House [2008] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

On a stormy night in rural Alabama, two couples find themselves stranded at a remote and strange bed and breakfast that is run by three eccentrically creepy people.  The longer they are in the large, ominous mansion, the stranger circumstances become for the four of them.  They find themselves in a fight for their lives as they are stalked by a serial killer known as the Tin Man, who is bent on reminding each of them of their darkest secrets from their pasts.  Will they be able survive this evil night?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though House is adequately funded—more so than other Christian horror films, except for The Remaining—the production begins a bit rough.  This includes weird camera angles and moving camera work, probably for dramatic effecting.  There are also some wild cuts, as well as some odd sound effects and lighting for sensational effect.  However, video quality is fine, even if there are some cheesy special effects and zooms throughout.  Moreover, the Anberlin soundtrack is great, and the sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-utilized.  Also, the editing is slightly effective, and other production elements improve as the film goes on.  Thus, this production ends up average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 points)

Though House is full of unnecessary sensationalism and cheesy horror elements, these concepts reflect the flaws of the original novel by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker, which is actually not the best book that could have been chosen from them to turn into a movie.  In the beginning of this film, everything comes off as too dramatic and too pronounced.  However, it does get better as it goes as the film explores the intriguing psychological elements and concepts of this novel, including effective character backstories and a great use of flashbacks.  In some ways, the movie may be better than the book, even though there is still a need for more substantial dialogue.  Nonetheless, the climax still makes no sense and leaves too many unanswered questions.  However, some audiences will enjoy this movie, if the horror elements do not bother them.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though some cast members in this small cast are trying too hard to be dark and to have strange undertones, the acting of House is mostly fine.  There is also some weird makeup work, but for the most part, emotions are effective among this cast, even though there were a lot of difficult acting moments due to the use of special effects.  This rounds out a mostly average film.

Conclusion

While the premise of this plot is very creative, it still needs a better explanation with more clarity as to what is happening.  Sometimes, Christian horror films, like Scattered, are better at focusing on character backstories and effective flashbacks than other films, which is one thing that keeps the genre alive.  Nonetheless, there are better Ted Dekker books to use for movies, even if future Christian horror flicks will be hard pressed to get this type of funding again without proving itself as effective.  Unfortunately, this is something the Christian horror genre has yet to accomplish.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

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Finding Cooper’s Heaven (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Jake Cooper tragically dies in a car wreck, his younger brother Bobby decides he needs to find heaven, where is brother now is.  With the Cooper family in shock and grieving in all the wrong ways, Bobby and his sister Trish set out on a silly adventure to figure out where heaven is.  What they find as a result helps them grow as kids, maybe?

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

Finding Cooper’s Heaven (whatever that really means) looks like it was filmed with a flip phone, hands down.  This is among the worst productions we have ever viewed, mostly due to weird close-up shots, blurry video quality, and awful background noises, not to mention the general lack of good audio quality and the presence of overdubbed lines.  The soundtrack is also loud and invasive.  Camera work is also very dizzying at times, and lighting is fairly poor in most scenes.  The whole experience seems very amateurish, as random, unrelated footage is included throughout, as well as weird slow-motion sequences that are off-putting.  The use of cheesy sound effects and special effects also makes for an undesirable experience.  Thus, the horridness of this production is enough to warrant negative points.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Besides the extremely childish premise, message, and storyline, the Christian elements are very juvenile as well.  The characters therein are empty and cardboard as they try way too hard in zany fashions to be comedic.  This ‘plot’ is funny for all the wrong reasons, because you either have to laugh at it or become depressed that this sort of garbage is even made.  Full of head-scratching and eye-rolling sequences, this storyline is utterly pointless and purposeless.  Thus, it is not justifiable, and it generally lacks potential in every way.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As if other elements were not bad enough, the acting is basically cringeworthy as many of the cast members are extremely awkward.  Line delivery is downright terrible as many lines are either mumbled or seemingly incorrect due to being done in only one take.  Emotions are quite juvenile and robotic, with heavy doses of obnoxious yelling and screaming.  Cast members seem generally unsure of themselves as coaching is noticeably absent.  In the end, this punctuates a bad experience all around.

Conclusion

Of all the movies that don’t get made, garbage like this film gets made.  How is it possible, first of all, to make a film this bad?  Secondly, how it is possible to get it finished, released, and distributed?  The mind boggles, but that’s the entertainment world we live in, I guess.  We can just hope that no one sees garbage like this and that the prevalence of such things becomes less and less.

 

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

 

Movie Renovation: Pendragon-The Sword of His Father

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

Pendragon: The Sword of His Father was one of the most under-funded productions that showed the most potential.  Thankfully, this potential was fulfilled in Beyond the Mask, but there were some things that could have improved Pendragon.  In many ways, it seems like Pendragon was filmed over a long period of time, with each part of the movie having a different level of production quality.  Despite the very low funding, the Burns family did their best to make the most out of what they had, which is all we really ask for.  For example, the construction and engineering of the complex battle sets and props was impressive.  However, video quality and lighting were very inconsistent throughout, and a lot of the audio quality was reworked in post.  Essentially, all this production needed was better funding, which the Burns family had in Beyond the Mask, so they followed through on their potential.

Plot and Storyline Improvements

Pendragon is one of deepest and most complex plots we have ever reviewed, especially since it was based on a long historical account.  Unfortunately, the Burns were forced to cram almost four hours of epic content into two hours, which was still an impressive amount of time for an indie film.  Even so, we feel like Pendragon could have been a two-part miniseries had the funding been there.  The characters barely reach their full potential, and their epic journey across time is barely captured in this limited window we are offered.  There is so much more that could have been done here if the budget had permitted.  The first part could have been about the captivity of Artos and his escape, while the second part could have focused on his redemption.  There are so many possibilities here, so maybe one day, we will get a remake?

Acting Improvements

Unfortunately, the casting and acting is by far the biggest detractor of Pendragon.  Obviously, cast options were limited, so their hands were tied.  The good thing is that casting got a major upgrade in Beyond the Mask, including the employment of an acting coach.  Still, if Pendragon were remade, we would need an entirely new cast.  As a side note, however, Marilyn Burns is a great costume designer.

Conclusion

The Burns family followed the indie film model perfectly: they began with an under-funded production that was rescued by a deep and complex plot and were given a greater opportunity to go further in Beyond the Mask.  Now, all that’s missing is a follow-up film (wink wink).  They are a creative team with loads of potential, just waiting to break out.  If they are ever offered a full theater release and distribution contract, then Christian film will never be the same again.

 

Sunday School [2008] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rachel is a new girl in town, and she is challenged to attend Sunday school for the first time in a while.  She reluctantly goes, but she finds herself interested in the new young pastor, even though she wants to travel to Hollywood and leave the small town behind to find fame.  Rachel’s presence in church causes a stir, especially due to her interest in the pastor.  Torn between two worlds, what choice will Rachel ultimately choose?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

With a very small budget, Sunday School struggles to have a quality production.  This includes some randomly poor lighting and inconsistent audio quality that has a loud soundtrack at times and other times includes too many outside noises.  However, the camera work and video quality are fine; they are the best elements of this production.  Sets, locations, and props are fine but could use some improvement.  Finally, the editing leaves something to be desired, but when looking at this film’s budget, one can’t expect much more than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this is a very limited story that doesn’t really contain anything truly creative, there is a small amount of potential here pertaining to the divide between church people and ‘worldly’ people who seek the truth.  However, the characters are too generic and not accessible enough, mostly because the dialogue is very stock.  A lot of the time, the characters talk without saying much substantial.  Also, the storyline tends to have typical prodigal character elements, and the ending is fairly rushed, even though it has some good points.  Essentially, this is a nice try, but not good enough.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is a small church film with a limited cast, the performances therein are actually average rather than below average.  There are some forceful performances from some cast members, but some cast members are better than others.  Emotions are mostly fine, but line delivery is inconsistent.  Overall, this section is par for the course.

Conclusion

Small church films are hard to pull off.  Budgets are almost always limited, yet films like this can redeem themselves by having deep, dynamic characters and a complex, thought-provoking storyline.  Unfortunately, Sunday School does not do this.  While the acting is better than it could be, this movie struggles to be relevant and will likely unfortunately be forgotten as time goes on.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Journey to Grace: The Hansie Cronje Story (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Hansie Cronje was one of the world’s best and more famous cricket players, and he used his sports platform to glorify God.  He was passionate for the game and for his family, but the pursuit of a better retirement for him and his wife consumed him.  He always wanted to do better and wanted his game to be better, but this got the better of him as Indian bookmakers relentless pursued him to pay off his team in a match-fixing scheme.  Hansie continually refused them until he could do so no longer.  In the aftermath of things, will he accept God’s grace for what he did?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Though this is an early 2000s production focused on international locations, it is very well done.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are what they should be.  The soundtrack is culturally appropriate.  Sets and locations, though difficult to construct and capture, are executed well.  Also, sports props are well presented and constructed.  The only issue to raise here, of course, is the editing, as too much content—almost an entire life story—is shoved into this seemingly brief runtime.  But in the end, this is a production to be proud of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This account is a great true story and one worth bringing to the big screen.  Though the characters are mostly realistic, due to the rapid passage of time and the large amount of content dealt with here, they are hard to get to know very well.  They are accessible as people, but there are a lot of side characters that get left by the wayside.  Also, lots of otherwise important sidebar topics are introduced briefly and then forgotten about.  Yet this story is historically authentic and accurate and certainly has a lot to offer as a lot of complex ideas are woven together.  Epics are very hard to make, so this effort is commendable, and most audiences will enjoy it.  In the end, the story is very realistic and leaves an important lesson to be learned.

Acting Quality (3 points)

This historically and culturally authentic cast can hardly be faulted.  There are no glaring errors here as great care was taken to make sure each character was cast appropriately and realistically.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are impeccable.  This is a casting job to be proud of.

Conclusion

It seems like this creative team did everything they could do to make this movie the best it could be, yet they fall just short of the Hall of Fame, only due to amount of content that is taken on here.  Yet we know that a longer runtime was probably out of the question due to budget constraints.  In the end, however, is this an enjoyable movie that will be well-liked because the creators definitely put their full effort into making it quality.  It is definitely worth your time.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

7th Street Theater, Season 2 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

Though the cast of the 7th Street Theater is constantly changing, their messages are still the same.  They continually create plays about Christian topics over and over again and present their plastic worldview to supposedly sold out shows.  Since they are committed to doing the same things all the time, the only drama they have to contend with is constantly changing cast members.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The production of the second season of this series is more stable than the first, but it basically comes out the same.  Video quality is fine and camera work is regular.  Audio quality is also fine, despite a pedestrian Jasper Randall soundtrack.  There are once again no locations to speak of and the same old severely limited sets are utilized in this lazy production.  Editing is mostly off the table as well.  Basically, as if the first season of this series was pointless enough, this second season is even more so.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

There is literally nothing new about this season that hasn’t already been discussed.  The same old one-dimensional characters are paraded around—even when the character changes due to cast changes, it makes no difference.  Every episode feels like a repeat of an old one as they constantly repeat the same ideas, sequences, and conversations.  Still the biggest plaguing issue in this saga is the fact that it lacks true connection to real people as they spin their wheels and grasp for content.  A series can only be sustained through top-level characters and realistic circumstances—it would be nice to have some arcs too.  However, 7th Street Theater lacks all of these skills.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As previously mentioned, the only difference with this bland cast from the first season is the fact that they are constantly switching some of them around.  However, it doesn’t help the fact that these cast members, though they may mean well, are too overly practiced in their delivery.  Emotions are hardly ever believable.  Essentially, there is not much unique to say about this season.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

Once again, there is no continuity in this season as each episode is presented with no real relation to the others, except for a few lame attempts at ‘cliffhangers’ that no one is interested in.  There are still no character arcs and no story arcs.  There was little to no point in making season, much less this series.

Conclusion

While in some way the Christianos might mean well in what they do, they are still not good at communicating the messages they want to communicate.  However, some of the things they do communicate are off-putting and paint an impossibly perfect view of Christians who have no real struggles.  This series doesn’t exist in reality and thus is never going to make any real difference.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 14 points

 

2012: Doomsday (Movie Review)

Only Dale Midkiff can save us now

Plot Summary

When a volcano is about to explode in Mexico, Dr. Frank Richards knows that the only conclusion can be that the end of the world is near.  The American government’s best scientists agree and begin to make an action plan as earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis rack the planet.  The only hope for saving humanity is Frank Richards’ plan to return a secret Mayan artifact to its rightful resting place so that the disaster will reverse and mankind will be able to rebuild from the ashes.

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

The Asylum’s side project Faith Films was once determined to purposely make cheap parodies of Christian films, and they mostly succeeded in masquerading as real Christian movies because they were often indistinguishable from other cut-rate productions.  2012: Doomsday is no exception.  There are multiple purposeful production errors in this film, including clear audio overdubs and a stupid soundtrack.  Ridiculous special effects riddle the landscape of this natural disaster, as well as shaky camera work and other expected errors.  Basically, these films are someone trying to be like Cross Shadow or Faithhouse.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Though the satire of this absurd disaster story is actually funny at times, it’s still not really any good.  It’s only funny because it’s so ridiculous and because it’s so easy to parody clichés from Christian and inspirational movies, not mention general disaster films.  With the level of absurdity displayed here, especially in the characters and the dialogue, not even to mention the laughable premise, you either have to laugh or cry.  There is no sense of understanding what’s happening in this story, and this is entirely by design.  As we’ve mentioned before, it’s too easy to disguise your parody film as a serious one and sell it in Christian bookstores because the so-called serious Christian films have set such a low standard.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

No parody cast is complete without Dale Midkiff, who found the pinnacle of his career with his unforgettable performance in this film.  He probably has a future in more parody films.  Elsewhere, this cast is just as ridiculous and absurd as the rest of the movie.

Conclusion

Hopefully new Christian film makers are building a market where these sorts of films can no longer be made due to rising standards.  Parodies and satires definitely have their place, but they need to have a point and not just be outright nonsense fests.  Maybe someday that elusive future parody Christian Movie will come out with an epic cast that will actually be remembered for being a true satire.

 

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

 

Pray 2: The Woods (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Laurie Curtis survives her harrowing night being stalked by an evil man, she writes a book about her experience and becomes an instantly popular bestseller.  She goes on talk shows and stuff, but little does she know that she is about to be captured again by her nemesis.  Meanwhile, some random youth group is having a camp retreat and they encounter the same evil she does.  Will they be able to run, hide, and pray?

 

Production Quality (-2 points)

The second installment of this deplorable series is just as bad as the first.  Production is still horrible in every way—video quality is bad and lighting is awful.  Audio quality is still a bust, including a loud, creepy soundtrack and bizarre sound effects throughout.  Camera work looks like a camcorder is mounted on someone’s head while they’re running and walking around.  Sets, locations, and props are as bad as can be expected.  Finally, there is once again no editing.  We are still very unsure what the intent of this series is, but it’s setting records for consistently horrible production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Besides this film’s rehashing and shameless plugging of Pray 1, there is little plot content in this film except for constant forced suspense, talk show sequences, and sequences of random dialogue and activities of daily living.  It’s basically in the same vein of the first installment, just with some different characters and ideas.  The villain character is still a total joke and there are no attempts at all to make the protagonists seem real or even remotely interesting.  There really isn’t even a plot to speak of here, which warrants more negative points.  If you were wondering, the ending of this film is a blatant attempt to get a third installment, which unfortunately worked.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Though this acting job is not as bad as the first, it still doesn’t have anything going for it.  The performances are either flat or over the top in attempts to be interesting.  We get to see more of the villain actor, which isn’t a good thing.  In the end, the Pray Trilogy is going down as one of the most half-cocked, nonsensical experiences in Christian film.

Conclusion

If you fail at something, try a little harder next time.  I guess they did try harder in Pray 2, but they’re still not out of the red.  If something is bad the first time, don’t make three versions of it.  Yet apparently, nobody told this team that what they are making is garbage, because we need more Christian films or something.  Actually, we need more quality Christian films, not trash like this.  Flooding the market with this yard sale fodder isn’t going to cut it.

 

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

 

Billy: The Early Years (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Billy Graham is one of the most influential evangelists of all time, but he did not begin that way.  He had his own sports dreams and aspirations, but God got his attention and sent him on the path He wanted him to be on.  As Billy pursued education he felt that God wanted him to have, he was influenced greatly by a leading evangelist of the day, Charles Templeton.  Billy also met the girl of his dreams, Ruth, and the two of them began a life together.  But as God gave Billy more influence and opportunity, he and Charles found themselves at odds over a crisis of faith that would influence Billy’s ministry forever.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a semi-professional production, it’s clear that a lot of effort was put into Billy: The Early Years.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine and on standard.  Good attempts are made to make the soundtrack historically authentic.  Though some of the sets are limited, the props also demonstrate historical authenticity and the locations are mostly good.  The biggest drawback to this production is the poor editing job, but this is understandable since so much content is tried to be included.  Overall, this is an acceptable production that shows good effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Even though a small portion of Billy Graham’s life is chosen for this film, it’s still too much to handle as the story is mostly based upon montages and sneak peeks at larger stories that we don’t see enough of.  The plot rushes through time very quickly and jumps from high point to high point.  It’s framed in a very odd way that almost focuses as much on Charles Templeton as on Billy Graham, which is fine, except the movie is framed as a Billy Graham biopic.  Regardless, as time speeds along in this film, there is no time to get to know the characters properly, so we are forced to settle with cheap dialogue and one-dimensional people.  Despite the time jumps, there are still too many meaningless sequences and scenes of unnecessary and unrelated content that has no bearing on anything.  In the end, this is a commendable effort to retell a very important historical story, yet it’s executed very poorly.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Since the characters are given very little development, the cast members are forced to make up for lost time, yet they do so in unprofessional fashions.  In attempts to be ‘interesting’, the cast members come off a very over the top and quirky, as if they are trying way too hard.  Though the costuming is realistic for the historical period, the makeup is way too loud.  In short, this creative team gets an E for Effort, but not much else.

Conclusion

Historical plots are important and are often hard to pull off well.  This story in particular is very important to the history of American Christianity, yet many audiences will be disappointed in the slapped-together nature of this movie that even drew (thankfully) honest criticism from Billy’s son Franklin.  It would have been great to get to know these historical figures are people rather than cardboard cutouts, but this was not the case.  Maybe one day someone will retell this story in a better way.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Sunday School Musical (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Two choirs have a shot at winning the all-important Christian choir competition of some sort, but one of them is motivated to save their school, of course.  But with their lead singer and leader moving away, will their group be able to put on an award-winning performance?  As the competition heats up, the participants will have to learn more about themselves and about their faith in order to succeed.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The ‘success’ of this film is that it was shot in roughly two weeks, but I’m not convinced this is something to celebrate.  The final result is random, all over the place camera work, even though the video quality is fine.  However, sets, locations, and props are below standard.  The most notable standout in this production is the amateur laughable soundtrack that includes constant ‘original’ songs and overdubs.  The editing is also very choppy and downright dizzying, thus reflecting what quick post-production job actually produces.  Basically, this is one of those Christian films that’s so bad it draws mockery from non-Christian sources.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1.5 points)

With nearly every line sang by the characters like a blockbuster Hollywood musical about France that actually features tons of British people, Sunday School Musical is an unmitigated disaster.  Not only is the idea of a misfit singing group using their talent to save something copied from other quasi-inspirational films featuring Dolly Parton or Maggie Smith, but the way it’s gone about is so laughable that one has to wonder if it’s a satire.  Let’s go on the record by saying that singing dialogue and songs intended to be dialogue are never good ideas, EVER, to use in films.  Elsewhere, there is no real plot in this film and the characters feel like they stepped right out of a bad cartoon.  Needless to say, Sunday School Musical is an utter train wreck that should never be repeated in any fashion.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As if the rest of the film wasn’t bad enough, this cast is among the worst.  They are either unsure, juvenile, or way overplaying in some kind of attempt to get attention.  Of course, trying to singing most of the lines never works, even for professional actors and actresses (see Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, etc., etc., etc…).  In the end, this film was probably doomed from the start.

Conclusion

Sunday School Musical has the rare privilege of not only joining the ranks of Christian films to be made punch lines by mainstream reviewers (along with Saving Christmas and the new Left Behind), but it also has the opportunity to be classified among our negatively-rated movies.  These films find new and creative ways to be horrible and\or offensive, thus achieving this distinct status.  The only thing we can further say is that we hope more negative films (and films containing singing dialogue) are never made again in Christian circles.

 

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

 

The Imposter [2008] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (1 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Me and You, Us Forever (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Dave is left behind and divorced by his wife, he begins to think about what could have been.  As he begins to pine after an old high school girlfriend of his, one of his friends advises Dave to go to a church support group for divorced people.  There he meets a creepy woman who takes it upon herself to vicariously live Dave’s life and to help him in going back to meet the old girlfriend he’s pining after.  As Dave finally plans to go meet her, the suspense builds as he drives back and forth outside her house and borderline stalks her.  Will he ever get to talk to her again?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

This awkwardly-titled film has one good merit, and this is some production quality.  While the video quality and camera work are good, as well as some of the sets, it’s beyond us why anyone would spend money on such a useless piece of entertainment.  Audio quality is also okay, but the soundtrack is snore-inducing.  There was clearly no editing in this film as tons of useless and empty footage was included, probably in an effort to make this painful slog longer than it was.  Besides a few production high marks (which should be standard), this movie is all downhill from here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In perhaps the most useless and pathetic plot we have ever seen, immature conflicts dominate the silly dialogue as a bunch of middle aged people whine about what could have been in high school.  As the scenes progress from melancholy to melodramatic to boring, nothing really happens as we are forced to witness Dave drive around, go to work, talk on the phone, go to support group, and hang out with a creepy and desperate woman.  Sometimes there are huge gaps without a single spoken word as characters just stare at things while the piano music plays.  Besides all this, there is no way to make this sort of plot interesting or palatable, so why make it at all?

Acting Quality (0 points)

As usual for Christiano casts, the cast members are overly practiced in their line delivery.  The emotions are empty and they generally leave much to be desired.  Unfortunately, the cast is so small, there is really no potential here.

Conclusion

What was even the point of making this plot?  The idea literally has no potential and is so absurd that we have to question whether going after (married!) old flames should even be encouraged among Christians.  Was this really all the Christiano brothers could come up with?  We would expect something much more sanctimonious and pious than this.  Where is the potential in watching a middle aged man pine after his old girlfriend, who’s now married?  Don’t even get me started about using divorce support groups as a dating service.  We can’t even comprehend the motive behind this film and must just leave it as a useless movie you shouldn’t waste your time on.

 

Final Rating: 1 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…

Overcome [2008] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Colton is a bad boy.  He spray paints churches, defies his passive aggressive parents, makes fun of people for no reason, skips out on work, destroys volleyballs, blends up cell phones, and drinks at parties.  But his drunkenness costs him one night when he and his buddy are driving home drunk and they crash into a fellow student of theirs.  While in the hospital, Colton dies and comes back to life a totally changed man.  He seeks to make amends with Sarah, the girl he crashed into, and tries to help her regain her tennis skills.  The more time they spend together, the more they like each other.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

WisenQuest seems set on generating low quality Christian productions at any cost.  Overcome repeats their usual mistakes, including terrible camera work and low video quality.  Audio quality is also bad, accompanied by a cheesy free soundtrack.  Though outside scenes are a central part of this film, they are executed very poorly—sometimes too bright and other times too dark.  For that matter, sets and locations are very underwhelming and low-effort.  Finally, there is virtually no editing as the production team squeezed everything possible into the runtime to make the movie long enough to be justifiable; more on this will be discussed shortly.  Basically, this is just business as usual for WisenQuest.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Overcome is supposed to be based on the conversion of the Apostle Paul, but the plot has a very weak correlation with the original story.  As previously mentioned, there is very little content to speak of in this plot.  The runtime is padded with tons of childish montages and cheesy awkward conversations.  The dialogue is very staged, thus creating cardboard characters.  Though the writers attempt to take on serious issues of juvenile delinquency, they are ill-equipped to handle them because the issues are portrayed in an immature fashion.  It’s like they’re scared to do anything ‘too controversial’ or ‘too deep’ and thus skate on the surface of everything, never finding any substance.  The ending is anti-climactic and the film is overall yawn-inducing.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Pulling from their usual store of amateur cast members, the Wisenquest team did not see fit to employ any acting coaching.  Some lines are mumbled and most of them come off as overly rehearsed.  Emotions are forced and not believable.  Also, makeup jobs are atrocious.

Conclusion

The team at WisenQuest apparently just decided to spit out some half-hearted ideas in an unprofessional fashion just to contribute to the already-crowded market of wasted Christian films.  With very little content to speak of and a tiny correlation with a Biblical account, Overcome is as forced as a movie comes.  This is called making a movie for the sake of making one.  No thought was put into quality.  This film will just take its place among the myriad of failed Christian films before and after it.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

The Rev [2008] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Johnny Starr, fresh out of seminary and away from his worldly Las Vegas past, is ready to take the ministry world by storm.  Accompanied by his adoptive mother, he journeys from Atlanta to upstate New York to pastor an ethnic church, Jubilee Hall, as a white man.  Little does anyone know that his “special gifts,” i.e. dancing to Bible songs in an Elvis suit, will soon take the area by storm and bring more people to Christ!  But he’ll have to watch out for the local corrupt white rich pastor and his banker friends who want to steal Jubilee Hall’s land for themselves.  Who will prevail in the end—the obnoxious obviously-not-Southern knock-off televangelist and his cronies or the awkward dancing Elvis impersonator and his band of ragtag church folk?

 

Production Quality (Johnny Starr)

We are unsure as to how this ‘production’ actually came to be, as it feels like a tiny church project with a pathetic budget.  Production quality is so low that it begs the question of the necessity of even making this ‘movie.’  It’s far too obvious that one camera is used, and it doesn’t even produce good video quality.  Sets and locations are extremely cheap and limited.  Audio quality is mostly bad and scenes are usually hard to hear because of the ridiculously childish homemade soundtrack that loudly blares innovative tunes such as ‘Johnny Starr, Double N, Double R,’ ‘Here Comes the Rev,’ and other screeching choir numbers.  There are several scenes in which different choirs are showcased without studio touchups and it’s a grating experience.  As for editing, much of this ‘film’ is hard to understand with constant jumps in time, missing information, awkward transitions, and that constantly incessant noise called a soundtrack.  Therefore, when we step back from this ‘production,’ we are incredulous and really don’t know what to else to say about this viewing experience.

Plot and Storyline Quality (Double N)

Plot?  Does that exist in Johnny Starr’s alternate universe of stupid white men dancing to children’s music in ethnic churches?  Does anything logical or coherent exist when he dances (literally) his way into pastoral ordination?  Somewhere in between information dump dialogue and unexplainable interactions between offbeat characters, a touch of satire can possibly be detected.  We either have to believe that The Rev is a satire or a sad show of utter incompetence.  And that’s just the first fifteen minutes of the film.  I haven’t even gone into detail about the ridiculously childish and amateurish ‘villain’ (or Donald Trump impersonator) with the most painfully slow drawling fake Southern accent and his sidekick Chaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarlie.  Or Junk Dog and his sidekick, who are searching for ‘Elvis’.  Or the ‘evil’ banker woman.  Or the racially stereotyped convenience store owner.  Or the extremely awkward church secretary.  And what’s with the incoherent elderly men who appear to be telling the story?  In general, there are too many unexplainable and unbelievable elements to this plot than we have room to discuss.  The things that happen in the ‘plot’ are not based in reality.  For example, one minute somebody’s talking, then they’re singing.  One moment, a character is evil, then they immediately become good after witnessing someone else do something good.  One minute things are going horribly wrong due to a failed choir practice, then people are dancing around, rapping, and playing instruments and boom boxes.  In short, we could discuss for days the true nature of this ‘plot’, but we must reprieve for now and consider that some things just don’t have explanations.

Acting Quality (Double R)

Johnny Starr, who is sort of portrayed as a hero character who stands up for the little guy, comes off as very unsure of himself due to awful acting on the part of movie creator John Petritz.  We are all for casting little known actors, but casting local church folk and throwing them to the wolves with no coaching is a terrible idea.  The crew spent more time on intricate Elvis props and costuming than on coaching the amateur cast members.  Emotions are cartoonish and line delivery is either awkward or forced.  Also, movie creators need to think twice about having actors and actresses sing live musical pieces in the middle of the movie.  Just sayin’.

Conclusion

Our impromptu rating change for The Rev was no accident.  This film is in a class all by itself, to the point in which it feels like a giant April Fool’s joke.  We’re not sure whether or not to feel sorry for the production team or to laugh at their attempt at a satire.  This ‘musical’ experience watches like a children’s cartoon movie, which could better explain the constant leaps in logic and reality-defying decisions.  Since cartoon films do not fit into our normal ratings system, we have opted for a special rating.  There is little else we can say for this film except that if you want a good laugh, see if you can find yourself a copy, because you won’t soon forget the experience.

 

Final Rating: Johnny Starr, Double N, Double R

 

The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Dustin, Albert, and Mark are friends who stick together and solve the deeper problems of their 1970s small town.  But one particular summer, they find themselves with a deficit of activities save for fishing and mowing lawns.  That’s when they inadvertently cross paths with Jonathan Sperry, an elderly local man who takes it upon himself to teach them fundamental principles for living—including the truth about Christianity.  Unknown to any of the three friends, their lives will forever be changed by the secrets they learn from the enigmatic Mr. Sperry.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Jonathan Sperry had a higher-than-usual budget, and it mostly reflects in the production quality.  The camera work is pretty good, especially considering the high amount of outside scenes.  The video quality is solid, as is the sound quality.  Sets and locations were well chosen and props give the film an authentic historic feel.  The musical score could have been better.  The real thing lacking here is a game-changing factor.  The editing is considerably good, but each production element just doesn’t quite live up to top standards.  Something intangible is missing, yet it cannot be denied that Jonathan Sperry is still a step above most Christian films when it comes to production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Adapted from true events, the plot of Jonathan Sperry has a lot of great elements.  The characters are authentic and many will be able to relate to them.  The dialogue is simple yet profound.  The events and circumstances they experience are believable and accessible.  The storyline is non-linear and has some minor twists and turns.  There is a clear Christian message throughout.  Yet this being said, one could consider Jonathan Sperry to be overly realistic and too slow for viewing.  There is some truth to this.  The film lacks a dynamic punch that will really capture the widespread attention of audiences.  Great care was obviously taken to be realistic, and this care shows, but we have to wonder if it is too authentic for its own good, so to speak.  Nevertheless, the movie offers a poignant lesson for those who watch it and those who likely calm artistic plots will not find themselves disappointed.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Similar to production, an air of professionalism is very evident.  The actors and actresses are coached fairly well.  Since the cast is small, it carries a large weight, and it does not necessarily stumble under it.  However, there are some minor errors that could have been corrected and thus keep it from being all that it could be.  But nonetheless, the acting puts many Christian movies to shame.

Conclusion

There is a place for movies like Jonathan Sperry in the Christian film world, but unfortunately, films like this one will never be blockbuster.  The truly unfortunate thing is that movies like this one are not the baseline of Christian-themed movies.  This should be the starting point, not the improvement.  Regardless, Sperry is something to build off of if only to showcase that the Christiano brothers understand the common man and that the only place they can go from here is up.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Matchmaker Mary (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Join Mary and her happen-chance band of friends in a heartwarming (?) journey of taking care of puppies and forcing people to hang out with each other.  Watch as she inserts herself into the private lives of people in order to coerce them into liking each other.  With her parents unstable and fighting at home, Mary ventures out to spread her cheer elsewhere, hoping to project her insecurities on helpless loners who never asked for her help.  She collaborates with her unusual aunt, who has taught her how to meddle in other people’s business, but little do all of them know that by the time this movie is over—if you make it that far—everyone will have a match of their own!

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

If you can’t tell by now, we didn’t particularly like this so-called Christian movie.  It could have joined a host of other movies like it on the Hallmark or Ion channels, but the production is so bad that there’s no way it would have been picked up or aired.  Hallmark and Ion still have production standards, believe it or not.  Matchmaker Mary was likely filmed with a camcorder at the local pet store and the surrounding areas.  The video is grainy, the sound terrible, and the camera work shaky.  The musical score is childish.  There’s really no care taken to even make this film watchable on a surface level.  This begs the question—why was it even made?

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

It’s perfectly understandable and commendable to portray a movie about a grade school girl who is having to deal with her parents’ strained relationship—this happens far too often and needs to be exposed.  However, where are the mentions of Mary going to God with her problems?  Rather than bury herself in puppies and busybodying around, a Christian message needed to be introduced here, if this movie is meant to be Christian.  At this rate, we’re not sure.  We’re also not sure why PureFlix even distributed it, but at this point, we’re not really surprised at anything they do anymore.  There are too many head-scratching moments in Matchmaker Mary to count.  Characters say odd things in out of place ways, situations are trumped up, and the entire premise of the plot is completely absurd.  If this film is trying to be ridiculous, it succeeded.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

As previously alluded to, the actors and actresses behave in generally strange ways that cannot really be explained or described.  It’s almost like they were instructed to act off the wall.  If they were not, then we really don’t know what to think.  But that pretty much describes our entire experience watching this movie.

Conclusion

This is the state of American society—movies like Matchmaker Mary are funded and distributed while it is likely that many other well-meaning and under-funded geniuses struggle to survive in the movie world because they simply don’t know the right people.  In reality, people don’t really repair and build real relationships on the basis of puppies.  We don’t need any more movies that contribute to unrealistic fantasies that already permeate our culture.  Films like this are best forgotten and buried under the memories of better movies watched and better movies still to come.

 

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

 

Prince Caspian [2008] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rejected by his uncle due to the birth of a new son, Prince Caspian is forced to flee for his life from his Telmarine countrymen, who are ruling Narnia and who have forced the true Narnians into hiding.  But Caspian finds himself taking refuge with these renegade creatures now that he has a common enemy with them.  In trouble, Caspian blows the legendary Susan’s horn and inadvertently calls the Pevensie siblings back to Narnia, although it has been hundreds of years since they left.  They immediately find themselves thrust into a conflict between the restless Narnians and the disillusioned Telmarines.  Although they believe they have the power they need to win, the High Kings and Queens of Narnia must remember the former days and call on Aslan for help in order to survive.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

In keeping with the production quality of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian is well-produced and well-funded.  The camera work is great.  The sets are well-constructed and the costuming remains professional, which is key in fantasy movies.  Action scenes are filmed with skill.  The only small caveats to raise here are that there is some slightly obvious CGI and the editing is confusing at times.  Otherwise, there is nothing negative here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, the original plot of Caspian is not adapted as well as the first installment.  Though Douglas Gresham was still involved, Box Office Revolution feels that the core message of Narnia was lost in this movie.  Disney takes over Caspian and inserts empty action sequences, drab dialogue, and bland characters.  Granted, the original plot of the book was not much to work with, but Disney adds a darker tone to this film that was not intended.  All the characters seem perpetually angry about abstract things.  Some scenes leave the viewer hanging with no real explanation.  The end is pretty good, but it has a strange romantic subplot is suddenly forced upon the audience.  Needless to say, both avid Narnian fans and professional plot critics cannot find much to be pleased about here.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The professional acting style is mostly maintained from the first movie, but in the sophomore installment, it seems like the cast isn’t really trying.  At times, actors seem bored and passive.  But it is not all bad and there is certainly worse acting to be seen.  In short, the acting keeps up with the rest of the film—good, but not good enough.

Conclusion

Prince Caspian is a natural sequel to the infamous The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but its plot could have been improved.  Where there was potential for improvement, nothing materialized.  It probably should not be surprising that Douglas Gresham pulled the franchise from Disney after this movie—it needed to be done.  The bottom line is that the Chronicles of Narnia remain to be great books to adapt into films, if done properly.  Larger production companies have a tendency to coast after success, and this is not something Box Office Revolution respects.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Pendragon: The Sword of His Father (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Artos Pendragon, captured by the barbaric Saxons as a young man, only has one goal in mind: to save his home, the Isle of Britannia, from the invading Saxon forces as the Dark Ages fall upon ancient Europe.  Afforded the opportunity to escape his captors, he is helped by a mysterious seer who reminds him of his family’s Christian heritage and gives him a new hope by telling him to go to a fortress city on the island where King Ambrosia is building a new army to beat back the Saxons from their nation.  Artos begins a new life there are refocuses on the vision God has laid upon his heart: free the people of Britannia from the Saxon oppression.  Little does he know the intrigue, conspiracy, and battles that await him.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For a very low budget production, Pendragon does the best it can with what it has.  The Burns production crew was quite inexperienced at this point, so they must be given a chance.  The production quality improves as the movie progresses, including the video quality and the camera work.  Some of the battles scenes are well done, but some are not.  The costuming and the sets are very complex and should be applauded when the small budget is considered.  The overarching issue with Pendragon’s production is the large amount of poorly overdubbed lines that are inserted into many outdoor scenes.  Overall, in their debut film, the Burns crew has shown that they have a lot of potential and can do even better with more funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The plot of Pendragon is extremely complex.  In a noble effort to avoid narration, there are a lot of understated elements that need to be explored more.  Though the film is over two hours, it could have been longer due to the sheer amount of content that is portrayed.  Multiple characters have interesting arcs that need to be further developed.  This is not a simple action plot, as it is filled with twists and turns.  The ending is justified due to its historical genre.  Overall, the driving point of the film needs to be better highlighted and the plot needs to be expanded, if at all possible.  Once again, this is difficult to do without proper funding, and Box Office Revolution feels that Burns did the best they could with what they had.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This is the most detracting element of the movie.  If the acting was improved, this movie would greatly improve.  It is evident that many of the main actors are members of the production crew and that this is their first major acting venture.  While there is little to no acting coaching and the best actor has a very small role in the film, they must once again be given clemency, given that they had little money to work with.

Conclusion

Pendragon has a mammoth potential, enough to be a two-part epic movie or multi-part miniseries, due to its highly complex plot and untapped character arcs.  But alas, poor funding often derails great intentions in the world of independent Christian film-making.  However, the good news is that Burns did not settle for less in their sophomore film, Beyond the Mask, which indicates that we can expect even greater things from them in the near future.  The Christian movie scene desperately needs studios like the Burns, who will flip the script and bring new genres of Christian films to the table.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Fireproof (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Caleb Holt is successful in his career as a fire captain.  He will risk his life for anyone, but he does not care about his marriage as it begins to fall apart around him.  His wife, Catherine, has a successful career of her own and she is tired of the conflicts she continues to have with her husband.  All Caleb seems to care about is his job, saving up for his boat, and looking for fulfillment from places other than his wife.  Catherine is lonely and becoming hardened to her husband as she tries to care for her elderly parents and directs her attentions towards a nice doctor at the hospital she works at who gives her more attention than Caleb does.  Caleb is ready to throw in the towel before his father steps in and gives him a forty-day challenge, The Love Dare, to try to save his marriage before signing the divorce papers.  Little do Caleb and Catherine know that they are in for changes and trials beyond their marital discord.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

In keeping with the production spirit of Facing the Giants, Fireproof does not disappoint.  The higher budget is maintained and even expanded, and it pays off.  Difficult firefighting scenes are successfully executed, and diverse sets are used.  The editing is concise, making for an easy viewing.  As is the Kendrick norm, there are no caveats here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Another Kendrick movie, another solid Christian message packaged in a believable real-life plot executed by realistic characters.  The plot is not too preachy as it is both evangelistic and discipling towards Christians.  Strengthening weak and broken marriages is a very important message for viewers today, both Christian and non-Christian.  This could not have been pulled off without imperfect and accessible characters, which there are in his movie.  The usual comedy scenes are included.  Yet there are a few caveats here.  The plot is more linear than usual for Kendrick plots and the dialogue is lacking in some areas.  But even with these issues, Fireproof makes other movies pale in comparison.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The Kendricks departed from their usual model of only using ‘inexperienced’ actors by bringing in Kirk Cameron, but the transition is seamless.  This is likely Cameron’s finest acting work to date.  The same can be said for co-star Erin Bethea.  The supporting cast is no worse in talent than these two, thus reflecting acting coaching success for the Kendrick crew.

Conclusion

Even when the Kendricks are not at their finest, they still rise to the top in the Christian movie industry.  As their career has progressed, their quality has improved in all areas.  Fireproof marked a huge turning point in many ways, if not only for their tackling of a timely message that many Christian movies either ignore or portray incorrectly.  Yet this installment was only a harbinger of greater things to come.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 points