way that He did.  Their daughter was born with special needs, which caused Shaun to have compassion of her, but Demetria rejected her daughter and even mistreated her.  After a decade of this, it all came to a head one night when Demetria did something she would regret that would change her life forever.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Like many small church films, Unexceptional Love struggles with a lack of funding and professionalism.  Though video quality is fine, the camera work tends to be too stationary and immovable.  Similarly, while audio quality is fine, the soundtrack is too generic.  Furthermore, sets, locations, and props are severely limited and confined.  Pertaining to the editing, some scenes lag on far too long and the transitions are punctuated by odd title cards in between the acts.  In the end, this is just another low-end production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though this plot attempts to portray realistic circumstances, the dialogue needs work, which thus means that the characters need deepening.  The dialogue merely reports information rather than assist us in getting know the characters better.  Besides having a small amount of under-developed characters, the character development is also hampered by the large time jumps in the plot.  Accordingly, there is not enough substantial content in the story and this film really would have worked better as a short film.  It’s a very straightforward, linear plot that offers unrealistic quick fixes to problems without anything believable to back it up.  Unfortunately, this can be said for a lot independent Christian films.

Acting Quality (1 point)

While this small cast appears to be trying and appears to mean well in what they do, they are often too dramatic and forceful in their emotional delivery and line delivery.  There is too much yelling throughout.  While there are some good moments, it’s really not enough to overcome the detracting elements.

Conclusion

So many small church films have some slightly good ideas that get mired in poor production and acting quality.  Yet in order for these creative teams to achieve higher funding, the key is to demonstrate high plot quality to show that future investment is worthwhile.  Unfortunately, until this happens, small church films like this one will still be stuck where they are.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Mr. What (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Mattiesko Wuopio, AKA Mr. What, served a twenty-two year prison term for something he did not do.  Now that he is out, he is having trouble finding someone who will trust him due to his record.  However, a past friend decides to give him a shot by offering him a cheap rental and some job leads.  Mr. What also befriends a local boy and a dog, who help him carry on even when things get tough.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Much like its predecessor Sidewalk Singer, Mr. What is an okay production due to good video and camera work.  Audio quality is also fine, even though the soundtrack is quite generic.  Moreover, sets, locations, and props are relatively limited, much like in Sidewalk Singer.  Also, much like many movies of this caliber, the editing is poor and leaves too many lagging scenes and boring sequences in the runtime.  But then again, there really isn’t much to work with here.  Basically, this is another drab film from this team.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It is very hard to differentiate the storylines of Sidewalk Singer and Mr. What because they are virtually the same idea.  This idea is a boring one at that.  Once again, in Mr. What, there are very few characters in this tale, yet they are still not deep enough for us to get to know them.  This is due to very flat dialogue and a famine of real plot content.  Much like its predecessor, Mr. What really just needed to be a short film if the creators wanted to test their movie making skills.  This is not the sort of story that is going to make a real difference in the field.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With basically the same cast as Sidewalk Singer, Mr. What is still uninspiring.  While there is some potential here and it seems like the cast members mean well, there is no follow-through.  They need more coaching and development to avoid being so matter of fact, overly-practiced, and unsure.  But perhaps they will improve in the future.

Conclusion

So you want to make a nice, simple film: great!  Does it have to be released to the public?  Does it have to be a full length?  These questions really need to asked.  Sure, you want to recoup your production costs, but is your movie dynamic enough to at least build your resume and attract future investors?  We need films that will change the Christian entertainment industry and the entire industry as a whole, not another cute little Christian movie.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Sidewalk Singer (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Kris Kivi lost everything when his family was taken in a drunk driving wreck.  Then he lost everything again when he makes a bad investment that leaves him homeless.  But while he is not liked for his homeless status, he decides to continue doing what he does best—singing.  He performs gospel songs on the side of the road for money and food.  But then he is faced with the ultimate test and he will have to decide what he will do.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

It’s clear that Sidewalk Singer has quite a limited budget.  Though video quality and camera work are fine, audio quality is a bit inconsistent at times.  The original soundtrack is unfortunately fairly annoying.  Sets, locations, and props are understandably limited.  Also, editing is quite bad as it is choppy and hard to follow.  These sorts of productions are difficult since they are so low-budget, but it seems like it would have been prudent to either wait for a bigger budget or just make a short film with what they had.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This is a very low-energy plot, which even more begs the need for it to be a short film.  The story is very boring and drab, mostly because it is a character-driven plot that contains dry and empty characters.  This is due to very uninspiring and vanilla dialogue and due to the fact that there is barely enough content here to sustain a feature-length film.  As it is, this story is very vague and hard to understand; it’s a never-ending slow full of wasted time and lacking a central purpose and point.  It’s very difficult to justify this as a full-length movie.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though there are some good spots here, the cast is mostly overly practiced in their line delivery and unnatural in their emotional delivery.  However, the cast members probably mean well in what they do.  Yet they would have likely benefitted from acting coaching in order to deepen their performances.

Conclusion

The unfortunate thing about films like this is that, no matter if the creators meant well or not, there is basically no impact from a film like this.  It is too forgettable and too bland to be of interest, which really calls into question its necessity.  It is better to make a less-expensive short film to practice your movie making skills rather than to continually clutter the market with thrift store fodder.  Please learn this lesson in the future if you are an aspiring film maker.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Karla Faye Tucker: Forevermore (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Karla Faye Tucker was formerly a drug addict and a prostitute who ran with the worse possible crowd and soon found herself convicted of cold-blooded murder.  Sentenced to death row, she had finally hit rock bottom until a prison chaplain introduced her to the God she had been running from all her life.  Karla underwent a dramatic transformation and became a sold-out follower of Jesus.  Through a divine set of circumstances, another prison chaplain falls in love with her, even though she is sentenced to die, and he decides he wants to marry her.  Against all odds, their story was broadcast for all to hear about.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Forevermore is another one of those early 2000s Christian movies carried by PureFlix that had very cheap production quality.  Video quality is okay, but there are a lot of odd camera angles and weird soft lighting throughout.  Audio quality is somewhat echoey and the soundtrack is archaic, though likely realistic for the time period.  Sets, locations, and props, though attempts are made to be authentic, are quite cheap and limited.  The editing has some potential, but it’s too amateurish.  Overall, this is a below-average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this is another interesting true story and historical account portrayed in movie form, it is presented in a very odd fashion.  This is mostly due to the off-the-wall dialogue, which creates eccentric characters.  There are too many head-scratching moments that are unclear whether or not they are supposed to be comedic.  There is probably a good message in here somewhere, but very few audiences are going to be interested in the archaically unusual way this movie is presented.  It’s very difficult to connect with the characters since they are hard to see as real people.  In the end, this is another half-idea that needed more thought put into it.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

It’s really nice that Karen and Kenneth Jezek like to star opposite each other, as they also did in Come What May, but they seriously need some real acting coaching.  They come off as extremely over the top and forceful.  They are trying way too hard, as are the other cast members in the small cast.  Like other elements of the film, the cast is, of course, eccentric.  It’s hard to know what exactly this film was going for.

Conclusion

Movies like this are unfortunately a dime a dozen.  There are many, many interesting true stories that are portrayed and should be portrayed in Christian film, but the follow-through is rarely what it should be.  Perhaps future film makers can continue to learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before them and will improve.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Faith’s Song (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Faith and her parents love each other, and they all knows that Faith has a gift for singing, which uses in her local church.  However, one tragic evening, on their anniversary, Faith’s parents are suddenly killed in a car accident, thus leaving Faith an orphan.  As her life is turned upside down, she will have to do some soul searching to see what she really believes.  Will she be able to pick the pieces back up and start again?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Even though this is a 2017 film with a modest budget, it is still quite underwhelming.  Video quality and camera work are fine, but audio quality is laughable.  The film is dominated by a cringeworthy homemade soundtrack which is unfortunately very memorable.  Sets, locations, and props are okay, but they are somewhat limited.  Finally, there isn’t really any editing present in this film.  In short, this is a disappointing production not only because it’s so new but also because it has a decent enough budget that many people would love to have.  A better allocation of resources is definitely in order.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, there is no real guiding purpose to this plot.  It is way too aimless and melodramatic while at the same time being very surface and plastic.  The struggles of the characters cannot be appreciated because dialogue does nothing to build them up, thus leaving them as cardboard people.  Lack of plot content is filled in with a lot of sermon exposition, not to mention the cringing ‘original’ soundtrack.  Any attempts to develop subplots are disjointed and confusing.  Finally, the portrayal of Christians and Christianity is too goody-two-shoes to be realistic.  Overall, this story needed a serious rethink before this film went into production.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast is obviously amateurish, yet they are not all bad.  However, a lot of their performances are forceful and overly practiced, thus making them seem unnatural.  Emotions don’t seem very honest.  In the end, this tops off a disappointing effort.

Conclusion

With films like this, it’s likely that money was raised before a plot was even written.  This church decided they needed to make a film and went into the process half-cocked and aimlessly.  This always shows up in the final product.  It’s very prudent to receive consultation and advice when undertaking such a difficult venture as making a feature-length film.  It always pays off to not rush into things but to take time to make a quality film.  We hope that future film makers begin adopting this practice more and more.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Exodus: Gods and Kings (Movie Review)

British Moses the Madman

Plot Summary

Moses, the son of Hebrew parents, was raised an Egyptian in a golden age of Egyptian culture.  But this culture was built on the backs of Moses’ people, who were enslaved by cruel Pharaohs.  Moses was always torn between two cultures, but he was forced to choose when he killed a fellow Egyptian and was driven out into the desert, on the run for his life.  After discovering and immersing himself in the Midianite culture, God called him back to Egypt to free His people, the Hebrews.  Though reluctant, Moses assumed his role as God’s deliverer.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Since this is a highly-funded Hollywood production, of course it’s going to be highly quality.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all highly professional, especially in the action scenes.  The soundtrack is also quite interesting and creative.  Sets, locations, and props are excellent and clearly had a lot of money spent on them, even though there are some obvious special effects.  The only other error to point out is the very poor editing that causes the story to jump all over the place, but that’s not only a production issue.  Overall, it would be nice if a Christian film maker had this much money and spent it this well (coughcouchTimothyCheycoughcough).

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Like many Hollywood forays into the Biblical market, Exodus: Gods and Kings is an epic failure.  Far too much time is spent on extra-Biblical content for no reason, as well as the dumbest head-scratching asides.  Historical truth is bent very freely as Moses is transformed into a sword-wielding maniac (with a British accent) and God is turned into a creepy, angry, and manipulative pre-adolescent boy who pours tea and stacks little metal blocks.  As time speeds by for the convenience of the runtime, characters are left in the wake and are made lifeless.  There’s no way to know what’s happening next as the audience is thrust through time without warning.  Iconic and historical sequences are framed in very odd and dark ways, thus making for a very strange and altered account of the story.  Many Christians complained about the cavaliered nature of this film, and they were actually justified.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Although some attempts were made to make this cast culturally authentic, this rule mostly only pertains to the supporting cast and the extras.  The white guys of Egypt get to take over the lead roles of this cast.  However, a lot of money was put into historically authentic costuming, so that’s a plus.  However, too many lines from these ‘professional’ actors and actresses are mumbled, thus giving off the impression that they are phoning in their lines and were rather be somewhere else.  For authenticity’s sake, I wish they were.

Conclusion

I’ll take singing and disproportionately-shaped cartoon priests played by Steve Martin and Martin Short over this madness any day (nothing beats the Plagues sequence in that film either).  DreamWorks may not have nailed historical accuracy either (Moses was 80 when he went back to Egypt guys), but who can beat that soundtrack?  Maybe one day I’ll post a review of that animated film, but for now, Exodus: Gods and Kings is a total wreck and waste of Hollywood’s money and your time, KTHNXBYE.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Pitching Love and Catching Faith {Romance in the Outfield} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Heather and Tyler meet on a softball field in the heat of a game and of course don’t like each other at first until they are randomly thrown together in a quirky relationship in which Tyler doesn’t want to kiss her until the right time.  Heather makes it her goal to kiss him, but she soon discovers that his faith is more important than she realized.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a freshman production, this confusingly-titled movie is pretty good.  Video quality is professional, as is the camera work, even though there is some unnecessarily poor lighting.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack leaves something to be desired.  Sets, locations, and props are fine but slightly limited.  Finally, the editing is too amateurish, including very choppy cuts and transitions that make the viewing experience confusing.  But in the end, this is fine for a first-time effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It seems like this film with the long title was pitched (haha) to Hallmark, UP, INSP, or even the abysmal ION in the hopes of a TV deal, but there were no home runs (lol).  It has all the trademarks of Hallmark cheesiness, including a cheap Christian message and the most juvenile romantic plot ever.  Every romance cliché and conversation in the book of stock romances is used in this film.  The plot progression is so predictable that it seems like someone wrote it in their sleep.  Their nothing new or creative here as two empty and cardboard characters are inevitably thrown together into a plastic romance full of forced drama, fake breakups, and an unhealthy obsession with kissing.  Maybe even Hallmark was tired of this.  Then again, maybe not.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Though this cast is not all bad, it is a small cast, thus amplifying the errors.  Most cast members are very awkward and flat.  Many of them are unsure in their line delivery, while emotions are forced and stiff.  This is definitely not a good way to top off a textbook romance movie.

Conclusion

It seems like a Christian message was slapped onto this film just to sell it to a certain market.  There’s really no other reason why it should be considered Christian.  Regardless, there is nothing whatsoever creative about this movie.  Thus, there is zero justification for its creation as it clutters an already-crowded field and genre.  The last thing we need is more of these plastic romances.  But last time I checked Hallmark, there’s still plenty more to come.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Midrange [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Damon Sharp, a new college graduate, must leave his glory days of playing college basketball behind and return to his hometown to live with his mother and brother while he waits to be drafted into the NBA.  However, he returns to find the same old things being done at home.  His brother quickly pulls Damon back into the partying lifestyle as he awaits a big sports contract.  However, Damon is constantly nagged by his newfound faith, wondering how he is supposed to live it out as his brother tries to lead him astray.  Will he find the path that God wants him to take before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Midrange is another typical freshman production that looks good but has a collection of errors that drag it down.  Video quality is fine, but camera work is inconsistent.  Audio quality is also poor, but some effort was put into the soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are commendable but they are slightly limited and cheap.  Furthermore, there is really no editing to speak of in this film as it progresses unimaginatively from one thing to the next.  In the end, this is forgivable as a first-time production and hopefully this team will grow more in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this story is based on loosely interesting idea about the struggles of Christians and their families of origin, it is packaged in a very flat and linear presentation that has no real twists or creative elements.  Everything is given at face value, including the stiff dialogue and the descriptions of vague off-screen content that might have been helpful to include.  Though they mean well in presenting the struggles of a new Christian, the Christian message is too cheap and plastic to be accessed by the audience.  In the same vein, the characters are not deep enough or realistic enough to be related to, even though their struggles are real.  Thus, this story just boils down to a formulaic and predictable storyline that reaches an inevitable conclusion in which everything is fixed.  It would be one thing if the viewers could be taken along for an accessible experience, but this did not happen.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Another mark of an amateur film is an amateur cast.  While this is not inherently a problem, these cast members sometimes seem unsure of themselves.  They are often too robotic and measured and seem like they performed everything in one take.  This is more evident due to some obvious line mistakes.  Though there is some good here, they need a lot of more coaching than this.

Conclusion

Meager beginnings should never be frowned upon, but there are certainly ways budding film makers can learn from their past mistakes.  Without good funding, story writing skills need to showcased to prove that the film maker has something to offer the field.  Amateur casts can be difficult to deal with, but it is possible to make something out of it.  Overall, what we always look for is improvement, so we will see what happens next.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Welcome to Paradise [2007] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Debbie Laramie makes a mistake that causes her to lose her current pastor job, she is demoted by her superior to become the pastor of a struggling small town church in Paradise, Texas.  She tends to be a rogue when delivering her sermons, so she brings her unique style to the stuck-in-their-ways small town in an attempt to shake things up.  Though plenty of gossip goes around about her, she forges ahead and tries to make a difference.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Unlike other Echolight-affiliated productions, Welcome to Paradise does not have the usual professional quality.  Camera work is unprofessional and there is some inconsistent lighting, although video quality is fine.  Audio quality needs some work, as does the random soundtrack.  However, sets, locations, and props are adequate and appropriate.  The editing could also use some improvement, but it is not that bad.  Overall, this is a confusing production because it’s hard to understand what they were trying to do.  They don’t appear to be that limited on budget, so it’s hard to know why quality is inconsistent.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This story was taken from the pages of a proverbial stock plot playbook.  It is the extremely stereotypical tale of a character who is forced to live in a small town and save the church therein.  Thus, every character stereotype imaginable is included, driven by pointless dialogue and very cheesy and forced comedy.  As the story meanders along in a useless fashion, it is driven by laughable coincidences and things that happen because they need to.  There is little to no justification for making this formulaic film because it has been done a million times before and after.  If you’re going to use a typical storyline, at least develop the characters properly.  However, this was not done in this film.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this is a semi-professional cast, they are trying way too hard to be funny.  Though they have their good moments, they are trying too much to exhibit quirky stereotypes.  It’s hard to feel like emotions are taken seriously in this cast.  Overall, this film is a big disappointment.

Conclusion

Welcome to Paradise feels like a dumb TV show or a reject Hallmark movie.  It could have very well been marketed by Hallmark, as long as it was fit into one of their seasonal molds.  Nonetheless, it’s difficult to justify the creation of these types of films.  Is this really what the Christian market needs?  We beg to differ.  Christian film makers can do better than this by a long shot.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

No Greater Love [2009] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jeff and Heather Baker once had a happy marriage, but when Heather was struggling with her alcohol problems, she felt like she could not hold it together anymore.  Thus, she abandoned Jeff and their son and disappeared from their lives.  Now Jeff has found someone else he wants to marry, but he runs into a problem: he and Heather were never officially divorced.  As he tries to find her again, she suddenly turns up at the local church, asking for forgiveness and reconciliation.  Is it possible that they could put aside the past and find a new life together?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, No Greater Love is an underwhelming production.  Though video quality and audio quality are both fine, other production elements suffer.  Camera work is shaky and there is a lot of poor lighting.  Sets, locations, and props are fairly cheap and limited.  As for the editing, there are too many awkward transitions and lagging sequences.  In the end, it’s clear funding was limited for this film, which makes production elements suffer, however, is understandable considering it is basically a first-time effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though on its face this is an interesting idea, No Greater Love is neither handled well nor developed properly.  There is not enough plot content as the same conversations and flashbacks seem to repeat over and over again.  Dialogue is fairly cheesy, which hurts the characters’ development.  Despite this, there is lots of wasted time and useless montages that pump the runtime.  Though there is a somewhat good point in the end, it is hard to get to and is packaged in a very shallow Christian message.  The problems presented in this story are fixed way too easily, so it is hard to learn anything from this film.  In the end, though this could have been an interesting story with an important message, it fell far short of expectations.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Since this is a small cast, every little error stands out.  Though the cast members are sometimes okay, they are in need of some coaching.  Emotions are over the top and too dramatic.  There is too much yelling and line delivery is sometimes forced.  In the end, this is another area of this film that falls short of the target.

Conclusion

This creative team likely meant well in making this film, but the delivery is lacking.  Not having enough funding is one thing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an interesting plot with relatable characters.  This is a character-driven plot, which means the characters and the cast members have to carry it.  However, this did not happen.  Perhaps next time things will improve.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Ben-Hur [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Judah Ben-Hur was a prince of the Jews, and he was close with Messala, his adopted brother.  However, after Messala leaves to make a name for himself in the Roman army, their friendship was strained.  But disaster struck the Ben-Hur family when they were falsely accused of an assassination attempt against a Roman leader.  Messala refuses to acquit them and thus allows Judah Ben-Hur and his family to be taken captive by cruel Rome.  Years later, when given a second chance a life, Judah must decide how he is going to respond.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The one thing you can say for Mark Burnett and Roma Downey is that they know what it takes to fund and create a top-notch production.  In this controversial remake, there are at least good on-set locations and realistic props.  Camera work is usually good in action and non-action scenes, but sometimes there is some dizzying and wild camera work.  Video quality is obviously clear and lighting is professional.  There are no audio errors, but the soundtrack sometimes does not fit the historical period.  Finally, the editing is quite poor as this previously three-and-a-half-hour film is shoved into a two-hour runtime.  But otherwise, this is the sort of production we need more of in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

When an original film is so iconic, there is little point in trying to remake it except to make money off of the name.  The original Ben-Hur was a ground-breaking classic for its time, which makes even more ridiculous the fact that this modern take on the story completely alters the original plot for no reason.  As Morgan Freeman tells you everything you need to know through narration, time rushes by at breakneck pace in an attempt to hit all the carbon-copy high point scenes of the original film.  Thus, as the film speeds along, there is no time to get to know the characters or connect with their struggles.  One minute they’re here, and the next minute they are there.  The presentation is so lazy and pandering that it’s laughable.  The writers do just enough to remind you of the old movie while at the same time turning the plot inside out for little reason.  The whole experience is overly dramatic and off-putting, thus making for a disappointing film.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As if changing the story wasn’t enough, Burnett and Downey had to drag a whole slew of BRITISH people to play Jewish and Roman characters again.  What would people have said if Morgan Freeman’s African character had been cast as a white British dude?  Besides cultural inconsistencies, the acting is simply too dramatic.  Though the costuming is historically realistic, it’s not enough to make up for the mistakes of this section.  This is another bust.

Conclusion

Burnett and Downey have perfected the model of lazily ripping off and ruining Biblical and historical plots in order to make money.  What they have not perfected is actually using the rare money and resources they are able to somehow acquire for their films for something good and effective.  They are one of the rare production teams that have the ability to actually make a respectable, well-marketed, and recognizable Christian movie, but they fail at it every time, even drawing criticism from mainstream outlets.  The question is, where do they go from here?

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

The Printing [1990] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When the Communists and the KGB had a vice grip on Russia, they did everything they could do to stamp out any form of Christianity that did not adhere to their standards.  But no matter how hard they tried to control everything, even the churches, they could not control a secret group of underground Christians who was committed to printing the true words of a Bible on their secret printing press.  The Word of God spread regardless of government control—these historical events are depicted in this film.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a film from 1990, it’s clear that compared to others films in the time frame, a lot of money was put into The Printing, even though it still looks extremely archaic.  Video quality is sometimes blurry, but camera work is good.  Sets and locations are pretty good considering the limited budget.  Audio quality is inconsistent throughout, and the soundtrack is too dramatic.  However, some action scenes are actually filmed pretty well.  As usual, editing is fairly poor as the film slogs on for over two hours.  But in the end, for the early 90s, this was probably as good as it was going to get in independent film making.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though it’s based on interesting historical events and intriguing ideas, The Printing is far too long, boring, and protracted to be even remotely interesting.  There are far too many wasted sequences and long, drawn-out scenes.  Dialogue is too robotic, thus making stiff and wooden characters.  The premise is somewhat realistic, yet it is overly dramatic.  In contrast to the Communist propaganda depicted, The Printing borderlines on some capitalistic propaganda of its own.  Overall, the idea behind the film has potential, but the presentation is awful.  Thus, it would be worth a remake one day.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

As their casting pool was severely limited to those associated with Bob Jones University, they were unsuccessful in casting many culturally correct actors and actresses.  Some the attempts at faking Russian accents are laughable.  Though the costuming is culturally correct, most of the performances are too theatrical and dramatic.  Emotions are not very believable.  Thus, this is a disappointing section.

Conclusion

It is commendable to make this ambitious of an independent film in the early 1990s, and one can rarely go wrong with a good historical film.  Unfortunately, the presentation of The Printing is too drab and boring to reach any audiences.  It might be interesting to history enthusiasts, but it has no wide appeal.  This film, however, is better than other disasters produced by this studio (The Treasure Map, Project Dinosaur, and Appalachian Trial), but it still doesn’t make the mark.  Perhaps someone will make a better version of this film one day.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

A Place in the Heart [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Jason Burkey’s heart is broken by a girl he thought he would spend the rest of his life with, he gives up a basketball scholarship (as he is frequently reminded) and does the most natural thing anyone would do: run away to live on a remote island with his reclusive father, Kevin Sorbo.  But seven years later, Kevin Sorbo get tired of the island and decided to buy a sombrero and live the rest of his days on a boat.  So Jason Burkey is forced to go back to the hometown he bitterly left behind and finds everything very similar to the way he left it.  He’s still angry at Ben Davies and won’t talk to him, but he slowly finds that the plans he originally had may not have been the best for him—including that basketball scholarship!

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

On the surface, like many productions, A Place in the Heart seems fine.  Video quality and camera work are on par.  Sets, locations, and props are acceptable.  However, audio quality is inconsistent—sometimes too loud and other times too soft.  The soundtrack is regularly too loud and is at times juvenile.  As for editing, there are too many awkward transitions and there is too much choppy content as the film jumps from one thing to the next.  In the end, this production is just average, but it seems like it could have been much more than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Loosely based on The Great Gatsby, A Place in the Heart has a mild amount of complexity, yet this complexity is detracted from by a lot of amateur elements.  Narration used as a crutch to fill in the missing parts of the plot that are due to unnecessary time jumps, even though it is a stereotypical return-to-hometown style plot.  Parts of the premise are forced, unrealistic, and based too much on coincidences, while there are tons of manufactured dramas and childish sequences.  Dialogue is very stiff and stilted, including very unusual statements and asides, thus creating very awkward and wooden characters.  However, despite all of these issues, the second half of the film is slightly better than the first half, and contains a partially interesting message and point if you make it that far.  But in the end, the only reason for any plot twists is the fact that this plot is borrowed from other sources.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Any small amount of good that is accomplished in this film is totally derailed by this awful casting job.  Any cast that includes Jason Burkey, Kevin Sorbo, and Ben Davies without coaching is sure to be a disaster.  Every character is represented by a very awkward cast member that exhibits mumbled lines, fake emotions, and generally poor line delivery.  Unfortunately, this film shows that good intentions can be greatly hurt by poor casting.

Conclusion

Romance is a very difficult genre to write because it can very easily become a high-school-level of cheesy.  Regrettably, A Place in the Heart commits almost every common romance error all at once.  On top of this, the production isn’t what it should be and the casting is deplorable.  Movies like this are painful to see because they are so prominent in Christian film.  This is not what the face of Christian film should look like, as we have said time and again.  Yet hopefully, slowly, this trend is changing.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Home Beyond the Sun (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Since Jenna was raised by a missionary, she feels that it is her duty to give back by becoming a missionary herself.  So when an opening presents itself in China, she jumps at the chance.  She travels to Beijing to work as a teacher to children there, but as she works there for a few weeks, she finds an entirely different mission field: orphans whom no one wants, not even the government.  However, the orphanage leader has to keep everything a secret since she is teaching the orphans Christian values.  Who will prevail in the end?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, though this movie means well, it is packaged in a very poor production.  After the long opening sequence that would be interesting if it was produced better, the audience is subjected to grainy video quality and poor audio quality, including a loud and cheap soundtrack.  Camera work is average, especially since most of the scenes are pedestrian shots.  However, the international locations are pretty good and demonstrate an attempt at authenticity.  Finally, editing is okay, but there is not much complex content that requires any rigorous editing.  In the end, it’s clear that this creative team has good intentions, but their delivery is lacking.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Additionally, though some care is revealed through this touching story about Chinese orphans, not enough care is given to making this a palatable plot.  Home Beyond the Sun contains a slightly amateurish portrayal of Chinese people, including some strawman cultural aspects and characters.  Though important social issues are raised, they are sort of forced down the audience’s throats and do not develop naturally through the use of realistic characters.  Instead, the characters use information-packed dialogue to drive the story along.  But at the same time, the story is quite slow and does not hold the attention; any conflict therein is too trite.  There is a better way to depict an otherwise important story about Chinese orphans, and unfortunately, Home Beyond the Sun does not cut it.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Though there is some good here, the acting is overall quite amateurish.  There is some realistic cultural casting, but in all cast members, emotions seem plastic and line delivery is quite forced.  Yet it seems like this case has potential that could have been brought out through proper coaching.  But alas, coaching is not present here, thus creating another disappointing performance.

Conclusion

This really could have been an interesting movie.  It focuses on a different topic that needs to be depicted on the big screen, yet Home Beyond the Sun does so in such a way that makes it all seem so silly.  There are definitely good intentions here, but good intentions are not everything.  There must be follow-through that manifests itself in professional production, an engaging storyline full of realistic and accessible characters, and acting coaching that brings the cast members to life.  Yet when these elements are not present, even if a good idea is present, it makes for a very frustrating and disappointing film.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Apocalypse 4: Judgment (Movie Review)

Everything else has happened in this series, so let’s throw Mr. T in here too

Plot Summary

As the ONE has tightened its grip on the world, Christianity is outlawed and everyone must take the Mark of world leader Franco Macalousso, or they will be arrested and possibly executed.  The world must worship Macalousso or be doomed.  But when the world leader feels that excitement about hating Christians is wearing thin, he decides to stage a televised trial for infamous Christian Helen Hannah to get people interested again.  Enigmatic defense lawyer Mitch Kendrick is recruited to ‘defend’ her, even though it’s all staged.  But no one knows that Mitch is searching for the truth himself—will he be able to find it?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As this stupid series finally grinds to a halt, we can say affirmatively that production quality barely changed throughout it.  While camera work and video quality have improved in this final installment, nothing else has.  The audio quality is inconsistent and the soundtrack is quite loud at times.  Sets, locations, and props, in an attempt to look ‘futuristic’, only come off as cheesy.  Finally, like the rest of the series, editing is quite poor.  On the bright side, there’s no more product placements, but it’s unacceptable to have a series this long with such bad production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Was there really a justification for a fourth installment in this series that doesn’t include anything about the subplots that were supposedly continued at the end of Tribulation?  Helen Hannah remains to be the central Christian character of the series for some reason, but otherwise we are introduced to even more characters we’ve never seen before, including Mr. T.  The same ridiculous concepts this series has always pushed are present in this final film as well, but this time transposed on top of a staged legal battle.  Dialogue does nothing for character development as a lot of time the is filled exploring vague and isolating concepts.  It seems like the writers are constantly inventing ways to kill time without actually helping us to get to know all these characters they shove at us.  Finally, though the end is slightly interesting and has some potential, it cuts off with an abrupt transition to the nonexistent fifth film they obviously wanted to make.  Thankfully, their funding was finally cut.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

As Corbin Bernsen and Mr. T join this crowded cast, things really do not improve.  There are too many over the top emotions and shouting sequences.  There is some potential with line delivery, and this cast seems professional on the surface, but it’s just not good enough.  This is another disappointing effort.

Conclusion

Well, it’s finally over.  What did we learn?  When you can’t even create an average production, don’t make four movies.  When you don’t have any plot or character development to speak of, don’t make four movies.  When you can’t focus on a central story or character arc in your series and instead constantly come up with new characters and subplots with each installment, don’t make four movies.  When you cast all kinds of ‘big names’ but don’t bother to coach them, don’t make four movies.  Are you seeing a theme here?  The Apocalypse series is just another blight on Christian film and will hopefully be forgotten one day, but at least we can learn something from it…I hope…

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Ashes of Eden (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Red is the troubled son of a local police officer, Dana, who doesn’t want to be associated with him anymore.  She is trying to raise her other son to stay out of trouble, unlike Red, who deals drugs and hangs out with gangs.  However, Dana’s own life is coming unglued as she tries to rediscover the faith she left behind.  As Red shifts from one high to the next in search of true purpose, will he ever find the Creator Who is calling out to him?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

To be billed as a high quality production, Ashes of Eden fails miserably.  It looks good on the surface with okay video quality, but other elements are highly unprofessional, such as the overdriven audio quality, the shaky camera work, and the inconsistent lighting.  However, the soundtrack is very intriguing and seems out of place in this train wreck.  Furthermore, the editing is very choppy as some scenes are cut very short and transitions are overall awkward and confusing.  In short, it seems like LightWorx Entertainment often gives themselves too much credit when it comes to production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Ashes of Eden is an unusual attempt to portray overly-realistic ‘street’ situations and focuses far too much on the down and dirty without offering much hope.  The storyline is very depressing and seemingly pointless as characters go from bad to worse, spew random and unnecessary profanity, and constantly shoot each other.  There is little redemption for these unfortunately realistic characters as the audience is left lost as to what they are supposed to learn.  Also, there are too many head-scratching scenes that have little point or purpose.  But despite all of this, the ending is interesting and shows a little bit of potential, even though it is too little too late and does not redeem the mess the viewer is forced to sit through to get to it.  Basically, Shane Hagedorn needs to learn how to be edgy without being just like your average trashy film.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This cast is trying to be something, but it just doesn’t work.  They post underwhelming performances when they seem like they could do better as they do not reach their full potential.  Emotions are very inconsistent and there is far too much yelling.  In the end, this section reflects the rest of the film.

Conclusion

We aren’t really sure what DJ Perry, Shane Hagedorn, and LightWorx are trying to do.  They have interesting ideas that are executed very poorly.  In their attempts to be artistic, they either lost the purpose or come off as very dark.  If you’re going to venture into edgy content, you have to do it tastefully and you have to provide real and meaningful redemption.  Otherwise, you’re not any better than some random PG-13 or R-rated film on video streaming services.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

 

Full disclosure: We were provided by the creator with a copy of this film in exchange for a fair and honest review

 

God’s Country [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Meghan Dohery loves making and spending lots of money.  She is on the verge of another multi-million dollar business deal and all she has to do is fly out to the middle of the desert and convince the owners of the land she is trying to buy that they need to take her deal before the bank forecloses.  But little does she know that it’s not going to be as simple as she thinks when the land owners decide she needs to see what life is really like outside of the fast lane for a change.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

God’s Country is a production that is pretending to be better than it is.  This is evident in the use of fake sets and locations.  The video quality and camera work are fine, but the audio quality is inconsistent and the soundtrack is juvenile.  The editing is choppy and there is a lot of reused footage to pump the runtime.  Basically, this is a half-rate effort that takes a lot of shortcuts.  In the grand scheme of things, was it really worth it?

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

God’s Country is an extremely formulaic and childish storyline.  Filled with tons of information dump dialogue, the premise is a ridiculously cheesy and worn out plot about a stereotypical city character being forced to live outside of their element, not to mention a save the camp plot.  All of the characters fit into silly stereotypical molds.  The plot progresses predictably and sometimes even seems to be unintentionally making a joke out of Christians.  The Christian message is plastic and forced and the ending leaves the audience wondering why they just watched this movie.  There is nothing that sets it apart from your average stupid film with a Christian label.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Jenn Gotzon plays herself in this movie, which is what she does best.  Elsewhere, line delivery is very quick and forced and emotions are sappy.  Makeup and costuming are also absurd for certain characters.  This is basically a phoned-in performance.

Conclusion

What is the point of movies like this?  Ripping off a predictable and overused plot idea in a lazy fashion is one of the worst things you can do in Christian entertainment.  Movies like God’s Country only further hurt the reputation of Christian film and make it a laughingstock.  Unless you want to laugh at nonsense, don’t waste your time on this one.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Texas Rein {The Ride Home} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Cassie Roberts receives word that her father is having medical complications, she is forced to return to the small town of Texas she grew up in, the one she tried to get away from.  While back in town, she is reminded of her horse riding days and reluctantly agrees to help her father and his young trainer to train her old horse for a reining competition.  Will she be reminded of what she left behind and of the new life she can start anew?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

While Texas Rein has good standard production elements, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality, there are still some other issues to raise.  The soundtrack is very stock and uninspiring.  The sets and locations are quite limited to a few houses and outside areas and don’t even give off that small town feel.  Finally, the editing is quite poor and causes the film to be very choppy and confusing—just a collection of random scenes.  There are also too many musical montages.  In short, while this movie looks good on the surface, it’s really just an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

So a character returns to their hometown they don’t want to be in because of some extenuating circumstance and finds a reason to stay (usually a horse is involved) and meets a significant other and so on and so forth.  We’ve seen this plot before and this is a 2016 movie, so why are we seeing it again?  Besides the predictable plot structure, the characters therein are extremely juvenile and simplistic.  The dialogue is typical and full of small town statements.  Nothing really substantial happens as the passage of time is hard to follow.  We can’t feel like these people are real or are doing real things as their unrealistic high school dramas are resolved too easily.  Basically, there’s really nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This is really a very poor casting job.  The actors and actresses are awkward, wooden, and robotic in their line delivery.  They don’t express any believable feeling or emotions.  On the bright side, this is possibly Erin Bethea’s best role to date.  But otherwise, this is a big disappointment.

Conclusion

It’s great to want to make a movie, but sometimes you need to take a step back and see if it really is worth marking.  Texas Rein probably would have done better as a short film, to work as sort of a springboard for better things.  With no creative plot content and very weak characters, this was unfortunately not a story worth telling.  Also, it’s great to have production elements down, but having such a poorly coached cast is unacceptable.  Perhaps things will improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

The Moment After 1 (Movie Review)

The old days

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1 point)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Christmas Miracle [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a back road closes due to a snow storm, eight people find themselves trapped in an abandoned church.  They include a priest who has left the ministry because he feels distant from God after his wife died, an EMT who wants to be a doctor, a wealthy married couple having relational and financial issues, a newlywed couple trying to start their new life together, and a couple on the brink of divorce.  As the storm rages, they all find common ground with their issues and discover that there is hope for each one of them.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

While Christmas Miracle is a generally average production, it is not without its issues.  Video quality is pretty clear and the camera work is fairly good.  Sets and locations are okay, even though it mostly takes place in a dark church.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is too bizarre.  Otherwise, there are numerous editing problems.  There is too much reused footage and too many flat and empty scenes.  It seems like some scenes are designed to pad the runtime and drag out the movie.  Essentially, while it’s not the worst production in the world, Christmas Miracle still needs a lot of help.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While the idea behind this plot is slightly interesting, there are just too many errors here that cover it up.  The storyline brings up mostly realistic and pertinent issues that everyday people face, but they are all portrayed in simplistic and sometimes petty ways.  The plot does not hold the attention very well as silly problems are rehashed and delayed to suit the runtime.  Though we spend a lot of time hearing these characters talk, we don’t get to know them very well.  They are extremely wooden and one-dimensional, sometimes repeating themselves throughout the film for emphasis.  Though there is a lot of dialogue, it is empty and stock.  Basically, Christmas Miracle is your average boring and slow plotline that has a small amount of potential that it does not cultivate.

Acting Quality (0 points)

To top things off, this is a very poor casting job.  While they are not necessarily bad actors and actresses, they severely lack quality acting coaching.  Their line delivery is possible the fastest we have ever witnessed in a film.  Their lines are forced and overly practiced, as are their emotions.  Since this film is entirely reliant on them, it really hurts its overall case.

Conclusion

It’s very hard to know what the Nasser Group is trying to do.  It usually seems like they have potential as film makers, but they always have things in their movies that trip them up.  While this is a very generic Christmas plot, it could have been better than this.  It’s not disingenuous like some; it’s just a typical low quality film.  I wonder if there will be a point in time when these types of films are no longer made like this.  Maybe that’s a Christmas miracle to wait for (lol).

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

One Night With the King {The Call of Destiny} (Movie Review)

 

This costume is awfully heavy
This costume is awfully heavy
Quick! I need more eyeliner!
Quick! I need more eyeliner!

Plot Summary

The story of Esther is a Cinderella story of the ancient world.  Ordered by the king to audition to be his new queen, the young Hadassah, a devout Jewess, is reluctant to go.  Her uncle Mordecai encourages her to go in the Lord’s strength, but to conceal her Jewish identity for her safety.  Forced to undergo a year of beauty treatments before seeing the king, Esther forms a bond with the eunuch in charge of the process, who quickly discovers that she is different from the other girls.  But little does Esther know that she is about to be swept up into a bigger plan to save her people—a plan that only Yahweh could orchestrate.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

In the era of Fox Faith, money was certainly spent on some aspects of production, such as camera work and video quality.  The audio quality is also passable, and the soundtrack is slightly intriguing.  However, there are many other negative production elements that detract from this, such as weird special effects.  While time is obviously spent on the sets, locations, and props, there is an air of great extravagance in every part of this production.  Everything is taken to an ornate extreme; over-decoration clutters the sets.  This is a unique problem as they spent their money in the wrong ways.  As for the editing, it is also overdone in an attempt to be very dramatic.  Some scenes are replayed over and over again from different angles, just for dramatic flair.  Many scenes drag on too long, trying to drive a theatrical point home.  As will be covered next, time is spent in all the wrong ways.  While the funds were obviously present to make this a great production, they were grossly misappropriated.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

For starters, narration is used far too much to fill the gaps of this plot that the writers did not feel like filling with substantial content.  As previously mentioned, some portions of the storyline are rushed while others have too much time spent on them.  The historical account of Esther is altered in some ways for the convenience of the plot, even though the two-hour runtime proves they have no time constraints.  Instead, the writers crowd out real content with embellishment and the frivolous pursuit of meaningless subplots.  Trivial asides that have nothing to do with the original story are given far too much screen time.  Though there is some positive to find here in the complexity of the storyline, it is far too complex to the point that it cannot be easily understood.  Petty and unimportant events are portrayed as extremely dramatic as the writers squeeze forced drama out of everything.  The dialogue is empty and confusing, thus creating bland and mindless characters.  This is such a disappointment because the resources were here to make a truly great movie, but they were greatly squandered.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

We are all for casting unknowns, but with the money this team had to spend, couldn’t they have found a more professional cast?  The acting is very empty and it seems like no coaching is present.  Some lines are over-pronounced and over-enunciated, while others are mumbled.  Emotions are not believable but instead are over-dramatized.  But the money was spent on other things, of course, such as over-the-top makeup jobs.  Most of the main characters have a different extravagant costume for every scene.  The one positive to note here is that at least the cast is mixed-race rather than all British, but that’s about it.

Conclusion

Branded as a Biblical epic, One Night With the King had the tools available to it to be truly great.  Had the money been spent properly, we could be placing this film on the Hall of Fame.  Had the complex plot been honed better and the historical elements been properly handled and portrayed, we would be applauding this effort rather than denouncing it.  The lesson that can be learned from this experience is that it’s not the money you have, it’s how you spend it.  Just throwing money at a production doesn’t cut it.  It takes true talent to spend money wisely and know when to stop.  Yet frugality was not a word in this creative team’s vocabulary.  Next time, stop trying to impress us with shining objects and focus on substance.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

God’s Not Dead 2 (Movie Review)

Is this thing over yet?
Is this thing over yet?

Plot Summary

When Christian teacher Grace Wesley is sued by a student’s parents for daring to mention the name of Jesus in her classroom, she is confused as to what is even happening to her. Yet, inspired by the wisdom of her ailing father whom she takes care of, Grace refuses to back down and begins working with her union-appointed lawyer to fight back in court. With her faith under fire, Grace’s case draws the attention of many from the town of Hope Springs, including Pastor James White David Hill, who serves on the jury. As Grace’s beliefs are attacked and tested over and over again, she must dig deep to withstand the world’s onslaught so that Christianity is not snuffed out forever.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

In the new era of PureFlix, video quality and camera work are no longer in question.  The sets, locations, and surroundings are respectable.  The musical score is average.  On the surface, God’s Not Dead 2 looks like a professional film, but there are many hidden issues therein.  Of the high profile Christian movies we have reviewed, this is possibly the worst edited one to date.  The many-subplots addiction from God’s Not Dead and Do You Believe? is back, and this time, they are more empty than ever.  As will be discussed next, there long sections of this movie that consist of characters staring into space and attempting to sing.  Essentially, this was just a lazy production effort that looks good on the outside but not on the inside.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In this plot, Christian characters are very perfect in every way while atheist characters are hopelessly evil.  What’s more, atheists are borderline ridiculed, giving an embarrassing feel to the film.  Subplots jump all over the place, confusing the viewer.  The premise and other plot happenings are unrealistic and cannot be reconciled with reality.  The storyline is saturated with legal rhetoric that is either only half-true or isolating to the audience.  Besides these glaringly obvious issues, the plot does not hold the attention and is very drab.  There are many slow and melancholy scenes that seem to be designed only to pad the runtime.  Large portions of the film are dedicated to advertising apologetic books and other Christian ‘celebrities’.  While there is a lot of good information in these product placements, it flies over the audience’s heads and is not remembered.  With all this wasted time, there is zero character development, therefore we cannot even appreciate the struggles that are portrayed.  In addition, the dialogue is chock-full of swipes at atheists and ‘worldly’ people.  The ending is very empty and anticlimactic (despite desperate attempts) and even includes an off-the-wall post-credits scene.  Basically, David A. R. White and company just phoned this one in, hoping that the title name recognition would garner them some more cash.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

While this section is not all bad, there is a lot of monotone acting in this film.  In another attempt to create buzz by trotting out C-grade ‘big name’ actors and actresses (in addition to the typical PureFlix clowns), this attempt basically flops.  Most of the characters carry a Hallmark-ish look to them, with far too much makeup and costuming.  Other cast members are just blank—even though they show potential, there’s no one to draw it out.  In the end, there is really nothing new here.

Conclusion

In our experience, the world portrayed in this film has never existed.  This is not to diminish the plights of some, but the realm PureFlix constructs in many of their films is over the top and outside of reality.  Rather than preaching to the choir with a juvenile us-against-the-world narrative that further divides Christians and atheists, the money spent on these types of films would be better spent on films that actually strengthen the church as a whole and tastefully address how American Christian behavior can improve.  No one will be saved as a result of God’s Not Dead 2.  Christians will not be inspired to grow closer to God as a result of viewing this movie.  I would never recommend this movie to a non-believer because the creators give no concern to opposing points of view.  Since we as Christians have the truth, we have no need to force it down people’s throats with no regard for their feelings.  Delegitimizing someone else’s beliefs has no place in the gospel message.  Yet with an awkwardly placed post-credits scene, we are all but promised more of the same nonsense from PureFlix.  This is not the direction Christian film needs to go in and now more than ever we need someone who will stand up and combat the image movies like this one project.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Dancer and the Dame (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Demoted from his detective position because he took a conspiracy theory too far, Rick Dancer feels like an outcast in most people’s eyes.  But then he stumbles onto something new about his theory regarding the city’s richest philanthropist, whom he believes is corrupt.  Yet this only serves him orders for a psychological evaluation, which leads to him taking on a new partner—a traumatized police dog.  Rick will have to learn to work with her while trying to regain the trust of his boss all while he still chases leads regarding his theory.  In the end, he will have to decide if he is going to let himself care again in order to succeed.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

In a break from the typical PureFlix model, most production element of Dancer and the Dame are okay.  Video quality is clear and camera work is pretty good; they’re getting better with action shots.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is annoying.  Prop usage is as cheesy as can be expected from a PureFlix action film attempt.  The sets and locations are fairly realistic but are also stereotypical.  As for the editing, there’s basically none of it.  The entire film is face value: what they filmed is what you get.  Every scene is run as long as it possibly can be and there’s really nothing else there.  But the rundown is that Dancer is pretty average on production, which is actually a step up from the norm.  This fact alone is disturbing.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

So essentially, this story is about a washed up cop doing office work at the precinct because his conspiracy theory about a local rich guy blew up in his face.  But he gets a second chance in his career when his theories start to be ‘proven’ true.  Then he’s sentenced to a suspect mental evaluation which consists of the psychologist pushing her opinions on him and then forcing him to take her dog off of his hands.  From there, doggish ‘comedy’ ensues as Dancer stumbles upon ‘clues’ like a children’s mystery (or maybe a Hallmark mystery).  The characters are flat and comedy is typical Tommy Blaze style.  Once again, another horrible portrayal of counseling\psychology in a Christian film.  The odd thing about this Blaze creation is that it’s not entirely committed to crass and cartoonish ‘jokes’, but instead tries to insert inspirational themes into the movie, such as the typical feel-good pet storyline.  This is not to mention the Christian-sounding messages awkwardly forced into key parts of the plot.  And what’s with the constant cheesy references to dog breeds ‘hidden’ in people’s names?  In short, this film is a usual Blaze train wreck—a little less zany than usual, but still a mess.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The sad state of Christian casting is that ‘secular’ actor Billy Gardell is substantially better at acting than most PureFlix actors and actresses.  David A. R. White, Tommy Blaze, Brad Heller, Carey Scott, and Anna Zielinski are all their typical selves.  There is really no regard for any professionalism, yet line delivery is not terrible, just awkward.  Basically, nice try, but not good enough.

Conclusion

Year after year PureFlix rolls out laughable films in the name of Christianity.  They are rarely received well and seem to accomplish little for the Kingdom.  We’ll never understand where they constantly get their money from or how they convince more popular actors and actresses to appear in their films.  If you’ve seen one dumb PureFlix movie, you’ve definitely seen Dancer and the Dame.  It’s better to not waste your time on another one.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

A Time to Dance [2016] (Movie Review)

Why are we even here?

Plot Summary

Abby and John fell in love in high school, went to college together, got married, and came back to the small town where they grew up.  They raised a family together, but now they are growing apart.  They are ready to file for divorce when their daughter comes home from college suddenly engaged to her boyfriend.  Not wanting to spoil her time, they decide to hold off until she gets married.  However, Abby’s father uses this time to step into their business to find out what’s really going on between them.  Forced to work together for their daughter’s wedding, Abby and John begin to relive why they fell in love in the first place.  But they must rekindle their romance before time runs out.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Not to be deterred from their endless factory model of manufacturing inspirational films ripped off from popular authors, Hallmark always spends the money on production quality.  Clear video quality is evident, as is professional camera work.  Audio quality is consistent throughout, but there’s the ever present generic melancholy-serene Hallmark soundtrack to listen to throughout the scenes.  While the sets and locations seem above board, they are actually quite limited and dressed up to have that ‘magical’ Hallmark look.  As will be expounded upon shortly, the editing is lazy and sloppy, leaving the viewer with a half-effort plot.  In other words, A Time to Dance is business as usual for Hallmark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Anything good about this plot can be credited to Karen Kingsbury, not Hallmark.  The otherwise interesting novel A Time to Dance has officially been #Hallmarked.  What was an intriguing plot about a highly pertinent issue facing many Christians—namely broken marriages—has been transformed into a mellow and boring snoozefest full of the typical Hallmark emptiness and the unrealistic fairy tale alternate realities.  Complete with cardboard characters that spew obvious dialogue designed to drive the plot along, viewers who choose to watch this disaster will be dragged out over a nearly one hundred minute runtime of melancholy delay of the inevitable just to have the so-called conflict resolved in five minutes or less.  The conflicts therein are extremely empty, as are the relationships between the characters.  We can’t appreciate or understand anything they’re going through because it doesn’t seem real.  There is far more telling than showing; for example, we are told about things that happen off screen or are informed of things that happened in the past rather than being provided with a flashback.  Also, the Christian message is very manufactured and plastic.  I could go on and on, but the same old truth remains: Hallmark has no regard for preserving good plot ideas, they only care about making money.

Acting Quality (0 points)

What else is new?  The acting is forced and stiff.  Line delivery is very awkward and sometime monotone; emotions are almost nonexistent.  As usual, every cast member has far too much makeup and look like either washed up wannabes or desperate wannabes.  The Hallmark acting rule is to throw a bunch of big names in the film so the commercials will catch people’s attention but to do nothing to actually coach them.  But at this point, we don’t expect anything different.

Conclusion

Hallmark has a real chance to bring great Christian novels to life.  They have the resources, they have the connections, and they have the marketing to do this well.  But instead, they settle for half-measures to improve their profit margins.  People desperately want to see wholesome entertainment, and Hallmark claims to provide this, but they are short on delivering it.  A Time to Dance could have been an inspiring Christian film on an important topic, but instead, it just became another forgettable show of Hallmark pageantry.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Apostle Peter and the Last Supper (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Captured by the Romans, the Apostle Peter is held for questioning and possible execution.  As he awaits his earthly fate, his mind wanders back to the early days, when he followed Jesus on earth.  As he is interrogated by a young and inquisitive soldier, Peter recounts his experiences with Jesus, including the painful moment when he disowned his Lord.  Tormented by evil spirits, Peter wrestles with his past as he tries to convert the man in front of him.  In the end, each man has his own battle to fight and they must decide which side they will choose.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

If you endeavor to create a Bible film, please, please, please invest in good sets and props.  Apostle Peter and the Last Supper suffers from the affliction of having only three or four sets, so it fills in everything else with very obviously cheap CGI.  They’re not even good sets at that.  The one good thing here is that at least the video quality is clear and the audio quality is find most of the time.  The camera work is commendable, but the soundtrack is not.  There are too many bizarre special effects that seem out of place and isolate the viewer.  Finally, the editing is blasé and seems to only focus on the sensational parts, as will be discussed next.  In all, Bible productions seem to always fall into a poor category all to themselves, and this one is no exception.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While it is commendable to include spiritual themes in a Biblical film, the ones included in this one are only sensational and sometimes downright creepy.  The smallest things are overly dramatized—as usual with anything David A. R. White touches, nothing can be subtle, all must be obvious.  Dialogue is very pedestrian and theologically scripted; it doesn’t feel like real people are talking.  When dealing with the Biblical narrative, it is obviously out of order for some reason, probably for convenience.  Jesus is portrayed in a very odd way, like He’s constantly obsessed with reading everybody’s minds.  The plot being split between the past and the present does not allow for good character development in any form.  Basically, the only positive aspect of this plot is the interesting idea of incorporating the spiritual battle, even though it is pulled off very poorly.  Essentially, this plot is The Encounter with Peter—some slight potential but too much sensationalism and mediocrity.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Time and again, we have seen Biblical movie casts with an inordinate number of British actors and actresses and Apostle Peter is no exception.  What is it about Bible films that cause creators to believe that Biblical characters are very white and British?  Accents aside, the acting is mostly dramatic and sensational, like the rest of the film.  Bruce Marchiano, in his typical role, seems creepier than usual.  Line delivery is very theatrical rather than conversational.  Emotions are not believable.  However, the acting is not bad enough to warrant zero points.  Overall, everything about this film is just a mess.

Conclusion

Oh, what we would pay somebody for a worthwhile Bible film.  Stories from Scripture need to be properly and accurately portrayed and presented on the big screen.  Such films should have a historical bent rather than an otherworldly feel.  Spiritual elements are great to include, but do them correctly, not in a way that turns people off.  Unfortunately, the majority of Biblical films on the market misconstrues the historical truths and spiritual realities of the Word of God, thus contributing only negative content to the field.  Who will stand up and turn the tide?

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Lukewarm (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Luke Rogers is struggling to be the Christian he says he is.  He’s living with his girlfriend and works a questionable bartender job with his friend.  What’s more, he can’t shake the fact that he always had an unhealthy relationship with his father and that this still affects him today.  Luke sees his outspoken Christian neighbor always doing good things and being made fun of for it, and wishes that he could be like him.  Luke and his girlfriend will have to learn that choices are important and that real Christianity doesn’t come easily.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

In nearly all aspects, Lukewarm is cheap.  While the camera work, video quality, and audio quality are okay, they are not wowing.  The soundtrack is cheesy and pedestrian.  Perhaps the most draining portion of the production quality is the cheesiness of the sets and locations.  While they are slightly diverse, they scream amateur movie makers.  Things don’t look like they are supposed to and props are very B-grade.  The surroundings have an odd feel that makes the entire movie feel manufactured.  Finally, the editing is sloppy, just throwing scenes together with no rhyme or reason to them.  In short, though there was a limited budget, no care was taken by the creators to try to be tasteful, thus making it another silly Christian attempt at a movie.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Lukewarm makes a commendable effort to portray important issues facing American Christians, yet they are portrayed in a strawman fashion.  Whatever good ideas exist in this plot are mismanaged and turned into trite asides that blow over the audience’s heads.  As for the plot itself, it is full of too many disjointed subplots that do not work well together and lack continuity.  One character does something, and then another character does stuff, and then they all meet up in an unlikely way.  Characters are too black and white—‘good’ characters are completely moral and tend to condescend on the ‘bad’ characters, who become ‘good’ very quickly after empty inspirational experiences.  Despite its title, not much about this film is ambiguous.  Issues are resolved too quickly, and dialogue is either obvious or petty.  While we usually encourage the use of flashbacks, the ones used in Lukewarm are very cheesy.  To top things off, besides the neatly fixed ending, the film includes one of those obnoxious credits photo montages showing you what the characters did afterward.  In summary, Lukewarm started with a good idea of showing how Christians easily become sidetracked on useless and potentially dangerous activities and how broken family systems effect people later in life, but it quickly descended into another giant laughable strawman.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

With a cast of supposedly talented actors and actresses, Lukewarm demonstrates the importance of acting coaching, especially with an amateur script.  When some actors and actresses are better in some movies but not in others, this is the reason.  In Lukewarm, line delivery is forced and awkward.  Emotions are too obvious.  Only a handful of good acting moments save this score from being zero.  To sum it up, Lukewarm is pretty much a disaster on all fronts.

Conclusion

A word of advice: before making a movie, especially a movie with the Christian tag, make sure you have a great plot and deep characters before proceeding.  Creating a film based off of a mere idea is not good enough and only further contributes to the sagging quality of Christian media.  We find ourselves saying this over and over again, but the fact remains that the Christian film market is wrought with ill-advised low quality productions that continue to give Christian creativity a horrible reputation.  Ideas are great and should be turned into realities, but movies need great teams behind them; otherwise, nothing will change in Christian film making.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Love’s Unfolding Dream (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Raised by her new family, Belinda Tyler is now ready to set out and make a life for herself, even though the culture she lives in frowns upon women pursuing professional careers.  She is finally and begrudgingly allowed by the local doctor to assist him in a small role, and she gets a ‘big break’ one day when a wealthy yet elderly woman has a stroke in the middle of town and is confined to bed.  Belinda becomes her nurse and physical therapist, but that’s not the only task on her mind—a young lawyer has come to town to ready some inherited property for sale, and the two of them clash over their views of women’s roles in society.  Little do either of them know that their carefully chosen paths are about to be altered forever.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Another unnecessary installment in the Love Comes Softly series, another quasi-inspirational director.  The story of Unfolding Dream’s production is much like the latter installment.  The video quality and camera work are solid.  The sound quality, however, is sometimes inconsistent.  The historical surroundings are fairly well done, but they are obviously limited in scope, as the same sets are used excessively.  As will be discussed in depth later in this review, the costuming and makeup are particular horrible in this film.  Finally, the editing is uneven, pasting stock scenes together in an attempt to create a movie.  In short, there is really nothing new here—at this point, the saga settled into average production quality and awful plots and acting.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though Michael Landon Jr. returned to the writing department, things did not improve.  It cannot be understated that the original intent of Janette Oke’s work has been completely abandoned and replaced with a shallow inspirational ‘plot’.  ‘Plot’ is relative because a collection of random empty sequences depicting silly stereotypical frontier characters is not a true storyline.  Characters go here and there, from one place to the next, with no real plot flow.  Dialogue is very hollow, thus forming plastic characters.  The “excuse for Drew to go to the doctor” device is highly overused.  While discussing the roles of frontier women is an interesting topic, it cannot be properly appreciated in the context of this film.  The only other thing that keeps this plot from being zero is the intriguing underdeveloped subplot between Belinda and Mrs. Stafford-Smythe.  Yet there are also other useless subplots shoved into the storyline, likely to increase the movie’s runtime.  Therefore, less than a full point must be awarded here.

Acting Quality (0 points)

It doesn’t really get any worse than this.  From exotic frontier hairdos to extravagant makeup to fake country accents, the overall acting quality barely escaped negative points.  The continued commitment of Dale Midkiff and Erin Cottrell to this franchise derails it.  There is no acting coaching employed; too many supporting characters come off as robotic.  Due to the poor acting, the audience cannot relate to these characters.

Conclusion

As the saga slugs on, it becomes increasingly apparent that the writing team didn’t have that many ideas.  Rushing up and forcing new romances and courtships into every new movie demonstrates lack of creativity and borderline obsession.  The question must be asked again: was the original Janette Oke plot really so bad that this was used instead?  We think not, and would advise future novel adaptations to do their best to stay faithful to the original story, unless they can find a way to improve it.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Love’s Unending Legacy (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Following the tragic death of her husband Willie, Missy LaHaye moves back to the town her parents, Clark and Marty Davis, live in order to try to start a new life.  She is determined to insulate herself from anymore heartache by taking care of her son Matty and by quietly settling into another teaching role.  However, her carefully constructed world is disrupted when an orphan train comes to town looking for new parents to take in starving orphans and when Missy finds herself falling for the town sheriff, a broken man who also wants to protect himself from hurt.  Little do they know that out of sadness can come new beginnings.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

With the exit of Michael Landon Jr. from the franchise, the production quality diminished considerably.  While the camera work, video quality, and sound quality are still above par, there are other problems to contend with.  The sets are obviously limited as some things take place off screen and some surroundings don’t really even capture what they’re meant to capture.  The costuming is partially unrealistic as some characters never seem to get dirty and obviously have modern hairdos.  Furthermore, the editing can best be described as stop and start—the story does not flow well, as we will see next.  In short, Michael Landon Jr. still knows how to produce a film well, and his absence is felt in Love’s Unending Legacy.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

At this point, the Love Comes Softly franchise completely abandons the original intent of the novel saga and begins to attempt to excessively replicate the original series storyline—a youngish widow falls in love with a hurting man who she really didn’t like at first and who likely had a ‘romance hurt’ in the past.  We really don’t understand why Janette Oke continued to rubber stamp this series since it undermines her better novels.  Love’s Unending Legacy is wrought with bizarre lines, forced dialogue, and unrealistic happenings.  There is really no good dialogue and the dialogue that exists is very head-scratching.  “[Dancing] is an excuse to get your arms around a pretty woman” is not exactly a wholesome Christian line.  Besides this, the end of the plot is predictable and neatly-fixed-up—yet it is not even accessible by audiences since there is really no feeling put into it.  The only positive to raise here is some potential with the orphan train story, but that’s it.  In short, we have to wonder why the original novel plot could not have been at least adapted in some small fashion when this is the alternative.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As previously mentioned, the costuming and makeup on the ‘good’ actors and actresses is unrealistic for the time period.  The actual acting is very unusual, like some characters were allowed to improvise most of their lines.  Other actors and actresses are left looking robotic because of an obvious absence of coaching.  There is really nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

The big question Unending Legacy raises is ‘Why?’  With the departure of Michael Landon Jr., who at least partially adhered to Oke’s original books and brought above average production quality, was it realty worth making four more movies that borrow characters and titles from the novels and use them with large creative license?  Unending Legacy doesn’t even have a good enough plot to justify the departure from the book—if it did, then this will be an entirely different review.  An eight-movie saga is hard enough to craft successfully; four movies was likely enough.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

The Letter Writer (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

A teenage delinquent, Maggie Fuller really has no direction in life but to mess around at school and try to market herself as an artist, along with her boyfriend.  But the day that she receives a mysterious letter from a stranger telling her how much potential she has as a good person was the day that changed her life forever.  Maggie’s new purpose is to discover the person who sent her the letter in order to ask him what he meant and why he sent it to her.  Little does she know that her journey will lead her life in a whole new direction.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The low production quality really derails this movie.  From the get go, it is evident that The Letter Writer is low budget.  The video is grainy and the camera work cuts corners.  The sound quality is okay, but the musical score is distracting.  On the bright side, outside scenes are filmed fairly well.  Yet issues with editing plague the film.  There are too many wasted scenes and take away from the overall point of the story.  Some scenes last too long and others make it unclear what is actually happening.  One particular element, an assisted living choir singing a hymn, occurs far too often throughout the movie.  In short, had The Letter Writer been afforded a better crew, this could have been a great film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The Letter Writer is based on true events, and its premise is very original and creative.  This sort of plot has never been attempted, which makes it even more disappointing.  The central message of the movie—giving encouraging letters to strangers—is its strongest point, yet it seems underemphasized, almost like the writers didn’t know what they had.  The characters are also understated, driven by vanilla dialogue.  Some philosophically provoking conversations occur, but there is also some odd theology included.  As previously mentioned, there are too many wasted scenes that accomplish nothing—these could have been replaced with sequences enhancing the characters and the important message of the film.  But alas, we are only left to wonder what could have been.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This cast definitely had potential that was not properly coached.  While the acting is not glaringly awful, it is too obviously amateurish to be awarded too many points.  Like other elements of the movie, line delivery and emotional expression are understated and do not leave a lasting impact.

Conclusion

The fact that The Letter Writer began as a short film even more demands that the movie should have been better.  Christian Vuissa was sitting on a gold mine, but he only scratched the surface.  In different hands and\or with a better surrounding team, this could have been Hall of Fame worthy.  In summary, The Letter Writer joins the ranks of Christian movies that desperately need to be recreated.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Princess Cut (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Grace has had her share of heartache when it comes to romantic relationships.  She feels like men have played games with her heart, even though she desperately wants to find the right man to spend the rest of her life with.  She looks to her parents for guidance, but she also wants to be her own woman.  After she finally hits rock bottom when a man treats her in a way she does not feel is appropriate, she decides to make changes in her life and to stop seeking men.  Little does she know that true love could be right around the corner.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

The production of Princess Cut is its one redeeming quality, but that still isn’t saying much.  The video quality is clear and the camera work is passable, except for in-shot zooming.  The editing is decent, but the sound quality is the biggest detractor here.  Many scenes are obviously overdubbed because of the lack of a boom mic.  Some sound is hard to hear and there are quite a few musical montages that cover up what could have been valuable dialogue.  Also, the sets are severely limited; too much content takes place off screen.  In short, we realize that Princess Cut had a very small budget, but it seems like more could have been done here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

There is an underlying philosophy in this plot that is slightly commendable, but there are so many negative issues.  Good principles of dating are talked about, but they are also forced down the throats of the audience through robotic paragraph dialogue.  Also shoved in the viewers’ faces is a far right Christian-ese worldview based on patriarchy, matronly women’s roles, anti-psychology ideals, and self-help books.  The female characters are portrayed as empty-headed and clueless.  ‘Bad’ characters are over-the-top strawmen.  As previously mentioned, there is no real dialogue that builds the characters—most of the time, the characters seem to be reading self-help books verbatim.  The plot is choppy and leaves out many key parts, some of which are made up for with extremely awkward and strange dialogue.  Intended humor falls flat.  In summary, this plot contains only a small amount of positive amid a conglomerate of strange philosophies and robotic characters.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

We felt like there was some potential in this cast—Rusty Martin Sr. and his son has both demonstrated good acting skills before—but it was not tapped in Princess Cut.  Ashley Bratcher seems like a good actress, but she is not given any help.  Unfortunately, most of the line delivery is emotionless and very stodgy.  If coaching had been employed, the acting quality could have improved.

Conclusion

It’s great that more independent Christian film-makers are making movies and are able to make them, but what is the cost of these sorts of films?  Princess Cut portrays Christians as living in their own bubble, owning a farm that the men run while the women slave away in the kitchen all day and knit.  People outside of this bubble are portrayed as bad, and psychology is a definite no-no.  Yet at the same time, the Bible is not given near as much attention in this film as self-help book product placements.  What type of philosophy is exactly being espoused here?  It is wonderful to portray healthy dating, but if you’re looking for that, we highly recommend Old-Fashioned, not Princess Cut.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

The Book of Daniel [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Taken from their cherished hometown Jerusalem as young men, Daniel and his three friends must learn to navigate their new culture, Babylon, without compromising their Jewish faith.  Even when it appears as though all hope is lost, Yahweh continues to give Daniel and his friends opportunities to influence their own captors for the better.  As Daniel’s life progressed, he was given more and more chances to influence world politics by simply serving and obeying Yahweh.  The life of Daniel is one that can be modeled by Christians of all generations and cultures.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, The Book of Daniel falls into the infamous Biblical film traps when it comes to production.  The sets and costuming scream church play and demonstrate a severely limited budget combined with lack of attention to historical authenticity.  There are no outside sequences, except for one, that are not replaced with extremely obvious CGI.  There are also some annoying special effects.  For what it’s worth, the camera work is not horrible and the editing is passable, even though the story is very choppy.  In summary, PureFlix Bible productions leave much to be desired.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

It is commendable to cover all the stories in the Biblical book of Daniel in one movie and to transpose it with Daniel’s God-given influence over historical monarchs.  But in this pursuit, the viewer gets lost in a very disjointed storyline.  There is simply too much content and not enough character development.  We at Box Office Revolution continually wonder why Biblical characters always have to be portrayed in the movies as inhuman and lofty—they were regular people!  The dialogue of The Book of Daniel also reminds one of a poorly written church play, very robotic.  The bottom line is that while there was a mountain of potential to be found in this sort of plot, it was never unearthed.  We are only left with a pathetic attempt.

Acting Quality (1 point)

While the acting is not glaringly bad, it is overly theatrical and overly practiced.  There are little to no emotions expressed.  Again, it gives off the impression that Bible characters were not real people, but like talking wax figures.  We believe that if these actors had been afforded better lines and better coaching, something more could have materialized.  But alas, we are once again left wondering what could have been.

Conclusion

Bible movies need to be made, but not like this.  So many audiences need to know what is in the Bible, but films like The Book of Daniel only serve to further turn people off, making them think that the Scriptures are boring and full of inaccessible characters we can’t relate to and fantastical events that will never happen again.  The truth is, nothing could be more of a lie.  The Bible has many historical and realistic narratives full of flawed and believable characters that need to be depicted on the big screen properly.  We look forward to the day when this will happen.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Indescribable (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Blynn Lehman is just one of nine children in a second generation immigrant German family, living in California during the early days of World War I.  Times are hard, and his pastor father must take on extra work in order to make ends meet.  Blynn’s older brother has been drafted into the war, and Blynn’s father grows more frustrated by the day as he tries to write a song about the love of God.  Blynn becomes determined to help his father finish the song so that it will bring their family needed income.  In order to do so, he and his siblings begin to explore the origins of a mysterious Jewish poem that will take them further than they ever imagined.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

First off, Indescribable has good video and sound quality, but unfortunately, this is the extent of its positive production elements.  The film contains amateur camera angles, which can be slightly forgiven due to its microscopic budget.  However, the editing is all over the map, including unnecessary filler scenes and awkward cuts to historical flashbacks and fantasies.  The sets are very cheap.  There is also bad makeup and costuming; however, much of this can be overlooked for the sake of its budget.  Yet this begs the question: with such a small budget, was this movie worth making?

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The idea behind the plot has some interesting potential, but due to the wasted time and confusing flashbacks\fantasies, the original point is eventually lost.  This movie is based on true events, and Box Office Revolution realizes that it is attempting to be realistic in its day by day feel, but it just comes off as amateurish.  Some of the scenes are downright head-scratching as to why they are even included.  Much of the dialogue is unfortunately childish, thus making for odd character development.  There is an uncanny worldview undertone to the plot that cannot be quantified, except to say that it feels like a vague point about Christian-Jewish historical relations is trying to be impressed upon the viewers.

Acting Quality (0 points)

There is no acting coaching whatsoever.  It seems like a lot of the actors have been pressed into service with no backup.  The emotional delivery is unbelievable and goes over the heads of the audience.  Most of the actors are overly practiced and extremely stiff, and they commit out of place actions with no warning.  In short, some amateur acting can be forgiven, but the blame for this cast must fall upon the movie’s creators, since many of these people are being expected to play parts they have not been properly prepared for.

Conclusion

The Christian movie scene is full of good intentions.  Indescribable is a well-meaning movie about an important topic.  It could have been a truly intriguing historical plot, but it simply falls short.  Once again, funding of independent Christian films is a huge issue, but with a budget this small, the creators should have thought twice about forcing it to happen.  If one wants to get started in independent Christian film making, short films is probably the best route to begin on.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

A Long Way Off [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jake Abraham feels stifled in his life.  Even though he has a guaranteed job working for his father’s successful farming business, he never has enough.  His conflicts with his brother and desire to experience the world drive him to quit his job and ask his father for his inheritance.  His father gives him what he wants, thus sending Jake on a quest to acquire all the pleasure he can get and to use his money to make a name for himself in ‘important’ circles.  But no matter how many perks he buys for himself and how many rich people he hangs out with, nothing ever satisfies the hole in his soul.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

For starters, the most positive element of this movie’s production is the clear video quality.  This make the movie look good on the surface.  However, the beauty is only skin deep, so to speak.  The camera angles are confusing at times and the editing is isolating.  There are many unnecessary scenes of characters walking around and staring.  Some scenes seem like they were not properly cut for the final draft.  The sound quality is inconsistent; some scenes are substantially quieter than others.  In addition, there is an unprecedented number of eccentric product placements that are no doubt funding this low quality production.  In short, it’s just the same song, different verse for an independent Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

There are interesting nuggets of quality mired in this cheap plot.  The integration of a famous parable into a semi-believable real world situation is noble.  However, it gets washed away in a river of wasted time.  In an attempt to be realistic, there are too many suggestive elements that could have been presented in a more tasteful manner without tarnishing the movie.  The characters are very shallow and wooden, prodded by cheap and cheesy dialogue that was obviously not edited or proofread.  The end is very rushed, leaving some characters and subplots in awkward positions.

Acting Quality (0 points)

A majority of the actors are very awkward.  Their lines seem very forced and intended comedy falls flat.  Some lines are downright perplexing and seem impromptu.  Jason Burkey has been better in other movies, which reflects the lack of acting coaching in A Long Way Off.  Robert Amaya is a fine actor, but he only has two scenes.  Some alleged fight scenes have a Three Stooges feel to them.  Unfortunately, there is nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, this type of movie is becoming the norm in Christian movie circles.  Creators have seeming good ideas and intentions and decide to rush a direct-to-DVD release, funded by quasi-Christian product placements.  No time or thought are given to developing a quality plot with realistic characters, and no care is taken to coach the actors.  The production is sloppy en route to forcing another Christian movie into the market.  These ill-advised actions only further hurt the cause of Christian movies, lowering overall quality and causing people to laugh at whatever Christians make.  It’s time for someone to stand up and end this assembly line production and replace it with truly quality Christian movies that can be upheld rather than shunned.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points