Beyond the Farthest Star (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Anne Wells hates that her family has been forced to move to a podunk Texas town. Her father is a pastor who demands perfection from his family, and she hates him for it. Anne always does her best to get into trouble and to do whatever she wants because she wants to know if God really cares about her and what the actual purpose of life is. She escapes into her music, and her father escapes into his work as he runs from the ghosts of his past. When their family is faced with several life-changing decisions, which way will they go?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s clear that this film has a professional production that was given a lot of care and effort, which is evidenced by good video and audio qualities, as well as skilled camera work. Sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-utilized, even if there are a few unnecessarily dark scenes. Further, the soundtrack is highly effective and engaging. The only drawback to point out here is some choppy editing, but this is also due to the large amount of story content. As a whole, this is a very respectable production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

As Beyond the Farthest Star is based on good source material, it demonstrates a very profound understanding of the real problems facing real people, especially the struggles of people whose personalities are not appreciated by the church. This plot has an exquisite use of flashbacks to develop character motive and backstory, and the content of the flashbacks is extremely believable. Through the flashbacks and dialogue, there are excellent efforts to develop the characters and to develop the interactions between teenagers and adults. However, this plot is almost schizophrenic with its presentation because one minute, the dialogue is great, only to have it undermined with an out-of-left-field scene that makes no sense. There is a strange lack of understanding of certain aspects of reality, such as the acquiring of confidential documents. There is also a highly unnecessary religious freedom\persecution subplot to contend with that wastes tons of time and puts a damper on everything. Further, there is narration present throughout the story in the form of journaling, and sometimes it is tolerable because of its philosophical nature, but other times, it gets in the way and takes up valuable time. Thus, even though there is a large amount of content in this complex storyline, not every scene is used very well as some are unnecessary and contain some edgy content. Even still, there is tons of potential in this plot and in the people who wrote it because it’s not afraid to expose hidden ministry problems and to use unashamed small town satire. The message therein is excellent and very worthwhile, but there are too many dramatic scenes with no break, and the cheesy ending tends to fix everything, even if the climax scene is effective. Basically, Beyond the Farthest Star is a giant mixed bag of potential, some of which panned out, so it’s likely worth your time.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

For the most part, the acting of this film is sharp and adept as each cast member appears to comfortably assume their respective character roles. Emotions are believable, and line delivery is on point. There are only a few minor issues throughout that pertain to some overdone drama and seriousness, but this section rounds out a very respectable film.

Conclusion

Movies like Beyond the Farthest Star are both engaging and difficult to watch because it’s clear that there is a massive amount of potential with this type of idea. A movie about rebels from Christian families combined with hidden ministry problems is exactly what we need now, but there is too much confusion in this film that holds it back from reaching its highest possibilities. Even so, this movie is worth a watch this holiday season, and it bodes well for any future projects from this creative team.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

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Movie Renovation: Do You Believe?

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

Much like other newer, more mainstream PureFlix releases, Do You Believe sports professional production quality with very few errors to speak of.  Naturally, due to the nature of this film, the editing is mostly a mess as each scene tries to be a dramatic climax with no resting periods or relief scenes.  Thus, the only issue with the production can be rectified by improving the plot.

Plot and Storyline Improvements

Much like God’s Not Dead, Do You Believe takes on far too many subplots than it can handle.  Easily half of them are unnecessary, as each of them try to insert a dramatic turn into nearly every scene that comes up.  The paramedic subplot is mostly unrealistic and unnecessary, and its deletion would have also rendered the Andrea Logan White\Sean Astin subplot useless.  The military veteran suffering from PTSD and the girl with the unknown past who tries to commit suicide belong in their own film, so they can be developed better as characters.  The criminal brothers subplot is awkward and stereotypical.  With the removing and reassignment of these subplots, the more pertinent elements of this storyline, namely the older couple who helps the homeless mother and daughter and the pastor and his wife who help the young homeless mother, could have been given more room to grow and be developed beyond their current state.  An alternate option to improve this plot would have been to start at the mass car accident scene and then work backward by following each character’s path to the accident, but this would take a lot of skill and discipline.  Also, the narration has to be totally eliminated.  In short, there is so much content in Do You Believe that there is bound to be potential in here somewhere.

Acting Improvements

While there are some good elements to the acting of this film, most casts would be improved in the absence of Liam Matthews, Andrea Logan White, and of course, Ted McGinley.  There are just so many cast members involved here that any good portions are cancelled out by poor performances.  However, if the storyline was pared down to a realistic medium, the cast would have also been trimmed to ensure quality of quantity.

Conclusion

Quality over quantity was truly the order of the day for this film.  Dumping every subplot you can think of into one film will make a film that a lot of people will see and perhaps like momentarily, but its lasting impact is blunted by its onslaught of content.  However, there are enough good ideas in this film to perhaps kickstart a better film in the future.

 

Nail 32 (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Buck Livingston was a sport cowboy who always ran from God, but when a tragedy leaves him lost and confused, he finds himself turning to God, even though he is told there’s no such thing as a Christian cowboy.  Even so, Buck gives his life to God and to service in the church.  However, he always had a passion for the cowboy sports, and he wrestled with how he could serve God there.  In the end, Buck’s life had a great influence on all those around him.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Unlike previous JC Films projects, Nail 32 has a mostly respectable production.  This includes good video quality and camera work, especially in the action sports scenes.  However, there is some odd lighting throughout as this film is trying to have an unusual vintage look.  Nonetheless, the sets, locations, and props are great and demonstrate good historical authenticity.  Moreover, this production is mainly held back by the use of awkward fadeouts, choppy editing, and lagging scenes.  In the end, however, this production is still above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This intriguing true story was meant to be presented as an epic, but it unfortunately fell flat due to a large amount of unnecessary hand-holding narration.  This allows the plot to just hit the high points of the main character’s life without developing enough substance or true-to-life characters.  As the story jumps from one thing to the next, the characters are stunted due to flat and rushed dialogue, and there is far too much content shoved into this short time span.  While this could have been an interesting movie, we are not given the opportunity to learn about who these characters are as people as time speeds by in route to the conclusion.  Though there was potential here, it was not met.

Acting Quality (2 points)

However, this section does have plenty of positive as the costuming is realistic and there are plenty of good performances here.  While the acting is sometimes underwhelming due to some mumbled lines and muted emotions, this cast is mostly fine, and some are better than others.  Emotions and line delivery are adequate, which overall rounds out an average film.

Conclusion

Movies like Nail 32 are very well-meaning, and they have a lot of good things going for them, especially the true story elements.  However, in order to be the epic type of movie that they want to be, they have to go the extra mile in all categories, especially plot.  It’s very difficult to handle this much content in a balanced way while at the same time developing all of the characters adequately.  Thus, sometimes it’s better to focus on a portion of a character’s life, if possible.  In the end, Nail 32 is a fine movie, but it could have gone further.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Masquerade [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Pastor Chris Billings and his wife are at odds and are secretly separated, even though Chris is set to take over as head pastor after the previous pastor, his former boss, is forced to step down after having an affair.  Little does he know that his son knows a lot more than he lets on, and Chris’ actions are having negative consequences he has no idea about.  Will the Billings family be able to be honest about their struggles, no matter the repercussions?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a film school project, Masquerade has a lot of positive elements, despite the limited budget.  Video quality and camera work are good considering the situation, even if there are other issues that come with the territory of a limited budget, such as inconsistent lighting and inconsistent audio quality.  The soundtrack is also lacking, and sets, locations, and props tend to be limited.  However, the editing is fine, which overall rounds out an average production that is an accomplishment for a film school project.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Although this story is sometimes hard to follow and is quite slow at times, there is an interesting idea here that could be further utilized in the future.  Though the characters could use some deepening through more substantial dialogue, they are at least partially realistic and are portrayed well as flawed people.  However, there are some other issues here, such as the unnecessary narration throughout and the number of boring scenes depicting characters talking without enough meaningful dialogue.  The ending is also a bit vague, although it makes a profound point.  In the end, Masquerade is like a starter idea for something greater that may or may not come.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As an amateur cast, the cast members can be somewhat robotic at times, even though they mean well.  Line delivery is a bit too textbook at times, and emotions tend to be underwhelming and flat.  Nonetheless, there is definitely potential here that could be brought out with better acting coaching.  There is also improvement throughout, and some cast members are better than others.  Overall, this rounds out a respectable effort.

Conclusion

With a better budget, a more dynamic plot and characters, and improved acting coaching, this creative team could be going places in the future.  Even if they don’t follow up on Masquerade, the idea of flawed church characters can and should be used in future films.  As always with these sort of plots, however, the characters need to be deep and meaningful.  It should be interesting to see what this team has planned next.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Voiceless [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jesse has been recently discharged from the military, so his wife Julia pulls strings at an inner-city Philadelphia church, where she grew up, to get him a job as an outreach pastor.  Once there, Jesse desperately wants to make a difference everywhere he goes, but he and Julia are haunted by their own secrets from the past.  Jesse is plagued by constantly seeing young women enter an abortion clinic right across the street from where he wants to have an outreach center for the inner-city youth, and he is determined to do something about it.  However, he takes matters into his own hands and makes things worse by inviting his church’s criticism and making himself a target with law enforcement.  Will he and his wife be able to resolve their differences and make a real difference in a dark place?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though Voiceless had a fairly limited budget, the production of this film is quite good.  This includes good video quality and fine audio quality, although there are some moments of shaky camera work.  There is also some odd filtering throughout that might have helped outdoor lighting.  The soundtrack is very good, and sets, locations, and props are very realistic, appropriate, and authentic.  Further, there are a few editing issues due to a large amount of content, but on the whole, this is a respectable effort that accompanies a very worthwhile film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

It’s rare to find a ‘cause’ movie that actually portrays real people living real lives, especially in the pro-life genre.  However, Voiceless stands out among the rest by developing flawed, gray, and accessible characters through rich dialogue, well-explained motives, and deep back stories.  The authentic struggles of real people are depicted in this plot and help to amend the common black and white perception of pro-life issues.  There are no heroes or villains here—only real people who make mistakes and try to rectify them.  Further, subtlety is employed very well without the use of narration.  The only issues to raise here pertain to a large amount of content that could not be fully included and to the lagging finish that tries to patch things up a bit too neatly.  Nonetheless, this is not enough to keep this plot from placing this film on the Hall of Fame.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The acting is the strongest point of this film as there are no errors to highlight here.  A little-known cast of people is very well-coached and well-utilized for this film.  Line delivery is nearly perfect, and emotions are very authentic.  This is a superb acting accomplishment and a great finish to a job well done.

Conclusion

Voiceless is a rare pro-life movie that will actually make a real difference.  Many people will be able to find their own stories in the stories of these characters.  There are no strawman portrayals of pro-life people or pro-abortion people here.  This is a real story that could happen anywhere and is one that shows the only way we can end abortion is not through heroics or fighting, but through prayer and community culture change.  Films like this one can also promote culture change, which is exactly what we are looking for.

 

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

 

Running Forever (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After September 11, 2001, when he mother died, Taylor Sims is separated from her father for years.  However, she is given a chance to rebuild a relationship with him at the horse ranch he owns.  Taylor predictably finds a horse to bond with and a new boyfriend as well.  But when adversity faces the horse ranch, will Taylor and her father be able to get along and win the competition to save everything?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Though Running Forever (which was repackaged as the scam ‘Christmas’ film A Horse for Christmas) had a $5 million budget, this is one of the worst productions ever made.  Besides cheap video quality and shaky camera work throughout, audio quality is terrible as it frequently uses overdubs and a generic loud soundtrack to cover up loud background sounds that even still bleed through.  Sets, locations, and props are very cheap, and there are too many close-up shots throughout.  There are also unforced issues like obvious continuity errors and awful transitions and cuts.  Overall, despite the money sunk into this sinking ship, this production is a disaster of epic proportions.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

A Horse for Christmas Running Forever is one of those stories that is trying to make you think it is bigger than it is.  In reality, everything about this half-wit plot has been done before, from the trouble character going to a rural area to bond with a horse and fall in love with the stable hand, to losing the beloved horse, to mending an estranged family relationship.  These clichés are not even executed in a good fashion, as dialogue is extremely thin, which creates cardboard characters.  The Christian message is plastic and seems very forced.  There is barely any substantial content in this plot, and the psychological elements that are attempted are laughable.  In the end, there is nothing good to say about this movie.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Clearly no acting coaching whatsoever was employed in this film as the film’s makers largely make up a majority of the cast.  Line delivery is awful, while emotions are painful.  Everybody is unnatural and stiff in their performances, and no care was given to casting people according to the ages of the characters they are supposed to be portraying.  Like the rest of the film, it seems like it’s all done on the fly.

Conclusion

New Kingdom Pictures seems like a total scam.  Not only did they try to re-release this film as a Christmas film, they didn’t even attempt to add any Christmas elements to it.  I guess they realized this film was so bad it needed a PR boost two years later.  Regardless, Running Forever is basically a train wreck of a film that had no business being made, not only because of its highly uncreative premise, but also because so much money was mishandled in a terrible production.  Somebody needs to stop giving these people so much money to waste.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Freedom [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Samuel Woodward and his family escape a cruel Virginia plantation one night, they are aided by Christians on the Underground Railroad.  However, they are also pursued by cruel slave bounty hunters.  When Samuel wants to give up on his faith because of what they are going through, his mother tells him the story of his great grandfather, who was a boy on board one of John Newton’s slave ships.  The two lives parallel as they each face their own struggle for freedom and discover faith in God.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

With a hefty budget and cable television backing, Freedom had many positives going for it from the get go.  For the most part, the money is well-spent, including great video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  Obviously, the standout feature of this film is supposed to be its historical live soundtrack sung by the characters like a musical, but this is an area that needs some further refinement.  There are also some lingering small issues in this production pertaining to some fake backgrounds and some slightly rushed editing, yet on the whole, this is a very respectable production that was helped by the money behind it.  The one caveat to point out is that with this kind of money, Freedom *should* have been flawless and likely would have been in the right hands.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Freedom is an attempt at a historical musical epic, and it succeeds on some fronts, even though it fails on other fronts.  For one, there is a lot of unnecessary narration throughout that hurts natural character growth.  Characters are also not helped out by the fact that there are so many of them.  Also, the parallel subplots from two different historical time periods is an interesting touch, yet it is not handled very well as time tends to jump all around.  The sheet amount of content that is being handled here may just be too much for one film, and the dialogue is not substantial enough for the epic style this movie is trying to adopt.  However, this is a mostly realistic and touching story that has a lot of historical backing and interest.  It is extremely important for more Christian movies to be made about history, especially the Underground Railroad.  However, Timothy Chey makes a mistake in portraying most, if not all, the pro-slavery characters as atheists, which is not entirely accurate.  Nonetheless, the second half of Freedom does show improvement, even if the better parts tend to be squeezed out by the wasted time at the beginning.  In summary, Freedom is a good film, but it is frustrating to see the higher potential that it did not reach.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

With professional cast members and fairly good coaching, Freedom had a successful acting run.  Line delivery is on point, and emotions are effective, except for some minor moments of unnecessary drama.  Also, the costuming is very authentic and historically accurate.  There is some odd makeup work in some parts, but as a whole, this is a job well done.

Conclusion

As a side note, John Newton died almost 70 years before the hymn “It is Well” was ever written, so there’s no way his fiancée was able to sing it in church.  Also, it’s also highly unlikely John Newton sang “Amazing Grace” at his own wedding since he wrote it almost 15 years after he got married.  This isn’t the first time Timothy Chey has disregarded historical facts in his films, but his ambition to create a Christian historical epic\musical is noted, even if it is misguided in the beginning.  Nonetheless, there are a lot of positive elements in this film, likely because Chey had assistance from other sources.  However, there were definitely areas it could have been improved in, especially since this was a rare chance for a film with a Christian worldview to show that it was a great historical epic on a cable television channel apart from it being a Christian movie.  There was so much going for this film, especially the budget, so it really should have achieved a higher rating.  Even so, many audiences will still find enjoyment and meaning in it.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Adrift [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a giant hurricane threatens a non-disclosed area, everyone must take refuge in a high school gym that has been converted into a shelter.  Several trouble characters take shelter there and interact with each other in different ways.  A young mother with an unplanned pregnancy has nowhere else to turn.  A drug addict tries to steal from other people in order to get her fix.  However, there are also some Christians there who want the others to be saved, even the diabetes one of them has threatens his very life.  Who will be able to survive the deluge?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Much like their past attempts at production, Adrift is a rough one for the Cross Wind team.  While the video quality is finally okay and the audio is at least average, there are too many weird and loud sound effects throughout, as well as too many background noises and parts with loud soundtrack.  Camera work is a positive, however, even though the film is constantly interrupted by generic, low quality news broadcasts.  The sets, locations, and props are very uninspiring as they are mostly limited to a handful of rooms and a bunch of stock storm footage that doesn’t have any continuity.  Editing is thus an issue as this film demonstrates why you should never make a ‘disaster’ film when you have such miniscule resources.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The ‘disaster’ premise of this film is so vague that if it were about a bunch of random people sitting around talking, you wouldn’t really know the difference.  The storm takes place largely off-screen and in those annoying news broadcasts.  The concepts and locations of the story are very non-specific and disingenuous, and it hardly seems like a storm is going on at all.  In keeping with Cross Wind habits, the characters of this film only represent the issues they are supposed to represent rather than real people.  While Torry Martin provides some dialogue relief at times, it’s not enough to save this film from itself.  The comedy therein in too forced and cheesy, thus making the film impossible to take seriously, besides the fact that time is wasted on the dumbest asides.  Essentially, Cross Wind still hasn’t found the plot creativity they desperately need.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Outside of Torry Martin’s usual fine performance, the other cast members are awkard and stiff.  Like other Cross Wind films, the actors and actresses are mostly unnatural and overly practiced in their line delivery and emotions.  However, there are some okay moments that keep this section from being nothing, even though this is not enough to right the proverbial ship.

Conclusion

What more is there to say?  Cross Wind still needs some serious upgrades across all categories.  Unfortunately, bringing in Torry Martin wasn’t enough to save them from themselves.  If they mean well in their films, it is impossible to tell as they continually portray people in embarrassing fashions.  Perhaps one day they will finally find what they are looking for.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Miracle Maker: A Christmas Tale (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In a small village filled with problems at Christmas time, a rumor is being spread around town that the Miracle Maker is coming who will be able to fix all of their problems.  The pastor is uninspired and frustrated with his mother’s stubbornness.  A large family is having financial struggles.  Others have their own personal issues they want to be fixed.  Thus, they all believe that the Miracle Maker is coming to town to fix their problems just in time for Christmas.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

John Lyde and his creative teams have always demonstrated commitment to crafting professional productions in their films.  This is demonstrated in clear video quality, fine audio quality, and good camera work.  However, the soundtrack needs some work to not be silly and holiday-ish.  The sets and locations are somewhat limited at times, but the props are definitely trying.  Furthermore, the editing is slightly choppy in some parts, but is fine in another parts.  In the end, this is yet another great production from this creative team.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

John Lyde and his teams have also been consistently trying to create good plots.  However, at the beginning of Miracle Maker, the characters can some off as slightly theatrical and manufactured due to too many silly caricatures.  The dialogue is unnatural at first, yet it improves as the story goes on, thus causing the characters to improve as well.  The use of flashbacks is also effective in helping the characters become more realistic.  Yet there are other issues to point out here, such as one too many montages and a general lack of focus and direction in this story.  While there are a lot of very interesting ideas and concepts contained within this plot, they need to be organized more clearly.  There are too many coincidences that the plot is based upon, and the odd Biblical allegory within is somewhat confusing and presented in a juvenile way.  In the end, while there are plenty of positive point here, everything is fixed too easily in the end, yet there is almost always some good in the plots produced by this creative team.

Acting Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the costuming in this film is realistic and authentic.  Similarly, the acting seems to mean well, even if they do need a bit more coaching to bring out their fullest potential.  There are times when the cast members are unsure or too stoic, but there are plenty of good elements here that make this section above average.

Conclusion

On the whole, Miracle Maker comes out as another average movie.  Some will enjoy this film, and there are plenty of reasons to be interested in it.  John Lyde and his team always have tons of potential in their work, but they never quite seem to make it all the way.  Perhaps one day soon they will use all of the potential they have and put it towards a great and dynamic film.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Christmas on Salvation Street (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After his wife dies, Noah Davis decides to accept the invitation of a friend to become the pastor of a California street mission that serves the poor.  One of his daughter objects to the idea, while the other one goes along with whatever he says.  While in the urban areas of southern California, the Davis family ministers to the forgotten and the lost and finds themselves in some harrowing situations with a local gang and some foster kids.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, the production of Christmas on Salvation Street is average.  Video quality is good, but audio quality is inconsistent since it is sometimes too loud and sometimes has too many echoes.  Camera work is also good, but there are some cheap looking sets and limited locations.  However, there is improvement in these areas throughout the film.  The editing is also fine except for one too many montages and reused scenes.  On the whole, as previously mentioned, this production is average and definitely has some room for improvement.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

At first, the story behind this movie is an interesting idea, but it is seemingly too vague at first.  It is difficult to understand the motivations of the characters as the plot tends to meander with no real focus.  The dialogue also tends to be a bit pedestrian.  Most of the time, Christmas on Salvation Street seems more like the installment of an already-existing series or the beginning of one rather than a standalone film.  While sometimes it is unserious, it is clear that the writers meant well with this film, even if the idea is incomplete.  It’s also hard to see how this needed to be a Christmas film, and things tend to be too easily fixed in the end.  But at least there was an effort here to make it somewhat interesting.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Sometimes the cast members can be a bit too enthusiastic about their lines and emotions, but they settle in as the film progresses.  As time goes on, the cast members become more natural in their roles.  Emotions and lines, for the most part, are delivered effectively, which rounds out a nearly average film.

Conclusion

Films like Christmas on Salvation Street are problematic because they show potential to do more than actually deliver on.  Movies like this do not dwell in the basement of Christian film, but they are not in the top group either.  There are a lot of movies like this that don’t quite go the distance, but perhaps one day, their creators will break through and change the film world with more quality movies.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Messenger’s Box (Movie Review)

It’s magical!

Plot Summary

Jake Casper is just a random teenager who stumbles upon a magical box while cleaning out his late grandfather’s attic.  He discovers a magic nail inside that was used to piece the hand of Jesus.  Since it’s Christmastime, Jake decides to go around and heal people with the magical power of the nail, even the most evil bully in town, who’s dying in a hospital bed.  But will Jake and his friends be able to get past the security guards to save him?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Messenger’s Box has plenty of issues, but at least the production is mostly average.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all mostly fine.  However, the soundtrack is generic, and sets, locations, and props are somewhat cheap, even though there is definitely effort here.  Some flashbacks have an odd quality about them, and there are some cheesy special effects.  The most obvious error here pertains to the very abrupt scene chances and transitions, like this film was chopped together in post.  Basically, though there is effort here, it still only comes out as average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This film has one of the dumbest magical Christmas device plots ever.  Everything about it is extremely juvenile and overly dramatic.  Even with all of this, there is still not much content to speak of as not much happens outside of the magical elements and the awkward forced comedy sequences.  Most of the dialogue is very forced and scripted, and a majority of it focuses on the magical plot device and other insignificant asides.  Thus, this creates characters that are all fixated on either the magical ‘thing’ or on the dumbest sidebar topics.  Besides this, they come off as uninspiring and flat rather than accessible and realistic.  Essentially, whoever dreamed up this stupid idea of a film needs to seriously revamp their movie making process.

Acting Quality (0 points)

To match their characters, this cast is very robotic, stiff, wooden, and empty in most of their performances.  Emotions are basically non-existent as everything is either very dramatic or very matter-of-fact.  Line delivery is overly practiced.  Unfortunately, there is very little positive to say about this extremely cheesy film.

Conclusion

Gary Bosek and his team obviously did not think this one through very well.  Using Crystal Creek people as cast members is one thing, but basing your entire plot on a stupid ‘Bible’ magical device in a Christmas context is a completely worn out idea and is so juvenile that it has no place in Christian film.  This is just all wrong as a movie and should have been scrapped from the beginning.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Elevator to Salvation (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

On Christmas Eve night, two random guys, one of them your stereotypical evil Christmas-hating workaholic, get stuck in a weird construction elevator that constantly goes up and down infinitely and keeps trying to show them all kinds of strange things like notes falling from the ceiling and creepy hands reaching through the elevator doors.  This seemingly endless ride has no purpose or function except to waste your time with another bizarre Christmas movie.

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

Faith House Pictures has had bad production in the past, but Elevator to Salvation is hands-down their worst to date.  There is nothing good about it, and it is actually quite offensive.  Video quality is bad, and camera work is terrible.  Audio is abysmal, and the soundtrack is weird.  There are no sets, locations, or props to speak of except for a poorly constructed elevator.  The special effects are medieval and annoying.  Finally, the editing is highly disorienting.  Essentially, this production joins the special ranks of those that earned negative points for being especially offensive, which makes us wonder why and how Faith House continually makes films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

But that’s not all that is annoying about this weird film.  The premise is not only trumped up and ridiculous, but it is also downright bizarre and creepy.  What’s the point of trying to force half-hearted horror elements into this?  There is really no sense of understanding what is even going on in this so-called story.  The dialogue is very wacky and absurd, thus creating off-the-wall characters, even though there are basically only two of them.  The psychological elements are poorly delivered, and the ending makes zero sense, just like the rest of the ‘plot.’  There is no question that this is the strangest and most off-putting Christmas movie ever, except for things involving Kirk Cameron and British Bible characters.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

Much like the other parts of this train wreck called a movie, the acting is very forceful and annoying.  Watching these people try to act is like undergoing a painful surgical procedure.  Every line is like fingernails stretching a chalkboard due to forcefulness, mumbling, and general awkwardness.  In the end, this rounds out a very eye-rolling and face-palming experience that should never, ever be repeated.

Conclusion

Faith House has had some real doozies in the past, but Elevator to Salvation really takes the cake.  It goes beyond the typical bad movie conventions and crosses into the territory of unreasonably terrible and offensive.  So if you’re looking for a good holiday film, steer clear from this one.

 

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

 

Brother’s Keeper [2015] (Movie Review)

 

Plot Summary

Andy and Pete Goodwynn are twin brothers and always have each other’s back, even when they do not see eye to eye on things.  However, when one of them is falsely accused by a powerful man in town who can have whatever he wants, neither twin brother knows what to do.  Though it seems like there will never be justice, little do they know that they will be challenged to grow closer to God as a result of the adversity they face.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It is clear that a lot of work was done in Brother’s Keeper to have a professional production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The soundtrack is very engaging and interesting.  Sets, locations, and props are all appropriate and realistic for the time period.  There are really no glaring errors to point out here.  The only caveat to raise pertains to some minor editing issues, since a large amount of content is being handled here.  But on the whole, this is nearly a model production and one we should see more of in the days to come.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The storyline of Brother’s Keeper is one of the most interesting yet most frustrating plots to witness.  It depicts an unfortunately realistic corrupt small-town premise filled with believable characters that each have their own flaws.  The plot writers were not afraid to be real in their depiction of people and thus have crafted some good dialogue here.  However, despite this plot’s many positives, it is hamstrung by a very disjointed structure that includes large and seemingly unnecessary plot holes and time jumps.  The portions that are chosen to be time jumps really make no sense as to why they couldn’t have been included.  Due to the other plot elements, one would think that the story could have more continuity.  Yet nonetheless, this is an interesting story that is at least worth a watch.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is a relatively professional cast, and it even has an excellent villain cast for Ray Wise.  There are only minor errors to speak of here, mostly pertaining to some overdone emotions.  However, there are plenty of good moments to highlight, and line delivery is on point.  Though there are some small areas for improvement, this is a great example of good casting and coaching.

Conclusion

Due to the scope of this idea, the movie either needed to be split into two parts or it needed to be made into a miniseries.  There is enough content and character development here to sustain at least a two-part miniseries or movie.  Even though this film falls short of the Hall of Fame, there are plenty of positive elements in it that can be applied to other films, such as a non-typical, complex storyline, as well as professional production, casting, and coaching.  It will be interesting to see if this creative team makes anything else in the future.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

He Knows My Name (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ever since Rebekah’s father died tragically, Rebekah’s mother has not let her do much of anything.  Rebekah wants to go with her neighbor Isaac to see the miracle-working man named Jesus, but Rebekah’s mother doesn’t trust anyone.  Rebekah is only left to listen to her blind grandfather’s stories about being an innkeeper with no room for a young pregnant couple from Bethlehem.  One day, Rebekah finally gets her chance to meet Jesus and her life is changed forever.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

He Knows My Name demonstrates production improvement over No Ordinary Shepherd.  There is still some odd lighting in some scenes, the sets, locations, and props are all very high quality, especially the realistic locations.  Likewise, video quality and camera work also demonstrate high quality, along with the audio quality and soundtrack.  There are really only some minor production errors to address here which typically pertain to some editing concerns.  The presence of one too many lagging scenes raises some small issues, but it’s not enough to derail this production.  Improvement is what we look for across time, and this film shows it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Again, we wonder if the plots of No Ordinary Shepherd and He Knows My Name could have been combined somehow, yet this film clearly has a good message and effort behind it.  This second installment is more well-thought-out than the first as the characters are slightly more accessible and less lofty than before.  However, the portrayal of Jesus has still not improved as he seems like a character on another plain of thought from the others.  The dialogue, especially Jesus’, still tends to be a bit archaic and isolating, but there are better attempts here.  Overall, this seems like a more true-to-life story than the first, and it shows a continued effort to improve, which is all we can ask for.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The acting also shows improvement, even though the cast members are still completely culturally authentic.  Yet the realistic costuming is still present and the cast members appear to be more well-coached than before.  There are some small trip ups pertaining to theatrics, but on the whole, this upward trend is encouraging to see.

Conclusion

In many ways, this unofficial short film series plays out more like a miniseries should.  This why I have to wonder if it would do better in a miniseries format rather than a short film format.  Miniseries’ certainly receive more attention than short films.  Besides, we really don’t have a notable Bible miniseries on the market.  With the advent of more streaming service options, there is really no reason why we don’t have more series’ like this.  Perhaps one day we will.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Wings of the Wind (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rose Cornell aspired to be a pilot in the 1940s, which was unheard of for a woman at the time.  However, due to her father’s insistence, and a set of tragic circumstances, she was unable to fulfill her dream.  As one tragedy after another impacts her life, Rose struggles with her faith and whether or not God actually cares about what happens to her and her family.  Will she be able to come to grips with the truth before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

KICKS Flicks always demonstrates some measure of commitment to production quality, yet Wings of the Wind is an improvement over past low quality efforts, such as Sybil Ludington and The Light of Freedom.  They always show definition dedication to historical authenticity in their films, especially when it comes to authentic set, locations, and especially props.  These are all well-constructed and thought out.  Video quality is also mostly good, except for some odd blurry flashback sequences.  Lighting is also fine except for some scenes where there is not enough.  Audio quality is stable throughout, even if the soundtrack is underwhelming.  Finally, the editing is relatively poor as the story is presented in a confusing fashion.  But overall, this production demonstrates continual improvement, which is all we can really ask.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, this plot is extremely hard to follow as it lacks clear direction and purpose.  It depicts a vague historical story that is very difficult to put your finger on for some reason.  There is definitely not enough dialogue, which leaves the characters flat.  There are also a lot of tangential subplots that have no real resolution or explanation.  However, there is still too much wasted time and there are too many pointless sequences that lack substantial content.  Overall, while it’s likely this story meant well, it is so poorly presented that it is impossible to understand fully.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

KICKS Flicks always saves themselves from total irrelevancy by committing to historical authenticity, especially when it comes to the costuming.  When it comes to acting, however, they are lacking.  While there are plenty of good moments with this cast, there are one too many scenes of over-acting and yelling, which demonstrate overly dramatic emotions.  Yet line delivery is mostly on point throughout.  Overall, Wings of the Wind is another mixed bag.

Conclusion

KICKS Flicks is showing improvement, which is one of the main things we want to see from film makers.  They also continually build their own brand to help themselves stand out in the sea of mindless and mediocre independent Christian films.  If they continue on their upward progression, then they will find themselves on top eventually.  Yet in order to do this, they seriously need to retain better plot writing and acting coaching.  But it seems like they want to get better and likely will in the future.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Mr. What (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Mattiesko Wuopio, AKA Mr. What, served a twenty-two year prison term for something he did not do.  Now that he is out, he is having trouble finding someone who will trust him due to his record.  However, a past friend decides to give him a shot by offering him a cheap rental and some job leads.  Mr. What also befriends a local boy and a dog, who help him carry on even when things get tough.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Much like its predecessor Sidewalk Singer, Mr. What is an okay production due to good video and camera work.  Audio quality is also fine, even though the soundtrack is quite generic.  Moreover, sets, locations, and props are relatively limited, much like in Sidewalk Singer.  Also, much like many movies of this caliber, the editing is poor and leaves too many lagging scenes and boring sequences in the runtime.  But then again, there really isn’t much to work with here.  Basically, this is another drab film from this team.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It is very hard to differentiate the storylines of Sidewalk Singer and Mr. What because they are virtually the same idea.  This idea is a boring one at that.  Once again, in Mr. What, there are very few characters in this tale, yet they are still not deep enough for us to get to know them.  This is due to very flat dialogue and a famine of real plot content.  Much like its predecessor, Mr. What really just needed to be a short film if the creators wanted to test their movie making skills.  This is not the sort of story that is going to make a real difference in the field.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With basically the same cast as Sidewalk Singer, Mr. What is still uninspiring.  While there is some potential here and it seems like the cast members mean well, there is no follow-through.  They need more coaching and development to avoid being so matter of fact, overly-practiced, and unsure.  But perhaps they will improve in the future.

Conclusion

So you want to make a nice, simple film: great!  Does it have to be released to the public?  Does it have to be a full length?  These questions really need to asked.  Sure, you want to recoup your production costs, but is your movie dynamic enough to at least build your resume and attract future investors?  We need films that will change the Christian entertainment industry and the entire industry as a whole, not another cute little Christian movie.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Masterless (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

As Kane Madison works as a successful architect and lives his seemingly perfect life with his wife, in the spiritual dimension, a battle rages for his soul.  Little does he know that while Satan and his demons want Kane to continue fighting on his own, another Master, Whom Kane does not know, wants Kane to surrender to His power so that Kane can win the battles at hand.  When tragedy suddenly strikes, where will Kane turn?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

This unique and creative film concept is difficult to pull off production-wise, but it is executed relatively well.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all up to industry standard.  The soundtrack is also excellently constructed.  Sets, locations, and props are diverse, realistic, and appropriate.  Outside of some minor editing concerns, the biggest production error to point out here is the odd use of sepia tones in the fantasy scape, but it’s not enough to keep this production from being nearly excellent.  This is a model production that should be replicated.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

A lot of spiritual\psychological plots are hard to pull off, but Masterless is based on a very creative idea that is relatively well-presented.  Though it is sometimes too simplistic, the spiritual warfare component makes this story what it is.  However, it could be improved through better explanation, because as it is, the fantasy scape is slightly isolating and vague.  Granted, this is a difficult feat to accomplish.  The characters in this story are mostly believable, but they could use some further deepening through more meaningful dialogue.  This would in turn make the plot more dynamic.  Moreover, the ending is certainly not predictable and is very thought-provoking.  The entire concept behind this film is very creative and deserves further exploration, perhaps in an improved follow-up.  In short, this is one of the better and more original plot ideas crafted in recent memory, so it’s a shame that it didn’t go all the way.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this is a semi-professional cast, they are in no ways below average.  They are actually quite good, even though they are a small cast.  At times they can be underwhelming and exhibit unnatural emotions, but with better coaching, the deeper potential could be brought out.  Even so, this is a respectable effort.

Conclusion

Masterless joins the growing list of Christian films that really deserves and needs a remake.  The idea behind this plot is enough to drive a trilogy concept, if executed properly.  There are so many directions that this story concept could take; it seems like the surface has only been scratched.  With slightly improved production and acting, along with better plot explanation and character deepening, this idea could be Hall of Fame worthy.  Thus, it will be interesting see what this creative team has planned next.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Just Let Go [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Chris Williams loves his family, but when they are all either tragically killed or injured in a senseless drunk driving wreck, he struggles with why God would allow such a thing to happen to him and his family.  He and his two sons wrestle with grief, anger, and survivor’s guilt as they try to navigate the new and ugly life they have been given.  Will Chris ever be able to let go and forgive the privileged young man who took his family from him?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Unfortunately, it’s rare you see a production this high quality in the Christian realm.  Video quality, audio quality, and camera work are all what they should be.  The car wreck scenes are constructed excellently, even though this is likely very difficult to pull off properly.  Other sets, locations, and props are also well-created.  The soundtrack is very creative and appropriate.  The only small issue to point out here is a minor editing concern pertaining to some scenes lagging too long.  But in the end, this is a highly respectable production that other films should be modeled after.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This film is based off of a powerful true story, yet you have to make it all the way to end to make things worthwhile.  The body of the film contains too much heavy-handed narration, as well as a heavy dose of melodrama that is hard to take in.  It’s difficult for the middle of the movie to hold the attention as it is too brooding and contains too many repeated sequences.  Though there is not quite enough dialogue throughout, there are a lot of interesting artistic elements, as well as a realistic portrayal grief, trauma, and mental health.  There are also good psychological and legal elements, but we would have liked to get to know the characters a little better without so much extreme emotion.  Even though the Christian message is unnecessarily muted and vague, the ending is definitely worth waiting for and makes this film what it is.  In the end, this is a great story with a lot of great elements, yet it could have been presented a little bit better.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Much like the production of this film, this cast is quite professional and well-coached.  Though they have some brief moments of being underwhelming and one too many dramatic touches, this is a very wall-cast and well-acted film.  This caps off a respectable and commendable effort.

Conclusion

These types of movies are very frustrating because they have almost everything going for them, yet there are some small issues that keep them from being all that they could be.  There are so many good things that can be learned from a movie like this, and it is definitely something to build off of for the future.  Many audiences will still enjoy this film, and it’s definitely worth your time.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Steps of Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Faith Houston believes God has called her to move to Texas on blind faith and try to get a job at a Christian horse ranch that ministers to troubled kids.  Though her family is against it, Faith plunges ahead into unknown territory to see what God has for her.  However, when she arrives in Texas, she soon discovers that not everything will be as easy as she thought it would.  Yet she perseveres and finds out what God really wants for her life.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Much like A Man Called Jon, Poorchild Films has discovered better production quality as of late.  Video quality is clear and camera work is great.  Audio quality is fine and the soundtrack is as good as can be expected.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and diverse.  Really the biggest issue to point out here, of course, is the editing.  Some scenes are too choppy while others lag too long.  But in the end, this is a nearly model production that they should be proud of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Yet also in a similar vein as A Man Called Jon, and especially Hiding in Plain Sight, Steps of Faith, though it is ninety minutes long, just doesn’t contain enough content to sustain a feature-length film.  Even if there was more content here, it is still a very basic and predictable storyline that contains very flat and boring characters.  Dialogue is very uninspiring and uncreative.  The least a writer can do with this type of formulaic story is make the characters accessible, but this does not happen.  Instead, time is wasted on pointless sequences and forced comedy that’s not funny.  In the end, Poorchild Films needs to seriously invest in some screenwriting.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Much like their other films, this movie recycles a lot of familiar cast members, yet some of them show improvement from other performances.  Emotions are mostly believable and line delivery is pretty good.  There are just some minor errors throughout that add up, as well as the dry comedy.  Overall, this film hovers right around the average range.

Conclusion

In the end, it still appears as though Poorchild is getting better at what they do—if they continue to improve in each area, they could be onto something great very soon.  If they seriously invest in some better screenwriting, then they are on their way to greatness for sure.  The day that plots of Christian films overall improve is the day that the entire industry is turned upside down.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

A Man Called Jon (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jon is a pastor who likes to express himself by dancing and running around, but this practice is condemned by his employers since they run a stiff white church.  Thus, they reassign him to new duties: to be the pastor of an African-American church who is begging for a new pastor.  All seems well at first, yet the former pastor of the African-American church is jealous and Jon and seeks to have him removed.  Will they all be able to find a compromise for the sake of the people?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Unlike their previous production disaster Hiding in Plain Sight, Poorchild Films has discovered a better production formula in A Man Called Jon.  Video quality is good, as is camera work.  Audio quality is also professional, even though the soundtrack is a bit generic.  Sets, locations, and props are appropriate and well-used.  The main issue to point out here is, of course, the editing as there are too many lagging and dead sequences as well as some scenes that are confusing and seem unscripted.  But overall, this is a decent production that shows a lot of good effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, this plot is an extremely limited idea and is completely uncreative as it has been done before in movies like The Rev and Brother White.  The awkward white guy is kicked out of the stiff white church and is reassigned to a struggling African-American church in a supposedly comedic fish-out-of-water plot—we’ve seen it all before.  Besides this, there is truly barely any plot content to speak of here as a lot of scenes appear to just be filling time.  Dialogue is fairly empty and does nothing to improve the already cheesy characters.  The scope of this story is severely limited and really doesn’t have anything going for it.  Any attempts at comedy fall awkwardly flat.  Thus, due to lack of character and story development, this plot can’t muster any points.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast demonstrates some potential as at least some of them appear to know what they are doing.  Some cast members appear to be phoning in their lines, while others are cheesy, but there is enough good here to make this section average.  Emotions and line delivery are not quite what they should be, but they are adequate.

Conclusion

It’s possible that the Poorchild team means well and just doesn’t know what they are doing.  They obviously learned how to improve their production quality, so perhaps they have more improvements in store down the road.  They need to write some more creative plot ideas and coach their cast members to be more engaging and realistic.  Also, their characters need to be more accessible and down to earth without being caricatures.  In the end, they have plenty of potential if they will make some improvements.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Closure [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Cyrus grew up in an affluent Iranian household, yet because his parents were secretly Christians, they eventually were found out by secret government agents seeking to shut down the Christian house churches of the country.  Cyrus’ father was taken away and executed for his faith, which left a profound effect on Cyrus as he grew up.  Now with a family of his own, he finds that God wants him to face the pain of his past in order to move forward in God’s will for the future.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Though this is a little know production team with somewhat limited funding, Closure exhibits high production quality and demonstrates a lot of care for professionalism.  Video quality is excellent; the only error to point out in this production is some unprofessional camera work and angles.  Audio quality is excellent and the soundtrack is appropriate.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and culturally accurate.  Finally, editing is good and presents the story well.  In the end, it’s clear that those associated with Voice of the Martyrs care about making high quality films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though this is an intriguing realistic story, it relies too much on narration and contains a lot of large time jumps.  Thus, these two elements stunt character development and keep dialogue from being all that it could be.  The plotline is somewhat simplistic and linear with not enough complexity.  It tends to hop from one high point to the next and fill the gaps with narration.  Yet the story is good nonetheless and many will find it to be enjoyable.  It carries a powerful message and has an effective ending that is worth waiting for.  In the end, these writers have a lot of potential that needs some refining.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

It’s extremely difficult to cast a film about Iran due to a likely shortage of culturally authentic cast members, yet this cast is chosen excellently.  Not only this, but they are also good at acting, including line delivery and emotional delivery.  The only nitpick to point out here is the fact that making some of these cast members look older with makeup and hair color is not effective.  But in the end, this is a respectable and professional effort that should be applauded.

Conclusion

With this film, Voice of the Martyrs has shown that they know how to put together a professional film that carries an effective message that many audiences will enjoy.  They demonstrate more care in making their films than a majority of Christian film makers.  Only minor errors hold this film back from being Hall of Fame.  It should be interesting to see if they make any more films in the future, because they have a lot of promise.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Waiting for Butterflies (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

While she is dying on her deathbed, Carolynn Archer begs her family to promise to resolve their differences and to put their bitterness and unforgiveness aside.  All of it stems backs to a tragedy that Carolynn’s daughter blames her nephew John for.  However, when John returns to town due to his grandmother’s ailing state, encouraged by his girlfriend, he decides to heed his grandmother’s advice and begin to set things right, if possible.  What he discovers in his quest makes him view life in an entirely new way.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though this is a little known production team, Waiting for Butterflies demonstrates a mostly professional effort.  Video quality and camera work are what they should be.  Though there are some seemingly unnecessary yet minor audio issues, the soundtrack is very intriguing.  Sets, locations, and props are authentic and appropriate.  Finally, though there are also some minor issues with editing, mostly pertaining to some lagging scenes and time fillers, this is a respectable production that definitely deserves recognition.  This shows a lot of promise for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Though this story begins somewhat slow and confusing, it’s a slow burn that you have to stick with until the end.  As the plot unfolds fairly well, characters are pretty well-developed through complex dialogue.  Though there are some dangling subplots that need some tidying up, this is actually a tragedy plot that avoids being too melodramatic and carries a very profound message.  The realistic struggles and circumstances of believable people are portrayed throughout.  However, there are one too many dead sequences that cause there to be too much potential left on the field.  There are also some quick fixes that are introduced near the end to fit within the runtime.  However, this is a very respectable plot that is hard to come by these days, so it gives great hope for future films from this creative team.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The acting is probably the strongest point of this film, as this is Jason Burkey’s best performance outside of an Erwin Brothers film.  Other cast members also post good performances.  The only errors to point out here are some over the top emotions.  Otherwise, this is another professional section of this film.

Conclusion

It’s disappointing that Waiting for Butterflies has a collection of minor errors that keeps it from landing a spot on the Hall of Fame, but it is still an interesting movie that is likely worth your time.  There is a lot of good here and certainly of lot of potential for the future.  With some tidied-up production and a more seamless plot, this creative will be making waves in Christian film.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

A Perfect Chord (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Cadence’s parents have always believed that she has musical talent, especially since they own a record label, but she has never been sure of herself.  However, when she and two of her friends discover that they have an ability to play music together, they decide to pursue this ability secretly.  However, the time comes when they have to reveal their secret if they want to make a difference, so they’ll have to decide what they’re going to do.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a first-time production, A Perfect Chord is mostly average, which is fine for beginners.  Video quality is fine, and camera work is pretty good.  Audio quality is what is should be, but the soundtrack is quite silly.  There is some odd lighting throughout, and sets, locations, and props are slightly limited.  Finally, editing isn’t perfect, but it isn’t horrible either.  Thus, the bottom line is that this is a fine starter production with some definite areas to build off of in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, this plot is as silly as the description suggests.  It lacks any real focus and is really just a collection silly scenes of activities of daily living and forced comedy.  The conflict therein is also very forced and fake.  There are too many montages that stunt character development.  They need further deepening since they are based on awkward dialogue and a bunch of silly high school conversations.  Basically, this story feels like it belongs in a short film rather than in a feature length one.  This idea is much too thin and really has no purpose behind it.  It’s hard to see how the creation of this film was justified.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is amateurish, but they don’t really have much support.  They are too awkward and lackadaisical in their performances.  Line delivery is underwhelming and emotions are not believable.  Also, makeup is all wrong.  In the end, this film has a lot of areas for improvement that should have been worked out before it went to distribution.

Conclusion

It’s likely that Kingdom Sight Studios means well, but their work has a lot of refining to do.  Production is off to a good start, but it needs to be developed further.  They need to determine the purpose behind their plot ideas and clearly communicate this purpose.  Finally, they need to employ some acting coaching to draw out the potential in their cast members.  In the end, time will tell how much improvement this studio undergoes.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

An Encounter With the Messiah (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

What if Jesus came in the modern day and ministered to everyday people and the circumstances they dealt with?  This is a different take on the story of Jesus that follows the lives of recast Biblical characters in a modern setting to show that Jesus can touch anyone and reach anyone, regardless of background or era.  He is still affecting people’s lives today.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

It’s really hard to understand how and why these sorts of productions are made.  When the budget is low, is it worth making a feature length film?  While video quality is mostly fine and the soundtrack is creative in this film, there are plenty of errors here.  Lighting and camera work are inconsistent and cheap, and the audio is sometimes too loud and disproportionate.  Flashbacks are black and white for no reason and sets, locations, and props are relatively cheap.  Finally, as usual, the editing is poor and allows the storyline to jump all over the place with no real continuity.  In the end, first-time productions are somewhat forgivable, but they’re still frustrating to watch.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Creating modern takes on Bible stories is always a problematic idea because parallels and paraphrases are usually forced to fit and cause awkwardness, which is also the case in An Encounter with the Messiah.  It’s a commendable and understandable idea that has a lot of potential, but it’s not executed correctly and is too hard to follow.  There are too many confusing transitions and disconnected subplots as the story speeds along to hit the high points.  There are also too many characters and tons of wasted time; thus, it’s difficult for the story to hold the attention as it is very flat and isolating.  The one redeeming quality is the interesting ending but it’s hard to get to and doesn’t do enough to redeem the other issues.  In the end, this is a nice idea, but not good enough.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this cast sometimes puts in effort, they are often half-hearted or overly dramatic.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are all over the place.  There is some good here, but not enough to make a difference in this film.

Conclusion

Films like An Encounter with the Messiah so easily slip through the cracks of Christian film, and it’s a shame when the creators seem to mean well.  But when potentially interesting ideas are not packaged properly, it sends the film down a completely different trajectory.  It’s hard to make your film stand apart when so many typical issues plague it.  But perhaps there will be second chances for film makers that have trouble getting started.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

My Son, My Savior (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of the Messiah, who would save Israel and the world from their sins.  Though Jesus was Mary’s son, He also came to be her Savior, and she believed in Him and what He had been sent to earth to do.  Though it was not easy at times for her to watch her Son work and suffer, she knew it was all part of God’s greater plan for humanity.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though attempts are made in this film to be realistic, they are clearly limited by a low budget.  Video quality is fine, yet there is weird soft lighting throughout that casts an odd effect on everything.  This is mostly in the indoor sets, which have a cheap feel to them, as do the props inside of them.  However, the outdoor scenes are much more professionally constructed and executed.  Camera work is relatively stable throughout and audio quality is acceptable.  There is an attempt to make the soundtrack culturally authentic, even if it is a little loud at times.  Finally, the editing is sometimes good and other times not, especially since there is a lot of content shoved into this movie.  In the end, this is an average production that needed some more funding in order to be adequate.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As previously mentioned, this film makes a lot of honest attempts to be realistic and authentic, especially when it comes to staying true to the original historical account.  However, this adherence also comes off as very strict and stiff, which paints the characters as inaccessible and somewhat lofty ‘Bible heroes’ that we can’t relate to today.  While the creators of this film probably mean well, it’s too reminiscent of a Bible play as the story speeds through the Gospel accounts very rapidly in less than sixty minutes.  In the end, while the writers can be applauded for an authentic effort, there is simply too much content crammed into fifty minutes and not enough care given to character development.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The costuming work done here is okay, but it borderlines on Bible play status.  The casting is not culturally authentic, likely due to budget constraints.  This film was made back when Bruce Marchiano posted good performances as Jesus, and he is the standout cast member in this movie.  Other cast members are too dramatic and pronounced in their line delivery.  Though there are some good moments, emotions are not very believable.  In the end, this is an average performance.

Conclusion

Biblical films are difficult feats to accomplish.  The limited budgets of independent films make this even hard to do.  Film makers need to consider whether or not they really need to make another cheap Bible film if they don’t have the resources to make it well.  Though this film is intended to be an evangelistic tool, it’s unclear whether or not this would be that effective due to the low budget.  Perhaps this money should have been saved for a more worthwhile film, or at least saved until enough was available to make this a professional production.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

90 Minutes in Heaven (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Don Piper was driving home from a church conference one rainy day, he was blindsided by a rogue eighteen-wheeler semi-truck, which crushed his car and killed him on the spot.  When he passed into the afterlife, he entered Heaven and saw people who has gone before him.  However, due to the prayers of a man at the crash site, Don was pulled back to earth, full of injuries.  For months, he was confined to a hospital bed and his wife and children went through many trials due to Don’s uncertain medical condition.  However, through it all, God showed Himself to be faithful.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

90 Minutes in Heaven is one of those mainstream films about Christian concepts that puts many Christian films to shame due to its commitment to a high production quality.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what it should be.  The soundtrack is very creative and engaging.  Sets, locations, and props are highly authentic and realistic, especially for the time frame.  Finally, the editing is relatively good considering the large amount of content that is taken on in this film.  In the end, this is the standard production quality we should see with each movie that comes out.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though this is a very interesting and realistic true story that definitely warrants a movie of its own, it’s hard to think that it was handled very well in this particular film.  For one, unnecessary and heavy-handed narration forces the plot along and explains things that should be allowed to develop on their own.  The narration stunts character development and subverts the use of effective flashbacks.  There are plenty of characters in this film, but it’s hard to get to know any of them very well due to the constant voiceover.  Besides this, the presentation of this otherwise good story is very slow and boring, perhaps in attempts to be overly dramatic.  Nonetheless, it doesn’t come off right as there are too many stop and start scenes and dead sequences before all of the important information is shoved at the end.  In the end, this movie carries an important message that is not handled very well.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This movie clearly has a professional cast with plenty of recognizable names, yet sometimes the cast members appear to be overconfident in their abilities.  There’s no question that they have talent, but they underwhelm in their performances, like they are just phoning it in.  But for the most part, this section does reflect a professional effort.

Conclusion

Movies like this one, that are made by ‘Hollywood’ for Christians are usually a mixed bag.  Professional production and casting is rarely shirked on, but there always seem to be those lingering problems that drag it down.  The story behind 90 Minutes in Heaven is worthy of the Hall of Fame, yet this film is not due to a handful of small issues that hold it back.  Yet regardless, many will find this film to be enjoyable and it’s certainly worth your time.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

The Music in Me [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jessica leaves the small town she grew up in to pursue her musical dreams, she never thought she would get a second chance with the people she once knew.  But she is given that second chance when she is down on her luck and offered the position of choir director at the church she once called home.  Little does she know that she can turn their whole music program around, plus get a well-groomed man on the side.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Up Entertainment has proven that they know how to fund and executed a production, even if their plots continually suffer for creativity.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all on professional standard in The Music in Me.  However, the ‘original’ soundtrack that includes the main actress singing is awful.  Also, sets and locations are sneakily limited.  Some other small shortcuts are taken, but the editing is mostly fine.  In the end, Up has borrowed from the Hallmark model and has learned how to churn out made-for-TV films that look pretty good on the surface.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though there are some half-hearted attempts to develop the characters and there is like one character that’s not stereotypical, everything else from The Music in Me has already been done on Hallmark, ten times over.  It’s the same old prodigal character returns to their hometown shtick, with all of the predicable character molds to fill.  Dialogue is very stock and there are too many attempts at forced comedy.  The Christian message is plastic and trite; it seems like this film is only Christian because it needs to reach a certain audience.  In the end, there is nothing new here, this is business as usual, same old, same old, move along, nothing to see here…

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though there is a slight air of professionalism among this cast, they all look fake, like they were just rejected from a Hallmark audition.  Did we mention that the singing is grating?  The singing, especially from the main actress, is grating and cringeworthy.  Besides this, it seems like a lot of these performances are phoned in.  Like we said, there’s nothing new here.

Conclusion

Up has the ability to do something different, to stand out from Hallmark by using their money to fund a creative plot.  But no, they choose to fall into the same old patterns.  Sometimes they try, like with Love Finds You in Charm, but this time they have not.  Perhaps one day someone will be able to use a platform like this to produce a great idea that is actually worth watching on TV.  I wonder how long we’ll have to wait for that to happen.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Pitching Love and Catching Faith {Romance in the Outfield} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Heather and Tyler meet on a softball field in the heat of a game and of course don’t like each other at first until they are randomly thrown together in a quirky relationship in which Tyler doesn’t want to kiss her until the right time.  Heather makes it her goal to kiss him, but she soon discovers that his faith is more important than she realized.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a freshman production, this confusingly-titled movie is pretty good.  Video quality is professional, as is the camera work, even though there is some unnecessarily poor lighting.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack leaves something to be desired.  Sets, locations, and props are fine but slightly limited.  Finally, the editing is too amateurish, including very choppy cuts and transitions that make the viewing experience confusing.  But in the end, this is fine for a first-time effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It seems like this film with the long title was pitched (haha) to Hallmark, UP, INSP, or even the abysmal ION in the hopes of a TV deal, but there were no home runs (lol).  It has all the trademarks of Hallmark cheesiness, including a cheap Christian message and the most juvenile romantic plot ever.  Every romance cliché and conversation in the book of stock romances is used in this film.  The plot progression is so predictable that it seems like someone wrote it in their sleep.  Their nothing new or creative here as two empty and cardboard characters are inevitably thrown together into a plastic romance full of forced drama, fake breakups, and an unhealthy obsession with kissing.  Maybe even Hallmark was tired of this.  Then again, maybe not.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Though this cast is not all bad, it is a small cast, thus amplifying the errors.  Most cast members are very awkward and flat.  Many of them are unsure in their line delivery, while emotions are forced and stiff.  This is definitely not a good way to top off a textbook romance movie.

Conclusion

It seems like a Christian message was slapped onto this film just to sell it to a certain market.  There’s really no other reason why it should be considered Christian.  Regardless, there is nothing whatsoever creative about this movie.  Thus, there is zero justification for its creation as it clutters an already-crowded field and genre.  The last thing we need is more of these plastic romances.  But last time I checked Hallmark, there’s still plenty more to come.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

The Playbook [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The Thomas family is successful and seems to get along on the surface.  However, they struggle with as many issues as anyone does.  They are involved in their community, including local sports, and are well-liked, but when tragedy strikes one of their own, they all find themselves struggling with forgiving those closest to them.  Will they ever be able to reconcile and find healing?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Although The Playbook is a somewhat rookie production, it is mostly good and is at least average.  Video quality is fine, but some of the camera work is shaky, especially in the sports action shots.  Lighting is sometimes inconsistent, but sets, locations, and props are all above board.  Finally, as usual for films of this caliber, the editing is lacking the necessary push.  Yet in the end, this is a respectable production is something to build off of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though the idea behind this plot is interesting and has potential, the story gets too lost in melodrama at times.  There is too much wallowing in self-pity and anger without any real plot focus or meaningful redemptive elements.  Rather than developing the characters so we can appreciate their struggles, this film spends a lot of time on sports montages, musical montages, and other useless sequences that really put a drag on the viewing experience.  Stuff just happens but nothing holds the attention or is enough to sustain a full story because the characters are under-developed due to poor dialogue.  The Christian message is also a little bit too vague.  In the end, it’s likely that this creative team meant well—they just need some help with their execution.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is ‘amateur’, they do a decent job without any real errors early on the film.  Yet their performances tend to digress in the middle due to extreme emotions and poor drama acting.  However, by the end, they have righted the ship again.  Despite the errors, this is a good model for amateur casting.

Conclusion

Tragedy plots are notoriously difficult to pull off without stepping into common pitfalls.  The same goes for sports plots.  When combined together, there are all kinds of issues that can come up.  Yet despite the rocky road plot, this movie isn’t all that bad, even though it may not have mass appeal.  It shows raw talent and could be a stepping stone for future work.  It will be interesting to see what becomes of this creative team.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Last Days in the Desert (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jesus was in the desert for forty days and forty nights, he supposedly helped out a random family who lived there.  He was also tempted by the devil in various ways to see if He would fall before beginning His earthly ministry.  Though the battle was difficult, He prevailed and was ultimately prepared to do His Father’s work on earth.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s very clear that this film was mainstream produced, as its high production quality unfortunately sets it apart from most independent Christian films, especially other Biblical films.  This production is virtually flawless—it boasts professional video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also creative and intriguing.  Sets and locations are highly realistic and appropriate for the story.  Props are also historically authentic.  The only nitpick to raise here is some slightly odd editing, but it’s not enough to keep this production from being great.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Despite its high amount of funding, this story is a total wash.  The first half of the movie is extremely empty and boring, with hardly any dialogue to speak of.  Hardly anything happens except for the introduction of bizarre spiritual elements and the development of a very unusual take on the Biblical account of Jesus’ tempting in the desert.  There is little justification for altering the historical account in this way, as the alterations seem utterly pointless and just for the sake of altering it.  As what little conversations there are meander on and on, they never go anyway and thus serve little purpose.  But without dialogue, what is a plot?  From start the finish, this story is useless and serves no purpose whatsoever, except to further muddy the waters of Biblical films.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though the costuming is very authentic and well-constructed, there is little else good to point out here.  Though this is a professional cast, and though they certainly have their good moments, they are all overly dramatic and too serious.  Also, it goes without saying that it’s ridiculous to cast Jesus and Satan with the same actor, regardless of who the actor is, just saying.  There are also shades of British accents among this cast, but what do you expect at this point?

Conclusion

Hollywood certainly knows how to fund a production, unlike a lot of independent and struggling Christian film makers, but their plots are just as bad or worse as independent plots.  Biblical films like this are so stupid because they alter historical accounts for fun, it seems like.  What if someone altered another historical account?  There would be an outcry.  Nonetheless, until Christians start making better Biblical films, there’s really not much else to say.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Full of Grace [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Mary the mother of Jesus was one of the most important characters in the Biblical narrative.  She was given the privilege of bringing the Messiah into the world and raising Him as a child.  But as she grew older, she became a follower of her Son, the Savior of the world.  Some believe she had a major impact on the early church and her whole life was a testament to the grace of God.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

In attempts to be artistic, there are some unusual production elements in this film.  For one, camera work is very shaky in parts.  Video quality is strange and there is a lot of poor lighting throughout.  Audio quality is fairly inconsistent, but the soundtrack, though it is sometimes too loud, is at least intriguing and creative.  Furthermore, there are a lot of long and wasted sequences that are overly artistic.  There is also too much recycled footage.  In the end, where this could have been an interesting production, it is just not.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though there are some interesting psychological elements in Full of Grace, like the production, the plot tends to get lost in artistry.  A lot of the story is extremely low-key and almost purposely understated for no particular reason.  There are a lot of scenes of characters sitting around talking about off-screen Biblical and historical events, but Full of Grace commits a common Biblical movie sin by focusing more on extra-Biblical and extra-historical content then on the actual content we have available to us in the Bible and in other historical documents.  Besides this, the characters cannot be connected with because they seem like ethereal, otherworldly figures rather than regular people.  Also, it is very difficult for this film to hold the attention as there is hardly enough content to sustain a feature length film.  This movie seems like it was written for one good scene that has a good message, but this occurs near the end, so it is unlikely many viewers will make it this far.  Unfortunately, Full of Grace is just another Biblical film disappointment.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The one thing this movie got right was culturally authentic casting without BRITISH people.  This is an amazing concept that most never get right.  Thus, though there are some overly dramatic performances, the professional and responsible acting and casting is the standout in this film.

Conclusion

There is so much in the Bible that needs to be made into movies.  The Bible is a historical document filled with real people who encountered God in one way or another, just like we do every day.  It’s time for film makers to dispense with the practice of crafting Biblical characters that we can’t even relate to and start treating Biblical narratives like real events that actually happened.  If this happens on a consistent basis, things will finally begin to change.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Almost Home [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Rachel and her dementia-afflicted grandfather decide to go for a walk to the store, they suddenly become lost in their small town find themselves wandering aimlessly along country roads.  As Rachel’s mother prays and tries to organize a search party for them, she can only think of all the horrible things that might happen to her daughter and her father.  However, Rachel and her grandfather end up having a fun time wandering around and meeting eccentric people.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The only good aspect of this production is the video quality, unfortunately.  Camera work is too shaky and audio quality is unnecessarily echoed.  The soundtrack is also silly.  Sets, locations, and props are too limited and are obviously amateurish.  There is not really any editing to speak of as pretty much all content possible is included.  There are also some references to unnecessary off-screen content.  Basically, this production unjustified due to its low quality and for reasons we will explore next.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The plot of Almost Home is so trite and silly that the entire idea is utterly pointless.  Filled with silly juvenile conversations, there is literally nothing to this film except for a girl and her grandfather aimlessly wandering around and meeting goofy people while their family worries about them.  This is the only conflict presented and a majority of the ‘plot’ is based on coincidences.  While there may be a place of this sort of film, its idea needs to be greatly expanded and the comedy of it needs to be further embraced.  As it is, this story is so limited that it can only be justified as a short film as it is.  There is no way this story is going to interest people.

Acting Quality (0 points)

With such a small cast, all errors stand out obviously.  The cast members are overly practiced and stilted in their line delivery.  Sometimes the acting is a bit off the wall.  Emotions seem very plastic.  Overall, this caps off a disappointing film.

Conclusion

Exactly how was this idea pitched?  Almost Home is at best a piece of a film or a short film, not a feature-length idea.  There is so little potential and content here that it’s actually quite sad.  We are unsure as to how films like this are made, even if the creators do mean well.  The time and money spent on this film would have been far better used elsewhere.  As it is, films like this one will have no impact on the field and will be easily and unfortunately forgotten.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

I Am Potential (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Patrick Henry Hughes was born blind and disabled, and even though his parents were discouraged by this, he never let it get him down.  Though sometimes it was one medical procedure after the next, Patrick always kept his head up and did what he could to spread the love of Christ to those around him.  His father constantly wrestled with the reality of his son’s condition, but ultimately, it was instrumental in bringing the family closer together and closer to God.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As is the typical practice of American Family Studios, the production of I Am Potential is highly professional.  Video quality and camera work are excellent.  Audio quality is flawless and the soundtrack is engaging.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and appropriate.  The only real nitpick to raise here is some choppy editing due to the large amount of content presented here.  But besides this, American Family Studios is continually setting the standard for how Christian films should be produced.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As I Am Potential is based on true events, the plot has a built-in advantage over your run-of-the-mill inspirational plot.  This is a really good story to depict, but there is a large amount of content to cover in a short amount of time.  It’s very difficult to deal with this sort of plot.  There is a tendency to skip through time too rapidly, and this causes the story to skate on top of everything.  This in turn makes everything shallow, including the characters.  While the dialogue therein is good, there is not enough time focused on developing the characters, even though they are real people.  It’s a real shame that this story could not be deeper, because it carries an important and meaningful message.  It could have been Hall of Fame had more attention been given to deepening the story and the characters instead of trying to cover tons of content.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Much like the productions of American Family Studios, the casting and acting of I Am Potential is highly professional.  Each cast member fits their character well.  Emotions are believable and line delivery is effective.  The only small issue to highlight here is some underwhelming acting, but it’s not enough to keep this portion from being high quality.

Conclusion

It’s refreshing when a studio like AFS consistently rolls out quality films.  We need every Christian film distributor and creator to have this mentality because things will not change for the Christian film industry until this happens.  Professional production is an absolute must, and AFS has perfected this.  Acting and casting must also be professional, as their films demonstrate.  As the overall quality of productions and casts improve, the final frontier for Christian films is the plot.  Once plots become more creative and deep, Christian movies will finally take the culture by storm.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Chasing Grace [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The wounds between two brothers are only deepened on one tragic day when the daughter of one of them is tragically killed in an avoidable accident.  The brothers and their families are immediately divided by hate and grief, which sends all of the family members spiraling and searching for answers in all the wrong places.  Secrets are kept and vices are sought, and the only way out is through confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation.  Will they return to the faith their profess with these actions?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

It is clear that a lot of time went into making this production, as most elements are fairly professional.  Camera work is mostly good except for some inconsistently shaky moments.  Video quality is on standard, but sometimes there is some randomly poorly-lit scenes.  Audio quality is fine and the soundtrack is intriguing.  Sets, locations, and props are all realistic and appropriate.  The editing is okay, but there are some confusing cuts and transitions and isolate the story.  But overall, these are all minor errors and the production as a whole meets industry standards.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Chasing Grace depicts a very interesting story, even if it is too slow to develop.  It contains many realistic circumstances and accessible struggles, but it also has a lot of dead sequences that don’t hold the attention.  There are a lot of long and drawn out conversations, but the characters are fairly well-developed.  Yet there are too many under-developed and vague subplots due to a confusing and disorienting presentation of events that includes unnecessarily missing gaps of time.  Family problems are given a fair look, but many of the problems presented are fixed far too easily and in ways that would never work in real life.  The Christian message is good, though there are some moments of melodrama.  Overall, this is a really good plot effort, especially in developing the characters, but as usual, we strongly feel like it could have been more.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

This is a highly professional casting job and lends the best elements to this film, as each actor and actress is cast appropriately and coaching well.  Even Rusty Martin Jr. posts a good performance.  There are only some minor errors among this cast, mostly of slightly overdone emotions.  Otherwise, this is a job well done.

Conclusion

Chasing Grace joins the ranks of middle-ground Christian films that stand out in the market due to their successful attempts at creating quality films.  However, it has a handful of small issues that hold it back from being all that it could be.  A character-driven story needs deep characters and a seamless plot that flows without confusion.  This is certainly difficult to pull off, especially when you have a lot of other elements to think about, but it is definitely possible and worth it in the end.  Films like this one are something to build off of for the future, so it will be interesting to see what the Catalyst team has planned next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Adrenaline [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Joseph Jenkins is a hotshot drag race car driver, but when he is suddenly crippled in a wreck, he feels like his life is over.  As he sulks in a hospital room, he doesn’t want to see anyone, but his roommate pulls him out of his shell and gives him a new purpose in life.  Then Joseph suddenly reconnects with an old friend of his father, whom he never knew.  Joseph soon finds a new lease on life and a chance at redemption, but will he be able to make his newfound faith his own?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Adrenaline is overall a mixed bag, including the production.  Video quality is fine, but camera work is too shaky, including a lot of odd camera angles.  Lighting is poor at first, but it improves as it goes.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is sometimes too loud.  However, sets, locations, and props are very professional.  Yet Adrenaline commits a common error of indie films—imperfect editing.  Cuts and transitions are very confusing and even sometimes spastic, thus making for a lot of choppy editing.  In the end, this is a good production effort, but some kinks still need to be worked out of it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, though it has some good messages, Adrenaline is a formulaic sports redemption plot with a predictable sequence.  The characters are somewhat stereotypical, though attempts are made to develop them.  However, it would be better to see them deeper because they are intriguing characters.  This can be done by making the dialogue more creative and complex.  Elsewhere, there are too many (unfortunately expected) sports and training montages, as well as a lot of wasted time.  It’s too bad because it feels like this plot has a lot of potential that it doesn’t reach.  Perhaps things will improve next time.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Even as a slightly amateur cast (except for John Schneider), the acting isn’t really that bad.  Even John Schneider is better than he has been in the past.  The cast members embrace their characters well.  The only issue to point out is some overdone emotions, but that’s easily fixed.  This shows great hope for the future.

Conclusion

With some experience working under the Kendricks, this creative team did pick up on a thing or two that they will likely be able to use to get even better in the future.  First movie mistakes can easily be forgiven, so it will be interesting to see what they have planned next.  With some better production funding and a more creative plot, as well as a continuously good cast, this team will be going places.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Confessions of a Prodigal Son (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sean Matthews couldn’t wait to strike out on his own and get out from under the confines of being a pastor’s son.  When given half of his inheritance with the stipulation of staying in school, Sean heads off to USC to live the party lifestyle.  He feels like he can do whatever he wants—that is, until he meets Ali, a girl who seems immune to his usual manipulation.  Thus, he pursues her in the hopes of winning her over, even though she is not interested in having a relationship.  They become friends and she changes Sean’s outlook on life.  When Sean comes to a crossroads, he will have to decide which path he wants to take.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Confessions of a Prodigal Son starts out fairly rough, like many freshman productions.  There is a lot of shaky camera work at first, including odd artistic angles, such as filming through crowds and from behind objects, as well as a lot of close-up shots.  However, this seems to improve as the movie goes.  Video quality is relatively stable throughout, but audio quality is another inconsistent factor, as it goes from cheap to quality over the span of ninety minutes.  The soundtrack is too loud at first and some audio is overdubbed, but these issues seem to work themselves out later.  Unfortunately, sets and locations are slightly cheap throughout the movie.  The editing is actually somewhat creative as the story is presented in a semi-out-of-order fashion that enhances interest.  Overall, this production seems to be a learning experience for the Lighting Dark team, which is perfectly reasonable, considering this is their first film.  The good news is that they will likely improve down the road.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The one thing we can say for Confessions of a Prodigal Son is that while the story is somewhat overused and predictable, at least it is presented in a creative and unique fashion.  This rendition of the famous parable will stand out from others because effort was made to be artistic and different.  At first, the narration seems too heavy-handed, but it becomes more justifiable later.  The portrayal of addicts is spot-on in this film, even if the solutions are little shallow.  There seems to be a lot of edgy content simply for the sake of having it and some important issues are treated too simply, probably to fit the story into the designated runtime.  Some characters are cheesy and have character arcs that are too steep, yet there are times when they are surprisingly well-crafted.  Though the messaging is somewhat obvious, it is still at least partially meaningful and is packaged in an artistic fashion that shows potential for the future.  In short, this movie is not all bad and stands out among others like it, which is all we ask for of new film makers.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like other elements in this film, the acting begins fairly rough and inexperienced.  There are some mumbled and slurred lines, yet there are also some overly-enunciated lines.  However, these issues work themselves out over time, like the other issues that were previously pointed out.  Emotions are mostly realistic throughout the film and line delivery certainly improves in the second half.  Overall, it is encouraging to see improvement throughout a movie rather than consistent negativity.

Conclusion

Confessions of a Prodigal Son is a mixed bag that carries with it the potential for greatness.  This is normal for a first-time film, as are the early production struggles.  If production and acting had been consistently professional and if the characters had been a little deeper through better dialogue, this film would have likely been Hall of Fame.  We are always encouraged to see new film makers that are trying to do the right things, so we anticipate greater things from the Lighting Dark team in the future.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Catastasis {Crisis Call} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Pastor Robert Peterson tells his congregation to do one thing, but does a different thing at home.  Everyone thinks he has it all together, but when a desperate man he once counseled comes back to haunt him, Robert is forced to look at his life in a very uncomfortable way.  The man has taken Robert’s son hostage and thus forces Robert to do a series of actions in order to get his son back.  Will anyone come out of this dangerous game alive?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

In a first-time production, it’s probably not a good idea to begin with the suspense genre.  It is difficult to pull off suspenseful scenes without taking production shortcuts, like the ones taken in this film.  Shaky camera work is one of these shortcuts, as are tight shots and poor lighting throughout.  While video quality is fine, the sets and locations are quite limited, probably on purpose.  Audio quality is mostly average and the soundtrack is a slight attempt to be interesting, but it falls short.  Finally, there is really not much editing to speak of as all content created appears to be included in the final cut.  In the end, we could almost pass this production off as a rookie attempt, but the shortcuts taken cannot be ignored.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

The mind of Anthony Hackett is difficult to comprehend.  Similar to his later work, Love Different, Crisis Call carries an unusual brand or flavor that cannot be replicated.  Yet rather than a comedy, this dark thriller is full of bizarre insinuations and asides, as well as strange characters and rambling dialogue.  The premise is slightly interesting, yet it is also off-putting and somewhat offensive.  There are a lot of dark and brooding elements that offer a lot of hopelessness but not near enough redemption.  Though the ending tries to bring some redemption into the picture, it is too little too late.  We are not saying that Christian films should not deal with gritty and difficult topics—this is not the case at all.  The problem with Crisis Call is that it deals with them in a very incorrect manner, almost as if it is obsessed with being purposely dark.  While we definitely need different genre films in Christian entertainment, this is certainly not the way to go about this.  The offensive nature of this plot warrants negative points.

Acting Quality (0 points)

In a small cast such as this one, every little errors is amplified.  There are not enough positive elements to overcome to negative ones, which include overdone emotions and yelling, as well as many forced and overly practiced lines.  The villain actor is far too maniacal and seems to enjoy being creepy.  Unfortunately, we cannot award any points here.

Conclusion

Anthony Hackett is certainly not afraid of trying different things.  Both of his films are memorable—for all the wrong reasons.  If his goal was to get attention and leave a mark, he succeeded.  Now he needs to move past his first two efforts and seek to harness his creatively in more constructive ways.  Believe it or not, he really does have potential as a film maker, if he has the proper direction and a good team behind him.  It should be interesting to see what he comes up with next.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Where is Good? (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Hannah Bailey has always wanted a child.  She and her husband, who is a pastor, have prayed and always supported pro-life causes, but they can never have one of their own.  Carla Owens is a detective determined to bring an elusive yet serial rapist to justice, all while battling unforeseen medical problems.  Then, the unthinkable happens that brings these two women together with a common goal.  Yet in the midst of it all, where is God when He says all things will work together for good?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, the production of Where is Good? is fairly professional, but there are some issues that keep it average.  Video quality and camera work are on standard.  However, there is too much blank audio quality and dead air, as well as an inconsistent soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and are utilized well.  However, the editing is somewhat amateurish as scenes either cut back and forth too quickly, chop off at awkward points, or lag too long.  These errors make for a confusing experience and drag down the overall quality.  Thus, this production must be rated as average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

From the beginning on, Where is Good? appears to be trying to push a very clear point, and this is accomplished by using juvenile, obvious, and sometimes grasping dialogue.  Unfortunately, though there is a lot of it, the dialogue does nothing to help the characters feel accessible or realistic.  Some very interesting issues are raised and explored throughout this plot, but they are portrayed in a very simplistic manner that causes the story to seem unrealistic and contrived.  There are too many disjointed subplots that cause the storyline to lack focus, even though the purpose is clear.  Too many flat, dry sequences cause the runtime to extend too far and overstay its welcome.  However, even though things are all over the place for almost two hours of this film and the presentation of these issues is amateurish, for roughly the last ten minutes of the film, an interesting twist materializes that casts the entire story in a new light.  Unfortunately, it’s too little too late and this idea is mostly wasted.  It would be interesting to see this plot rewritten, because there is some potential here that it mostly left on the proverbial field.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While there are some bright spots among this mostly amateur cast, there are quite a few issues that reflect poor acting coaching.  Sometimes line delivery is too forceful and dramatic, while other times it is too breathy.  Emotions are inconsistent, and there is far too much yelling.  In the end, it just comes out as average.

Conclusion

Where is Good? joins the growing list of Christian films that desperately need a remake because of the innovative and creative ideas they carry in damaged packaging.  There are many unique concepts locked inside of seemingly incomplete films that need to be either partially tweaked or completely refurbished so that they can have full impact on the entertainment field.  One day, perhaps some of them will be remade, but at the very least, future film makers can learn from the their mistakes and not repeat them.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Badge of Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Bryan Lawrence was a well-respected police officer who was caught in an unfortunately violent situation that ended with him becoming paralyzed.  However, through this very difficult situation, he fought to keep his optimism up as his family came around him and supported him.  Though it was deemed impossible, Bryan sought to walk again with the goal of walking his future daughter-in-law down the aisle.  Times were hard and sometimes he and his family felt like giving up, but his faith in God always kept him grounded.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Badge of Faith is clearly a well-funded production with professional caliber video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is somewhat generic but is respectable.  Sets, locations, and props are highly realistic and appropriate.  There is little negative to speak about here, except for the fact that the editing seems unfinished in that some scenes seem abruptly cut off before they’re done.  However, despite this issue, this is a nearly perfect production that the creators should be proud of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This story is a very inspiring real-life story, but one has to question how it is presented in this film.  As it is, the storyline is fairly boring and somewhat flat, even though there is a lot of potentially interesting content here.  For instance, there are too many montages that stunt character development.  Even though there are some good attempts at developing the characters through realistic dialogue, since there are not many characters and since this is a character-driven plot, we would have liked to see further development.  Though there are many pertinent and accessible issues explored in this film, the storyline overall lacks the necessary continuity and driving purpose that would make this movie dynamic.  Though the struggles of the characters can be appreciated, it feels like this is just a string of random sequences.  In the end, Stone Table Films knows how to find a realistic story and make a movie out of, but like Touched by Grace, the plot of Badge of Faith leaves something to be desired.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The acting is definitely the strongest point of this film.  The cast is highly professional and well-coached.  Each member is case highly appropriately.  Emotions are very realistic and line delivery is on point.  There are no errors to point out here.

Conclusion

It is certainly enjoyable and refreshing to watch the movies produced by the Stone Table team, but it is also frustrating to see the potential they left behind.  If Touched by Grace and Badge of Faith had slightly better plot improvement, each of these films would be on the Hall of Fame.  Yet the Stone Table team is continually improving, so there is great hope for their future.  We firmly believe they will keep trying until they finally get that blockbuster release.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Reading Kate (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Michael O’Neil is down on his luck and all alone, except for this daughter.  But when he receives word that his estranged separated wife, Kate, is dying of a chronic disease, he jumps at the chance to discover how much money she has.  Yet in meeting her again and reconnecting with her, he begins fulfilling her final wishes and discovers that the two of them still have something in common.  As Michael reads Kate books to honor her, their conversations turn to eternal things and nature of the afterlife.  They must both make significant decisions that will impact their lives forever.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

After several years of struggling productions, the Kelly’s Filmworks team has finally discovered a winning formula.  Though this film is entirely black and white, it definitely adds to the experience and makes it a unique standout.  Video quality and audio quality are majorly improved from past films.  Camera work is still artistic at times, but Jefferson and Kelly Moore have finally embraced their true artistry.  The original soundtrack is very interesting and creative.  Sets and locations are somewhat limited in this film, but that is justified given the story.  The biggest issue here is the editing, as there are one too many montages.  Yet in the end, the production of Reading Kate demonstrates real improvement and gives great hope for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

After several years of dead-end plots, Jefferson and Kelly Moore have finally discovered who they truly are as film makers, and this is reflected in the characters they play.  They have embraced their personalities and have let them flow into the dialogue of these characters.  This dialogue builds them into realistic people that we can connect with and relate to.  However, the overuse of montages keeps us from getting to know these characters at a deeper level, which is sometimes we would have liked to see happen in this film.  Yet nonetheless, Reading Kate is an honest, character-driven story that draws on the true talents of Jefferson and Kelly Moore.  There is some dry comedy throughout, yet some of it is funny.  It offers a unique Christian message and intriguing psychological elements that make the viewer think.  Though the ending is somewhat abrupt, yet also thought-provoking.  In the end, while there is still a little work to do, we are excited about the direction the Moores have chosen to go with their plots.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Though this film utilizes many of the typical Kelly’s Filmworks actors and actresses, there demonstrate significant improvement in their performances.  This is actually the most improved category, as Jefferson Moore sheds his old personas and trades them for an embracing of his true self.  Kelly Moore also finally demonstrates her acting talents that we never had a good chance to see before.  Two-character conversation films are hard to effectively act in, but the two of them work well together.  Though there are some minor line delivery issues that keep this section form being perfect, this is still something to be excited about.

Conclusion

Sometimes it takes film companies a little longer than others to find themselves and to find where they fit in the industry.  Though we have been critical of the work of the Moores in the past, the good thing is that they did not give up and kept trying.  The progression of 1 Message, Pieces of Easter, and now Reading Kate demonstrates concerted improvement, which is all we ask of film makers.  Now that the older days of low-quality films are behind them, we can’t wait to see what the Moores have in store next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Streams in the Desert, Part 2: Words of Life (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Lettie and Charles Cowman answered God’s call to missions, He called them to Japan to minister.  However, they faced many obstacles in their ministry, including health struggles.  Though they were forced to leave and come back to the United States, their hearts were always set on missions in Asia as they gave their lives to the calling of God.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Words of Life at least looks better on the surface than Discovering God’s Call.  Video quality is still fine, and camera work has improved in the second installment.  However, audio quality is still quite poor, including the same old loud soundtrack.  Care is still given to historical authenticity, for the most part, but sets and locations are still limited, which makes this attempted epic look cheesy.  Editing is also an issue in this part as there is still a lot of unnecessary content to boost the runtime, yet there is also a great amount of off-screen content that is neglected.  In short, the Streams in the Desert experiment totally failed production standards, especially since it was recently made.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As if we missed anything in the first part, the first ten to fifteen minutes of Words of Life rehashes what you might have missed in Discovering God’s Call.  Actually, this little recap renders the entire first part useless because it gives you the boring highlights.  Much like the first part, Words of Life relies heavily on narration and long, extended sequences that could put an audience to sleep.  Once again, there are no meaningful attempts to help the viewer to connect with the characters by making them even the slightest bit realistic.  The dialogue is still very archaic, empty, and stilted.  As previously mentioned, there is a great deal of off-screen content that is talked about but not shown, likely due to budget constraints.  There are too many scenes that depict characters doing things that don’t really look like that’s what they’re actually doing.  In short, despite over two hours of plot content, there is nothing to help us believe this is a realistic story, thus making it a failed epic.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This is same song, different verse once again.  Acting is very unsure, with the same unnatural and measure line delivery, and the same flat, nonexistent emotions.  A new feature of Words of Life, however, is the cultural shortcuts taken.  What is the point of making a film about Asian missions when you have no intention to cast a single Asian cast member?  This is beyond tacky and further begs the question as to why this two-part disaster was even allowed to be made.

Conclusion

Though this true story is long, it is presented in such a way that two and a half hours of content are completely unnecessary.  What puzzles me is that there was enough funding to produce this much film but not enough funding to make it a quality project.  What if they reduced the runtime and put more money towards actually making the production respectable?  What if they tried to write a better story with more realistic dialogue?  What if the cast was coached to be more natural?  There are a lot of ‘what ifs’ in the Christian film world that are never really answered, and Streams in the Desert is just another example of a well-intentioned effort with nothing to back it up.  Thus, we must return to the rule of thumb in Christian film making: if the budget is not there to make a quality film, don’t make it.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Streams in the Desert, Part 1: Discovering God’s Call (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

While on a train ride to Chicago, a Christian movie actress ends up sitting across from Lettie Cowman, the author of her favorite Christian devotional, Streams in the Desert.  While in route to their destination, Lettie relays the story of her early life and how she came to know her husband.  After they married, Lettie and her husband felt the Lord’s call to the mission field, so they answered the call and found many great things in store for them.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

For such a new production, the low quality demonstrated by this film is unacceptable.  The only good thing about this production is its video quality.  Otherwise, camera work is unusual, including odd zooms.  Audio quality is deplorable and very echoed.  The soundtrack is stock and is sometimes too loud.  Sets and locations are severely limited, although most of the props are historically accurate.  There are far too many long and empty scenes that demonstrate a lack of adequate editing.  It seems like a lot of content is included just to pad the runtime and make it possible for two of these films to be produced.  In short, when compared with the rising standard of production in Christian film, Discovering God’s Call is very much below par and is very disappointing.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

To make this story into two films, Discovering God’s Call is literally one long conversation between two characters with nothing to break it up except for extremely drab and dry flashback scenes, which are also quite lengthy.  Though it is based on a true story that could have been interesting, the plot is incredibly boring and in no way holds the attention.  The dialogue is very archaic, awkward, and cumbersome, which causes the characters to be extremely cardboard and stiff.  The way this story is presented makes us even wonder why we care about the mundane activities of daily living these people did.  Even though this idea could be meaningful and interesting, it is not presented that way in this film, which shows a lot of wasted potential here.  In the end, this is just another embarrassing disappointment.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Not that they were given much help or that their lines were easy to say, but this incredibly tiny cast falls short of standards.  Without coaching, they are extremely robotic and wooden, using overly practiced and downright unnatural line delivery.  Emotions are nonexistent and flat—everything seems monotone.  The only redeeming quality here is the good historical costuming.  Otherwise, this section tops off a big waste of time.

Conclusion

Since a lot of this historical account takes place off screen from this film, what was the point of making two parts to this?  It would be one thing if the two parts actually formed a real historical epic, but this is just an extended and awkward local news interview.  It might as well be a docu-drama.  This is certainly not the way to make a modern film, especially one that is supposed to be an epic.  Streams in the Desert is nothing short of a disappointment…but wait…we still have another one of these to review…

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

A Horse Called Bear (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Ethan’s mother dies in a car wreck, he inherits everything she owned, especially her horse, called Bear!  Therefore, he decides to forsake all of his other possessions and his college scholarship to learn ‘computers’ and go to live with his aunt and uncle so he can be near his new horse.  As he wrestles with his life’s purpose and meets new friends, Bear is always there to bring them all together.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

This is likely one of Crystal Creek Media’s best productions, as it has good video quality and professional camera work, although some of the camera work tends to be too artistic.  Audio quality is fine, though the soundtrack is incredibly boring.  The same old sets and locations from all the Crystal Creek films, with some exceptions, are used again.  Finally, there are a lot of editing problems, including too many lagging scenes and not enough fluff being edited out.  There are too many repeated and useless sequences, as well as scenery sequences, that just fill time.  Basically, though they have made some strides, they still have some work to do.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s extremely difficult to grasp the purpose of this film.  The plot summary above is basically it, sans a few extra rabbit trail subplots that never seem to come to anything.  There are too many meandering and disconnected elements, thus causing the story to overall lack focus and direction.  From one scene to the next, it is hard to tell what is really happening or what the viewer is supposed to focus on.  Dialogue is extremely formal and empty at the time, thus creating cardboard characters.  There are too many trite and plastic Christian platitudes with no substance or meaning behind them.  Next time, the Crystal Creek team needs to give better scrutiny to their plots before letting the movie go to production.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Utilizing the same cast members over and over again can be cheap and easy, but it doesn’t pay off unless you have some serious acting coaching.  With this many films under the belts of these cast members, they should be getting better with experience, but they’re not.  There is a severe lack of emotion among this cast and too many lazy performances.  Unfortunately, this is another disappointing effort.

Conclusion

We still believe that the Crystal Creek team has good intentions—they just need a lot of direction and deepening.  They certainly persevere as they continue to put out film after film.  Since they have this drive, we ask that they use each film as a learning opportunity to get better and better.  Their production skills have slightly improved over time, but other areas are still suffering.  Perhaps as they continue to truck along, they will keep learning how to get better.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Alison’s Choice (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Alison is young and pregnant and she has no idea what to do.  Her boyfriend Rick is pressuring her to ‘take care of it’, so she drives herself to the abortion clinic and tries to go through with it, even though she is not sure.  As she continues to go back and forth in her decision, she meets a mysterious janitor who seems to know everything about her.  He tries to convince her not to end her baby’s life, but Alison is still torn.  As the clock ticks down, will she be able to make the right decision before time runs out?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The good thing about Alison’s Choice is that the production quality is nearly flawless.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all very professional.  However, the soundtrack is somewhat typical.  Though the film is limited to basically one set and location, it is utilized well and the props therein are realistic and appropriate.  Really the only production problems to point out pertain to editing, as there are too many wasted scenes and sequences included and too many long scenes.  But despite this fact, it is very clear that great care was taken to make this production excellent.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the rest of this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

We went into Alison’s Choice with an open mind—we really did.  We still really love the idea behind this film, which keeps this portion from being zero or worse.  Yet this is one of the most horribly wasted ideas on the face of the earth.  Much like David A. R. White and Kirk Cameron, Bruce Marchiano’s movie making style has no respect for subtlety, as everything must be plainly spelled out in black and white without trusting the audience to figure things out on their own.  The Jesus character must be obviously highlighted through dialogue, and other dialogue elements are also extremely forceful.  There is nothing to do in this story except have characters talk (there’s nothing inherently wrong with this if it’s done correctly), but the conversations in this film contain some of the most bizarre insinuations and comments that make for an extremely unusual experience.  There are overt racial stereotypes and borderline racist jokes, not to mention weird comments about biology.  The portrayal of pro-abortion characters is largely strawman and downright embarrassing.  As the conversations meander on and weird things continue happening, Alison’s Choice really just boils down to a cringeworthy portrayal of the pro-life argument combined with a wasted idea.  It’s such a disappointment.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Some of these cast members could be good actors and actresses if they had coaching.  As it is, most of the cast members act like they have been instructed to ad-lib and ramble on in order to fill time.  It’s very hard to believe that some of the sequences of dialogue were actually written as the actors and actresses appear to strain for something to say.  Most of them are either extremely awkward or very over the top, including some laughable racial stereotypes.  In short, there is nothing in this film done subtly or tastefully.

Conclusion

It feels like Alison’s Choice is the Twilight Zone.  There are so many out of place and unnecessary commentaries, besides the ramblings of Bruce Marchiano and other cast members.  This film is essentially another version of The Encounter, just more disappointing.  Marchiano and his team get high marks for production effort, but they completely lost out on the rest of the movie.  This story needed a total rewrite before it was allowed to film, to ensure that this idea was not wasted.  The cast members also needed coaching and refinement.  Though we have been accused of personal attacks in the past and though some lives have been changed as a result of this film, we cannot help but feel that Marchiano’s ego is the thing that keeps Alison’s Choice from being all that it can be.  This is unfortunate, for there was an opportunity for a blockbuster film here.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Redemption of the Heart [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Alex Montoya has backslidden from his Christian faith, and now he finds himself under the weight of financial debt.  Desperate for money, he agrees to help his friend scam church members for money using a false charity front.  However, a kind man named Jacob soon sees through their scheme, yet wants to offer Alex a second chance.  Will Alex turn away from his double life and back to the faith he was raised in?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Though the video quality of this production is okay, it is really the only good element to it.  Camera work is fairly shaky and audio quality is relatively poor.  The soundtrack is loud and amateurish.  Sets and locations are mostly limited and need a little bit more work done on them.  Furthermore, the editing leaves something to be desired as there are too many montages and extended flat scenes.  Overall, there just seems like there’s a lot of corners being cut in this production, which is unacceptable in a film this new.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Redemption of the Heart follows a very predictable and stereotypical plot line.  Things happen because the pre-determined plot mold determined that they needed to happen; thus, the characters are swept along in inevitability.  Yet sometimes the premise is too vague, making it hard for the audience to understand what is happening some of the time.  There is a lot of off screen content mentioned, along with a lot of confusing dialogue that creates cardboard characters.  There is an attempt at a plot twist at the end, but it is introduced so late that it only leaves the viewers scratching their heads.  In the end, this story is so formulaic that it is unlikely to be easily remembered.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, many of these cast members look very fake and unnatural.  A majority of the line delivery is very stilted and awkward, with some of the lines being very indiscernible.  Any emotions seem very forced and empty.  Alas, this section rounds out another disappointing effort.

Conclusion

Redemption of the Heart is one of those films that will be forgotten shortly after it is watched.  It is a prime example of why it’s never a good idea to slap together a project just for the sake of releasing another Christian film.  The market doesn’t need to be flooded with more and more half-hearted attempts at Christian movies.  We say this all the time, but it still remains true: taking your time on a movie to make it quality, making sure you have the proper funding, writing a complex plot with good characters, and coaching your cast members well always, always, always pays off in the end.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

David and Goliath [2015] (Movie Review)

I AM GOD YOU ARE NOTHING!!!!!!!!

Plot Summary

Travel back to that historical moment when the British Jews in construction hats were hanging around in the desert waiting to fight the eye-shadow-challenged PhilistInes until they saw the guttural wonder known as Goliath and became too afraid to fight.  So they reverted back to standing around talking, wandering around in circles, and riding their horses around camp.  Then along came the pastiest white British man ever—Michelangelo’s David—who decided that he was going to fight the giant action figure across the valley.  After much deliberation, arguing, and talking, the pasty white man ventures forth to fight the giant.  If you made it this far into the film and haven’t been paid off by Timothy Chey, you know how bad it is.

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

With millions of dollars flushed down the toilet for this disaster, you would think that Timothy Chey and crew would be able figure out how to put together a professional production.  But apparently they wasted too much of their funding on the ‘dangerous’ international location to care about how to keep audio quality from constantly screeching and overdriving.  Despite the international endeavor, the sets are terrible and childish.  The soundtrack is very generic and loud, like much of the other audio.  Video quality is low for no reason and camera work is average at best.  A lot of the outside scenes are poorly filmed, with constant extras and horses walking around in front of the camera.  There are also a lot of poor special effects used, along with obvious animation to cover up production shortcuts.  In the end, the world of Timothy Chey defies reality in many ways, especially when he is somehow raising tens of millions of dollars to fund these outright calamities.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In a terrible attempt to portray the Biblical story of David and Goliath, this plot is really just about delaying the inevitable.  As the whitest and most British man alive plays David, all the British characters waste time standing around (with horses and people constantly going round and round them) talking and arguing about what they are going to do and debriefing about what’s going to happen next.  It feels like the same conversations repeat over and over again, and the sayings of Goliath most definitely and literally repeat over and over again, like he’s a giant action figure.  Once it finally gets to the so-called climax, it really wasn’t worth waiting for.  Besides this, there are tons of the typical Timothy Chey bizarre elements, such as likening the PhilistInes to a Satanic cult and having Goliath literally drink blood from a cow head.  There is just so much here that cannot even be covered or explained, but needless to say, only watch this film if you don’t pay for it and if you need a good laugh.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

Besides this cast being extremely BRITISH, the costuming is among the worst.  They blew millions of dollars on international travel but couldn’t even put together a decent historical costume that doesn’t look like it was a repurposed construction uniform.  The makeup is also among the worst we have ever witnessed, with coal spilled all over the PhilistInes’ faces.  The cast members therein (especially Goliath) make all kinds of weird guttural sounds and mumbled lines, not to mention the constant yelling and screaming.  Basically, we could just go on and on about the twilight zone of Timothy Chey.

Conclusion

One only has to look to the International Movie Database user reviews of Chey’s films to see just how far his insanity extends.  He clearly has a following of paid reviewers that constantly extol his works in an attempt to ‘correct the record’ (lol) about how the only reason anybody doesn’t like his movies is because they are carnal Christians who stole the movie off of the internet and live in their parents’ basements.  Go ahead and check them out—you’ll see where a good portion of Chey’s budget goes.  But this notwithstanding, what was someone thinking when they enabled this train wreck to happen?  Needless to say, Chey hopefully will not be handed this much funding again any time soon, but stranger things have happened…

 

Final Rating: -2 out of 10 points

 

One More Round [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jake Taylor is a down-on-his-luck former boxer who is plagued by a mistake from his past that cost him his boxing career.  Ever since then, he has been struggling to hold down a job, his marriage is a mess, and his house is about to be foreclosed on.  When it seems like everything is about to fall apart, he suddenly stumbles upon his old trainers again and decides that his only shot at life may be through picking up the gloves again to fight.  Will Jake be able to fight through one more round to save his family and his finances?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

In One More Round, Rossetti Productions has taken on more than it can handle in a production.  Though camera work and video quality are mostly fine, many other production elements are not.  Audio quality is very poor, as background noises and echoes are very loud.  The soundtrack is also loud and out of place, sometimes covering up dialogue.  Sets, locations, and props are quite cheap-looking and seem like they are just slapped together.  Finally, the editing is poor as scenes awkwardly cut and as they abruptly transition between each other.  In short, though sports productions require extra effort to make them quality, this effort was not present in One More Round.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This plot unfortunately falls into the trap of a typical sports premise depicting a down-on-his-luck former athlete that has to get back into the sport in order to save something in his life, usually for financial reasons.  The troubled athlete is usually hated by some people and is typically having relationship problems and struggling with his identity.  The athlete has an epiphany moment that causes him to get back into the sport of choice, usually under the guidance of his old trainer, and training montages ensue.  The climax is always the ultimate showdown between the troubled athlete and his arch-nemesis, which the athlete wins against all odds and reclaims glory and his broken relationships.  All of these clichéd ideas are present in One More Round, except that this story also slaps a trite Christian message on top of this to make it marketable in Christian circles.  Thus, in this one-track-mind plot produces flat, one-dimensional characters that are based on empty and forced dialogue.  As the plot jumps from one thing to the next, trying to cover all of the high points, the audience is easily lost in the shuffle.  In the end, unfortunately, this story was not really worth forcing to become a movie.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This is a very poor casting job that leaves the cast members with no real assistance or coaching.  A lot of the performances are juvenile and childish, with some being over the top.  Line delivery is very punctuated and stiff and emotions are not very accessible.  Some cast members look very fake.  Needless to say, the Rossetti team has not had much success with casting.

Conclusion

There’s not really much else to say that hasn’t been said.  One More Round is based on a worn out idea and is not even executed properly.  It would be one thing if the idea was unoriginal and the execution was positive, but this is not even the case.  The Rossetti team is decent at marketing their films, but at what cost?  Their reputation is becoming very disappointing and this will hurt their future work.  The main lesson that can be learned from their films is always focus on quality over quantity.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

The List [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jack Stone was dealt a bad hand as a foster kid, but he decided to strike out on his own and not let it get him down.  With hard work and determination, he completed law school and passed the bar before landing himself a lucrative job at a top law firm.  He always abided by his list of goals, and one of them was to start a family, so once he finally found the woman of his dreams, they become frustrated when they cannot have children.  But one day a miracle occurs, yet Jack consistently puts his work first.  Eventually, he will have to face the ultimate choice of what is important in his life.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The List unfortunately had a limited budget, as most startup films do.  There is shaky camera work and one too many dark lighting scenes.  Audio quality is seemingly inconsistent, including a loud soundtrack.  Sets and locations are fairly realistic.  As for the editing, there are too many awkward cuts and transitions in pursuit of cramming tons of content into this film.  However, it seems like more money was given to the second half of the film, as the production quality overall improves as the movie goes on.  With that being said, it might have been better to make this film shorter so that money was saved and used more wisely.  In the end, this is an average effort and is commendable for a pilot.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

It was very difficult to concisely summarize the plot of this film above because this story tries to cover so much content all at once.  Beginning with a collection of unexplained and random scenes, The List grows and changes as the story jumps all over the place with no continuity.  In an attempt to be an epic, all focus and purpose are lost in pursuit of covering ground and making time pass.  There are also too many failed attempts at comedy and other wasted scenes that do nothing to build characters.  Things just randomly happen and the empty and mindless characters are swept up in them.  They need much more development and deepening through better dialogue.  The only thing that keeps this plot from being a zero is the good message that is hidden somewhere in here.  With this, there are loads of untapped potential that make for a disappointing watch.

Acting Quality (1 point)

As a slightly amateurish cast, sometimes the performances here can be lazy and goofy.  At other times, the cast members seem robotic and overly coached.  Thus, emotions are sometimes hard to connect with and lines are sometimes delivered awkwardly.  But there are also good aspects to this cast as they show some potential for the future.

Conclusion

Epics are very hard to make and should be seldom attempted unless there is a really good (and probably true) story for the plot to build on.  Characters must be developed even though time is passing quickly, and this is a difficult feat to pull off.  If the creative team is not prepared to make an epic perfect, it can easily become a huge failure.  Sometimes it’s better to stick with small ideas, especially if you are still trying to hone your film making skills.  However, this team has potential for the future and we look forward to what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Return [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Leah of Nod is a thief and has never known anything else.  she spends her days stealing from unsuspecting villagers.  She is being controlled by the evil Dybbuk and doesn’t think she can get out.  But one day, a huntsman named Yadid comes to town and Leah meets him.  He is unlike any man she has ever met and he treats her different than Dybbuk treats her.  But when Leah is accused of wrongdoing and sentenced to death, who will stand up for her?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

With an obvious low budget, the production of The Return is quite cheap, although it seems like it’s the best the team could have done with what they had.  Camera work and video quality are almost passable, but the audio quality is quite bad.  The soundtrack is too loud at times and is too generic.  Though this allegory relies on the quality of its sets, props, and locations, these elements are very cheap and drag the movie down.  Finally, the editing is very unprofessional, with awkward cuts and transitions that make for a choppy presentation.  In the end, since this genre required a more substantial budget, it might have been a better idea to not try to force it to happen with limited resources.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Allegories are always interesting, and it’s refreshing to have a movie from a different genre, but The Return is somewhat simplistic and even childish at times.  The scope and premise are very limited and there are far too few characters.  The small number of characters only highlights the fact that the dialogue is extremely empty and cheesy.  There are too many allegorical concepts that are isolating and need better explanation.  These ideas also need further expansion and development in order to be more substantial.  They are not effective because they are too shallow, thus rendering the allegory almost pointless.  The ending is also confusing and isolating.  In the end, The Return is a nice idea but is greatly short-sighted and underdeveloped.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

While is some potential in this cast, they seem quite amateurish and need further coaching.  It seems like they mean well, but they are misguided.  There are too many awkward moments and emotions.  Line delivery random.  Overall, this cast definitely would have benefitted from substantial coaching.

Conclusion

The Return is a half-idea that needed a lot more deepening before it was allowed to go into production.  With a very limited budget and an incomplete concept, more time needed to be given to this project before it was forced into creation.  Allegorical films can be very powerful tools if used properly, but without careful planning, like in the case of The Return, it can become a big disappointment.  There is absolutely a place for this type of film in the Christian entertainment industry, but it must be done properly.  Perhaps in the future, this will happen.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Uncommon [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Aaron Chase’s brother dies in a school shooting, his family moves to a new area in the hopes of starting over.  He ends up going to Rosewood High School, whose arts department budgets have been slashed due to overall budget cuts.  The students in those departments are disappointed and seek to put on their own show.  Aaron gets involved and decides to stand up for the faith he has been hiding, even though an evil atheist teacher is trying to stop him at every turn.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For what it’s worth, Liberty Counsel and JC Films made sure Uncommon looked good on the surface.  Video quality is clear and camera work is professional.  Audio quality also meets industry standards, although the soundtrack is bloated and full of cheesy songs.  Sets, locations, and props demonstrate that time was put into them.  Yet editing is quite poor, as there are far too many musical montages and filler scenes that appear to just be filling up the runtime rather than imparting real content.  Essentially, care was put into making this production look good, which is fine, but it’s just not enough when it comes to substance.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As is to be expected, Liberty Counsel and JC Films construct a false reality where religious persecution is rampant in public schools—to a degree that is unrealistic and requires half-truths to be told—and which is full of heavy-handed propaganda messaging and narration to drive their points home.  Atheists are extremely offensive strawmen, while Christians are downtrodden and overly perfect.  Dialogue only forces the plot along, which is actually quite boring and melancholy when all is said and done.  There is an attempt to be complex and different with some of the plot elements, but it’s not enough to make up for the outright twisting of reality that has to be done to make this movie’s message work.  Basically, when all is said and done, Uncommon simply boils down to a sophisticated version of God’s Club.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Another interesting element to Uncommon is that time and care were also put into the casting and acting.  This is a semi-professional cast, yet they appear to be coached fairly well.  There are some awkward moments and unrealistic emotions, but on the whole, this is actually not that bad of a performance by this cast.  If only this truth could translate to other films.

Conclusion

Uncommon is an anomaly.  Usually movies that have small-minded plots like this one are terrible in all areas, yet time and care were spent on production and acting.  It proves that anything can be done if you put your mind to it.  Just think if this type of effort was put toward other movies that have better plots than this.  But in the end, Christians overall need to steer clear from these types of plots for like forever, unless they’re going to portray real persecution that happens anywhere except the Western world.  We need to change the mentality that ‘the atheists’ are always around the corner trying to snipe us and just live out our faith the way God wants us to.  Jesus didn’t constantly gripe at or sue the Pharisees or Romans for religious persecution, and He had plenty of His ‘rights’ violated.  God’s work can proceed whether or not you have your Bible club in a public school.  People need to know that Christians care, and with stuff like this being put out there, it’s really hard to see that Christian leaders care about anything except ‘getting back’ at atheists.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points