Movie Renovation: A Cross to Bear

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

Obviously, the portion of A Cross to Bear that suffers the most is the production.  The production quality is very low, and this is manifested in poor video quality, below-par audio quality, and unprofessional camera work.  Though the sets, props, and locations are mostly good, the overall feel of this production is very low-budget and indie.  Thus, it is easy to point to these production elements that need to be improved and how to improve them.  Basically, a higher budget, combined with good stewardship, would have gone a long way to possibly making A Cross to Bear a Hall of Fame film.

Plot and Storyline Improvements

While the plot is surprisingly the strongest point of this film, there were a few things that could have been done differently, such as deeper character development.  More opportunities for dialogue could have been taken in exchange for removing a few of the ‘training’ montages.  The struggles of these characters were clear and easy to relate to, so a little more work in this direction could have gone a long way.

Acting Improvements

The acting of this film also has a higher rating than the production, even though there are a few amateur elements here.  There is some coaching evident, but there are a few moments that seem over-acted and some that seem under-acted.  As a whole, with a few small tweaks, this cast could have been nearly perfect.

Conclusion

Movies like A Cross to Bear are extremely rare in that their plot and acting quality are better than their production quality—this is a total role reversal from most Christian films.  What it comes down to is that A Cross to Bear needed a higher budget to succeed past its original rating.  Had it had the budget of some films half its rating, it could have a place on the Hall of Fame now.  Nonetheless, perhaps the ideas of this film could be translated to an upcoming feature.  Also, as we mentioned before, Lecrae needs to be in more films!

 

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Peculiar, Season 1 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

When new Christian Blake Goodman breaks his arm, he loses his (provisional) scholarship to play football at a big university and gets stuck going to the OCCCCC, where they have no sports.  However, they do have a quirky student population, a local campus ministry where most of the series takes place, and of course, a raging atheist professor bent on destroying Blake’s new faith.  What Christian entertainment about higher education would be complete with all of these tropes?  But that’s not all!  No, this series has many more zany elements to offer that put David A. R. White and Tommy Blaze to shame.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though the budget is small, the production really isn’t even half of the problems with this series.  Video and audio quality, for the most part, are fine.  There are some odd camera angles, however, as well as a lot of weird special effects, overlays, and annoyingly interruptive flashbacks or character imaginations.  The soundtrack is a ridiculous cheap track, and there are constant annoying sound effects that are enough to make you go crazy.  It goes without mentioning that one episode where half of the dialogue is sung (very badly), along with horrible lip-synching.  Elsewhere, sets, locations, and props are fairly and understandably limited, and there is really no editing to speak of.  However, as previously mentioned, this isn’t even the beginning of the problems with this horrific series.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-3 points)

Peculiar is rightly named as such, even though Insanity or Stupidity or Offensive would also work.  This series is majorly childish in its approach and downright stupid at times.  Many portions feel like Tommy Blaze gone wrong (as if that’s possible) due to off-the-wall and even offensive humor that takes cheap shots at Jews and people who could be special needs.  Other ‘comedy’ is only funny because it is so poorly executed that it seems like a child wrote this.  Space probably won’t permit a full exploration of the problems in this section, but we will try our best.  Besides the absurdly predictable atheist professor character, all of the other characters are just generally off-beat as they espouse an odd brand of Christianity and mishandle otherwise important topics that they try to explore.  The series is also full of obnoxious ‘funny’ asides and head-scratching tongue-in-cheek jokes about itself, as if this whole thing is a satire.  I would believe that it is making fun of Christians on purpose, except for the fact that each episode tries to spoon-feed the audience a cute and trite little Christian platitude.  Also, as if things aren’t bad enough at first, the musical episode really takes the cake.  As whole, Peculiar is very unexplainable and generally strange in basically every way.  To fully experience the zany madness, you have to see it for yourself.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The lead actor bears a very striking resemblance to the maniacal mannerisms of David A. R. White, with awkward delivery, forced humor, and an air of superiority.  The other cast members aren’t much better, just less full of themselves and more awkward.  Most lines are overly enunciated, and emotions are greatly lacking in realism.  Torry Martin isn’t even enough to save this very small cast from itself, even though there are some attempts in the end to improve.  The improvement isn’t significant enough to register any life here, especially when it started out so bad.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

As episodes end in awkward and weird ways, this series churns out one thing after the next in very (mercifully) short episodes.  Though there are slight attempts at plot arcs, they are just cheesy romantic nonsense, and there are no character arcs.  Each episode also begins with an unwanted and long recap of previous episodes, as if you missed anything.  Essentially, not much can pull this series out of the nose dive it started out with.

Conclusion

Peculiar is a very surreal experience, almost like a Christianity twilight zone.  In this possibly worst series ever, all nightmarish clichés and caricatures of Christians come to life in a ten-episode experience from Sheol.  Every bad thing we’ve ever pointed out in Christian entertainment is rolled into one series as a package deal, along with even worse things.  This series should have been canned, banned, and whatever else it took to make it go away forever.

 

Final Rating: -2 out of 14 points

 

 

Time Collectors: Return of the Giants (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Brad is a bad boy with a sick mother, but when his grandfather dies, the will stipulates that Brad must live in his grandfather’s house for a year before collecting his hefty inheritance.  He decides to move to Texas with his goofy friend in order to fix up the house to sell it.  While there, Brad meets Maria, one of his grandfather’s neighbors, whom he begins to grow close to.  Maria and her parents decide to try to indoctrinate Brad with their cultish philosophies, which are based entirely on a cockamamie explanation of the Seventy Weeks vision from the book of Daniel.  Thus, Brad is then empowered to discover that his grandfather was secretly hiding giant skeletons in his basement that can prove the Bible is right because God is a Time Collector or something.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Besides the other absurdities of this film, the poor production makes its existence mostly pointless.  Video quality is very inconsistent, and the camera is constantly moving around and sometimes has weird close-up shots and bizarre camera angles.  The lighting is also all over the place, and audio quality is very poor.  Flashbacks are unnecessarily black and white, and the production overall has a very cheap look to it.  Sets, locations, and props are limited and underwhelming.  Editing is also very choppy, including a lot abrupt and unnecessarily bad cuts and transitions.  Basically, this production has nothing good about it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Not only is this storyline severely disorganized and confusing, but it espouses an off-the-wall, almost cult-like message that comes completely out of left field.  Though Time Collectors pushes a predictable anti-atheist agenda, it also delves into a bizarre prophecy\time travel concept that is both unanticipated and off-putting, if not also funny for all the wrong reasons.  Nonetheless, the weirdness aside, this is just an all-around bad plot.  There’s barely any substantial dialogue, thus leaving the characters empty.  The film is full of wasted time and pointless content, such as activities of daily living and people hanging around and talking without saying anything worthwhile.  A lot of the time, it seems like this plot was written by children, except for the bizarre worldview inclusions.  In the end, this storyline is odd enough to warrant a negative point.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As if other parts of this film were not bad enough, this is possibly the most amateurish and juvenile acting can get without being negative.  Every cast member is very awkward and unsure in their line delivery, besides being generally dry, drab, and underwhelming.  In short, this film is a perfect example a bunch of random people getting together to force a ridiculous film to happen.

Conclusion

When you want to convert someone to Christianity, naturally the first thing you would do is sit them down in your living room and proceed to indoctrinate them on your weird view of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks prophecy, which you know way better than anyone else.  Apparently, that’s what the makers of this film thought.  Either that, or they just didn’t think at all, which is highly possible.  A word of advice: avoid this film unless you want a good laugh or want to learn how to make a film impossibly bad.

 

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

 

Movie Renovation: Hardflip

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

One of the biggest production annoyances with Hardflip is that too often, it feels like one long Decypher Down music video (oh the good ole’ early 2000s).  However, there is a healthy dose of Red that helps things.  Nonetheless, though this movie was marketed as a music-filled experience, this is just too much.  The music is too loud most of the time, and it thus hampers the film’s potential.  Two main things that would make this production higher are to cut down the music to a more palatable amount and to bring the schizophrenic editing up to industry standards.  These two fixes would have gone a long way in pushing this film closer to the Hall of Fame.

Plot and Storyline Improvements

The music overload also undercuts the plot’s ability to truly flourish in this film.  There are a lot of creative artistic undertones in Hardflip that do not reach their fullest potential due to the wild and dizzying presentation of the plot events.  Thus, some organization was in order.  The psychological elements of Hardflip are a plus, but they need better development.  For example, the asides with the homeless guy are interesting, but we need to be better connected with this subplot.  Also, as with most films, improved characters via more complex and meaningful dialogue would have gone a long way to increasing this film’s overall score.  Thus, with fewer music videos, a more responsible use of artistic and psychological elements, and stronger characters based on realistic dialogue, Hardflip could have been a Hall of Fame film.

Acting Improvements

John Schneider and Randy Wayne are a shaky lead role combo at best.  If Caleb is supposed to be a teenager, Randy Wayne looks too old.  John Schneider has shown that he is a product of his directors, so some better acting coaching was in order here.  The supporting cast members could also use some upgrades.  In short, better casting and acting coaching always go a long way.

Conclusion

Johnny Remo has always been close but not quite there in his films.  Hardflip was possibly the closest he has ever gotten to true greatness in film making.  He had great ideas here that, with further refinement, such as a more professional production, a more responsible use of music, a more organized plot, and more refined acting and casting, could have been a Hall of Fame film.  We may never know the fullest potential of this movie, but perhaps future film makers can learn from Hardflip to make their films even better.

Movie Renovation: Meant to Be

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

The only major production improvement that should be noted in Meant to Be is the need for more organized editing.  In this film, scenes tend to be tossed here and there in a confusing fashion.  However, the editing can only be improved as the plot content is improved.  Thus, a more organized plot would have likely led to improvement in this area.

Plot and Storyline Improvements

Meant to Be is one of the most creative and most frustrating films we have ever reviewed.  Without spoiling the major twist at the end, it should be noted that this twist is mostly unexpected, especially after sitting through the boring and purposeless first half of the plot.  This is where most of the audience will be lost, so the most effective thing that could have been done in this situation would have been to make the first half of movie a good film on its own without having to rely on the twist in the second half.  This would also cause misdirection and make the twist even more surprising and out of left field.  As it is, Meant to Be seems to be rushing to get to the twist, and character development is sacrificed in the process.  We need to know what these characters care about and what their motivations are, and this can be done through substantial dialogue.  If these characters would be able to stand on their own apart from the twist, this would have been a truly great film.

Acting Improvements

Step one: take out Dean Cain.  Further, the jury is still out on whether or not Bradley Dorsey should be acting in his own films.  Other cast members in Meant to Be were underwhelming in their performances, so more improved acting coaching might have helped this section improve.

Conclusion

Bradley Dorsey has some great ideas, but he often stunts their full impact by getting in his own way.  The best thing he can do at this point in his career is to work with a team approach.  He may need to step back from acting in his films and work collaboratively with someone to bring his creative ideas to full fruition by developing deeper characters.  In the end, while it is unclear what his next steps are, if he heeds this advice, he could soar to new heights.

The Ride: A Christmas Eve Parable (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a burned out and bored taxi driver picks up a troubled character late at night on Christmas Eve, he just wants the night to be over.  However, as the night goes on, the taxi driver becomes more intrigued and even concerned about the nature of his passenger’s journey.  He tries to engage the passenger in conversation, but this is mostly unsuccessful.  Will he be able to get through to him before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As an early film from Vertical Church, The Ride demonstrate production efficiency and quality, even in a shorter film.  Even before The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, this church has been committed to high quality films.  This is evident in this film’s great video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The soundtrack is also creative.  Sets, locations, and props are appropriate for the film.  The only nitpick to point out here pertains to the editing, as there are a few dead scenes that stand out in the short film.  But this isn’t much to notice, and this film is presented in a very professional fashion.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though sometimes it is better to make a short film for a small idea, it is possible that The Ride is one instance in which this was not the case.  It seems like there was more content that could have been included in this plot, especially since the two main characters that are focused on are fairly well developed.  This is done through efficient dialogue that builds their backstories realistically.  The circumstances therein are believable and realistic.  Both serious and comedic moments are presented effectively.  However, as previously mentioned, we really wanted to see more from these characters, and perhaps other ones as well.  Moreover, it seems like this plot was written to be a short film, which is perfectly fine.  On the whole, this story shows just what Dallas Jenkins is capable of.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Rather than settle for only using inexperienced cast members from the local church, Dallas Jenkins and his team cast more experienced actors for the main roles.  Kirk B.R. Woller and Brad Heller are excellent in their respective roles.  This is possibly Brad Heller’s best role outside of Mom’s Night Out.  Overall, though this is a tiny cast, there are no acting errors to point out here.

Conclusion

Sometimes starting out small is better.  Dallas Jenkins made feature length films before this one, like Midnight Clear and What If, yet the former of these was not very good.  It’s possible that with the creation of short films, Dallas and his team were able to hone their skills better and produce a much better film in The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.  Moreover, as it is, The Ride demonstrates a lot of positive aspects that will make it an enjoyable film for many people this holiday season.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

Christmas Oranges (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rose is an orphan girl who lives in Mrs. Hartley’s orphan home.  However, when Mrs. Hartley and some of the children die of illness one fateful month, all of the orphans are sent to other places.  Rose and some of her friends are sent to live in the orphanage of the angry Mr. Crampton, who has strict rules and doesn’t want children messing around with his stuff.  However, the more Rose learns about Mr. Crampton, the more she learns that he is hurting during the holiday season and needs someone to love him.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As usual for John Lyde and his creative teams, Christmas Oranges is a professional production.  This is evidenced by good video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The soundtrack is somewhat generic, but it is fine for the genre.  Locations are mostly fine, even though there are few of them, but the sets are limited in scope.  There are also some random scenes that are poorly lit for no clear reason.  However, on the flip side, the editing is surprisingly effective.  On the whole, this is a high quality effort that has become commonplace from this group.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

In a different turn from other stories from John Lyde and company, Christmas Oranges has a uniquely substantial plot that contains the accessible struggles of relatively believable characters.  Though there is narration that hurts things, the child characters are actually pretty good, even if the orphan premise is slightly cheesy.  There are also some silly ‘kids’ sequences and montages, along with some strawman characters.  However, for the most part, the dialogue and the ideas therein are mostly meaningful and do their best to avoid cliched Christmas concepts involving orphans.  Probably the best element of this storyline is its use of realistic character backstories to humanize the ‘bad’ characters.  On the whole, while this movie did not go as far as it could have, it is still enjoyable and is worth a watch.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While most of the cast members are definitely professional, this section still tends to be a mixed bag.  Some cast members seem to be overdoing their performances just a bit.  However, on the whole, emotions are realistic, and line delivery is on point.  As a side note, costuming is historically authentic.  Overall, this rounds out a very professional effort.

Conclusion

The Covenant Communications\Paulist Productions\Mainstay Productions collaboration has been working for years to make respectable films, and for the most part, they have succeeded.  However, they have been plagued by an inability to get over the last proverbial hill that stands between them and film greatness.  Nonetheless, they have all the tools necessary to do so.  Thus, we believe that sometime in the near future, they will finally break through and make that dynamic film that has alluded them for years.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

The Note III: Notes From the Heart Healer (Movie Review)

For some reason, we needed another one of these

Plot Summary

After famous feel-good columnists Peyton MacGruder and Kingston Danville get married, they are suddenly the new parents of a child who was left on their doorstep by a young and desperate mother.  Unsure of what to do, they turn to the authorities and accidentally get the struggling mother in trouble.  Peyton than feels bad about what she did and tries to rectify it.  Will she be able to save this hurting family before they hate her forever and ruin her reputation as a columnist?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Much like the other installments of this unnecessary series, The Note III is a very standard Hallmark production with no surprises or deviations.  Video quality, audio quality, and camera work are all what you can expect from a made for television film.  The soundtrack is what you can expect from a Hallmark movie.  Sets, locations, and props are fine.  The only small issue to raise here is the slightly choppy editing, but that comes with this territory.  On the whole, this is a fine production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s beyond asking the question as to why we needed another one of these lame rip-off sequels, but does it really matter?  The Christian message, whatever there was before, diminishes throughout this series until it’s unrecognizable in this third film.  At this point, it’s impossible to understand how these plastic ideas even relate to the original Angela Hunt novel or why these stories are put in this trilogy.  They could have been shoved into any Hallmark movie on the assembly line, and they probably actually were.  Note From the Heart Healer is a cheesy, cliched story with basically no purpose or direction.  The characters are fake and plastic, mostly due to manufactured and uninteresting dialogue.  If it seems like this review has been put on repeat, it’s because Hallmark pushed repeat and replicate on this inept trilogy.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As previously mentioned in the other reviews, Ted McGinley is unbearable and ruins whatever cast he is in.  This cast tends toward the more modern plastic cast that Hallmark favors these days, but at least they are not all bad.  Emotions are inconsistent, depending on the cast member.  The same can be said for line delivery, which makes this an average section.

Conclusion

Hallmark is Hallmark, plain and simple.  They take an idea and run with it.  Sometimes they run it into the ground and even twist it, especially if a Christian novel is in the mix.  Creativity isn’t even an option as an idea is ripped off and #Hallmarked.  Thus, as this trilogy thankfully comes to a close, there’s nothing else that can really be said here.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Saint Street (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Percy believes that he has to work long hours in order to be more successful in his business so that his family has more possessions.  Yet his family just wants to see him from the holidays.  One fateful night, when he insists on driving all night to a family gathering, a car accident changes his life and his family’s lives forever.  Will Percy be able to find faith and hope in the tragedy’s wake?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Overall, Saint Street is a fine production, including good video quality and camera work.  Audio quality is fine except for some odd sound effects; however, the soundtrack is fine.  Sometimes lighting is also not what it should be, but there is improvement throughout.  For the most part, sets, locations, and props are what they should be.  At first, the editing is a bit disorienting, but this also improves throughout.  In the end, this is an above-average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

At the beginning, Saint Street is a typical businessman-is-forced-to-slow-down Christmas plot, combined with some ‘magical’ elements.  However, it is sometimes hard to follow, and it tends to have too much wasted time without enough substantial content.  It seems like most of the time it’s just trying to get to the end, and it has some slightly obvious allegorical content.  However, there are some good psychological elements, as well as a good message.  Yet the characters come off as cheesy and under-developed due to unsubstantial and underwhelming dialogue.  While things tend to happen because they need to, the ending is at least interesting and thought-provoking.  Yet this movie still leaves a lot to be desired.

Acting Quality (1 point)

At first, there is a lot of overdone acting and forced, unnatural emotions.  However, some improvement is shown throughout as coaching seems to improve in some areas.  Yet there are some other unusual performances by some cast members that do not change.  In many areas, it seems like Saint Street leaves a lot of potential on the ground.

Conclusion

These types of psychological Christmas plots can sometimes be predictable and worn out, but they usually contain enough elements to be interesting.  Some audiences will still enjoy Saint Street, and there is something everyone can learn from it.  There is just a collection of lingering issues that keeps it from being all that it could be.  Perhaps Rob Diamond and his team will continue to improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Unexceptional Love (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1 point)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

I Was Broken [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jesse and Wayne are two brothers who have been separated by a tragedy, but they come back together so that Wayne can assist Jesse in overcoming his addictions by taking him to rehab.  On the road trip, they struggle with their faith and their relationship as they recall the past and try to find reconciliation for the future.  When they are pushed to their limit, will they be able to find their way back to where God wants them to be?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

I Was Broken is a unique and ambitious film that seems like it had the funding to have a great production.  Video quality is up to standard, yet camera work is unnecessarily shaky.  Audio quality is also overdriven for no particular reason, yet the soundtrack, though loud, is quite creative.  Sets, locations, and props, however, are probably the highlight of this production as clearly a lot of time was spent on them.  Sometimes the editing can be confusing, but most production elements show improvement throughout the runtime.  Overall, this is an artistic experience that has room for improvement.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The storyline is also extremely artistic, sometimes to the point of being extremely vague and hard to comprehend.  There are a lot of good points made in this plot, and the Christian message is presented in a unique way.  However, too often, this plot is hard to follow.  There are really only two characters in this story, and while dialogue is relatively well-constructed, we still need to get to know them as people beyond too brooding, troubled men.  The ending of the plot is unexpected and utilizes some intriguing psychological elements, yet it could still be better explained so that the point is driven home better.  Essentially, this idea needs a remake.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With such a tiny cast, the entire film’s weight is squarely on their shoulders.  Though they are pretty good, the case members are sometimes too dramatic.  Other times, their lines are mumbled.  But they have enough good moments to post at least an average performance.

Conclusion

Indie films like I Was Broken are often hard to figure.  The creators are clearly trying to do something different, yet they did not do the best job communicating exactly what that was.  Their ideas, though they can be somewhat ascertained, are too vague for wide appeal.  Yet perhaps they will use this film as a launching pad for their next project.  In the future, they need to hone their artistic style to create a more accessible film, because they have plenty of potential to make waves in the industry.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Pray 3D: The Storm (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

On one autumn night, when a young couple leaves their children with a teenage babysitter, they have no idea what’s in store for the teenager and her friends.  The storm outside gets worse and worse and the babysitter’s friends keep randomly showing up at the house.  Yet little do they know that a strange and sadistic stalker is hanging around again—even inside the house!  Will they be able to survive the strange storm and the stalker’s evil?

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

In the long-awaited conclusion to this horrific series, nothing really improves.  Production is still as bad as ever.  Video quality is bad and camera work is very shaky, including weird camera angles that look like they came directly from camcorder footage.  Audio is very muted and soundtrack is absurd.  Lighting is very poor throughout, and the sets and locations are severely cheap and limited.  There are also weird special effects and overlays throughout.  Finally, as can be expected, there is no editing to be found.  In the end, as this trilogy limps to a close, the end can’t come soon enough.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Much like the first two installments, this third go at off-the-wall yet ‘family-friendly’ horror is as pointless and aimless as ever.  This idea wears very thin after three attempts, especially since there’s no real content except for stupid and childish attempts at horror.  This so-called story is once again laughable as we are forced to watch a bunch of awkward teenagers being ‘chased’ by a figure in a cheap mask.  There is zero purpose to this and no lesson to be learned here except never, ever replicate this sort of madness ever again.  Future Christian horror writers can take notes from this display of ineptitude and learn how not to write such a film.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

Much like the previous two casts, this one is just as amateurish, unsure, and awkward.  Only this time, Rusty Martin Jr. is thrown into the mix for some reason.  I guess he really will do anything.  Elsewhere, emotions are extreme and over the top and line delivery is off-kilter.  In short, we’re very glad this trilogy has come to a close.

Conclusion

Thus, this concludes the strangest Christian film trilogy to date.  We hope films like this are never again repeated.  The creators of this three-part train wreck have some serious soul-searching to do, as would anyone who achieved the rare feat of creating an entirely negatively-rated film trilogy.  The only thing this series is good for is serving as an example of how not to make a film.

 

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

 

Somebody’s Child (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Though Constance is going through dialysis and is waiting for a kidney donor match, she knows that God has been good to her.  Her son Douglas always takes care of her and she loves her grandson.  However, she harbors a secret from her past that hardly anyone knows about.  Yet little does she know is that God is about to set into motion events that will reconcile the past and bring redemption to them all.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Gary Wheeler is always reliable in crafting a professional production.  There are very few errors to speak of in the production of this film.  Video quality is excellent, as it camera work and audio quality.  The soundtrack is good, even if it’s a little pedestrian.  Sets, locations, and props are professional and appropriate for the film.  The only small error to point out here pertains to some minor editing issues that cause the plot to be confusing.  Yet in the end, as a made-for-television movie, this production is what it should be.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, as a made-for-TV movie, Somebody’s Child lacks creativity in an attempt to be safe and marketable.  Though the idea behind it is interesting and though the circumstances the characters experience are realistic, this story is still too underdeveloped.  Dialogue is very generic, thus making the characters one-dimensional.  This is a character-based plot, which means we need deep characters, yet this is not the case here.  There is too much wasted time in this plot and not enough scenes that develop the characters—it feels like they are just swept along in the plot without any feeling.  Finally, the ending is very rushed and seemingly unfeeling.  Unfortunately, though this movie had everything going for it, the story fails to come through.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

As a professional cast with obviously good coaching, there are very few errors to speak of here.  Sometimes emotions aren’t what they should be, but they mostly are.  Line delivery is always on point, even if the cast member doesn’t have a very good line to work with.  Overall, Somebody’s Child is a professional film that falls short of greatness.

Conclusion

Many audiences will enjoy this film, but we are always looking for films that take that next step out of mediocrity (even professional mediocrity) and become a great, difference-making film.  With this type of funding and platform, this was possible here, but the plot needs a lot of beefing up in order for this to be case with Somebody’s Child.  Hopefully in the future opportunities like this will no longer be wasted.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Seventy Times Seven [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

David and Brayden are best friends, but when David marries the woman Brayden always loved, their friendship is greatly strained.  Brayden buries his sorrow in a relationship of his own, but he still stews and lets his anger grow.  Eventually, he is unable to contain it all and acts in desperation.  In the aftermath, will David be able to show the forgiveness that his wife always talked about?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As another well-funded low-key production, Seventy Times Seven at least appears to have some funding well spent.  Video quality and camera work are fine, as is audio quality for once, even though the soundtrack is mindless.  Sets and locations are limited like usual, but props show some improvement.  Finally, there is once again no editing present as pretty much all available content is presented.  In the end, while this production shows some better stewardship of resources when compared to other Strong Foundation Films, it still only comes out as average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Similarly, this storyline is really no better than other Strong Foundation attempts at plots.  The characters are still empty and one-dimensional due to be drive by juvenile and simplistic dialogue.  There isn’t really enough plot content to sustain a full-length film, thus there are a lot of filler scenes.  Random things seem to happen for no particular reason, including some strange and laughable asides.  Finally, the Christian message doesn’t seem authentic and the overall thrust of the film is uninspiring.  Though it’s likely that Sun Hui East and her team mean well, they need to invest in better screenwriting.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this cast shows some more skills than past Strong Foundation casts, Josiah David Warren’s constant screen-time dominance always puts a damper on things due to his very unsure nature.  There is a lot of forced drama among these cast members and not enough professional line delivery.  While there is some good here, it’s not enough.

Conclusion

The film-making model adapted by companies like Strong Foundation, the one that advocates putting out as many films as possible, can give the company experience making productions, but it certainly does not produce quality movies.  We don’t need more low-quality Christian films flooding the market.  It would be one thing if companies would make beta test films that were not released, but this is not usually the case.  Maybe one day companies like Strong Foundation will finally hit the mark they are aiming for.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

The Prophet’s Son (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Brothers Alex and Abel Benjamin are a famous Christian musical duo and they seek to not only entertain people but to reach people with the gospel and their spiritual powers of discernment.  They encounter many people on their travels that desperately need the love of Jesus and they also see that the world is descending into chaos as the end times approach.  Will they be able to reach the people they need to reach before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

To have an over $2 million budget, it’s difficult to see how this production ended up so bad.  Video quality and camera work are the only good elements to speak of.  Audio quality is laughable and the soundtrack is pedestrian.  Sets, locations, and props are limited and not on the standard of this type of budget.  Furthermore, editing is nonexistent as the film jumps all over the place with no sense or understanding what’s actually happening.  Basically, we have no idea how this crew got that much money to spend, because they squandered it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though there are some slightly interesting ideas hidden somewhere in this mess, there is absolutely no continuity as the story jumps all over the place with disjointed subplots and unrelated sequences.  Random things just happen and there are a lot of references to off-screen content.  The Christian characters are overly perfect and have dialogue that contains obvious message-pushing.  There is also too much expositional dialogue.  It’s also hard to understand what the deal is with the unusual and low-key apocalyptic premise that constantly nags at the undertone of this film.  Overall, it’s all very hard to understand and quantify, so it’s hard to justify this film’s existence.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This small cast that is typical of Strong Foundation Films is in need of better coaching.  They are emotionless and robotic and even forceful at time.  Though they actually demonstrate some improvement throughout, they are too unsure of themselves.  Some lines are under-emphasized while others are forced through.  This section rounds off a very off-the-wall film.

Conclusion

There is probably a part of the Strong Foundation team that means well, but their delivery is very misguided and their management of resources is embarrassing.  The premise of this movie is too isolating and the cast is very underwhelming.  In the future, this creative team needs to have a reevaluation of where they are going as a company.  But if they can continually accrue this kind of capital, who knows what they might do next.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

In Over My Head (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Nathan is the spoiled young adult of a well-to-do business family who believes he can do whatever he wants.  But his world comes crashing down one day when both of his parents suddenly are killed in a car accident, leaving Nathan to run the family business and take care of his two younger siblings.  Nathan is forced to rely on the faith he always thought was silly to make it through.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

With a clearly limited budget, it’s difficult to see the justification for this film.  The sets and locations are quite cheap and limited, although the props are okay.  Video quality and camera work are also fine, but audio quality is not.  There are too many loud background noises and a loud yet generic soundtrack that covers up things.  The transitions are also too abrupt and choppy to make any sense.  In short, the money used for this production should have been saved for a different film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The entire premise of this forced and juvenile comedy is very thin and flimsy.  There is a lot of fake drama yet not enough real plot content as the story jumps all over the place as a collection of random ‘goofy’ scenes.  The characters are very one-dimensional thanks to lame and empty dialogue.  The Christian message presented is very plastic and lazy.  There is also a very cheesy love triangle subplot that takes up a lot of this film’s time.  But it’s not like there were any better ideas to include here.  Basically, it’s very difficult to understand how movies like this are made.

Acting Quality (0 points)

While these cast members may mean well, their performances do not always reflect this.  They are a lot of times very robotic and overly practiced.  Their emotions are hard to connect with.  Since this is such a small cast, any errors are automatically amplified.  It’s hard to see anything positive here.

Conclusion

What if struggling film companies like Strong Foundation saved all of their money for one good film rather than making a handful of cut-rate cheap films that will never have any impact on the market?  We are sure people like the ones behind these sorts of films do mean well in what they are doing, they just need more direction in their work.  Yet perhaps they can build on mistakes like this one and become better as a result.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Saving Faith [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Malcolm’s family is killed in the car wreck that he survives, he begins making poor choices that cause his life to fall apart.  He feels like he’s coming unhinged and what’s worse is that one of his employees in entangled with a dangerous gang that drags Malcolm into the mix of everything.  Will he be able to keep his head above water and remember the faith he has long abandoned?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

One has to wonder what the standards are for PureFlix to distribute a film.  Much like Saving Winston, Hollow, As I Stand, Without a Father, Birdie and Bogey, Running Inside Out, The Wager, etc., Saving Faith is a terrible production in every possible way.  Video quality is very cheap and there are a lot of weird camera angles.  Audio quality is also bad and there’s not enough of a soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are extremely cheap and limited.  Finally, editing is non-existent and all possible content—including useless content—is included.  Basically, this is an awful mess.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As a typical post-tragedy troubled character plot, Saving Faith follows a lot of predictable conventions.  It is very melodramatic and refers to a lot of off-screen content, even as plenty of time is wasted.  Despite this fact, there is hardly enough content to sustain a plot at all as scenes are dragged out painfully in order to fill time.  Dialogue is dead as the characters are cardboard cutouts with no feeling whatsoever.  In the end, if you make it that far, problems are resolved way too easily and thus, nothing is learned.  Unfortunately, this is yet another throwaway movie.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Though this cast has more potential than the rest of the film, they are still overly practiced and stiff in their line delivery.  Emotions are basically non-existent and empty.  With such a low budget, it’s easy to see why there was no coaching, but in the grand scheme of things, what was really the purpose of this film?

Conclusion

It’s likely that a lot of low-funded films have creative teams behind them who mean well but who didn’t anticipate the great undertaking that film making actually is.  In such cases like this, it would be better to make a short film or a beta test and not release it to the public because doing so only hurts your reputation and the reputation of Christian film.  But perhaps the people behind movies like this will improve in the future and surprise us all.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

Catching Hearts [2012] (Movie Review)

Why am I here?

Plot Summary

Professor Mark Gavin is a successful atheist speaker and author, but what happens when life causes him to begin questioning his beliefs?  Rachel and Dean are two young adults who have been influenced by Gavin’s work, and they both feel like there is no true purpose for them in life as they meander along and wallow in their problems.  Will any of them ever be able to find meaning and purpose in their lives?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, there’s really not much good to say about this production.  Video quality is grainy and camera work is all over the place.  Audio quality is lacking and the soundtrack is very generic.  Sets, locations, and props are very limited and cheap.  Finally, there is really no editing as this film as the content meanders along aimlessly with no real purpose.  Basically, this is an underfunded production, but it’s easy to see why there’s not much investment here—because there’s really no point.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Catching Hearts (whatever that title means) explores the seeming meaninglessness of life, but it gets lost in the purposelessness itself.  Its subplots are very disjointed and full of silly coincidences and unrealistic occurrences.  The characters are stunted and empty.  Too many moments are too melodramatic and the Christian message is very trite, while at the same time, the portrayal of atheists is laughable.  There is no gist or driving purpose in this story—it’s just a bunch of random sequences thrown together with problems that are fixed very easily.  There’s nothing to learn from this film and it’s embarrassing to watch.

Acting Quality (0 points)

It’s evident that there was no acting coaching present with this plot as the performances are lazy and the emotions are too extreme.  Line delivery is sometimes phoned in and it doesn’t feel like the cast members cared about this film.  Then again, who can blame them, since they really didn’t have much content to work with.

Conclusion

What’s the point of films like this?  They begin with a half-hearted idea and somehow materialize into a feature length film of pointlessness.  Catching Hearts has nothing whatsoever going for it, so it’s hard to see how this idea was even pitched.  It’s little wonder that the funding was lacking and the cast members were unmotivated.  Movies like this only further clutter the field.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Break Away [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Francois is a hard worker, but when he suddenly loses his job in the struggling Johannesburg economy, he is at a loss as to how he is to provide for his family.  He feels like God gives him an idea to start his own bicycle delivery business, and he does so, aided by a friend.  But as his financial situation goes from bad to worse, out of desperation, he decides to enter a cycle race in the hope of winning money.  Will he be able to recover what he has lost and keep his family from poverty?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though a lot of good efforts were made with this production, there are still some pesky errors that hold it back.  Camera work and video quality are good, especially in the actions scenes, even though there are some odd camera angles throughout.  However, audio quality is sometimes poor, including a random soundtrack and outside noises.  Yet sets, locations, and props are quite good and authentic.  Also, the problem areas do tend to improve throughout, which is a plus.  The editing is also a mixed bag, with some good moments and some poor moments.  Overall, this is a good first-time independent production and something to build off of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Break Away is based on a realistic and interesting story, even if it is somewhat boring at times.  There are unfortunately too many montages that fill up the runtime, thus hurting the development of the characters and causing dialogue to be shallow and stunted.  There are quite of few interesting subplots besides the main plot that warrant further explanation.  It’s difficult for this plot to hold the attention as it is, even though the struggles of the characters can be appreciated on some level.  Though it’s sometimes overly dramatic, it’s clear that this creative team meant well in writing this.  Once again, this is something to build off of.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a semi-amateur cast, these actors and actresses do a decent job, even if they are a little stuffy and robotic at times.  Sometimes lines are mumbled, but emotions are mostly believable.  In the end, this is an average performance to round off a decent effort.

Conclusion

It’s never easy to make a movie of your own, especially since funding is hard to come by for international films.  Regardless, all that matters in this sort of situation is that you do your best, and it seems like, for the most part, this was done in Break Away.  It always feels like plots are suffering in Christian film, however.  Sometimes it’s better to use a plot that’s already written, but perhaps one day, the stories that are told in Christian movies will be more creative and engaging.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

The Frontier Boys (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a tight-knit group of high school basketball players and fans is directly affected by a seemingly random drive-by shooting, they band together to discover the truth behind the evil deed.  However, unbeknownst to the others, one of them is holding a terrible secret that would affect his very life if he disclosed it.  But as the trail grows cold, will be speak the truth and risk it all to save his friends?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Frontier Boys starts off as a very raw and rough production, which is not characteristic of Echolight Studios.  Camera work is quite shaky at first and video quality is inconsistent.  However, audio quality is always good and the soundtrack is creative.  Sometimes lighting is randomly poor, but this and other productions elements at least improve as the movie goes on.  Sets, locations, and props are stable throughout the film, but for some reason it takes until the middle of video quality, camera work, and lighting to improve.  However, the editing is bit odd as it leaves too many lagging scenes and unexplained sequences.  Overall, this production is a roller coaster and probably should have been redone.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The Frontier Boys is a rare circumstance in which the creative plot saves the film from total mediocrity.  Though it begins in a confusing fashion, the story becomes more interesting as it goes, even though it does take a while to get to the point.  Regardless, the characters are surprisingly well-developed through unique dialogue and realistic circumstances.  However, there are some typical sports and mystery story elements and sometimes it seems like the creativity of this suspense idea is not reaching its fullest potential.  It feels like this film was just a beta test because a lot of factors are too downplayed and not taken seriously enough.  Had they been taken more serious, this would be a whole different ballgame.  But in the end, though things tend to be fixed too easily in this plot, it is still a commendable effort and one that demonstrates story-writing talent, which is hard to come by in the Christian movie field.  Perhaps this talent will be utilized further in the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is some off-putting and unusual at first, they work well together and assume their roles very well.  Line delivery is on-point and emotions are believable.  This is a professional casting job and one that should be replicated in the future.

Conclusion

There’s really not a movie out there that’s like The Frontier Boys.  It actually follows a non-typical plot structure and dabbles into an untapped genre.  If the production were upgraded and the plot even slightly improved, this would have been a Hall of Fame film.  Perhaps with the backing of Echolight, this creative team has a chance to really make a difference in the field, if they put their mind to it.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Hemingway [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When the patriarch of the Hemingway family dies, the future of the successful Hemingway publishing company is in limbo.  His lawyer discloses his will’s stipulations for succession: his son and his three oldest adult children must reconcile their differences in eight hours or the publishing company will be sold to another company.  They must explore family secrets and be willing to forgive each other in order to save their company.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The production of Hemingway is inconsistent, but it has its good elements.  Video quality is fine, but some camera work is overly artistic and lighting is sometimes poor.  This is a very silent film with very quiet audio and not enough of a soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are fine, however.  There are some abrupt cuts and transitions, but the editing isn’t all bad.  Overall, this film is a mixed bag when it comes to production, thus warranting an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This film is based on a very interesting idea regarding broken family systems, but it is too low-key and underdeveloped.  Random things tend to happen just because as the story jumps around too much.  The characters have interesting backstories and are somewhat complex, yet they are deep enough—it would have been great to get some substantial flashbacks for these characters.  The dialogue is interesting but it needs some fleshing out.  Also, there are one too many attempts at dry comedy.  Good issues are raised in this film, but they are fixed way too easily.  Similarly, the Christian message presented needs far more substance and meaning.  In the end, this is a nice try, but not good enough.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast is sometimes professional but sometimes slightly awkward.  Line delivery is inconsistent, as are emotions.  There are one too many yelling scenes and the makeup is bit off.  But not all is bad, which warrants another average score.

Conclusion

There is something in this film that could have been made into something interesting, but it was never brought out.  This is a non-typical plot about an interesting idea that could have really been something great.  Had the comedy been written by a more skilled writer, things would have been much different.  With a little more investment in production and casting, this film could have gone places.  Maybe next time things will be different.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Worth: The Testimony of Johnny St. James (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Johnny was a seminary student ready to serve God, but when his wife dies in a drunk driving accident, Johnny becomes the drunk he never thought he would.  A friend decides to help him out by taking him to a local Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, but little does he know what Johnny has planned.  Desperate for answers, Johnny decides to hold the meeting hostage until he finds what he is looking for.  Will he be able to reconnect with the faith he has lost?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

At face value, Worth has a good production that does not commit any glaring errors.  Video quality is on par and camera work is fine.  Audio quality is what is should be and the soundtrack is engaging.  However, there is basically only one set utilized, so there is not much creativity to see there.  There is basically no editing in this film as all of the content is presented at face value.  There is not that much wasted time per se, but what you see is what you get.  Overall, there is nothing inherently wrong with this production, but there is nothing ground-breaking either, thus warranting an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Based on true events, Worth is basically a ninety minute hostage situation.  There are no real twists or turns—the plot is just presented as is.  There are no flashbacks, only long and meandering conversations on philosophical topics.  Unfortunately, there are quite a few dead spots and sequences of repeated dialogue that hamper with any creativity present in this film.  While this film has a good message and some interesting ideas, it doesn’t hold the attention and would be better presented as a short film.  Like the production, there is nothing really wrong with this story, but it doesn’t do enough to engage the audience and it is mostly uncreative.  Plots like this need deep character development and flashbacks, which is something Worth does not have.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As usual, Eric Roberts has been cast for the DVD cover and only shows up to film a few scenes, in which he is overly impressed with himself.  Other cast members show some potential and interesting performances, but there are too many over the top emotions and forced lines.  Like the rest of this film, the acting is just average.

Conclusion

There is a place for films like this in the market, but when they are not made to their fullest potential, they always fall short of expectations and thus become forgettable.  Worth is one of those movies you might watch once, shrug about, and then never give another thought.  The true story depicted here is interesting and is worth depicting in a film, but this is not the right way.  Like many other films, good intentions do not equal a good movie.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

One Hit From Home (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Jimmy Easton gets injured and gets into trouble, he is under scrutiny from his team and from the law.  Though all he wants to do is sit at home and feel sorry for himself, this not an option as a friend of his pulls some strings with the judge to force Jimmy to coach a failing college baseball team as part of his penance.  Jimmy agrees only because he wants to give no effort to coaching, but a passionate player makes him change his mind.  Will Jimmy be able to rediscover the love and faith he once had?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

One Hit From Home is one of those stereotypical PureFlix-distributed productions that looks good on the surface.  Video quality is fine and camera work is professional.  However, the audio quality is inconsistent and the soundtrack is odd.  Yet sets, locations, and props are very realistic and professional.  Moreover, this production commits the common sin of choppy editing.  It feels like this film is just slapped together just to force it to happen—which probably isn’t that far off, knowing what PureFlix did in the 2007—2013 era of film making.  Essentially, One Hit From Home is a churned out, run-of-the-mill production that is made to be sold easily.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The production is not the only thrown-together aspect of this film.  The storyline borrows from every other troubled drunk sports character plot ever made (and return to hometown plot) and is easily confused with Home Run.  In One Hit From Home, things happened because they need to and the story is based entirely on coincidences and moments of necessity.  Each character fits a neat little yet one-dimensional mold and employs pedestrian dialogue.  The romantic subplot(s) boxes are checked.  Sports and training montages are present, which checks another box.  Furthermore, the Christian message is forced and time speeds by at a rapid progression as problems are fixed too easily and too quickly.  Essentially, this plot was bought from a stock plot supplier and repackaged for the Christian bookstores.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast is not all bad, though they are sometimes unsure of themselves.  Most the time they are flat and seemingly uninterested, but some cast members post good performances.  Overall, the acting is not terrible, but it’s certainly not very memorable.

Conclusion

Do we need plots about troubled characters?  Absolutely.  Do we need sports plots?  Sure.  Do we always need the two of these ideas mashed together in films that do nothing whatsoever to make us interested in the characters and their struggles?  Most definitely not.  Films like this one reek of not even trying to be interesting in the pursuit of making a quick buck off of unsuspecting Christian\inspirational audiences who are desperate for any wholesome entertainment.  Give us something wholesome, creative, and dynamic—something that will actually make a difference, not just another carbon copy.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Closer to God: Jessica’s Journey (Movie Review)

Grandpa’s angry

Plot Summary

Jessica is struggling in her battle with cancer while her mother struggles to hold it all together emotionally and financially.  The last thing her Jessica’s mother expects is for her father—Jessica’s grandfather—to show up at their house unannounced in the midst of it all.  Her mother has no choice but to let Jessica’s grandfather watch over her daughter while she is at work.  Through it all, will they be able to mend their broken family ties even in the midst of the battle with cancer?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Closer to God is another one of those productions that has good effort behind it but not enough funding or creativity to sustain it.  As is usual for these types of productions, video quality and camera work are fine.  Audio quality is good, but there is virtually no soundtrack.  Sets and locations are quite cheap and limited to a few houses and vehicles.  Another common element for this sort of production is blasé editing, which is also true for Closer to God.  There are a lot of lagging scenes and confusing transitions.  Overall, this is an average production that could have been more.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While based on true events, Jessica’s Journey follows the predictable progression of a simplistic disease plot.  It is less dramatic than this type of story usually is, but it is instead filled with a lot of activities of daily living and meaningless sequences.  The characters are somewhat flat and one-dimensional due to uncreative and non-starter dialogue.  Perhaps the most identifiable element of this film is the creepy grandpa character depicted above.  A majority of the story is him wandering around the house spouting unusual dialogue.  While there is a vague recollection of meaning in the ending of this film, the rest of it is simply too much for it to matter.  We are unsure what was trying to be insinuated by the grandfather character, who dominates most of the movie, but perhaps they had no control over this actor…

Acting Quality (1 point)

It seems like the grandfather actor has been set loose on this set with no real direction except to use annoying and overly-enunciated line delivery.  He overshadows the other cast members, some of which are fine.  However, casting Ben Davies as a character older than he is simply does not work at all.  Some emotions are overdone throughout this cast, but there is some positive here, yet not enough to compete with creepy grandpa.

Conclusion

Films like this are very safe and marketable, but they have no staying power.  They don’t make the difference they hope to make and they rarely return the money that is wanted.  They are especially bad when they are remembered for weird offbeat characters like the grandfather in this film.  Elements like that are all that is remembered of these types of films because they have no dynamic elements to truly affect the market.  Once again, this is another one to throw on the pile.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Remember [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Carl Onoway is a captain in the new world army and is constantly tasked with making sure the new laws are enforced.  Children are not allowed to be raised by their parents and can only be raised by qualified professionals.  Everyone is required to take weekly medication to make them forget about their pasts and what has happened.  Propaganda, such as religious materials, is not allowed.  But what happens when these rules begin to be disobeyed?  What happens when Carl and his wife begin to remember the past?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Here’s a good rule of thumb for production: if you don’t have the budget to make it good, don’t make it at all.  This is especially true for sci-fi\speculative dystopian productions.  These types of projects require a lot of funding to create proper special effects, props, sets, and locations.  Unfortunately, Remember does not have what it takes in this department.  Audio quality is especially horrific, with lots of echoes and background noises.  Lighting is very inconsistent, with a lot of the outside scenes inordinately bright.  Camera work is very shaky and video quality is inconsistent.  Sets, locations, and props are very cheap-looking, with obvious low-quality special effects and animation riding on top of them.  The editing is lazy as it includes constant useless time subtitles and repeated sequences.  In the end, this is one of those nightmare productions that should have never been released to the public.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Much like the propaganda pushed in the plot of this film, the writers obviously had their own agenda in making this movie.  Otherwise, there’s no reason for its creation.  The dystopian premise constructed here is extremely absurd and juvenile as the viewer is constantly reminded that kids cannot be raised by their parents in this world but is given no realistic explanation as to why.  This is combined with constant obvious references to how the natural family structure is attacked in this dystopian world.  Rather than create meaningful characters, time is filled with message-pushing and repeating the same activities over and over again.  The villains are laughable and the protagonists are plastic.  As the story meanders and repeats itself, it still follows a predictable progression with a typical suspense climax scene.  Basically, what appears to be a convoluted idea just boils down to a typical plot structure with no real surprises.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Another grave error of a poorly-funded dystopian thriller is terrible costuming, and Remember sports this quality.  In an attempt to be futuristic, the costuming is very cheap and rushed.  As for the acting, line delivery is very half-hearted while emotional delivery is very forced and sometimes over the top.  Once again, this is another swing and a miss.

Conclusion

We desperately need new genre-breaking films in the Christian market, but this is just not the way.  What could be better than a well-funded, well-constructed dystopian thriller with a Christian worldview that’s not too pushy?  Unfortunately, Remember’s attempt to do this totally failed.  Maybe the creative team should have saved their money a bit more or made a dystopian short film just to get the ball rolling.  We know that funding an independent Christian film is very difficult, especially starting out, but that doesn’t mean you need to bite off more than you can chew.  There is no shame in doing the best you can with what you have.  Unfortunately, Remember is not the best.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Paper Dream [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Christy has always had a dream, since she was a little girl, of growing up, getting married, and having beautiful children.  But her dream is shattered time and again when she cannot get pregnant and she is told that she will never have children.  Thus, her and her husband look into adoption, even though they want to have a child of their own.  But as they journey together on the path God is taking them on, they find out that God has something in store for them that they could have never anticipated.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

American Family Studios has always demonstrated a commitment to high quality productions.  In Paper Dream, nearly every production element is great, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack could be a little more creative, but it’s fine as it is.  Sets, locations, and props are also professional.  The only negative factor to bring up is the editing and the runtime of this film, as it is far too short while at the same time includes too much wasted content.  But overall, this is an example of what Christian productions should look like.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As usual, Jeremy and Kendra White present a realistic story that is accessible and heartwarming.  However, they don’t go near as far as they could with the story and leave a lot of subplots underdeveloped.  With only 45 minutes of time, as previously mentioned, there is still time wasted on pointless montages and dead-end conversations.  Due to time constraints and these conversations, the characters are quite shallow.  There is too much reliance on narration, yet this film makes an interesting point that really hits home.  The ending is unexpected and refreshing, but there is little to no build up.  Basically, we need more from this film—more character development, more realistic dialogue, more explored subplots.  We can see the merit in making a short film to begin a career, but they were so close to something great.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

For a mostly amateur cast, their performances are good, but they are still average due to some errors that hold them back.  For example, some cast members are overly practiced in their acting and awkward in their delivery.  However, they are sometimes fine and demonstrate great potential.  With better coaching, they could be dynamic.

Conclusion

The good thing about Paper Dream is that it is a freshman effort and we can see that Jeremy and Kendra White went on to do greater things with Summer Snow.  Still, it’s frustrating to see so much potential left lying on the proverbial playing field.  But nonetheless, we know that Jeremy and Kendra know how to make a good film and will likely make another memorable project like Summer Snow in the future.  Hopefully they have been able to build off of Paper Dream to make a greater difference in the Christian entertainment world.  We anticipate what they have to offer next.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Hiding in Plain Sight [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Almost overnight, the Blackmon family finds themselves unemployed, homeless, and running out of funds.  As they try to make their way on the streets, they discover that the world is hostile towards the homeless and that they will need to figure out how to fend for themselves.  As the going gets tough, will they reach out for help where they know they can find it or will they continue to hide in plain sight?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Possibly in an attempt to be overly realistic, this film looks like it was literally filmed on the sides of busy roads with cars constantly driving by either in front of the camera or behind the set.  There are also many other artistic angles, such as filming through fences and from behind other barriers and objects.  But randomly, the video quality and lighting of the scenes are professional, which seem out of place in this production.  Most, if not all, of the audio is either severely muffled or obviously overdubbed in post-production.  The soundtrack is also very loud, probably to cover up outside sounds.  Furthermore, editing is atrocious as scenes jump all over the place and transitions are very choppy and disorienting.  In the end, this production is unfortunately a train wreck.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While the writers appear to mean well, this storyline is next to impossible to follow.  There are some interesting points in here somewhere, but they are hard to decipher amidst this story’s general lack of focus.  It’s mostly just a collection of random scenes about people wandering around and sitting around outside, with some montages thrown here and there.  There is no plot continuity whatsoever and no depth to these characters.  Whatever dialogue is even discernable does nothing to help the plot or the characters.  There are too many off-the-wall elements and goofs to take this movie seriously.  Unfortunately, this was a swing and a miss.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Though there are some cast members that appear to mean well and it is likely that this cast had no coaching or assistance, this is still a mess.  There are too many mumbled lines that are completely indecipherable.  Emotions are also forced and extreme, with either too much yelling or too little expression.  It really seems like in many ways that this film was thrown together on the fly.

Conclusion

Though there were some well-meaning intentions here and there is certainly potential to be found in Hiding in Plain Sight, as it is, this is nothing but a disaster.  The team clearly tried to patch up some of the glaring problems in post-production, but the problems were too great.  This film needed to be totally scrapped and started over.  Yet it is highly possible that this was not financially feasible.  Thus, this further shows the importance of doing things right the first time and making sure you don’t take on more than you can handle.  Sometimes it’s better to start out small before moving to bigger things.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Fathers [2012] (Movie Review)

Yup

Plot Summary

Michael was randomly abandoned by his wife while Rick’s wife and daughter died in a car wreck.  Rick hates God now but Michael is still a perfect role model for his son.  Rick has let his life fall into shambles, but Michael and his son reach out to Rick and his son and try to help them with stuff.  After hanging around the doing stuff for a while, tragedy suddenly strikes these characters and they will have to try to face it together.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Seriously, this movie looks like it was filmed with a camcorder on the cloudiest days possible.  We’ve seen some doozies when it comes to bad productions, but Fathers really takes the cake.  There are absolutely no positive elements here as everything about this production is terrible and horrific in every possible way.  From blurry video quality to shaky camera work to horrible audio quality to a loud soundtrack to highly unprofessional sets, this film is unrivaled, except for unforgettable gems like Final: The Rapture or My Refuge.  As if it matters, there is also no editing.  Just when we think we’ve seen it all, along comes another medieval production.  How does this stuff get made?

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With barely any plot or purpose to speak of, Fathers mindlessly slogs along until the time is up.  Full of meandering emptiness and utter pointlessness, there is no clear story here to speak of.  Whatever point is trying to be conveyed here is totally lost in the disaster that this film is.  The characters therein in are totally empty and laughable, burping out garbled dialogue here and there.  Though there is an attempt at a plot twist near the end of the story, it’s just too little too late.  Words can’t even begin to describe how inept this film is.

Acting Quality (0 points)

If the Rossetti’s team goal was to find and cast the most awkward white people Walmart has to offer, then they succeeded with flying colors.  They succeeded in mumbling at least half of their lines and demonstrating to most dorky emotions ever.  They constantly repeat phrases like ‘you know’ over and over again.  At this point, it must be considered how much those involved in this film actually cared about what it looked like in the end.

Conclusion

There is little else we can say.  If you want a good laugh, you simply have to see this one for yourself.  If you don’t laugh, then you have to cry at the fact that this kind of stuff is made in the name of Christian film.  Money was spent on this and somehow it was released as a feature length film.  The only thing we can ask is why.  Why, why, why, why, why, why, why.  Why.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

For the Glory [2012] (Movie Review)

Your guess is as good as ours

Plot Summary

Kurt Kuykendall is a highly gifted basketball player who has it all, including a possible Olympic future.  But his home life is a wreck, which leads to tragedy and his being cut from the basketball team.  He feels like his life is over, but all is not lost, because God opens up a new door for him—playing soccer—that he would have never thought was possible.  The only question is, will Kurt seek God or remain bitter about the past?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

While some measures were taken to make this production good, too many corners were cut here.  Video quality and audio quality are on par, though the soundtrack is pedestrian, but there is too much shaky camera work, especially in the sports sequences.  Speaking of the sports sequences, they are too repetitive and redundant, including some unnecessarily recycled footage.  Thus, there are too many sports montages, which reflects poor editing and a general lack of content, even though this film is supposed to be an epic about a real person’s life.  Sets and locations are also fairly limited.  Therefore, though this production looks good on the surface, it does not do enough to warrant more than one point.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This is an interesting true story to depict in movie form, but it overall lacks focus and causes too much confusion for the audience.  For the Glory commits the amateur epic mistakes of creating too many time jumps and referring to off screen content too often.  Besides the constant sports montages, there are too many head-scratching sequences and random occurrences that do nothing to help us get to know these characters at all.  Time is not spent wisely, thus making it hard to be able to relate to the struggles of these characters.  Dialogue also meanders and is generally hard to follow, which creates cheesy and empty characters.  In short, while For the Glory highlights some true-to-life issues, it does so in a very lazy fashion that will unfortunately have no real impact.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, cases that include Jason Burkey and Richard Swingle that have no connection to the Erwin Brothers do not fair well.  They are their usual awkward selves, as are other cast members.  Emotions are over the top and forced and line delivery is sometimes hesitant.  This cast would have benefited from coaching.

Conclusion

In the grand scheme of things, films like For the Glory are very easily forgettable and fall into the massive heap of Christian movies that just blow over your head after you’ve watched them.  There is nothing particularly good or bad to remember about this category of films—you just watch them and then you’re done and never watch them again.  What we need is greatness in Christian film, not more failed attempts like this one.  Perhaps movies like this one can serve as reminders of how film makers can improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

I Am Gabriel (Movie Review)

Yes, this happens in this movie

Plot Summary

Promise, Texas is a sad town with little hope for the future.  That’s why an angel boy named Gabriel is sent there to fix everything up.  There are several townspeople who wish miracles would happen, and there are others who believe miracles are impossible.  So Gabriel has to show off what he can do in order to convince them are turn them back to God (?).  Will he be able to convince everyone before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

For some reason, this production was invested in.  While the camera work and video quality are fine, there is not much else to redeem this film.  The original soundtrack is okay, but sometimes the music is far too loud.  In an attempt to be dramatic and spiritual, the special effects used are cheesy and childish.  Sets and locations look very cheap and there is generally a lot of wasted time in this film as the story jumps all over the place and demonstrates horrid editing work.  In the end, this is a big disappointment compared to the work EchoLight usually produces.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Since this story is filled with heavy-handed melodrama about how hard everything is in the small town, the viewer cannot appreciate the struggles of the characters since they seem so manufactured.  Despite attempts to be ‘interesting’, this plot is very slow and flat and full of wooden dialogue that forces the plot along.  Though there may be some good messages somewhere in this mess, they are made juvenile and silly by the stupid ‘magical’ miracle elements and the child angel premise.  Finally, after jumping from thing to the next and fixing most of the problem subplots, this plot culminates in the dumbest ending ever.  In short, I Am Gabriel started in the horrible position of having no potential and became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Similarly, this cast starts off already skewed by throwing John Schneider, Dean Cain, and Carey Scott into one movie together.  Thus, the cast lives up to its expectations by being very amateurish and robotic, with quick and forced line delivery.  As a side note, makeup is as ridiculous as the childish angel costuming.

Conclusion

What is the point of even making a movie like this?  A child angel plot is doomed from the start, as is any story including juvenile miracles and quick fixes.  EchoLight should be ashamed of distributing this type of movie because it only makes them look silly.  Movies like this contribute nothing to Christian entertainment and only further create a laughable image of Christian film.  But hopefully that image is changing, slowly but surely.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

God’s Country [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1 point)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

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

Acting Quality (1 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

The Sound of the Spirit (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rivka and her father are Messianic Jews, but when her father dies, she must go live with her aunt and uncle, who still follow Orthodox Judaism and do not believe Jesus is the Messiah.  As the time approaches for Rivka’s Bat Mitzvah, she becomes increasingly divided as to which path she is supposed to follow.  As she meets different people and tries to keep ties to her father’s friends, she will have to decide if she will try to please her aunt and uncle or follow Jesus.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

The only two positive qualities in The Sound of the Spirit pertain to production, and they are the clear video quality and the pretty good camera work.  However, there is literally nothing else good to say about this movie.  The audio quality is deplorable, including a blaring soundtrack and loud background noises.  The sets and locations are very limited and cheap.  Finally, the editing is nonexistent as this two-hour film is filled with wasted time and the same things happening over and over again.  Unfortunately, the negativity doesn’t stop there.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As previously mentioned, it feels like the one-dimensional characters of The Sound of the Spirit continually have the same meandering conversations over and over again as literally nothing is accomplished for two hours.  Even so, the dialogue therein is disjointed and the subplots are very confusing.  Things happen because they need to as the viewer is forced to constantly witness obscure Jewish concepts and conflicts as the non-Messianic\Messianic Jew split is forced down your throat over and over again.  This could have been an interesting idea if the isolating ideas were explained better, but as it is, it’s very hard to follow or understand.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is full of tons of offbeat cast members and unfortunate Jewish stereotypes.  Their emotions are incongruent and they constantly talk over each other.  Line delivery is either forceful or robotic to the point that it sounds like someone is dragging the words out of them.  Needless to say, this was a total fail.

Conclusion

The Sound of the Spirit had the opportunity to showcase a unique and intriguing topic in Christian film—Messianic Judaism.  But audiences will only come away from this film frustrated and some Jews may find it offensive.  We have no idea who these characters are except flat stereotypes and their conflicts are isolating.  We needed to be able to understand and appreciate their struggles, but we never got the chance.  It’s just another disappointing day in Christian film.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Christmas Angel {Angel at Christmas} [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Olivia and Lucas have always heard rumors about a mysterious old house in their New Orleans neighborhood.  Legends say that if you throw a rock through one of the windows and make a Christmas wish, it will come true.  After witnessing several wishes come true when they ask them for other people, Olivia and Lucas decide to investigate the matter further.  They find a collection of offbeat characters hanging around the house who are not what they seem at first.  Little do they know that Christmas angels come in many forms…

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As we’ve mentioned before, PureFlix can usually put together a respectable production.  Video quality is clear as usual and camera work is professional.  The sets and locations are realistic and down to earth.  Unfortunately, the audio quality drags down this production, including a silly Christmas soundtrack and too many scenes in which lines cannot be heard due to background noise.  The editing is mostly okay and does a good job concealing the obligatory Dorsey twist until near the end.  Basically, this is an average production effort but we strongly believe it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

In keeping with their usual practices, Bradley Dorsey and Andrea Gyertson Nasfell craft a creative and thought-provoking plot that makes you think it’s going to be one thing, only to change it to something different in the end.  However, it goes without saying that Dorsey also commits his original sin of not going all the way with his creativity.  There are times when Christmas Angel is innovative and interesting, while some moments are cringe-worthy and totally off the wall.  This inconsistency makes the audience vacillate between cheering and scratching their heads.  The schizophrenia is also demonstrated in the characters—while the character arcs are great in the end, it’s a rocky road to get there.  As usual, the storyline is based off a creative concept that sports a key plot twist and demonstrates the creative genius of the team.  Elsewhere, there are just too many childish Christmas elements that hold this plot back from being as good as it could have been.  Sometimes we wonder why a creator can come so close so many times but always miss the mark by an inch.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like the rest of the film, the cast of Christmas Angel is very inconsistent.  Sometimes they have awkward scenes while other times they act very professionally.  Emotions are good at times and not good at other times.  Some of the makeup work is below par.  In short, in comes to another average score.

Conclusion

Basically all of the films Bradley Dorsey is involved in need to be remade.  As we’ve said before, he has tons of potential that is untapped, probably because he throws in his lot with the PureFlix crew.  For that matter, Andrea Gyertson Nasfell has lot of untapped potential herself.  Both Dorsey and Nasfell have much to offer to Christian film and if they ever reach their full potential, then the field will be a different place.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Christmas Miracle [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (0 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

3 Day Test {3 Day Christmas} (Movie Review)

The marauders are coming...
The marauders are coming…
Tina says no!
Tina says no!

Plot Summary

Martin Taylor, an obsessive accountant, is tired of how his family never spends any time together.  Prompted by his half-crazy prepper brother to begin preparing for doomsday by taking the 3 Day Test, Martin sees it as his last chance to get to know his family again.  So he disconnects them from modern amenities and is assisted by local police in convincing his family to endure the three days in the comfort-free world.  But little do they know that they were not at all prepared for what’s coming next…

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As usual for Corbin Bernsen, production quality is slightly above average in 3 Day Test.  The camera work is pretty good and video quality is clear.  Audio quality is fine except for an annoyingly blaring Christmas soundtrack and dumb sound effects.  The sets and locations are slightly limited due to the premise, but they are well designed.  The editing is fairy respectable with only some minor quirks.  In short, Bernsen has always succeeded at production quality, but that’s not even the half of this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Where to start?  3 Day Test is based on a bizarrely forced Christmas apocalyptic survival premise in which you never really know what’s coming next.  Though it doesn’t have to be a Christmas film at all, it takes place during Christmas and contain many sarcastic head-scratching asides and forced comedy moments.  Since the dialogue is either information dump or downright zany, the characters come off a mostly mentally insane and unstable.  As slightly interesting concepts are shoved in your face and packaged in ridiculous ways, many occurrences are highly unrealistic and head-scratching.  The longer the movie goes on, the weirder it gets as the audience is pulled into an over-the-top descent into madness coupled with a wacky Home Alone rip off.  By the time it’s all over, no sense can be made of it and there are unexplained factors and loose ends.  Is it satire or just total insanity?  Your guess is as good as ours.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Sporting some professional cast members and some odd child actors\actresses, this cast is a mixed bag.  It’s sometimes pretty good while other times it’s histrionic and annoying.  Line delivery is actually quite professional, but there are just too many episodes of craziness to warrant any more points than this.

Conclusion

Once again, what are we to make of Corbin Bernsen?  Is he a mad satirical genius or is he just trolling?  3 Day Test is actually less satire than usual for him and more goofy madness.  While we wholeheartedly agree that families need to spend more time together, and not just during the holidays, this does not have to involve a ridiculous false survival premise.  This leads us to wonder if Bernsen is actually advocating for ‘prepping for an apocalypse’.  Who knows what he really believes; we may never know.  The bottom line is that he’s wasting his talents and resources on facepalm-inducing films that no one really cares about when he could be making a real difference.  Will he ever change?  We somehow doubt it.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Last Ounce of Courage (Movie Review)

Make small town religion great again
Make small town religion great again

Plot Summary

When Bob Revere’s son is killed overseas while in the military, he leaves behind a wife and son, along with grieving grandparents.  Bob is the mayor of a small town and he feels like the religious freedom his son fought for is slowly being eroded away as outside legal groups try to remove everything Christmas from the town.  That’s why Bob, along with his grandson and friends, have to fight against the onslaught by taking a stand for religious freedom in their town—even if it means going to the extremes.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

It’s clear that, in keeping with a jillion other films like it, Last Ounce of Courage was forced to happen with no regard for quality.  The production team gave no care to any details—not camera work, not video quality, not audio quality.  There was some effort, however, put into the sets, but they are full of Christmas overload and have that cheesy small town feel.  The editing is fairly choppy and leaves the viewer confused.  Basically, this was a slap-together effort with a clear agenda behind it, as will be discussed next.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2 points)

Last Ounce of Courage can effectively be rated as total propaganda.  In an attempt to ‘stand up’ for religious freedom supposedly being attacked in a small town, a giant strawman is created.  The issue is portrayed as very one-sided and extreme, even suggesting that perceived attacks on religious freedom are responsible for an insane amount of things, such as societal decay.  Unrealistic situations are posed that force upon the audience the notion that America is in the midst of all-out persecution (it’s not).  Besides this, the plot has an overall zany and off-the-wall feel to it, including bizarre elements that cannot be explained.  Dialogue is mostly contrived and other times eccentric.  There are too many subplots shoved into the storyline, most of which are beyond-Hallmark absurd.  Also, the only African-American characters in the film are the villains.  The ending is forced to be perfect in every possible way, like a child’s movie.  In short, this is an offensive plot deserving of negative points.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The acting is overall mindless and empty, while at times awkward and in-your-face.  Cast members mostly recite their lines as if from a cue card.  Emotions come off as programmed and forced.  Like the production, little care was taken in this area as the propaganda-ridden plot was forced to happen.

Conclusion

Some Christian film makers seem to have a fetish for crafting an us-against-the-world plot themed with religious freedom overtures.  Religious freedom is definitely important, but we find it very hard to believe that the events portrayed in this film have actually occurred in reality.  Crafting this sort of false dichotomy only further deepens the divide between Christians and non-Christians, especially when the latter are portrayed in such offensive ways.  This is not the purpose of Christian film and we hope to never see something like this one again.

 

Final Rating: -2 out of 10 points

 

Unexpected Places [2012] (Movie Review)

Is that another Christian film group calling?

Plot Summary

Pam likes to control her life.  She likes to persuade her boss to give her more power in the workplace and she likes to control the lives of her sons, even though she doesn’t agree with all their choices.  One son, a delinquent druggie, is sent to live with her and her husband so that he can begin to turn his life around.  The other son is living with his girlfriend and their child, with another on the way.  Pam wants her life to look nice and neat on the outside, so she takes steps in her own strength to make this a reality.  However, she quickly discovers that she cannot do everything and that she needs to look to God for her strength.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, there is nothing positive to point out in this film.  From low quality video to terrible audio quality to shaky camera work, this one is a doozy.  Lighting is bad in a majority of the scenes, and the sets are very cheap-looking.  An annoying Hallmark soundtrack clanks the entire time, sometimes louder than the dialogue.  Transitions between scenes are very abrupt and some scenes appear to be missing.  This horrid editing job is basically just cut and paste—even if it means key information is cut off or left out.  It really seems like this crew had no idea what they were doing.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

We’re at a loss as to what this movie is even about.  With confusing dialogue filled with abstract figures and workplace lingo, it’s like the characters are malfunctioning robots.  The protagonist herself comes off a very dense and not connected to reality, even though she’s very serious about what she does.  The subplots are disjointed and appear pasted together from multiple different movie ideas.  The conflict therein is mindless and isolating; audiences are not able to connect with the struggles of the characters.  With no focus or main point, the storyline comes down to an empty ending that teaches a dangerous half-truth, which will be discussed at the end of this review.  Essentially, there was little reason for this idea to be approved for filming, let alone release.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Crystal Creek Media has a penchant for casting very wooden actors and actresses.  There is nothing wrong with using amateurs and they can certainly be coached, but coaching does not exist in Crystal Creek Media’s budget.  Cast members are emotionless throughout the film, delivering uninspiring monotone lines, like they’re reading from cue cards.  I’m sure they meant well, but it doesn’t show.

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, Unexpected Places simply does not properly deliver whatever message it is trying to convey.  What’s worse, the ending preaches a very dangerous idea: that when someone becomes a Christian, their life is automatically turned around in every aspect.  There is no question that when someone is saved by surrendering to Jesus, their life is totally transformed.  Yet this film appears to suggest that salvation takes away all of a person’s sin struggles; this is something that may confuse and frustrate those new to the faith.  In the end, few will find this film even fully watchable, which is just another testament to the sad state of Christian film.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Movies That Are So Bad They’re Not Even Worth Our Time, Part 1 (MTASBTNEWOT 1)

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

 

Yep, that about sums up this 'film'
Yep, that about sums up this ‘film’

The Young Believers

If you want to see the cheapest church skit ever, view this gem.  Starring less than fifteen cast members, a majority of the scenes consist of the four main characters awkwardly standing in front of a wall or a fence.  They spit out preprogrammed lines that demonstrate an isolationist Christian view of the world, as well as the world record for the usage of the word ‘dude’.  There are more production errors that can be counted and the acting is just horrific.  With no real plot to speak of, we decided that it didn’t warrant a full review.

 

Our thoughts exactly
Our thoughts exactly

Raising Izzie

Borderline Christian films are the worst.  Are they trying to be Christian or are they trying to make fun of it?  Who knows.  Regardless, this film depicts one of the most bizarre versions of Christianity we have ever seen, complete with magic blankets.  Characters scream at each other in the most annoying ways and you really never know what’s coming next.  The plot is based on such weird pretzel logic regarding child custody that we don’t even know who to believe on this one.  Anyways, just steer clear.

 

What you see is what you get
What you see is what you get

On Angel’s Wings

This one escaped from the Disney channel for sure.  Featuring a teenage girl with first world problems conversing with the reincarnation of Peter Pan (yes, there is an actual flying scene in this film), this one is a real drug trip doozy sprinkled with Christian themes.  Replete with music videos to the tune of free background music, this film is obviously disingenuous and one big joke, boasting one of the most half-hearted casts ever.  Only watch this one if you feel like a laugh.

Healed by Grace [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Riley Adams is a talented dancer, but when she is involved in a car accident, her life changes forever.  Now partially paralyzed and being forced to relearn speech and motor skills, Riley feels like her life is over since she can no longer dance like she used to.  However, she soon discovers a special form of physical therapy involving horses that changes her entire perspective on life.  Through the newfound therapy, she not only finds a new lease on life, but a new chance at faith and love.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

With obviously limited resources, Healed by Grace is plagued by cheap production problems.  Video quality is grainy and camera work is shaky.  The sets and locations are fairly limited, but the usage of props is pretty good.  The soundtrack is okay, but we would have liked to hear something more dynamic.  There is really no editing present here; if there had been editing, this production probably would have improved.  However, there is care and thought put into this film, making it stand apart from your average sloppy and thrown-together Christian movie.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Despite its obvious production flaws, Healed by Grace demonstrates heart and effort.  The creators actually seem to care about what they are doing, despite their limited resources.  The plot’s message is very touching and realistic.  Though the plot is slightly simplistic, it’s based on a believable premise and is a generally interesting idea.  The dialogue is pretty good and the characters have interesting arcs.  Though there is little content here, the writers did the best they could with what they had.  We would have liked to see a little more complexity, but it’s definitely a good start.  Some things happen off screen, obviously due to budget constraints.  The ending is authentic but we would have liked to see a little more.  Overall, this is a great starter effort with room for improvement.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though the cast is very amateur, they are trying harder than most.  They demonstrate a willing attitude to act well, even though they sometimes fall short.  It’s not easy to effectively act like you are disabled from a car wreck, but the main actress pulls this off well.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are average.  Costuming is realistic throughout.  Overall, this is an applaudable effort.

Conclusion

In summary, Healed by Grace is a true-to-life story that is accessible by Christian audiences.  Though many facets of the film are amateur, the creators still show that they care about what they are doing rather than just slapping a horrible film together and sticking the name ‘Christian’ on it.  It’s hard to make independent Christian films, especially starting out.  What’s important is that you, as a Christian film maker, give it your best effort and leave the results up to God.  If He has called you into film making, He will give you the resources you need.  You just have to be faithful and do your absolute best.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Apostle Peter and the Last Supper (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1 point)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (.5 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

What Would Jesus Do? The Woodcarver (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Matthew Stevenson vandalizes a church out of anger over his parents’ pending divorce, some are ready to press charges against him.  But when the woodcarver, Ernest Otto, whose work he damaged learns about the boy, he decides to take a different route.  Otto invites Matthew to come help him in his wood working business as payment for what he did.  Though reluctant at first, Matthew is glad to finally have someone to talk over about his family’s struggles.  As their relationship grows, things begin to change for Matthew.  He must learn that Christianity is more than just words, and that those who claim the name of Christ must ask themselves ‘What would Jesus do?’

 

Production Quality (2 points)

What a difference a third movie makes (sometimes).  Gone are shaky camera work, dark scenes, and inconsistent audio quality.  Instead, The Woodcarver offers a more palatable production experience, one we wish every independent Christian film would at least try to offer.  The sets and locations are down to earth and realistic, albeit slightly limited.  The surroundings are mostly realistic.  The soundtrack isn’t much to get excited about, but this is a minor issue.  There are a handful of minor errors that keep this production from being all that it could be, but above average production is a huge accomplishment for this odd film franchise.  We always wish it were better, but sometimes we can’t ask for much more than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

In a complete detour from the previous installments in this trilogy, The Woodcarver introduces a completely new cast of characters and finally dispenses with ‘the drifter’.  The same underlying concept of ‘What would Jesus do?’ is still present, yet it is ten times more meaningful than before.  Rather than multiple meandering and meaningless subplots, this film focuses on one meaningful subplot about a struggling family, something many viewers can relate with.  The characters are more relatable than the other characters in this trilogy, even though the plot is little bit simplistic.  It’s a shame that the characters are not deeper than they are since there are few of them, but effort was certainly put into this plot.  The dialogue is pretty average, but in the Christian movie world, when there’s no glaring errors, that’s great.  Overall, we would have liked to see a deeper, more meaningful plot, but sometimes sticking with the safe route of avoiding huge mistakes in the way to go.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Trading John Schneider for John Ratzenberger paid off.  Though it’s small, this cast really isn’t half bad.  Sometimes emotional delivery is a little off, but it is better more than not.  Line delivery is solid throughout.  There is an obvious presence of acting coaching here, which is a huge change from the rest of the trilogy.  Overall, this is a much better job.

Conclusion

As we mentioned before, wouldn’t it have been much better to save the resources spent on the first two films and put them toward this one film to make it the best it could be?  Couldn’t have one of two of the better subplots from the previous two films joined this film’s plot to create a potential Hall of Fame work?  Which is better, two terrible movies and one average one or one great movie?  We maintain that quality is always better than quantity.  Sure, we need lots of Christian movies on the market, but just think of a world where movies like The Woodcarver were the norm, not movies like the first two WWJD debacles.  That would be truly something to behold.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Lukewarm (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1 point)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (.5 point)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

The Encounter 2: Paradise Lost (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After a twist of fate throws a collection of strangers together, trapped in a Thailand resort during a storm, strange things begin to happen.  A wanted international criminal and his sidekick and wife, the two owners of the resort, and a ‘drug enforcement’ agent are all faced with the reality of their lives as they meet Jesus Christ face to face.  They are all forced to ruminate on the choices they have made in the past in order to determine how they are going to move forward.  Will they cling to their bitterness, rage, and vices, or will they turn to Jesus and accept the free gift He offers to each one of them, regardless of their pasts?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In a change from the norm, The Encounter 2: Paradise Lost boasts above-average production quality.  The camera work is professionally presented and the video quality is better than not.  The audio quality is consistent across the board.  The sets and locations are diverse and fairly realistic, with a few exceptions.  The surroundings have an interesting feel, but it seems like more could have been done here, especially since many scenes seem borrowed from Escape.  On the down side, David A. R. White brings with him to this film a cheesy action feel that includes waste-of-time sequences and unrealistic elements.  Furthermore, the editing of Encounter 2 is all off.  The film begins with a time lapse presentation and then randomly abandons it.  The passage of time in general is hard to follow and a lot of content is crammed into a small window of opportunity that is squeezed out by philosophical monologues and unrealistic fight scenes.  But in the end, this is definitely an improvement for PureFlix and shows what they can do, even though it also shows what they could be doing better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

As mentioned before, too much is shoved into the nearly 110-minute runtime, thus isolating the important aspects.  The few main characters that are presented are given a lot of screen time, yet by the end, we only see half of them.  By the end of the film that focuses on the struggles of five key characters through the use of flashbacks and philosophical dialogue, we should feel like they are real people, but this is not completely true of this film’s core characters.  There’s nothing wrong with having a small cast of characters, but they need to be deep, complex, and realistic.  The Encounter 2 doesn’t make it all the way on this front.  Yet there are many interesting and creative elements to this storyline.  The flashbacks, as mentioned, are a good touch.  The issues presented are believable, but some of the ‘solutions’ to the issues are not.  Some ambiguity exists in the plot, but not enough.  Bruce Marciano’s philosophical monologues are better this time around, but they still can become draining.  The spiritual elements that underlie the plot are very intriguing and commendable, but the totally-not-obvious Satan character is over the top.  In the end, the plot of The Encounter 2 is a mixed bag with a creative ending, but it doesn’t do quite enough to lift this film out of average-ness.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Robert Miano demonstrates in this film that he has the ability to be an excellent villain, which does not explain why he acted so mysterious and lofty in his Biblical roles, The Book of Esther and The Book of Daniel.  Yet Miano is the best actor in this cast.  Bruce Marciano is always fine, but at some point, his roles become extremely predictable.  Elsewhere, David A. R. White is his usual cheesy action hero self and other actors and actresses either overplay or underplay emotions.  Line delivery is overall inconsistent, but costuming is fine.  Overall, the acting work is just average.

Conclusion

The Encounter 2: Paradise Lost is a huge improvement on The Encounter.  The creative idea of having Jesus show up in the flesh in the middle of a hostage situation is very commendable.  The psychological\spiritual elements throughout are also noteworthy.  But this film is tripped up by its large amount of content and low amount of overall quality.  The plot is spread too thin and the characters are too shallow for the time spent on them.  In the end, this is an enjoyable film, but it’s also another one of those frustrating movies that we wish could be remade.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Me Again (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Richie Chaplin is a mess.  He’s struggling to convey meaning in his pastoral ministry.  His wife has separate from him due to his depression and sleepwalking, taking their three children with her.  His two younger children don’t even know who he is.  His older daughter is messing around with a boy.  Basically, Richie doesn’t want to be himself anymore.  He wants somebody else’s life because his life stinks.  He’s forgotten the original purpose God created him for, so he’s about to embark on a wild journey outside of his control to remind him why he is living the life he is living.  In the end, he will have to decide whether or not he likes the life God has given him or if he is going to make one of the biggest mistakes of his life.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

To their credit, at least PureFlix invested in better camera quality than usual for this film.  The sound quality is also fine, but these are the only positive aspects of the production of Me Again.  Throughout this zany drug trip into the creative faculties of David A. R. White and Tommy Blaze, the camera angles can get dizzying, confusing, and downright amateurish in their attempt to be dramatic or comedic.  Cheesy horror effects are inserted randomly and out of context.  Low-quality special effects are overused and invasive.  The surroundings are painfully obviously reused from Marriage Retreat, suggesting that this movie was borne out of that film’s B-rolls.  Finally, all editing sense is thrown out the window as the plot tosses hither and fro with no system or consistency, like they’re just throwing stuff up against the wall to see what happens.  Overall, Me Again feels like an experimental film that either accidentally got released or was released to try to glean desperately needed funds.  Either way, it doesn’t work.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Few screenwriters venture to create a psychological comedy, and Me Again may stand as a testament as to why.  The plot of this film is extremely hard to nail down.  After watching an unusual sequence on television two nights in a row, David A. R. White is suddenly transported into an alternate universe in which he gets to become a random rich guy, a model he saw on TV, a goldfish (?!?!), an infant, a housemaid, the teenage boy trying to date his daughter, and finally his own wife.  The only real explanations that are offered for this potentially interesting psychological journey are vague and trite inspirational quotes from an offbeat angel character he should have already known about (more on that shortly).  The leaps from one impersonation to the next are not only painfully horrible at trying to be funny, but also leave no room for real character development.  The dialogue is horrifically childish and often feels adlibbed and impromptu.  Yet somewhere in the midst of histrionic displays from A. R. White, including a fake (or not) heart attack, a purposeful makeup disaster, voiceovers for a goldfish and an infant, generally idiotic behavior, self-parodies, and an epic conversation with himself in the alternate universe (perhaps his acting dream), there is some interesting meaning hidden here.  If someone was able to ‘walk in someone else’s shoes’, then they would view life a lot differently.  But this potential meaning is covered up due to time wasted on downright stupidity.  This goes without saying that, in keeping with usual White themes, everything is too black and white.  ‘Good’ characters are obviously perfect and wise while ‘bad’ characters are complete over the top strawmen, bringing more disgrace to how people think Christians view ‘worldly’ people.  Also, solutions to problem are far too easy, trite, and shallow, and offer no real help for people struggling with the real issues presented.

But perhaps the worst element of this entire plot is found in the unusual sepia tone flashback prologue and epilogue.  It’s so devastating that it warrants a Box Office Revolution first: a separate paragraph of discussion.  The prologue and epilogue are presumably supposed to depict Richie and his wife as childhood sweethearts drinking honeysuckle tea (whatever that is).  The epilogue completely undermines the purpose of the plot and suggests that it’s all one big joke.  Either that or PureFlix is full of incompetence (probably a little of both).  Richie’s wife, as a girl, tells him that she knows they’ll be married one day because the specific angel he later sees on television and has a conversation with in the midst of his psychological adventure told her so.  If this is the case, then he should have known what was happening when he recognized the name of the angel.  Another alternative possibility is that the entire middle of the movie is just part of the girl’s dream, which suggests that the entire movie is useless.  Whatever the case is, this plot is so slipshod and incompetent that we can’t make heads or tails of it.  All we know is that it’s an experience we’ll both never forget and never wish to repeat.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As usual, the Whites and their comrades have no restraint or direction in their acting but are content to blurt out lines in ‘funny’ fashions and lazily act their way through another cheap movie full of one-take scenes and adlib behavior.  No emotional meaning can be felt here because the acting is so absurd, especially David A. R. White’s zany impersonations of other characters and Tommy Blaze’s generally bizarre behavior.  In short, another zero point acting job is business as usual for PureFlix.

Conclusion

If anything was accomplished through this unique experience, it was that a movie like this has never been made before and should never be made again.  Unfortunately, any attempt at deeper meaning is so shallow that’s easily washed over with a tide of absurdity.  Many elements of this movie seem to suggest that the Whites and company have no grasp on the real world, as they treat important issues too lightly and portray people has completely good or completely bad.  It seems like the only purpose of Me Again is to make fun of everything, including themselves, and to waste another good idea.  The one merit PureFlix has is an acceptance of creating different types of movies, but in most cases, like this one, they ruin the reputation of Christian movies in unique genres.  This is not to mention the fact that Me Again is just another film that makes the name ‘Christian film’ more of a laughingstock.  At some point, the creation of this type of nonsense must end and Christian filmmakers must get serious about generating quality content if we are ever going to make a true difference.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Changing Hearts [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

James Reed is a successful consultant in the big city, glad that he left his rural life behind. However, his old life starts calling him back when his father begins to have health problems, prompting James’ mother, brother, and sister to call on him to come help them run the family business: a rural bed and breakfast.  James returns home, saying he will stay for a week.  When he arrives, he finds his family’s business is not as good as they portrayed it.  But he also finds that he still has feelings for one of the employees there.  Even though James does not want to be home and his brother doesn’t want him there either, the Reed family will have to band together and work hard in order to combat a business rival who wants to buy out the bed and breakfast.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Starting off, Changing Hearts is the typical story of a cheap Christian movie.  The video quality and camera work is the strongest point of the production, giving this movie and good surface feel.  However, as we usually say, there isn’t much past the surface.  The sets are limited to the bed and breakfast building and property and some random ‘big city’ scenes.  There’s nothing creative about the soundtrack and at times, there is loud background noise that overpowers the scene.  There is really nothing to say about the editing—the movie just drags on and until it’s finally done.  Perhaps the worst element of the production is a scene at the end in which a large crowd of people is supposed to be depicted, yet it’s an obvious production blunder, with a handful of people copied over and over again to make it look like a large crowd.  Beyond this, there is nothing obviously wrong with the production of Changing Hearts, but there is nothing dynamic enough to cause it to stand out.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Leading off the previous comments, the plot of Changing Hearts is extremely linear, with no twists or turns or creativity.  It’s a simplistic prodigal son plot done quite poorly.  The characters fit nicely into their predetermined molds: the prodigal character, the angry brother, the parents, the love interest, and the optional villain (in this case, I can sympathize, since it disturbingly reminds me of a real life person).  Little is done to deepen these characters beyond their stereotypes.  Dialogue is not utilized properly and is very vanilla.  Characters are swept along by the inevitable plot that concludes abruptly and predictably.  Life lessons are obviously taught throughout, but not in a way that causes the audience to connect with the real life events.  The plot comes off in such a way that it seems like it takes place in a location outside of real life.  But if it’s meant to be an allegory, it’s not indicated.  In summary, this would have been fine for a first time film if more thought was put into it.  From the get-go, the plot is very limited in scope and potential, so the most needs to be made of every element.  This did not occur, thus warranting zero points.

Acting Quality (1.5 point)

In a strange twist, the acting is the strongest element of this film.  It’s rare that the acting overshadows the other elements; usually acting goes hand in hand with the others.  In this case, the acting is only better because it’s average and the rest of the film is sub-par.  There is nothing glaringly horrible from this cast.  Line delivery is pretty good.  Emotions sometimes seem plastic, but sometimes they are not.  This cast seems like it has a lot of potential, but it only comes out as average.

Conclusion

As time goes on, Christian films like this will unfortunately be forgotten and lost amidst a sea of cheap movies on thrift store shelves and yard sale tables.  It frustrates us to see this sort of potential do to waste.  Despite the uncreative plot, the tools were there to make this movie stand out, at least as a freshman creation.  But unfortunately, Changing Hearts is just another one of those movies that will fade away.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

New Hope [2012] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

When the Evans family comes to the small town of New Hope to pastor the church, they inadvertently walk into a hurting town that’s still lost and confused following the unexpected suicide of their basketball star.  The oldest son, Michael, suddenly realizes that he has accidentally filled the shoes of the late town legend, and immediately becomes a target for the angry best friend of the dead hero.  The Evans family and the town must together navigate the wake of suicide and determine how they are going to discover a new identity together.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For a little known independent film, the production of New Hope is decent enough.  The camera work is average and the angles are good.  The video and sound qualities are consistently above par.  However, the musical score is uninspiring and there are quite a few editing errors.  Scenes are cut off at odd times, some scenes are awkwardly placed, while others seem completely unnecessary.  While most of the surface issues are covered, there is simply too much amateurish editing for the production to be rated any better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Dealing with life after the suicide of a family member and friend is an issue that needs to be discussed in the context of film, but New Hope is either too melodramatic, too inauthentic, or too inappropriate.  Dialogue is too obvious and dramatic, thus making extreme characters.  Michael is an okay character, but the others are not accessible.  There are too many screaming matches throughout.  There is a generally offbeat flavor to New Hope, like there’s something the characters aren’t saying out loud.  There is also some inappropriate content that doesn’t belong in a supposedly family-friendly movie, all in the context of a bizarre and forced romantic subplot.  Overall, this plot meanders along with emotional outbursts, picture taking, and basketball games, without really accomplishing anything.  The end is very rushed and the implied scenes during the credits are absurd.  In short, there is little to be positive about here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The story here is much like the production quality—it’s good, but not good enough.  Some actors and actresses perform well while others do not.  Emotional delivery and line delivery are inconsistent.  Costuming is average.  Overall, this is just average.

Conclusion

New Hope had the right idea to try harder on production than most Christian films, but it never found its story identity.  The plot is a vague idea that it slapped together with sports elements and a pathetic attempt to be edgy.  The bottom line is that the creators rushed ahead too quickly and didn’t think this movie through.  We feel that the resources could have been used more appropriately, as will your time in watching this film.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

A Cross to Bear (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

One day Erica is an extravagant girlfriend of a top music executive, and the next, she is a pregnant homeless woman struggling with addictions with no one to take her in.  After facing tragedy time and again in the hard life of the streets and not being able to break her addictions, Erica finally finds Joan, a strong woman who left her nursing career behind to open her home to women on the streets.  As Erica struggles to keep from going back to her old ways, she befriends one of the other residents, Tina, who has health problems due to her being a crack baby.  In the end, Erica will have to choose between her old destructive path and a new path that has been offered to her.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

A Cross to Bear is a very frustrating movie, mostly due to its obviously cheap production quality.  The video is grainy, the sound inconsistent, and the camera work amateur.  This film obviously suffered in the financial department, yet it does not fall in line with the usual cheap Christian films.  The editing is mostly good, but it needs to be refined.  The strongest point of this movie’s production is its authentic surroundings, settings, and locations.  This is a gritty subject accompanied by gritty elements that make it believable.  This is the key redeeming quality of this otherwise poorly produced movie.  It’s unfortunate that the budget was so low; other movies with higher budgets than this are far worse.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Based on true events, A Cross to Bear is a realistic and accessible story that could occur in any given inner city in America right now.  The movie wrestles with homelessness, infant mortality, drugs, alcohol, and advocacy all while presenting an engaging plot.  Despite the low production quality, the plot is enough to keep one’s attention.  The dialogue is realistic and the characters are believable.  The story does not turn out as expected and there is a major twist at the end that makes this movie all that it is.  The only caveat that can be raised here is the fact that the characters could have been a bit deeper, since the plot depended heavily on them.  Otherwise, A Cross to Bear proves that using real events as a plot basis almost always pays off and makes for a mostly watchable movie.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is not a star-studded cast, but they do the best they can with what they have.  There is a presence of acting coaching—the actors and actresses put most Christian casts to shame.  Emotions are believable and line delivery is good.  The only things keeping this section from being better is a generally and evidently under-experienced cast, but this is nothing to be ashamed of, because there is a lot of potential here.

Conclusion

A Cross to Bear joins the ranks of Christian films that desperately need remakes.  This plot is far better than many more popular films on the market and needs to be elevated to its proper status with a higher budget and a good production team.  Every now and then, a rare nugget with potential is found in a vast landscape of B-grade movies.  A Cross to Bear is one of these.  Even if a remake is never to be made, this movie can serve as an example of how basing movies on true events is better than spinning out another cheap inspirational flick.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

The Mark [2012] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Chad Turner, a former criminal, has been chosen to be a human prototype for a biometric computer chip some call the Mark of the Beast.  After the chip is inserted into his skin, Chad becomes a different person, more powerful than before.  But he soon finds himself on the run from a powerful world leader, Joseph Pike, who seeks to take the chip and use it for his own means: world domination.  Chad takes a businessman, Cooper, hostage and convinces him to assist him in keeping the chip away from Pike.  But they suddenly find themselves trapped on a place in the middle of a global catastrophic some refer to as the Rapture.  With multiple assailants after them, Turner and Cooper must navigate the uncertain waters and avoid death at all costs.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Beyond a clear video quality, there is little to be excited about in The Mark when it comes to production.  The movie is filled with poorly constructed action scenes, wild explosions, and maddening gun-wielding chases.  Not much effort was put into sets and locations, as a majority of the film takes place on a plane, which brings to mind many other apocalyptic movies.  The editing is passable, but there is little true content to deal with.  The musical score is a stock action soundtrack.  Basically, this type of movie is been there, done that.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In this possible sequel to In the Blink of an Eye, several potentially interesting characters are thrown together on a transatlantic flight to discuss the world’s political scene and to escape from the antichrist’s henchman.  John Patus has used this plot before and used it again after this movie.  With the chip in his skin, Turner is basically an invincible character, not that plot devices like this have stopped action protagonists from being invincible before.  With mind-numbing action sequences, there is little to no actual plot in The Mark.  Character development and meaningful dialogue are traded for firing guns and yes—crawling around inside of a plane’s engine area while it’s in flight.  While Turner and Cooper could have been interesting flawed ‘heroes’ with agendas of their own, they were not.  The antichrist character is unbearably cheesy.  The bottom line is that the apocalyptic stuck-on-a-place plot has been done before and needs to be put to rest once and for all.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This particular PureFlix cast is not extremely cheesy, but they are just not that great.  In the wake of cheap action, emotions are discarded and line delivery is reduced to monologuing and pontificating.  Where there was potential in the actors and actresses, it is not harnessed.

Conclusion

Centering a plot around a character that has been forcibly given an artist’s conception of the Mark of the Beast is not entirely a bad idea.  Such an idea has the possibility to breach new genres and reach different audiences than usual.  However, movies like The Mark only cause the apocalyptic genre to become further viewed as cheesy and not worth anyone’s time.  As it stands, Christian apocalyptic movies mostly are not worth your time.  No matter where you land on eschatology, movies like The Mark are pointless and empty.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Brother White (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Stuck in a long line of pastoral succession at a megachurch headed by the popular Johnny Kingman, James White is desperate to make his mark and to stand out from the crowd.  But doing so only gets him into further trouble.  After nearly ruining a children’s Sunday school class and an expensive painting and disrupting a church service, Kingman send James on a probation to pastor a struggling church in Atlanta.  So James, his wife Lily, and their two children make a cross-country move to the Peach State and find themselves thrust into a multicultural world they have never before experienced.  Not only must James find a way to save the struggling church, but he must come to grips with the fact that he is not invincible and must rely on God and his family for help.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Compared to other PureFlix productions, Brother White is not horrible.  It actually has a lot of potential.  The camera work is pretty good, as is the video quality.  However, the sound quality is inconsistent and some outside scenes are covered up with musical montages.  The editing is decent, but the sets and locations are obviously cheap.  There are some slight excuses for this, but it still could have been better.  Probably the worst production element is pretending like certain characters are singing when they are obviously not.  In short, the production of Brother White is just average—neither horrible nor dynamic.  There was a lot of potential here that was not brought to the surface.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Unlike many PureFlix plots, Brother White is slightly interesting.  Exploring racial relations by inserting an affluent white (White?) family into a predominantly African-American church has a lot of potential, if stereotypes are avoided.  For the most part, they are.  There is plenty of satire in Brother White that is actually funny, such as tongue-in-cheek swipes at prosperity gospel churches.  But there are also elements that are just trying too hard.  Too much comedy falls flat and some lines leave you scratching your head.  There are plot holes that are glossed over and some humor is way too obvious, such as the name ‘Lily White’.  The plot boils down to a simplistic save the farm storyline and seems to lose its original purpose in the end.  James’ character arc is commendable, but the whole movie just leaves you wanting more substance.  In short, Brother White is not so awful that it’s unwatchable, but it’s also frustrating to watch because there was obviously a lot of creativity left untapped.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this is probably David A. R. White’s best lead role, it still leaves much to be desired.  The presence of more professional actors in this cast keeps it from sinking to the depths of most PureFlix casts.  However, there is still a lack of acting coaching.  Were all the actors up to par, this movie would have improved.

Conclusion

This is probably the closest the Whites and Tommy Blaze will ever get to true comedy.  But were this plot in different hands, we can’t help but feel it could have been Hall of Fame worthy.  It contains a unique plot on a good topic and as it is, has some humorous elements.  In the end, Brother White is the highest rated White comedy and unfortunately, it is hard to believe that it will get any better than this.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Decision [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Following the tragic death of her husband, Ilene Connors struggles to maintain her current financial situation and to keep her delinquent teenage son, Jackson, under control.  At the end of her rope, she agrees with her father’s plan to take Jackson to his remote cabin in the woods in order to teach him some tough life lessons.  Resistant and frustrated, Jackson suddenly finds himself liking the structured atmosphere.  However, he forced to face what he truly believe in when his grandfather’s medical problems leave Jackson having to man up and make some tough decisions.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, we have really nothing positive to say about this film.  We tried to find something, and we sort of did, but it does not pertain to production.  The camera work is very cheap, showcasing poor angles and a general camcorder feel.  The video quality is grainy and the sound quality is spotty, especially in the outdoor scenes.  The sets and locations are extremely limited.  The props are cheesy and the editing looks like it was done on a cheap computer program.  There is really nothing good to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Now for the movie’s only positive factor: it clearly presents the gospel message to anyone who happened to be forced to watch the remainder of the film.  That’s all we could find.  The plot is extremely simplistic and very linear.  If this was meant to be a simple gospel presentation, then the characters should have been fleshed out and it should have been marketed that way, not as a direct to DVD movie.  The dialogue is pretty good when it comes to sharing the gospel, but otherwise, it’s high school grade.  The few characters that are in the plot are stereotypical.  Events that take place in the plot are not even believable, such as the survival and outdoors parts.  The grandfather has an undisclosed heart condition that is magically healed every time he pops a pill.  Otherwise, the one hour run time is filled with useless filler, like cleaning out a barn and talking on the phone.  But nothing, absolutely nothing, can top the end of the film.  It is painfully obvious that either someone made a huge editing blunder or the money simply ran out, since the movie cuts off in the middle of someone’s dialogue.  You have to see it for yourself to believe it.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Mike Rosenbaum is obviously older than the Jackson character he plays, which adds a whole new element to this movie.  While it is noble of Natalie Grant to attempt to act while pregnant in real life, it doesn’t really work.  Overall, the cast is not coached at all.  So many times, we see actors and actresses thrown out on the set with no help, and Decision is one of those instances.

Conclusion

Every day we ask ourselves why movies like this are made.  The clear gospel message should have been lifted from this movie idea and inserted into another more worthwhile plot that someone can actually appreciate.  After watching Decision, you get the feeling that Christian movies have reached new lows.  Christian film-makers are not meant to simply churn out cheap productions for the sake of making them.  We strongly believe that God expects Christians to try their best in every area of life—including creating movies.  Decision does not meet these standards.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points