A Love That Hurts (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Chris and Samantha are newlyweds who can’t wait to start a family.  However, their dream ends in heartbreak as their first child miscarries.  This tragedy pushes them apart as a couple and causes them each to seek fulfillment in all of the wrong places.  When another tragedy strikes their family, they will have to make a choice: will they grow apart or seek God to save their marriage?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

A Love That Hurts has a surprisingly above-average production for such a small budget.  Although there are some moments of echoed audio and some disorienting special effects, video quality and camera work are quite good.  Sets, locations, and props are slightly limited, but they are good considering what the creators had to work with.  Further, there are some abrupt cuts and transitions throughout, but as a whole, this is a very good production considering the tiny budget that was allotted for it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While there are some good attempts to portray accessible characters with realistic struggles, the characters of this story really need to be deepened, not only because this is a character-based plot, but also because it would make the story more meaningful.  As it is, a lot of the dialogue is too obvious and forces the plot along.  Some characters are too robotic as they appear to be pawns in the plot, only serving the purpose of spoon-feeding the audience an obvious message.  This message comes off as a somewhat plastic version of Christianity, including an odd portrayal of women.  Also, some characters are ‘overly Christian’ or become perfect through quick resolutions and easy fixes to problems.  However, not all is bad here as the writers at least demonstrate a care for realism, even if the plot is sometimes boring and slow.  The ending is a bit forced and rushed, as well as somewhat vague and abrupt.  In the end, it’s clear the writers meant well here, even if the delivery was misguided.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this is an ‘amateur’ church cast, the cast members show a lot of potential and desire to do well.  There are plenty of good acting moments as real effort is evident.  The main issue to point out here is that sometimes the cast members appear to be overly practiced in their lines and emotions.  Some cast members could use a little more natural emotion, but as a whole, this film is an applaudable effort.

Conclusion

It’s rare to find a movie this highly rated with such a small budget.  Further, it is clear that this creative team was putting their great effort into making this a good project.  However, it seems like more could have been done in the plot department.  Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see if they produce any more content in the future.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Advertisements

Come Follow Me [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jesus called Peter to follow Him, Peter never thought he would experience what he experienced.  Jesus called Peter to follow Him no matter what, but Peter faltered at the darkest hour of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  Peter could not understand why Jesus was allowing Himself to be overpowered by evil, so he took matters into his own hands and found himself fallen away was Jesus was taken captive.  However, Jesus gave Peter a second chance after His Resurrection and led Peter to change the world for the sake of Christ.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a short film with a loose association to The Visual Bible, Come Follow Me is almost an afterthought, even though the production is mostly good.  Video quality, camera work, and audio are all on par with what they should be, even if the soundtrack is a bit odd a times.  There are some random bouts of odd lighting, but the sets, locations, and props demonstrate a lot of attempts at authenticity.  There are also some intermittent sequences of slow motion, and the editing is somewhat choppy, but on the whole, this production is good enough to be above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Although Come Follow Me is not a word-for-word rendition of the story, there is still unnecessary narration presented.  However, not being tied to the word-for-word model helps to develop the characters better, even though they could still use some deepening through more substantial dialogue.  It is good to see a portrayal of different aspects of familiar stories, even if some parts are overly dramatic.  As previously mentioned, this short version of the story of Peter is a bit rushed as it comes off as choppy and even flat at times.  It tends to only hit the high points, even though this could have been a feature length film, as there is plenty of Peter content to work with in the historical accounts.  Thus, this section can’t warrant very many points.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Unlike his original performances in The Visual Bible, Bruce Marchiano shows his darkly dramatic side in Come Follow Me, which is off-putting.  Other cast members also tend to be too dramatic and theatrical in their performances.  On the bright side, costuming is fine, and there are some attempts at cultural authenticity, even though this is not consistent throughout.  In the end, however, this film comes off a mediocre and forgettable.

Conclusion

There was a lot of untapped potential left at the table when it came to this film.  There are plenty of Peter movies on the market, but we could use one that truly captures Peter as a real person who can be related to by many.  The Bible and other historical accounts have plenty of content on Peter to use, so it’s up to a responsible film maker to use them well.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Different Drummers [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When an unlikely friendship develops between David, a boy with muscular dystrophy, and Lyle, a boy diagnosed with ADHD, David sets out to show Lyle that God really does exist.  As they collaborate on a science project contest that Lyle is determined to win, they form a close bond, and David finds a new purpose in life.  Though they get into various escapades and scrapes that are not easy to get out of, their coming of age journey is one that they will never forget.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For the most part, Different Drummers is a fine production that has a lot of high marks.  These include great video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  Though the soundtrack is a bit generic, it is not a detractor.  Sets, locations, and props are all what they should be and are utilized effectively.  Overall, this is a professional production that is only hurt by some awkward cuts and transitions.  However, this is not enough to keep this section from having a respectably high score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Different Drummers, in many ways, is too much of a ‘silly’ kids story, as it is a coming of age plotline.  As such, there are a lot of seemingly unnecessary goofy sequences that tend to just fill time.  However, this storyline also presents a realistic and believable portrayal of special needs people, as well as an honest look at the dangers that come about when children are over-medicated.  However, the Christian message is a bit too vague, even though dialogue is fairly well-constructed.  Even so, there isn’t much substantial content to work with here as the story tends to hop from one thing to the next without much focus, but this could be an extrapolation of the main character’s ADHD, so it may be excusable in some ways.  In the end, this story has a realistic ending, and it will be mostly enjoyable for many audiences, so it may be worth a watch.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The casting and acting of this film is mostly fine, considering the number of younger cast members.  Though there are some awkward performances (perhaps purposely) and some over the top emotions in some scenes, for the most part, this cast is professional.  Each cast member tends to be cast well, and line delivery is solid throughout.  This rounds out an above average film all around.

Conclusion

Films like Different Drummers should be more commonplace in Christian film than they are.  Funding is used well, the story is at least halfway interesting, and the acting is adequate.  Though there some clear steps that could have been taken to make this film a higher rating, as it is, many audiences will enjoy it.  Still, we can’t help but wonder the potential these sorts of films could have had.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Young Disciple, Season 1 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

Eli is done with the street life of being a gangsta.  He has found faith in Christ and wants to make a new life for himself and his family, but the old life keeps calling him back in the form of gang lord Prime, who has Eli’s brother in his clutches.  Will Eli be able to escape the bondage of the streets and live the life God wants him to live?  Will his brother be pulled into the old life Eli used to live?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, Young Disciple suffers from a severe lack of adequate funding, as well as mismanagement of the resources that were at hand.  This is evident in the cheap video quality and the weird camera angles, as well as the poor audio quality and the odd sound effects used throughout.  The lighting is also not what it should, as the sets and very cheap and limited.  There aren’t many locations to speak of, and the soundtrack is too loud at times.  While there is some improvement throughout the season, it’s not enough to overcome this series’ very rough beginning.  Also, the editing is very raw, thus rounding out an underwhelming effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While Young Disciple attempts to portray realistic characters and the struggles and circumstances they go through, the delivery is lacking.  While the creators of this series likely meant well with what they were doing, the presentation very much hurts their intentions.  Dialogue is too lazy, and most conversations tend to meander and even repeat themselves over time.  Too many scenes appear to be grasping for content rather than trying to develop the characters.  Besides this, there are too many side characters and subplots that are hard to follow or understand.  The storyline of this series is confusing and is too disorganized to be understood easily, even though there was plenty of potential here.  Unfortunately, this series just misses the mark all the way around.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Though this amateur cast is definitely trying, they really would have benefitted from some much-improved coaching and development.  There are too many sequences of yelling and juvenile arguing.  Too often, emotions seem very flat and pedestrian.  Line delivery is inconsistent at best.  It’s unfortunate that this section continues to demonstrate the theme of mismanagement in this series.

Continuity Quality (.5 point)

Besides the oddly abrupt episode endings, Young Disciple has story and character arcs that are very hard to follow, even though they can be interesting at times and actually demonstrate some potential.  Moreover, this series tends to adapt the one-thing-after-the-next episode model that creates a storyline without much continuity.  Thus, this rounds out an overall disappointing experience.

Conclusion

Though Young Disciple was underfunded, this does not mean it had to be this bad.  It seems like the writers were trying to make something big in the storyline, but its delivery is off the mark.  Had this plot been much stronger and had there been more continuity in the series, Young Disciple could have overcome its shortcomings and stood out as a creative series.  As it is, it certainly deals with some pertinent issues that need to be portrayed in Christian films and series, but not like this.  Perhaps they will have better luck next time.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 14 points

 

The Carpenter’s Miracle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Though John Camdenis is just an average carpenter who doesn’t think much of himself, when his touch appears to bring a dead boy back from the dead, the small town he lives in immediately becomes ground zero for media attention and controversy.  He appears to perform more miracles, but he has no idea what to do with his newfound abilities.  John wants to go back to the way things were, but now it’s no turning back for him or the boy who came back to life.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though this is a made-for-TV production from UP, there are some surprising production errors here.  While video quality is fine, there is a high amount of shaky camera work throughout this film, probably for dramatic effect.  However, it doesn’t come off right.  There are also some awkward camera angles that give off a feel of the camera being moved around manually.  Nonetheless, there is a lot of great attention to detail when it comes to sets, locations, and props, especially the medical elements.  The soundtrack is also very interesting, as the audio quality is also good.  Finally, the editing is mostly fine, and overall, this production is above average, despite the odd oversights.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

At first, the plot of The Carpenter’s Miracle is hard to understand, but it doesn’t get much better from there.  The plot is presented in a very confusing fashion, and it is very unclear what is meant to be learned from this story.  It is only very vaguely Christian as the underlying message is mostly unknown, except for several obvious Easter themes.  Sometimes it seems like the story is hiding some great secret from you, but no clarity is ever offered.  Is the main character supposed to be Jesus or not?  Did he perform miracle or get involved in coincidences?  Besides these unanswered questions, the characters are too one-dimensional due to stilted and under-developed dialogue.  Furthermore, the ending is very head-scratching, thus completing a very unusual experience of a film.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast tends to be professional and mostly means well, there are a handful of awkward moments, especially in the beginning.  However, there is a lot of potential here, and the acting overall improves as the film goes on.  Emotional delivery is particularly believable and realistic.  In the end, however, this punctuates a unique experience that is difficult to quantify.

Conclusion

One can understand why UP would want to make another made-for-TV film to tap into a Christian audience, but this is an unusual choice.  Why not make the message more obviously Christian or at least try to offer some clarity as to what the underlying point of this story is?  Instead, we are left with more questions than answers, yet many people probably won’t ever know this film exists.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Love Letter [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Parker is an entertainment columnist and is best friends with Aaron.  However, Parker is perpetually single, and Aaron just got engaged to a girl he hasn’t know very long.  Parker has mixed feelings about her best friend’s relationship, but Parker’s mother is determined to matchmake her daughter to someone.  Parker isn’t interested in her mother’s attempts, but she finds herself falling love with Aaron, which poses a number of problems for them.  Will they be able to sort it all out before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Although UP usually demonstrates high production standards, The Love Letter seems to slip to the sitcom level of productions.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are fine, even if the soundtrack is stock.  The main element that gives this production a sitcom feel is the use of limited sets, locations, and props, as well as the many references to offscreen locations that were much more complex than inside people’s houses.  Furthermore, the editing of this film is lacking as too many scenes lag on with no real purpose or connection.  In the end, while this production is average, it seems like the creators were just phoning it in.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This feel of being phoned in definitely carried over to the plot as well.  It seems like the writers were barely trying with this plot, as it is full of cheesy comedy sequences and empty characters.  The premise is very trumped up and juvenile.  A majority of the dialogue is trite and silly, and the Christian message is vague and seems like it was added in later.  There is barely enough content to sustain a full-length film here as the same things happen over and over again.  The characters just sit around and talk without ever accomplishing much, like a ninety-minute sitcom that’s not even funny.  As previously mentioned, there is a lot of offscreen content that is only talked about, and the story rushes towards a predictable and neat conclusion.  Basically, not much effort was put towards this film in general.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a small cast, every little thing shows.  Sometimes the cast members are too forceful and awkward in their delivery, and other times they are overly practiced and amateurish.  However, they are not all bad and have enough good moments to make this section average.  However, not much about this film impresses at all.

Conclusion

Channels like UP are definitely in the business of producing as much content as possible to fill the time slots, which is why we get stuff like this.  It’s quite disingenuous to call this film Christian, and it really contributes nothing to the field of Christian entertainment.  Unfortunately, films like this are easily forgotten and probably rightly so.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Debacle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Larry and Vaughn have been long time friends, but Vaughn has never felt like he was worth much of anything, especially after he gets laid off from his job.  Larry, on the other hand, is overconfident in himself and has many ideas of what he should be doing, such as rescuing damsels in distress.  However, neither of them could have expected to be transported back in time to a Western town in need of heroes.  If Larry and Vaughn can save the town, they will have completed their quest, but if they do not, they will be trapped in history forever.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, a lot of time and money was put into this production.  This is shown in the good video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  Though the soundtrack is a bit silly and is sometimes too loud, the sets, locations, and props are excellently constructed and utilized for this genre.  However, there are some awkward cuts and transitions that are likely included to make the movie ‘goofy.’  However, on the whole, this is an above average production that does not fit with the rest of the film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From the beginning to the end, this appropriately-named film is trying way too hard to be funny with cringeworthy comedy moments and eye-rolling escapades.  Not only is the premise completely absurd, but it is full of cheesy Western elements and other asides that make no sense at all.  The Christian message is forced, cheesy, and empty.  This ridiculous story feels like it has been made for the sake of being made, since it has basically no purpose at all.  The characters are dumb due to the half-hearted dialogue, not to mention the fact that the villain concept is very stupid.  Essentially, there’s really nothing good to say about this plot except that it was good when it was over.

Acting Quality (1 points)

Besides the absurd self-casting and acting (Joshua Zirger from Fenced Off should have never been cast again), the cast members over-play and overdo everything.  Line delivery is drawn out, and emotions are laughable.  Though there are some okay moments, most sequences from this cast are annoying as they tend to make fools of themselves.  Unfortunately, there’s not much good to say about this film.

Conclusion

Basically, this movie is a debacle.  Whether or not they intended it to be so appropriately named is beside the point.  Making this sort of comedy that’s in your face and completely obvious is never a winning idea.  Also, the childish time travel notions and cliched Western tropes are very old and worn out.  The only advice that can be offered here is to try something totally different next time.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dax is a spoiled rock star who is in trouble with the law and his publicist, so he needs publicity stunt to make him look good so that his merchandise will begin selling again.  Thus, he flippantly agrees to grant the Christmas wish of a desperate fan by staying with them over Christmas holiday.  Little does he know that he has been chosen to stay with a conservative pastor’s family in a small rural town in order to fulfill the wish.  But love will probably find him there, so what’s he complaining about in the UP universe?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

UP has been able to successfully replicate the Hallmark production model by having respectable productions.  Once again, Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas checks all the needed production boxes, including fine video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The soundtrack is about what you can expect, and the sets and locations are slightly limited.  There are also plenty of Christmas props.  The editing is mostly fine except for the stupid title cards throughout.  Otherwise, this is a model production that comes with the territory of made-for-TV movies.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Yawn.  What else can we possibly say about this thoroughly worn out plot concept?  A troubled rich city character gets stuck in a small town (actually more like one house) with a conservative group of characters, and he reconnects with his childhood or something and finds ‘unexpected’ love.  In some ways, rendition seems like a satire or just pure click-bait.  Characters are too empty due to stock dialogue as the circumstances sweep them along in inevitability.  The Christian message is very vague and is designed to pander to Christian audiences.  As expected, the progression is extremely predictable as two people are thrown together, don’t like each other at first, like each other after small talk, have their relationship get complicated by a strawman alternate love interest, get ‘torn apart,’ and then get thrown back together again to patch things up in the last few minutes before the credits roll.  I think that about sums it all up.

Acting Quality (2 points)

UP has done a better job than Hallmark has at assembly mostly professional casts.  They appear to actually coach their cast members and attempt to make them seem realistic.  There are a handful of minor errors throughout this case that keep it from being perfect, but on the whole, it is a respectable effort.

Conclusion

Another day, another Christmas film from the movie factory.  What is left to be said about companies like UP and Hallmark?  They have to please the investors, so they roll out safe, predictable films that will be watched once during the holidays and then be forgotten.  The plots are mindless, and they look good on the outside, so the mission is accomplished, and it’s on to the next one.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Christmas For a Dollar (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In the middle of the Great Depression, the Kamp family is struggling to get by, but Mr. Kamp won’t let his older children get jobs.  Norman, the crippled brother, wants to see a horse owned by a local grumpy rich woman.  All the schoolchildren want to win a special box from the teacher for doing the most good deeds, even though they are all sure the local bullies are cheating in the contest.  Will they be able to have an enjoyable Christmas together?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As is the case for most of John Lyde’s productions, Christmas for a Dollar is respectable and above average.  This includes good video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is a bit generic, but it’s fine.  Sometimes the sets, props, and locations are limited, but they are mostly good.  Also, the editing lags at times, but on the whole, every part of this production shows good effort, which is all we can ask for, especially considering the resources available.  John Lyde is consistent in rolling out good productions.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, also like other films from John Lyde and his team, the plot is this movie is fairly limited in its scope and tends to lack overall purpose.  While the characters show some realism and honesty, it’s hard to know where the story is going since there are several different rabbit trails it follows without really discovering a driving or underlying theme.  The characters could have been something, but some of the awkward dialogue holds them back.  Like other movies from this creative team, Christmas for a Dollar contains a lot of nice ideas that don’t come to full fruition.  This story needed a bit more work before going to production.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite the unrealistic costuming, this cast was definitely trying.  They overcame a rough start of awkward and forced lines and emotions to improve throughout the latter half of the film.  They seem like they are receiving some good coaching most of the time and really seem like they care about their roles.  This is more than can be said of most casts.

Conclusion

John Lyde and his creative team certainly care about their movies: this much is evident.  However, too often, their ideas get lost in translation and do not fully come through.  Films like this one tend to come off as nice little kids’ movies with no mass appeal outside of a small audience.  It’s a shame, because it seems like they could go further a lot of the time with their ideas.  Maybe one day soon they will finally break through to the next level, because they certainly have the ability to do so.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Mister Scrooge to See You! (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

What if a year after his transformation, Ebenezer Scrooge, with the help of Jacob Marley, was randomly transported through time to the modern era, where the descendant Jacob Crachit was being just as miserly was Scrooge once was?  Puzzled by modern things, Scrooge tries to fulfill his mission to save a struggling small town diner from the cold heart of Crachit.  Will he be able to do it in time?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Much like other productions from Salty Earth, Mister Scrooge has its share of drawbacks.  Video quality is fine, as usual, as is audio quality, except for some weird echoes for dramatic effects.  The soundtrack is generic.  However, there are some very cheap special effects throughout that make for an odd experience.  There are also some cheesy props to contend with, as well as limited sets and locations.  Furthermore, as is to be expected, the editing is relatively choppy.  Thus, this is just another low-quality production with too much ambition.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s one thing to craft a creative take off of a familiar story, but this film goes a bit too far.  The intertwined past\present plots are too confusing to follow, and creating a cinematic universe for the characters of the famous Charles Dickens novel is problematic.  What’s the point of the unexplained time travel elements?  As we’ve said before, all time travel should be avoided in stories.  Besides this, Mister Scrooge is just a blatant retread of the former story, just with a Christian spin and a worn out save-the-diner plot.  There are also too many strawman characters, including a cheesy and stereotypically evil anti-Christmas businessman villain.  In addition to this is mindless dialogue, forced comedy, and too many head-scratching moments to take this movie seriously.  It’s very hard to understand what was meant by this plot.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Most of the time, this cast is overplaying their roles, as if they do not trust the audience to understand what they are doing.  This comes off as annoying, as do the plastic emotions.  However, there are a few good moments here, such as Torry Martin playing Santa.

Conclusion

We can understand the desire to be creative and to offer a unique take on a familiar story, but this is just all wrong.  You can’t be so different that you isolate your audience.  Besides this, the production is too low quality, and the acting is too off-putting for the film to truly be taken seriously.  Most of the time, it’s difficult to understand what exactly Salty Earth is going for, but maybe one day they will find their niche.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Silver Bells [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Bruce Dalt is obsessed with his job as a local sports anchor.  He is also obsessed with his son getting a good basketball scholarship.  However, he lets his emotions get the best of him when he gets angry at a referee who made a call on his son, Bruce finds himself in the middle of a public relations nightmare.  His media employer determines that he needs to complete community service before he can come back to his job.  Thus, Bruce is stuck ringing a Christmas bell for the Salvation Army.  Will he be able to learn the true meaning of Christmas?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Silver Bells is a typically professional PureFlix and UP production collaboration.  As such, there are few errors to note here.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The soundtrack is a bit too holiday-ish, but it’s fine.  Sets, locations, and props are also fine, albeit filled with Christmas stuff.  There are also a lot of Salvation Army ‘product placements,’ but at least this is a good ministry to promote.  Finally, there are some small editing issues to note, but on the whole, this is a model production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, despite the influence of Andrea Nasfell, this plot suffers from a bout of forced comedy and cardboard cutout characters, including a stereotypical over the top holiday-hating character that is forced to like Christmas throughout the course of the film.  Also, the holiday-hating character constantly reminds the audience of his unexplained cold attitude towards Christmas.  Thus, the Christian message is quite cheap.  There is unfortunately nothing truly creative in this plot as it seems like it was manufactured in a Christmas plot factory.  Any issues raised are too easily resolved, and even though the Salvation Army has some great causes, it’s not enough to save this story from itself.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Mostly, the lead cast members trying too hard to convince the audience of who their characters are, much like many PureFlix movies.  In doing so, they come off as very disingenuous and plastic.  However, there are plenty of good moments from the supporting cast members that help this section from being nothing.  Emotions are overall average throughout, thus rounding out a nearly-average film.

Conclusion

Films like this one can’t help but be seen as just one made on the assembly line of holiday inspirational films.  If you’re going to reuse an old plot concept, at least make it was accessible and believable characters that audiences can relate to.  As it is, Silver Bells just seems like it’s trying to check the boxes so it can be a packaged made-for-television film.  We need more creativity than this, but the good thing is that Andrea Nasfell has shown that she has the ability to do this when she is supported properly.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

A Strange Brand of Happy (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

David Weathersby has no clear direction in life, especially after being fired from his job by his hotshot boss, who is impressed with himself.  He feels like he doesn’t have any purpose and decides to languish away, so his roommate decides to introduce him to a random life coach he ran into so David can find a fresh purpose for himself.  But this introduction only creates a problematic love triable between David, his old boss, and the life coach.  Will this silliness ever be resolved?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In a change from previous Rebel Pilgrim productions, such as Hope Bridge and the awful Fenced Off, A Strange Brand of Happy at least has an above-average production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine.  The soundtrack is a bit silly, however, and there is some odd soft lighting throughout.  There are also a lot of cheesy animated interludes that give the movie a juvenile feel.  Also, a lot of the sets are relatively limited, as well as the props, and there are no real locations.  Finally, editing is just average and contributes to a slightly above-average, but not quite all-the-way-there production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Full of cheesy and quirky characters, this story is just a childish romantic ‘comedy’ based on a silly and manufactured love triangle.  Nearly all the humor is very forced and dry and is thus not funny.  There is too much pointless goofiness throughout, including silliness for the sake of being silly.  At times, this story feels like a joke, and it contains some very vague Christian themes.  With no real direction or purpose, this plot is just a bunch of random content assembled in a formulaic and predictable fashion, with a side of weird edgy elements and a very strange tone throughout.  Any meaning that is tried to be inserted at the end is too little too late, thus making for mostly a waste of time.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast is very stiff and wooden in their delivery, as well as awkward.  There is definitely not enough coaching here, although there are some good moments to note.  However, there is a lot of odd makeup work throughout, as well as some unnecessary yelling throughout.  In the end, this rounds out an overall low-average and basically low-effort film.

Conclusion

Rebel Pilgrim certainly knows how to make a strange brand of movies.  What exactly are they going for?  They’ve attempted the dramatic emotional exploration in Hope Bridge and the stupid comedies in Fenced Off and A Strange Brand of Happy, but what do they really have to show for it?  They also present a strange brand of Christianity in their films, so perhaps the title of this movie is not by accident.  Are they actually just trolling like The Asylum to see what some money they can make off of their efforts?  Your guess is as good as ours.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Sidewalk Singer (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Kris Kivi lost everything when his family was taken in a drunk driving wreck.  Then he lost everything again when he makes a bad investment that leaves him homeless.  But while he is not liked for his homeless status, he decides to continue doing what he does best—singing.  He performs gospel songs on the side of the road for money and food.  But then he is faced with the ultimate test and he will have to decide what he will do.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

It’s clear that Sidewalk Singer has quite a limited budget.  Though video quality and camera work are fine, audio quality is a bit inconsistent at times.  The original soundtrack is unfortunately fairly annoying.  Sets, locations, and props are understandably limited.  Also, editing is quite bad as it is choppy and hard to follow.  These sorts of productions are difficult since they are so low-budget, but it seems like it would have been prudent to either wait for a bigger budget or just make a short film with what they had.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This is a very low-energy plot, which even more begs the need for it to be a short film.  The story is very boring and drab, mostly because it is a character-driven plot that contains dry and empty characters.  This is due to very uninspiring and vanilla dialogue and due to the fact that there is barely enough content here to sustain a feature-length film.  As it is, this story is very vague and hard to understand; it’s a never-ending slow full of wasted time and lacking a central purpose and point.  It’s very difficult to justify this as a full-length movie.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though there are some good spots here, the cast is mostly overly practiced in their line delivery and unnatural in their emotional delivery.  However, the cast members probably mean well in what they do.  Yet they would have likely benefitted from acting coaching in order to deepen their performances.

Conclusion

The unfortunate thing about films like this is that, no matter if the creators meant well or not, there is basically no impact from a film like this.  It is too forgettable and too bland to be of interest, which really calls into question its necessity.  It is better to make a less-expensive short film to practice your movie making skills rather than to continually clutter the market with thrift store fodder.  Please learn this lesson in the future if you are an aspiring film maker.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

My Son [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Cadon and Jess have made bad choices in their lives, but they have each other and they have Jess’ son to keep them going.  However, in one fell swoop of mistakes a ‘friend’ convinced them into, they lose custody of their little boy to Jess’ parents, whom she is still not speaking to.  Thus, in a moment of desperation, they turn to the same ‘friend’ who got them in trouble for help getting out of it.  Together, they concoct a dangerous scheme to get their son back, but little do they know what God really has planned for them.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

As a severely underfunded production, My Son unfortunately has a lot of issues here.  Camera work is quite shaky, including a lot of odd camera angles, and lighting is strange throughout.  There are too many loud outside sounds that crowd out the audio, as well as a loud soundtrack.  Sets and locations are relatively limited, but the props are good and appropriate.  Some of these production elements improve slightly in the end as the final scenes appear to have more effort behind them.  Yet nonetheless, the editing throughout is an issue.  Basically, this was a very ambitious idea for such a limited budget, but the effort is commendable.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

My Son is a rare instance in which the plot is better than the production, as long as you can look past the production issues.  The writers mean well and are trying their best to portray realistic circumstances and accessible characters.  The suspense plot setup is very intriguing and well-constructed.  Dialogue sometimes isn’t as good as it should be, but for the most part, it is realistic and believable.  As the suspense progresses, the movie actually holds the attention if you are committed to it.  In the end, the ending is well written and realistic.  Since this is such an ambitious idea trapped in a bad production, it would be great to see a remake or at least another suspense plot from these writers.

Acting Quality (1 point)

At the beginning of this film, the acting is too forceful and overly practiced, as well as awkward.  However, it seems like this cast means well and is really trying.  The most interesting thing about the cast members is that they are actually better as suspenseful acting than at regular acting, and thus show improvement at the end, like other elements do.  There is tons of potential here that needs to be brought out in another film.

Conclusion

Despite its obvious flaws, My Son is a surprising and interesting burst onto the movie scene.  It likely will not get as much attention as other films, but it embodies a gold mine of potential this church has in making unique and ambitious Christian films in different genres.  Rarely do you see this much potential in a freshman film from a random church group.  It just goes to show you how trying a different genre and really working on your plot, even if you have poor funding, goes a long way.  They are already one step ahead of other film makers, so we can’t wait to see what they have next.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Finding Faith [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Faith gets too close to a ‘boy’ she met online but never met in real life, she never imagined the trouble it would cause her.  In one fateful moment, the stalker behind the fake profile kidnaps her as Faith’s hometown descends into panic over the incident.  The local sheriff has a bone to pick with online stalkers, so he immerses himself into the case unlike any other.  What they find is a vast human trafficking scheme bigger than their small town.  Will they be able to find Faith before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As an early production for Liberty University and team, the quality of Finding Faith isn’t really what it should be.  Video quality is okay, but camera work is randomly shaky.  Audio quality is also poor, even though the soundtrack is trying to be suspenseful.  Sets are okay, but locations and props are somewhat limited.  Editing is mostly average and still leaves something to be desired.  Overall, with many other people involved in this film, Liberty University took a step back with this production, and it’s hard to see how it was justified.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Full of heavy-handed narration from Erik Estrada, the messaging of this story is certainly not subtle.  Yet at the same time, it’s also full of dead air and wasted sequences.  It’s a shame too, because this is an interesting and different idea with a meaningful message that needs to be shared.  However, the characters are so empty due to bland and vanilla dialogue that it’s hard to relate to them as real people, only as cutouts playing a part.  There was so much that could have been done with this story—with better characters of course—but the writers only barely scratch the surface.  It’s unfortunate to see ideas like this one fall so short of the mark.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this is a relatively large cast, they lack adequate coaching.  The cast members post very stiff and blank performances, but then again, they didn’t have many lines to actually work with.  They also have their good moments, and it’s not all bad, but any cast that includes Erik Estrada is always dominated by his odd demeanors and personas.  In the end, this film as a whole is mostly a disappointment.

Conclusion

The Liberty University team and the JC Films team always had big ideas and ambitions that rarely follow through and meet the expectations that are set for them.  They have plenty of resources and connections, but little to no creative screenwriting.  It seems to be consistently difficult for them to portray real people on the big screen, so it might be time for them to invest in some better writing.  Only then will they make the difference they want to make.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

7th Street Theater, Season 3 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

With the new cast of the 7th Street Theater finally settled down, the team begins to face new challenges that they must face.  New social issues are in desperate need of being addressed by the cast through their bland skits.  But more importantly, a new threat arises to their business model as a disgruntled rival theater owner seeks to destroy their work.  With the 7th Street Theater be able to survive the onslaught?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The newest and final (?) season of the 7th Street Theater has really no unique or surprising elements.  The only notable difference is some slightly improved camera work.  Otherwise, everything else is pretty much the same.  Video quality and audio quality are typical.  The Jasper Randall soundtrack is still intact.  There are still no locations and the same old limited sets are utilized.  Furthermore, there is really no editing to speak of.  In the end, if this is the end of this series, it’s an anticlimactic one.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Another season of this series brings another one full of forced drama and fake conflicts as everything in this universe centers around the happenings of the theater with no care about what the characters do outside of it except for a lot of references to off-screen content.  This third season continues to grasp for content as it constantly exhibits the limited and isolationist worldview of the Christiano brothers.  Even more so this season, they adapt a Christians versus the world approach and complain about common cultural problems rather than offering real solutions.  They are still lost in their own world in thinking this concept is actually interesting or even sustainable.  The ending really makes no sense, yet it appropriate for this saga, which remains empty and wanting.

Acting Quality (1 point)

As the same cast members continue to phone in their performances, there is really nothing new to mention here.  Emotions are still plastic and line delivery is still lazy.  There are fewer cast member changes this season, yet it’s really hard to believe that they were able to keep at least half of this cast together for so long.  What were they really getting out of this?

Continuity Quality (.5 point)

It’s very hard to believe there are over sixty twenty-minute episodes in this saga.  That’s a lot of dedication for not much return.  Yet this season’s continuity quality has slightly improved due to some slight attempts at continuation and arcs.  However, it’s not really enough to make any real difference.

Conclusion

It seems like this series is now over, and it has done so in the most non-dramatic fashion.  There is truly no way to understand how and why this series was made for so long except for the fact that it was extremely easy to make.  It’s very difficult to see the true benefit of this saga due to its out-of-touch portrayal of people and apparent lack of understanding of real life and real people.  If a Christian series is ever to be successful, that’s a big if, then reality needs to be portrayed in a way that engages audiences rather than bores them.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Broken Chains [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Benny Trevors has just gotten out of prison and has decided to hitchhike back home to his mother’s house, where he can decide what he wants to do with his life.  He is almost immediately contacted by ‘old buddies’ of his, who ask him to help them with a new crime plan.  Benny is torn between the good and the bad and has a series of conflicts with his daughters that cause him to want to leave town.  However, he stopped from doing this when he steps in to protect a woman from her violent husband.  Little does he know that he is about to be sent on a journey to face the past he doesn’t want to ever see again.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

As a very underfunded and amateurish production, Broken Chains really doesn’t have anything good going for it.  Although it’s likely that the production team meant well, they really couldn’t get anything to work here.  Video quality is blurry, camera work is shaky, and audio quality is not what it should be.  The soundtrack is too loud and out of place and there are some unusual camera angles.  Sets, locations, and props are severely limited.  Finally, there are too many odd transitions that make for a disorienting editing experience.  In the end, it’s sad to see this finished product because it’s likely that they meant well.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Broken Chains is a rare instance in which the plot is significantly better than the production and the acting.  Though it takes a while to get into, this is actually an interesting plot idea that contains a lot of intriguing psychological elements.  However, there are a lot of overly dramatic moments and not enough substantial content.  Random things tend to just happen without much explanation.  The characters are in need of deeper development and the conclusion, though somewhat interesting, is a bit contrived and convenient.  Overall, since this is based on true events, this plot definitely has a lot of potential, but this movie as a whole needs a total rewrite.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is unfortunately very amateurish and not well-versed in acting skills.  They are forceful and practiced, as well as very measured and stilted.  There are some sequences of painful singing.  Also, emotions are very flat and empty.  In the end, this film is extremely B-grade or worse.

Conclusion

Only because of the good ideas presented here does this movie deserve a remake.  The production and acting are on the basement level of film.  It would have been better to wait and use this idea in a production that was better funded and more well-cast.  Perhaps one day it will get the remake that it deserves, but for the most part, this film will likely go very much unnoticed.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

The Takeover [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jadin is an overconfident businessman (?) who trips all over himself and finds himself entangled with an eccentric ‘con artist’ who blackmails him into letting her stay with him.  She quickly takes over his house and invites a bunch of random people over.  All the while, Jadin is trying to please his mother and argue with the booming voice in the sky.  Will they ever be able to make sense of their lives?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Though this was a relatively well-funded production, only the video quality can be considered professional.  Camera work is far too shaky and includes odd camera angles and annoying close-ups.  Audio is unnecessarily overdriven at times and even overdubbed in some places.  The soundtrack is uninspiring.  Sets, locations, and props are fairly limited.  Finally, the editing is confusing and is likely nonexistent, thus making for a disorienting experience.  In the end, we are continually flabbergasted at the productions that are churned out by Strong Foundation Films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-.5 point)

Compared to all of their other sad efforts to write stories, The Takeover is hands-down Strong Foundation’s most laughable and nonsensical story to date.  From start to finish, there is no way to know or understand what is happening from one moment to the next.  Random things keep happening, as if this is depicting a dream sequence.  Many of the elements included in this rambling diatribe either cause you to roll your eyes or double over laughing, including the absurd booming voice in the sky bit.  There is literally nothing good to say about any of this, and it’s so ridiculous that it warrants even a small amount of negative points just for being this way.  As far a screenwriting goes, you really can’t go much lower than this (unless you’re Kirk Cameron).

Acting Quality (-1 points)

Josiah David Warren posts his worst performance to date, as do the other typical cast members included here.  They are absurd, over the top, and sometimes whiny with their emotions, including far too much yelling.  Also, reminiscent of FaithHouse, there is a lot of terrible injury acting throughout this film.  Basically, there is really nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

Strong Foundation has been in a constant identity crisis from day one of their productions.  What do they really want to do in Christian film?  If they mean well and want to make a difference, then they need to take some serious strides to improve.  They need to find a way to spend their funding more wisely.  They need to hire a real screenwriter.  Finally, they need to either stop casting the same old actors and actresses (Josiah David Warren has worn out his welcome) or figure out how to invest in some coaching for them.  They are at a crossroads as a company and have some tough decisions to make.

 

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

 

Seven Days Away (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Clayton’s father dies on the mission field, Clayton commits himself to serving God through missions just like his father did.  Thus, when Clayton is given the chance to go to Mexico with some friends, he takes it.  However, he finds that all is not as it seems as his friends are only there to party and mess around.  Clayton finds himself alone and suddenly kidnapped by local criminals.  Will he be able to trust God to him out alive?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Seven Days Away is a return to basement production quality, as video quality is the only good element to mention here.  Camera work is too wild in attempts to be dramatic and action-packed.  Audio quality is off and the soundtrack is constantly interrupting things.  The sets, locations, and props are the worst possible.  Finally, the editing is awful as scenes sometimes cut off in the middle of things.  The film jumps all over the place and is overall disorienting.  In the end, this is a very unimpressive effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This story is another forced drama fest that gives Josiah David Warren a venue to do whatever he wants.  There is no focus, direction, or purpose in this plot as it unfolds in a very confusing and isolating manner.  It contains a lot of nonsensical elements, such as forcing people to go to church, and all the usual childish dialogue and characters.  Unfortunately, there is basically no potential in this vague and limited idea and only serves to be another Christian film embarrassment.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is the same old story as most other Strong Foundation Films.  Josiah David Warren is still in the forefront and is still unsure of himself.  There are too many extreme emotions throughout this cast in attempts to be suspenseful or something.  There is also a lot of yelling and off-kilter line delivery.  To say the least, this rounds out another basement-dwelling Christian movie.

Conclusion

Seven Days Away had a lower budget than usual for Strong Foundation, and it shows.  It’s rarely a good idea to make two movies in one year, yet Strong Foundation makes a habit of this.  All of Josiah David Warren’s forced melodrama is just too much for any film, especially since it dominates all of the movies put out by this outfit.  We hope they mean well, but their delivery is just all wrong.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

A Golden Mind (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Seth’s father leaves under the guise of getting a new job, he never returns, which leaves the family in their financial straits.  Then Seth’s mother dies from selling her blood too much, which leaves Seth to take care of his little sister.  He decides that he needs to go to college and invest in gold so that he can become rich.  But he will have to decide what he thinks about his late mother’s faith in order to move forward.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though this film had a decent budget, it still does not have a good enough production.  Video quality and camera work are once again the only good elements.  Audio quality is quite poor and the soundtrack is very generic.  Sets, locations, and props are very cheap and limited.  There are a lot of montages and dead sequences, which reflect the terrible editing work.  Basically, we haven’t figured out where the Stronger Foundation team gets their money from, but they are squandering it at a rate only rivaled by Timothy Chey.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, it seems as though most of Strong Foundation’s plots are utterly pointless.  This so-called story is reminiscent of a FaithHouse creation due to its childish and empty characters and its extremely juvenile dialogue and premise.  The main character is very downtrodden and there is a lot of laughable and forced melodrama.  The Christian message is also, of course, extremely plastic and off-putting.  It feels like this story was written by a five-year-old as everything is fixed in the end and just generally has a juvenile feel to it.  It’s very difficult to understand how movies like this are made.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Josiah David Warren and his typical cast comrades are at it again in this film, with very unsure and sometimes whiny performances.  Emotions are either over the top or nonexistent and line delivery is stunted.  Basically, this cast is in need of some serious coaching.

Conclusion

We are interested to know who gives Strong Foundations Films a basic blank check to allow Sun Hui East and Josiah David Warren to do basically whatever they want.  The stories they come up with really seem like they came from a bunch of kids making up stories while playing with their toys, combined with a cheap Christian message.  We are greatly unsure as to what the ultimate goal with these movies is, but we hope to forget they even exist.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

My Name is Paul [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

What if the story of the Apostle Paul took place in the near future, when the government cracks down on religious freedom and forces the true Christians underground?  Paul seeks out Christians to bring into custody to further his status among the government, but a profound experience causes him to turn around and change his ways by joined the very people he once tried to stamp out.  Now he is on the run from his former employers and the Christians are wary about trusting him.  Will the Way be able to prevail in the face of grave opposition?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

It is clear that many attempts were made in this film to craft a very professional action-based production, which is something we rarely see in Christian film these days.  Video quality is what it should be and camera work is great, especially in the action scenes.  Audio quality is mostly good and the soundtrack is intriguing.  However, sometimes there are some oddly lit scenes, as if the producers are trying to be too artistic, and the indoor sets sometimes suffer from lack of creativity.  Yet the outdoor locations are very well-constructed.  The editing sometimes leaves something to be desired, as some scenes lag too long while others are cut short.  But in the end, this is a commendable effort and one that will hopefully yield even better fruit in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

It’s definitely not easy to take on such a large Bible-story-set-in-the-future concept, especially with all of the characters that are involved.  Sometimes it’s too awkward for the writers to try to force parallels; it might have been better to keep the associations looser.  However, there is still lots of good plot content—perhaps too much content for a film less than two hours long.  This is a highly complex story that sometimes gets lost in itself and may have been better suited for a miniseries, since there are a lot of ideas crammed into such a short time frame.  This is a good problem to have, yet it leaves too many disjointed subplots in its wake.  The characters are pretty good, even if they are limited in scope.  The biggest red flag to raise here is the very confusing and isolating ending that is hard to explain or understand.  In the end, this story desperately needed to be a series in order to be truly effective.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The casting and acting is clearly the strongest point of this film, as there are no errors to speak of.  This is a very large cast, yet they are all very talented and cast very appropriately.  Emotions are believable and line delivery is on target.  The cast members make this film as good as it is.

Conclusion

We realize it’s hard to make an independent series or miniseries, but with the PureFlix on Demand platform, things have been made easier.  More budding film makers need to take advantage of this resource to boost their brand so that we can see some actually worthwhile Christian series come to light.  Regardless, with some production tweaks, more funding, and continued casting success, this creative team is going to go big places.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

The Beautiful Beast [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Isabelle Elliot is a spoiled heiress to a fortune that she has no idea how to manage properly.  She does whatever she wants with the money she has at her fingertips but always makes sure to keep her only normal friend close to her.  She convinces this friend to go with her on a spontaneous ski trip to Switzerland, but a disagreement leaves Isabelle stranded in the cold.  She wanders around until she finds a mysterious cabin and takes shelter inside.  There she meets a reclusive man who confuses her but also intrigues her.  Will he be able to teach Isabelle what really matters in life?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For a SunWorld production, this one isn’t half bad.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are find, even if there isn’t enough of a soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are actually pretty good considering the source.  The biggest issue here is that the editing is choppy, as usual for this sort of film.  There isn’t much content to begin with, but to present it like this is unprofessional.  But in the end, we’ve come to expect these sorts of things from these types of films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The Beautiful Beast is based on a very stereotypical and predictable idea that utilizes a thin, forced, and even juvenile thrown-together romance premise.  Though there are several somewhat interesting conversations, the characters still need deepening beyond their cheesy romantic story stereotypes.  We need to be able to feel like this is a real story and not some silly knock-off fairy tale that it’s lamely named after.  As it is, the character arcs and the predictable progression are too steep to be believable.  On top of all this, the Christian message is cheap and forced, like it was added in later to make this a “Christian film.”  In the end, the only way to fix this sort of plot is to build deep and realistic characters, but this did not happen in this film.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is small, they are mostly professional in their performances.  Line delivery is on point, but emotions are sometimes over the top in attempts to be comedic.  But in the end, this is a decent casting and acting job.

Conclusion

Regardless, it’s really hard to see the justification for this sort of film.  The idea has been done before—too many times—so unless you’re going to improve an old idea, don’t use it.  This film is really just a representation of the need for an inspirational\quasi-Christian film, so somebody manufactured an overused plot and found some cast members to be in.  There’s nothing creative or innovative here—just pure business.  This is definitely not the way to make a movie that will actually make a difference.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

The Investigator [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sergeant James Buanacore loved his job as a leader on the police force, but when he got caught up in a street fight that ended with a gang member shot to death, he is pressured to retire from his post to mitigate bad publicity.  At the same time, tragedy strikes his family and blindsides him, which causes him to lose his faith in God.  Thus, James’ brother gets him a job as a baseball coach and criminal justice teacher at a local private Christian school to help him find new meaning in life.  But what James finds there is students searching for hope and a corrupt leadership, so he sets out to use his investigative skills to determine whether or not Jesus was a historical figure.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For a slightly unknown independent Christian film, The Investigator has a surprisingly good production.  Video quality is great, but the only issue in this production is the odd camera work that is sometimes employed.  Otherwise, audio quality is professional, as is the soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are well-funded and appropriate.  The editing is quite good and is successful in most ways.  If it weren’t for the unusual camera usage, this would have been a perfect production.  In the end, this is an excellent example of how an independent production can succeed.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The Investigator has a lot of interesting ideas and takes big risks in breaching less-discussed topics such as corruption in private Christian schools.  However, the story is all over the place and is somewhat disorganized as a lot of ground is attempted to be covered.  The circumstances portrayed are realistic and honest, and the characters are actually quite believable and realistic, but the organization of this story is greatly lacking.  The creativity here needs some serious honing and better development.  Too much time is wasted on sports montages and unrelated scenes.  In the end, this is a very unique plot, so it’s a shame it couldn’t have been better.  Yet it does show potential for the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is a semi-professional cast, and they post mostly good performances, but emotions tend to be too extreme at times.  Line delivery is nearly perfect and it’s evident that acting coaching is present.  Only a few minor problems hold this portion back.

Conclusion

There is a lot of good content packed into this film, but there is perhaps too much that is included here.  It’s great to deal with the issues of tragedy, corruption, and apologetics, but in this disorganized fashion, it’s difficult to follow.  Yet the production and the acting successes show that independent films can be professional if the proper resources and effort are put towards them.  Regardless, it should be interesting to see what this creative team comes up with next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Midrange [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Damon Sharp, a new college graduate, must leave his glory days of playing college basketball behind and return to his hometown to live with his mother and brother while he waits to be drafted into the NBA.  However, he returns to find the same old things being done at home.  His brother quickly pulls Damon back into the partying lifestyle as he awaits a big sports contract.  However, Damon is constantly nagged by his newfound faith, wondering how he is supposed to live it out as his brother tries to lead him astray.  Will he find the path that God wants him to take before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Midrange is another typical freshman production that looks good but has a collection of errors that drag it down.  Video quality is fine, but camera work is inconsistent.  Audio quality is also poor, but some effort was put into the soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are commendable but they are slightly limited and cheap.  Furthermore, there is really no editing to speak of in this film as it progresses unimaginatively from one thing to the next.  In the end, this is forgivable as a first-time production and hopefully this team will grow more in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this story is based on loosely interesting idea about the struggles of Christians and their families of origin, it is packaged in a very flat and linear presentation that has no real twists or creative elements.  Everything is given at face value, including the stiff dialogue and the descriptions of vague off-screen content that might have been helpful to include.  Though they mean well in presenting the struggles of a new Christian, the Christian message is too cheap and plastic to be accessed by the audience.  In the same vein, the characters are not deep enough or realistic enough to be related to, even though their struggles are real.  Thus, this story just boils down to a formulaic and predictable storyline that reaches an inevitable conclusion in which everything is fixed.  It would be one thing if the viewers could be taken along for an accessible experience, but this did not happen.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Another mark of an amateur film is an amateur cast.  While this is not inherently a problem, these cast members sometimes seem unsure of themselves.  They are often too robotic and measured and seem like they performed everything in one take.  This is more evident due to some obvious line mistakes.  Though there is some good here, they need a lot of more coaching than this.

Conclusion

Meager beginnings should never be frowned upon, but there are certainly ways budding film makers can learn from their past mistakes.  Without good funding, story writing skills need to showcased to prove that the film maker has something to offer the field.  Amateur casts can be difficult to deal with, but it is possible to make something out of it.  Overall, what we always look for is improvement, so we will see what happens next.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

The Light of Freedom (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In 1861, the rumblings of the Civil War were just beginning and the work of the Underground Railroad was in full swing.  Christians from the Union bravely joined the slavery abolition movement and saved runaway slaves from their evil masters.  Both the Confederacy and the Union armies pressed their male citizens into military service.  A group of friends and families is followed as they make brave and heroic decisions that forever alter the course of American history.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is an obviously amateurish production, a lot of time and money was spent on making sure that the sets, locations, and props of this film were historically realistic.  They succeeded in this goal, but it was at the expense of other production elements.  Camera work is fine, especially in the action scenes, but video quality is blurry at times.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is a bit generic.  Furthermore, there is a lot of wasted time and one too many dead scenes, which reflects poor editing, even though there is a lot of content to use here.  Nevertheless, this is at least an average production that spends time making certain elements good; it is at the very least a starting point for greater things in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this is a period of history that is very much under-explored in Christian film and though there is a lot of potentially interesting content in The Light of Freedom, this film is a collection of random disjointed stories that have no real correlation or driving focus.  Care is given to historical accuracy, but with this comes archaic Shakespearean dialogue that the viewers cannot relate to.  Most scenes are full of information dumps that do not allow the content to develop naturally.  All of the subplots and characters presented need further development so that we can get to know them better and truly understand how we can relate to what is happening.  The purpose of these stories, aside from the historical content, is quite vague, even though there are plenty of opportunities for overarching themes here.  The sheer amount of scenes that contain characters sitting around and talking about trite ideas is frustrating because this time could be given instead to truly character-building, focused, and meaningful content.  In short, while we can see a lot of potential in this story, it’s disappointing that it does not follow through.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is a largely amateur cast, they are mostly fine.  They are sometimes too theatrical, but costuming is at least authentic.  There is a need among this cast for more realistic emotions, but they are at least trying, which is the best we can ask for in this situation.

Conclusion

The Light of Freedom desperately needs a remake, or at least another Civil War film like it.  This is an important period in American history for many reasons, one being that it was a time when Christians made a true difference in the culture.  Thus, we absolutely need more Christian films about this era.  It is certainly hard to be historically authentic on a limited budget, but this creative team pulls it off well.  Now if they can just improve other elements, such as characters and plot, they will be well on their way to greatness.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Find a Way [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a locally popular high school football player and role model is taken to the hospital with sudden medical complications, the entire small town finds themselves lost and confused.  The head coach’s family is having hidden problems and other families are suffering from hidden secrets and sins.  The school counselor tries to help wherever anyone will let him, but most people will not let him into their world.  However, slowly but surely, walls begin to come down so that healing can start.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, Find a Way is a professional production.  Camera work is mostly good, even though there are some random moments of shakiness.  Audio quality is in the same boat, with some inconsistency and a stock soundtrack.  Yet sets, locations, and props are highly professional and well-constructed.  Editing is also fairly good, which is a change from the norm in independent inspirational films like this one.  Overall, this is a respectable effort that could be a stepping stone to greater things.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, Find a Way does fall into the typical pitfalls of independent film making when it comes to its plot.  This story is somewhat limited from the start, but it contains interesting ideas and realistic circumstances that need further development.  It sometimes has a one-track mind and wastes a lot of time on trite asides, which stunts character development and makes them one-dimensional.  Sometimes it is difficult to discern what this story is supposed to be about due to the multiple under-developed subplots presented here.  There are important issues explored here pertaining to broken families, but they are not handled very well due to lack of real focus.  Also, all the problems are basically solved in unrealistic fashions, which teaches the audience nothing.  It’s sad to see reality cheapened because this story could have been really interesting.  But once again, we are left wondering what could have been.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though sometimes lines are mumbled and some actors and actresses are awkward, this cast posts mostly professional performances.  Emotions are believable and each cast member seems to fit their character well.  This is another respectable effort that could be a sign of greater things to come.

Conclusion

Find a Way is one of those frustrating movies that contain s creative and realistic ideas that will likely never really be seen by a wide audience because it will be lost in the endless swirl of independent Christian films that are constantly being produced.  It is not bad enough to be remembered for its badness and it’s not good enough to truly make a difference.  But perhaps this is only the beginning of good things still to come from this creative team.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Homefront {The Things We Leave Behind} [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When three American soldiers are taken captive by the enemy and trapped in a dungeon awaiting their fate, their minds wander back to the lives their left behind in their home country.  As they share stories and regrets, one of them tries to help the others come to Christ before it’s too late.  Will they be able to leave behind their regrets and embrace a new future with Jesus before time runs out for them?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, throughout his film career, Chip Rossetti has struggled with production quality.  Homefront is no exception.  Camera work is stationary and video quality is grainy.  Lighting is terrible in a lot of the scenes.  Audio quality is also bad and the soundtrack is basically nonexistent.  Sets and locations are severely limited.  Furthermore, editing is not what it should be, although there are some efforts to make it that way.  In the end, it’s unfortunate that the production quality of this film is so low because it had some potential.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

It is clear that this film was intended to be a big military epic, but it fell very short of expectations.  The story is very flat and boring, even though the dialogue has some potential.  Flashbacks barely keep the movie alive, but they need a lot more development, as do the characters.  There is a part of this film that is interesting and makes us want it to be better because we can see what Chip was trying to do here, but it just didn’t work.  As it is, Homefront does not have the stamina or powerful content to sustain a two-hour film.  Though it was intended to be an international suspense epic, this dream unfortunately did not come to fruition.  Thus, we are left wandering what could have been.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast, while they are not as bad as they could be, is very dry and cardboard in their emotions and in their line delivery.  Some lines are severely mumbled, yet sometimes they surprise you with a randomly good performance.  Since they were so underwhelming yet showed potential, they desperately needed some acting coaching.  With that, this section could have been improved.

Conclusion

Homefront is the bare bones skeleton of an idea that needs serious fleshing out and a huge production and casting upgrade.  It’s not like there’s not potential here—the potential is the one thing that keeps this film from being zero points.  But with a production this bad, a film can never succeed.  With a plot this understated and under-developed, there is no way a movie can make a difference.  Furthermore, when your cast does not reach its full potential, you are in for disappointment.  The good thing is that Chip Rossetti is making strides to improve his brand, and is having some success at this (see 94 Feet).  This is all we ask from Christian film makers.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

If Not For His Grace (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Reverend William Rudolph goes to a random convenience store at night to buy ice cream for his family, he is horribly murdered by a ruthless gang, leaving his family to deal with the aftermath.  His sister comes to live with his wife and children to help them get back on their feet, even though a random group of old women who sits around playing cards doesn’t like her for some reason.  Reverend Rudolph’s son is also being recruited by Dog and his gang, the very ones who killed his father.  What will they all do?

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

Contrary to what the trailer would have you believe, If Not For His Grace seems to think that grace covers over terrible production quality.  From start to finish, this is a production atrocity.  From poor video quality to inconsistent lighting to stationary camera work, the negativity never ends.  Audio quality is terrible, including a loud soundtrack.  Flashbacks are very grainy and random portions of the film have weird tones and filtering, as if they were from a B-roll.  Finally, the editing is very disorienting, with very abrupt cuts between scenes.  There are no transitions or warnings that the scene is going to change—it just does before you’re ready.  One has to wonder if this production team knew how to prepare a film for distribution.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This so-called ‘story’ is presented in the most confusing way possible.  The summary above is the best attempt at making sense out of this madness, as the ‘plot’ jumps from one thing to the next faster than Mercy Rule.  With random narration and stock cheesy dialogue, there is no way to follow what is supposed to be happening.  The characters are purposely quirky and make racial stereotypes of themselves.  Who knows what the purpose of any of this ‘story’ is, since there is no way to understand what the characters are doing from one minute to the next.  Every part of If Not For His Grace suggests that this film was only intended to be a test and never was made for distribution.  But if that’s the case, why do we have access to it?

Acting Quality (-1 points)

As an amateur cast, these cast members are mostly over the top and forceful in their delivery.  They sometimes have random outburst and mumbled lines.  Emotions are not very believable as they once again, unfortunately, make racial stereotypes of themselves.  The presentation of this film is so sloppy that intent seriously has to be questioned.

Conclusion

As it is presented, If Not For His Grace should have never been released to the public.  This is at best a B-roll that has no place in distribution.  Yet there is nothing that can be done in post-production to fix the errors; it needs a total remake to be palatable.  However, the lack of plots focus and direction does not justify this.  Thus, the best thing that can be done with this film is simply forget it ever happened, if possible.

 

Final Rating: -2 out of 10 points

 

Disconnect. Reconnect. (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Mark Vanderberg’s Com 16 project falls through and causes a massive error in the communications grid of the country, his employer tells him to lay low and stay home with his family until it all passes over.  With nothing better to do besides clean their rooms and discuss the curious social media site called Blended Planet, the family decides to practice their survival skills while trying to understand their strange astronomer neighbor and his antics.  But then the unthinkable happens as the power grid nearly reaches its quantum threshold and Mark is the only one who can save the world from reddish orange destruction.  What will they ever do?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Despite trying to create some kind of high-profile premise, Disconnect Reconnect has a very cheap production.  Video quality is quite poor and there are a lot of unnecessarily dark scenes.  Camera work is inconsistent.  Audio quality is unprofessional, as is the juvenile soundtrack.  Sets and locations are severely limited to one house and the surrounding neighborhood and do not give off a professional persona.  There are too many abrupt cuts and transitions in all the wrong places, thus making the editing very amateurish and silly.  Unfortunately, there is nothing positive to say about this production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Disconnect Reconnect is one of the most off-the-wall premises ever constructed.  The story is driven by very quirky and offbeat characters that are built using absurd and childish dialogue.  The writers construct a bizarre world filled with forceful references to their other films, especially product placements for Healed by Grace.  Besides the large of amount of wasted time, there is no way to really understand what is happening except for a bunch of isolating technical lingo that only demonstrates how little the writers really know about how the American communications infrastructure works.  Why center a plot around this obscure concept without attempting to be realistic?  To make matters worse, a cheap and juvenile Christian message is shoved into the story as it all culminates in one of the most laughable climax scenes ever.  In short, though this movie is good for laugh, it’s funny for all the wrong reasons.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The unintentional comedy continues into the acting as cast members unwittingly portray caricatures of themselves, as if their lines were written for a cartoon film.  Some performances are lazy while others are forceful.  Any way you look at it, it’s all one big mess.

Conclusion

It’s very difficult to pinpoint where the Blended Planet team is coming from.  They definitely wanted to be funny and different in Disconnect Reconnect, but it definitely did not work.  True comedy requires believable and accessible characters, not comic strip characters.  A comedy premise can certainly have an air of absurdity and still be good, but not this absurd.  Also, there is certainly no excuse for poor production quality.  Perhaps their work will improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Pieces of Easter {Backroads and Lillies} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

While high-power executive Alza Bennet is on her way to see her parents, her sister, and her niece and nephew for Easter, who car breaks down, which leads to a serious of disastrous events, including her being stuck with a reclusive country farmer as her only option for transport.  Since she has not seen her family in over a year, Alza is desperate to get there on time, but things keep happening that delay their trip, not to mention the fact that she and her driver cannot get along at all.  But slowly, Alza begins to see the joy of simplicity away from her fast-paced life, even though she hates to be inconvenienced.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Over the years, Kelly’s Filmworks has certainly improved their production quality.  In Pieces of Easter, video quality and audio quality are what they should be.  There are still some trademark Jefferson Moore artistic camera angles, but that’s his brand at this point.  The soundtrack is also random and cheesy and is seemingly made up of free music.  However, sets, locations, and props, are authentic and more diverse than usual.  Finally, the poor editing mostly holds this production back from being better.  Thus, it must be rated as average.  Though this is an improvement from the past, we still feel that they can do better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Pieces of Easter is a better version of the typical Jefferson Moore two-character conversation plot because things actually happen outside of the drawn-out conversations, and they are actually less drawn out than usual and are broken up by some attempts at comedy.  However, not all of the comedy is funny and some of it is quite forced.  Though this storyline is a stereotypical fish-out-of-water plot, it is presented better and is likely as good as this type of limited story is going to get.  This is likely because attempts were made to develop the characters through dialogue, although they could be deeper.  The biggest drawbacks to this plot are the overly-plentiful dead scenes and goofy montages.  There are too many slow parts that don’t hold the attention and too many references to off-screen content.  Overall, though this is a nice try, it really doesn’t make it far enough.

Acting Quality (2 points)

With some slightly different than usual cast members, the acting is the strongest portion of this film.  However, some lines are still mumbled and some emotions are still over the top.  However, most cast members are placed in appropriate roles.  This overall rounds off a decent performance.

Conclusion

The Moores and the Kelly’s Filmworks team certainly never gives up.  They have been on a steady upward trend throughout their career.  Pieces of Easter is a far cry from low-quality productions like The Perfect Stranger saga and Clancy.  It demonstrates real effort to improve, which is encouraging.  With just a little but more work done on production, some continued casting quality, and more creative plots, this team will finally make their mark on Christian entertainment.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

I’m in Love With a Church Girl (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Miles Montego has everything money can buy, but he is restless and is under investigation by the federal government.  When he talks a Christian friend of his, he is inadvertently introduced to a girl he cannot stop thinking about.  The only problem is she is an outspoken Christian while Miles hasn’t been to church since he was a kid.  But in order to pursue her, he begins to play the part of a Christian, all the while running from his past as a drug dealer.  Eventually, it will all catch up to him so what choice will be make?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though there was a modest amount of money behind this project, it doesn’t seem like it was spent very well.  Camera work is fine, as is video quality, but there are one too many poorly lit scenes here.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is very standard and typical.  Sets and locations are fairly cheap and limited and have room for improvement.  There are too many product placements in this film, which make it seem plastic.  Finally, the editing is not the best as there are too many montages and wasted scenes.  In the end, while there is some good here, it simply isn’t up to standard.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this film was based on a true story, this story is not necessarily portrayed well.  There is too much narration that serves as a crutch to move the plot along.  Dialogue is mostly okay, but characters tend to be too one-dimensional and need further depth.  There is also some suggestive content that could have been avoided.  The purpose behind this film is also questionable—the idea here could send a wrong message about ‘missionary dating’.  It doesn’t really seem like the seriousness of the issues presented here are really grasped.  Though there is a somewhat good message of redemption, its conclusion and quite forced and rushed—it’s very hard to appreciate what is going on here because it all seems too surface.  Unfortunately, this was not the best way to portray a true story.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this is a ‘big name’ cast, and though there are some bright spots, there is too much over-acting and there are too many awkward performances in this effort.  A lot of the cast members seem forcibly cast to the point where they don’t seem real.  Of course, Stephen Baldwin is as ridiculous as can be expected.  Also, costuming and makeup is largely overdone in most of the cast members.  Essentially, this film is a case of too much of the wrong thing.

Conclusion

True stories are great in film—they can portray real people that audiences can connect with and learn from.  However, I’m In Love With a Church Girl crafts an unusual message that can confuse Christians when it comes to dating.  We certainly aren’t about to get into a debate over this topic in this forum, but we definitely have to be very careful when it comes to becoming emotionally involved with non-Christians.  Besides this, the gospel is presented, perhaps unconsciously, as a quick-fix method for problems and is thus cheapened.  But maybe next time this team will improve.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Jackson’s Run (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jackson is a troubled teen with a terminal illness who just can’t seem to stay out of trouble.  Ever since his father died, Jackson cannot find any direction in life.  His mother is at a loss for what to do with him as he continually gets in trouble, so she sentences him to a troubled youth work program at a local church.  Jackson balks at first but soon finds a mentor he desperately needs and begins to wrestle with what is truly important in life.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though this production is overall average, at the beginning, all production aspects are fairly cheap, almost like the introduction was a beta test.  Video quality and camera work are inconsistent throughout but do improve by the end of the film.  Audio quality is also poor at first and better later.  The soundtrack is somewhat interesting, however.  Sets, locations, and props are standard.  Yet editing is quite poor as transitions are choppy and the general flow of the film lacks direction and clarity.  In the end, it seems like more time could have been spent on this part of the movie, especially since the plot is so forgettable.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Jackson’s Run (not to be confused with Jackson from Decision) follows a typical and formulaic troubled character plot with no real surprises or twists until the end, and even so, the main ‘twist’ is quite cheesy.  There is really nothing creative to note here—characters are very one-dimensional and shallow due to uncreative and empty dialogue.  A lot of meandering ideas are present in this incoherent storyline that never really come to fruition.  It’s almost like the writers had to come up with a bunch of content to fill in the middle of the story because they just wanted to jump to the end.  Writing the end first can be helpful, but writing a plot only for the sake of the end reduces your chances of the audience actually making it that far.  Overall, Jackson’s Run seems like an incomplete idea that needed more fleshing out before going into production.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With ‘famous’ Christian actors Rusty Martins Sr. and Jr. and T.C. Stallings, it seems like it was assumed that this cast would be automatically good.  There are some bright spots, but there are a lot of moments where the cast members appear to either be not trying or to be unsure of what they are doing.  Sometimes it seems like they are phoning it in and they overall lack direction in the absence of proper coaching.

Conclusion

Jackson’s Run falls into the massive pile of low quality, forgettable Christian films that have no impact on anything whatsoever.  Though there may be a good message in a lot of these films and they are ‘family-friendly’, they are not making a difference.  Why are they not making a difference?  Production is not what it should be, the plots are lacking creativity and development, and casting is underwhelming.  What if all the money that was poured into these myriad forgettable films was pooled for a few truly dynamic movies?  The entertainment world would be turned upside down.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Accidental Activist [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ted Murphey never thought he’d see the day when his signing of a traditional marriage petition would push his important t-shirt business to the brink of destruction.  His gay friend gets angry at him when he reads about Ted’s evil deeds in the local ‘gay newspaper’ and doesn’t want to talk with him anymore.  The local gay activist leader raises a ruckus with protests and media attention around the t-shirt business.  The store is attacked and the Murpheys are ostracized by the evil gays and their media buddies.  With such persecution, how will anyone’s business ever survive?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though Accidental Activist has a fine production overall, including good video quality, camera work, and audio quality, it still leaves much to be desired.  The soundtrack needs a little more creativity.  The sets and locations that are used are fairly cheap and pedestrian.  There is also no editing as pretty much all of the content is used, and the film still barely cracks fifty minutes.  Overall, though the production looks good on the surface, it’s really hard to find a justification for this film’s creation.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Similar to Right to Believe, Accidental Activist is basically a collection of long conversations, complaints, and debates over the issue of traditional marriage.  However, this film uses borderline propaganda messaging to get its point across.  This is done by constructing a very unrealistic premise of persecution and by creating a strawman of the ‘opposition’.  Though one gay character is portrayed fairly well, other portrayals are downright embarrassing.  All of the dialogue is full of talking points from both sides and does nothing to build believable characters.  There is no real plot focus except for the agenda the American Family Association is pushing here.  Also, the ‘persecution’ these Christian characters endure is unfairly compared to the chattel slavery that led to the Civil War, and we find this to be a highly offensive suggestion.  In the end, Accidental Activist really accomplishes nothing except appealing to a group of Christians that wants to have their ears tickled with this sort of nonsense.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

To be fair, this cast is not horrible and is overall average.  Their performances are mostly fine, although they tend to be overdone in their emotions at times.  There are also a few too many stereotypes constructed therein.  Overall, it comes out as average.

Conclusion

Creating another movie that depicts an us-versus-them mentality in the traditional marriage debate is not the answer.  Whipping up support and anger among your base is merely political, not Christ-like.  The reality is that American Christians have no idea what persecution even means, even though they eagerly jump to such conclusions when things don’t go their way.  Of course the fact that traditional marriage has been altered is a major problem, but it’s a symptom of something deeper that the American church has been reluctant to deal with for decades: the broken Christian family.  Movies like Accidental Activist only further drive a wedge between Christians and ‘the world’.  We are supposed to be influencing the culture, not battling against it.  I think it’s time we take a good look at the state of the Christian family before we go pointing fingers.  Only then will things start to change.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Trail {Let God} [2013] (Movie Review)

What am I doing in this movie?

Plot Summary

When Amelia and Levi decide to head West to score a fortune in gold, they never anticipated the hardships they would have to face.  After Levi dies, Amelia is forced to survive in the wild alone.  Watch with bated breath as she tries to light fires, searches for food, arranges rocks to call for help, rummages around empty covered wagons, stumbles around the terrain, and breathes heavily in an attempt to fight for her very life.  You will be left in suspense as you are forced to endure long sequences without dialogue and wonder if there is really any talking in this film.  The drama builds as Amelia thinks back to days gone by and wonders why this is even a movie.  Who will outlast the other: Amelia or her bored audience?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

So it’s clear that whatever this film is called is an attempt to be a creative and artsy Christian survival movie thingy.  But it just totally fails.  First off, production is very cheap-looking, including poor lighting, cheap audio quality, and a nonexistent soundtrack.  Camera work is shaky in an attempt to be dramatic.  Video quality is okay, and at least the sets, props, and locations are realistic-looking, but there is really not much going on here.  This was a very limited idea that required no editing—this film simply exists.  Since there’s not much else going for it, this production needed to be flawless, yet it fell short.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Believe it or not, if you last until the ending, there is actually an interesting idea somewhere here, but it’s not likely to be discovered by most viewers.  The trailer for this movie is better than the actual movie itself and sets up the viewer for huge disappointment.  The true bulk of this story of a woman performing activities of daily living in the wilderness—like, literally everything she does.  Aside from some pathetic flashbacks that do nothing to build the few characters there are, there is zero dialogue for a full hour of runtime.  Even when there is dialogue, it’s a one-sided conversation.  There is truly zero storyline here as the viewer is forced to endure fake drama and sequences of the main character staring and breathing hard.  This story was clearly written for the end, but this cripples any good idea that was had since no one will ever know what it is.  Creating movies for one tiny idea should always be a no-no, but apparently people keep getting funding for this sort of nonsense.

Acting Quality (0 points)

In a movie with so few characters, the few people that are cast are highly crucial to the film’s success.  Unfortunately, in this one, the cast members do not come through.  Their performances are amateurish and forceful, and have far too much heavy breathing.  Emotions are not felt or believable.  In short, this rounds out a pathetic effort.

Conclusion

As a rule, one-character survival plots should be greatly avoided.  Half-baked ideas that have no surrounding elements such as professional production and well-developed characters are always going to fail.  Even if your idea is small and limited in scope, you can still develop your characters.  But alas, this is another failed movie that represents more money flushed down the toilet.  2013 sure was a landmark year for Christian film, but not in a good way.  Let’s hope we can move past those dark days.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

The Watchers: Revelation (Movie Review)

Yup.

Plot Summary

Creatures claiming to be extraterrestrials are controlling the world’s leaders by revealing information on weapons to some.  The humans who know about this are either controlled by the beings or are ordered to be killed.  It seems that no one stands a chance against these alien forces, but a small group of Christians claims to have to tools necessary to fight these creatures.  Thus, it comes down to a battle between good and evil inside a warehouse (where else?), where all will be revealed, including some end times stuff.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

So another random company sets out to create a Christian sci-fi\horror film with a very limited budget.  These are the most difficult genres to craft, so doing so with a limited budget makes it nearly impossible to do properly.  Sets, locations, and props in this film are very cheap and limited.  There is poor lighting in some of the scenes, although camera work, video quality, and audio quality are mostly okay.  One of the biggest detractors in this production is the existence of ridiculous and over the top special effects that come off as very juvenile.  Finally, the editing is horrible as scenes cut from one thing to the next, leaving the audience very confused as to what is happening.  In short, no care was given to this production as it was just slapped together for the purpose of pushing an agenda.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Filled with heavy-handed propaganda messaging and isolating information dump dialogue, Watchers: Revelation is a real doozy.  The characters are very empty and only exist to robotically download ideas and theories the writers have, which are actually quite absurd and childish.  There are also a lot of conversations about things that happen off-screen as the storyline jumps all over the place with no continuity.  Things just randomly happen that leaving the viewer scratching their head.  On a lighter note, this plot has an interesting spiritual concept that is of course wasted and used improperly.  However, this fact is not enough to overcome all of the other glaring errors here.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This film contains the most robotic acting I have ever witnessed.  The overly practiced line delivery sounds like a computer is talking instead of a person.  Thus, there are zero emotions and many cast members do not have a future in acting.  There are also some amateurish makeup errors.  Basically, this entire film is a wash.

Conclusion

It never pays to use a cheap film to push your personal propaganda.  It also is a bad idea to try to make your first movie a complex idea that requires special effects and explanation of foreign ideas to the audience.  Also, if you’re going to write a sci-fi plot, please make sure it’s actually a good idea and not some half-baked theory that invites unintentional comedy and mockery.  Writing a story because of a theory never pays off, so please don’t continually clutter up Christian entertainment with it.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

New World Order: The End Has Come (Movie Review)

This cover has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual movie

Plot Summary

With the New World Order clamping down on all aspects of life as they know it, a group of people decide to band together against the regime and refuse to take the mark that is required to buy and sell.  The evil world leader is coming down hard on people and sending out his troops to enforce the receiving of the mark even in small towns.  When this small group of people, who now identify as Christians, gets word of this, they start taking in more refugees.  But how long will they be able to hide, especially when the tyrant comes to town?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

If you can make it through the long opening sequence of this production, you’re still in for plenty of nonsense.  For starters, the video quality is fairly grainy, and camera work is quite shaky.  There are also a ton of audio problems, including outside noises, weird sound effects, and an odd soundtrack.  The sets and locations are fine, but they are quite limited considering the fact that this plot is trying to cover international issues.  Finally, there is far too much wasted time in this film, thus demonstrating a lack of sufficient editing.  In short, this is a highly disappointing production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

New World Order: The End Has Come is just another typical apocalyptic plot with a predictable setup and progression.  However, there is hardly any true apocalyptic content as vague concepts are lazily tossed around and toyed with while still being confined to basically one neighborhood.  There are also unnecessary time jumps that are made up for with obvious information dump dialogue that talks about all kinds of off-screen content.  Sometimes things happen with no real explanation, and there is lot of juvenile forced drama and cheesy conflicts.  Finally, the characters seem very fake and exhibit ridiculous dialogue.  In short, there is really no reason for this plot to exist because it has nothing to offer.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As usual for this type of film, which is unfortunately all too common, this cast is very amateurish.  While there’s nothing inherently wrong with using amateur cast members, like all actors and actresses, they need coaching, which is clearly not present in New World Order.  Lines and emotions are very forceful and awkward, while some cast members are overly theatrical and sometimes even bizarre.  Basically, this is just another mess.

Conclusion

With all the horrid apocalyptic films that have already been made, we don’t need another one, yet they are still being made!  It used to be that apocalyptic was the different genre in Christian entertainment, but now it’s become its own caricature.  Until somebody can actually create an engaging and professionally done apocalyptic film, there needs to be a moratorium on this genre.  The biggest reason for this is that some non-Christians may watch these types of movies more than other Christian films, and if they do, what will they see?  More often than not, they’ll see another laughable disaster.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

Nikki and the Perfect Stranger (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

One night, while Nikki is on her way to Chicago, she has a second encounter with Jesus.  She knows she desperately needs Him again, but isn’t sure what to do.  She’s at a crossroads in her faith and needs Jesus to help her understand what to do.  However, as usual, Jesus does so in a way that even she could have never expected.  So the real question to ask here is can you sit through another film of Jefferson Moore sitting in a cheap set while monologuing?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

One again, video quality is the only redeeming element of this very low-effort production.  Camera work is also fine, but there’s really nothing to it as the main sets are an SUV and a diner (lol).  Besides there being awful lighting in these sets, Nikki and the Perfect Stranger includes the Kelly’s Filmworks specialty of overdone soft lighting.  In addition, there is a cheesy use of special effects throughout.  Finally, even though this film is less than an hour long, there is tons of wasted time that is designed to make it longer.  This movie barely had justification as a short film, much less a fifty-minute one.  In short, this is just another pile of utterly wasted funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Again seriously?  Why do we need a third installment in this already boring and barely justifiable series?  And why name it such a stupid title?  Didn’t we do this already?  Yes, we did, as we are reminded through heavy-handed narration and rehashing of The Perfect Stranger and Another Perfect Stranger.  This third film is full of more silly, meandering dialogue designed to kill time.  The ideas therein are quite simplistic and only exist because this film was forced to happen.   Any issues raised seem very trite and manufactured.  Though we now have a second movie of Jefferson Moore talking to this character for more than 30 minutes, we still don’t get to know Nikki all that well—she is a distant and vague idea that never materializes into a real character.  In the end, there is very little to note here since there is very little content to review.  It’s very easy to spit out fifty minute films about Jefferson Moore talking to people in close quarters, but what does it accomplish?

Acting Quality (0 points)

At this point in the saga, the acting has greatly digressed to where it seems like none of them are trying or they are trying too hard.  Jefferson Moore is slowly morphing into Bruce Marchiano.  The other cast members are very robotic and overly practiced.  No emotions can be felt.  This is really just another disappointing mess.

Conclusion

As it turns out, Nikki’s Second Encounter (this movie’s new title lol) is the worst one of them all.  With hardly anything going for it, there was never any justification for its creation.  Creating another saga installment for the sake of creating it is just the sort of thing Christian entertainment does not need.  The ideas behind this saga are noble and interesting, but execution is everything.  Even the best idea can be ruined by poor presentation and untapped potential.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

My Refuge [2013] (Movie Review)

Yeah, this picture pretty much explains this movie

Plot Summary

A whole bunch of Americans were minding their own business when BOOOOM!  New York City blew up in an atomic holocaust!  The lives of who knows how many random people are all impacted in various ways as they watch their televisions and listen to their blaring radios in the midst of having other conversations and posting stuff online (and dusting).  Through split screens, you can see multiple subplots happening at once to save time!  Will all these virtually unknowable characters be able to find the meaning in life after the off-screen explosion threatens to destroy their very lives (and Israel)?

 

Production Quality (-3 points)

What. In. The. World. Did. We. Just. Watch.  Seriously, there is nothing since Final: The Rapture or Saving Christmas that is remotely comparable to the disaster that is My Refuge.  There are so many things going on at once in this movie that I have no idea where to start and I doubt I’ll be able to cover it all.  Besides the fact that it looks like it was made on Windows Movie Maker and recorded a flip phone camera, what’s with all the split screens?!?  Why do we need multiple views of the same scene at once?  We can’t handle watching three subplots all play out at the same time, combined with the loud, clunky soundtrack and news reports!  We can’t hear what people are saying when a news report is blaring in the background.  Also, the cuts and transitions of this film rival that of Mercy Rule.  Sets and locations are severely limited to people’s houses and cars.  In the end, there is too much bad here to fit into one review, but the bottom line is that this disaster should have never been made.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-3 points)

Why are we expected to keep up with so many characters?  At minimum, there are the characters we have identified: a newscaster trying to come to grips with the nuclear event (radiation levels are very high), a generic family whose father went to New York City for business and was never heard from again (we’re not sure if the family is ever seen again either), a young couple who is expecting their first child, a woman who works at a nondescript office who wants to spend more time with her daughter and more time writing, a retired police officer with a troubled past who wants to marry a single mother, a random family who wants to build a shelter and who takes in the father’s daughter from a previous marriage since her mother is incompetent (this daughter has lots of social media posts), a couple having marriage trouble (she dusts all the time and they have no real connection to the nuclear blast), a random guy who tries to OD on meds (again, no real connection to nuclear holocaust), two old lady neighbors who discuss the nuclear blast, a random pastor and some church people, and probably several others we missed.  There are some loose connections between all of these, but there is absolutely no way to follow what is even happening.  Continuity is in the negative range and dialogue is schizophrenic.  There is literally nothing to be learned from this train wreck and it should have never even been made, not in someone’s wildest dreams.

Acting Quality (-3 points)

Need we go on?  The acting is as horrible as the rest of this movie.  Random outbursts, screaming, mumbled lines, forced emotions, general insanity—what else is there to say?  If I were a part of this chaos, I would be embarrassed and do everything I could to keep it off of my resume.

Conclusion

When your budget is limited to $50,000, it’s never a good idea to try to portray a massive nuclear holocaust, since it mostly has to happen off-screen.  Nobody wants to see a film with at least twelve subplots that is shot in people’s houses with the cheapest equipment possible and with the most annoying soundtrack possible and that is edited by a schizophrenic.  There’s no winning here and no possible hope for improvement.  Basically, if you want to see how bad this one is, you have to see it for yourself.

 

Final Rating: -9 out of 10 points

 

The Perfect Summer (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jake and his mom move from Chicago to Hawaii to start a new life with her father, Jake is less than thrilled about the change of pace.  He has to adjust to new surroundings and new people who do not always accept him.  He also has to endure his eccentric grandfather, who tries to rebuild their relationship.  Jake is ready to give up when he discovers that he has a thing for surfing and that his grandfather can teach him.  Perhaps the worst summer ever for Jake will turn into the perfect summer.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Perfect Summer is such a clean, stock made-for-television film.  From the opening sequence to the loudest soundtrack ever to lots of nature footage, this movie checks all the boxes of mediocre production quality.  While the video quality and camera work are fine, the poor audio quality is very distracting as it picks up all kinds of unwanted sounds.  However, the sets and locations are fairly professional and interesting.  Finally, the editing is standard and moves the plot along at a predictable pace.  In short, this production is average, but we’ve come to expect more from professional television channels.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The Perfect Summer is a predictable inspirational cookie-cutter plot depicting a city character moving to a remote location and having to adjust to a different culture with limited internet access.  The constant jokes about the internet and other forced comedy gets really old.  The local characters are stereotypical; none of the characters are developed enough for there being so few of them.  This film’s premise is a fairly thin sports\training story complete with lots of music videos, empty conflicts, and a typical romantic subplot.  Unfortunately, the Christian message seems manufactured and plastic.  However, this story has a slightly realistic ending and sort of redeems it to a point.  But otherwise, if you’ve seen this kind of movie before, you’re probably not missing anything.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This cast is actually the best part of the film, even though Eric Roberts is involved.  He is strange and overdone as usual and singlehandedly holds this section back.  His presence poisons the entire film.  But the rest of the small cast is okay, though there are some slightly over emotions and cultural stereotypes.  In the end, this is a good effort, but we would have liked to see a little more from this professional team.

Conclusion

This plot has really been done before, may too often.  Channels like UP and the like need to be brave enough to take a risk with a different plot.  What’s it going to hurt?  They have the resources to make pretty much any kind of inspirational plot they want, so why not go for broke?  The Perfect Summer is one of those forgettable movies that you might watch while flicking the TV channels and then forget about in a few days.  With the money and abilities companies like this have, they need to set the bar higher for themselves and do something original and memorable.  It’s fine to make clean entertainment, but why get stuck in mediocrity?

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Not Today [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Caden is a spoiled teenager who thinks he owns the world and can do whatever he wants.  So he decides to try to convince his mother and stepfather that he and his friends need to go to India to “experience the world.”  Surprisingly, they agree, so Caden sets out to discover what he is looking for to satisfy his empty soul.  All the while, his mother prays tirelessly for him in the hope that he will come to his senses.  Little does she know God’s plan for him as Caden stumbles upon the dark world of child trafficking and slavery and determines that he must do something about it.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Not Today is a highly unique production, to say the least.  At the beginning of the film, there are tons of odd special effects and captioning drawn on top of the screen to try to enhance the story, but this thankfully subsides as the movie goes on.  There is a professional use of international on-set locations, but some of the camera work is shaky, seemingly on purpose to try to create some kind of documentary effect, even though this isn’t a docu-drama.  Video and audio quality are both clear, however, and the original soundtrack is effective.  Yet there are issues with editing, including choppiness and abrupt scene transitions.  But the production improves in the middle as a whole and some of the minor issues fade away.  However, it’s not enough to make this production above average.  It’s a good effort, but it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Though this premise is slightly forced, it is no less important to discuss in film.  Unfortunately, too much of the film relies on the issue the writer is trying to present, namely human trafficking, and leaves other things undone at first.  For example, the characters start out as very empty and stereotypical, but improve through the film through intriguing character arcs.  Though things are rocky at first, the story improves in the middle and carries a powerful message.  Similarly, the dialogue begins amateurish but becomes deeper and more meaningful as the plot goes on.  There is a lot of content here, along with some interesting psychological elements, but we would have still liked to see more development from some of the characters and less wasted time at the beginning.  Also, the ending is quite rushed and patched up, so we can’t really appreciate what’s happening.  In the end, this is an average plot that we feel could have been better, but it ends up meaningful.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like other elements, the acting starts off juvenile and forceful, but improves as the movie goes on.  The character arcs seemingly cause the line delivery and emotional delivery to become more realistic.  Nonetheless, international casting is realistic and effective.  The frustrating thing is that this was a professional cast, so they certainly could have been better.  But like the rest of the film, this portion just comes out as average.

Conclusion

Though Not Today is a slight advertisement for the human trafficking non-profit behind it, it is still an effective messaging tool and drives its point home in the end.  No doubt a lot of effort was put into the international casting and filming, so this could have detracted from other parts of the movie.  For the most part, many audiences will find this film enjoyable, and it may be worth your time.  It’s not one of the horrible films out there—we just feel like it could have been better.  Nevertheless, you should still probably give it a chance.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Online [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When John is encouraged by one of his coworkers to check out the site Social Friend Pages to see if he can find his high school girlfriend, he begins a downward spiral.  Though he is already married, he begins meeting his old girlfriend just to ‘catch up’.  Things get out of hand and John soon finds himself hiding from his wife and from God.  Everything comes to a head and John will have to make a decision on which path he is going to take.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Online is a surprisingly okay production with good video quality and camera work, but it is not error-free.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is very stock.  There are also too many scenes with poor lighting.  Sets and locations are fine, but we would have liked to see more diversity.  Finally, the editing is a major problem in this film as there are far too many empty scenes.  Most of the runtime is filler content and wasted time.  In short, this is an average production, but it doesn’t save this movie from itself.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This is perhaps one of the worst so-called plots written.  Besides the ridiculous and boring premise that continually repeats the same drudging scenes over and over and again, most of the characters are total strawmen.  A majority of the dialogue is obvious and designed to force the plot along.  While we certainly agree that many problems can come about from the internet, this film suggests that the internet causes all problems known to man today.  Thus, many issues are portrayed incorrectly, as if sin is only available in the digital age and as if these characters had no pre-existing issues before they ventured onto social media.  Besides this, no depth or meaning is conveyed—struggles cannot be appreciated not only because they are out of touch with reality, but also because the characters are not believable.  In the end, there was little justification for this plot being written.

Acting Quality (1 point)

While this acting is sometimes okay, the cast is overshadowed by one cast member that has a loud, ridiculous, and obviously fake French accent.  Elsewhere, emotions are stiff and line delivery is sometimes strained.  Though not all is bad, it’s certainly not all good.

Conclusion

We sincerely believe that Kevan Otto means well, but his delivery is often misguided.  Non-plots like Online are unfortunately laughable because they are based on flimsy concepts that suggest that sin is worse now than it has been in the past.  The characters therein are also so shallow that they can’t be understood.  Also, no story has any chance when it consists of a series of scenes that repeat cyclically.  Furthermore, when casting, it’s best not to have such a glaring error as a fictitious accent that draws so much attention to itself.  Unfortunately, there is little that can be done for this mess.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

In His Steps [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a homeless man comes to the town of Raymond and does not find that the Christians there do not practice what they preach, he interrupts a church service to tell them just that.  But when he collapses in the middle of his speech, he spurs some on to action.  Though he dies, five church members commit to changing their ways and beginning to live their lives as Jesus did rather than as Christians in name only.  However, their decision is hard than they first thought.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

While money was spent on the ‘surface’ of production, that is, camera work and video quality, the beauty is only skin deep, so to speak.  Sets and locations are average, and the lighting therein is inconsistent.  Also, some outside scenes have quite loud background noises and there is a loud stock soundtrack that covers up far too much dialogue.  There was basically no editing present—pretty much all content was included to make the film long enough, including filler scenes.  Essentially, In His Steps is a generic bad production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Based on the famous novel by Charles Sheldon, this film unfortunately ruins the book’s original idea and alters the original plot for convenience.  The storyline is very slow and melancholy and struggles to hold the attention.  The characters begin as empty but quickly progress to annoying as they try to become better Christians.  This is such a travesty because it doesn’t make anyone want to be stronger in their faith, but rather may turn some off.  After their recommitment, the Christians in this film become legalistic, forceful, and sometimes offensive, while those who oppose them are laughable.  Because of this dichotomy, there is far too much unintentional comedy that ensues, thus making a mockery of the novel’s original intent.  In short, though there is some potential here, this plot is mostly a disaster.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This moderate cast appears to be overly practiced in their line delivery and they come off as stiff and wooden.  Also, their emotional delivery is awkward and sometimes over the top.  Makeup is not a strong suit either.  While it seems like this cast had potential, they did not reach it.

Conclusion

Like eerily similar films What Would Jesus Do? and Do You Believe?, In His Steps carries an important message about Christians truly living out their faith.  However, this message gets lost in translation as audiences cannot ignore poor production quality, a vanilla plot, and obnoxious acting.  Why do movies like this have to be packaged this way?  It’s so disappointing to review one movie after another that all commit the same old mistakes.  We plead with Christian film makers to get second and third opinions on their works before releasing them—this will do a world of good.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Final: The Rapture (Movie Review)

Making international calls on a deserted island

Plot Summary

In an instant, millions disappear in what Christians call the Rapture.  This leaves the planet in total chaos and unrest.  The lives of four people are followed as they experience the fallout from this cataclysmic event.  A rich football player in America wrestles with the fact that his wife has disappeared.  An atheist professor finds himself stranded on a deserted island after his plane crashes.  A girl from Argentina cannot remember what happened to her as she tries to piece the events of her life back together.  A businessman from Tokyo wonders if his Christian friends were right about the end of the world.  They will all have to struggle to survive in this new world.

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

It’s hard to remember the last time we saw a production this annoyingly horrible.  For starters, the camera work and video quality are medieval, like the whole thing was recorded on a flip phone.  The audio quality is perhaps the worst we have ever heard, from a loud soundtrack, to audio constantly cutting in and out, to distorted screeching dialogue, and to incessant background noises and cheap sound effects.  The sets, locations, and props are very amateurish and cheap-looking.  Finally, whoever edited this disaster should have quit to save their reputation since they had virtually nothing to work with.  The film is very choppy and jumps all over the place, sometimes recycled old footage and sometimes using black and white footage randomly.  The viewer is constantly reminded of the location and time through subtitles since there is no other way to understand what’s going on.  In short, this is likely one of the worst productions in the all-time history of film making.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The plot can do nothing to redeem this trainwreck, since there is very little real content to speak of.  Filled with obvious dialogue and stiff, robotic characters, the storyline has zero continuity as random subplots jump all over the place and meander aimlessly.  The characters are either obnoxious strawmen or cultural stereotypes.  There are many bizarre asides, moments of unintentional comedy, and random things that just happen.  Also, as expected, Final copies the typical apocalyptic plot progression but makes it their own by zooming through it at breakneck speed before crashing with a nonsensical end that is somehow supposed to be continued.  In other words, this is Left Behind 2014 on steroids (or is it actually the other way around?).

Acting Quality (-1 points)

As these amateur cast members screech, squeal, and scream their way through this disarray, they either come off as lackluster or singsong.  They are generally very obnoxious and over the top, obviously lacking coaching as they forcefully deliver their lines and emotions.  We are unsure who is to blame for their ear-piercing delivery—the audio quality or the cast members themselves.  Any way you cut it, it’s a mess.

Conclusion

With such low quality everything, what possessed the creators to make this garbage?  Did they really think that they were going to make more of these, as this is presumably the first in an obligatory unfinished apocalyptic series?  This is hands-down one of the most absurdly low quality films of all time, to the point that it should have been made it through post-production.  The entirety of this wreckage should have been scrapped and never used again.  It’s things like this film that drive us crazy.

 

Final Rating: -2 out of 10 points

The Christmas Candle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The people of Gladbury have always looked forward the Christmas when an angel comes and blesses a candle at Haddington Candlery.  The tradition of the Haddington family has always been to give the blessed candle to someone in need, since the candle has special powers to give that person what they needed.  This Christmas, with a skeptical new pastor in town and more requests than ever for the fabled Christmas Candle, the Haddingtons feel like they’re in over their head.  This only gets worse when Edward Haddington trips the night the angel blesses a candle and causes all of his candles to scramble in a mess on the floor.  Now, with no way of knowing which candle is the blessed one, Edward and his wife Bea decide to give a candle to everyone on the request list and hope for the best.  But little do they know that there is far more in store for them this Christmas than they could have ever imagined.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

Echolight Studios has always put together top-notch productions, and The Christmas Candle is no exception.  The video quality is very clean and the camera work is extremely professional.  Audio quality is excellent, including an epic original soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and historical props are very realistic and appropriate.  The editing is flawless and presents the plot seamlessly.  In short, Echolight has always thrived with productions, but this is perhaps their crowning achievement.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Adapted from a beloved Max Lucado novel, this plot is far better than one might expect from a Christmas storyline involving angels touching candles.  It is extremely character based and driven by excellent dialogue.  Though there are numerous characters and subplots, they are handled extremely well and are threaded together wonderfully.  There are some excellent points raised throughout, including a balanced view of miracles versus good works.  The issue of the angel blessing the candle is actually presented in a palatable and even believable way.  The only problems to highlight here are some convenient plot coincidences and one too many silly magical elements.  Otherwise, this is a masterpiece storyline and stands as an example of how non-Biblical Christmas plots should be written.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The Christmas Candle utilizes a very professional cast, yet their ‘big names’ do not give excuse for lackluster acting.  There are virtually no acting errors here, as each member of this very well-rounded cast is coached well and delivers their lines and emotions superbly and effectively.  As a side note, each actor and actress is also cast appropriately for their characters, which is a rare feat to accomplish.  In summary, this rounds out a job well done.

Conclusion

With The Christmas Candle, Echolight has finally found their way home.  For years they have searched for a great plot to combine with their excellent production quality, and they have finally achieved this.  Max Lucado has also taken his career to a new level, as this film actually improves upon his original work of fiction.  It’s refreshing to know that there are quality Christmas movies in the Christian field instead of all the usual garbage that is forced upon us.  As we come around to Christmas Day, let’s just enjoy the fact that there is still hope for Christmas films.

 

Final Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points

For Love’s Sake [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Mary Walker’s husband dies in a car wreck, she begins to sink deeper and deeper into depression and suicide attempts.  She eventually loses custody of her two sons, even though she refuses to allow her atheist in-laws to take care of them.  They are instead sent to a Christian children’s home that quickly becomes the center of controversy, due to the suicide of one of the children there.  But the Walker family forges a relationship with a Christian therapist that gives them a ray of hope for the future.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

It is hard to comprehend why For Love’s Sake was funded or created.  With very poor video quality and unprofessional camera work, this film looks like it was made in the time period it is portraying.  Audio quality is no better, including a cheap soundtrack.  The sets and locations also look cheap and the entire movie has a feeling of being dark and grey.  The editing is very amateur, with many wasted scenes and missing pieces of the plot.  Unfortunately, there is really nothing good to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As previously mentioned, tons of content happen off screen, as the budget was clearly too low to include complex scenes.  The entire storyline has an unhealthy obsession with suicide and an incorrect portrayal of mental illness.  The plot is very melancholy and depressing itself, and sometimes downright creepy.  There are some disturbing scenes that we don’t consider to be family friendly.  Besides all this, some of the characters are atheist strawmen and all the characters have very forceful and annoying dialogue.  There is no way to appreciate the struggles of these characters—they are all wooden and dark.  While it is commendable to address mental illness in film, this is not the way to do it.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As with the rest of the film, the cast members are drab, dank, and dour.  They are either cold and unfeeling or so depressing that they make you feel depressed yourself.  As they mire in the slough of despond, line delivery is all wrong.  The costuming and makeup is also low budget.  In summary, this is another one of those zero-point slogs.

Conclusion

Mental illness needs to have its cultural stigmatism removed from it, and film is a good tool to do this with.  However, For Love’s Sake is the example of how not to portray mental illness.  This film only reinforces stereotypes and paints the mentally ill as weird and unfixable.  Besides that, it also puts more salt on the wound between Christians and atheists by making atheists out to be horrible people.  Everything about this movie is just all wrong and the one consolation is that it’s likely no one will ever watch it.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

Christmas Grace [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Gary is a local toy shop owner, but when a rude rival toy shop owner comes to town and tries to sabotage Gary’s business, Gary suddenly has to close down and look for work elsewhere.  He knows that he shouldn’t be angry so he trusts God for the next step in his life.  As his wife has their first child, Gary suddenly has an idea for a business venture and decides to pursue it.  But little does he know that the rival toy shop owner is still miserable inside…

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

There’s not much to get excited about with this production.  The only positive thing to mention is the clear video quality.  The camera work is poor and some scenes have bad lighting.  The audio quality is quite inconsistent, including an annoying Christmas soundtrack and sound effects.  The sets and locations are limited and seem amateurish.  Furthermore, the editing is quite choppy—some scenes are too long while others are too short.  In short, there is really nothing much good to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

In an attempt to include more plot content, the writers had to also include large time jumps, spanning from one Christmas to the next (since everything has to happen at Christmas time).  While there are slight attempts to be spiritually meaningful, there is too much heavy-handed messaging.  There are also some slightly interesting flashbacks that attempt to build characters, but a majority of the characters are still cheesy stereotypes.  This is mainly because the dialogue is very pedestrian and stock.  This is not to mention the fact that the entire premise of the film, which is warring toy shops, is absurd and unrealistic.  There are other happenings that are equally unrealistic, created for the sole purpose of the plot.  In the end, this plot is quite predictable and needs to be reworked.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The casting work, unfortunately, brings out the amateurism of the creators.  The acting is extremely wooden and stiff and line delivery is quite forced.  There are really no emotions to speak of.  Perhaps the worst part is the makeup, especially the eye makeup, which makes some people look like they have black eyes.  Basically, there’s nothing good to say here.

 

Conclusion

The creators of Christmas Grace seemed like they meant well, but they needed to choose a more realistic premise for their plot.  Honestly, in the advent of online ordering, nobody shops at toy stores anymore.  Yet the provision of God during hard times could be communicated in a different way that is less cheesy and more realistic.  At least there was some slight justification for this being a Christmas movie, and it definitely could have been better.  This creative team has some potential in them, and it will be interesting to see what they do next.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

A Christmas Tree Miracle {Random Acts of Christmas} (Movie Review)

How'd I get stuck with this guy?
How’d I get stuck with this guy?

Plot Summary

When well-to-do David George is laid off from his job right before Christmas, he and his wife agree not to tell their three children until after Christmas to see if he can find a new job.  But as his job search becomes more and more fruitless and the money begins to run out, the George family begins to find themselves running out of options.  Confused and frustrated, they are forced to vacate their house and seek shelter elsewhere.  Though they are at the end of the rope, little do they know that things are about to turn around for them.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Everything about A Christmas Tree Miracle is a mixed bag.  While the video quality is sometimes blurry and outside scenes are not shot very well, the camera work is mostly okay.  Audio quality is good, but the obligatory Christmas soundtrack is wearing.  There are actually quite a few sets and locations used, but some of the outside ones seem fake.  Finally, the editing is just okay yet falls short of what it could be.  There seem to be too many useless scenes and the first half of the plot is spoiled before it even begins.  In all, this is an average production effort that should have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Essentially the Christmas version of Stand Strong, A Christmas Tree Miracle sports a surprisingly complex plot, even though it has many bizarre undertones and random twists and turns.  For example, sometimes things happen just because they need to happen.  One of the main characters is a creepy and schizotypal Santa Claus figure.  Though some plot occurrences are believable, others are just too far outside of reality.  If the writers wanted this movie to be meaningful, why does it have such strange elements?  The storyline oscillates back and forth between potentially interesting and laughable.  Elsewhere, there is too much annoying narration throughout.  Though the characters have some basis of believability, they seem unfinished and at times cartoonish.  Overall, there is just a general feel to this movie that you can’t really put your finger on.  It almost makes you want to like it, but it’s just too silly to be good.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like other parts of the movie, the acting is sometimes tolerable while other times it is smart alec and over the top.  Some cast members come off as trying to make fun of the film.  Others are more professional.  Emotions are inconsistent but line delivery is mostly on par.  Basically, just another average effort.

Conclusion

A Christmas Tree Miracle is one of those odd movies that seems better than its rating.  Yet we cannot in good faith rate it any higher when it has so many goofy elements and logical inconsistencies.  The idea is interesting and might even be worth a remake.  The creators seem semi-genuine in what they are doing and produced a good amount of content to back it up.  However, this film just isn’t up to par with what it should be.  They should have spent less time on quasi-fantastical ideas and more time trying to bring this story into the real world.  But perhaps they have better things in store for the future.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

2 to Tangle [2013] (Movie Review)

I think you mean the 'coincidence of faith'
I think you mean the ‘coincidence of faith’

Plot Summary

Jessica finds herself torn between dumping her no-account boyfriend Tom and trying to fix him.  But then the unthinkable happens (one hour into the film): Tom tragically dies in a car accident, leaving Jessica and his family heartbroken.  But then Tom starts appearing to Jessica after his death.  Is she being haunted by an apparition masquerading as her dead boyfriend?  Is she going crazy and seeing things?  She will have to find out if she ever expects life to go back to normal.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Starting off, this production is less than quality, to say the least.  The camera work is very shaky and the video quality is quite grainy.  Audio quality is inconsistent, especially in the outdoor scenes, and the soundtrack is very cheap-sounding.  The sets and locations are amateurish and the lighting is terrible in a majority of the scenes.  The fades and transitions between the scenes are very awkward, sometimes cutting off characters before they are done talking.  For that matter, all of the editing is quite choppy, sometimes making scenes drag on too long and sometimes not allowing scenes to run their full course.  In other words, while money was obviously tight with this effort, there was little to no justification for creating it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

If you watch the trailer for 2 to Tangle, it partially spoils the ‘suspenseful’ plot twist this film pretends to conceal.  But if you watch the movie for roughly twenty minutes, the entire ‘twist’ is full revealed without leaving anything to the imagination.  Besides this, the ‘twist’ isn’t even realistic or feasible in the real world.  While there is quite a bit of content in this overall cheap creation, it’s just a bunch of shallow subplots spliced together with no real coherent thought.  Many elements defy logic and sense, including juvenile ‘coincidences’.  There are too many bizarre tangents and rabbit trails that do nothing except expose the wacked out worldview of the writers.  This film’s characters are extremely immature in their behavior and spout empty, programmed dialogue.  Furthermore, the ending is anti-climactic and trumped up.  Basically, 2 to Tangle is a ‘clever’ idea gone awry.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The creators of this film likely just cast some of their friends and people they knew, because it’s a horrible casting job.  While there’s nothing wrong with amateur casts, coaching must always be present for it to make any sense.  An actor playing two different characters should rarely be done.  Line delivery in this film is wooden and forced.  Emotions are very empty, even when the characters are working overtime to make us believe they are happy or sad.  It just doesn’t work.

Conclusion

What do the makers of films like 2 to Tangle really expect?  To make a truly great movie, regardless of the size of your budget, you have to put thought into what you do.  If God has called you to make a movie, then He will give you the resources you need to make a great one, but you have to put forth work and effort.  Independent film making is a tough business and sometimes unrewarding, but putting in the work and prayer to make a quality film pays dividends.  Movies like 2 to Tangle just seem disingenuous and lackadaisical, which is the last thing we need in the field of Christian film.  Next time, please give it a little more thought, because the reputation of Christian film lives and breathes by you.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

Beyond the Heavens [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Oliver Henry wonders what is really out there, beyond the stars in the night sky.  Ever since the tragic death of his brother, his family has never been the same.  But that has only made Oliver all the more curious about the true nature of reality.  So when a mysterious man comes to town and reads to the local kids after school every day, Oliver finds himself drawn to the man’s unique outlook on life.  Though his mother is skeptical of everything the strange man does, Oliver looks deeper and deeper into his claims and into how others view reality.  What he finds is not what he expected, but is exactly what he was looking for.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Echolight Studios is known for its quality productions, and Beyond the Heavens is no exception.  The camera work is professional, as is the video quality.  However, lighting is inconsistent throughout, with some scenes being too dark.  Audio quality is fine but the soundtrack is uninspiring.  There is an odd use of special effects and overlays in an attempt to make the movie mysterious.  Unfortunately, this also contributes to the editing being confusing and isolating.  Therefore, once again, Echolight has the potential to go all the way, but does not.  Needless to say, this does not only apply to the production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Beyond the Heavens is a very ethereal and mystical experience, one unlike any other movie we have reviewed.  However, this is not a good thing.  The ‘plot’ is very unclear and murky, consisting of vague and meandering ideas and cryptic dialogue.  It’s like Corbin Bernson is winking at the audience with every scene, waiting to reveal some great secret, but it’s never revealed.  The whole has a very tip-of-the-tongue feel, like the characters know something you don’t but never intend to let you in on the secret.  As the characters wax eloquent and philosophize about the true nature of reality, the viewer is left, in the end, with a more confusing view of reality than before.  Is Bernson advocating for or against Darwinism?  Is he a creationist?  Does he really believe that angels come to earth on the tails of comets?  Is Bernson suggesting that reality is not what it seems?  If so, what is his view of reality?  Only God knows the answers to these questions as Bernson spends 90 minutes toying with his ‘big reveal’ and dancing around whatever his philosophical worldview is.  It’s basically just a waste of your time.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast is mostly average in their delivery.  Some acting coaching is present, but some cast behavior is head-scratching.  There are too many unnecessary emotional swings.  However, costuming is appropriate.  Overall, this is just an average performance.

Conclusion

What is to be made of Corbin Bernsen?  What is his place in Christian film?  Is he trolling?  Is he a great mind misunderstood?  Whether it’s abstract musings like Beyond the Heavens or half-hearted satire like Christian Mingle or In-Lawfully Yours, Bernsen’s motivations for making Christian films are very unclear.  It’s possible that he’s smarter than us all and doesn’t know how to show it.  But it’s also possible that he’s just trying to make a quick buck off of Christian audiences.  Reality is probably somewhere in between.  Regardless, Beyond the Heavens really needed to be rethought before anyone spent money on it, because it falls flat and is unable to properly convey whatever message it is trying to present.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Movies That Are So Bad They’re Not Even Worth Our Time, Part 2 (MTASBTNEWOT 2)

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.

 

Our reaction to this film
Our reaction to this film

Heaven’s Door

Travel to a magical fantasy land where Dean Cain, that odd girl from Your Love Never Fails, and some other C-grade cast members discover the truth about the afterlife.  When the kid from the previously mentioned Hallmark movie accidentally kicks a soccer ball into a tree, she discovers that the tree actually holds a portal into the heavenly dimension.  If you don’t believe her, then shame on you.  Anyways, one thing leads to another and the girl’s psychic grandmother reveals to her that she talks to the girl’s unborn sibling (who died in a miscarriage) about how the portal will save her family from splitting apart or something.  It’s sort of like the teenage David A. R. White from Second Glance trying to save his family, but not really.  In the end, they all have to learn that talking to the dead will tell you the future and that this is somehow a Christian movie[/sarcasm].  If you don’t agree with this movie’s message, then you’re the Grinch who stole Hallmark cards.

 

Who knows what this cover is trying to convey
Who knows what this cover is trying to convey

This is the Day

With films like these, we can see why garbage like Princess Cut wins awards at film festivals.  If you can watch this film for five minutes without going batty from the incessant banging background ‘soundtrack’ and the constant fidgeting of several cast members, you can learn that the poor dying man lying in the bed with the trophy has cancer and he needs some seaweed to cure him.  Also, he needs his friend to find his daughter for him.  Any other dialogue was totally lost on us as we could not understand it due to the ‘soundtrack’.  God only knows what this nonsense is trying to convey.

 

Crosspoint

Most readers will probably never even find this ‘lost’ film as it was exclusively sold at a local church (we reserve the right to not disclose how we came upon a copy).  Basically, some lawyer guy likes to ride motorcycles with the ‘guys’ and his wife wants him to go to church and spend time with their son.  But he decides to ride one last time and his son goes out on a dangerous bike and crashes (offscreen) and ends up in the church hallway hospital under the care of a local mafia leader rich guy pretending to be a doctor[/insidejoke].  There’s not really much to be learned here since it’s so short and shallow; the acting is so bad that this can barely be classified as a movie.  We just had to include here for reasons.

 

Well that’s all for now!  Maybe we’ll post another one someday…maybe not…