Too Saved (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Lisa loves her boyfriend Bobby, but she doesn’t like the fact that he is not a Christian.  Thus, she prays for him to get saved, not realizing the impact her prayers might have.  Unexpectedly, Bobby gets saved one day in church, but he goes from being a drug addict (???) to being the most extremely Christian man ever.  He can’t stop talking about God, and he wanted to be the best man he can be.  Lisa become annoyed with Bobby and wonders why she ever prayed for him to change.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, Too Saved is a small church film with a very limited budget, which yields a very cheap production.  Because of the low funds and misuse of those there were appropriated, there are quite a few negatives to mention here, including poor video quality, shaky camera work, close-up shots, and inconsistent lighting.  Audio quality is also poor, and the soundtrack is cheesy.  Sets, locations, and props are severely limited and uncreative.  Finally, there is no substantial editing, thus warranting zero points for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It is possible that a more juvenile storyline could be written?  Is this meant to be a children’s movie?  The entire premise is based on a man going from being a drug addict—who is not portrayed properly at all, mind you—to being an obnoxiously Christian person.  This plot could almost be a cartoon, but it’s really not all that funny.  The parts that are absurd are just plain boring.  There are no attempts to write a good story here or to craft realistic characters.  This movie is actually barely worth reviewing.  If the writers meant well, there’s no way to know.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Ahh, small church casts—you have to love them.  If a cast member is not acting over the top, then another is acting very awkward and unsure of themselves.  Emotions come off as forced, and this wardrobe really needs some help.  Unfortunately, there is basically nothing good to say about this fill except better luck next time.

Conclusion

Sure, the budget is tiny, but it doesn’t have to be this bad.  As I’ve said a hundred times, a low budget does not affect the plot.  If you have around $10,000 for a film, which is our minimum budget to garner a review, make sure to craft a very deep and complex plot with believable, accessible characters.  In doing so, you will prove yourself worthy to receive a larger amount of funding.  Instead, movies like Too Saved just squander what little they had.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

In the Mirror Dimly (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Nicole and her mother are constantly at odds with each other, and Nicole hates that her father left.  Thus, Nicole turns to her friends for support and identity.  However, when they make fun of the way she looks, Nicole goes to extreme lengths to make herself look like the ‘ideal teenage girl.’  Before she knows it, Nicole is trapped in an eating disorder with no way out.  This leads her mother to drastic measures and causes her father to step back into her life.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

While In the Mirror Dimly is better than the horrid The Saber, that’s not saying much.  Video quality is the only positive aspect to this production.  Otherwise, camera work moves all over the place with no warning, and audio quality is poor, even with the obvious overdubs.  Background sounds are too loud, and the soundtrack is a dumb ‘country’ number.  Flashbacks are unnecessarily black and white, and sets, locations, and props are cheap and limited.  Finally, the editing is very disorienting and confusing.  Unfortunately, the Cross Wind team has very low production standards.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 point)

Much like The Saber, In the Mirror Dimly struggles for any remotely substantial content.  Tons of scenes are wasted on procedural activities of daily living.  The story has no clear purpose as basically all of the dialogue is immature character arguing in the most juvenile ways.  There is a lot of wasted time, along with strange psychological elements.  The premise is basically a predictable city-girl-moves-to-a-rural-area-with-a-horse idea again.  Once again, an otherwise important issue is totally mishandled and ends up being portrayed in an over-the-top and unrealistic way that reflects the writers’ lack of understanding of real problems.  There is a lot of message-pushing as the character as basically pawns in the plot’s clear agenda.  If you’re going to make movies about people’s struggles, please at least attempt to ground your plots and characters in some shred of reality.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Much like other Cross Wind efforts, the acting in this film is as terrible as you can imagine.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are very forceful and unnatural, like it pains the cast members to be there.  Some cast members are especially annoying, and lot of them engage in unnecessary yelling.  This rounds out yet another awful excuse for a Christian movie.

Conclusion

So you want to make a movie about people’s struggles with identity and sin.  Your first task is to learn about real people and how these problems manifest, grow, and heal.  Yet in their films, Cross Wind has demonstrated the exact opposite.  It is very hard to believe that they have a realistic grasp of the struggles of real people, so this sort of film is downright insulting.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

The Saber [2007] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Cameron O’Connor joins the military as a cadet and uses his computer skills to make a name for himself.  However, he soon finds himself getting into trouble online with internet pornography that gives him an unrealistic view of women.  As he goes deeper and deeper down a destructive path, he gets kicked out of the military and puts his girlfriend in a very dangerous position.  God finally gets his attention and sends him help to turn around, but not before some serious consequences.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, The Saber is basically B-roll footage of outdoor military maneuvers with some other scenes sprinkled into it in order to try to make it some semblance of a story.  There are no good production elements to point out here.  Video quality is bad, and camera work is inconsistent.  Lighting is very odd, and there a lot of unnecessary zooming shots.  Sets, locations, and props and very cheap and limited.  Audio quality is poor, and the soundtrack is often too loud.  This production feels like a documentary, especially with the stiff way it has been edited.  Thus, there is really nothing good to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With the runtime filled with tons of training montages, this ‘story’ wanders and grasps for a purpose, but never finds one.  This aimless storyline contains extremely empty cardboard characters that have the worst possible dialogue.  There are also strange psychological elements throughout that make it hard to understand what’s going on most of the time.  While this is a very important message to portray, it is horribly presented, with a ridiculous and strawman portrayal of otherwise serious problems.  This demonstrates a lack of comprehension of reality and tends to talk down to ‘bad people.’  As events progress to extreme lengths, the film only offers quick and unrealistic fixes to problems that the writers clearly do not fully comprehend.  This is a huge disappointment.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This amateurish cast has the most awkward and forced line delivery possible, as well as the most uncomfortable and stiff emotions.  Their performances are robotic and unsure as they seem to be just reading lines.  There are also some annoying sequences of yelling, as well as some terrible makeup.  This finishes off a very cringe-worthy effort that I want to forget really hard.

Conclusion

The Saber deals with some serious stuff, but the way it handles the serious stuff is disingenuous and tone-deaf.  After watching this film, it is very hard to believe that the Cross Wind team has a grasp of the real struggles of real people, besides the fact that they have no quality standards.  This whole movie is a microcosm of what’s wrong with Christian film and what needs to be changed about it.

 

Final Rating: 0 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

 

The Note [2007] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After an airplane tragically falls from the skies and kills many who were involved, struggling local reporter Peyton MacGruder discovers a note at the crash site that leads her to some investigative journalism about the note’s author and intended recipient.  Thankfully, she has the help of office love interest Kingston Danville to help sort out this holiday mystery.  You never know when or where love’s going to find you at Christmas time!

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As usual for a Hallmark Christmas movie, The Note has a high-quality production.  Video quality, audio quality, and camera work are all on par with what they should be.  The soundtrack is about what you can expect for a Hallmark holiday creation.  Sets, locations, and props are all professional, and Christmas decorations are even kept to a happy medium.  There are just a few minor errors throughout, like some awkward transitions, but it’s only nitpicking.  As a whole, this is a great production that is mostly the norm in made for television films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As the Hallmark team decides to borrow a plot from acclaimed author Angela Hunt, The Note is unsurprisingly more creative than most Hallmark plots, even though this is not Hunt’s strongest storyline in the least bit.  However, the characters at least bear a semblance of realism due to some good dialogue, even if the plot tends to be based on too many coincidences.  Even so, there are a lot of great messages and ideas throughout this story.  Yet there are one too many moments that come off as a little too cheesy, as well as the inclusion of too many random, disconnected scenes.  Yet on the whole, this is perhaps the best Hallmark has to offer in the plot department.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Another common pitfall in Hallmark movies pertains to the casting and acting.  Any cast that involves Ted McGinley is rarely good, but at least the other cast members besides him are fine, even though he tends to drag down an entire movie with his plastic and overly fake demeanor.  Yet there are enough good and honest moments from the other cast members to make this section at least average.  The one thing that can be said is that it’s not as bad as usual.

Conclusion

Bringing Christian novels to life is almost always a great idea because the plot is already written, and these plots almost always involve some different and non-typical elements.  Angela Hunt is certainly a great author to choose from.  However, production companies are still usually safe in the plots they choose and don’t go too far outside of the norm.  In the end, companies like Hallmark have advertisement spaces to sell, so they don’t want to be too risky.  Perhaps the advent of more Christian-based streaming services will allow more creative content to flourish.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

7th Street Theater, Season 1 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

When a Christian businessman decides to invest in a Christian drama theater, he hires a stage director, Rudy, an office manager, Johanna, and five cast members, Travis, Jon, Jamie, Kelly, and Andi, to put together weekly plays centered around Christian themes.  As the actors and actresses write the shows and rehearse them to perform them, they learn life lessons that they intend to teach their audiences.  They also do life together and form a community with each other.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Since this series is entirely based on a bunch of people sitting around in two to three theater sets, you can imagine how cheap and limited these sets are.  There are no locations to speak of, and props are kind of silly, although this concept is also embraced as normal.  A lot of production shortcuts are taken and are justified by the format.  Early in this season, video quality is blurry, but this improves throughout.  Camera work is relatively stable.  Audio quality is fine throughout, but Jasper Randall delivers his same old silly soundtrack that can be found in any given Christiano production.  Finally, editing is almost nonexistent as most scenes drag on way too long to pump the runtime.  Every episode also ends with an annoying freeze frame.  Basically, though this is an average production, it has a lot of work to do.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The Christiano brothers have never been known for their subtlety, and the 7th Street Theater saga is the most obvious messaging ever.  This series is a venue for them to push their forcefully fundamental ideas through extremely scripted and childish dialogue.  It’s full of typical goody-two shoes Christian characters who don’t make any ‘bad’ mistakes, as well as a few strawman non-Christian characters and allusions to ‘bad’ things that can’t be talked about.  This series overall demonstrates just how much the Christiano brothers live in their own little world, especially with the priceless episode that serves as apologetics for that horrid thing called Pamela’s Prayer, which is an entirely different topic that space does not permit a full analysis of.  Basically, this series is everything you can imagine from the Christianos, and worse.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With a severely small cast, over 400 minutes of runtime is too much to see them over and over and over again.  They are extremely bland and overly practiced in their delivery.  They come off as fake, plastic people and even have weird racial undertones.  Though there is some improvement throughout the season, this is a very poor job.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

This saga is allergic to continuity.  As one thing after the next happens, there is an extreme amount of redundancy and repetition.  There are zero story arcs and absolutely no character arcs—everything stays relatively the same throughout this pointless season.  Thus rounds out an unfortunately unsurprising failure.

Conclusion

Though there is probably some part of the Christiano brothers that means well in their entertainment, they have no idea how to subtly communicate a Christian message or even how to relate to real people.  In their world, Christians are goody-two-shoes plastic people who are insulated from ‘bad stuff’ and exist in a bubble where they all tell each other how good they are.  But when you think about it, this is probably just another day in the life for most Christian film makers.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 14 points

 

Pray. [2007] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After a group of friends goes to a Christian rock concert, they return to their hotel and experience some creepy goings-on, thus they decide to abandon their trip early and return home.  However, even when she returns home, one them feels herself being stalked by an unknown entity.  Elsewhere, a new mother of a baby feels herself being watched by someone, but she can’t put her finger on it.  Will any of them be able to trust in God to overcome the evil?

 

Production Quality (-2 points)

So you want to make a Christian horror movie, huh?  How about you examine the ones already made (like this one) and do everything the opposite way of how they did it.  The production of each of these Pray movies couldn’t be worse.  From dizzying camera zooms to weird camera angles to generally shaky footage, it’s a harrowing experience for all the wrong reasons.  Video quality is mostly poor and lighting is very inconsistent.  The soundtrack is far too loud and the audio is better at picking up the background sounds than the actual dialogue.  Sets and locations are severely limited and there is no editing whatsoever to speak of.  In the end, this production is definitely among the worst.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

A ‘Dove-Approved’ ‘Horror’ film can’t actually exist, right?  This means anything ‘horror-like’ has been stripped from it, thus we are left with activities of daily living, local news sequences, television preaching sequences, and most laughable jump scares rivaled only by other films made by these people and the new Left Behind.  There is barely enough dialogue in this film, and what dialogue exists is mostly confusing crosstalk conversations.  With so many sequences of ‘regular life’, there is not enough real suspense.  Any suspense therein is bizarre and manufactured.  Finally, the ending of this film is one of the most laughable and head-scratching experiences ever.  We let asking whether or not it can get any worse than this.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

As if the rest of the movie wasn’t bad enough, let’s add an extremely amateur and awkward cast to this mess.  The performances therein are goofy and unsure.  There is far too much yelling and screaming.  It’s so sad that this many people were roped into this nonsense.

Conclusion

The Christian horror genre is among the worst of Christian film, and this should not be.  It’s inexcusable to have so many basement-dwelling films in one genre, especially when this genre offers such a great opportunity to reach outside the walls of the church.  Yet it’s a very difficult genre to pull off, so it would be better to not even attempt it unless you absolutely know what you’re doing.  But wait…there’s two MORE of these films?!?

 

Final Rating: -4 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

 

The Wager [2007] (Movie Review)

Creepy……..

Plot Summary

Michael Steele, a major movie star, slowly finds his life changing and being turned upside down as he tries to live the way he feels a Christian should live.  Nothing seems to work out and things only seem to get harder as he tries more to do what Jesus would do.  As his friends and coworkers call him crazy and shake their heads at what he is trying to do, Michael Steele finds himself wavering at times.  Will God really help him endure what he is going through?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

If one good thing can be said for this unusual production, it’s that time and money were definitely spent on the sets, locations, and props.  However, not much else positive can be highlighted.  Camera work is quite shaky and video quality is quite grainy.  The soundtrack is bad enough without forcing us to listen to Randy Travis attempt to sing.  Also, there are a number of annoyingly bizzare special effects throughout, including constant flashing that seems to be unfriendly to the epileptic.  Finally, editing is poorly done, thus leaving the film too choppy and punctuated.  In the end, to be a film of this profile, production should have been far better than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Based on a novel by Bill Myers, this really is not the best book plot that could have been chosen to be placed on the big screen.  The plot structure is quite unusual and includes confusing flashbacks that don’t serve much purpose.  There is not real plot content as the story hops from one thing to the next.  The characters therein are very one-dimensional.  Unfortunately, this includes a strawman portrayal of non-Christian characters and a squeaky clean portrayal of Christian characters.  While there is some semblance of a good message lost in translation, all the problems of this story are fixed far too easily, thus making it all seem very trite and plastic.  In short, this movie was written for a vague idea that never materialized.

Acting Quality (1 point)

After watching The Wager, one has to wonder why Randy Travis is ever cast in a movie.  What exactly good acting qualities does he bring to the table.  But hey, on the bright side, this film contains Candace Cameron Bure’s best role to date, surprisingly enough.  Other cast members, such as Nancy Stafford, are not all that bad, but there is a lot of negative here that detracts from the positive—mostly pertaining to Randy Travis.

Conclusion

What is to be accomplished by these sorts of films?  With half-efforts evident in all three categories, what did the creators expect?  Do people expect that they can just barely try to put a movie together and then it will just be fine since it’s a Christian movie?  Thankfully, we are seeing less and less of these types of films today, so films like The Wager can provide a major lesson to today’s film makers: ‘big name’ cast members and writers do not automatically make for a great movie.  Great Christian movies take true effort and care and are unfortunately hard to come by.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

The Stranger [2007] (Series Review)

Seriously?

Plot Summary

You never know where Jefferson Moore is going to pop up and solve all of your problems.  Whether you’re looking for hope, having trouble with a professor, need some interpersonal assistance, need a boost of faith, or any other issues, Jefferson Moore is there to fix the conflict in less than thirty minutes.  If you look close, you might be able to see his robed cameos.  In short, this is basically a series for the sake of having a series.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

For the first of The Stranger, production quality is extremely poor, so much so that it barely warrants its creation.  The typical soft light obsession is present and lighting is very poor throughout, especially in the indoor sets.  Video quality is quite grainy, and audio quality is terrible, include a loud and clunky soundtrack.  There are strange and awkward zooms throughout as well.  Though the production improves in the middle of the series, it’s far too little far too late that does nothing remedy the past offenses.  Finally, there is no editing as all content is included.  As we will see next, that’s not saying much.  But essentially, the production of this series is so bad to start with that there is no justification for its existence.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Must like its copycat series The Encounter, The Stranger follows a formulaic and predictable model for each of its episodes.  Each one is full of meandering boring conversations and is based around a shallow story concept.  Not much happens as Jefferson Moore shows up to fix stuff, so you know exactly what’s going to happen just by reading the episode description.  The characters are empty and stereotypical—the dialogue carries an annoying Christian message and is full of platitudes and trite sayings.  As expected, there are also a lot of quick fixes to problems.   It makes it all the more childish that things are fixed in less than thirty minutes apiece.  In the end, there is little to no reason to write these juvenile and disconnected stories just for the sake of having a series in which everybody already knows what happens.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Much of this cast demonstrates forceful and annoying acting.  They exhibit unrealistic emotions and lazy line delivery.  While there is some good here, it is still overshadowed by unprofessionalism.  Also, as we have mentioned before, Jefferson Moore is basically Bruce Marchiano’s predecessor, and all that that entails.  Basically, this is just another lazy effort.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

When the same thing happens over and over again in a series of episodes, there is no hope for continuity.  With such a long list of disjointed characters, there are no story arcs or character arcs present.  This type of series may be easy to replicate, but it’s certainly forgettable.

Conclusion

After The Perfect Stranger and Another Perfect Stranger, was there really a need for a series about Jefferson Moore doing the same things that are in these movies?  As if the first two films were even interesting at all, now we get bonuses.  Of all the movies that could have been made into series, this was the one that broke through and got the funding.  For heaven’s sake people, please demonstrate some originality.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 14 points

Another Perfect Stranger (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Nikki’s original encounter with Jesus Christ, her daughter Sarah grew to resent her mother’s new faith commitment.  Now, over ten years later, Sarah plans to rebel against the faith of her parents by going to make her own life at a far off art school.  As Sarah takes a trip to visit the school, she is ‘coincidentally’ sat beside a mysterious stranger on the plane (multiple times).  The more she talks to Him, the more she begins to feel her heart soften.  What will she learn before she reaches her destination?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though the production of Another Perfect Stranger has improved from The Perfect Stranger, that’s not really saying much.  Video quality and camera work are the most marked improvements; audio quality also shows steps in the right direction.  However, the soundtrack is quite stock.  Sets are still severely limited, but the most is made of them.  The Kelly’s Filmworks team still has a weird obsession with soft lighting that becomes annoying.  As for the editing, there are too many filler scenes and too much wasted time.  Essentially, while things are progressing in the right direction, it’s still difficult to see why productions this simplistic are so hard to nail.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

For starters, this title is stupid.  Naming a sequel movie ‘another something’ is so cheesy, but in this case, it’s not even true, because it depicts the same Stranger from the first installment, not a different one.  Anyways, Another Perfect Stranger begins with a useless recap of its predecessor, as if we missed something.  Once again, this second installment is full of uninspiring dialogue that speaks of lots of off-screen content and creates convenient plot turns.  Though this movie is again about two characters talking on a wide range of topics, we still don’t really get to know them very well.  With so few characters, these should be deep characters, but they only seem vague in the end.  However, their conversations do improve throughout the film and there are some good points raised, even though there are a number of odd comments and asides that seem out of place.  But what this plot really comes down to is the fact that there is simply not enough plot content to sustain it, as it is basically a stuck-on-a-plane plot that doesn’t involved the Rapture.  We want to like it, but just can’t find many reasons to.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Jefferson Moore, like Bruce Marchiano, has a Jesus complex; however, Moore might be a better actor than Marchiano when all is said and done.  Other cast members in Another Perfect Stranger are okay.  There is some over-acting, but emotions are overall believable.  Line delivery is mostly average.  Overall, this is an average effort with a small cast.

Conclusion

The Perfect Stranger saga is the definition of untapped potential.  The saga is based on a very simple idea that needs to be taken farther in order to have full effectiveness.  As they are, these films are just cute little Christian movies that people might smile about and then completely forget about.  Christian film makers need to strive to be dynamic and groundbreaking; we need to get out of our little bubble and go make a different with our movies.  An encounter with Jesus should be a difference maker, not another pedestrian effort.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Movies That Are So Bad They’re Not Even Worth Our Time, Part 3 (MTASBTNEWOT 3)

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

 

We're drowning in a sea of Mormonism
We’re drowning in a sea of Mormonism

Rescued [2008]

In this special edition of MTASBTNWOT, we examine the three WisenQuest movies that were reproduced by Candlelight Media Group to put a Mormon spin on them.  That’s right: Island of Grace has a twin!  All they had to do was change some of the evangelical themes to Mormon themes.  But also for some bizarre reason, they changed all the names of the cast members, even though they are the same people.  Apparently they thought that by changing the names, you would never know this was the same movie.  How stupid do they think people are?

 

I'm totes converting to Mormonism now
I’m totes converting to Mormonism now

Turn Around [2007]

It’s just like Overcome, but with ‘different’ cast members and Mormon bishops!  Instead of Jaycee Lynn, it’s Jaci Twiss!  Instead of Aaron Brown, it’s Jordon Sorensen!  It’s also based on some kind of Mormon story about Alma the Younger (whoever that is) instead of loosely based on the Apostle Paul.  But does anybody really care?

 

I'm Mormon now!
I’m Mormon now!

Beauty and the Beast: A Latter Day Tale

Once again, Matthew Reese replaces Matthew Davis (not really, they’re the same guy).  This fairytale now has a latter day spin on it!  Seriously people, why would you pretend that it’s a different movie by changing the title and the cast member names but not the character names (oh look at that: they didn’t change Caitlyn E. J. Meyer’s name)?  What’s the point of copying on top of another film just so you can have a version that suits your section of beliefs?  Might as well copy all other Christian films and Mormon-ize them while you’re at it.

 

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

Belle and the Beast: A Christian Romance (Movie Review)

Please love me, I'm desperate
Please love me, I’m desperate

Plot Summary

Eric Landry is known as a ruthless businessman who stays locked up in his mansion all day yelling at people.  Belle Watson is the nicest, most hard working young woman you can think of.  But when Eric threatens to have Belle’s father fired for breaking some stupid vase, Belle confronts the businessman and strikes a deal with him: she will work for him to pay off her father’s debt, in addition to all the other things she does.  Though they frequently argue, Belle and Eric slowly begin to like each other and this attraction could grow into something more!

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Belle and the Beast is a different than usual production for WisenQuest, but it is still not any good.  The video quality is still grainy and there are odd camera angles.  Audio quality is just okay and the soundtrack is underwhelming.  It seems like every scene uses a different set just for the sake of it, like they actually had a lot of sets at their disposal and they decided to flaunt it.  But it doesn’t help anything, as many of the scenes therein are useless and only expand the movie’s runtime, even though plenty of pertinent details occur off screen.  Thus, in can be inferred that little to no editing took place as a part of this production.  In fact, it’s difficult to understand how and why productions like this one keep getting made.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Beginning with the canned narration sequence at the beginning and ending with an empty and trite attempt at forced romance, Belle and the Beast is scripted and copied from just about any cheesy family-friendly romance you can think of.  Besides the constant shoehorning of ‘beast’ themes and the vague business premise and lingo, there’s the boy meets girl and they don’t like each other scene, the boy and girl have a fight scene, the girl finds something important about the boy’s troubled past scene, the girl complains to her female friend about the boy who she supposedly doesn’t like scene, the boy and girl talk backstory scene, boy and girl have a soft ‘accidental’ romantic scene…need I go on?  I didn’t even cover the boy and girl break up over a misunderstanding caused by the girl’s strawman alternate love interest (pictured above) scene.  Then there’s the obligatory get back together kissing scene.  The stereotypical progression of this plot is downright laughable.  Programmed with stock dialogue, the comical characters are swept up in a grand design far bigger than themselves…it was written in some Hallmark storyboarding room decades ago to be copied by all.  Needless to say, this model never needs to be replicated again.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This stereotypical cast really had no clue how to handle emotional delivery.  The wannabe Hallmark actor Matthew Davis ranges from wild, over-the-top yelling to vanilla line delivery.  Other cast members do a terrible job at trying to be sad.  The acting is overall stiff and empty, and the makeup jobs are typically horrible.  I didn’t even fully cover how the presence of Caitlyn E. J. Meyer in a film totally makes the experience bizarre, but you get the point.

Conclusion

What is to be learned from films like Belle and the Beast or any other WisenQuest work?  There are so many like it on the market; this is just an example of others passed over.  While true love should be portrayed in Christian film, it needs to be done in a manner that is realistic and believable.  Crafting a fantasy tale and trying to call it the real world is just doing a disservice to everyone.  There’s nothing wrong with romance, but please make an attempt at realism.  If you want a blueprint, look to films like Old-Fashioned.  All we can hope is that more like that film will be made in the future.

 

Final Rating: 0 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 List [2007] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Renny Jacobsen never really knew his father, so he doesn’t feel anything when he receives word of his death except how large his inheritance is.  That’s why he is devastated when he discovers the unusual and unorthodox contents of his father’s will—he cannot receive any of his money unless he joins a secret society known as the Covenant List.  In route to joining The List, Renny crosses paths with Jo, an unlikely potential List member.  Together, they discover that there is more to the secret society than they thought.  Renny must choose the truth before it is too late and before everything he holds dear slips away from him.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Distributed by a large company, The List has decent production quality.  The video quality is pretty good and the sound quality is consistent.  The sets and locations are diverse and well-constructed.  The film has an overall professional feel, but there are some editing problems.  Some scenes last too long while others are cut too short for the audience to really understand what is going on without reading a lot into it.  There are too many cross-fades and fadeouts.  Overall, the production is above average yet has some errors that hurt it from being all it could be.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Adapted from the novel by Robert Whitlow, the plot is more complex than most Christian movies.  It explores a genre unique to Christian movies—legal suspense—and does not follow the typical legal fiction storyline.  There is a lot of interesting content as the plot explores spiritual warfare, something many Christian films would never dare to touch.  However, it is not handled in the best way and comes off as overly sensational.  Too much time is spent early in the movie educating the audience on the complex inner workings of the secret society and not enough time is spent on redemptive qualities, which are rushed through and tacked on at the end of the movie.  Because of the high amount of plot content, dialogue often gets neglected, thus leaving stock characters.  Two hours was not enough to cover the scope of this plot properly.  In short, there is a lot of creative content here that was not utilized properly.  More could have been made of this film.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting is somewhat professional.  There are no glaring errors except for obviously overly practiced and fake Southern accents.  But at the same time, there is no truly dynamic acting that makes this film interesting.  When it comes down to it, the acting is average, thus garnering an average score.

Conclusion

Robert Whitlow has some interesting plots that should be depicted on the big screen, but The List was likely not the best book to choose, since it was first novel.  Secret societies, spiritual warfare, and legal suspense need to be incorporated in various ways into Christian films, but there is a time, a place, and a way for everything.  Even plots like The List are more complex than your average inspirational film, but it still not the greatest.  That’s why it has been awarded an average score.  Nonetheless, we applaud efforts to bring unique movies to the Christian scene and anticipate more to come.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

The Last Sin Eater (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Cadi Forbes has lived all her life in a Welsh immigrant settlement deep in the Appalachian Mountains, isolated from the world outside.  She has lived in fear, as have the people in her settlement, and now she has a terrible secret to guard.  Not only that, but she has risked trouble on her life by laying eyes on the forbidden sin eater—the cursed individual who must atone for the sins of those who die in the settlement.  Seeking a way to end it all, a mysterious girl guides Cadi to listen to a stranger preach to the forest about a hope she has never heard before.  She is now more curious than ever to learn about the stranger and even the identity of the cursed sin eater.  But what will it cost her in the end?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The production of The Last Sin Eater is excellent, with only minor problems.  The camera work is good, as is the video quality.  The only issue to raise is the inconsistent lighting in some scenes, though it could be argued as realistic.  The audio quality is overall good, though the soundtrack could be a little more inspiring.  There are diverse sets and the Appalachian scenery is realistic.  Some of the flashback content seems a little low quality, perhaps on purpose.  In the end, this production is done very well.

Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)

This is likely Michael Landon Jr’s best movie to date, but it can be credited to the writing genius of foundational Christian author Francine Rivers.  Her book that inspired this movie is among her best, and Landon’s adaptation is seamless.  The plot ties realistic historical events to an excellent fictional story built around believable characters.  The superstition is woven wonderfully with Biblical elements.  The characters are realistic and flawed, driven by true-to-life dialogue.  There are twists and turns in the plot, and the end is slightly unexpected.  In short, this excellent plot can be attributed to the genius authorship of Francine Rivers and to the honest adaptation of Michael Landon Jr.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

For a cast of largely little known actors, they perform quite well.  The line delivery is mostly accurate, though it seems forced at times.  Sometimes the Welsh accents seem fake, but other times they do not.  Despite these small issues, there are no extremely negative elements where the acting is concerned.  This cast is a good example of what can be done with the proper coaching.

Conclusion

There are plenty of lesser and well known Christian novels that can and should be adapted for the screen.  Where many movie plots are stock, there are plenty of Christian works of fiction that could be portrayed through video instead of more bland inspirational films.  The Last Sin Eater is an example of what can happen when an excellent novel is adapted correctly into a movie.  This film should be a blueprint for many more movies in the future.

 

Final Rating: 8 out of 10 points