The Genesis Code (Movie Review)

The Cosmic Clock is ticking

Plot Summary

Blake Truman is a hockey star at his small school, Madison College, but he is an agnostic who doubts parts of the Bible, such as the Creation Account, because his mother lies in the hospital in a cancer coma.  However, Kerry Wells, a journalism student whose adviser keeps pestering her about joining the New World order, has been assigned to write a human interest piece on the star hockey player, which forces them to have awkward conversations about their beliefs and stuff they’ve done in life.  Kerry’s brother Marc, a spastic Physics major, also has his doubts about the Bible because he has trouble believing the literal Six-Day Creation theory.  Nevertheless, when Kerry’s father (the local pastor) tells her to read a random verse at dinner time (beef casserole night), she gets an idea of how Marc can use Quantum Physics theories to prove the essential doctrine of the literal Six-Day Creation.  Along the way, a whole bunch of other stuff happens, but you can see where this plot is obviously going.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

With $5 million spent on this glorified docu-drama, it’s no wonder the production was at least above average.  Camera work and video quality are on par with what they need to be, even if there is some poor audio throughout.  The soundtrack is fairly pedestrian, but sets, locations, and props are on industry standards.  There is some cheesy animation in some parts, and the editing is very choppy and disjointed, but it was likely very difficult to handle this large amount of unrelated content.  Overall, this production is fine, but there are plenty of other problems to discuss.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Where to begin?  For one thing, it was very ill-advised to attempt to make this confusing conglomerate of scientific theories and message-pushing into a film.  The movie begins with lengthy sports montages and awkward conversations that showcase a total lack of proper dialogue.  This stilted dialogue causes the characters to be very mindless, and it goes without saying that this ‘story’ is extremely disorganized and schizophrenic in its presentation.  Trying to bundle Christmas, sports, stupid college stuff, the cancer plot, and the Christian-needs-to-use-arguments-to-convert-skeptic-characters storyline all into one film is just cutting yourself off at the knees before you even start.  Besides this, the “woe-is-us-we-have-first-world-persecution” complex that is evident throughout the film is grating and obnoxious.  The characters ride a ridiculous string of coincidences to lead them to “solve” the non-essential doctrine of Young-Earth Creationism by using deceptive theories masked as fact to attempt to reconcile the alleged divide between science and the Bible.  In doing so, a large portion of the movie is spent on quantum physics lectures that utilize flimsy comparisons and childish object lessons to drive home a questionable theory that does not need to be presented as scientific fact.  If this wasn’t bad enough, the cast of characters is replete with strawman non-Christian characters that possess the most absurd and ridiculous worldview-pushing lines.  It goes without saying that the predictable romantic and disease subplots run their expected course as they are padded with forced-humor filler scenes and useless flashbacks to things that just happened in the movie.  It all crashes to a predictable yet head-scratching conclusion that does very little to accomplish its goals of converting more people.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Logan Bartholomew and Kelsey Sanders post very weak lead performances, and a majority of the acting is very very dry, empty, mindless, awkward, and forced.  Line delivery is disjointed, and emotions are overly practiced.  Humor is extremely forced and annoying.  Overall, there is very little good to say about this disaster of a film.

Conclusion

The Genesis Code gets the honor of received a -1 X Factor Point just for being especially ridiculous.  This is a lesson that it is better to shy away from movie titles involving the word “code” coupled with the name of a book of the Bible (or a Bible-ish concept like The Omega Code).  Also, the important lesson that can be learned from this train wreck is that the God’s Not Dead-style of preaching to the choir and pretending to want to convert people with arguments is a dead end road.  Movies like Genesis Code expose the deeper problem among most Christian circles: a lack of understanding about real people.  People matter more than scientific theories, well-crafted arguments, or polished theology, no matter how true they may be.  Thus, it is extremely important to give audiences real and relatable characters that have realistic and accessible lives, choices, and motivations.  Until this happens on a consistent basis, Christian film (and Christian culture as a whole) will still be stuck in neutral.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

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Road to Emmaus [2010] (Movie Review)

Don’t worry, Mel Gibson will tell us why Jesus looks different

Plot Summary

After the death of Jesus, two men were on the road to Emmaus when they were suddenly met by a (perfect?) stranger Who appeared both know little about recent events and yet know so much about the Jewish Law and Prophets.  As the (perfect) stranger talked with them, they became hopeful over what He had to say, but they had no idea that their encounter (lol) with Him would change their lives forever.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Beginning with recycled footage from The Visual Bible: Matthew, Road to Emmaus is essentially an add-on to The Visual Bible saga.  As such, the production is relatively the same, except the constantly moving camera work that gets dizzying at times.  Otherwise, video quality, audio quality, and soundtrack are all fairly standard.  Sets, locations, and props demonstrate the usual attempts at authenticity.  There are some abrupt cuts that keep the editing from being all that it could be, but Road to Emmaus is generally another above-average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

While this is an interesting idea for a short film since this is a Biblical story that often receives little attention, it is still just a short film, unfortunately.  As such, it employs unnecessary narration that is not in the typical word-for-word model, as well as information-heavy dialogue that doesn’t help to build the characters and mostly tries to force the plot along.  The conversations therein are too obvious and push an obvious message rather than letting the characters try to naturally develop as real people.  It would have been more interesting, in my opinion, to frame the entire Gospel story into this one story through the use of flashbacks, but that would have required a feature length film.  For the most part, this rendition of Road to Emmaus is fine, even if it has a below average plot.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Like The Visual Bible: Matthew, Road to Emmaus has mostly fine acting, even though the cast is not completely culturally authentic.  However, emotions and line delivery are good, even though they tend to be slightly over-practiced at times.  There are some slightly theatrics, and Marchiano is not in his better role in this film, but costuming to good, and there are enough positive elements to make this section above average.

Conclusion

As previously mentioned, the story of the road to Emmaus could have been more effectively utilized as a present-day anchor for flashbacks to other aspects of the Gospel as Jesus explains the Law and the Prophets to the two travelers.  However, as this rendition is, it mainly just feels like a tack-on where it could have been the main thing.  Perhaps another film maker will remake it in the future.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

The Holy Roller (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Luke is a struggling pastor with no real congregation.  Thus, inspired by the rantings of a homeless man, he decides to take his ministry to the streets.  There, he crosses paths with a desperate bar owner, Simon, who’s in need of some quick cash to pay off his gambling debts.  Inspired by a prosperity-preaching televangelist, Simon convinces Luke to start a church in his bar to raise the funds he needs, using a message of prosperity.  However, things don’t go as planned, and Luke discovers what real ministry is about.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The Holy Roller has a surprisingly fine production, including good video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also fine, although there are a lot of musical montages.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly realistic and appropriate.  The only other issue to point out here is the choppy editing that includes too much fluff content and too many odd cuts.  However, despite these issues, this is a pretty standard production that looks good on the surface.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This obviously quirky premise is meant to be a comedy, but it really just comes off as very forced and dry.  The humor is too off-the-wall and awkward to be funny.  It’s really trying too hard to be something it’s not, and it seems like satire is purposely eccentric, even though it falls flat.  Besides this, there is too much forced drama as the story rushes along at a breakneck pace that leaves no room for character development.  This leaves the characters very shallow and empty.  The fast pace of things also stunts any sense of reality and leaves the viewer disoriented and confused, without any ability to relate the struggles of the characters.  Basically, this is a dramedy that skates on top of everything so quickly that it’s over before you know it.  Actually, that might be a good thing.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This amateur cast seems like they are acting purposely awkward most of the time as they struggle to get their lines out.  Emotions are either too dorky or too forced.  However, there are some good moments here, and there would have been more if there had been better coaching.  Some things just weren’t meant to be, I guess.

Conclusion

Small church films like The Holy Roller struggles for identity and specialty in a sea of a myriad small church films vying for attention and views.  Unfortunately, not many of them actually make it to the next level, and most of them get stuck where The Holy Roller gets stuck: in shoulder-shrugging mediocrity.  The status of these sorts of movies can only be ‘better luck next time.’

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Rust [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Former pastor James Moore, who is running from his faith and his career, returns to his hometown to discover it the grounds of a dark mystery and closely held secrets that has put one crazy man in prison for arson.  With nothing left to lose and nothing else to do, Moore decides to take it upon himself to solve the mysterious case that was too open and shut.  As he looks at all the angles of the fire and the events of that night, Moore finds himself turning to God again as he rediscovers the faith he left behind.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Corbin Bernsen and his teams have always been committed to high production quality.  Rust is the earliest example of this commitment, as it sports great video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The soundtrack is also intriguing.  Sets, locations, and props, for the most part, are professional.  The only issues to point out here pertain to some choppy editing and some slightly poor lighting in some parts.  But otherwise, this is a professional and model production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

From the beginning of his foray into Christian film, which was this film, until now, Corbin Bernsen’s creative motivation has always been an enigma.  What is he ever going for?  Rust adopts the mysterious and semi-dark approach that was seen later in Beyond the Heavens.  Neither film truly makes much sense or has any driving purpose behind it.  Yet the mystery portion of Rust is intriguing and somewhat engaging.  The characters, while a bit eccentric, are also interesting in their own way, sometimes due to unique and cryptic dialogue.  Movies like this one always seem to be hiding something, like a private joke or secret, but they never let us in on the puzzle.  At least the ending is slightly unexpected, even though it takes a somewhat predictable path to get there.  If there were some more clarity in this plot, it could have been interesting and more highly rated, because there was a lot of potential here.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Much like the production of this film, the acting quality is professional and above average.  For the most part, actors and actresses are cast appropriately, and their line delivery is on point.  Sometimes emotions tend to be a bit forced, but they are good as a whole.  There are also some other moments of underwhelming performances, but they are not enough to keep this section from being highly rated.

Conclusion

Corbin Bernsen always has a lot of potential in his films.  He usually maintains high production and acting quality.  However, he is also committed to plots that are seemingly purposely unusual.  Rust is no exception to this trend, especially since it is his first Christian film.  One can understand why ‘secular’ film makers want to dip into the Christian market, but we have never understood Bernsen’s odd approach to movie making, despite his quality productions.  Yet perhaps we will never understand.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Breaking the Press (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The Conagheys could never have children, so they decided to adopt a pair of twin boys who was in need of a home.  As proud members of a small community in Texas that greatly valued high school basketball, the Conagheys encouraged their two boys, Josh and Matt, to get involved.  However, one became better than the other and became tired of being stuck in the small town team.  Instead, he wanted to play for the better team in the next town.  The Conagheys decide to let him live with his aunt so he can attend the other school, but at what cost will is come at?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For the most part, Breaking the Press has a fairly professional production with no glaring errors.  The sports filming is definitely great, include good action shots and camera work.  Video quality and audio quality are what they should be.  The soundtrack is a bit generic, but it is adequate.  Sets, locations, and props are on par with what they should be.  The biggest issue to point out here is the poor editing, including abrupt cuts and transitions, as well as musical montages.  But this is not enough to derail this section, which is nearly perfect.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, the storyline of Breaking the Press is not very creative at all.  For starters, there is too much narration, which of course stunts natural character and story development.  The time jumps certainly don’t help this either.  The whole thing is just a typical and formulaic sports storyline mixed with a predictable prodigal son storyline.  There is really no creativity here, and the characters come off as plastic and manufactured.  Also, sports montages are commonplace, along with a random Christmas inclusion in the middle of the film.  Edgy content is not handled very well either.  On the whole, this just seems like someone trying to pander to Christian audiences.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Yet this cast is mostly professional and is definitely above average.  The only thing holding back this section are the overdone moments and overly practiced lines.  Yet for the most part, emotions are realistic.  This rounds out an overall average film effort.

Conclusion

It’s hard to get more formulaic than movies like Breaking the Press.  Throwing a prodigal son story into the inspirational sports genre does not exactly excite.  Creativity is very minimum here, and it seems like this is a low-effort attempt to grab some quick cash from a Christian audience.  If you are going to make a typical story, the least you can do is to craft realistic and accessible characters.  But once again, a film is left wanting.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

A Christmas Snow (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Kathleen hates Christmas and thus likes to make her restaurant staff work all the time on the holidays.  But she likes Andrew, so she decides to help watch his Christmas-loving (and slightly obnoxious) daughter, Lucy, while he completes a business trip before the holiday.  So when Kathleen and Lucy get snowed in with a random guy who saved Kathleen from some hoodlums in a parking lot, Kathleen thinks her life is over, especially when they are forced to play board games that remind her of her parents.  Will they ever be able to make it through the day?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The good thing about this film is that is has high production quality.  Tracy Trost and her team are usually committed to this, and it shows again in A Christmas Snow.  The positive elements include good video quality and camera work, as well as adequate audio quality and an okay soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are fine and are mostly utilized well.  There are really no glaring errors to note here.  There are just some small issues pertaining to some choppy cuts and transitions, but this is not enough to derail the production.  On the whole, this is an applaudable effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the plot of this film.  It is based on a stereotypical holiday-hating-character-is-forced-to-like-the-holidays-because-of-some-outside-event plot sequence.  It would be one thing if the characters were fine, since this is a character-based plot, but that is not the case here.  The main character in particular is quite obnoxious, as are some of the supporting characters.  This is mostly due to absurd dialogue and ridiculously forced comedy, such as statements like ‘chickatarian.’  There is really nothing creative about this story as it depicts a collection of random characters stuck in a house during the holidays again.  While there are some attempts to use flashbacks to build the characters, they fall flat.  The character arcs are far too steep, and the Christian message is too vague.  Unfortunately, this is a swing and a miss.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

For a majority of the film, the lead actress and the child actress of this film are quite annoying, in keeping with the characters they play.  This is demonstrated through forceful emotions and stiff line delivery.  They are clearly trying too hard, while other cast members just come off as off-beat.  Needless to say, this movie will be remembered for the wrong reasons.

Conclusion

There was a good idea behind this movie, this much must be noted.  Trying to develop a grumpy character through establishing flashbacks can be a great way to present a nice holiday story, but A Christmas Snow does it all wrong.  Unfortunately, although the production was good in this film, it was wasted on a poorly written story and off-putting acting.  Maybe next time, Tracy Trost and her team will improve upon their past films.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Journey to Paradise (Movie Review)

Love finds you in Paradise?

Plot Summary

Channel 7 News (?) radio station is looking for a new associate producer since they are a privately-run station or something.  Thus, when a mysterious man named Joe shows up to apply for the job, all the people at the station, who have nothing better to do, speculate as to why the young man is in town and who they can try to matchmake him with.  But will his secret past come back to haunt him and ruin his chances at love?  Probably not.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, Salty Earth Pictures has earned a reputation for putting together cheap productions.  While video quality and camera work are okay in Journey to Paradise, there is strange soft lighting throughout that make for an ethereal experience.  The stereotypical holiday soundtrack is accompanied by weird background sounds, which makes no sense, considering there are basically no outdoor locations in this film.  There are only a few sets as it is, and they are filled with dumb Christmas props.  Finally, as is to be expected, there is really no editing present, thus making for a very drab experience.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

At times, it seems like this film is a total joke due to its cheesy, eccentric, and annoying characters that are built with empty, plastic holiday romance dialogue.  All of the comedy falls flat and makes this movie seem like a total joke or a satire.  The storyline is ridiculously typical and predictable, like it was taken from those stupid Love Finds You books.  A majority of the time is wasted with meandering nonsense as the inevitable romance is kicked down the road with silly coincidences and conventions.  This romance idea of a random guy coming to a small town and being thrown together with the first available girl he finds and then having a falling out before getting back together thing has been done ad nauseum already.  Furthermore, the Christian message that is forced into this nonsense is extremely manufactured and almost laughable.  In the end, why movies like this are continually made is beyond me.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Much like the characters they are stuck with, these cast members are awkward and unsure in their line delivery.  Emotions are very plastic, not to mention the fact again that comedy is very forced.  Unfortunately, while it’s not likely this cast had much to work with, it’s still not a good experience.

Conclusion

In some ways, it seems like Salty Earth Pictures means well, but they don’t have a very good way of going about it.  For the most part, their films come off as juvenile and silly.  Mixing Christmas romance clichés with them presentation style is the worst.  If you want this sort of nonsense, watch Hallmark—at least they have better productions or something.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

Checkmate [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1 point)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Turning Back [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Dave Patterson returns home after three years of drugs and rehab, his brother, an aspiring local politician and trusted church leader, is skeptical of his change and even envious of how his father accepts Dave with open arms.  Thus, Dave grows bitter towards his brother and seeks to share his side of the story in counseling.  Will they be able to reconcile their differences before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Probably due to a limited budget, this production is slightly cheap in its presentation.  The lighting quality for most the film is strange and camera work is very random.  Audio quality is also inconsistent and soundtrack is very standard.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly okay but still reflect the limited nature of this production.  Furthermore, editing is fairly choppy as it is hard to understand what this story is trying to convey sometimes.  In the end, considering the limited resources here, this is an okay production, but it begs the question of necessity.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this is an interesting idea and is a more creative take on the typical prodigal son idea, it is still unfolds in a vague and confusing way.  Though this movie also actually portrays counseling in a realistic way for a chance, there are too many unnecessary plot tangents that waste too much time, even though there’s just barely an hour of runtime.  This causes the story to ump all around with no real focus, and there are too many random and unrelated characters.  The dialogue is too flat, thus causing the story to not hold the attention.  The ending is also slightly abrupt.  It seems like this film would have been better suited to be a short film.  Regardless, it needs a lot more development.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this cast is slightly amateurish, they appear to mean well.  They are sometimes unsure in their performances, but they put forth a decent enough effort.  There aren’t really any glaring errors, but they aren’t really dynamic enough.  Overall, it comes out as average.

Conclusion

Even though the creators of this film were likely honest in the creation of it, unfortunately, this movie is definitely going to slip through the cracks of the market and be easily forgotten.  This story is interesting and has potential, but it needs a lot more deepening and creativity to make it.  The production needs better funding and the acting needs to be more dynamic.  But perhaps this was just a test run and there are better things in store.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Potential Inside (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Chris Carmik is a successful professional cyclist and is an extremely competitive athlete.  However, his great success on the track has caused his family life to suffer.  His wife and daughter barely know him or see him.  But one night, a tragedy changes their family forever and leaves them reeling in the aftermath.  With the rise of a new cyclist who wants to be trained by Chris, will he be able to pick up the pieces and turn back to God before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As usual for Scotty Curlee and the Liberty University team, production is certainly not a major issue in their early film The Potential Inside.  Video quality and camera work are professional, as are audio quality and the soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are adequate and appropriate, especially the sports scenes.  The biggest issue to point out here, as usual, is the fairly choppy editing job.  It’s difficult to follow the story due to this fact and makes the experience uneven.  In the end, while Curlee and team are masters of production quality, they often get lost in film school and forget about real plot content.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The Potential Inside is the same song, different verse for the inspirational sports genre.  This story follows the rock bottom journey of a typical downtrodden and troubled athlete character who needs a comeback to save his career and his family.  All the typical melodrama ensues, even though these characters are circumstances are mostly believable.  Yet it’s difficult to get to know these characters as real people rather than as cardboard cutouts.  As the story jumps all over the place and wastes lots of time, there are way too many sports\training montages to pump the runtime.  Due to this fact, the message of this film is fairly unclear, even as it introduces unwarranted quick fixes to patch things up in the end.  Unfortunately, there’s really not much good to say here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though the Liberty University team usually assembles semi-professional casts, coaching isn’t their forte.  The performances of this cast are mostly okay and passable, but there are some forceful emotions and yelling sequences that get annoying.  Line delivery is mostly on point.  In the end, a lot of parts of this film seem to be checking boxes.

Conclusion

This film was early in Curlee’s career, so perhaps he will only grow from where he has been.  He and his team have all the potential in the world—as well as an amazing amount of resources that some film makers only dream about.  Now it’s time for them to marshal these resources properly and to truly make a film that can turn the industry on its ear—because they definitely have the ability to do so.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 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

 

Angels Love Donuts (Movie Review)

The whiniest man alive

Plot Summary

John Money is a successful businessman, but he’s the whiniest man alive and doesn’t like anybody, even though he has a family that loves him, at least somewhat.  He only cares about the bottom line, so when he’s visited by a donut-loving angel of death who tells John that his days are numbered, John throws himself into finding a solution to his eternal problems.  He seeks out the answer to eternity in heaven, but he looks in all the wrong places.  Will he be able to discover what truly matters most?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though this film has a moderate budget, there are still a lot of unforced errors.  Video quality is somewhat blurry throughout, especially since there is a lot of weird soft lighting throughout the film.  Camera work is fine, however, as is audio quality.  However, the soundtrack is loud and annoying.  Sets and locations are mostly okay, but there are some cheesy props.  There is also not really any editing as this film is just a collection of very long scenes and montages.  In the end, this is a underwhelming production to say the least.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Can you seriously not come up with a different title besides Angels Love Donuts?  The cheesy comedy idea surrounding this title is just too much.  There are way too many attempts in this film to be funny, and a lot of comedy is dry and\or falls flat.  Thus, the dialogue and the characters are very cheesy and sometimes downright childish or annoying.  The driving purpose behind the film is too juvenile to be taken seriously; this film almost fits better in a children’s genre than in this format.  The story follows a predictable progression, thus there is no real creativity here.  It’s really hard to believe that movies like this are made.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The lead actor is definitely one of the most annoying we have seen.  He speaks in a constant monotone whine.  Other cast members appear to be making fun of this film, and rightly so.  Some performances are overly practiced.  Emotions are hardly ever believable.  Unfortunately, there’s really nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

Movies like this will likely be forgotten as time goes on, yet they can be remembered right now due to its absurd nature.  The last thing we need is more Christian movies that demonstrate this level of nonsense.  From start to finish, this is just a total waste of time and ranks on the level of yard sale movies.  Hopefully in the future, we will begin to see less and less of these sorts of messes.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Sybil Ludington: The Female Paul Revere (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

During the Colonial era, when the Colonists were restless and ready to be out from under the thumb of the British, Sybil Ludington, along with her family and friends, worked secretly for the independence of the Colonies from the British.  Though it wasn’t always easy and they faced plenty of opposition, in the end, they believe it was worth it to achieve freedom.  Even though she is an unsung hero, the work of Sybil Ludington still affects America today.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Sybil Ludington is clearly a first-time effort with poor funding.  What funding they did receive it seems was spent on the historically accurate props.  Otherwise, the rest of the production falls by the wayside.  Video quality is poor and camera work is quite shaky.  Lighting is terrible in most scenes and the sets and locations are severely limited.  Audio quality is also fairly unprofessional and below standard.  Furthermore, as usual for a fledgling independent film, editing is almost nonexistent.  In the end, though Kicks Flicks usually means well, money was clearly a problem here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Much like its successor, The Light of Freedom, Sybil Ludington highlights an important and intriguing historical story that would be easier to understand if it was presented better.  However, as it is, this film has an extremely boring presentation that plays out like a homeschooler’s play more than a movie.  What’s more is the dialogue is archaic and cumbersome in attempts to be historically authentic or something.  Thus, the characters cannot be related to and it’s impossible to even be interested in this story because of the way it’s laid out.  It’s a shame because this is probably a good story that’s worth telling in some other fashion, like one with more money behind it.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Like other sections, good costuming that reflects the historical period well is the only thing that saves this part from being zero points.  Otherwise, this acting job is somewhat unpleasant, including terrible line delivery and painfully forced emotions.  There is far too much yelling and not enough believability.  Even if you don’t have enough money to fund your production, you can still at least try to have a professional acting performance.

Conclusion

Historical fiction is a tricky and ambitious genre to take on early in one’s film making days.  Though the Burns family has had success in this area, it’s certainly not for everyone.  But even the best of film makers sometimes has a meager beginning, so perhaps we haven’t even seen the best that Kicks Flicks can do.  Maybe things will look up for them in the near future.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Daniel’s Lot (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Daniel is a devoted Christian whose marriage is struggling because his wife refuses to embrace the faith he has.  They are also struggling financially as Daniel does not make enough money to pay their mortgage and his wife’s real estate sales are down.  His wife insists that Daniel sell the large lot he inherited from his father, but Daniel promised his father that he wouldn’t sell it until the right time, even though they need the money to pay their mortgage.  When his wife cheats on him, Daniel does the only natural thing anyone would do—set out to build a huge cross on the lot he owns.  What could go wrong?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

As an underfunded church film, Daniel’s Lot has a lot of production errors.  It is overall cheap-looking and includes blurry video quality, weird camera angles, and lots of shaky camera work.  The soundtrack is very silly and often too loud, as are many outside sounds.  Lighting is very inconsistent and is poor a lot of the time, especially in the very bright outside scenes.  Sets and locations are very limited to inside people’s houses and offices and have an overall cheap feel to them.  Finally, editing is totally out the window.  This type of production begs the question, was it really worth making?

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The ‘plot’ of this movie also raises questions of necessity and purpose.  Besides the cheesy and childish portrayals of Christians and non-Christians that suggest Christians are perfect and non-Christians are all obnoxious, this story is utterly pointless and juvenile.  Why can’t Daniel sell the lot to take care of his family and keep them from being evicted?  There’s a difference between waiting on God and plain stupidity and lack of common sense.  In addition to all of this, constant heavy-handed TV preaching litters the storyline.  Some of the ways people are portrayed are downright embarrassing, and it goes without saying that the character development is horrible.  To add insult to injury, a ridiculous religious freedom subplot is shoved into this so-called story.  In short, we have no clue what is trying to be accomplished here, but whatever it is, it’s certainly not anything worthwhile.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Amateur church casts are very difficult to hone properly, and this problem is only made worse by the very unusual casting job done here.  Some cast members act like literal children and are over-the-top obnoxious.  Also, makeup is done very poorly.  Unfortunately, this rounds out a very poor job all around.

Conclusion

When making a movie, a church should really look into getting some unbiased feedback of their work.  Films like this are only giggle-inducing or just plain eye-rollers, so there’s no way they’re ever going to have a real impact.  Any good intentions or messages that were attempted to be conveyed here are totally lost when the overall quality is so poor.  Besides improved production and acting, we need stories we can actually relate to and characters we can care about, not silly nonsense like this.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Without a Father (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Two men, Jacob Taylor and Christopher Bauman, grew up with different lives, but they both grew up without a father.  Now they live different lives—one is successful in law but not in his marriage, while the other is successful with his family but struggles for work.  Though they have taken two different paths, the truth for them still remains the same: they both have a Father in Heaven Who wants them to turn to Him in their time of need and to put their trust in Him.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, as a low-budget church production, Without a Father suffers on most production fronts.  Video quality and camera work are very inconsistent and mostly low-quality.  Audio quality is also poor, including a loud and uninspiring soundtrack.  Flashbacks are black and white for no reason.  Sets, locations, and props are limited and fairly cheap.  Finally, the editing is also bad, with very awkward and abrupt cuts and transitions that make for a confusing experience.  In short, though this church likely meant well with this film, the delivery is not very good.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though Without a Father has a good purpose (which is obviously messaged in the title), the plot completely lacks focus, as it is mostly a random collection of stories all jumbled together.  Though the agenda is good, it is still pushed way too hard in the audience’s faces.  Narration is also heavy-handed and provides more message-pushing.  Trite Christian answers are provided as unrealistic quick fixes for problems.  Also, the legal premise presented here is basically not believable.  Finally, there is no justification for this film being so long, since the runtime is only sustained by long and drawn out scenes depicting the empty characters doing random things and activities of daily living.  Basically, having a low production budget is one thing, but the least you can do as a struggling film maker is make a decent plot without heavy-handed messaging.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As an amateur church cast, some forgiveness is in order here, but it still doesn’t warrant these poor performances.  The cast members are overly practiced and stiff in their delivery.  Emotions are too extreme and there is far too much yelling.  In short, from start to finish, Without a Father is unfortunately how not to make a church movie.

Conclusion

It’s baffling to me how churches make films this long.  In my experience, it’s difficult for a church to even make a thirty-minute film, much less one that’s nearly two hours.  With all the effort put into films like this, what do they really have to show for it?  We can understand not having enough money for a first-time church production, but if you’re going to make a movie like this, at least try to write a good story with realistic characters.  Otherwise, what’s really the point?

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Standing Firm [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Dave Corwin’s wife died, he was confused and lost in life.  He did not know where to turn as he tried to hold his job together while not neglecting his son.  But his son’s newfound faith intrigues him, even though Dave does not understand why a loving God would take his wife away.  In the end, Dave’s journey to faith will be tested by life’s circumstances.  Which path will he ultimately choose?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For a freshman production, Standing Firm is decent.  Most of its aspects are professional, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  Yet the soundtrack is a bit stock at times and sets and locations are somewhat limited.  Also, the editing is somewhat passive as it seems like a majority of the recorded content was included at face value.  Overall, on the whole, this is a very generic and base production, which is good for a new production company to start out with.  With a limited budget and resources, this is likely the best Praise Pictures could have done with what they had.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, the plot of Standing Firm is very underwhelming and low-key.  Its theme is slow and melancholy, thus causing the story to be slow to develop.  Dialogue is quite pedestrian as the same conversations tend to repeat and rehash over and over again.  Thus, the character development is null—this creates one-dimensional characters where this character-driven plot should have complex ones.  Unfortunately, this story is a fairly limited idea that needs more complexity than it has.  Though it is simple, it does have a meaningful message; however, it doesn’t hold the attention very well, so the message is not conveyed well.  But in the end, this is still a beginner’s plot, and the good thing is Praise Pictures improved later.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is a slightly ‘rookie’ cast, they post at least average performances.  They are not terribly dynamic in what they do, but they are not highly negative either.  There is definitely some room for improvement, especially in emotional delivery, but this is a good start that is nothing to be ashamed of.

Conclusion

Overall, though this is a modest beginning for Praise Pictures, it is definitely something to build off of.  There is a lot of potential here, especially since production and casting are off on the right start early on.  The plot does suffer for creativity, but this is something that can be easily fixed down the road.  In the end, it seems like the Praise Pictures team really does mean well, which means they will be able to go far in the future.  It will be interesting to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Like Dandelion Dust (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When the Campbells adopted little Joey from the struggling Porters, they thought it was forever.  But when the Porters get back on their feet after Joey’s father gets out of jail, they file to regain custody of their son.  Heartbroken, the Campbells do everything they can do to keep their only son, but they cannot prevail.  Therefore, they resort to a drastic measure that could land them in prison, but they are committed to protecting their son from evil.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a pilot production from Jon Gunn and company, this production quality is not what it could be.  But on a shoestring budget, it is not that bad.  Camera work is sometimes shaky and video quality and lighting are sometimes poor.  The standard soundtrack is sometimes loud enough to cover up dialogue, but audio quality is mostly fine.  For a first-time effort, the sets and locations are quite realistic, even the international ones.  The editing is a pretty good effort considering what they had to work with.  In the end, every movie maker has to start somewhere, regardless of the budget or resources.  When put in that perspective, Like Dandelion Dust is an applaudable effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Based on a novel by Karen Kingsbury, this plot is somewhat slow to develop and has one too many flat scenes and dead spots.  Yet the story is true to the book and depicts unfortunately realistic happenings.  Too much time tends to be spent on trashy elements, although what happens therein is believable.  This film is a fair portrayal of real people and their struggles and highlights important issues with child welfare.  Dialogue is mostly accessible and helps to build the characters.  Unfortunately, the first three-fourths of the film may not hold the attention of most audiences.  However, once it gets to the point at the end, it suddenly becomes really good and is worth the wait.  Overall, Like Dandelion Dust improves at the end and shows great potential for the future.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast is semi-professional and mostly knows what they are doing.  Through they are small, they have some bright spots, such as well-played and believable emotions.  Their line delivery can be wooden at times, but overall, this is a good effort that shows talent in casting.

Conclusion

It is always good to choose a book plot for your first film, but we have to wonder if this was the best Karen Kingsbury book to choose.  The story is intriguing as a book, but it doesn’t translate very well to the big screen.  Yet nonetheless, it is a good effort and something to build off of for the future.  There is great potential in this team and we can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Letters to God [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Tyler Doherty is fighting for his life against the cancer inside of him.  But rather than feel sorry for himself, he seeks to reach others for God by writing letters to God and sharing them with other people, especially his new mail carrier, who has a troubled past he is running from.  As Tyler’s family wrestles with what is happening to him, little do they know that God has great things in store for all of them.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a more ‘mainstream’ Christian film, Letters to God has good production quality, demonstrating that time and money were spent on it.  Video quality is clear and camera work is professional.  The opening sequence is interesting and grabs the attention well.  Audio quality is standard, but the soundtrack is slightly generic.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and appropriate.  The biggest drawback to this film’s production is the choppy editing that tends to only hit the high points of the storyline.  But overall, this is a respectable effort and one that should be commonplace in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As another cancer film based on a true story, Letters to God does better that most in its genre at being realistic.  Though the plot is simplistic, it has a meaningful message that it presented by believable characters that endure realistic struggles.  However, there is some information dump dialogue and there seem to be one too many silly\filler scenes that tend to waste time.  Thus, the plot is somewhat incomplete.  Though the characters can also tend to be heartwarming, we wish we could get to know them a little better through deeper dialogue.  As it is, some of their arcs are too steep and simplified to be appreciated.  However, on the bright side of things, flashbacks are utilized well.  In the end, this plot left a lot on the proverbial playing field that could have made it far better, yet many viewers will enjoy this story and its message.

Acting Quality (2 points)

As a semi-professional cast, these cast members are mostly good when it comes to line delivery and emotions.  There are a few head-scratching moments and awkward displays that detract from the overall score, yet there is not much to complain about here.  This is a demonstration of mostly good casting and coaching.

Conclusion

Letters to God checks the necessary boxes for being marginally successful in the Christian entertainment world: spend time and money to make your production look good and make sure you have a professional cast that makes minimal or not too noticeable errors.  If you can accomplish these two feats in a Christian movie, you are unfortunately far ahead of the game.  Being average is great, based on the low standards that have been set by and myriad of basement-dwelling films on the market.  But we still want movies to take that next step into greatness rather than hover around the middle.  When high quality becomes more widespread in Christian film, then the entire movie industry will never be the same.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Johnny [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (.5 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Cutback [2010] (Movie Review)

Dude…

Plot Summary

Luke Harris and his friend Casey have one thing on their mind as they finish up their last year of high school: surf!  But Luke’s parents are constantly pressuring him to grow up and choose a college for him to further his education.  Luke is focused on making the local surf team and beating out a new ‘popular’ guy—not to mention getting the attention of the girl he likes—but little does Luke know that despite his own plans, God has plans for him that he could never imagine.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Cutback is different from most Skipstone films, in that it is less artistic than usual.  Video and audio quality are on par, yet the soundtrack is far too loud and tends to be too ‘surf’ oriented.  There is also some shaky camera work in the action scenes.  Outside scenes are otherwise relatively fine, and the sets and locations are acceptable.  However, the editing leaves something to be desired as it falls into the sports film trap of including too many musical sports action montages.  The good news is that the Skipstone team’s production skills did improve after this effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Though Cutback is mostly a formulaic high school sports plot, there are some interesting twists and turns in the middle of the film that we did not see coming.  At first, the dialogue is far too ‘cool’ and ‘surfer-dude’, almost to the point of embarrassment, and this creates very cheesy characters.  However, this subsides as the movie goes on and they actually become believable characters.  As usual, Johnny Remo and team deal with realistic life circumstances that really make the viewer think.  The messaging of this story is quite good.  However, though everything overall improves by the middle of the film, issues tend to be resolved too easily.  Yet in the end, despite some errors, Cutback becomes a somewhat meaningful film.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast is fairly professional, though sometimes they seem unsure and\or lazy.  They also tend to play the whole ‘dude’ thing too much, but they are mostly fine.  Emotions are believable and line delivery is average.  Thus, an average score is warranted.

Conclusion

Like many Johnny Remo movies, we would like to see a remake of Cutback.  It has the tools for success, even if they are not always applied properly.  Remo always demonstrates a special creativity and ability to craft different types of films, but he is often hampered by a collection of small errors and some poor execution.  We believe he and his team have great potential for the future as they continue to become better film makers.  We anticipate what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Bill Collector [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Lorenzo Adams is a shifty sort of fellow with a past he would rather bury.  But he thinks he has it made when his boss takes a leave of absence and puts Lorenzo in charge of his debt collection call center.  However, Lorenzo suddenly gets a visit from an old enemy who has come to collect an old debt that Lorenzo owes him.  Thus, Lorenzo uses his newfound power to concoct a scheme that he thinks will get him out of trouble easily.  Yet despite his schemes, Lorenzo finds hope in unexpected places.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The production of The Bill Collector is mostly good and above average.  Camera work and video quality are professional.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is cheesy in an attempt to be funny.  Sets and locations are fairly limited but are at least realistic.  Furthermore, the editing is not the best it could be, since there are too many musical montages.  Yet overall, this is a passable production that should be commonplace in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

In an effort to make a comedic take on the parables of the shrewd manager and the unforgiving servant (I guess), The Bill Collector tries too hard to be funny and ends up falling flat.  The comedy therein is not very good since it is too forced and sometimes out of place.  Too much time is wasted, as mentioned before, on musical montages and on silly asides that are trying to boost the comedic spirit, yet fail.  Sometimes the characters are okay, but other times they are far too cheesy.  This variability depends on their dialogue at the moment.  The ending is fairly predictable and leaves something to be desired.  Basically, while it’s always commendable to try to create a comedic parable, the writers of The Bill Collector unfortunately tried too hard with this one.  Maybe they will improve in the future.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With a semi-professional cast, these performances are split down the middle.  Half of the time the cast members act over the top, while the other half of the time they are fine.  Line delivery is respectable throughout, but emotions are variable depending on the moment.  Thus, an average score is warranted.

Conclusion

There are a lot of potentially funny moments in The Bill Collector that are unfinished.  There are too many missed opportunities left on the table.  While the writers were on to something, they didn’t really find it.  Unfortunately, this film is likely to be easily forgotten by most and to get lost in the shuffle of the many Christian films on the market.  In order to truly stand out, you have to do something that is memorable for the right reasons—something that really hits home with the audience you are trying to target.  The audience is there and they’re still waiting for greatness.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Adventures of Chris Fable {The Wylds} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Chris Fable is a thief and feels like he can’t be anything else.  He lives in a junkyard and is enslaved by a con artist, but one day, he stumbles onto an opportunity to lead a new life.  Though he is reluctant at first, he decides to take a chance and try something new.  Thus, he and his friend embark on a journey that changes their life forever.  On their way to freedom, the companions encounter weird looking bugs, loud noises, shaking trees, a freaky CGI city, and a giant stomping robot.  The question is not will they make it, but will we ever make it to end of this movie?

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

Although this film has clear video quality, this good production element is drowned out by all the utterly terrible elements that accompany it.  Camera work is awful as the screen shakes all around like someone is literally running with a camcorder.  The soundtrack is ridiculously loud and annoying, making for a nearly unbearable experience.  Sets, locations, and props are extremely cheap and special effects are positively medieval, including horrid CGI.  There are also overpowering sound effects throughout.  Finally, editing is as bad as can be expected.  Essentially, this is one of the worst productions since Final: The Rapture and warrants negative points for the horrible experience the audience is forced to endure.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The Adventures of Chris Fable is very loosely based on the concept of Pilgrim’s Progress, mostly ripping off the quest idea and some of the character names.  Yet there is basically no plot as empty, cardboard-cutout, and stereotypical characters wander from one thing to the next.  While this type of fantasy story could have been interesting, the entire storyline was written for an idea that never materialized.  Many elements, especially dialogue, are very childish and empty.  Chris Fable gives the impression that this is a kids’ movie, but it never really commits to this concept.  This indecision only makes matters worse.  In short, this film has no idea what it’s trying to go for as it pursues an obscure idea of a remake that never really comes to fruition.  Somebody needed to step back during the storyboarding (if they had any) of this film and really think about what they were doing.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This is overall an extremely poor casting job.  These cast members are mostly very juvenile and childish with no coaching.  Others are very over the top and obnoxious.  Emotions are very difficult to connect with and line delivery is stunted and awkward.  Unfortunately, there is nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

With such a low, limited budget, what exactly was the justification for attempting to create a fantasy movie that requires so many special effects?  If you don’t have the budget to make it quality, don’t try to make it halfway.  Also, if you don’t have a real story to accompany your fantasy idea and are only trying to rip off an old idea, please do not do through with it.  The biggest problem with Christian films in different genres like this one is that they stand out and get attention due to their rarity.  People watching them who do not normally watch Christian films, and this is what they’re stuck with.  How embarrassing and disheartening it must be.  We implore future film makers to learn from the mistakes seen here and never repeat them.

 

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

 

Charge Over You (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Sarah’s mother tragically dies, she begins to lose her sense of purpose in life.  Then, in a moment of weakness, she allows herself to be influenced in a dangerous way and finds herself being pursued by a dark and mysterious man who suddenly takes interest in her.  Life becomes more confusing for her when her father tells her his future plans.  She wants to believe that there is more to life than she can perceive, but as the darkness closes in, she has nowhere to turn.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For a low budget production, Charge Over You is great, though it still has some issues.  Video quality and camera work are mostly good, though the opening sequence is pretty roughly done.  The audio quality is sometimes too poor, including loud background noises, but the soundtrack is superb.  Sets and locations are realistic, but some of the inside scenes are too dark.  There also tends to be too much silence throughout, along with too many wasted sequences.  However, it is clear that thought was put into this effort as there is plenty of positive to find here, especially for a first time work.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Despite the confusing opening sequence, Charge Over You makes excellent use of flashbacks and well-constructed dialogue that is centered around the debate of logic versus spirituality.  Though this film deals with the demonic and the Satanic, it handles the issues differently than most films, although we would have liked to see a deeper storyline to accompany it.  There are great ideas embedded into this plot, but they need more development and complexity, as do all of the characters.  Dialogue ranges across many topics, but more focus is needed to give this film a sense of direction.  The mysterious elements in this film are commendable, but they also seem to waste too much time—more content was needed to make them effective.  While there is a good message in this film that is not overly-preachy, there are some cheesy characters to derail it.  Also, the ending sequence is fairly amateurish and leaves something to be desired.  In short, this is a great effort and has tons of potential; cultivating this will lead to great things.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The casting and acting are the strongest points of this film.  Though these are mostly ‘amateur’ actors and actresses, they do a great job.  Line delivery is effective and emotions are believable.  The only caveat to highlight here is some cheesy acting by one particular cast member, but it’s not enough to hurt this effort.  This portion is a job well done.

Conclusion

The CitiPointe Church team has a lot of potential and creatively waiting to be tapped into.  They handle spiritual warfare issues fairly well, though this movie is overall an unfinished idea that desperately needs a remake.  Nonetheless, this low budget production shows promise and the casting is excellent.  Therefore, it will be interesting to see if this team has any more productions planned for the future, because they could be onto something big.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

The Trial [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Kent “Mac” McClain’s wife and sons are tragically killed in a car accident, he just wants to end it all.  However, he is interrupted by a phone call and is given a new purpose by the person on the other end: to revive his law practice by taking on a special capital punishment case.  So he assembles a team and begins investigating, but the deeper he digs, the more fishy and complicated things become.  Mac soon finds himself not only fighting for the life of his defendant, but for his very own.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The good thing is that Robert Whitlow does not settle for low to average quality productions when it comes to bringing his books to the big screen.  Video quality and camera work are very professional.  Sets and locations are realistic.  Audio quality is good, although the soundtrack is pedestrian.  Finally, the editing is sometimes effective in being suspenseful, but other times it is too choppy and exposes some missing time.  It seems like there is content missing that was cut from the original take due to length.  However, this is not done very well, as will be highlighted next.  But in the end, Whitlow, Gary Wheeler, and crew know how to put together a respectable production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Whitlow clearly knows legal procedure and is the right person to be writing legal suspense.  The premise of this plot is therefore realistic and is filled with fairly believable, down-to-earth characters and pretty good dialogue.  However, as previously mentioned, there needs to be more useful content included and few melancholy scenes.  Also, Whitlow has a tendency towards overdone drama, which is also present in The Trial.  Finally, there are a few too many coincidences in this plot and a rushed cheesy end that happens because it needed to.  The cheesy villain is given too much time to monologue about their evil plan, although it’s unclear why they did what they did.  All in all, this is once again a respectable effort, but perhaps not the best Whitlow book to choose for a movie.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Acting is this film’s strongest suit as each cast member fits his or her character perfectly.  There is also a presence of clear acting coaching, which is likely the influence of Gary Wheeler, a student of the Kendrick brothers.  Although there are some minor errors that keep this section from being perfect, this casting job shows how it’s done.

Conclusion

The saddest part about this film is that, based on the market availability of Christian movies, films like The Trial seem really good.  In reality, this should be the baseline of quality, not the improvement.  While it is not good enough to be Hall of Fame, The Trial is good enough to be interesting, although it may not capture the attention of many audiences.  Gary Wheeler has a lot of potential as a creator and needs to keep trying until he makes that breakthrough to greatness.  He has great hope for the future.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

The Nativity [2010] (Movie Review)

Which way to Great Britain?
Which way to Great Britain?

Plot Summary

In some alternate universe long long ago, first century Judea looked like Europe and the Jews lived in European-style houses with glass windows.  All the Jews were of European descent and sported cockney accents.  The families of Joseph and Mary had enough money to throw parties and to eat fine food.  Everybody wore those ridiculous outfits you see in cheesy church plays and even had some makeup.  The only non-white people in their sphere were Hispanic shepherds (is this a subtle message for modern race relations?) and those Asian and African guys known as Magi.  Mary had creepy conversations with British angel guys and she and Joseph sometimes acted like a dysfunctional American couple.  The BBC historian’s personal favourite (haha) was that psychic gypsy that served as Mary’s midwife.  If you think all of this is a complete joke, you’re wrong and need to be educated by BBC, who knows far more about what really happened in the Bible than you do.  Or you can just watch this horrid viewing experience for yourself and see that I am not making any of this up.  Like seriously, this got approved.  And no, this is a not a plot summary.  This is a rant because I wanted it to be, kthxbye.

 

Production Quality (-2 points)

Did we mention that nothing about this miniseries-turned-movie is even remotely accurate to history?  Those BBC guys weren’t even trying when they put Mary in a house with glass windows.  With glass!  In first century Judea!  In fact, all of the sets are totally inaccurate to history.  The camera work and stuff like that aren’t even really that good, but they are so overshadowed by the complete and utter nonsense spewed by the remainder of this film that it doesn’t really matter.  I hate this film so bad that I gave it negative points, mostly for total disregard of reality.  So sue me if you think this isn’t a real review.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2 points)

Since when were Mary’s parents rich enough to throw even a moderate dinner party?  Since when did first century Jews have dinner parties that resembled the semi-modern Western world?  There is an infinite list of pertinent questions I could ask about this film.  What’s with the grinding planets?  Why does the Magi subplot seem like a cross between Lord of the Rings, Aladdin, and the Magi subplot from that better Nativity movie with a similar title?  Why does Mary constantly talk about being ‘bathed in light’?  What is the purpose of the Hispanic shepherd subplot?  Why do Mary and Joseph have emotionally unstable fights like a dysfunctional American couple?  Why does Mary’s invented midwife resemble a psychic?  And finally, why did BBC even make this movie?  From histrionic dialogue to historically inaccurate storylines, there are no redeeming qualities to this film and it is downright offensive.

Acting Quality (-2 points)

Screaming matches, British voices, useless conversations, oh my!  There are too many actors and actresses in this movie that I recognize from way better BBC movies, like ones that are based on those books that depict the fictional yet realistic lives of actual British characters in the 19th and 20th centuries.  We don’t have to sit here and take this garbage.  First-century Romans and Judeans were not remotely European.  The Europeans actually were the ‘bad guys’ back then, or something like that.  You’re welcome for the history lesson.

Conclusion

Some may criticize me for being so hard on this film, but seriously, if anyone else besides BBC tried to make a historical film and made it so grossly inaccurate as this one did, they would be out of a filmmaking job forever.  They would be discredited and ridiculed, kind of like what I’m doing in this review.  It’s downright offensive to totally alter historical accounts for the sake of convenience, thus a negative score is warranted.  So if you’re looking for that perfect holiday film for the whole family to enjoy, unless you like out-of-touch unrealistic portrayals of historical figures, steer clear from this one.

 

Final Rating: -6 out of 10 points

 

Island of Grace [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

While in route on a business trip, Mark, Megan, and Chris survive a plane crash in the south Pacific and find themselves stranded on an abandoned island.  Forced to fend for themselves in the wild, they wonder if anyone will ever find them.  Megan finds herself torn between the two men as she tries to conceal her Christian faith to impress Mark, even though Chris, an outspoken Christian, does not want her to.  In the end, they will all have decisions to make that will impact their lives forever.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

While the effort is nice to film at a different than usual location, namely an island, this choice actually does more harm than good.  This is mostly due to the extremely loud and constant outdoor background noise in the island scenes, which mostly consists of incessant wave and waterfall noises.  Besides this, other sets are quite limited and the usage of props is cheesy.  The video quality is below average and the camera work uninspiring.  Besides the terrible audio quality previously mentioned, the soundtrack is very pedestrian.  Finally, there is no editing present—what you see is what you get.  Despite the unique concept behind the film, there was little to no justification for this film being made.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though this plot is trying to depict a serious survival situation, this idea is treated flippantly as a majority of the movie is spent hashing out a superficial high school love triangle while on a deserted island.  Important issues are portrayed in a petty way and are overshadowed by silly relationship issues.  Thus, the content is very shallow, as is the dialogue.  Even though the plot focuses on primarily three characters for over an hour, we don’t get to know any of them very well—they are just people reciting lines and being swept along by circumstances.  There are no plot twists and the ending is as superficial as the rest of the storyline.  In short, what started out as an interesting idea quickly devolved into unimportant fluff.

Acting Quality (0 points)

With the tiny amateur cast that carries the movie on their shoulders, they needed to come through, but they did not.  Coaching is obviously absent as line delivery is very lackluster.  Emotional delivery is plastic and uninspiring.  Costuming is okay but nothing groundbreaking.  The bottom line is that this film failed in every category.

Conclusion

We kind of feel sorry for the creators of Island of Grace because they could be nice people.  Unfortunately, another film with another petty portrayal of relationships is not what the market needs, especially if it’s trying to depict a survival situation.  This genre should be gritty and suspenseful, not light and laughable.  If God gives you the opportunity to make a film, you should leave it all on the field and make a mark on the field.  This is what mainly frustrates us—film makers not taking their calling seriously, because it is certainly a calling if God has given you the opportunity to create.  Please do not take it lightly and seek to make a difference.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Holyman Undercover (Movie Review)

The Split Personality of David A. R. White
The Split Personality of David A. R. White
Nobody believes that stupid beard is real
Our reaction to this movie

Plot Summary

When Roy, a ‘young’ Amish man, supposedly turns 18, it’s time for him to go on his ‘Rumma Shpringa’, the time when all Amish ‘young’ folks go out into the world to hopefully discover how evil the world is and come running back to their drab lifestyle.  But Roy is determined to not only find his long-lost uncle, who disappeared to Hollywood on his ‘Rumma Shpringa’, but also to witness to the heathen of the world about Jesus Christ.  But what he finds instead is a cold world with no care for the things of God.  Roy finds his uncle, who advises him to jump into the show business in order to covertly share the gospel.  Roy runs into all sorts of odd characters along the way, including a producer he’s attracted to, who entices him to play Satan on a daytime soap opera.  But the further he does into the showbiz game, the more Roy finds himself compromising all he has been taught.  Which set of values will prevail?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

If Holyman Undercover has anything going for it, it does have pretty good video quality.  But that’s where the positivity ends.  Camera work is all over the place, obviously trying to be ‘funny’ and ‘comedic’.  Audio quality is fairly consistent, but cheesy sound effects interrupt it.  The sets and locations are purposely cheap-looking, and the surroundings are clownish, like they’re from a comic book.  I could go on about how the editing is poorly done, but it doesn’t really matter because it’s all purposeful.  This film was purposely created to be ridiculous, and that’s exactly what it is.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Watching Holyman Undercover is a surreal experience unlikely to be replicated by anything else—expect for Me Again.  From slurs against the Amish to blatant and rude Hispanic stereotypes to gigantic strawmen of Hollywood insiders, this film really takes the cake.  As the split personality of David A. R. White, manifested in his two-character acting role, jumps from one random schizophrenic scene to the next, the audience can only laugh and look on at this train wreck of a creation.  Yet if you look past the zany madness that is this storyline, you can see truth emerging from the cracks.  This is a wild and embellished retelling of how the Whites began their film careers.  Coming from a strict Mennonite upbringing, David A. R. White must have felt like he was confined and not allowed to create, yet his stint in Hollywood has given him a chip on his shoulder the size of Kansas (pun intended) that makes him feel like the entire world is against Christians.  But in his usual extreme black and white thinking, the false dichotomy between overly strict Christians and hopelessly evil ‘worldly’ people is far outside of reality.  There is nothing real about this plot, and we believe that it was never intended to be real.  This is a sick satire, borne from the damaged emotions of David A. R. White, yet it is a window into what makes him tick.  But in the midst of trying to be over-the-top hilarious, there is zero coherency to this madness.  It would certainly be one thing if this creative wonder had a consistent thought across the continuum, but it does not.  There is no understanding of what and why goes on, or what is coming next.  It’s basically an embarrassing failed attempt at parody.  On the flipside, it’s a shame that a drug commercial satire idea got wasted in this movie.  Otherwise, Holyman Undercover can be seen as nothing more than a big joke that wasted over a million dollars.

Acting Quality (-1.5 points)

This clownish bunch of cast members is only lacking in Tommy Blaze, Morgan Fairchild, and David Blamy.  The actors and actresses have obviously been instructed to act as zany and stereotypical as possible, from the mentally ill ‘uncle’ David A. R. White, to the robotically mindless Andrea Logan White, to the histrionic Jennifer Lyons, to the egotistical Fred Willard, etc., etc.  Also, nothing beats Carey Scott trying to be a European maître d’.  David A. R. White has basically let himself out of the box in this one and acts as maniacal as he possibly can.  There is truly no seriousness here and a lot of lines seem adlibbed.  Emotions are blown out of proportion and line delivery is either lazy or forced.

Conclusion

The mind boggles as to how and why the Whites acquire so much money for films like this one.  Just think—what if the million and a half dollars blown on this train wreck was put toward a film that actually needed it, one that could have actually used the money for something good.  This is perhaps the real travesty with this film and with PureFlix in general.  Sinking millions of dollars into dead end films designed to make fun of stereotypes is a terrible use of God’s blessings.  This is why we continue to call the White and PureFlix out: wasted money and wasted potential.  Hopefully, one day, the tide will finally change and Christian movies will be something to be proud of.

 

Final Rating: -2 out of 10 points

What Would Jesus Do? (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a down-on-his-luck pastor encounters a mysterious drifter who wants his help, the pastor is unsure of how he is to respond.  Mired in his own self-pity, the pastor lets the drifter pass on by.  As the drifter makes his way around the small California town searching for someone to help him, he only meets distrust and resistance.  The people of the town are all hurting and struggling in different ways, and it seems like the upstart mayoral candidate’s plans to bring a casino to town is the only hope.  But one day, the ‘few’ Christians that are ‘still faithful’ are forced to take a good look at the lives they are living when the drifter collapses in the middle of a worship service.  From there, the Christians must decide whether or not they are going to live their life by the slogan ‘What Would Jesus Do?’

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

All\KKO Productions were never much for investing money in films.  We completely understand that far too often, funding for Christian films is scarce and hard to come by, but if you’re going to make a movie, there’s no point in propping up a cut-rate production, because no enough people are going to watch and enjoy it, unless other elements, such as the plot, are very profound.  WWJD falls in line with many low quality Christian productions before and after it, sporting the typical symptoms of the same old malaise: poor video quality, cheap camera work, inconsistent sound quality, and the like.  The sets are very sloppy and the surroundings are glaringly low budget.  The soundtrack is one part Hallmark and another part indie worship band.  Finally, we have to question whether or not the editing department knew what they were doing with this film, as the plot zings all over the place, trying to land on and amplify in-your-face Christian elements.  In short, this production barely keeps its head above the water of zero points, but not by much.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With seemingly good motives, WWJD is actually the most disjointed plot we have ever seen.  Sporting an infinite cast of shallow caricatures with laughable dialogue, this vastly meandering storyline is enough to make your head spin.  From a bumbling-borderline-creepy drifter to a depressed burned-out pastor to an awkward amateur ‘musician’ to a generic realtor to a scrupulous newspaper editor to a cartoonish political villain…the list of characters goes on and on and on.  There are numerous other peripheral characters, but you get the point.  Each character is complete with bizarre one-liners there are intended to be serious but instead come off as comical.  Strawman issues facing modern Christians (churches shutting down, casinos being built in suburban areas, evil realtors buying up low income housing, spreading rumors in the media) are presented and quickly fixed as the characters diverge to either become perfect slogan-spouting Christians or hopelessly wicked power-hungry snakes.  Everyone is either transformed into a do-gooder when a drifter collapses in the middle of a church service or is condemned to live a life of forever evil.  What’s more, this ‘plot’ limps along on childishly unrealistic elements, such as a church taking care of a sick man rather than a hospital.  By the end, this film will be trying to sell you cheap WWJD gear that makes you a better Christian (not kidding).  In short, the intent of this movie is beyond our comprehension; all we know is that it’s a mockery of Christian film—again.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is essentially John Schneider and a whole host of amateurs, all of which are provided zero acting coaching.  Line delivery is awkward and emotions are either nonexistent or forced.  Positivity is overplayed; sometimes people are very over-excited to the point of embarrassment.  Lines that are meant to be serious come off all wrong and appear comedic.  Basically, if you watched Decision and Lukewarm, you get the picture of what the acting is like.

Conclusion

What else can be said that hasn’t already been said?  Between Decision, Lukewarm, and the WWJD trilogy, All\KKO Productions has really done a number on the reputation of Christian movies.  The real question is this: the message of asking what Jesus would do in every circumstance that faces us as Christians is highly important, but who is going to watch this movie to learn that?  Even if someone did watch this movie, they are highly unlikely to either be converted to Christianity or to be inspired in their faith.  Since neither of these objectives is accomplished, what’s the point of making a half-cocked, cheap, and downright embarrassing production?  We implore future film makers to take notice.  Make a difference in Christian film, not another thrift store reject.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

Mandie and the Cherokee Treasure (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Against the wishes of her Uncle John, Mandie Shaw and her friends decide to ‘assist’ him in his quest to find a hidden cave containing lost Cherokee treasure.  But when they stow away on a train for their adventure, Mandie and her friends soon discover that they are not the only ones after the coveted goods.  A mysterious mountain man (?) and two troublemakers are also searching for the cave for their own purposes.  If they are ever going to keep the treasure from falling into the wrong hands, Mandie and her friends will need to procure a scrubber (?) and brave bats and low oxygen levels in the secret mine shaft, using only memorized poetry from some old map to guide them.  Will they be able to get the treasure for themselves or will it fall into the wrong hands?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

It must be noted that Mandie and the Cherokee Treasure is worse than the first installment, Mandie and the Secret Tunnel.  This isn’t good at all for the production team, considering Secret Tunnel wasn’t that great to begin with.  More corners are cut in Cherokee Treasure and the strained budget is painfully obvious.  With such low funding, was this movie even worth making?  The only positive about the production is the diverse sets.  The camera work is amateurish, the video quality is sub-par, and the sound quality is inconsistent.  Background noises litter the landscape, especially in outside scenes.  The soundtrack is hideous and there are obvious continuity errors, such as characters doing one thing before a cut and then doing something different after the cut.  There is an overall unrealistic feel to the movie, including poorly constructed scenes.  The editing is hard to follow, making the storyline confusing.  In short, it’s really hard to even justify the existence of this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The original novels of Lois Gladys Leppard have been marred by the movie adaptations.  The only shred of positive in the plot is the slightly interesting twist at the end of this film.  Otherwise, it’s unbearable.  Characters are more ridiculous than ever, with childish dialogue and stupid portrayals.  The characters are obvious, exaggerated, and stereotypical.  The storyline is nonsensical and is historically and technologically questionable.  There is no real driving purpose to this movie; the Christian message is either watered down or made to look clownish.  As previously mentioned, the story is hard to follow, defies logic, and isolates the audience into either boredom or light comic relief.  Whatever the writers were going for is unclear; this plot should have never left the storyboarding stage, if they had one.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This film ranks among the worst casting\coaching jobs in Christian film making, flirting with the possibility of negative points.  Line delivery is either lazy or completely overdone.  Emotions are exaggerated to the point of making the viewer believe this is a satire.  Perhaps the most ridiculous element to the acting is the fact that the audience is supposed to believe at first that one of the characters is a man, when they are obviously a woman with terrible acting skills.  It is ‘shockingly’ revealed later that this character was just pretending, but only after everyone has figure it out.

Conclusion

If the creators of this movie were going for a clown show to make fun of the original books, it worked.  If they were not intentionally making a satire, then the creative team needs to seriously reconsider their calling in life and think about how their film making comes off.  It would have been better for movies like this to have never been made, because such films only further contribute to the laughingstock of independent Christian films.  Quality always, always, always matters more than quantity.  Were half of all Christian films never made, we would all be very grateful, especially if we missed out on gems like this one.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

The Grace Card (Movie Review)

agr

gossett

Plot Summary

Police officer Mac McDonald has big plans for his future career, but his entire life crashed down the day that his son was killed in an accident involving racial violence and drugs.  With his life in a tailspin, Mac’s family and work environment feel the effects of his newfound anger towards the world.  But he especially directs his anger at African-American criminals, further contributing to the racial divide in the community.  However, when Mac is paired up with Sam Wright, a popular African American police officer and part-time pastor, he is reluctantly forced to take a look at the basis for his racial hatred—is he angry at African-Americans or at God?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

At first glance, it seems like The Grace Card had time and money spent on its production.  The video is clear and the sound quality is pretty good.  The musical score is intriguing, but there are still some minor issues that plague the film.  The camera work is good in some parts, but not good in other parts.  Some of the action scenes are a bit shaky.  The sound quality of some of the action scenes is also inconsistent.  Lighting is good in some scenes, but not in others.  The sets and locations are slightly limited.  But at the same time, some scenes and elements of production seem well constructed.  Overall, the production quality comes out as average due to inconsistency.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

This is an excellent topic to discuss via a Christian movie—the racial divide in most American cities combined with tense relations between police and racial minorities.  From the beginning, it is unfortunately obvious where the plot is going to go, but at least the journey is interesting.  The Grace Card mostly stays away from stereotypes, an important factor in this type of film, but some of the characters are a bit too obvious.  The dialogue is mostly thought-provoking and balances out the action sequences.  However, it seems like these characters could have been deeper than they were.  Also, there are some seemingly unnecessary parts in the plot, including scenes in which it is difficult to tell what’s going on.  Overall, the storyline is above average, but once again, little issues keep it from being all that it could be.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting in The Grace Card is neither obviously great nor obviously bad.  Each actor and actress seems to be cast into their respective roles very well.  There is obviously cast diversity.  Yet it feels like these actors and actresses could be more than they are in this film.  Their potential needed to be drawn out more.  Therefore, the ultimate outcome of this movie is average.

Conclusion

The Grace Card is a great start for a new film making team.  It exhibits an important issue that needs to be tackled and confronted in every area of Christian culture.  But we could not help but watch The Grace Card and wish for something more.  Nonetheless, it is definitely something to build off of for the future.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Voyage of the Dawn Treader [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Left in England while their parents and siblings settle in their new home in America, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie are restless and not interested in continuing to be under the same roof as their obnoxious cousin Eustace Scrubb.  But it seems as though Aslan has other plans when he unexpectedly calls them back to Narnia, along with Eustance, for a unique mission—accompany King Caspian and the crew of the Narnia ship Dawn Treader in a quest to see what is beyond the Lone Islands and to retrieve lost friends of Caspian’s father.  Edmund and Lucy are sure that their past Narnian experience will help them excel, but what they do not realize is that the mysterious enemy they face on the high seas is unlike any enemy they have ever faced before.  In order to win, they must protect their minds and come to grips with who they really are as people.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

This movie franchise’s breakup with Disney was perhaps the best thing that ever happened to it.  However, since they retained Walden Media for this installment, the production quality remains high and even improves.  The video and sound quality are excellent.  The camera work is masterful.  Difficult action scenes are filmed with skill.  The editing is flawless.  The special effects are very professional and do not show any hints of being cheap.  In short, there is nothing negative say about Dawn Treader’s production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)

The original plot of C. S. Lewis’ work of fiction was honestly not that great on its face, but this film adaptation dramatically improves upon the book without losing the original message.  In fact, a more powerful message is provided.  The same plot elements are used and are rearranged in a better order so that they each serve a better purpose.  Another improvement from the both the book and the first two Narnia movies is that the character development is bettered through more creative and interesting dialogue.  Too many fantasy stories treat the characters as pawns to move around with imaginary elements, but Dawn Treader defies this trend.  There are plenty of plot twists in this film, along with cool psychological elements.  The end is not exactly predictable, even if you have read the book.  It is rare that you find a book adaptation film that actually improves upon the novel, but Dawn Treader changes up this narrative.  In summary, we could not find anything negative here.

Acting Quality (3 points)

This is the best cast Narnia movie to date.  Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, and Ben Barnes reprise as their former roles and are each better than in their previous films.  Will Poulter is a masterful casting choice for Eustace; he becomes the very essence of the original character.  Once again, there are no errors to point out.

Conclusion

This movie receives half of an x-factor point for having a meaningful and little-mentioned underlying worldview.  Unfortunately, it cannot receive the full x-factor point because it is not explicitly Christian, even though there are plenty of redemptive elements.  However, this is the only negative thing that can be mentioned about Dawn Treader.  After a success and a misfire at the beginning of the new Narnia franchise, Douglas Gresham and company have finally arrived with their third installment.  It brings the whole package and stands as a unique sort of movie that has the ability to reach many different types of audiences.  Christian film-makers everywhere can learn a lesson from Dawn Treader about reaching multiple audiences at once, bridging new movie genres, and creating a high quality film that is worth elevating to Hall of Fame status.

 

Final Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points

The Encounter [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Nick, Melissa, Hank, Catherine, and Kayla are all strangers to each other until they are forced to meet up at a quaint diner due to road closures one stormy night.  Each has their own story and hurts, but the last thing they expect is to meet the mysterious owner of the diner, who calls himself Jesus.  He knows many things about them that no one else knows but he actually demonstrates true care for them, something many of them have never experienced.  Each of them must make the most important choice of their lives—will they listen to the words of Jesus or will they turn away?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The production pretty much derails this movie from the get go.  For starters, the movie is purposely designed to have extremely limited sets—the movie only takes place a very small amount outside, partly inside vehicles, partly inside flashback locations, mostly inside the makeshift diner, and yes, inside the diner’s bathroom.  The video quality is quite grainy and the camera work shaky.  The sound quality is inconsistent.  The only redeeming production quality is the editing, even though there is very little content to work with.  In short, it would have done this movie wonders to have better production quality.  With such a small cast and so few sets, there are no excuses to have such poor production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Although the encounter with Jesus in modern times is not really a new plot, there is nothing inherently wrong with this particular rendition.  The characters are pretty good and the flashbacks effectively enhance them, but once again, with so few characters, there was more time to develop them, yet this was not done.  This sort of small scale plot depends entirely on the characters, and since the characters are just average, it’s not good enough.  We needed to know more about these characters besides their favorite foods, their occupations, their parents, and their surface struggles.  Again, the flashbacks are great, but more is needed.  The spiritual\psychological elements in the plot are interesting, but the devil character is very cheesy.  In short, this plot concept had a lot of potential—especially if more psychological elements had been explored—that was not brought to the surface.  The final result is just a stock plot.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast seems better than a lot of PureFlix casts; even though there is really no acting coaching, the actors and actresses do a pretty good job by themselves.  However, like the rest of this movie, more is needed.  Similar to how the characters carry this sort of small scale plot, the actors and actresses are vital.  Unfortunately, there is just not enough positive here.

Conclusion

Though David A. R. White is the director of The Encounter, he does not insert his usual cheesy flavor.  But at the same time, dynamic elements are not present.  The tools are there, but they are not picked up and used.  The Encounter had the possibility to showcase a unique movie genre, but it was left hanging.  This film likely joins a group of Christian films that deserve a remake.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

What If… [2010] (Movie Review)

flnandcantgetup

wlkg

Plot Summary

In a moment of decision that altered his life’s course forever, Ben Walker left his chance to go into full-time ministry and marry his longtime girlfriend behind and instead entered the cutthroat business world to pursue a six-figure salary.  He achieved the salary and snagged a fiancée that looked good next to him, but he never found something to satisfy the emptiness within.  Hence, his car is hijacked by a mysterious tow truck driver who claims to be an angel and Ben is transported to an alternate timeline where he gets to live as if he had married his old girlfriend and gone into full-time ministry.  Unable to escape his alternate life, Ben is forced to play along and discover what the true meaning of life is.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

There are really no production errors to speak of in What If…  The camera work is professional and the editing is straightforward.  It is difficult to pull this type of plot without including cheesy production elements, but What If… avoids these pitfalls.  The sets are diverse and there are no video or sound quality errors.  The soundtrack is effective.  This film takes the route of not committing errors and while it does not do anything dynamic, it also does not turn off the viewer.  This is a well-done production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

While there is nothing original with this sort of parallel universe plot, this rendition is a good one.  The plot twists are minor but the dialogue is good.  The characters are believable, as are most of the events of the plot.  There are some predictable elements and while the overall plot is quite simple, there are once again few errors committed.  There is truly funny humor throughout that is not overdone.  The only caveat here is the confusing end that seems to force a certain conclusion to occur.  Otherwise, this is a very good plot.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

In keeping with the theme of this movie, the acting is good without detracting from the overall movie.  This is perhaps Kevin Sorbo’s best lead role.  John Ratzenberger is cast very well.  The only issue Box Office Revolution has with the acting in What If… is the fact that there is no excellent acting, just great acting.  But when considering many Christian films, this is truly an accomplishment.

Conclusion

What If… is a Christian film that is recommendable and may even appeal to some non-Christian audiences.  In a field of poorly production Christian films, What If… stands out.  It is created well enough to join the ranks of the best Christian movies.  Christian film makers should delve deeper into these types of psychological genres without falling into typical plot patterns.  What If… can be an example to follow.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points