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

 

 

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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

 

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