No Lost Cause (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After BethAnn is the victim of a car wreck, she is left paralyzed and angry at the world.  She feels like God hates her, and she definitely does not want to go live with her Christian father.  She is also angry that she is now behind in school.  BethAnn feels like her life has no meaning, but her father and his farm hand help her see otherwise.  Only when BethAnn is able to forgive the man who put her in the wheelchair will she be able to move to a new place in life.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, No Lost Cause has a mostly average production.  This is evident in the fine video quality, yet the camera work and audio quality are inconsistent, including a generic soundtrack and some echoing audio.  Sets, props, and locations are somewhat limited to a few options.  However, there is improvement to these issues as the film goes on.  Editing is fairly standard, which overall rounds out an overall average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While this film is an interesting attempt to develop realistic characters with realistic struggles, it definitely does not go deep enough.  Dialogue stays around the surface rather than showing character motives, back stories, and personalities.  The premise is also somewhat limited and needed deeper characters to sustain it.  This is a nice idea with a slight amount of potential, but it needed definite upgrading.  Also, the romantic subplot is too predictable and shallow.  The characters arcs that are created are far too steep and suggest that being a good person will automatically heal you of physical ailments.  Further, the ending and resolution of problems are too rushed and unrealistic.  Thus, this idea could really use a rewrite.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While there are some moments of over-acting, including some forced emotions and lines, most of the members of this small cast are trying to be realistic and interesting in their characters, even if they didn’t have much to work with.  There are some awkward moments and a few random outbursts, but on the whole, this is an above average effort.

Conclusion

No Lost Cause is a good first-time film as it keeps things simple and doesn’t try to go too far outside of its bounds.  Even still, since this is a character-driven plot, it would have been much better to see deeper characters through more substantial dialogue and clearer character motivations.  However, perhaps this creative team still has better things in store.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

3 Blind Saints (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sam, Jamal, and Frankie are usually up to no good as they wander around the country, hopping from one money-making scheme to another.  However, they end up stuck in a small town in the Midwest when they get on the wrong side of the local law enforcement.  When they are about to be sentenced by the local judge, the local powerful businessman steps in to save them—in exchange for their services as his puppet pastors of the local church.  All they have to do is please the congregation and collect enough money for a month, and then they can be on their way.  However, things never really work out that simply in forced comedy films.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Surprisingly, 3 Blind Saints has a considerably good production, especially for a film with a digit in the title.  It checks all the right boxes, including video quality, camera work, lighting, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is as goofy as can be expected, and sets, locations, and props are mostly standard.  The editing is minorly choppy, but on the whole, this is a high quality production on paper, which garners a substantial amount of points.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Talk abut checking all the boxes—3 Blind Saints fulfills basically every criterion of a cheesy and predictable comedy premise that involves a collection of troubled non-Christian characters who are forced to lead a church, even though they have no idea what they are doing.  There is nothing new or creative about this idea, and this story rushes by so quickly that it seems like the writers are trolling.  The comedy therein is very forced and zany, including off-the-wall jokes, dialogue, and displays of idiocy.  As previously mentioned, the plot progression is so steep that it sometimes makes fun of itself as it hits all of the typical plot points, including a cheesy romantic subplot, an inclusion of goofy locals, and a quick turnaround of the troubled protagonists.  This goes without mentioning the generally childish feel to the film, as well as the shallow Christianity and the bizarre portrayal of God.  Some sequences come off like Mel Gibson’s acid trips, thus warranting some negative points for this section.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast seems to be in on the trolling as they act over the top and try way too hard to be funny.  There is, however, untapped potential with some of the cast members, and there are also a handful of good moments that keep this section from being useless.  However, for the most part, emotions and behaviors are overplayed and mostly annoying.

Conclusion

3 Blind Saints feels like a cheap attempt to get some attention from the Christian audience.  It can almost be passed off as a big joke, but it bears too close of a resemblance to some Christian movies that are supposed to be serious.  Whatever the creators of this film were going for, they mostly failed—perhaps on purpose.  Either way, it’s really quite pointless.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Under Jakob’s Ladder (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jakob is a former Communist teacher, but he was relieved of his position when he began dissenting from the Communist ideals.  After talking about Jesus at a friend’s funeral, he and several others of various Christian sects are rounded up and locked in a Communist dungeon to be starved and psychologically tortured into submission to the Communist rule.  However, Jakob leans on God for strength and helps the men he is locked up with to find common ground and faith in God, even in the darkest times.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Under Jakob’s Ladder is a mostly under-funded independent project, so its collection of production errors is understandable.  For one, the opening sequence is unusually produced with several disorienting features.  Also, there is some poor lighting throughout, and the sets and locations are severely limited.  However, there are some attempts at realistic and historical props, and the soundtrack is good throughout.  Moreover, the use of black and white flashbacks is a bit off, as is the unnecessary use of slow motion.  Editing could use a little work as well, but there is some improvement throughout the film that is enough to make this production average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

From the beginning and on into the movie until the end, there is annoying and echoing narration that forces the plot along in completely unnecessary fashion.  Regardless of this, however, this is a very intriguing true story that could have been a true war epic had it been presented in a different way.  Despite some of the odd flashbacks, some of them are normal and very good at providing insight into character motives.  However, there are a lot of meandering ideas in this film that do not come to full fruition, such as the creative chess themes.  There are also some parts that are too dramatic, and the plot overall needs better organization and focus, as well as better character development through deeper dialogue.  Moreover, the ending is very interesting and thought-provoking; it could have been even more impactful if the leadup was more palatable.  Unfortunately, while this story had a lot going for it, there was a lot of potential wasted here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While this film’s creators were definitely putting effort into the realistic costuming, the obviously unnatural accents need a bit of refinement.  There is definitely a lot of potential in this cast as their performances demonstrate effort and care, even if some cast members can be too drab and underwhelming at times.  Nevertheless, their performances are enough to make this section average.

Conclusion

The idea behind Under Jakob’s Ladder is definitely worth a remake.  Though this film was not funded as well as it could have been, this strong plot idea could have come through a bit better than it did.  This was a character-based plot, so we needed deep characters with strong motives and back stories, which we almost got.  Unfortunately, this rendition fell short of high marks.  Perhaps one day we will see a new version created.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

A Mile in His Shoes (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Arthur Murphy manages a minor league baseball team, and he is obsessed with discovering the best talent no one else has discovered yet.  Thus, when he stumbles upon Mickey Tussler, a young adult with autism, and sees his raw pitching skills, Arthur tries to recruit him immediately.  After convincing his fundamentalist and over-protective father to let Mickey try, Arthur takes him back to the team, where Mickey makes a difference in each of their lives, even Arthur’s.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The Nasser brothers have had an unusual film career, but they usually are committed to fine production quality.  A Mile in His Shoes is no different, as it has good video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is adequate, and a commitment to historical authenticity is evident in the good use of sets, locations, and props.  The only issue to point out here is the fairly choppy editing that hampers the plot presentation.  However, in the end, this is not enough to hold this production back from being above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

A Mile in His Shoes is another one of those sports movies that is based on a good true story, yet it is not handled as well as it could have been.  This is mainly because the characters therein are too shallow and not realistic enough.  They tend to just be stand-ins for plot points rather than real people with real lives.  Elsewhere, the storyline presentation is too pedestrian and standard.  Also, the Christian message is too vague.  As usual for sports films, the plot is replete with montages, and the story is framed as an against-all-odds plot progression.  However, although there are a few too many unnecessary asides that waste time, there are plenty of realistic life circumstances in this plot that keep this section from being zero, even if the ending is too predictable.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While Dean Cain is usually a damper on the casts he’s involved in because of his annoying demeanors, pretty much all of the other cast members of this film are fine.  For the most part, this cast shows emotions and delivers lines appropriately and adequately, and each cast member is cast well.  In short, this rounds out an overall average effort.

Conclusion

All in all, the average rating fits this movie well.  It is easy and safe to choose an inspirational and true sports story to make a pedestrian film out of, especially one made for TV.  However, it takes greatness and dynamic creativity to make these sorts of stories into truly memorable films.  Otherwise, they are just too easily forgotten.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Footprints [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When David Hyler loses everything, he almost gives up on life—that is, until he meets Cadie the German Shepherd.  Cadie changes his outlook on life and shows him that God has a plan for all of His creatures.  Not only does Cadie protect David and his family, but she also heals the lives of others with her presence.  Even though Cadie was abused and left for dead, her second chance on life makes a difference everywhere she goes.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Although this production had something going for it, it doesn’t go quite enough to be dynamic.  Errors like long black and white flashbacks and very poor and distant audio quality hold it back from being what it could have been.  There are also too many background noises, along with a cheesy soundtrack.  However, other elements are fine, including video quality and camera work, except for the odd use of zooms throughout.  Sets, locations, and props are appropriate and realistic.  Editing has some issues, however, including some odd cuts and transitions.  On the whole, this production ends up being average, but it really should have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though this is a nice, touching true story, this plot really doesn’t have the substance necessary to make us interested in its contents or sympathetic to the characters therein.  Character development is stunted by extended and heavy-handed narration.  Dialogue isn’t substantial enough, even though there are some interesting attempts to develop characters through flashbacks.  However, there isn’t really much conflict to contend with here, and the storyline is too focused on being all about the dog.  There is also a laughable and forced persecution subtext that can hardly be taken seriously.  In the end, this plot suffers for lack of meaningful content.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Much like the production, while this cast had a lot going for it, they can’t seem to close the deal.  They begin with forceful emotions and line delivery, as well as some unnatural acting and sequences of juvenile arguing.  Although there is some improvement throughout, it’s not enough to bring this section above average, which tends to be the story of this film.

Conclusion

True story films almost always mean well, but too much of the time, they get lost in translation.  It’s great to portray real life stories in movies, but this isn’t the way to make an impact.  In order for movies like this one to be dynamic, they need flawless production and acting, along with deep characters and a complex storyline.  Otherwise, like Footprints, they fall by the wayside and are easily forgotten.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Glass Window {The Troubadour} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Stuart Wright is a successful businessman in New York, but the untimely death of his father grinds his fast-paced life to a halt.  Confused about his direction in life, he decides to visit his father’s favorite place in the Bahamas to try to clear his head.  However, all he ends up doing is drinking himself to sleep.  One morning, he wakes up in another man’s makeshift house, and this man proceeds to change Stuart’s outlook on life by sharing with him the true love of Christ.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Unfortunately, The Glass Window begins as a fairly rough production.  This includes some shaky camera work and inconsistent lighting.  There are also some odd sound effects and cheap sets and locations at first.  The soundtrack is generic, and there are several disorienting flashbacks in the beginning.  However, this production makes a concerted effort to improve as it goes on, especially when it comes to the international locations and cinematography.  Camera work calms down, as do the sound effects.  Further, the editing is relatively fine throughout.  In the end, this is an average production due to the latter improvements.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Much like the production, this story begins very predictably with a city character who is forced to return to his backwoods small town that contains all of the cliched elements and dialogue imaginable from this concept.  It’s also basically another prodigal character plot, and it contains several Bible verse clichés.  However, this trend totally changes up in the middle as the story turns into something totally different.  There are many interesting ideas contained within the second half of this plot, even though are somewhat randomly presented.  The Christian message is very good, but it tends to be a bit spoon-fed.  There are very interesting parallels here, but they need deepening.  Also, there are some plot holes in the second half due to the wasted time in the early parts of the film.  Nevertheless, it is a very creative idea with a slightly unexpected end that is likely worth a watch.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Once again, the acting begins fairly rough as the cast members tend to be stiff, overly practiced, and stoic at first.  However, they demonstrate good effort and definitely improve in all aspects in the second half of the movie.  Emotions are mostly realistic throughout, thus making for a good section.  In the end, it many ways, it seems like this film was made in two halves by totally different teams.

Conclusion

The Glass Window joins the ranks of Christian films that contain ideas that are worthy of a remake.  It’s obvious that this creative team has a lot of potential and just needed some further direction when starting this film.  They definitely knew where they wanted to go, but they had trouble starting the journey.  However, they showed that improvement in the middle was possible, which also shows potential for the future.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Christmas Lodge (Movie Review)

Love finds you at a Christmas lodge

Plot Summary

Mary Tobin loves her family’s Christmas Lodge out in the country, away from the big city, but with her grandfather dying, she is told by the lodger’s caretaker that the family business is in trouble if thing don’t turn around fast.  Mary drags her city boyfriend out to the lodge, who hates it there, which prompts Mary to begin falling for the caretaker of the lodge, since he likes the outdoors and stuff.  Will they be able to save the lodge together?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As usual for this type of film, Christmas Lodge has a typically fine production.  This include good video and audio quality, even though there are some random moments of shaky camera work.  The soundtrack is fairly standard.  Sets and locations are mostly limited to a handful of options, perhaps due to the plot’s limited scope.  Props are fine, however, and the editing is surprisingly okay.  In the end, Christmas Lodge is a very run-of-the-mill, standard production that is commonplace in the Christmas genre.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As if this plot idea has never been done before, here is another go at it!  It is a predictable return the hometown plot to find a forced romance in the hometown instead of the alternative yet unreasonable ‘city’ relationship storyline.  Also, a save the bed and breakfast plot is shoved into it as well, along with some typical holiday stuff.  Though there is a lot of stereotypical hometown dialogue, and though the characters are basically flat, there are some attempts here to at least make them realistic.  Also, though this is a slightly more realistic version of this plot idea, everything revolves around the lodge and is much too formulaic.  The Christian message is vague, and there are too many cheesy romantic conventions, including a juvenile conflict that is fixed in the last five minutes.  At this point, all we can ask is how many more of these will be made?

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Surprisingly, the acting is the strongest point of this film.  The cast members appear to be comfortable in their roles and are definitely above average in their performances.  There are just some minor errors to point out, mostly due to some underwhelming performances.  However, it must be considered that there was not much content to work with here.  Considering this, the acting work is great.

Conclusion

Christmas Lodge is just a very safe and typical holiday film that plays on the television in the background.  On paper, it is a strong film, but it is certainly not a dynamic one.  If you’re going to use this worn out plot line, there are still better things you can do with it, such as craft deep and complex characters through realistic and character-building dialogue.  However, it’s also easy to settle for another stock Christmas movie.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Rogue Saints (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Nick and Dylan have always been best friends, but they lost connection for several years.  Now they have restarted their friendship after years of traveling, and they have a plan to pull off the ultimate heist to get rich.  Rumor has it that a valuable diamond is hidden beneath a certain church, so Nick and Dylan decide they need to be the one to unearth it and collect the prize.  However, they will have to invent a clever cover story in order to gain access to what they need to find the diamond.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For a relatively small-time church film, Rogue Saints is a surprisingly efficient production.  This is most notable in the interesting and well-constructed sets, locations, and props.  Video quality, camera work, audio quality, and are also all what they should be.  The soundtrack is unique and creative.  The biggest issues to raise here pertain to some oddly unnecessary elements, such as an overuse of split screens and juvenile animation overlays throughout the production.  The editing is also quite wild and sometimes schizophrenic.  But on the whole, this is a one-of-a-kind production that is at least above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While this story is trying to be different in some ways, in others way, it is not so different.  There are slight attempts at creativity, even if the premise is somewhat flimsy.  The comedy is at least partially funny, even if it is somewhat formulaic and predictable.  The progression of the plot is also basically predictable and contains stereotypical characters that could use some upgrading through more developed and meaningful dialogue.  There aren’t really any twists as this storyline is basically linear.  However, there is definitely a lot of potential here, and Rogue Saints is certainly a good start in the comedy genre for future reference.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast mostly contains ‘amateurs,’ they are actually fairly professional.  They certainly have their quirky moments and can tend to overdo the comedy at times, but as a whole, this is a respectable performance.  Emotions and line delivery are each what they should be.  This completes an overall average effort by this freshman film effort.

Conclusion

There aren’t many films that are comparable to Rogue Saints, which is a fact that is both good and bad.  It is a unique film and shows a lot of potential for the future, if they choose to go further in film making.  This is where new film makers should begin rather than in the basement of Christian film.  Even so, this movie is a good blueprint for how to begin in Christian movie making, but hopefully it is not where creative teams will get stuck.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Christmas With a Capital C (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dan Reed is just a nice Christian mayor of a small Alaskan town, but when his old high school rival\friend, Mitch Bright, comes to town, Mitch just wants to mess up Christmas for everybody.  Mitch is mad that Dan took his girl in high school, so Mitch decides to take it out on Dan by suing the town for having a manger scene on public property.  Will the war on Christmas never end?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In keeping with most PureFlix films, Christmas With a Capital C is mostly fine, including good video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The soundtrack is what one can expect from a Christmas film.  Some sets are limited, but there are some good outdoor locations that redeem this.  The prop choices are mostly fine, but there is a slight over-abundance of Christmas décor.  Furthermore, there is one too many montages in this film, yet the editing is mostly standard.  In the end, this production is just one of those assembly line PureFlix deals.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With so many cooks in the crowded PureFlix plot kitchen, Christmas With a Capital C has a little bit of everything in it.  For the most part, it contains every cheesy war-on-Christmas and fake persecution cliché you can possibly shove into one movie.  The film mostly takes up arms in the religion freedom battle in a small town by using propaganda about the opposing side, but there are some surprising moments of sanity when some characters wisely suggest that maybe fighting for manger scenes on public property isn’t going to save people.  However, this is quickly derailed again by cheesy and formulaic subplots, including juvenile romances, that are driven by obnoxious characters and manufactured dialogue.  Unfortunately, any good that was meant in this film is covered up with madness.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This film has another one of those crazy PureFlix casts that is memorable for the wrong reasons, even though it doesn’t contain the usual suspects.  Ted McGinley is his usual fake self, while Brad Stine takes the opportunity to adlib in over the top and unhinged ways.  For some reason, Nancy Stafford allowed herself to be dragged into this nonsense, yet she is always a standout.  Other cast members are also fine and make up for the loony moments that dominate the performances.

Conclusion

Why do we need to constantly roll out movies that ‘fight’ against ‘political correctness’ and try to ‘win back’ religious freedom?  Since when does not being able to display a manger scene on government property persecution?  What if a Muslim ideal was displayed on government property?  One character points out the futility of fighting this fight in light of trying to spread the gospel to people who are hurting, and this contribution is no doubt the sanity of Andrea Nasfell.  However, any good she wanted to accomplish in this movie is drowned out by the militant agenda of PureFlix.  As long as Christian leaders continue to prioritize fighting for political power and influence over doing the real work of Christ, culture will continue to go in the opposite direction.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Surrendered: The Story of Jay Harding (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jay Harding is tired of the way some of his family members pretend like everything is okay in their lives.  He is tired of family not acting the way he wants them to, especially when his kids sing in the car.  He feels like he works hard at his small business to provide for his family, but he feels like nobody every appreciates him.  Therefore, he decides that the only way to fix his family is to buy a bigger and more expensive house.  Little does Jay know that he will have to learn to surrender before things will change.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Surrendered is unfortunately another one of those films that PureFlix picked up in their earlier days that probably should not have been distributed.  This production has too much shaky camera work, even though there is clear video quality throughout.  There are too many odd zooms.  Audio quality is also inconsistent, and the soundtrack is too loud at times.  Sets, locations, and props are cheap and limited.  Further, the editing is fairly choppy and makes for a confusing presentation of events.  Unfortunately, there is very little good to say about this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This story is dominated by an extremely immature character that, while it’s unfortunately realistic, only makes this plot a slightly embarrassing unintentional comedy.  While there may be a good message in here somewhere, it comes off as shallow and empty.  There are some ‘perfect’ Christian characters that are equally as annoying as the lead due to their overuse of platitudes.  Nearly all of the dialogue from all the characters is very juvenile.  As the storyline meanders along and tosses in some random Christmas concepts, there is tons of wasted time and heavy-handed narration to tie things together.  An attempt is made at the end to pull the film up from the nose dive, but this isn’t enough to mitigate the overall train wreck.

Acting Quality (0 points)

To match the absurd characters, the cast members of this film are equally over the top and amateurish.  Some are even obnoxious at times as they fully embrace their characters.  Emotions and line delivery are both forced, thus making for a painful experience.  As has been expressed, there is very little good to note about this film.

Conclusion

We can understand the desire to make a film about realistic, imperfect people, but Surrendered takes this a step too far and makes the entire experience miserable.  Making characters this annoying and giving the cast no direction whatsoever make for a doubly bad experience.  Films like this are fodder for unintentional comedy and only serve to further embarrass the name of Christian movies.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

Redemption: For Robbing the Dead (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jean Baptiste is a French immigrant who secretly robs dead bodies of their clothes.  Once he is finally caught, the judge sentences him to exile on a local salt island.  Sheriff Henry Heath is tasked with keeping up the with prisoners on the island and making sure they have what they need as they work.  However, he takes special interest in Jean Baptiste as he seems different from the others.  Together, this unlikely friendship teaches the two of them that God even offers redemption to those considered to be the worst of sinners.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Redemption begins with very odd lighting, which is the most noticeable production elements.  The presentation comes off as very dark, drab, and depressing, perhaps by design.  Though most production elements are fine, including video quality and audio quality, and though there are lighting improvements throughout, this beginning is significant and may deter people from going any further.  There are also a lot of boring, lagging scenes and sequences in the first half of the film that don’t hold the attention.  On the upside, sets, locations, and props are all very realistic and well-constructed.  There are also a lot of realistic gritty elements throughout.  Basically, this unique production is a mixed bag, thus warranting the average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though there is an interesting idea someone lost in this confusion, the plot lacks clear direction and purpose.  This is evidenced by the number of confusing and seemingly useless subplots and characters that are never fully explored.  At the same time, however, the story is also very limited in scope and based off of a very isolating concept.  Hardly anything happens as the same two or three characters just go back and forth doing the same things, combined with too many cheesy Western clichés.  Much like the production, there is a dark and brooding feel to this story, as well as some misguided artistry.  There is probably one interesting scene in this film that tries to explain some things, but it’s really too little too late.  This story needed a lot of vetting and consultation before it was released.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Besides some of the obviously fake accents of the cast members, there are a lot of bland and vanilla performances here to go along with the dark nature of the film.  However, this small cast has some good, honest moments as they tend to improve their performances throughout.  They become more human in the end and less of Western clichés, so that is enough to warrant an average score here as well.

Conclusion

This plot had the potential to be a different, interesting, and creative character-based epic showcasing second chances for flawed people, but this idea was unfortunately wasted.  Given Rance Howard’s presence in this film, it’s not very surprising that it is a dark one, yet even this element could have been interesting had it been used properly.  Alas, Redemption: For Robbing the Dead joins the growing list of Christian movies that desperately need a remake.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Road 2 Damascus (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Paul used to be a successful performer, but then he had an encounter with Jesus and made a 180 degree turn to become a minister.  He married a local psychologist and settled down with her.  However, he grows restless in his ministry work and is offered a handsome sum of money to come back to perform one last time.  Paul rationalizes that he will use the money to save the church from ruin, but once he returns, he gets sucked back into the old life he left behind.  Will he be able to find his way back to being the man of God he needs to be?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, as an international production, the funding of this film suffers.  However, it seems like this team did not really do the best with what they had.  Camera work is shaky and video quality is blurry.  Audio quality is too inconsistent, and the soundtrack is confusing.  Sets, locations, and props are cheap and limited.  Editing is very disorienting and there are too many cheap-looking special effects used.  Basically, Road 2 Damascus is a typically low-quality production with not much going for it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this story contains realistic characters doing realistic things and having honest struggles, it is at times too realistic.  Edgy content is not managed very well.  The issues presented are too in-your-face and not presented tastefully enough.  The dialogue is too forceful and information-filled to build the characters properly, even though they are flawed.  However, there are always many issues that come with transposing Biblical stories into a modern-day allegory\parallel setting.  Thus, there is no clear organization or direction in this story, making it very difficult to comprehend at times.  The redemption elements are too muddy and do not outweigh the nonsense enough.  Basically, this movie probably should have gone unmade until these issues were fixed.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is amateur, and they make this too well known.  They come off as overly practiced, and their emotions are too extreme.  Line delivery is unnatural and forced.  But then again, some of their lines weren’t much to work with.  Yet in the end,

Conclusion

What is it with films that have digits in the title?  Unfortunately, the whole feel of this film is just cheap and amateurish.  There is hardly anything good to say about it.  Perhaps, like too many movies, it can just serve as a reminder of what not to do in film making.  If the funding is not there, please wait for it to come, because if you are meant to make a Christian film, God will make sure it happens.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

Youth of Christ (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Casey graduates from seminary, she is hired as the young adult ministry leader at a local church in order to ‘fix’ the ministry, since everyone else in the church looks down on them.  As a group, they continue coming because they are seeking community, but they lack direction.  At first, they do not respect Casey but she earns their respect through their teaching.  She sees potential in each of them to change the world, and she seeks to bring out that potential in God’s power.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a clearly low-budget production, Youth of Christ is somewhat cheap-looking.  While video quality is fine, there are too many close-up and stationary camera angles.  Audio quality is also strange as a lot of the lines are obviously overdubbed and the soundtrack is quite loud.  Sets, locations, and props are also unfortunately limited.  The editing is actually better than other production elements, as it is mostly average.  In the end, it seems like more could have been done with this production, even though the budget was limited.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though there are attempts in this film to be different and edgy, a lot of the time, things get too edgy.  However, this plot is a good portrayal of real struggling and imperfect church characters.  Yet we don’t get to know the characters as well as we would like to due to flat and underwhelming dialogue.  There is also too much narration that serves as a crutch and a replacement for dialogue a lot of the time.  Though there are lot of interesting life issues and circumstances presented here, there are also too many quick fixes.  It’s hard to appreciate the ending because we couldn’t appreciate the struggle.  In the end, this is a nice try, but it needs to be revamped.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is a mostly amateur cast, they are definitely trying in their performances.  They are sometimes awkward and definitely need further coaching, yet sometimes they don’t have good lines to work with.  In the end, they are at last average and show potential for the future.

Conclusion

Movies like Youth of Christ are well-meaning trying to do something different and interesting, but the delivery is not always there.  It’s very difficult to know when to go ahead and make a movie and when to wait for better funding.  Sometimes it’s better to go ahead and get some movie experience, but the film doesn’t necessarily have to be released.  What we really want to see is improvement from films like this, yet we often do not see a follow-up.  Perhaps future film makers can learn lessons, however.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Pawn’s Move (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jimmy unexpectedly inherits the secretly wealthy estate of his eccentric antique-collecting mentor, he doesn’t quite know what to do with it.  Therefore, in order to escape from people who only want him for his money, he decides to take a trip to the small town where his mentor grew up so he can sort things out.  But what he finds there is unexpected and reveals a side of himself he never thought he had.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a first-time, limited-funding production, Pawn’s Move is raw and honest.  Camera work is mostly good, as is video quality.  However, lighting is sometimes inconsistent and audio quality tends to pick up a lot of background noises.  Yet the soundtrack is okay.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and authentic, even if they are a bit limited.  Finally, the editing also needs some improvement, even though it shows plenty of potential.  In the end, this is an average and honest production that definitely showed potential for the future, as we saw in The Matchbreaker.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Much like their second film, the Vetter Brothers’ freshman effort Pawn’s Move is artistic and creative.  It utilizes quirky yet believable characters in a muted romantic comedy setting.  Yet despite the huge amount of potential here, this story is severely underdeveloped and understated.  The characters are accessible, yet they need more exploration.  Comedy is subtle, and sometimes too subtle.  Overall, there are too many random ideas floating around in this plot that need better organization, but it was a great start that led to better things.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this amateur cast is somewhat awkward, they are definitely trying.  Sometimes it seems like they need a little more direction than they are being given.  They would have definitely benefitted from upgraded coaching, especially when it came to emotional expression.  Yet nonetheless, like the rest of this film, it showed promise for the future.

Conclusion

There are few film makers that can pull off comedy properly because true comedy requires an understanding of flawed and human characters, as well as superb dialogue.  While Pawn’s Move does not necessarily fully meet these requirements, it is still a step in the right direction.  All film makers, even the best, sometimes have meager beginnings, so the important thing is to keep moving forward and to keep trying to improve.  The ones who do this are set apart from the rest and make a real difference.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Forgiven [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jack Kincaid is a no-good drifter in the 1800s Wild West who comes to the town of Fairplay looking for a fresh start so he can turn his life around and leave his troubled past behind.  The problem is nobody trusts him fully and is reluctant to help him, even though he knows about a group of dangerous troublemakers that are riding into town in search of a long-lost gold stash.  Will Jack be able to find redemption from his past in time to save the day?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

This is certainly not a production that was wroth distributing in its current form.  The entire film has a very strange and odd-looking quality about it, perhaps on purpose to create some kind of ‘vintage’ effect, but it doesn’t work at all.  Camera work is fine, but audio quality is deplorable, including obvious overdubbed lines and fake outside sound effects that reflect a lack of real audio equipment.  Also, the soundtrack is quite loud at times.  Sets, locations, and props show effort towards realism, at least.  Yet the editing is the worst as scenes cut back and forth with no sense of direction and the entire presentation is generally disorienting.  In the end, this production needed a lot more work before it was distributed.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Besides being a cheesy western full of laughably stereotypical characters, there is no way to understand what is happening throughout this story.  The subplots are very disjointed and confusing as one things after the next happens without any purpose or point.  At times, Forgiven seems more like a parody of a western film rather than a serious effort.  In addition, the character arcs are so steep that any attempts at redemptive elements are just comedic instead of serious.  Essentially, if this movie was supposed to be interesting or make some kind of different, it most certainly fell short of this goal.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Films in which the creator\director is also the star rarely work out.  Every one of these cast members is way too matter of fact in their line delivery, as if they very much over-rehearsed their lines.  They are also far too dramatic in their emotional delivery, like this is some kind of movie from the 40s or 50s.  But maybe that’s what they were going for.

Conclusion

Though we still need more Christian films in different genres, this is definitely not the way to go about it.  The production is sloppy and strange, the story all over the place and laughable, and the acting downright unprofessional.  Perhaps this creative team meant well, but they need to go back to the drawing board and seek out better consultation in their future projects so that they do not repeat these same mistakes.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Redemption Ride (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Colter Reese tests positive for performance enhancing drugs, he thinks his professional cycling career is over forever.  His son is dying of cancer and he has seemingly no purpose in life, so he begins to train again in the hopes of earning enough money to pay off his hospital bills.  Will he be able to find redemption in his cycling?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, Redemption Ride is a relatively cheap production.  Though video quality is fine, there are some odd camera angles and shaky camera work.  As for audio, there is too much dead air and not enough soundtrack except in musical montages.  There are also a lot of loud outside noises.  Sets and locations are quite limited and props leave something to be desired.  Finally, as usual for films this low quality, the editing is poor and adds nothing to the film.  In the end, it’s hard to see the justification for this movie.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Redemption Ride really just boils down to a formulaic story about a troubled athlete character returning to his hometown, and this is only combined with a sick child plot and a sports redemption plot.  There is also a typical romance rekindle subplot to pad the runtime.  Besides this, there are tons of dead scenes and empty sports montages.  The characters are very quirky and the dialogue is too full of dry attempts at humor or nothing substantial at all.  Overall, this story is incredibly boring and little to no point at all due to its predictable nature.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is definitely not the strongest cast.  A lot of the time, their performances are very flat and seem unmotivated and lazy.  Yet other times, they are overly demonstrative and over the top.  Overall, this is not a very good casting or coaching job, which tops off a disappointing and empty film.

Conclusion

Movies like this likely mean well, but it’s difficult to understand how they came to be.  With a such a low budget, one would think films like this wouldn’t make it to even limited distribution, much less become a feature-length film.  The Christian film field really needs a lesson in quality over quantity.  Please don’t make a film just for the sake of having a film—it’s just not worth it.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

Beyond Acceptance (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Though they have comfortable lives, the Border family feels like God wants them to adopt a child.  As they look into the process, they are somewhat skeptical but their hearts are stolen by a little boy who they feel needs their help.  They begin the adoption process and bring him into their home, buy they soon discover the terror and violence he conceals inside of himself due to the trauma he has experienced.  Will their family be able to survive this new strain or will they give up?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Though this film is obviously a cheap church production, there is no excuse for the production being this bad.  The only good assets are the clear video quality and lack of poor lighting, but that’s not saying much.  Camera work is very shaky and dizzying and sets are very cheap and limited.  Audio quality is very poor and the soundtrack is too loud.  The most obvious and negative standouts pertain to the horrific editing, which includes terrible transitions and far too many repeated sequences.  The editing is disorienting and creates a lot of confusion for the audience.  Overall, this is a highly disappointing production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though Beyond Acceptance can be commended for attempting to highlight good and pertinent issues pertaining to foster care and adoption that need to be discussed in Christian film, this is the worst possible way to do it.  The plot structure is hopelessly disjointed and confusing, mostly because the story jumps all over the place with no continuity or sense of direction.  Mental health is portrayed very well, however, even though there are too many unrealistic occurrences in this story.  Finally, there are no meaningful or tangible solutions to the problems presented here—only magical and unrealistic solutions are given that automatically fix everything.  Unfortunately, though it’s likely this creative team meant well in this film, the delivery is not there.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

As an amateur cast, these actors and actresses have some work to do.  Again, it seems like they really do mean well, but their emotions are either flat or extreme.  There is too much yelling and screaming.  Line delivery is disjointed, but there are some brief good moments here.  In the end, this cast needed a lot more coaching.

Conclusion

First-time, under-funded productions like this one are often better suited as short films rather than feature-length films because it gives the team better opportunities to focus their limited resources on a smaller scale.  Making a short film at first can give the team experience and help them work out the kinks without having to go through the hassle of making a longer film that will only hurt their reputation.  But perhaps this is only the beginning of something greater at hand.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Slow Fade [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Since Thomas grew up without a positive father influence in his life, he was influenced by the television and by the wrong crowd of friends.  As he embraces violent behavior, his mother is at a loss of what to do with him except to pray for him.  One day, his violence finally catches up with him and gets him in trouble with an elderly man.  But rather than press charges, the elderly man takes Thomas under his wing and decides to positively influence him.  Slowly but surely, Thomas’ life turns around.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

This production begins very roughly, with very cheap video quality and some poor lighting.  Camera work is relatively stable throughout, but audio quality is very poor, including loud background noises and an overbearing soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are relatively limited.  However, most production elements improve as the movie goes on.  Yet the editing is consistently a problem as it allows too many montages and lagging scenes.  Overall, this is a very raw production that needed better funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though on its face this is an interesting plot idea, it does not translate to reality.  Heavy-handed narration stunts character development, as does the cheap dialogue.  The message presented here is very juvenile as it treats all entertainment as evil (what about this film?) and offers an extremely simplistic and childish view of why people act the way they do.  Large time jumps cause a lot of off-screen content to be referred to, which makes the storyline vague and hard to pin down.  As previously mentioned, there are too many flat and meandering scenes that simply boil down to a conclusion that unrealistically fixes all the problems with no real consequences.  The story leaves too many vague concepts unexplored and will likely cause viewers to roll their eyes at the simplicity and silliness of how these otherwise important issues are handled.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this small cast has some potential, they are too often unsure of themselves.  Line delivery is inconsistent, as are emotions.  There are some good moments here, but the bad moments hold the cast back from being all they could be, thus warranting an average score.

Conclusion

Movies like Slow Fade feel like beta tests that were not necessarily intended for full release to the public.  The good thing is that most people will likely not see this film, but that’s so unfortunate to wish such a thing on a movie.  This creative team may mean well, but they are lacking in proper presentation.  They need to try to connect their plots with reality rather than vaguely and childishly explore important concepts.  Then they will possibly find themselves with some better funding and more success as film makers.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Life Fine Tuned (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Star is a spoiled music icon who wants everything to go her way, exactly the way she wants it.  When she has a disagreement with her manager and her creative team, she employs a typical and immature method of getting their attention: running away until they beg her to come back.  However, in an unfamiliar state, she gets more lost than she anticipated and finds herself stuck in small town America.  Forced to slow down, Star has to contemplate what her life is really like and what matters most.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

This production is certainly not as bad as it could have been, but it’s also not as good as it could have been.  Video quality and camera work are fine.  Audio quality is also fine, but the soundtrack is silly.  Sets, locations, and props are cheap, but this likely comes with the territory of this sort of production.  The editing is very odd, including abrupt cuts and transitions that make it seem like it was spliced together quickly.  Overall, though it is a bit amateurish, some of these elements are forgivable, considering this was mostly a freshman effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

There is nothing whatsoever creative about this cheesy fish-out-of-water plot.  It’s been used before and will be used again, probably on the Hallmark channel (see God’s Country and Finding Normal).  The story of Life Fine Tuned is very formulaic and predictable, yet it also seems to have a penchant for showcasing homeschool life of rural Virginia.  Don’t get us wrong—homeschooling is great (we were homeschooled), but why do homeschoolers have to isolate and label themselves so obviously?  Homeschooling isn’t about segregating yourself into a quirky subculture.  Besides this, the characters of this film are incredibly shallow and the story relies very heavily on childish coincidences.  Unfortunately, the uncreative nature of this plot renders it scoreless.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this cast is amateur and sometimes awkward, they are really trying.  They show potential, even Victoria Emmons.  Their performances definitely could have been worse.  Had they been a little bit more believable, especially with their emotions, this section would have been better.

Conclusion

We have to hand it to the creators—they tried, mostly.  This film could have been potentially saved with a more creative plot.  Use that advanced homeschool mind to craft a creative plot that silences the critics (like us).  Make a movie that’s better quality than the others.  Don’t just make another silly Christian movie that can be passed around certain circles and then forgotten about.  Take the Christian entertainment world to new heights.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Hollow [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jordan, a drug runner, decides to try to change his ways, he finds that it is neither easy nor safe to do so.  As the drug supplies try to get him back, they go after his girlfriend and everything he holds dear.  Meanwhile, the two detectives tasked with catching the drug supplier have their own demons to wrestle with.  Will they be able to come to grips with who they are in order to make the difference they need to make?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

For some reason, in their earlier days, PureFlix was committed to distributing and promoting all sorts of very low quality films (see Saving Winston, As I Stand, and Running Inside Out for other examples).  The only good production element of Hollow is video quality.  Otherwise, camera work is very shaky and many scenes are filmed from behind and through objects.  No audio quality is recorded on set except for loud outside sounds and train noises—all of the dialogue is overdubbed.  The soundtrack is also nearly nonexistent.  Sets, locations, and props are very cheap and most of the scenes are poorly lit.  There are far too many montages that waste time, as well as lagging scenes that drag out the runtime.  Basically, this production needed a complete redo before it was ready.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Somewhere in this story are some really interesting ideas and realistic issues that need to be dealt with in Christian films, but this is not the way to present them.  Hollow overall lacks real purpose and struggles to gold the attention.  There are too many confusing and loosely related subplots that rely on coincidences and unrealistic occurrences.  Gritty subjects are portrayed very flippantly and the dialogue is very unusual, thus crafting odd characters.  There is hardly enough content to sustain a full length film, as previously mentioned, so time-wasting tactics such as montages and empty sequences are employed.  The bottom line is that though there are some really interesting ideas in here somewhere, they are covered up by wasted time and amateur presentations.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Like the production and the plot, there is a small amount of good in the acting, but the cast members largely lack coaching and are thus extremely robotic and measured in their line delivery.  Hardly any emotion is shown among them.  This is another disappointing effort.

Conclusion

When films like this one are made, it is clear that someone is pushing just to make a Christian movie about blank.  PureFlix needed a film that fulfilled a certain genre or mold they are trying to copy, so they dialed up a desperate independent film making team to spit out something in a short amount of time.  This is how films like Hollow came to mass distribution.  Quality was thrown out the window in the pursuit of flooding the market.  This is how we have the mess we have today.  But hopefully new film makers are picking up the pieces and reforming the field, however slow it may be.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Bound [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Cheri Harper is always on the run from the law and from men who want to use her for their own gain.  She has gotten good at running, but when she is finally captured by police, she expects that all is over for her.  However, the sheriff who finds her does something completely unexpected—he takes her to the house of a mysterious man who seems to keep her in captivity once again, only he treats her differently than any man has ever treated her.  Will Cheri be able to learn to stop running and surrender?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Especially in the beginning, Bound is a very cheap-looking production.  There is poor video quality and lighting at first, as well as shaky camera work.  Audio quality is quite inconsistent and the soundtrack is lacking.  Sets and locations are very raw underwhelming.  There are too many montages and repeated footage throughout.  However, the production overall tends to improve as it does, as is the case with many freshman productions.  This demonstrated improvement saves the production from being abysmal and shows potential for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While the first eight minutes of this film have zero dialogue, like other elements of this film, the dialogue does at least improve as it goes on.  However, there are some bizarre characters and jokes in the beginning.  The character start off as very one-dimensional and cardboard, yet they show marked improvement later on, even though they still have work to do.  The premise of this plot is slightly unusual and unrealistic, yet at the same time, this idea is slightly interesting, even though it needs further development and exploration.  Though the flashbacks are cheesy, there are good attempts at crafting the backstories of the characters.  However, there is too much wasted time and the Christian message presented is cheesy.  There is also a rushed and empty romantic subplot that is a part of fixing things too easily in the end.  Basically, this is an interesting start that needs a lot more work.

Acting Quality (1 point)

At first, like other elements in this film, the acting is lazy and very stilted.  Some cast members do not fit the culture they are supposed to be representing.  Yet the acting tends to improve and it seems like coaching is employed later on.  This amateur cast has potential—they just needed to be brought to life better.

Conclusion

Bound is a commendable attempt to do something different, but it needs deepening in order to be realistic.  The characters need to be more realistic and need more engaging dialogue.  The premise needs to be explained and fleshed out a little more.  The production needs an overall upgrade and the acting coaching needs to be expanded.  But it seems like this team has potential, so it will be interesting see what they come up with next.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Prodigal [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Levi Layton has grown up under the shadow of his father, the pastor.  Levi feels suppressed and controlled by the church atmosphere and by all the nosy busybodies who want to control his father.  His best friend constantly tries to lead him astray and he eventually lures him away from the church altogether.  With the church under financial pressures and with other churches trying to compete for their members, will the Layton family be able to come back together and pick up the pieces of their faith?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though it has somewhat amateurish origins, Prodigal is at least an average production that demonstrates effort to be mostly professional.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be, even though the soundtrack is a bit goofy.  Sets and locations are somewhat limited to a few buildings around a neighborhood, but it seems like they are used to their fullest potential.  As is common with most amateur productions, the editing of this film is not very professional.  Though some attempts are made to make it work, it still comes off as too choppy and inconsistent.  Nonetheless, this is an average production that can be built off of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Many prodigal son stories have been brought to the big screen, probably too many at this point.  However, despite its packaging, Prodigal is not really a prodigal son story in the traditional sense, as most of the plot focuses on the story before the son leaves, and even when the son does leave, it’s very brief and constricted.  There is nothing inherently wrong with trying something a little bit different, but the way this story comes off is too quirky.  There are too many failed attempts at off-the-wall comedy and too many head-scratching conversations that include some suggestive innuendo.  It almost seems like the writers are making fun of church people (which sometimes isn’t that hard or unjustified), yet it is not done very tastefully.  Trying to develop backstory for the prodigal son is actually a good idea, but it never really leads to anything.  The plot follows a linear, predictable progression with no real twists or surprises.  The Christian message therein feels very plastic and slapped together.  In the end, this was a nice try, but not good enough.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This amateur cast is better than most—they definitely have their good moments.  But they also have their bad moments as some cast members seem to embrace their role too much and others appear to be making fun of the movie (again, not that hard to do).  Though there is good to find here, too much of the acting is disingenuous and somewhat lazy, thus making this an average performance.

Conclusion

We say this all the time, but too many films on the Christian market are just all the same.  Most are neither good enough nor bad enough to warrant much attention.  Films like Prodigal easily fall through the cracks and are never heard from again—our blog is full of films like this one.  Thus, we continue our rallying mantra: as a Christian film makers, use your God-given talents to do something different that truly makes a difference, not that just adds to the endless pile of mediocrity.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Awakened [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jacob Harker loses his job as a newspaper reporter, he and his wife Haley are forced to move to a small rental house so they can regroup.  While Jacob looks for a new job, he becomes fascinated with some of the belongings left in the rental house’s basement, especially a strange record player that contains hypnotic recordings of a singer that draw Jacob in.  The more time Jacob spends with the recordings, the more he and Haley are attacked by an evil spirit.  Who will prevail in the end?  Will they ever escape the clutches of evil that are hidden in the recordings?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Making a horror movie is not an excuse to cut corners on production.  Awakened doesn’t even attempt to use the found footage crutch; it’s just one bad production.  While video quality if fine, basically only one set is utilized in the entire film, and with it comes poor lighting and unprofessional camera work.  Audio quality is also below standard, including overdubs and an almost non-existent soundtrack.  Editing is very much lacking as the runtime is very linear.  Unfortunately, there is not really much positive to highlight here; this is just another example of a lazy production effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Horror is already a very difficult genre to pull off.  Adding in typical cheesy Christian movie elements is not a winning combination.  First of all, why do we care about this obscure collection of recordings from an unknown artist?  Second of all, is this plot actually supposed to be scary?  Most of the time it seems like it’s trying to suggest horror elements without actually going all the way.  Hardly anything happens in this lame story as the clueless characters mindlessly sit around and do random things.  The premise and the coincidences therein are so trivial that this movie is more unintentional comedy than horror.  As the story goes on, things get more and more bizarre and thus are likely isolate most Christian audiences.  It’s one thing to go after a niche audience and it’s another to make people roll their eyes at another sloppy effort.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is tiny, they are actually the bright spot of the film as they make the most of the little help they are given.  There are not really any glaring errors to point out here as they are mostly professional.  Some emotions seem overdone, but on the whole, this is a surprisingly respectable acting and casting job.

Conclusion

There is definitely a place for Christian horror films in the field, but this is definitely not the way to make one.  Whenever you deal with spiritual matters, especially the demonic, it’s not to be taken lightly.  Horror can be used to reach people outside of typical Christian entertainment circles, but only when it’s done with purpose, prayer, and redemption.  Willy-nilly nonsense like Awakened isn’t going to cut it.  Stuff like this only produces more laughs at the expense of Christian entertainment’s already-flimsy reputation.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

25 Hill (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Trey Caldwell’s father is tragically killed overseas while serving in the military, Trey feels like he will never fulfill the dream his father gave him—the dream of racing their soapbox car in the derby.  But then, Trey’s kind school principal introduces him to Roy Gibbs, a troubled fireman who would like to forget the death of his son.  The two of them find that they have something in common: a passion for soapbox derby racing.  As Roy trains Trey, they develop a unique bond and inadvertently find healing from their wounds.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As Corbin Bernsen’s first foray into the inspirational market, 25 Hill demonstrates his typical high production quality that he likely learned in the mainstream sector and is unfortunately not commonplace in the Christian field.  Beginning with an effective opening sequence that tells the story without narration, this film checks all the necessary boxes for production quality.  Video quality, camera work, audio quality, and soundtrack are all professional and effective.  Sets, locations, and props are also above standard.  The only complaint to raise here is the high number of sports montages, which are too typical of this genre.  Otherwise, this is a very respectable production that many Christian film makers can model after.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Before Bersen decided to develop his own zany brand of satire, he decided to create a grief plot that has a commitment to taking jabs are stereotypical plot elements.  His take on this predictable plot structure is enjoyable, yet like Bernsen’s other films, 25 Hill still includes too many formulaic elements that are commonly found in sports\grief plots.  Yet his continual pointing out and exposing of typical movie clichés is a fun experience nonetheless, as is his satire on product placements.  With good dialogue and character development, this story demonstrates a better version of the Bernsen brand, which later devolved into silliness and insanity in Christian Mingle, 3 Day Test, and In-lawfully Yours.  The biggest thing that holds 25 Hill back is its predictability, as Bernsen does his typical flirting with creativity but doesn’t really follow through.  Yet in the end, this will be an enjoyable story for most and is certainly worth a watch.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Bernsen and his team completely nailed their casting work.  Each actor and actress fits their characters comfortably as they deliver their lines and inflections flawlessly.  Emotional performances are highly effective, thus making this a perfect score.

Conclusion

We definitely understand where Bernsen is coming from—sometimes.  He wants to make quality inspirational films while at the same time exposing where many films in the genre go wrong.  He always thinks about doing something different with his storylines, but in the end goes back to the typical, safe ending.  Nonetheless, 25 Hill will be liked by most audiences, and it is certainly worth a watch.  Perhaps eventually, Bernsen will finally hit the home run he has been searching for all these years.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

1 Message (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Becca Norris had it all—money, success, and a boyfriend—until her doctor discovers that she has breast cancer and requires a major operation to save her life.  However, the operation leaves her changed forever, thus causing her boyfriend to become uninterested in her.  His departure sends Becca into a reclusive depression that no one, not even her family, can shake her out of.  Yet when her brother gets interested in internet research, Becca meets a man online who is interested in her as a person and who makes her think twice about shutting herself off from the world.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

1 Message falls into the typical mold of a Kelly’s Filmworks production.  With good video quality and overly artistic camera shots, this film is classic Jefferson Moore.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is a bit off.  There is basically only one set in this film, but the props are good.  Though this production tends to improve as it goes on, there is little to no justification for it being two and a half hours long.  There is a serious lack of editing in this movie that will cause many audiences to give up by the first hour.  In the end, this is an average production that needs some more fleshing out and cutting down in order to make it more professional.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As previously mentioned, it is mind-boggling that this film is two and a half hours long when there is certainly not enough interesting content to sustain this runtime.  The first hour or so of the film is incredibly boring and melodramatic as it confusingly conceals parts of the story for the second hour.  The first half includes a fixation on breast cancer and ‘genie-ologies’, as well as weird attempts at humor.  A majority of the ‘dialogue’ is people verbatim typing and reading stuff on the computer over and over again, which is incredibly boring and does nothing to build the characters, even though there are few of them.  Time is also wasted and filled with activities of daily living, including the characters lying around and sulking, which further stunts character development.  However, if you have the time and stamina, the story comes down to an interesting point if you can slog through two hours of useless content.  Basically, this film needs a serious redo, because as it is, nobody is going to give a care.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With such a small cast, most errors stand out, unfortunately.  Though there is some good to be found here, there is also a lot of bad, including some very boring and dry emotions, ridiculously over the top attempts to be dramatic, and very measure line delivery.  Unfortunately, Kelly’s Filmworks films seem to consistently struggle in this department.

Conclusion

With a movie this long, there should have been plenty of positive things to say.  However, rather than making this a deep character exploration plot, time is filled with fluff and fake drama that ruins the good idea that is behind this plot.  We can appreciate the work of Jefferson and Kelly Moore, but they often get too lost in the artistry of film making.  They would do well to collaborate with different story writers so they can more effectively create films.  We believe that they mean well—they just need to take that next step.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Lamp [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After a tragedy takes their son from them, Stanley and Lisa’s marriage is on the rocks and they seemingly have no purpose in life.  As they try to sort through what’s left of their son’s possessions, Lisa is given a mysterious lamp by one of her neighbors, who tells her that it has special powers.  Though Stanley is skeptical and angry, Lisa chooses to believe that the lamp can help them.  Little do they know what is coming to them next.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, The Lamp has good funding behind it that produces a decently above average production.  All the typical elements are good, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also intriguing.  The editing is also fine as the story is presented well.  However, the sets and locations are fairly limited to a handful of neighborhood areas, houses, and a baseball field.  Also, the biggest nagging issue here is the use of odd special effects to ‘enhance’ the experience—yet they only end up coming off as cheesy.  Overall, this is a good enough production, but the cheesy special effects tend to put a damper on things.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Based on a novel by Jim Stovall, The Lamp is a very unique Christian storyline that, while it has an interesting point and purpose, it also has a slightly silly premise.  The plot is somewhat slow to develop, but the dialogue improves as it goes and helps to build the characters.  There is a good use of flashbacks, but they are sometimes too disorienting.  As previously mentioned, though there is a good point here, there are also too many goofy magical elements that are introduced and only downplayed later.  This makes for a confusing viewing experience.  Also, in the end, things are fixed too easily, although there is an interesting twist that many will find interesting.  Overall, many will enjoy the uniqueness of The Lamp and there’s certainly nothing wrong with it—we just feel it could have been better.

Acting Quality (2 points)

At first, the acting of this film is atrocious.  Emotions are very extreme at first and there is far too much yelling in the first half hour.  However, the acting does get better as it goes as the cast members settle into their roles better and deliver their lines more smoothly.  In the end, it becomes an above average performance.

Conclusion

The Lamp is a textbook average film—with good production backing, it looks good on the surface.  It’s based on a book by a popular author, so that also works in its favor.  It also has recognizable cast members.  While average is awesome in the Christian entertainment market, we want movies to take that next step into greatness.  It’s definitely difficult to do, but in the end, it’s so worth it.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

The Freedom of Silence (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In the year 2030, Christianity is effectively outlawed in America due to a series of controversial laws passed by Congress and rulings handed down from the Supreme Court.  Christians are forced to live in secret, but some of them risk their lives to share their faith with others.  Thus, Zach Thompson, his family, and his friends decide that they are going to take down the government by hacking into their system and broadcasting a message of truth to the entire country.  However, what price will they pay for this?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: if you don’t have the money to fund your big idea, please please please don’t make it until the funding is there.  There is absolutely no reason to further muddle the market with laughable Christian productions.  The Freedom of Silence is very cheap-looking, including grainy video quality and shaky camera work.  The lighting is most scenes is positively deplorable, especially the dark torture scenes.  Audio quality is also abysmal, including audible outside noises, and the generic soundtrack is often too loud.  There is also a good amount of overdubbed audio.  Sets, locations, and props are very limited in cheap—this also goes for the special effects.  Finally, the editing is quite choppy and confusing, including abrupt and awkward transitions.  For such a big idea, this production simply does not cut it.  It is too limited and short-sighted and thus completely falls flat.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While this futuristic concept is an interesting idea (this is the only redeeming quality of the film), it has been completely mishandled in The Freedom of Silence.  The dystopian premise is very thin and flimsy—it is not explained well and is very small scale compared to what the writers are trying to portray.  There is far too much off-screen content that the budget would not allow them to include, so this is really a big idea taken far too lightly.  The storyline is just a collection of information dump conversations, awkward dialogue, and over the top torture scenes.  The characters therein are very empty and robotic, except for the villains, which are total strawmen.  There is also far too much heavy-handed messaging and unexplainable content.  Essentially, if there weren’t an interesting idea somewhere in here, this film would have zero positive aspects.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This amateur cast has been given no help.  This is supposed to be a highly serious film, yet the acting is extremely stiff and awkward.  Lines are said far too quickly and there is too much yelling.  Emotions are very wooden and unrealistic.  Unfortunately, there is nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

We desperately need different genres and premises in Christian film, but this is most certainly not the way.  The cover of this film looks way better than the actual movie does.  Imagine an excited Christian’s disappointment when they begin watching this film based on what the outside looks like.  Viewers will either have to laugh or cry at this mess, so it should serve as a reminder to future film makers that if the budget is not there, do not make the film.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

Running Inside Out (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Since Kim does not live the way her strict and legalistic parents want her to live, she jumps at the chance to get out from under their thumb and takes her dream business job as soon as she graduates from college.  She thinks she has it made in life, especially when she meets her dream boyfriend.  She decides to take up running as a hobby.  However, all is not well as she becomes pregnant and her job is threatened by this.  Her family turns on her, except for her New Age-obsessed Aunt Sally.  She will have to decide what she is going to do with her unborn child before it’s too late.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

When you watch a horrible production like Running Inside Out, you wonder what standards PureFlix has for carrying a film.  This film has terrible camera work, with constant cuts and transitions that make for a dizzying experience.  Video quality is also grainy, and audio quality does not meet standard.  The soundtrack is sub-par.  Sets and locations are also quite poor, including several poorly filmed outside scenes.  As previously mentioned, the editing is horrific and confusing.  We understand the constraints of a limited budget, but we have seen more done with the amount of money allotted to this film.  Also, if the budget isn’t there, maybe you should reconsider if you’re supposed to make the film yet or not.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Similar to other social issue films, Running Inside Out carries an important pro-life message packed in a ridiculous fashion.  Though the situations characters find themselves in are realistic, it is difficult to connect with them as real people since they come off as empty and wooden due to poorly written dialogue.  Some characters, most notably Aunt Sally, are extremely bizarre and eccentric for no particular reason.  Also, as previously mentioned, the story is hard to follow as it jumps from one thing to the next.  While there are some attempts at good here, there is just too much bad that detracts from it.  It’s disappointing to see this type of idea go to waste.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, this cast reflects the eccentrically-crafted characters therein.  Some cast members act off-the-wall most of the time, and all of them are one-dimensional in their deliveries.  Sometimes it seems like they are putting forth a half-effort.  It’s possible that coaching could have improved this group, as there is some potential here.  But as it is, it’s simply not enough.

Conclusion

We have seen a lot of low-budget efforts in our times as reviewers, yet some film makers seem to be able to do better with less than some do with more.  We maintain that if you have a solid plot idea, the money will be there and will be enough to put you on the map—just look at the Kendrick brothers as an example.  If God wants you to make a film, all will be provided for.  We wonder sometimes if movies like Running Inside Out have been forced to happen just because.  Thus, the end result is not good.  Hopefully this team and others will learn from the mistakes of this film.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Real [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When He was struggling in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus looked down through time and saw all of us and the struggles we would endure.  He saw the sins we would commit and still went to the Cross because He knew that we desperately needed Him.  Even with so many broken stories stretching out into the future, Jesus knew them all and gave Himself up for every one of us.  This is truly the best reason in the world to make a movie.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

It pains us to be so hard on this film because it carries such a powerful message.  However, even the most powerful message is covered up by poor packaging.  This is a very cheap production, including grainy video quality, poor lighting, and an overuse of soft lighting that rivals Jefferson Moore.  However, audio quality is acceptable, including a creative soundtrack.  Yet sets and locations are quite limited, as some are reused several times in different stories.  Finally, as multiple different unrelated storylines are employed, the editing is quite choppy and discontinuous.  This is truly a sad half point to award because we want it to be better and believe it can be—just not this time, unfortunately.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Real is based on a highly creative idea, perhaps one of the best in the loosely associated genre of ‘spiritual warfare’ plots on the market.  To depict Jesus and Satan in the Garden of Gethsemane looking forward to random stories in the future is an excellent idea, but attempting to connect a bunch of shallow subplots together in the span of ninety minutes is not a good idea.  This creates very shallow characters that spout dialogue that is designed to force the plot along.  As such, things happen far too fast as too many important issues are forced into one plot.  However, Real has one of the best portrayals of Jesus, Satan, and other spiritual elements to date.  The prologue and the epilogue, though they make the entire movie work, are worth watching and make this plot what it is.  In the end, we desperately wish this movie could have been better because it has such a great story and message that needs to be shown everywhere.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With a limited and amateurish cast, some cast members were reused in these subplots.  They could also use some better coaching, although they demonstrate great potential.  Sometimes they are a little too unsure of themselves, which shows that they would have benefitted from more coaching.  Though they are ahead of the game than some ‘big name’ cast members are, this section once again demonstrates what this group can do if they have the resources to do it.

Conclusion

Real receives half of an x-factor point for the creative idea behind this story.  As previously mentioned, with a better budget and more refining, Stephen Krist and his team can go great places and take Christian film to new frontiers.  We long to see a remake of Real that focuses more on the central concept without so many loosely connected stories.  We wish we could rate this film higher, but it is easily the best 3-point film out there.  In the end, we know the Krist team has good hearts and can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Suing the Devil (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Luke, a struggling law student, is angry that the drunk driver who killed his mother is now walking free and contemplates killing him.  But he decides against this and instead directs his anger at the devil.  Concluding that Satan is responsible for everything evil in the world and that he needs to pay for it, Luke does the only rational thing he can think to do: file a lawsuit against Satan himself for damages totaling eight trillion dollars.  What could go wrong, especially when the devil actually shows up in the courtroom?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Though this production is not as deplorable as the horrid thing that is Final: The Rapture, Suing the Devil still has plenty of avoidable issues.  Timothy Chey prides himself in having money to make quality films, yet he is content to flush all of his funds down the toilet in some kind of bizarre effort to get attention.  Anything good about this production is drowned out by wild and amateurish cuts and transitions between scenes, inconsistent camera work, wacky camera angles…the list goes on and on.  Loud sound effects constantly annoy the viewing experience as a lot of the audio quality is overdriven.  There is no semblance of coherency when it comes to the editing, yet this is also a plot issue.  In short, just having a pile of money to make a movie doesn’t produce results—it actually has to be applied properly.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2 points)

Guided by constant narration from a maniac, whoever subjects themselves to this torture is forced to witness a descent into utter madness.  Since the entire point of this film is to depict a zany trial sequence, the story speeds to this point and forces you to sit through the world’s most ridiculous legal premise, which is filled with heavy-handed messaging, obvious dialogue, and wacko strawman characters.  Chey chooses the strangest villain concepts to caricature and fills the movie with bizarre theology. The story gets stranger and stranger as it goes on until you feel like you are the victim of the world’s most serious trolling.  To get to the point, Suing the Devil is a juvenile effort and an absolute laughingstock of a movie.  There is no justifiable reason for this debacle to have ever been created.

Acting Quality (-2 points)

But it gets worse.  Emotions are extremely over the top and dramatic.  There are too many sequences of yelling and some cast members get more and more unhinged as the film slogs on.  It’s painfully clear that there was no thought put into any of this.

Conclusion

Is this film a joke?  That’s the only conclusion we can come to.  There is literally no point to this unstable diatribe that is fixated on Satan, oil companies, and big banks.  Sure, all three of these have their share of problems (especially the devil), but are they worth dedicating a movie to?  As Christians, we have too much of a tendency to give Satan more attention that he’s worth, and this movie is sort of an example of that.  But otherwise, Suing the Devil is a collection of incoherent and downright asylum-insane psychobabble that does nothing except further tarnish the name of Christian film.  Whoever keeps giving Timothy Chey money needs to stop, like now.

 

Final Rating: -4 out of 10 points

 

The Pledge {Doughboy} [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Tory’s parents decide that they are going to move from bustling New York City to podunk West Virginia, he is angry that they are taking him away from all he knows.  Once in West Virginia, he can’t find anything to do, so he accidentally gets into trouble by vandalizing a war memorial.  As punishment, the judge sentences him to community service at a veteran’s home, even though his parents are anti-war.  Tory hates the work at first but soon finds that he can find meaning and make a different no matter what.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Much like A Christmas Tree Miracle, The Pledge has a random commitment to quality production—sometimes it has it while other times it does not.  For example, the audio quality is sometimes good but sometimes quite poor.  The soundtrack is average but camera work and video quality are fine.  Sets and locations are also on par.  However, there is too much reused footage and the editing is generally all over the place.  In the end, it all comes out as average, but we have to wonder what this team is trying for.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Also like its Christmas counterpart, The Pledge wavers between being very meaningful and being very satirical.  One moment the dialogue is dripping with obvious tongue-in-cheek sarcasm while another moment we are being shown the realities of post-combat trauma.  We have no idea what the writers were going for here, but they had a lot of good ideas that were unfavorably mixed with unusual comedy.  There is plenty of plot content to work with here, as well as a lot of interesting characters, but we don’t get to know them very well as too much dialogue is pedestrian.  There are tons of opportunities for deeper development here that are not tapped into.  In the end, we feel that this film could have been far better than this and are disappointed that it didn’t go all the way.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While too many cast members are quite dry and boring and others outright smart alec or borderline crazy, they do tend to get better throughout the film.  Emotions range from being flat to believable.  Line delivery is also inconsistent.  When all is said and done, the acting comes out as average.

Conclusion

The Route 40\Flyover Films team is extremely hard to figure.  In their two films, they demonstrated great plot potential but also showed a lot of disingenuous sarcasm.  What exactly are they going for?  We may never truly know.  All we know is that The Pledge had potential, but it was never brought out.  While there is some meaning to be gleaned here and some parts are enjoyable, we just don’t know what to make of it all.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Milltown Pride (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Will Wright loves to play baseball, even if it means playing with the ‘poor kids’.  Even though this gets him in trouble with his father, Will never gives up on his dream to play baseball.  As he grows older, he joins the local mill league along with his ‘country’ childhood friends.  But when he gets discovered by a scout, Will finds himself following the wrong crowd and doing things that go against the religion he was taught by his parents.  Will he ever find his way back to the religion he grew up in?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For Bob Jones University and Unusual Films, this is a respectable production.  The camera work and video quality are pretty good, and the audio quality is okay, although the soundtrack is very annoying.  Sets and locations are mostly historically authentic and fairly diverse, though since this is supposed to be an epic, there really should have been more.  Also, there is far too much content that is not very useful and there are too many wasted scenes.  Epics are supposed to concisely portray a period of a character’s life or the lives of a group of characters.  This is definitely hard to do, but the Unusual Films crew shouldn’t have attempted this genre if they weren’t going to follow through.  But all in all, this is an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The entire premise of Milltown Pride is based on a strange and over-the-top class warfare conflict between white people, and the writers do not appear to completely condemn looking down on poor people.  Besides this, this films contains the usual fundamentalist and isolationist religious principles that are baked into the fiber of Bob Jones University, including creating a ‘worldly’ strawman out of sports.  As previously mentioned, everything in this failed epic is dragged out and plenty of time is wasted on endless baseball sequences and juvenile conversations.  The plot barely holds the attention as it follows a predictable progression with no twists and turns.  The characters therein are plastic and turn people off to whatever Christian message this movie is trying to convey.  In short, while this could have been interesting, it just wasn’t.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Unusual Films can’t seem to get away from casting awkward white people in their movies.  This cast is very wooden and lacks proper coaching.  Their emotions seem fake and their line delivery is either unsure or forced.  This rounds out a mostly disappointing effort.

Conclusion

We lost count of the time a character says ‘town boy’ in this movie—it got old really fast.  We are also confident that the Unusual Films crew once again just wanted another outlet to propagate their fundamentalist worldview—not that many people are paying any attention.  It’s films like this one that further turn people off to the concept of Christian movies because this is what too many people think Christians are: isolated, prejudiced, backwards, fundamentalist, patriarchal white people.  If we ever needed a major trend reversal, it’s now.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Divination [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jason and Jessica are a young married couple excited to be having their first child.  But soon after they discover the good news, they begin being tormented by strange people and beings.  Jason cannot stop seeing evil spirits in his mind.  A spiritual battle based on ‘intel’ ensues as angels and demons battle over the minds of this young couple.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Though the cheesy opening credits sequence suggests that Divination was meant to be the first in a series, that was thankfully not the case.  On the whole, this production is a mess, starting with strange video quality and shaky camera work that looks like it’s from a camcorder.  The audio quality is inconsistent and full of echoes, including weird sound effects.  Lighting is poor in many of the limited sets.  To top things off, there are tons of terrible special effects and CGI used throughout the film.  Basically, this is a horrid effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Besides the fact that there are too many things going on in this so-called storyline, it’s filled with purposely creepy spiritual elements.  There are many bizarre elements and twists and turns that defy logic and sense.  The plot is very in-your-face and obvious when it comes to the demonic and spends far too much time focusing on demons.  In other areas, the dialogue is very forced, thus creating wooden characters, and the ending makes no sense.  Overall, this alleged plot is so annoying that it warrants negative points.

Acting Quality (0 points)

It seems like some effort was taken to coach this cast, but it was done all wrong.  The actors and actresses are far too theatrical and come off as over-practiced.  Emotions aren’t very believable and line delivery is wooden.  In short, this rounds out a very weird and disappointing creation.

Conclusion

Someone needs to address spiritual warfare in the context of Christian film, but at this point, we have yet to find anyone who has done so properly.  Films like this are always far too focused on the demonic and the Satanic and generally expose the fact that their creators have no idea what they’re doing.  Attempts to be sensational and to get attention are evident in movies like Divination, and this is clearly not the message that needs to be communicated.  It’s disappointing when interesting concepts like spiritual warfare are wasted, but hopefully someone can learn something from this mess.

 

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

Mandie and the Forgotten Christmas (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When she’s sent with her friends to boarding school to become ‘proper ladies and gentlemen’, Mandie Shaw and crew stumble upon an attic full of Christmas secrets of years gone by.  But another girl is determined to get them in trouble for snooping around.  Yet Mandie is equally determined to find out the important information behind a room full of Christmas junk.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Though there was some effort put in here, Mandie and the Forgotten Christmas embraces its childish identity too much.  The entire production has an overall plastic feel to it, as the video quality looks like it’s been adjusted in post-production.  The lighting is all wrong and camera work is very amateurish.  Some of the audio sounds like it’s been over-dubbed while other parts are very echoed.  The soundtrack is very cheesy and the audience is forced to listen to all kinds of stupid Christmas sound effects throughout.  There is virtually no editing present as the story meanders around aimlessly.  Essentially, the Mandie trilogy has digressed as it has gone on.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As previously mentioned, there is little to no focus in this plot as the viewer is forced to sit through one choppy scene after another.  The dialogue is very stilted and over-practiced, like a bad church play.  The characters are quite plastic and scream ‘children’s book characters’ with every line and action.  We realize this was adapted from a children’s book, but it doesn’t have to be like this.  The events that happen are not terribly realistic and seem to exist in a magical alternate world.  Also, the ending is as cheesy as can be expected.  Essentially, there’s really nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Really, what’s the point of casting David Blamy as a different character in this installment than he was in the first two installments?  It’s extremely confusing and gives off the impression that they can’t find anybody else to cast in these films.  Besides this, changing lead actresses in the midst of a trilogy\saga is never a good idea.  In other respects, this cast is really not any good at acting and acting coaching is absent.  As previously mentioned, this is just a bad church play.

Conclusion

As the Mandie series comes to a pathetic conclusion (maybe?), we have to reflect on what was truly accomplished in this saga.  There was some potential early on, but it quickly faded away.  We have to wonder if there was any justification for bringing this books to film, as the movies likely hurt the reputation of the children’s series.  We’re sure that the creators meant well, but maybe some advice seeking was in order.  Ambition is great, but delivering well is even better.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Love’s Christmas Journey (Movie Review)

Registering...
Registering…

Plot Summary

After Ellie King loses her husband and daughter in a strange tornado, she decides the visit her brother, Aaron Davis, for Christmas.  When she arrives in the generic-looking Western small town that looks like all the others in this series, she meets all the stereotypical characters, including Sean Astin the sheriff.  Of course, what would this Love Comes Softly movie be without a replacement romance for the poor widow Ellie?  But even Christmas is threatened when Aaron hits his head on a rock (hmm, sounds familiar…) and is lost to the wilderness.  What will they ever do?

 

Note: This two-part film has been reviewed as one because we cannot differentiate the two parts

Production Quality (.5 point)

As the Love Comes Softly series endlessly drags on with more and more sequels, prequels, and specials that have long since departed from the original novels, we have to wonder at this point what Janette Oke thinks of Hallmark’s total dismantling of her work.  In keeping with usual Hallmark style, Love’s Christmas Journey has some good production qualities, such as clear video quality and good camera work.  The sets and locations are okay, but as previously mentioned, are clearly recycled from past films, but this time with Christmas decorations!  The soundtrack is as stock as it comes.  The editing is designed to drag this movie out into a nearly three-hour runtime, so there are plenty of wasted scenes.  In short, this is what you can expect from a Hallmark Christmas film—some money spent on production, but otherwise very empty.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Whoever is in charge of letting these movies get on television decided that since they needed to force a Christmas Love Comes Softly film to happen, then they needed to recycle the old standby plot of the saga: a young widow moves to a new place to start a new life and meets a new man.  Seriously, how many times are they going to do this one?  First it was Marty, then Missy, then Belinda, and now some sister of Missy’s named Ellie.  Besides this nonsense, the characters are extremely empty-headed and mindless, fueled by forced and awkward dialogue.  The first half of the movie (the original first part), is a huge waste of time, spent on preparing for the next half by introducing trite and petty conflicts that have no consequence whatsoever.  Throughout the movie, there are many factually unrealistic elements (what else is new?), such as the audacity of including Santa Clause in this plot.  No, seriously: Santa is a character.  And nothing can beat the cheesiest Christmas end in the world: snowing on Christmas Eve.  Essentially, Hallmark just phoned this one in because they can.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This is just more of the same garbage.  The cast members are extremely fake and plastic.  Natalie Hall in particular acts like she’s had a lobotomy most of the movie, taking forever to recite her lines, like she keeps forgetting what she’s supposed to do.  The emotions of the cast members are equally plastic.  In typical Love Comes Softly style, costuming and makeup are overdone and unrealistic for the time period.  But what else can we say without constantly repeating ourselves?

Conclusion

Love’s Christmas Journey is a textbook case from that all important manual from the executive offices of Hallmark: How to Make Another Hallmark Christmas Film.  First, find a plot to rip off; it can be a stock plot or it can be a loose idea stolen from an unsuspecting Christian author.  Second, find the most plastic cast members available and shower them with makeup and costuming.  Third, find a reusable set that fits the genre and inundate it with Christmas cheer.  Now just film the movie as fast as possible to get it ready for television!  Once again, with the resources and platform they have at their disposal, Hallmark squanders opportunity after opportunity to make a real difference in the film world.  But we doubt they will ever learn.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

The Shunning [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Katie Lapp’s life is about to change.  As a young Amish woman, she is coming of age and has been chosen by Hickory Hollow’s bishop to be his wife in order to raise his two children following the death of his wife.  But Katie is struggling with her Amish identity and wonders if there is another life for her outside of Lancaster County, as she secretly plays non-Amish music on her worldly guitar.  She also misses her true love, Daniel Fisher, after his tragic death.  What’s more, a mysterious Englisher woman has been asking around Lancaster County for Katie by name.  Everything comes to a head as Katie finally must choose between the life she has grown up in and the life she wants to find outside of Hickory Hollow.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The Shunning has all the typical marks of a Michael Landon Jr.\Brian Bird production: good video quality, professional camera work, vanilla editing, a clichéd setting and surroundings, and unrealistic costuming.  Landon Jr. and Bird have always known how to invest in quality camera work and video quality, but they unfortunately let too many other things fall by the wayside.  This plot is sleepy enough as it is, but the editing does nothing to help this fact.  Slow transitions between scenes and long fadeouts tempt the viewer to fast forward.  There are also too many scenery sequences that could have been used instead to build characters.  Also, it’s really hard to know if the portrayal of the Amish in this film is realistic or if it’s embellished.  Yet there are enough positive elements to lift this production about average status, but we await the day when the Landon Jr.\Bird team finally goes all the way, as they clearly have the means to do.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Adapted from Beverly Lewis’ popular novel by the same name, The Shunning just carries the entire identity of a stereotypical Amish plot.  As previously mentioned, some of the elements are likely realistic, but we can’t help but think that some real Amish people would feel offended by some of the portrayals.  There is little meaningful plot content as this film is obviously just setting up for the second installment of the trilogy.  Character development is shallow and dialogue is vanilla.  If so much time was going to be spent on preparing for the next film, it was an absolute must for characters to be deep and meaningful by the time the credits rolled.  Unfortunately, this did not happen.  On the brighter side, the use of flashbacks in this film are effective and creative.  The subplot overlay is intriguing and breathes new life into the film about halfway through.  Overall, while there are some interesting points, this plot really doesn’t hold the attention and it’s difficult to know what audience this movie would draw interest from.  As we’ve mentioned in the past, Landon Jr. specializes in bringing Christian novels to the big screen, but too often, the books are better than the movies.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With obviously practiced ‘Amish’ accents, dialogue from the cast members is often hard to understand without captioning.  Yet the acting is not terrible and is sometimes quite good.  Emotions are sometimes over the top and other times realistic.  It’s not that this movie was cast wrong—they are not coached good enough.  Therefore, this is just another average contribution to the movie.

Conclusion

The Shunning is one of those movies that, when analyzed, is really not that bad, but it carries an intangible air to it that makes it extremely forgettable.  Landon Jr. and Bird have the ability and potential to make a huge difference in the Christian\inspirational movie field, but they constantly settle for second best.  There are plenty of other more meaningful, creative, and complex Christian novels that desperately need to be made into screenplays, and Landon Jr. and company have demonstrated the willingness and ability to do this.  What Christian film needs is game changers, not the status quo keepers.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Soul Surfer (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ad avid surfer living the dream in Hawaii, Bethany Hamilton always sought to know God better and to improve her technique on the waves.  She had her life planned out fairly well: surf and compete.  What she least expected was having her arm horrifically bitten off by an unforeseen shark one day while surfing with friends.  After being rushed to emergency care, Bethany began a slow recovery process, but in the midst of this, she discovered that her life would never be the same again, for her passion—surfing—was suddenly next to impossible for her.  She is forced is come to grips with both her faith and her dreams and discover what her true purpose in life is.

Production Quality (2 points)

With an obviously large budget and professional production teams at work, Soul Surfer looks great on the surface.  Its marketing campaign was backed up by beloved Hawaiian scenery, captured by professional camera work and clear video quality.  There is no question that the sets and locations are professional, and the scenery is diverse.  Sound quality is excellent, especially in the many outside scenes.  The soundtrack is intriguing and attempts to capture the local culture.  The biggest issue with this production is the one that plagues the entire film: poor editing, which is coupled with a blurry and confusing storyline.  With this level of professional production crews, the editing should be far better than it is.  Scenes are largely understated and meaningful segments are cut short to jump to more Hawaii landscapes.  The editing makes it hard to follow the actual purpose of this film.  There are too many time jumps and wasted scenes.  Overall, the production is clearly professional, but the editing unfortunately holds this movie back from being all that it could be.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Based on a great true story of Bethany Hamilton, whom we maintain is an excellent Christian role model, Soul Surfer falls short of capturing the depth and meaning of the true story.  Realistic events obviously happen throughout, but we cannot help but think this movie would have been less realistic were it not bound by real life events.  In the midst of Hawaiian beaches, surfing lingo, wave scenery, and surfing competitions, the characters are left shallow and wooden.  The audience cannot connect with them as real people—they are just characters that are swept along by the plot.  Dialogue is stiff and procedural, leaving much to be desired.  The plot ebbs and flows, sometimes hitting high points and missing them other times.  The Christian message is vague at first, then becomes very clear and meaningful, and then fades away again.  The ending is interesting enough, but it just ends up washing away like the tide (pun intended).  The audience is left thinking that they should like the movie because it’s a Christian movie based on a true story, but Soul Surfer is actually quite forgettable and disappointing.  True stories are usually undiscovered treasures when it comes to the big screen, but Soul Surfer is just another average film.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Someone thought that putting together a collection of semi-big-name actors and actresses would make this movie work, and there is really nothing glaringly wrong with this cast, but like the rest of the movie, they leave much to be desired.  Their professionalism only carries them so far—they needed to perform better.  Line delivery is mostly good, but emotions are hard to connect with.  A lot of the acting comes off as stiff and procedural, just collecting a paycheck.  With big name talent comes big responsibility.

Conclusion

As we have mentioned before, true stories should be among the best of Christian movies.  Whether viewers or creators realize it or not, audiences everywhere connect better with a movie that’s about real people like them who experience real stuff.  But after experiencing Soul Surfer, the audience doesn’t really learn anything else about Bethany Hamilton except that she surfed and stuff.  This is no discredit to her as a person, since she is likely a nicer person than we are.  But we remain opinionated as always: while still an average movie, Soul Surfer disappoints expectations.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Seven Days in Utopia (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When he blows his chance to make it big on the golfing scene, Luke Chisholm has a televised meltdown that leads to him running from his controlling father and crashing into a farm fence.  The owner of the land, rather than take him to the authorities, decides to let him stay there and learn some finer points of golf.  Frustrated and skeptical, Luke begins taking eccentric golf lessons from the older man and soon finds that the farm, Utopia, is more than it seems, just as his new mentor is more than he seems.  Little does he know that he is about learn more than just how to play golf better, but how to win in life, and that seven days in Utopia can change everything.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Seven Days in Utopia is obviously a well-made project.  The creators did their production homework and scored.  The camera work is great and enhances the film, including artistic camera angles and clear video quality.  Outside scenes are filmed well.  The musical score is intriguing.  The surroundings are authentic.  The only caveat to raise here is that some parts seem like they need to be edited better—there are some wasted scenes that only fill time.  But otherwise, Utopia is a top-notch first-time production that should serve as a model to follow.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

For a sports plot, Utopia is very unique psychological journey.  It reminds the audience that there is more to every sport than just technique—athletes are people with pasts that need to be dealt with appropriately.  While the message is not as explicitly Christian as it could have been, the point is clear: behavioral tendencies need to be explored head-on into order to live up to one’s full potential.  The plot of Utopia is a slow burn, and is more than it seems, which is also conceptualized in the plot.  Flashbacks are used exquisitely to strengthen the story.  Dialogue is profound and the characters are solid.  As previously mentioned, there are too many filler scenes that keep this plot from being all that it could be.  However the end of the movie is extremely epic and changes everything for it.  Without this end, this movie wouldn’t be what it is.  Utopia has arguably one of the best sports ends on the market.  In short, while it had room to grow, this film is definitely one of the best of its genre.

Acting Quality (3 points)

This is obviously a professional and well-coached cast.  This is not an exclusively Christian cast, but there are no acting errors here.  Emotional delivery is great and line delivery is solid.  There is nothing to complain about here.

Conclusion

Utopia is a one-of-a-kind movie; there has never been one like it and there likely won’t be again.  It should serve as an example to the inspirational market of how to make a niche movie that stands out among the rest that are easily forgotten.  We were disappointed in its lack of a clear Christian message, but Christian elements exist.  Nevertheless, it earns a Hall of Fame spot and its concepts should be replicated in different and creative ways.  The Christian market desperately needs more movies like this.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

 

Love’s Resounding Courage {Love’s Everlasting Courage} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After settling into their new lives together, Clark and Ellen Davis had a daughter named Missie and all seemed well for them.  However, things are about to change for them, as a drought threatens to destroy their very livelihood.  Their financial struggles prompt Ellen to take on extra work in town as a seamstress.  Clark’s parents also come to assist them however they can.  However, the new work begins to take a toll on Ellen’s health, and soon Clark must decide what he is going to do as he is faced with an impending tragedy.  Will he stand strong in his faith or turn away?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In keeping with most Hallmark movies, the production quality of Love’s Resounding (Everlasting) Courage is above average.  The camera work is solid, along with the video and sound qualities.  The sets and locations are above average and the surroundings give off a truly authentic frontier feel.  The biggest caveat here, besides the typical too-modern costuming, is the sloppy editing.  Events sometimes happen too quickly and other times seemingly out of order.  However, this is a very well produced film, which really make it a shame that the plot is way off base.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

From the get go, it seems like Courage is going to be a really good movie about frontier struggles and the tragedy that shaped Clark Davis as a character for the remainder of the saga.  For the most part, this happens.  We need more plots like this that realistically demonstrate the tragic and hard things in life that everyone is faced with from time to time.  The dialogue therein is pretty good, and the characters are obviously flawed.  However, this plot receives a very low score because the obligatory new romantic subplot inserted into this film—the one between Ben and Sarah that was discussed in the inaugural Love Comes Softly film—completely undermines the intent of this entire franchise!  In Courage, their love doesn’t comes softly and they don’t marry out of ‘sheer need’, but for love.  There would be nothing wrong with this, except that, rather than just follow the original storyline that fans know, Hallmark elected to settle for a predictable romance that utterly strips the franchise of its purpose.  Evidently, they thought that audiences wouldn’t notice or care.  When will production teams begin to treat audiences better than this?

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Much like Love Begins, the acting demonstrates typical Hallmark elements.  As usual, the makeup and costuming do not exactly reflect historical authenticity.  The line delivery is neither great nor terrible.  Emotions can be felt by the audience.  In short, this section is business as usual.

Conclusion

Resounding Courage is a problematic movie.  On one hand, it has a very interesting premise with a lot of potential.  But on the other hand, it completely destroys the original premise of the Love Comes Softly series by inserting a new convenient romance just for the fun of it.  The longer this film franchise dragged on, the worse it became, to the point of turning the entire purpose on its ear.  This is exactly what will happen when creative teams deviate so far from the original purpose of a novel series to the point that they are just reusing the same concepts over and over again rather than provide audiences with fresh ideas that can be found in the pages of the very books the movies are based off of.  This is the end of Box Office Revolution’s Love reviews for now, so we will leave it with this note: make more Christian books into movies, but please, we beg of you, stay true to the books.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Love Begins [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After getting involved with the wrong people and getting involved in a fight that damages a local café, Clark Davis ends up in a jail cell alone when his partner in crime escapes.  Since Clark stays behind when he could have left, the local sheriff decides to have mercy on him and give him a chance to work off the damage he caused.  Clark ends up helping two sisters, Ellen and Cassie Barlow, with their struggling farm, since their parents passed away and left them with all the work.  Before he knows it, Clark finds himself interested in the Christian beliefs of Ellen and finds himself falling in love with her.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

With Hallmark taking full control of these Love Comes Softly spinoffs, the production quality improved slightly.  The camera work is solid, as is the video quality, including good outside shots.  The sound quality is consistent throughout.  The sets and locations are authentic, but slightly limited.  The costuming is pretty good, but there are still some historical time period errors, such as excessive makeup and hairdos.  The editing is above average, yet there is not much content to work with.  But overall, this is not a cheaply made production and certainly could have been a lot worse.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

After silently departing from Janette Oke’s original plotlines in the original Love Comes Softly movie franchise, Hallmark has now manufactured a sequel using characters implied in the books or younger versions of main characters.  Perhaps it was better to be honest and upfront about inventing a concept loosely based on novels, since Love Begins isn’t really that bad of a plot.  It’s not overly cheesy, yet it is also not very creative.  The dialogue is fairly stock and seems to drag on, since this plot is quite shallow for content.  Thus, the characters need more deepening.  Yet the events that happen are realistic and relatable.  Nothing outlandish will be found here—Love Begins is a simple, straightforward Hallmark romance that mostly avoids a cheesy identity.  While there is nothing very creative here, it is at least an average plot.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This is a very small cast, and their acting is certainly not horrible.  The acting overall definitely reaches the average mark.  Some actors and actresses needed to be coached better so that they were more authentic acting.  As previously mentioned, there are some unrealistic costuming and makeup issues, which seem to be a plague in Hallmark frontier movies.  In the end, average is a word that sums up Love Begins.

Conclusion

Unable to resist the urge to continue to spin out more made-for-television movies loosely based on Janette Oke’s creative concepts, Hallmark did not commit glaring errors in Love Begins.  Rather, they settled for a down-home inspirational romance that many people will find enjoyable.  Yet the real question remains: how many more of these types of movies does the market really need?

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

The Letter Writer (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

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

Acting Quality (.5 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Your Love Never Fails {A Valentine’s Date} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Laura Connors is a high-powered executive in New York with demands at her job while at the same time trying to be a mother to her lonely daughter, Kelsey.  Laura would like to forget that she is still technically married to her husband Dylan, who still lives in a small town in Texas.  But she can’t forget that fact when the local court has ordered her to appear over Valentine’s Day weekend to settle her unknown marital status and questionable custody arrangements.  She is forced to leave behind an important business deal in order to face a judge who never liked her and a husband she wants to forget.  But what she doesn’t realize is that this is exactly what she needs—to slow down and remember the values she has been ignoring for years.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The one consolation in this film is that the video is clear and the oft-used outside scenes are not butchered.  However, this is the extent of positivity to mention.  The sets and locations are quite cheap and lackadaisical.  The movie is populated with Texas stock footage of locations we never see the characters go, accompanied by a cheesy country music soundtrack.  The makeup is overdone.  In short, Your Love Never Fails fulfills the bill of a typical Hallmark movie—easy to watch on the surface, but absolutely nothing underneath.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This movie is a typical, very overdone small town plot complete with typical small town dialogue like “I remember when you used to…” and “She never liked me after I did such and such…” and “You look so different since I last saw you!”  Thus, the characters are very empty and seem clueless to reality.  We are not certain if this is supposed to be funny, but any attempted comedy fails miserably.  The Christian message that is inserted into the movie comes off as very manufactured and forced.  The entire premise of the story is unrealistic and slightly improbable, just to fulfill the requirement of a Christian-themed movie taking place during Valentine’s Day.  Surprisingly, the central idea of the film—repairing a broken marriage—is interesting but has no substance whatsoever.  It is hard to even connect with the struggles of the characters are see them as real people.  The bottom line is that the idea behind Your Love Never Fails should have been handed to a more thoughtful team.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The clichés seemingly never end, as the actors and actresses sport obviously fake Southern accents.  As previously mentioned, the makeup is terrible, making all the characters look plastic.  The delivery of lines is too bubbly—even when characters are supposed to be sad, it is hard to believe that they are actually sad.  Thus, the emotions are contrary.  In short, there is really not much good to say here.

Conclusion

Your Love Never Fails is a different romance than most Hallmark films, as it portrays two characters already married.  If we are to have more romances on the market, then film-makers might as well do different things than having two random people thrown into an improbably situation together and portraying them as hating each other before falling madly in love with each other, all in the span of a week or less.  The struggles of American marriages are real, but Your Love Never Fails only makes a flippant mockery of them.  This idea needs to be used again in a better way.  After all, who’s going to complain about another copycat romance?

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Jerusalem Countdown: A Prelude to Armageddon (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Nuclear weapons have been smuggled into America, and FBI agent Shane Daughtry and his team have been ordered to find them before they are detonated.  They must reluctantly collaborate with an old weapons dealer, a corrupt CIA director, and an ex-Muslim spy in order to find the dangerous contraband before America and Israel are blown off the map.  Little do they know is that their true hope lies in a Jewish researcher who has come by valuable information about his mysterious next door neighbor.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The good video quality is the only positive element to mention.  Otherwise, this movie is barely watchable.  The cheap action scenes are unbearable and poorly executed.  The camera angles are below par and the musical score is what one can expect from such a film as this.  The editing is as maddening as the jumpy action sequences.  CGI and special effects are very C-grade.  Nothing can compare with the incessant John Hagee product placements as the audience is spoon-fed his controversial views on eschatology and international politics.  Unfortunately, the negativity doesn’t end here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It doesn’t really seem like David A. R. White and company really did any research on the inner workings of government organizations or the true nature of terrorists when they were planning this movie.  The way that the plot unfolds is so unrealistic that it feels like a comic book.  Leaps in logic and plot holes litter the landscape.  The ways that the characters proceed forward with ‘leads’ is absurd.  Searching the internet for ‘Iran Shipping Ltd’ and then snooping around in a house they own to see whether or not they have nuclear weapons probably takes the cake, but it’s not to be topped by a librarian assisting FBI agents in a confidential case.  Every character is a ridiculous caricature and not believable.  The only consolation is that this is an apocalyptic plot that doesn’t take place on an airplane, but that’s not saying much.

Acting Quality (0 points)

We are convinced that PureFlix believes that if you have enough action scenes in a movie, you don’t need to coach the actors.  Such is the case in Jerusalem Countdown.  The delivery of lines is lackadaisical and emotions are lackluster.  So-called interrogation scenes are forced and awkward.  In short, there is little to nothing good to say about this film.

Conclusion

Is this movie supposed to have a sequel?  We certainly hope not, but ending the movie the way it does suggests that this film was only created to push John Hagee’s unusual worldview.  Movies in the action adventure, suspense, and apocalyptic genres can be used to reach audiences outside of the church, but when films like Jerusalem Countdown crowd out the field and water it down.  The next time an unbeliever hears about a Christian action film, they may only think of movies like this one and roll their eyes, as we do.  We implore Christian film-makers everywhere to learn from the mistakes of movies such as this one and not repeat them.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Saving Winston (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When she is left behind by her partners in crime, Ashley is caught by the police and arrested following a break-in she assisted with.  After being released from juvenile detention, she is assigned to kinship care under her Aunt Diane.  Ashley’s aunt hopes to provide a structured atmosphere on her horse farm for the troubled teen and hopes to lead her to faith in Christ.  But as Ashley’s past keeps calling her back, Diane finds herself at the end of her rope.  That is, until Ashley grows close to a struggling horse on a neighboring property and tries to nurse him back to health.  Little do Ashley and Diane know that healing can come from unexpected places.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Ugh.  That pretty much describes this production.  It looks like it was filmed with a camcorder, sometimes shaking around in someone’s hand, sometimes on a tripod, and sometimes sat on a table some distance away.  More often than not, characters are cut out of the shot or are only partially in the shot since there is obviously no adjustable camera equipment.  Other camcorder qualities include tinny sound and grainy video.  There are lots of wasted ‘artistic’ shots of leaves, grass, and trees, accompanied by clanky piano music.  The sets and locations are basically people’s backyards and living rooms—not that there’s anything wrong with this, but they’re not utilized properly.  In short, Saving Winston is extremely and obviously cheap; no professionalism is exhibited here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

So, what exactly is the plot here?  Why does this plot even center around a horse that gets less than 50% screen time?  It seems like there could have been an interesting plot about juvenile delinquency issues, but there is just nothing here.  The characters are hollow, fueled by lifeless dialogue.  With so few characters, excellent dialogue is needed, but not received.  The aunt character, who is supposed to be the Christian guide of the plot, comes off as abrasive and rude.  Saving Winston just boils down to a collection of scenes depicting people driving around, working with horses, doing Bible studies, and having juvenile arguments.  Box Office Revolution has never reviewed such an empty plot.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This very small cast was neither given good coaching nor interesting lines to work with.  Victoria Emmons has demonstrated the ability to act better in other movies, but not this one, probably due better crews in other films.  In Winston, line delivery is either forced or mumbled and emotional delivery is borderline comedic.  Unfortunately, there is once again nothing good to highlight here.

Conclusion

Everyone has meager beginnings, but it doesn’t have to be this bad.  Winston should have been a short film that concisely and clearly communicated its intended point.  Many new filmmakers have used short films to begin their careers; Shane Hawks could have easily done this and saved time and money.  As it is, Saving Winston made no impact on the market accept to further tarnish the reputation of Christian films.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Stand Strong (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Matt Webster and his family are more wealthy than the average American, and they make sure everyone knows it.  However, they don’t even like to be around each other and are always trying to find ways to cover up the emptiness inside each of them.  But when a series of adverse financial events begin affecting them, they are faced with the choice to live differently or lose everything.  Unfortunately, they do not curb their lifestyles and instead are forced to vacate their immaculate home, sell most of their possessions, and move in with Matt’s brother and his family, who do not share their lavish ideals.  In order to truly fill the emptiness inside, the Websters will have to be willing to learn and to live differently.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The one good thing about Stand Strong’s production is the video quality—at least it’s clear and professional-looking.  However, there is really nothing else good to say.  The sound quality back and forth depending on the type of scene that is being filmed.  The sets and locations are very limited, mostly taking place inside of the two Webster houses, even though other locations are unsuccessfully attempted.  Due to the confusing editing, sometimes the viewer has to guess what is actually happening.  The camera work is only good when the camera is obviously stationary.  In short, it seems like more could have been done here, but nothing materializes.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

There is a profound point somewhere buried in this amateurish plot: people with a lot of money and not enough character often have disjointed family lives and unstable emotions, even when things seem good on the outside.  However, this point is communicated somewhat too obviously—dialogue is over-the-top and extreme, thus creating characters with lots of mood swings.  On the other hand, the ‘good’ characters are perfect robots with schedules and basements full of canned goods.  Stand Strong has the components to be a creative non-typical plot, but it is reduced to unwatchable due to poor planning.  Some parts are over-stated while others are understated, almost like this script underwent different cuts and edits at different times.  The end is not necessarily neat and tidy, but the ‘bad’ characters become replicas of the ‘good’ characters, forming their own robotic dialogue.  In the end, the idea behind Stand Strong needed to be given to a more thorough crew that wasn’t going to just throw something together to have a movie.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast seems like a collection of random people were chosen to play parts and then given no help in this endeavor.  The actors and actresses are not necessarily cast inappropriately, but no care is taken to make them palatable to the audience.  There is potential in each one of them if it is mined properly.

Conclusion

Like we have said many times before, Stand Strong is one of those movies that desperately needs a re-work and a re-write.  This idea doesn’t have to go to waste; it is interesting enough to help us overlook this movie’s negative elements to a point.  It is unfortunate that the team behind this film was not given more help or did not seek out help when making this movie.  If important messages are to be properly communicated, they must be done so in a way that people will listen.  We feel that this is done through a professionally made movie, something that Stand Strong is not.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

Fenced Off (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Josh and Anne has recently moved into a new house in a neighborhood that is considered ‘the hood’.  While Anne is away on a short business trip, Josh tries to settle into the house before beginning his new job, but he cannot help being unnerved by the surroundings.  He is seemingly the only white guy in the neighborhood, and he keeps thinking he is witnessing crimes occurring around him.  In order to cope with his new life, Josh will have to decide whether or not he believes in stereotypes or if he is going to love his neighbor.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Fenced Off is obviously a very cheap production.  The sets are very limited and the camera work is terrible, sometimes showing very tight shots and other times showing cutoff shots.  The sound quality is inconsistent and there are a lot of cheap music montages that cover up the need for a boom mic.  The video quality is at least clear, but the editing is bad.  Granted, there is an iota of content to work with, so it is difficult to know what they were supposed to do.  In short, based on the production quality alone, Fenced Off should have been rejected in the early stages or sent back for a makeover.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

There is only a small amount of potential in this plot, since it tries to deal with race relations and stereotypes.  However, in doing so, it seems to reinforce stereotypes and make a joke out of real life struggles.  It is hard to discern whether or not Fenced Off is an overt comedy.  Sometimes it seems like a sick satire.  The dialogue is grade school level and a majority of the movie is focused on Josh wandering around his house and property, pretending to do yard work, having childish phone conversations, getting a car wash, and yes—trying to cook meat.  The conversations between the retired couple next door have little to no point and are grasping for meaning.  There is also some edgy content that is misplaced and unwelcome.  In summary, while it is noble to try to talk about racial stereotypes and collaborations in a small scale plot, Fenced Off never finds the point and needed a severe rewrite from the beginning, since it seems like this is a rough draft that accidentally got recorded.

Acting Quality (0 points)

There is no good acting in this film, absolutely none, only awkward and forceful delivery.  Many lines seem impromptu and most of the actors seem unsure of how to perform simple everyday tasks like yard work and cooking meat.  One actress in particular seems to be making a joke of the movie since it seems like she is always trying not to laugh.  Some actors poorly mimic the racial stereotypes this movie is trying to speak out against.  It appears as though the actors were just handed a vague script and told to follow it however they wished since they were only going to do one cut per scene.

Conclusion

Fenced Off is an idea that needed a lot more brainstorming and thought put into it before it left the proverbial roundtable of discussion.  We have seen time and time again filmmakers who claim the name of Christ decide to just quickly make a cheap and rushed film about an interesting topic without putting any real effort into it.  The issues need to be portrayed, but how are they being portrayed?  In order to make a lasting impact, time and effort must be put into the movie’s production.  Otherwise, it’s just a waste of everybody’s time.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Marriage Retreat (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Mark and Claire Bowman, James and Donna Harlow, and Bobby and Melody Castle are all close friends, but they are also all struggling in their marriages.  Mark has unresolved issues with his father, James is gone all the time, and Bobby has a gambling problem.  That’s why they decide to take advantage of a marriage retreat sponsored by their church.  They go into the experience with the wrong intentions and quickly find out that they are not all they thought they were.  They will have to dig deep in order to save their marriages from disaster.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

To begin, the camera and sound quality are pretty good, but that is the extent of the positive elements.  The sets are very cheap and limited.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to pinpoint how this film could have been edited better, since it is hard for us to quantify its actual plot.  There is little else that can be said about Marriage Retreat’s production since much of the movie appears to be mostly impromptu work.  One other thing that should be noted is that some of the wedding photos used in the beginning credits are obviously photo-shopped, but when the rest of the movie is considered, this should not be surprising.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As mentioned, there is little to no plot in this film, not only because it is very limited in scope, but most of the dialogue is very impromptu.  A majority of the scenes do not appear to have a clear script, so they meander along a path of horrific attempts at comedy, replete with clownish dialogue.  Therefore, the characters greatly resemble the actual actors themselves.  This plot’s one small redeeming quality is that it has a good message, but it is lost in a sea of cheap and ridiculous attempts at humor.  There is plenty of potential here to showcase different marital issues among Christian couples, but it is reduced to a C-grade cable channel movie that will never make any impact in Christian culture.

Acting Quality (0 points)

It is noble and notable to cast married couples together in this sort of movie, but like everything else potentially positive in this film, it is washed away.  There is zero acting coaching for this small cast, which seems to indicate a certain amount of overconfidence on the part of the actors.  With coaching, some of the comedy could have been actually funny, but alas, it is just another item on the list of lost potential.

Conclusion

True comedy is needed in Christian movies, as are movies that take on the struggles of Christian marriages.  However, Marriage Retreat only serves to further make a laughingstock of Christian films.  Instead of quickly spinning out more and more movies, PureFlix crews need to stop and think on the implications of quantity over quality.  It is not worth it to simply make movies about good topics—we cannot stress this enough—care and attention must be given to production, plot, and acting quality.  Otherwise, the valuable message is completely lost.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

Heaven is Waiting {Midway to Heaven} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ned Stevens has been a rich bachelor living in a small Utah town ever since his wife died and his daughter went off to college.  But everything changes one day when his daughter surprises him by coming home…with her boyfriend, whom she is very serious with.  Ned immediately sets off to make her boyfriend look bad and to dig up some kind of dirt on him.  All the while, he continues to carry on imaginary conversations with his dead wife and his daughter is trying to get him to date a woman his age who lives in the area.  Torn in multiple directions, Ned must find a way to reckon with himself and move on from the past.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Production is the only strong point of Heaven is Waiting, formerly known as Midway to Heaven.  The video and sound quality are both clear.  The camera work is passable and the editing is pretty good.  Despite their absurdity, the imaginary conversations are produced and edited well.  One problem to bring up is that the sets are limited and seem low quality.  Another issue is the makeup and costuming—the few characters within seem unrealistic and vain.  Otherwise, there are no issues where production is concerned.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Okay, so the entire premise of this movie is absurd.  While we do not have an issue with psychological self-conversation within characters, it is not clear whether or not Ned’s wife is in his head or if she is some kind of spirit guide.  Besides this, a dead wife trying to convince her husband to marry another woman is totally ridiculous.  This plot is very limited and rests entirely on Ned’s imaginary conversations.  The few characters contained in the plot are haphazardly cheesy; their dialogue belongs in a parody.  Once the movie has accomplished a certain amount of ‘comedy’, it digresses into cheap musical montages.  A lot of events take place off screen and there is unnecessary narration throughout.  In short, there is really no plot content here that is worth anything.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

In an attempt to be funny, most of the acting comes off as juvenile.  There is really no acting coaching for this very small cast, which is a problem since these few actors carry the entire movie.  As previously mentioned, a lot of the characters seem vain and unrealistic in their appearances.  Unfortunately, the only good thing to say here is that the acting could have been worse.

Conclusion

Heaven is Waiting, also known as Midway to Heaven, seemed like it started out as a good idea that never materialized.  There is a small amount of potential, but the film needs a complete rework.  I think that most sensible women would agree that a dead wife would never constantly ask her husband to marry another woman, even if that were possible for them to communicate.  Another conclusion to draw is that Ned was using his dead wife’s memories as an excuse to get married again, which is even more ridiculous.  In short, this movie should have been sent back to the creators in the early stages for a re-write.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Courageous (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Adam Mitchell and Shane Fuller are just average deputies in an average Georgia city.  They’ve seen humanity at their worst and have tried their best to not become desensitized to the world.  But their mediocre existence is altered when they meet Nathan Hayes, a transfer deputy who truly lives out his faith and his commitment to his family.  Hayes challenges them and a young deputy, David Thompson, and eventually a mutual friend, Javier Martinez, to commit to become better men and fathers, not to just settle for the status quo.  They don’t take him very seriously until tragedy rocks all of their worlds and they are forced to truly look at what they believe in and what they are working towards in life.  Yet as they each make their own decisions in response to the tragedy, they find that every choice has a consequence and the right way is hardly ever the easy way.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

In their largest budget at this point in time, the Kendricks minced nothing.  They left everything on the proverbial production field.  The camera work is masterful, from filming difficult action scenes with skill to bringing an overall high quality and professional look to the movie.  The editing is at least average, especially when considering the large amount of plot content.  There is an excellent balance between action and serene and even sad.  Audio quality is excellent, including an effective soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are very realistic.  This was no doubt a difficult production to pull off, but the Kendricks did it very well.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Courageous follows a typical Kendrick storyline, including multiple subplots and non-linear elements.  There are a lot of great attempts to develop characters through dialogue and realistic situations.  The stories of the characters are intriguing and mostly relatable, even if it sometimes seems like there is a lot going on in the film.  Many different issues are covered in the plot, which is both good and bad.  Not everything turns out to be perfect, and many very relevant concepts are included.  However, sometimes the storyline comes off as a bit disorganized, and sometimes the messaging it a bit too obvious.  Moreover, there is plenty of good here, and many audiences will enjoy this film.

Acting Quality (3 points)

What else can be said about the acting coach talents of the Kendrick crew?  Once again, seasoned actors are mixed with ‘average’ actors, and there is no difference.  Kevin Downes, with years of acting experience, is no better or worse than Robert Amaya in his masterful acting debut.  In addition, the Kendricks continue to show a commitment to diversity of actors, which something many Christian film makers struggle to do.  As a whole, the Kendricks are consistently great in the categories of production and acting.

Conclusion

The Kendrick Brothers have definitely found a Christian movie-making model, and they are sticking with it.  They have an audience, and they know what types of stories they want to portray and what types of characters they want to craft.  There is always plenty of positive to find in their films, and their consistency puts many Christian film makers to shame, but one can see how this movie model can become pedestrian.  In future films, they should consider retaining better screen-writing, but since they have something that works so well, it’s hard to see it changing.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

 

October Baby (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Hannah Lawson grew up a fairly normal girl with some slightly unusual health issues, but she adjusted fairly well and had an enjoyable albeit sheltered family life.  However, everything changes when she has another onslaught of health issues while performing a college play.  This only exposes her silent struggle with depression and a secret her parents have kept from her all her life—that they adopted her as an infant because she is the survivor of a failed abortion.  This revelation leads Hannah to confide in her childhood friend Jason, which prompts him to help her find her birth mother, who might live six hours away from her.  Against the advice of her overprotective father, Hannah embarks on a spring break trip with Jason and his friends in order to discover her origins.  However, a fight with Jason’s girlfriend causes Hannah to strike out on her own, prompting Jason to follow her.  Together, they not only discover Hannah’s past, but also the feelings they have kept hidden from each other.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For a pilot movie, the production of October Baby is top notch.  The camera work, including angles and shots, is exquisite with an artistic flair.  This is not a cheap production.  Filming is not contained to buildings, and outside scenes are not cheaply produced.  Lighting and video quality are very professional.  The soundtrack is excellent and enhances the movie; audio quality is exquisite.  The only caveat here is that some scenes seem too long; some editing might have been prudent.  But besides this, October Baby is very refreshing.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

October Baby has a simple linear plot, but it is a deep plot.  The Erwin Brothers did everything they possibly could to do the best with what they had.  There are some slight plot twists that are not overstated.  The characters are well-developed through believable dialogue and are very authentic.  There is even dry humor that is pulled off well and is not cheesy.  The plot is not entirely about forcing the pro-life message, but it still offers a poignant true-to-life expose on the importance of valuing all human life.  This is a truly meaningful plot that could convince someone to become pro-life.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Casting is perhaps a special talent of the Erwin Brothers.  Every actor is cast perfectly with their part.  The less experienced actors are as well coached as the more experienced actors.  In the opinion of Box Office Revolution, this is the best movie John Schneider has ever acted in, and it can be credited to the expertise of the Erwin Brothers.  The story behind Shari Rigby’s casting is a divine appointment.

Conclusion

October Baby receives an extra point for having an x-factor of dealing with the sensitive issue of abortion in a superb manner.  Issues like this can come off as too pushy or preachy, but not so with the Erwin brothers.  Instead, the issue is woven throughout the plot through believable characters.  This movie’s only weakness is some scenes that appeared to last longer than they should have.  The production is excellent, as is the acting.  In short, October Baby is the Erwin brothers’ huge entrance into the Christian movie scene—signaling even better things to come.

 

Final Rating: 9 out of 10 points