Mission Improbable [2016] (Movie Review)

Mission Improbable (2016)

Plot Summary

The lives of several substance abusers and a pastor who lives a luxurious ministry lifestyle suddenly become interconnected as God leads each them down different paths to the same place: a Christian substance abuse rehab. They all have different motives and different reasons for being there, but by the time it’s done, none of them will be the same. However, when each person’s past comes calling, how will they respond?

Production Quality (1 point)

One of the most glaring problems with this production is that it’s over-extended and cannot adequately portray what it’s meant to portray. This is evidenced by very cheap and limited sets, locations, and props, as well as poor lighting throughout. The audio quality, both indoor and outdoor, are also both inadequate. While the video quality is mostly fine, there are a lot of strange camera angles. Also, while the editing is mostly fine, this is overall a very cheap production that really has no place in this era of Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While this film seeks to portray unfortunately realistic circumstances that can be found virtually anywhere in America, it does so in a very tone-deaf manner. Substance abuse is a real and serious issue, but this movie treats it solely like a spiritual issue (there are spiritual components, but not only that) and does so in a very legalistic and unrealistic fashion, such as implying that praying and becoming a Christian immediately cures substance abuse. However, there is a refreshingly honest look at church problems, even if the bad characters are total strawmen, especially the ‘bad’ women. It doesn’t help that all of the dialogue is painfully forced and has a very archaic style and tone about it. As such, the conversations do nothing to build or grow characters even though there are very steep character arcs that come as a result of reading Bible verses, which are also highly unrealistic. In the end, everything is magically fixed when the characters act as the plot wants them to act. Essentially, this is a worthwhile topic to explore in film, but screenwriters need to do so in the context of actual research about and\or experience with substance abuse rather than the total ignorance this film displays.

Acting Quality (0 points)

To top things off, this film contains some of the worst acting of the past few years. This poor quality includes weird scenes of cast members talking to themselves and is most represented by the very awkward and overly-practiced tone of the acting. Many cast members seem self-impressed for no reason and demonstrate tone-deaf emotional and line delivery. Elsewhere, emotions are extremely forced to the point parody. In the end, this film has very little going for it.

Conclusion

Nearly every movie starts off with a good idea. One of the most error-prone areas of Christian film is converting that good idea into a movie that’s worthwhile, high-quality, and accessible by several different audiences. If a film can’t be understood or can’t properly relate to people, there’s really no hope for it. This besetting sin of Christian film is an overall symptom of problems facing the church: American Christians, as a generalization (there are always exceptions), have difficult time understanding real people because they don’t know them very well. Until this changes, Christian film as a whole won’t change on the large scale.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

One Church (Movie Review)

Image result for one church christian movie

Plot Summary

Cornelius Barlow is a devious politician who has had a vendetta against organized religion ever since his daughter was killed by a cult. Instead of eradicating religion, however, once he becomes President of the United States, he decides to make his own united religion by bringing all faiths together and by forcing them to work together. Unfortunately, this doesn’t go as simply as he planned as he faces opposition from a secret resistance who claims that they know the only truth of salvation: Jesus Christ. Will their numbers be able to survive the coming persecution?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

One Church is one of those Christian suspense films that bites off more than it can chew in the production department. This is evident by the shaky camera work, the loud soundtrack and sound effects, and the inconsistent audio that is sometimes muted. There are also a lot of tight shots and a weird aspect ratio, along with some randomly blurry camera shots and odd camera angles. Some scenes also cut off very abruptly as if this is an early cut that wasn’t finished. However, not all is bad in this production as there are some elements that are fine throughout, such as the sets, locations, and props, which keep this production from being below average. Even still, if the funding and resources aren’t there for a good suspense plot, it’s better to not make it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While this is an interesting attempt at a different type of plot, it’s based too much on far-fetched concepts and ‘bad’ characters that are total strawmen and get worse as the film progresses. The premise also progressively become more unrealistic, and large time jumps hurt any hope there was of plot and character growth. Time is mostly spent on montages, which leaves characters shallow and the purpose of the film unclear. One thing happens after the next in very rapid fashion, and expository dialogue is used as a shortcut. There are too many vague ideas that are started without backup or follow-through, and sequences of boring activities are used in place of actual conversations between characters that could help us get to know them as people. In the end, the story ends in a very awkward and abrupt fashion that makes it even more unclear why this movie was even made.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, the acting is fine without any major problems, even though it’s underwhelming and vanilla at times. Sometimes, dialogue is slightly mumbled, and line delivery is under-performing at times. It seems like some cast members become more and more dramatic as the film goes on, and other case members don’t do enough to make up for these poor performances. However, the early acting does enough to keep this section average, which rounds out an overall blah movie.

Conclusion

The JC Films team still hasn’t found itself in movie-making. They are disjointed and disconnected from both reality and relevance in the film world. They have a lot of ambitions and want to try different things (sometimes), but they have no foundation or basis for what they do. This likely won’t change until they begin retaining real screenwriters and actually put their funding and resources to good use.

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

On Wings of Eagles [2016] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Eric Liddell was a Scottish Olympic gold medalist, an accomplished educator, and a dedicated family man who was called to take the Gospel to China in the 1930s and 1940s. He faced hardship and persecution from the Communist government, but he never gave up in his mission to run, to educate children, and to share the Gospel with whoever he came in contact with. Though he died in captivity, he left a lasting legacy with all who knew him and beyond.

Production Quality (2 points)

It’s apparent that good effort was put into making this production professional, which is evidenced by great video quality and camera work, as well as a good use of international sets and locations. The props are culturally authentic, and the soundtrack is very effective. However, this production is kept from being perfect because of some inconsistent audio quality and some fake-looking special effects that should have been better. Further, the editing is fairly poor as there are some awkward cuts and transitions and since there is a lot of content that is not handled very well. Even so, this is a good production that is above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Due to taking on a large amount of content from the life of one person, this plot relies too heavily on time jumps and excessive, unnecessary narration that short-circuits any hope for actual character and plot development. While this is a great true story with a lot of potential to be an epic, we have a hard time understanding who the characters are beyond historical bios. Any hope of dialogue is mostly rushed and choppy due to the storyline jumping all over the place. There are also too many wasted and drawn-out scenes that could have been maximized to fuller potential, but they cause the story to not flow well at all. However, there is still a lot of good content here due to the fact of it being based on a real story, and the ending likely makes it worth a watch, even though it could have been much better.

Acting Quality (2 points)

As a whole, this cast is fairly culturally authentic and professional as each cast member does a good job assuming his or her respective character role. If they had more lines to work with, things would definitely be even better, even if there is some inconsistent line and emotional delivery in some places. Though there is some over-acting, this section is overall above average, which rounds out an average film that could have been much better.

Conclusion

On Wings of Eagles had so much going for it: a well-funded production, culturally accurate casting, and an excellent true story that had the makings of a real epic. Nevertheless, this great potential was seemingly forgotten as half-measures were settled for. Just fixing one of these elements listed would have likely qualified it for the Hall of Fame, but it unfortunately fell short of the mark. Even still, many audiences will still enjoy this film, and it can serve as a blueprint for how to take things one step further into greatness.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

My First Miracle [2016] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Angelica, a sixteen-year-old girl, is battling a rare form of cancer around the holiday season, and her family is struggling financially.  She keeps crossing paths with a boy on the run from his past and a fellow cancer patient who tries to cheer her up.  With everything going wrong for her family, as well as the boy she keeps meeting up with, for the holidays, could a miracle for just right around the corner for them?

Production Quality (2 points)

My First Miracle is basically a standard inspirational production with good camera work and good video quality, even if there’s some inconsistent audio throughout.  As a whole, the audio is mostly fine, but the soundtrack is a bit generic.  Sets, locations, and props are standard and good, and the editing is a bit average.  As a whole, this production is above average without anything specific or significant to stand out about it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

My First Miracle follows the predetermined mold for an inspirational quasi-Christian Christmas movie as narration is disguised as characters ‘thinking’ even though the attempts at psychological elements are noted.  It’s cheesy how the same characters keep crossing paths at Christmastime, and musical montages are used to fill the runtime.  There are too many slightly unrealistic coincidences that drive the plot along, and there are plenty of filler scenes and references to the disease-at-Christmastime plot conventions.  While there are some attempts to develop characters, most of the dialogue is pedestrian.  In addition, the storyline follows a very predictable progression and even includes odd medical concepts and silly magical Christmas elements.  To top things off, the epilogue fixes basically all the problems just in time for the holidays.  In short, this is just another throwaway plot that had some potential that was wasted.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The acting is definitely one of the strongest points of this film as there aren’t any glaring errors throughout.  Even still, there’s also nothing particularly dynamic about the cast although they are mostly professional.  Coaching is evident as emotional and line delivery are good with only a few minor issues.  In the end, this is just another average Christmas film to play in the background.

Conclusion

Streaming services have created a good home for films like this one because they are safe and benign and can be played while other things are being accomplished.  If you’re going for this type of film, this is definitely a model to follow.  However, if you want something more dynamic and culture-changing, this definitely isn’t the type of film for you.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Christmas Dress (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Mary and Leland Jeppson feel like they won’t have a good Christmas because the year has been hard on their finances, and they won’t be able to give their children anything good unless the shipment comes in from the big city, which a snowstorm has put in jeopardy.  However, the courage of a local boy who likes their oldest daughter might be able to make it happen if he and his father can brave the storm and make it back safely.  Will everyone be able to have a good Christmas after all?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Even for short films like this one, the Covenant Communications team is mostly committed to having an at least average production.  This is evident in the fine video and audio quality, as well as the average camera work.  The most obvious problems are the somewhat cheap and limited sets, locations, and props.  However, it’s definitely evident they are trying in this production, even though the otherwise good soundtrack can be too loud at times.  Further, the editing is average, which rounds out an overall average effort that actually could have been a bit better due to its limited runtime.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, with such a small scope to work with, the drama of the plot overtakes the characters and doesn’t allow them enough space to be developed properly.  This is caused by flat dialogue and unclear conflict that makes it hard for the audience to properly relate to the struggles of these characters who may otherwise have realistic problems.  While the Christian messaging is good and somewhat accessible, the short and limited nature of the plot is too cheesy and makes it hard to justify this short film’s creation.  Basically, it’s a nice, safe story that’s mainly benign and without any true impact.  We like to see more than this from Christian films.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While these is evidence that this cast means well and is trying, there appears to be a lack of coaching.  This issue seems to cause some acting to be slightly awkward and to create a lot of robotic line delivery.  The costuming is also a bit cheap and cheesy because it doesn’t entirely fit the time period, but there’s enough positive in this section to make it average.  As a while, however, this film isn’t much to write home about.

Conclusion

In Christian entertainment, short films definitely have their place, but they really need to be more dynamic than this.  This can be done through deep character growth and meaningful plot development.  Shorter films mean smaller productions, so resources should be allocated more responsibly with them.  In the end, it’s already hard for short films to make a full impact, so extra effort should be put into them to make this happen.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Christmas Ranch (Movie Review)

What?? A horse movie without the horse’s name in the title??

Plot Summary

Lizzy is a bad teenager girl whom her parents can’t handle during the holiday break, so they sentence her to live with her aunt on her remote and rural horse farm during the Christmas break.  Her parents are always busy with work, and Lizzy hates being somewhere that doesn’t have good cell phone coverage.  To make matters worse, Lizzy discovers that her aunt is about to default on her mortgage, which is due for payment for Christmas Eve!!!!!  Thus, Lizzy suddenly makes a miraculous behavioral change and teams up with a local country boy to save the day!

Production Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, it appears as though thought and effort were put into this production, which is evidenced by fine video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The sets, locations, and props are fine, although they could be a bit more engaging.  However, the soundtrack is fairly generic, and there are constant Christmas chimes sound effects that litter the listening experience.  Further, editing is just average, which rounds a good production on paper, but it simply doesn’t do enough to be truly transformational.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Has this plot seriously never been done before?!?  This is seriously one of the worst plot stereotypes featuring one of the worst character stereotypes as a bad teenage girl is forced to live in the country on a horse farm with no cell phone coverage, where she meets a local country guy.  Said teenage girl hates everything until she’s magically fixed by the horse and the guy, and there’s also a save-the-farm-with-a-racehorse plot to boot.  Seriously, since when are mortgages due on Christmas Eve?  Besides the fact that this story has been done before and has no potential, the dialogue is extremely uninspiring, which causes the characters to be flat and cardboard.  Since the plot always has everything going wrong with it, the best a screenwriter can do is at least attempt to craft good characters using engaging conversations, flashbacks, and motives, but, of course, this is not done.  On top of this, the corny Christmas premise of this plot is forced, as if they decided to add it in at the last minute; further, the Christian messages are awkwardly inserted into the film.  ‘Bad’ characters are magically fixed when the plot needs to them to be without any real arcs, and the runtime is filled up with training montages until everything is perfectly fixed in the last 10-15 minutes.  Basically, there’s not much good to mention here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While some cast members in this film are fine, others are drab, and this movie has some of the worst teenager acting ever.  Emotions are extremely forced, and line delivery seems very unnatural.  However, there are enough okay portions of this section to warrant an even score, but it isn’t enough to save this movie from itself.

Conclusion

What is truly gained in films like these?  Rehashing and reusing same-old, worn-out story ideas is a drag on the industry.  Rather than force and rush through another half-baked idea, we need future Christian film makers to give us truly dynamic entertainment that’s rooted in high quality productions, engaging storylines, and authentic acting.  Otherwise, we’re not making any difference at all.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

The Christmas Reunion (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a group of four unlikely friends from high school reunites in the small town of Cave City, Kentucky, for a brief Christmas reunion, they suddenly get stranded by the snow and are forced to recount the old days they had together.  However, Cave City is falling apart at the seems as it gets bought up by some Eastern Syndicate – even the old diner!!  Will they ever be able to save the small town from ruin?

Production Quality (1 point)

In this 2016 production, there are many elements that should not be for one this new.  This includes poor audio quality that sometimes echoes, as well as a cheesy holiday soundtrack that sometimes overpowers the scenes.  There are also very cheap and limited sets, locations, and props, including an overpowering amount of Christmas decor.  The only good areas of this production that keep it from being zero points are the fine video quality and camera work.  However, the editing is fairly poor, and the use of special effects is cheesy, which keeps this at a one-point production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In keeping with his past script-writing practices, Chip Rossetti includes 
extremely stilted and unnatural dialogue throughout this story that makes the characters seem like robots.  Another commonly used Rossetti theme that’s present in this film is the heavy-handed small town values that are under attack by big city corporations.  Paired with this are 
constant return-to-small-town conversations and plenty of exposition through conversations that might as well be narration.  All of these elements severely cripples any potential for character growth and reduces it to a church play feel.  Besides this, there is really little to not plot potential here at all as the characters are cardboard cutouts instead of people.  Instead of trying to develop the characters, the storyline seems to grasp at anything it can do to fill time with except for actually developing characters, and this includes poorly constructed flashbacks.  As extremely convenient dialogue forces the plot along, the audience is forced to listen to the message that small town values fix everything even while big city evils try to destroy them.  Essentially, there is little interesting to mention here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

In keeping with the way the lines are written, the delivery of them is also extremely practiced and measured, as if the cast members are robots.  Acting is either overdone or underwhelming, and while it’s fine sometimes, it’s mostly very wooden and stilted.  There is such a thing as over-coaching, and Chip Rossetti’s teams have consistently done this in nearly all their films (except Fathers).

Conclusion

Chip Rossetti has an unusual production model to say the least.  He advertises 3-5 movies throughout the year, and one of them might be released, but the rest disappear into the black hole while one or two other random films pop up on PureFlix on Demand with no warning or marketing.  We have to give it to Chip, however: he never gives up on making more films.  Nevertheless, all of this film-making experience should have amounted to something better than a two-point half-baked Christmas film by now.  There’s something to be said for doing the same thing over and over again with no results.

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Shake Off the World (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Austin is a talented football player, but his coach has it out for him for no particular reason, which has forced Austin to stay on the bench for most plays.  Whenever he gets a chance, Austin makes big plays, but when some off-the-field issues begin to change and move him in a different direction, Austin isn’t sure if he can live without football or his girlfriend.  However, Austin discovers a new group of friends who introduce him to Jesus, and his life is never the same after that.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a fairly new production, Shake Off the World has a good enough production to get by.  This is evidenced by clear video quality and fine camera work, including good sports action shots.  Audio quality is okay throughout, but there are too many moments where the soundtrack is simply too loud to hear anything.  Sets, locations, and props are also mostly fine, but there are quite a few scenes that are randomly dark for no good reason.  Further, there are too many quick fade-outs and transitions that appear to interrupt the flow of the film at times.  Overall, this production does just enough to get above the average mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While Shake Off the World appears to begin as a slightly interesting true story, it quickly devolves into a big nothingburger.  Predictably present are all the typical sports story elements, but it still lacks an effort to be interesting.  In between the expected sports montages are very dry and drab conversations between characters that do nothing to develop them as people.  They aren’t accessible, and the empty dialogue makes them come off as wooden and stiff.  Thus, they are hard to relate to, and they appear to be swept along in random plot circumstances that have no continuity, logic, or feeling.  Due to the high amount of time spent in montages, the story line is rushed and actually quite short and small in scope.  Most scenes and subplots come off as disconnected from the others, and by the time the film ends, it feels like it barely got off the ground.  When a film feels like it’s over before it began, something went horribly wrong in the plot department.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite not having many lines to work with, the acting is actually just average.  The cast definitely means well even though they are underwhelming at times.  Some lines are mumbled, and some emotions appear to not reach their full potential.  However, they did enough to keep this area at the middle mark.

Conclusion

It’s quite hard to understand why this film was made and what it was going for.  If the creators meant well, their messaging was totally lost in translation.  They either cut too many scenes or didn’t plan enough to begin with.  While it was a good idea to make a film based off of true events, the true story definitely did not come through, and this frustrates many audiences.  Maybe this creative team will have better luck next time.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Undeserved (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dawn’s life is changed when her deadbeat mother is shot dead in a bar parking lot, which prompts the state to assign her custody to her aunt and uncle until she can finish high school.  Despite her loss, things are looking up for her as she is moved to a better area.  However, it doesn’t take long for Dawn to discover that there are just as many hidden problems in suburbia as there are obvious problems on the streets.  Fearing for her safety, Dawn leaves her new home to take up residence on the streets once again.  Moreover, she soon finds herself in trouble again, and only her aunt believes that she is worth the fight.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For a very small budget, Undeserved sports a lot of good production qualities, including good camera work, video quality, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also creative, even though it tends to be a bit too loud at times.  Sometimes, camera work is randomly shaky, and sometimes scenes are too dark and poorly lit.  However, these issues are not completely noticeable, even if the flashback quality is bit odd.  The editing is average overall, and these factors are enough to make this an above-average production, which is a great start for a new film maker with such a limited budget.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Undeserved is definitely not afraid to take on difficult but unfortunately realistic issues within the white suburban church demographic.  Though there is some obvious and expository dialogue throughout, the storyline is intriguing due to its non-typical structure.  For the most part, the story unfolds in a realistic manner with a natural progression of time, even though there are some slight coincidences that help the plot along.  The character are fairly well-developed even though the dialogue could be constructed a bit better.  Sometimes it seems like the main characters are victimized too much, but there are plenty of good attempts to develop character motive and personality through conversations and flashbacks.  However, there are a few too many montages, and issues appear to be fixed too easily in the end.  There are quite a few things tacked onto the end of the film, as if time ran out, which suggests that this idea might have worked better as a series.  However, this plot is overall average.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is mostly inexperienced and ‘amateur,’ they appear to be professional in their performances.  There is definitely evidence of coaching, and although there are some slightly forced emotions and some moments that are partially underwhelming and awkward.  However, there is far more good here than bad, and this is only amplified by the fact that the cast does not have ‘big names’ in it.  In summary, this rounds out a very good first film effort.

Conclusion

It’s hard to get the necessary funding for a first-time small church film, so the best thing a film maker can do is craft a good plot, coaching cast members well, and get the film out there.  This creative team made efforts on all three of these fronts, and for the most part, the efforts paid off.  One can hardly do better than this with a less than $50,000 budget except perhaps forge a more captivating storyline.  In the end, a film like Undeserved is all we really ask of freshman creators, so it will be interesting to see what this team produces next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Grandma’s House [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Grandma Margie’s family is a wreck even though she is always praying for them and imparting her fundamentalist wisdom to them.  She lets any and all of them come to live with her in her huge house–as long as they abide by her strict rules.  She aims to fix them up from their problems before sending them back out into the evil world.  With so many things going on in her house, she can hardly keep up, and neither can we.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, this film, which by all outside factors seems like a small church film, has an above-average production quality.  This is manifested in good video quality and good camera work, as well as professional audio quality, even if the soundtrack is very generic.  There are some random dark scenes, however, and sets, props, and locations are fairly limited by the nature of the plot and the resources available.  The editing can be oddly choppy at times despite the fact that there are useless filler scenes throughout.  Some scenes seem cut short while others drag on too long.  With the sheer amount of content shoved into this film, it’s no wonder things get confusing.  However, on the whole, this production is better than expected.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Grandma’s House is a forum to push a very close-minded and fundamentalist worldview on the audience that has an offensive view of women and a slew of quick fixes for all of your neighborhood problems.  While the movie takes an honest look at real family issues and other realistic problems, it refuses to probe the reasons behind the wrong actions and instead settles for cheap spiritualized platitudes and Bible-verse-bandaging.  The story assumes that people just need to stop acting bad and start acting legalistic in order to be ‘fixed.’  Thus, each character is designed to represent an issue rather than a person, which makes them empty and simplistic.  Dialogue is mostly expository and issue-pushing, and there is too much heavy-handed narration.  In the end, everything is fixed without any good explanation or realistic understanding of how issues progress.  

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While most of the cast members in this film are average in their performances, Loretta Devine is particularly annoying, similar to her infamous Caged No More role.  Other cast members are not the worst at acting, but they are not the best either.  There are some attempts to coach them, but there are just too many extreme emotions, including yelling and screaming outburst.  At times, line delivery comes off as too practiced, but there are enough good moments here to justify an average score.

Conclusion

Movies like this one know what they want to push on their audience or simply tell some specific audience what they want to hear.  It’s fine to want to discuss important issues in the context of a film, but treating people like pawns or one-dimensional problems doesn’t do any service to your cause.  Most people will see right through such attempts, which will only further contribute to the negative image of Christianity that films like Grandma’s House seek to reinforce for some reason.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Glorious [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Vince was raised in an abusive household, and he was bullied at school for being small, so when the opportunity presented itself to join a local gang, he jumps at the chance to have power and acceptance.  However, things do not go as planned as he becomes involved in organized crime at a young age, including drugs and murder.  This lands him into juvenile detention multiple times before he reached out to by a Christian ministry that is dedicated to rehabilitating juvenile offenders who are caught in the system.  Vince reluctantly agrees to try out the program, and he has a surprisingly good time, but what he does not know is that his past is still destined to catch up to him.

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

While it’s very obvious that Glorious is a low-budget small to medium church film, it really didn’t have to be this bad of a production.  For one, camera work is unnecessarily shaky, and there are too many moments of over-driven audio in conjunction with cheap background sound effects.  There are also some very dizzying and disorienting sequences that use ill-advised special effects.  Further, the video has a grainy quality to it, and the soundtrack is very stock.  As for lighting, there are too many very dark scenes; it goes without saying that the editing is quite choppy and confusing.  Unfortunately, in pretty much ever way, this production is very cheap, under-funded, and mismanaged.  There may have been good intentions in this film, but they are too easily missed.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Moreover, while the story behind this film seems very interesting, intriguing, and realistic, it is very difficult to ascertain its true meaning due to plot problems that go beyond the production issues.  One of these problems is constant heavy-handed narration that stunts and short-circuits any possibility of having adequate character development.  We have no idea who the real people behind this plot are because we haven’t been given the opportunity to get to know them through dialogue, motives, or real conversations.  The attempts at backstory are noted, but they are unfortunately not good enough.  Large time jumps are another problem area that prevents getting to know the characters and causes flat character arcs.  It’s a shame that this story was so poorly communicated because it seems like it really had a lot going for it.  Maybe we can get a remake one day.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The amateur effort of this film continues in the flat, un-coached acting that demonstrates very forceful lines and emotions.  There are too many scenes of yelling and screaming while other scenes are just lethargic and understated.  While there are some attempts at improvement near the end of the film, it is unfortunately too little too late.  Too many of the performances are awkward and slightly unprofessional, which rounds out a disappointing effort.

Conclusion

Glorious is the ‘best’ negative-point film because even in its shortcomings, it has a ton of potential behind it.  This creative team had the right idea: create a low-budget film using church resources that is based on a realistic true story and put it straight to Amazon Prime.  However, somewhere along the way, production quality and all other elements were greatly neglected.  Somebody dropped the ball on this one, but there is always the possibility of improvement and redemption in the future.  The key is to not give up and to always work to improve from your last film, which is all we really ask for.

 

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

 

2nd Greatest (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In Golden, Colorado, local business owners are tired of homeless people and low-income housing, so they convene a meeting at their local business gathering to discuss how they are going to run all the people they don’t like out of town.  A homeless drunk drifter has become the central focus of the town’s conflict, but the new pastor in town takes an interest in the drunk’s well-being.  He convinces a local police officer who knows most things that are going on to take him around one night so that the pastor can see what is going on in the town he moved to.  From that experience, he is inspired of how to help the hurting all around him by following Jesus’ commandments.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

After a very low-quality production like A Perfect Chord, Kingdom Sight Studios has shown concerted production improvement in 2nd Greatest.  This improvement is evident in good video quality and camera work, as well as good sets, locations, and props.  However, there are a few moments of odd camera angles, shaky recording, and poor lighting, but this is not enough to completely detract from the overall quality.  The soundtrack is mostly intriguing, but the editing could use some upgrading as there is a lot of somewhat loosely-associated content throughout the film.  Moreover, on the whole, this production is above average and meets the basic standards necessary for modern films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As this movie’s plot line is based on a true story, there are a lot of good ideas contained within it, but the many storylines that are included are a bit too disorganized to drive the message home properly.  A lot of the characters need further deepening, and even though some of them have some adequate flashbacks, their dialogue and personalities are not quite there.  The stunted growth of the characters is likely a product of the many random and seemingly unrelated subplots that are included in the film.  Not enough focus is placed on the main homeless character, even though he has a potentially great back story, and this seems to be a product of not being able to go deep enough with the characters.  This problem also produces a cheesy villain (if we even need a ‘villain’ in this type of film) and an overly fake ‘perfect’ pastor character.  Basically, there was plenty of good ideas to work with here that needed a bit more refining before being released.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

There are several inconsistent performances throughout as some cast members are skilled while some are not.  Sometimes the emotions feel forced, but other times, they are fine.  Similarly, line delivery is natural while other times it is too unnatural.  There doesn’t seem to be any consistency with acting coaching, unfortunately.  As a whole, while the acting of this movie is a bit uneven at times, there are enough good performances to keep this section average.

 

Conclusion

Basing movies off of true stories is almost always better than your average inspirational fodder, but when the story is mishandled, its full impact is stunted.  Kingdom Sight Studios made some great strides in 2nd Greatest, especially with production quality, and the real stories of the characters were good ideas to use, but we needed to see more of what the real people were like besides being pawns in a plot.  Thus, like many films, retaining a better screenwriter would have done wonders.  Also, it wouldn’t have hurt to upgrade the acting coaching.  As a whole, it is always good to see improvement from a studio, so it will be interesting to see what they do next.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Movie Renovation: Wildflower

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

Much like other movies that need renovations, Wildflower has a very professional production.  As expected, the only issue that needs improvement here is the editing, as it is quite choppy.  However, this is related to the plot, so if this had been rectified, the production would have been nearly perfect.

Plot and Storyline Improvements

Wildflower is one of the most frustrating plots to witness.  It is billed as a unique psychological thriller, and at first, it seems like it has a lot of potential.  However, the more it goes on, the more disappointing it becomes due to narration and overly obvious elements.  The mystery factors and intended elements of surprise are crippled by the poor presentation of the story.  It tries to become too complicated and involved without properly developing the characters or even what the psychological concept behind this plot is trying to convey or model.  For example, the flashbacks\dreams of the protagonist are intriguing, but what about other elements of trauma?  In a similar vein, the antagonist of the story is too obvious, and the scope of the psychological elements are too limited.  Also, the artistic elements of this film are creative and interesting, but there are times when the plot gets lost in them.  This plot could have been greatly improved with a more well-charted psychological journey without narration, in order to preserve the element of surprise in the plot twists.  A more pertinent study of the effects of trauma and causes of dissociation would have made this movie a lot more realistic.  Of course, allowing the characters to develop naturally through substantial dialogue and flashbacks is always a must in a psychological plot.  Finally, the actions and motivations of the characters need to be better explained without so much reliance on coincidences and vague ideas.  There was tons of potential here; it just needed to be better developed.

Acting Improvements

For the most part, this cast was very professional, even with a fairly difficult script to work with.  Much like the plot affecting the editing, improving some of the dialogue would have likely improved some of the lines that the cast members didn’t have much to work with.  However, there were some underwhelming moments that could have been improved, as well as some overly dramatic sequences.

Conclusion

We absolutely need more psychological thrillers in Christian film, but they need to be well-constructed, well-thought-out, and well-researched.  Trauma and dissociation are great topics to explore, but they need to be grounded in reality and not vaguely presented.  Also, narration rarely helps a movie, and the motivations of characters need to be demonstrated through deep dialogue and engaging flashbacks.  Moreover, we believe that Nicholas DiBella has tons of potential as a film maker and will continue to improve in his career.

 

Hope [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Andrew was a successful businessman, but when he slowly begins to lose everything, beginning with his career, he also begins to lose his grip on the life he has built.  He cannot provide for his family, so his wife walks out on him with his best friend.  Andrew turns to drinking to numb the pain, but then he experiences God reach out to him in a way he never expected.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though the budget of this film is low, the production is actually mostly average.  This includes good video quality and camera work.  Audio quality is fine except for some loud background noises and echoes and a generic soundtrack that is sometimes too loud.  However, sets, locations, and props are mostly fine, even if editing leaves something to be desired.  As a whole, this is an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, this plot really doesn’t have much potential.  It is full of odd message-pushing dialogue that espouses an unusual worldview and force-feeds the creators’ odd version of Christianity and rigid opinions about gender roles.  Thus, the characters come off as very blank as they spout trite Christian platitudes and even unnecessary, out of place profanity.  The protagonist is almost painted as a victim of circumstance, even though he is clearly not.  The plot progression is overall very rushed, even though it is short, as problems are resolved very quickly and unrealistically.  Overall, this really isn’t a story that anything going for it.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a small church cast, these cast members show some amount of potential, even if they have moments of awkwardness and unsure delivery.  Some lines come off as overly practiced, and emotions are hard to quantify.  There are also some unnecessary sequences of yelling and melodrama.  However, there is enough good here to make this section average, even if the movie as a whole is not.

Conclusion

Movies like Hope are really not worth releasing, not because of their low budgets, but because their plots are just not dynamic or creative.  Small church films with small budgets need to be able to stand out in the market by creating truly transformative plots that can make a difference and can help the church progress into better funding and better marketing.  Another flat storyline about a troubled character that contains an odd worldview is just not worth adding to the already-crowded field, unfortunately.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Echo Rhyme (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Frank is a known counterfeiter and professional all-around criminal.  He has is hands in a lot of dirty businesses, but his fast and checkered lifestyle catches up with him finally, when he is faced with a medical complication he cannot overcome.  Thankfully, he is able to secure a heart donation to improve his medical condition, but this miracle sends him on a journey he never thought he would travel as he crosses paths with the family of the man whose heart he now has.  Will Frank be able to find redemption in the unlikeliest of places?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

From the studio that brought us 2 to Tangle and Time Collectors: Return of the Giants comes another poorly funded and poorly executed production mess.  However, Echo Rhyme surprisingly has the highest production of the group.  Still, this film has a lot of production problems, such as very obvious overdubbed lines, a loud and generic soundtrack, and sound effects that are not natural to the scenes they are stuck in.  Video quality is fine, but lighting and camera work are inconsistent throughout.  There are also some sequences of unnecessary slow-motion.  However, there is some improvement throughout as it seems like some parts of this film were better funded than others.  Even still, the editing is horrific, with very abrupt and choppy cuts and transitions in very awkward places.  Having a one-point production as your best achievement isn’t saying much.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unlike the severely limited scopes of their previous two films, Son Films went all out with Echo Rhyme.  They attempt a level of plot complexity that even the audience cannot understand at times, as subplots are very disjointed and confusing, especially in the first thirty minutes.  As things unfold, the premise becomes more and more cheesy as it is fixated on the organ donation of the heart and how this affects all of the characters involved in the most far-fetched ways.  This story is based entirely on very juvenile coincidences and a childish outlook on life as content meanders along endlessly for over two hours.  Everything is too connected yet not rooted in reality as one chance encounter after the next prolongs this story far beyond its welcome.  This goes without mentioning the very thin dialogue and empty characters in this story.  Although this ‘unique’ plot structure had some potential, it did not manifest in this presentation.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Son Films has put together some notoriously awkward casts, and this one isn’t much better, even though there are a few good moments that keep this section from being zero.  Nevertheless, this group needs some serious acting coaching, as they are very robotic and overly practiced.  As a whole, this movie needed a total redo, if it needed to be made at all.

Conclusion

Besides all of the other obvious issues with this film, what on earth does this title mean?  I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise coming from the studio that brought us 2 to Tangle and Time Collectors.  However, despite the myriad of problems in Echo Rhyme, there was actually a chance for a unique storyline here that was totally bungled.  Centering the plot around an organized crime character is a creative idea, but the sheer amount of coincidences and childish version of Christianity in this plot are just too much to bear.  Maybe somebody can responsibly reuse a portion of this idea in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Greater: The Brandon Burlsworth Story (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Brandon Burlsworth always wanted to play football at the top college level, but he was always told he was never cut out for the sport due to his size problems.  However, Brandon defied all odds by adapting a strong work ethic that helped him train to become fit to walk-on and play SEC football at the University of Arkansas.  His life affected all of those around him as he made the football team better with his faith and his work ethic.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Greater is clearly a well-funded production as it is very professional.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The action sports scenes are filmed very well, and the sports props are highly realistic.  The soundtrack is adequate, and sets and locations are great.  The only small nitpicks to raise here pertain to some small editing issues, such as some lagging scenes and seemingly unnecessary content.  Otherwise, however, this production is top-notch and checks all the right boxes.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

While this film is based on a great true story, there is a lot of content that is covered in this plot.  Thus, character development suffers as the characters tend to only be pawns in the storyline.  The dialogue primarily serves to move time forward rather than to develop the characters as people.  There are also a lot of typical sports clichés and training montages.  With so much content to handle in one film, there are too many wasted sequences like this that could have been used to build the characters.  However, not all is bad here as this is a great story to tell with a worthwhile message.  Moreover, it had a lot going for it and definitely could have been better.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The acting is perhaps the strongest section of this film.  This is a very professional cast with no glaring errors committed.  Emotions are believable and realistic, and line delivery is on point.  In the end, this section brings this movie close to the fullest potential it could have had.

Conclusion

Greater had many key elements and advantages in its corner, but it didn’t quite get the job done.  I can help but think that in different hands, this film would have been a Hall of Fame epic.  With some slightly deeper characters and dialogue, along with a less choppy presentation, it would have breached the Hall of Fame threshold.  Nonetheless, this is an enjoyable film that many audiences will enjoy.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

HAV Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Hamilton A. Vaughn (HAV) was a party boy who had a prison turnaround that led him to be the right-hand man to the prominent pastor of Mission Church.  The pastor tells HAV that he wants HAV to take over the Mission Church, but the pastor’s son objects and decides to get HAV in trouble with a woman to get him sent to prison.  There’s also a woman who runs a social services program and another couple who wants a baby, even though it’s hard to know what they have to do with HAV.  In the end, HAV will have (lol) to come to terms with his faith and who he really believes God is?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Unfortunately, like many small church films, HAV Faith (what kind of title is that?) is somewhat cheap in its production.  However, in some ways, it is better than most small church films.  Video quality is fine, but camera work is shaky in some parts, and lighting is poor in some places.  Audio quality is sometimes fine, but other times it is weird.  The soundtrack is generic.  Sets, locations, and props are slightly cheap and limited, but they improve as the film progresses.  For what it’s worth, the production ends in a better way than it began, but the editing is too all over the place.  In the end, this is just an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As previously alluded to, although this is supposed to be a modern-day retelling of the Old Testament story of Joseph, HAV Faith is all over the place and certainly does not only focus on this.  Thus, it is very hard to follow what is happening, and the story is very disorienting at times.  The plot is presented in a very confusing fashion as lots of very disconnected and unrelated subplots, which have no relation to each other, are thrown into a proverbial bowl and mixed up.  As the story jumps from one thing to the next with no continuity to speak of, most of the characters, especially the Christian ones and the cheesy villain, are very annoying and stereotypical as they spout programmed dialogue.  Also, part of this story is basically a save the church plot, even though most of it is spent on rushing through parts that have nothing to do with the Joseph parallel.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to understand why this movie was made.

Acting Quality (1 point)

A lot of the time, these cast members are amateurish and are overly-enunciated in their line delivery.  Emotions are over the top and overly practiced.  While there are a few good moments and some improvement throughout, it’s not enough to overcome the overall futility of this film.

Conclusion

Bible story transpositions always problematic because of issues that come up when trying to convert historical plots to modern ideas.  However, things really get complicated when you shove a handful of unrelated subplots into the film that basically have no relation to the original idea in any way.  All I can ask after watching this film is what were they exactly thinking?  One would think that there were multiple writers throwing ideas into this pot, but that is not the case.  This one is a real head-scratcher, to say the least.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Believe [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Matthew Peyton has tried to keep his father’s struggling factory afloat, but with the unions bearing down his neck and the economy tanking in the small town he lives in, it may be too late for him, even with Christmas just around the corner.  One night, when Matthew is attacked by angry workers, he is left for dead yet tended by a community of homeless people he never knew existed in the city.  They change his outlook on life and give him a new hope for the holidays that he thought he had lost.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a modern production, Believe is mostly high quality and professional.  Video quality is great, and camera work is good except for some unnecessarily odd camera zooms at dramatic moments.  Audio quality is good, however, as is the soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and appropriate for the film.  However, there are some confusing special effects throughout, and the editing is generally disorienting as time goes back and forth without warning.  Nevertheless, it is clear that this production team wanted to make a good film, so they mostly succeeded on this front.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Believe is one of the most complex yet disorganized Christmas plots I have ever witnessed.  It begins with unusual apocalypse undertones that depict a small town falling apart almost like a disaster film.  There is a lot of information dump dialogue to ‘catch the audience up,’ yet a lot of it is politically charged and agenda-driven.  At first, the drama seems manufactured as characters are seemingly swept along in uncontrollable circumstances like stand-ins for plot devices.  The story is also heavily centered around a stereotypical Christmas pageant that can save everything.  The protagonist is hated by almost everybody, which is another premise that seems very forced.  However, the plot pulls itself out of the nosedive in the middle as some really interesting issues and ideas are brought to light in what could have been a very unique and creative Christmas film.  However, the sheer number of ideas packed into this film cripples its influence, especially since the storyline returns to predictability and extremely quick problem-fixing and conflict-resolving for the final sequences.  Regardless, there is a lot of potential here that could be reworked into a different film.  The complexity at least keeps the viewer interested.

Acting Quality (2 points)

For the most part, this cast is professional and well-coached.  There are some moments when they are too practiced and forced in their emotions and line delivery, but this is not enough to derail the positive efforts.  On the whole, like other parts of this film, this casting and acting is what is needs to be to keep things interesting.

Conclusion

Many audiences will likely enjoy Believe, and it’s not really that bad of a movie.  But it needs some serious reorganization, along with a final sequence rework.  Too much is trying to be accomplished in this film, but we can never fault wanting to handle a lot of content when most films—especially holiday ones—suffer for any shred of substantial content.  Still, it would be interesting to see a remake of this film because there is definitely tons of potential here.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Joseph and Mary (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Joseph was tasked with being the earthly father of Jesus, the Messiah, while Mary was chosen to be the biological mother of the Savior.  However, they were just ordinary people who wanted to follow what the Lord wanted for them.  They watched as Jesus grew up before their eyes, and they were also apparently preoccupied with the life of a random rabbi who was their friend.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a new Bible production, Joseph and Mary is mostly respectable.  It’s clear that care was given to the authenticity of the production, even though the sets are somewhat limited and reused a lot.  Nevertheless, props are appropriate, and the outdoor locations are great.  This film checks all the typical boxes of good video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The soundtrack is adequate.  The only other problem to raise is the choppy editing that poorly handles the large amount of content in this movie.  But in the end, John Patus and the others at Leif Films are definitely improving over the years.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

So you want to make a movie about Joseph and Mary, yet you decide to use at least half of the runtime depicting an otherwise interesting story about a fictional rabbi who shadowed Jesus in the Lord’s early years.  This is a fine idea, but why not make the movie primarily about the rabbi?  Joseph and Mary are almost supporting characters in this story.  There is also unnecessary narration that hurts character development.  The healthy construction of the characters is also hindered by the rapid passage of time that follows the same characters as they keep meeting in the same places over several time periods.  There is also a tendency to hit the high points of the story rather than to settle down and let us get to know them as people.  The stoic and overly formal dialogue certainly does not help.  However, this film is an interesting perspective on the early years of Jesus through the eyes of a flawed and accessible character that is not Joseph or Mary.  Yet this good idea is somewhat soured by the strange ending sequence that leaves the audience wandering what this movie is supposed to teach us.  In the end, the Leif Films team is usually closed to good things, as evidenced in The Apostle Peter: Redemption, but they can’t seem to get there.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, there is not much good to say about the acting of this film.  For one thing, it is very poorly cast and lacks authentic cultural cast members.  Kevin Sorbo, a generic white guy, really has no business playing Joseph, besides the fact that he is awkward in this film.  Rather than being too BRITISH, this cast is too American.  The costuming is also somewhat cheesy, yet there are a handful of good moments that keep this section from being nothing.

Conclusion

Bible films are almost always problematic.  If the production isn’t a problem, it’s the casting.  If not that, then the plot suffers.  There are so many variables that have to be aligned in a Biblical film; after all, they are historical accounts.  Thus, they needed to be treated with more care.  We can’t have any more of these Bible plays coming out because even Christian audiences are getting tired of that.  We need dynamic authenticity, but perhaps the Leif Films team will keep trying and find the mark one day.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Fishes ‘n Loaves: Heaven Sent (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Since Pastor Randy Michaels’ inner-city church is being shuttered by the ministry organization that runs it, he and his family are being reassigned to a small town across the country in Arizona.  Though reluctant to go at first, the Michaels family arrives to meet strange and eccentric characters that pique their interest in the town.  They soon find that they have a greater purpose for being there than they ever thought.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As one of those secular-company-tries-to-make-a-Christian-movie-to-make-some-money gigs, Fishes ‘n Loaves: Heaven Sent, one of the most awkwardly-titled films ever, has a fine production.  Though there is some random shaky camera work throughout, other elements are fine, including video quality and audio quality, even though the soundtrack is silly.  Though some sets and locations are slightly limited, they are not all bad, and props are realistic.  The editing is a pretty standard job, but then again, most of this film was taken from the inspirational film factory.  Thus, there is nothing creative to speak of here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This oddly-titled film rips off the old standby plot in which an offbeat pastor and his family gets reassigned to a struggling church in an eccentric small town in the middle of nowhere that’s filled with off-the-wall, goofy characters that are trying way too hard to be comedic.  I’m just surprised there’s no save-the-church elements here.  Basically, this so-called comedy is extremely forced and plastic, mostly due to very juvenile dialogue.  There is really no conflict to speak of as the story meanders along in pointless and purposeless ways.  Random things happen to check plot boxes and then the movie is mercifully over, leaving no impression whatsoever on the viewer.  The Christian message that is forced in is very cheesy and unfeeling, which is no surprise considering this is a secular cash-grab.  The only thing left to ponder is why this is even a movie at all.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though there are some okay moments throughout that keep this section from being worthless, most of the time, this cast seems to be competing for who can have the most screen time.  They are all very impressed with themselves, especially the lead actor, and appear to be auditioning for better roles in other films.  A lot of them have questionable and weird accents and many of them look like they just got rejected from a Hallmark casting call.  Again I ask, why is this a movie?

Conclusion

Whoever pitched this idea was probably rejected by Hallmark and possibly UP for total ineptitude, even by Hallmark standards.  The rating does not reflect how empty this film really is.  Were it not for the strangely high amount of funding, this film would be a total wash.  Even so, it still takes its place in the basement of Christian film, so why bother with more money?  Many audiences will see through this blatant and very poorly executed pandering to Christians.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Sins and Blessings (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sean and Cameron are friends, and they have both made mistakes in their past, but each of their lives is taking a different track now.  Cameron is trying to walk the path God wants him to walk, but Sean is stubborn.  However, life circumstances bring Sean to his knees, and God finally gets his attention to tell him that Sean needs to go meet with an old friend in order to save the friend’s life.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Sins and Blessings stands out from movies like it by demonstrating effort to have a quality production.  This include good video quality and camera work.  Audio quality is also good, except for some minor background noises.  The soundtrack is acceptable.  Sets, locations, and props are slightly limited, but they are mostly realistic and adequate for this film.  There are also one too many quick cuts and transitions that hamper the otherwise smooth editing, but these are really the only nitpicks to point out.  In all, this is a respectable production that reflects the (hopefully) growing movement to raise overall quality of Christian films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The strongest point of this plot pertains to the attempts to craft realistic characters that experience believable struggles and circumstances.  However, there are some missed opportunities to develop deeper characters due to the somewhat shallow quality of the dialogue.  There are a lot of scenes depicting the characters standing around and talking without really saying much substantial that would help us further understand them as people.  The storylines presented in this film are somewhat typical and predictable, but at least they are accessible.  Though the message of this movie is slightly simplistic, it is a good message nonetheless and demonstrates a willingness to be honest about the struggles of people and God’s call.  In short, this is a good start that will hopefully be built off of in the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this is a mostly amateur cast, their performances are actually better than most church films like this one.  There are good efforts to be realistic through emotions and line delivery.  Most of the time, the cast members are natural in their delivery, even though they can be underwhelming at times.  Yet in the end, this is a very good section to round out an at least average movie.

Conclusion

Sins and Blessings is an ideal start for first time film makers.  It checks all the necessary boxes to be a great jump start for better films in the future.  Once a few of the minor production and acting kinks are worked out and once the plot and characters become slightly more realistic and accessible, this creative team will be well on their way to greatness.  It will be interesting see where they go from here.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Come Unto Me [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Samuel and Mary make their living stealing from others because as young orphans, they have no one to turn to.  However, while on the run from the Romans one day, they are sheltered by a woman they have never seen before.  After talking with her and her carpenter son, Samuel and Mary are intrigued by them and want to know more about them.  Yet little do they know that the woman’s son, Jesus, is about to embark on the ministry work of His Father in order to change the world.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Come Unto Me is the best production yet in this short film series, including high video quality and audio quality, along with great camera work and soundtrack work.  There is still a concerted commitment in this series to use realistic and high quality outdoor locations and props, which is a huge plus.  This is mainly what sets these films apart from your average Bible play movie.  There are really no concerns to point out here except for some small editing concerns pertaining to scenes that overstay their welcome.  Yet on the whole, this is another great production effort that continually shows needed improvement.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, the plot takes a small step back in this film as the cumbersome dialogue returns and Jesus is still portrayed as a lofty and inaccessible individual.  There is also too much talk about off-screen events without showing them.  Indeed, a majority of this film is sitting around talking without developing the characters well enough.  Nevertheless, despite the someone boring progression of the film, there are a lot of interesting ideas here that need further development.  It’s possible that this could only be done in a series format, because the short film series has likely run its course at this point.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The acting remains relatively stable in this third installment as the same positives and negatives as before are present.  Costuming is good, and the cast members are still not completely culturally authentic.  Though there are still some moments of unnecessary drama, this cast is less theatrical than the others, which shows coaching improvements.  Thus, in the end, Come Unto Me rounds out another average film.

Conclusion

The good thing about John Lyde and his team is that they are focused on quality Bible films rather than churning out a bunch of cheap Bible plays.  Thus, they are definitely on the right track here.  Yet it still seems like No Ordinary Shepherd, He Knows My Name, and Come Unto Me are already set up to be a miniseries.  There are already three episodes made—now others just need to be filled in to create continuity.  Series’ and miniseries’ are likely the future of Christian entertainment, so we’re still waiting for someone to step up and show what they can do.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

My Grandpa Detective (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Robert Whitmore III was just awarded a prestigious police award and promoted to lead detective, a role that used to be held by his famous grandfather, Robert Whitmore Sr.  However, Bob III’s world is rocked when he discovers that his new partner is none other than his grandfather, who has been pressed back into service by the force for retiring too early to collect his pension.  Together, they will have to get along to catch a notorious criminal who has come back to town with the goal of stealing the coveted Bronze Basin of Bitterness.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, the production of this film is not as bad as the rest of it.  All the usual elements, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality, are fine and professional.  There are really no glaring errors here.  The soundtrack is a bit silly, which is to be somewhat expected for a comedy like this.  Sets, locations, and props are average and passable, except for the fact that some unusual props are constantly emphasized.  Also, as usual for this sort of film, the editing is somewhat poor and disorienting.  In the end, this production is the best component of this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

My Grandpa Detective is one of the most nonsensical ‘comedy’ plots since The Takeover.  Besides having absolutely no purpose and being completely aimless, this film has an extremely absurd feel to it that includes a lot of head-scratching and deadpan-inducing moments and sequences.  There is no way to understand what is trying to be communicated in this film as a collection of very eccentric and bizarre characters fumble around, looking for a reason to keep this film going.  The premise is very trumped up and the Christian message is very forced and awkward.  Nearly every line of dialogue is stupidity, thus making the storyline impossible to take seriously.  There are also a lot of cliqued mystery tropes and a predictable ending to top things off.  Essentially, the creators of this film were either confused, delusional, or purposely satirical.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Besides the fact that several cast members are made to look much older than they are, nearly all of the acting in this cast is as absurd as the plot.  Everyone seems intent on making a fool of themselves with childish emotions and outbursts, as well as poor line delivery.  In the end, most elements in this film are completely ridiculous.

Conclusion

Why are Christian films like this still being made in 2016?  What does this sort of movie accomplish, outside of making a further mockery of Christian movies?  True comedy takes well-developed characters and realistic, witty dialogue, not all of the raving nonsense you find in My Grandpa Detective.  Alas, this is another embarrassment and one that should be forgotten, unless you need to know how not to make a movie.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Joseph’s Epiphany (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Joseph is a successful collections agent, but he hates his job and his workplace.  Thus, he wonders what his true purpose in life is.  Yet when he is given a chance to be promoted, he takes a serious look at his life to see where he is with God and how he can improve.  Then his world is upended by an unexpected turn that will leave him searching for answers on how to properly respond.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, Joseph’s Epiphany is another low quality independent Christian film.  Video quality is the only positive element to speak of.  Camera work is either shaky or stationary, and there are too many close shots.  Audio is far too quiet and includes over-dubs and a nearly nonexistent soundtrack.  There is also some odd lighting throughout, as well as extremely limited sets and locations.  To cap things off, editing is very poor as well.  Basically, this is just another verse of the same old song.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though it is interesting based a film off of the concepts of Ecclesiastes, it’s hard to follow exactly how that applies in this film, except for the fact that that verses from the book are sprinkled throughout the movie with no real connection to the story.  Thus, there is really no clear direction to this plot.  The plot is very boring, as are the characters, due to very flat and bland dialogue.  It’s hard to see this film as anything more than a collection of random scenes as characters sit around and talk without really saying anything substantial.  To cap things off, the ending is too vague to be understood, which leaves us wondering what we are supposed to learn from this movie.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Much like the other elements of this film, the acting is also underwhelming.  The small cast is often too serious and matter of fact in their line delivery, and sometimes they are too quiet.  They rarely exhibit significant emotion, yet while there is some over-acting, there are a few brief good moments that keep this section from being nothing.  But it’s not enough to save this film from itself.

Conclusion

Films like this one really need to be short films rather than feature length for many reasons.  It’s very difficult to watch these types of films from start to finish due to their boring nature.  They hardly have anything going for them, no matter how well they may mean.  Thus, we will never really know what was intended here, unless they are given the chance to give movie making another go.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Blossoms of Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Betsy McLean’s sister suffers a stroke less than a month before Betsy is to be married, and the stress of it all comes down on Betsy.  She feels like she cannot go on with life and wants to break off the engagement because of all the loss she has suffered in her life.  But she must learn how to rekindle her faith even in the darkest moments.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Even though this is a 2016 production, Blossoms of Faith struggles to get its head above water.  Video quality is mostly fine, but there is some shaky camera work throughout.  There is also some odd lighting throughout.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is lacking.  There are really no locations in the film, and sets therein are limited, even though the props are realistic.  Furthermore, there is no real editing in the film as everything is presented at face value.  In the end, this is a below average production.  It might have been better to wait for increased funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With very little content to speak of, the characters are not enough to carry the storyline of this film.  Even at that, the storyline is very hard to follow as it has strange undertones and becomes fixated on the oddest thing, like the ever-present flowers.  It also offers a strange brand of Catholicism and Christianity that is somewhat isolating.  Thus, the Christian message of this film is questionable.  Though the circumstances depicted are somewhat realistic, the characters are not enough to make the audience appreciate the film.  The ending is formulaic and predictable.  Unfortunately, there isn’t really anything good to say here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting in this film is actually a brighter spot than the rest, even though it is mostly average.  At times, the cast members can be underwhelming, and at other times they are too blank and vanilla.  There are also some overdone emotions throughout, but there are also plenty of good moments.  Most cast members also show improvement throughout, which rounds out an average performance.

Conclusion

It’s still very unclear what is trying to be accomplished in this film.  It carries a strange message and doesn’t have very high quality production.  The acting is average, but it’s not enough to bring this film out of the nose dive.  When making a new film, it’s better to know where you are going and how you are going to communicate that to your audience.  Otherwise, it just flies over their head and it’s another wasted effort.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Ultimate Redemption (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jeff Warner is now a street pastor, but he wasn’t always that way.  He grew up in an abusive home and found solace in being able to hustle people on the streets.  He became involved with dangerous gangs and eventually entered the wrestling scene to make some extra cash.  However, the sport soon consumes him and his family.  Only because of the prayers of his wife does Jeff ever find the redemption he always needed, so he can in turn help others find the same.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though it’s clear that the team behind this film meant well, it’s also clear that they definitely had low funding for it.  This is evident in the random nature of the production.  It has some good elements and showed slight improvement throughout.  However, lighting is too inconsistent throughout, as is the video quality.  Audio quality is fine even though it is sometimes too loud, and the soundtrack is average.  Some portions of the film are randomly black and white or sepia for no particular reason.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly realistic.  The editing is slightly confusing, but it is mostly okay.  That really tells the tale of this production: mostly okay.  They really did mean well in making this, I believe, but they might should have waited for better funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The true story behind this film was definitely worth telling, but the full arc of redemption is blunted by the flat presentation.  Though characters and the circumstances they endure are realistic and believable, they still need some more development and deepening through more meaningful dialogue.  There is not enough focus in the plot as it is quite disorganized.  What the writers are going for here can be seen somewhat, but the impact of what they are trying to do is not as much as it could be due to some rookie plot-writing mistakes.  However, there is definitely potential here that hopefully will be used in even better ways in the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

It’s interesting to have the main character played by the real person.  Though this cast is amateurish and somewhat inexperienced, they are clearly trying to post good acting performances.  Though there are some lagging issues with forced emotions and some unsure line delivery, this cast is mostly good and demonstrate a lot of potential for the future.

Conclusion

Sometimes it’s better to wait for more funding, but other times you just have to get your movie out there to start somewhere.  This is a hard call to make and there is a balance somewhere in between to be found.  Yet sometimes better funding only comes by putting yourself out there.  Ultimately, you have to do what you feel like God wants you to do with your film.  Films like Ultimate Redemption join a long list of Christian movies that are close to being great and show potential for the future.  The question is, which ones of these will rise up and make a movie that improves upon what they already have.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

New Life: Nouvelle Vie (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Ben and Ava first met as kids and next door neighbors, they never thought they would one day be married and be trying to start a family of their own.  But it happened and just when they can’t believe that things could get better—they get worse.  Not only does Ava miscarry, but she also receives devastating news that changes her life forever: cancer.  Will their relationship be able to survive the roller coaster disease?  Will Ava’s dreams ever be fulfilled?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a newer production, it is clear that New Life is professional on pretty much every front.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all top-notch.  The soundtrack is actually creative and enhances the film.  Sets, locations, and props are well-funded and diverse.  The only minor issue to raise here, as usual, pertains to some small editing problems, such as choppiness and lack of clarity.  But in the end, this is a nearly model production that we will hopefully see more and more of in the coming years.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

So Erin Bethea wrote a cancer movie.  It’s actually not as bad as it may sound on its face, despite the forced awkward comedy from Erin Bethea and Jonathan Patrick Moore.  There is also way too much heavy-handed narration from Moore’s character and way too many montage sequences.  Yet despite these issues, New Life is actually a fairly realistic portrayal of life events encapsulated in a somewhat interesting storyline.  Though the characters and their dialogue need to be deepened, there is a lot of potential here.  The massive time jumps are also a drag, but the realistic ending is worth the wait.  Though this movie’s message is not explicitly Christian, it is still meaningful.  In the end, there are definitely a lot worse stories than this one, so you might find it to be worth your time.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

What could go wrong when you put Erin Bethea and Jonathan Patrick Moore in co-starring roles?  A lot, actually, as they exhibit very over the top emotions and forced, awkward line delivery.  However, the rest of the cast is actually pretty good despite their antics.  If pretty much anyone else was put in the co-starring roles (except for maybe the Whites or the Camerons or anything involving Tommy Blaze or Matthew Florida), this cast could have been perfect.

Conclusion

Had Erin Bethea not starred in this film (and probably not Moore either), this could have been a Hall of Famer.  There is a lot of good here, more than I expected there to be, but it needed to be written for someone else to act in.  Regardless of her past mistakes, it’s possible that Erin Bethea did learn a thing or two from the Kendricks, so it will be interesting to see if she has any plans for future film projects.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

A Heart That Forgives (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Two foster brothers have taken very different paths in life—one has become a successful pastor after leaving his criminal lifestyle behind, while the other one remains in the criminal lifestyle.  Yet they remain in contact with each other as the pastor prays for his brother.  However, not all is as it seems as the pastor engages in some questionable means to keep his ministries alive.  With so many people affected, will those involved be able to find redemption and purpose in all of the confusion?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

In keeping with their recent increase in production quality, Poorchild Films crafts a mostly average production in A Heart That Forgives.  Video quality is fine, but there are some head-scratching sequences of randomly poor lighting.  Audio quality also has some odd moments, where background noise covers up lines, which is a throwback to Hiding in Plain Sight.  However, the soundtrack is adequate, as are sets, locations, and props.  Yet the editing is somewhat disorienting and confusing.  All in all, this production is a mixed bag, thus turning out an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though there are a lot of interesting and creative ideas somewhere in here, as is the case for a myriad of Christian films, the subplots are all over the place and are quite disorganized.  The characters have realistic tendencies, but they need deepening.  The dialogue is okay, but it could use some more development, which in turn would help the characters.  There is too much message-pushing, especially through the use of sermons, and not enough natural messaging.  The storyline overall is too predictable and uncreative, thus warranting a low score.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The cast of this film returns to the level of Hiding in Plain Sight, with awkwardness and a lot of unsureness.  Lines are often too forceful, while emotions are overly dramatic.  There are also come cases of extreme fidgetiness, as well as too many sequences of cast members talking over each other.  However, there are some good points here that keep this section from being all bad.

Conclusion

Poorchild Films always seems to be hovering just on the edge of relevance.  Their movies are neither bad enough nor good enough to draw much attention, but they also can’t be counted out completely due to their efforts at production, plot writing, and casting.  But there is always a handful of things that keeps them from being relevant.  But they will likely keep churning out movies, and perhaps they will show slow improvement over time and will finally hit the mark one day.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Hitting the Breaks, Season 1 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

After racecar driver Randy Wilcox crashes his car in a race, his family convinces him to retire.  Thus, he decides to move the bed and breakfast in rural Colorado that his father willed to him.  What the Wilcox family finds there is a lack of modern conveniences and a collection of quirky characters who live eccentric lives.  Yet through the comedic mishaps they endure, they begin to like their new home, despite the inconveniences.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though the production of this series looks good on the surface, it really just boils down to a silly sitcom.  Video quality is fine, but camera work has a lot of shortcuts taken in it due to the genre.  The genre also brings with it an obnoxious laugh track, as if we are to believe that this was recorded in front of a live studio audience.  However, other audio quality is fine, even if the soundtrack is extremely generic.  Furthermore, sets and locations are severely limited, once again due to the sitcom genre.  Finally, editing is very standard and uninspiring.  Basically, PureFlix still knows how to make things look good on the outside without any real substance.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Much like past comedy projects from the bizarre minds of David A. R. White and Tommy Blaze, Hitting the Breaks is one half lazy and one half downright zany and nonsensical.  Full of cheesy small town characters that are obviously copycatting other films and series, one has to endure constant reality television confessionals that litter the series.  In these ten episodes, each one follows a predictable formula: David A. R. White gets himself into some comedic escapade and then has to get out of it in twenty minutes or less to leave himself time to read a ‘life lesson’ from his father’s journal at the end that attempts to force a purpose into this madness.  These ‘life lessons’ are laughably cheap Christian messages, thus leaving the series pointless and purposeless.  Most of the comedy isn’t even funny, whether it’s for the right reason or the wrong reason.  The dialogue is chock-full of stupid catchphrases and caricatures as everything generally gets zanier and less explainable as the series progresses.  In the end, it’s like they just run out of ideas and find a random way to end it.  Basically, there is little to no point in this mess.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

For this barn-burning cast, PureFlix trotted out ever crazy person they have ever had in their films and put them all together in one place.  Everyone is as absurd as can be expected, especially the Whites, Kevin Downes, Moran Fairchild, and everyone’s favorite Jennifer Lyons.  Gregg Binkley makes a special spectacle of himself throughout the series as he tries desperately to be the new Barney Fife.  It’s surprising that Tommy Blaze didn’t make an appearance in this cast, yet the cast of Ray Wise is actually appropriate for once and saves this section from the abyss.  But it’s still not good enough to count for much.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

With extremely short episodes that repeat the same formula over and over again, it’s safe to say there is no continuity here.  There are no story arcs or characters arcs to speak of.  Thus, there is nothing good to say here either.

Conclusion

Once again, PureFlix is one step ahead of other film makers by breaking new ground for Christian entertainment.  Though this is the first legitimate Christian sitcom, that doesn’t mean it’s any good.  The PureFlix crew basically just packaged up all the craziness they’ve had pent up since Me Again and put it all into one wild series just for the sake of making it.  There is zero purpose and no clear direction here and it only further serves as an embarrassment to Christian entertainment.  Needless to say, the world is still waiting for a truly legitimate and interesting Christian series, which is something that is obviously very difficult to come by.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 14 points

 

Andy’s Rainbow (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Rayne is caught shoplifting, she is given the choice between juvenile detention and community service.  She opts for community service and is assigned to a local home for special needs teenagers who have nowhere else to go.  She is immediately befriended by a resident named Andy, much to her chagrin, who constantly shows an interest in her as a person, something no one has ever done before, especially her drunk father.  Will Rayne’s walls come down and will she learn to love another person?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

It’s clear that the effort that went into this film was honest and caring.  The budget was likely limited in this effort, however, which keeps the production from being all that it could be.  Video quality is fine, as is camera work.  Yet there are some minor audio issues, although the soundtrack is fine.  Sets and locations are somewhat limited and are sometimes oddly lit, but they are mostly realistic.  There are some odd special effects throughout, but they really appear to be trying.  Editing is just average but is better than most films.  Overall, this is an applaudable effort that will hopefully yield better results down the road.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though this story is quite simplistic and linear, it’s an honest look at real people and is a realistic portrayal of people and the struggles they endure.  Special needs people are given a good platform and character backstories are believable and demonstrate and connection to the real world.  Thus, character development is mostly good, even if the dialogue isn’t as creative as it could be at times.  The writers definitely meant well with this plot, yet it needs a little more development and complexity to be dynamic.  The ending is very touching and shows that this creative team isn’t afraid to take risks.  It will be interesting see what they write up in future projects.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is a semi-amateurish cast, they post some good performances.  However, there are some forced emotions and line delivery throughout.  Yet like the rest of this film, it seems like they mean well and have a general grasp on what they are doing.  Some upgraded coaching would make them dynamic.

Conclusion

Andy’s Rainbow is another one of those low-budget first-time films that desperately needs a remake because it presents realistic and honest characters that the audience can connect with.  Yet the plot needs an upgrade, as does the acting coaching and the production.  With these minor changes, this creative will make a big difference in the Christian film world.  Hopefully they will be able to have the resources to make a better project soon.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Remember the Goal (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Courtney Smith-Donnelly, an inexperienced coach, is given the job as the new cross country coach at Orange Hills Christian Girls Private School, many parents are skeptical of her ‘unusual’ training methods.  She insists on not wearing the girls out, but the parents want a winning team.  Under the threat of being fired, Courtney pushes forward and encourages her girls to remember the goal no matter what.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

At least since they have been making films for nearly two decades, the Christiano brothers have learned how to craft a professional production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The soundtrack is a bit silly at times, but outdoor locations and indoor sets are on market standard.  The only real issue to point out here is the slightly poor editing job, which manifests in too many sports montages.  But in the end, at least the production quality of this film is fine.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, after all these years, the Christiano brothers have not been able to figure out how to craft a plot that relates the real people and real circumstances.  They still demonstrate a trite and sometimes childish outlook on life, which includes a silly and plastic handling of otherwise important issues.  The characters are also extremely thin and one-dimensional due to mindless dialogue.  There is hardly any content in this plot except for sports sequences and lingo and there are a lot of disjointed subplots.  But perhaps the most memorable part of this plot—for all the wrong reasons—is the forced and confusing parallels between Christianity and cross-country, as well as the ridiculous persecution the main character undergoes for training her team in a supposedly controversial fashion.  This component dominates the film and is downright laughable, not to mention all of the quick fixes in this film.  Basically, there is still nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though the Christianos mostly departed from their usual cast in his film, there are still issues here.  The lead actress is often overly practiced yet unsure of herself at the same time.  Other cast members are fine, but emotions often seem forced.  Overall, this is an average performance.

Conclusion

Remember the Goal is a departure for the Christianos in that they have finally allowed a female character to take a lead role in a plot that does not involve them being confined to the house.  Yet it still contains a lot of their typical shallow elements and their limited outlook on life and faith.  Unfortunately, they’re not going to improve until they learn how to relate to real people and stop thinking that everything is a persecution ploy.  But after all this time, why would they change?

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Scarlett [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Chase and Scarlett and two architects who are in love and are engaged to be married.  They love God and want to help people, which is why they open their home to a pregnant victim of domestic violence on the run from her evil husband.  But their lives are also changed when Scarlett discovers that she has an aggressive form of cancer.  Will they be able to hold on to what they believe despite tragedy?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though Scarlett has a smaller budget, it shows that Strong Foundation Films has finally learned how to put money to good use by having a semi-professional production.  Video quality and camera work are on standard, and audio quality shows marked improvement.  The soundtrack is also better as it flows more smoothly.  Sets, locations, and props demonstrate more professionalism than in the past.  The only negative to discuss here is the bad editing that keeps this production from being all that it could be.  Yet nevertheless, Strong Foundation has finally found a good production style.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though there is some heavy-handed narration and though this story is just another repackaged downtrodden character plot, there is some better dialogue throughout that keeps this plot from being as bad as past efforts.  Yet the characters still need further development as they are only halfway there.  There is a lot of melodrama surrounding the disease plot and there are laughable product placements for The Prophet’s Son.  Yet it seems like the Strong Foundation team is trying, even though they suggest of a lot of childish fixes for problems.  There is at least some hope for this team.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The creative team did find some better case members and better coaching for this film, yet Josiah David Warren’s unsure performance is still front and center, and is thus distracting.  The presence of Stephen Baldwin is also an automatic detractor.  Some emotions are believable while others are not.  Line delivery is mostly okay.  In the end, this rounds out of a much-needed improvement.

Conclusion

We would much rather see a company start with a 4-point movie and progress beyond that, but it’s better late than never for Strong Foundation.  They have certainly had an odd existence, but perhaps they are finding their way now.  Josiah David Warren still needs to look over his past performances and see how he can improve so he doesn’t keep doing the same thing every time.  They also still might want to consider hiring a different writer.  Who knows where they will go as a company next.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Prayer Never Fails (Movie Review)

Make a serious face Eric

Plot Summary

When Aiden Paul is fired from his job as a public school teacher and basketball coach, he feels like God wants him to hire a troubled agnostic lawyer to help him win a case against his former employer.  But the school district prepares to throw the book at Aiden and make an example out of him, so he soon finds he will have to fight for his rights and for the team that loves him.  Will he be able to prevail over the odds that are seemingly stacked against him?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Prayer Never Fails begins as a very rough and raw production with very shaky camera work and strange camera angles.  The lighting also begins very poorly.  Audio quality is relatively stable throughout.  Moreover, sets and locations are consistently realistic throughout.  The good thing is that the camera work and angles do improve later in the film, if you make it far enough.  Yet the editing is confusing throughout and leaves too many dead sequences intact.  In the end, though the production ends up average, it’s a very rocky road to get there and certainly doesn’t help this film’s already-shaky cause.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this story is very low-key and slow to develop at first, it is based on an absurdly unrealistic religious freedom premise that would never stand up in the real world.  This is combined with a typical downtrodden legal premise and several other confusing and disjointed subplots.  However, the agnostic lawyer character is one of the best we have ever seen in these sorts of films and should be transported to a different movie where his flawed characteristics can be more professionally explored.  Yet other characters are not nearly as well-developed, including the downtrodden lead and the strawman villain lawyer.  Furthermore, like certain other ‘persecution in the courtroom’ stories, this film fails the test of realism and boils down to an easily patched-up and fixed ending.  This story needs to be scrapped and started over with the agnostic lawyer character only.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is a semi-professional cast, they begin in a very underwhelming fashion.  The lead actor is especially unsure of himself and cannot carry the leading role.  However, there is potential here and the acting, especially the emotional delivery, does greatly improve in the second half of the film.  Overall, this rounds out a very roller coaster experience of a film.

Conclusion

It’s great to write a legal plot, but why does it automatically have to be about religious freedom and so-called persecution that’s not even believable in the real world?  Also, why leave production and acting to be so shoddy in the beginning?  It’s never worth just slapping a movie together just for the sake of having a movie, especially in the new era of Christian film that demands higher quality.  We’ll never begin to understand movies like this.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

The Fight Within (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Logan Chandler has been too scared to fight in the boxing ring ever since his father died right in front of him while he was training Logan.  Logan and his brother and struggling to keep their dad’s boxing gym afloat, but Logan’s emotional turmoil and his constant conflict with one of the main customers is wreaking havoc.  Nothing in Logan changes until he meets Emma, a girl at college who changes his perspective on life and makes him want to change.  Though it’s not easy, Logan is still fighting the fight inside himself with the hopes to be one day free.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For a first-time production, The Fight Within is highly professional in many ways.  Video quality is on standard and camera work is excellent, especially in the action scenes, which is very difficult to achieve.  Audio quality is flawless and the soundtrack is quite creative.  Sets, locations, and props are very realistic and appropriate.  The only nitpick to raise here are some small editing errors, such as one too many montages and blank scenes.  But in the end, this is a very encouraging and respectable effort that gives great hope for the future of New Life Cinema.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though this story is a somewhat stereotypical troubled character sports redemption plot and though it contains characters that fit into predictable molds, at least this plot and its characters are developed well.  They feel like honest and authentic people with real dialogue, which is all we can ask of a typical plot.  The flashbacks included are good and help the audience to understand the motivations of the characters.  The circumstances they experience are accessible and realistic.  However, there is still some heavy-handed sermon messaging and training and sports montages that fill time.  Overall, the story has a predictable progression, but at least the viewer can relate to what is happening and feel like it’s a real story.  This is the best someone can do with this sort of plot without any twists, so doing the best thing with what you have is all that matters for freshman film.

Acting Quality (3 points)

For an ‘amateur’ cast, the performances in this film are excellent.  Line delivery is on point, and the presence of coaching is evident.  Emotions are believable and realistic.  Each cast member fits their character well.  Thus, this is an awesome job for a creative team new on the scene.

Conclusion

All that matters when you make your first film is that you do the best with what God has given you, and New Life Cinema has done this in The Fight Within.  The production and the casting are nearly flawless.  Therefore, next time, if they employ a slightly more creative plot with the same realistic characters, they will strike gold.  It’s really encouraging to see new companies like this doing the right thing from the beginning and it will be great to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

Ben-Hur [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Judah Ben-Hur was a prince of the Jews, and he was close with Messala, his adopted brother.  However, after Messala leaves to make a name for himself in the Roman army, their friendship was strained.  But disaster struck the Ben-Hur family when they were falsely accused of an assassination attempt against a Roman leader.  Messala refuses to acquit them and thus allows Judah Ben-Hur and his family to be taken captive by cruel Rome.  Years later, when given a second chance a life, Judah must decide how he is going to respond.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The one thing you can say for Mark Burnett and Roma Downey is that they know what it takes to fund and create a top-notch production.  In this controversial remake, there are at least good on-set locations and realistic props.  Camera work is usually good in action and non-action scenes, but sometimes there is some dizzying and wild camera work.  Video quality is obviously clear and lighting is professional.  There are no audio errors, but the soundtrack sometimes does not fit the historical period.  Finally, the editing is quite poor as this previously three-and-a-half-hour film is shoved into a two-hour runtime.  But otherwise, this is the sort of production we need more of in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

When an original film is so iconic, there is little point in trying to remake it except to make money off of the name.  The original Ben-Hur was a ground-breaking classic for its time, which makes even more ridiculous the fact that this modern take on the story completely alters the original plot for no reason.  As Morgan Freeman tells you everything you need to know through narration, time rushes by at breakneck pace in an attempt to hit all the carbon-copy high point scenes of the original film.  Thus, as the film speeds along, there is no time to get to know the characters or connect with their struggles.  One minute they’re here, and the next minute they are there.  The presentation is so lazy and pandering that it’s laughable.  The writers do just enough to remind you of the old movie while at the same time turning the plot inside out for little reason.  The whole experience is overly dramatic and off-putting, thus making for a disappointing film.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As if changing the story wasn’t enough, Burnett and Downey had to drag a whole slew of BRITISH people to play Jewish and Roman characters again.  What would people have said if Morgan Freeman’s African character had been cast as a white British dude?  Besides cultural inconsistencies, the acting is simply too dramatic.  Though the costuming is historically realistic, it’s not enough to make up for the mistakes of this section.  This is another bust.

Conclusion

Burnett and Downey have perfected the model of lazily ripping off and ruining Biblical and historical plots in order to make money.  What they have not perfected is actually using the rare money and resources they are able to somehow acquire for their films for something good and effective.  They are one of the rare production teams that have the ability to actually make a respectable, well-marketed, and recognizable Christian movie, but they fail at it every time, even drawing criticism from mainstream outlets.  The question is, where do they go from here?

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Eternal Salvation [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jonathan Wright is a successful businessman with a beautiful wife and daughter.  He has the house he wants, the car of his dreams, and all the possessions he could ask for.  But when he has a near-death experience, his perspective on life is forever changed.  He sees all that he has been missing out on and is compelled to follow God with everything he has.  However, he soon finds that his newfound faith is not easy and he must learn to trust God with his whole life.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though Eternal Salvation is a freshman production, it is quite respectable.  The video quality is professional, as is the camera work.  Audio quality is what it should be and the soundtrack is effective.  However, there are some cheap-looking special effects and some fake-looking sets that put a damper on things.  Yet the locations and props are realistic.  The editing leaves something to be desired, but sometimes this is to be expected for the first-time production.  In the end, this is a professional effort that gives hope for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this is an interesting and non-typical plot idea, it is also a little too simplistic.  Though the occurrences are mostly realistic, the characters are far too black and white.  Christian characters are too good, while non-Christian characters are too bad, and this suggests that everything is automatically fixed when you are saved.  Thus, this produces a cheap Christian message that is hard to direct people to.  Besides this, the dialogue is also too obvious, including unnecessary narration.  Also, passage time is too vague as it rushes by with no real warning.  In the end, it is clear that the writers meant well—they just needed to brush up on their characters in order to make them more realistic.  This would have totally changed the dynamic of this film.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though sometimes this cast is too practiced in their emotions and their line delivery, they are mostly good in their performances.  Sometimes they are too fake looking, but they are predominantly professional.  Like the production, this casting job certainly demonstrates potential for the future.

Conclusion

This creative team should be proud of the good start they have made here.  Their next step needs to be crafting a deeper story by developing their characters better.  Their ideas are fine, but they need better characters to back them up.  This team has certainly found great success in production and casting that can be built off of in the future.  It will be interesting to see what they have planned next; we need more film makers like them to improve and succeed in order to transform the market.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Boonville Redemption (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Melinda was always told that she was an illegitimate child.  Her mother is superstitious and has a secret she is trying to hide as she is under the thumb of the ruthless Maddox, Melinda’s stepfather.  When Maddox sends Melinda away to Melinda’s grandmother, Melinda sees a whole new outlook on life, including insights into who her father really is.  She discovers that everyone in the small western town of Boonville is hiding a secret, and only courage and faith will help them to disclose what they need to disclose.

 

Production Quality (2 point)

Since there is a lot of mainstream experience on the production team, the production of Boonville Redemption is understandably professional.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The soundtrack is pedestrian, but the sets and locations are historically realistic.  The biggest errors to highlight here pertain to editing, as there are a lot of abrupt transitions and choppy sequences.  There is too much content that has been crammed into the 100-minute runtime of this film.  Basically, this film is professional on the surface, yet it lacks the necessary substance to be any better than it is.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though Boonville Redemption attempts to explore a unique plot style and genre, it does so in all the wrong ways.  Constant narration from the unnecessarily omniscient Pat Boone doesn’t leave anything to chance and makes sure the ending is obvious in the beginning.  Pretty much every character is a cheesy stereotype, especially the ridiculously monologuing villain.  The characters that have potential to be good are barely given any screen time, probably due to the large number of characters in general.  Though there is a lot of content, as previously mentioned, time is frivolously wasted on very unnecessary sequences.  Any good parts are very rushed and are drowned out by too many quirky elements.  Everything culminates in a gag-inducing “it’s my diary” climax sequence that really just puts the icing on this rotten cake.  Unfortunately, while this could have been a creative and interesting story, it falls very much short of expectations.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The good news is historical costuming is realistic, although there are some minor shades of Michael Landon Jr. frontier makeovers present.  The acting is mostly professional with only some minor errors, such as some overly dramatic moments.  If Edward Asner, Richard Tyson, and Pat Boone were removed from this cast, it would have been perfect.  But at least this casting job is somewhat palatable.

Conclusion

Boonville Redemption demonstrates mainstream professionalism in the production and acting departments, but the plot severely suffers from lack of creativity and forceful delivery.  Throwing a bunch of big name cast members into a well-funded production does not equal a good movie.  The story seems like it had too many writers in the story room, but that isn’t really the case.  Essentially, writers need to trust their audiences to figure things out rather than have Pat Boone tell them what to think about stuff.  Also, the last thing we needed was the Pat Boone credits number, but who really cares at this point?

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

94 Feet (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The coal town of St. Michaels is falling apart.  The mill has already closed and now the coal mine is downsizing.  The town is shrinking and people are leaving to find better times elsewhere.  But one tragic day, the mine collapses and traps all of the miners beneath the surface of the earth.  The entire town comes together to pray and rescue the miners from certain death before time runs out.  Will they all lose the men they love and their faith at same time?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In the past, Chip Rossetti has had many rough moments when it comes to movie making, especially production elements (see Right to Believe and Fathers).  However, 94 Feet demonstrates a definite improvement in this department, including professional video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also intriguing.  Sets, locations, and props are very appropriate and realistic.  There are some minor issues in the special effects department, but this and some confusing editing are the only errors to highlight.  Overall, this film demonstrates that no matter how small you start, you can always improve in your movie career if you put your mind to it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though the plot of 94 Feet is a definite improvement over past efforts, it still leaves something to be desired.  It’s great to use a real life story to base your movie on, but the premise if this film is still somewhat shallow as the characters and their dialogue need better development.  There are too many very dry attempts at comedy and too much wasted time.  The beginning of the plot is too slow and not engaging enough and does not use time wisely to develop characters.  While we can appreciate their struggles, they still need more realism to deepen the experience.  As it is, this story is fine and will many audiences will enjoy it, we just can’t help but feel it could have gone a step further.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

This section is also a major improvement over swing-and-miss casts of previous Rossetti films.  These cast members appear to actually know what they are doing and demonstrate honesty and realism.  Each cast member is cast appropriately.  Emotions and live delivery are on point; this cast only demonstrates minor errors, thus making it this film’s strongest portion.

Conclusion

Though improvement is sometimes slow and meager, any improvement is always good regardless.  Sometimes it takes time to hone film making skills, and it appears that Chip Rossetti and his team are on the right road.  Production and casting have greatly improved, so the final frontier for them will be plots.  With better characters and a more engaging storyline, the Rossetti team will be looking at a Hall of Fame film in no time, if they stay the course and don’t give up.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Sacred Vow (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Doug and Amber married when they were young, in college, and hopelessly in love.  However, as they grew older, they slowly but surely grew apart.  Then Doug does the unthinkable: he becomes involved with another woman who makes him want to get out of his current marriage.  But Amber refuses to sign the divorce papers until they both give their marriage a chance.  With secrets between them and their faith in tatters, will they ever be able to repair what is broken?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, the production of Sacred Vow is good.  Video quality and camera work are on par.  However, audio quality is sometimes poor, which seems out of place in this production.  The soundtrack could also use some work.  Sets and locations are acceptable, but the reality-television confessional style presentation seems counter-intuitive.  It’s very odd to have characters tell you things like this—it would be better for these things to be shown rather than told.  Thus, editing is somewhat lazy and relies on these odd confessionals.  Overall, this is an average production, but it feels like it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The confessionals also hamper with the plot structure.  Are we supposed to pay attention to the characters telling us about the story or to the story itself?  The “interviews” serve as a crutch for actual dialogue and character development.  Besides the interviews, there are also flashbacks that are fine but need more development to make sense rather than constant voiceovers.  Though this story has a good message and point, it is sometimes too shallow and simplistic, and at other times, it is too edgy.  It’s really hard to know who these people are outside of their interview spots.  There are also a few too many cheesy elements that hold this idea back.  In the end, what started as a likely good idea became too clunky to work well.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, this cast screams amateurish.  Sometimes their performances appear to be overly practiced, while other times they are quite awkward.  Some line delivery is too breathy and measured.  Also, costuming and makeup are very odd and off-putting.  Overall, though it seems like they meant well, it’s not really good enough.

Conclusion

Films like Sacred Vow start off as something interesting but all too quickly and easily fall short of their original intentions.  Though some decent money was spent on this film, it wasn’t applied in a way that makes it worthwhile.  The story is too underwhelming and the cast is not adequate enough.  In the end, unfortunately, Sacred Vow is just another one of those random Christian films that easily gets tossed aside and lost in the shuffle.  What we need is more dynamic films, not more five-dollar-bin fodder.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Until Forever {Undying Faith} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Michael Boyum was full of life and joy when Michelle first met him.  They grew to love each other and then the unthinkable happened: Michael began having health problems and was diagnosed with leukemia.  But they vowed to walk the journey together and to pray for God’s healing.  However, the longer it went and as the cancer kept coming back, they began to wonder what God’s real plan was.  Was God really listening or was there something they were missing?  Ultimately, they found that God’s plans were much higher than their own.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s very clear that much thought and care were put into this meaningful film that is based on true events.  This is evident in the wisely-spent production budget that yielded big results.  Camera work and video quality are flawless.  Audio quality is professional and the original soundtrack is creative and engaging.  Sets, locations, and props are extremely realistic.  It’s sad to say, but there are some minor editing issues that keep this production from being all that it could be.  But otherwise, Until Forever is a model production for independent film makers—you can hardly get any better than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Based on true events—you probably already know that we prefer this sort of plot because of realism—Until Forever demonstrates honesty and authenticity.  The struggles of the characters can be appreciated and connected with, yet they are not as deep as they could be.  This is likely due to under-developed dialogue, an overuse of narration, and too much silent dialogue that is covered over with musical montages.  There are also some peripheral characters and subplots that needed more exploration instead of that extra musical montage.  However, this film still demonstrates a great exploration of tough issues, including a fair and balanced philosophical conversation with the opposing point of view.  Even though the storyline follows a vague progression of time, the messaging is highly effective, as is the ending.  This is a touching story and is definitely worth a watch.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast clearly means well, they begin in a very awkward fashion—we are unsure as to how purposeful this is.  Nonetheless, it doesn’t really come off right, but they are saved by the fact that their performances do improve as the movie goes on, which is possibly due to improved coaching.  Emotions are realistic and easy to connect with.  On the whole, this is an above-average performance.

Conclusion

Until Forever should be a standard film in Christian entertainment, not an exception to the rule.  The market should be flooded with films like this, not the usual Christian-labeled garbage you stumble upon on video streaming services.  This film tells a real story in the most honest and meaningful way possible and spends time, effort, and money in doing so.  All we can ever ask from film makers is that they do the best they can with what God has given them, and the Linn family did this with Until Forever.  We can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Love Different (Movie Review)

Thug life.

Plot Summary

When a dippy white blonde named Jenn Gotzon Lindsay decides to take a job at an African-American marketing firm, she finds herself in the midst of a major culture shock.  So the head of the firm assigns his best marketer, Neque, to help Lindsay integrate into the new culture that she is completely foreign to.  Little do neither of them know that they are both in for a new look at life, not only their own lives, but also the lives of others.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For the most part, Love Different sports professional production quality.  Camera work, video quality, and audio quality are all on par with what they should be.  The soundtrack is a little quirky, but it seems to work.  Sets and locations are adequate for this story.  There is really little to complain about here, except for some choppy editing as this film tends to jump from one supposedly funny sequence to another.  But otherwise, this is what productions should look like, even if the story is greatly lacking.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

What. Is. Happening.  From one forced comedy scene to the next and from one quirky racial joke to another, there is no sense here and little method to this madness.  A lot of the time, it seems like these cast members were set free to ad-lib with no real direction except to act as juvenile and silly as possible and to make as many racial jokes as they can get away with.  This story feels like it has the zany influence of David A. R. White, Kevin Downes, and Tommy Blaze, but it does not.  As previously mentioned, this story is really just a loose collection of skits about racial differences with a few ‘meaningful’ scenes sprinkled in.  It’s hard to follow the arc of these characters as one is constantly distracted by the outrageous behaviors of Jenn Gotzon that simply have to be seen for yourself.  A lot of the dialogue constantly refers back to racial differences without truly building these characters beyond their skin color.  Yet believe it or not, there is a powerful message hidden somewhere in the midst of the zaniness, if you stick around long enough to find it.  But in the end, any movie that includes Jenn Gotzon trying to act like she’s African-American cannot be taken seriously.  It’s funny for all the wrong reasons and is simply too much to be true comedy.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Sometimes it seems like this cast has potential.  But then it doesn’t.  Jenn Gotzon is a self-parody in this film with all her antics.  Other cast members seem like they have potential and even have good moments, but they short themselves by acting like fools in attempts to be comedic.  They really seem like they are better than this, which makes this performance overall disappointing.

Conclusion

In the opening credits, God is blamed as an executive producer of this train wreck.  Can I just say, please don’t blame God for your disasters.  There is certainly a place for comedy centered around cultural differences and how we tend to isolate ourselves from different people, but whatever good Love Different was trying to accomplish unfortunately falls flat.  There are simply too many outrageous sequences and purposely over-the-top comedy elements for this movie to fully accomplish its goal.  There are so many memorable moments in this movie that are memorable for the wrong reasons.  From a class dedicated to teaching white people about African-Americans to Bon Quisha and Jenn Gotzon’s thug life, Love Different is one for the history books, but we’re not sure if its original intent will be remembered in the midst of the outrageousness.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Before All Others (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a woman is struck with a rare and unexplainable disease that is sure to temporarily paralyze her, she is left with no choice but to go live under the care of her elderly grandmother who barely gets out and can hardly walk around.  As the two of them hobble around and try to talk about family secrets, the grandmother finds her advice from her dead husband, whom she frequently talks to in the garden shed.  That is, until some random guy starts hanging around all the time fixing stuff and the grandmother decides to grab the first guy she found to marry her granddaughter off to.  What could go wrong?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Despite clear video quality, Before All Others is another poor Faith House production.  Camera work is very shaky and amateurish, even though easily 75% of the film takes place in one cabin set.  It should be easy to film in this environment, but not for Faith House.  For that matter, the audio quality shouldn’t be this bad, but it is.  The soundtrack also blares constantly and sometimes covers up dialogue.  Finally, as is commonplace in Faith House films, there is really no editing as long sequences of random footage are included.  Seriously, this is a 2016 film and they still can’t get production right.  Does anyone else see anything wrong with this?

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Once again, there is literally no purpose to this story as two pathetic characters limp and hobble around a primitive cabin and talk to dead people.  Despite having so few characters, they are so empty and lifeless due to utterly inept dialogue.  There is very little actual content as viewers are forced to watch awkward activities of daily living over and over again.  The mysterious illness’ progression is extremely convenient, depending on whether the plot needs the character to be well or unwell at the moment.  There is also a very awkwardly forced and juvenile romantic subplot that only serves to waste time.  All drama is completely manufactured and the shoehorned Christian message is completely mindless.  Basically, Before All Others is just more of the same.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Despite having different cast members than usual, this cast is still very small and very wooden.  One cast member is laughably eccentric while another is embarrassingly lifeless.  There is zero coaching present and no believable emotions.  As a side note, makeup is also terrible.  But this is apparently business as usual for Faith House.

Conclusion

As previously mentioned, this film was made in 2016, yet fundamental movie making elements are still not grasped by this team.  A film of this low caliber has no place in Christian entertainment anymore as the bar is being set higher, especially when it comes to production quality.  But yet, here it is, available for all to see.  After this long stretch of reviewing their films, we have to wonder what is really going on at Faith House.  Is it just one big scam or do they really have no idea what they’re doing?  We honestly have no clue and wonder if they do either.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

The Encounter, Season 1 [2016] (Series Review)

With this creepy look, who doesn’t want an encounter?

Plot Summary

When someone is going about their everyday activities, they never know what is about to happen or who they are about to meet.  They all have struggles and secrets that they don’t want anyone to know, but they would be free if they just knew someone they could trust them with.  But people never know when they are about to meet Someone Who will change their life forever.  They never know until they have their own Encounter with Jesus.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Encounter series follows a typical production formula that PureFlix has been using for years.  They check the boxes for making the production look good on the surface, including video quality, audio quality, sets, props, and locations.  The soundtrack is sometimes engaging but mostly standard.  Sometimes there is too much shaky camera work, especially in the poorly shot actions scenes.  The biggest issue here is that large amount of wasted time throughout the series.  Most episodes are 25-28 minutes long, but the plots are usually so thin that this is too much time.  The exception to this is of episodes one and four, which will be discussed later.  But in the end, this series demonstrates an overall typical and average production effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

For eight episodes, The Encounter rehashes the same types of ideas, concepts, and conversations over and over again, just with different characters.  Outside of episodes one and four, there is no creativity here, as the opening sequence tells you what’s going to happen in each episode.  Besides being predictable, these stories are also very quick and punctuated, like they’ve been made in a quick plot factory.  While there are some good issues raised in the series, there are too many quick fixes and easy solutions based on creepy and plastic Jesus dialogue.  Thus, the messaging is quite shallow.  However, there is some potential here, as the first episode is very interesting and should have been the focus of the whole series so we could have gotten to know these characters better.  Also, the fourth episode would have made an interesting movie, if done properly.  But overall, this series just hops from high point to high point and discards substance and realism along the way.  It’s a good idea done very poorly.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While there are bright spots in this large scale cast, there are also plenty of issues.  For one, it seems like Bruce Marchiano, who has done well portraying Jesus in the past, has lost his touch. Other cast members are typical PureFlix standbys and rejects who seem to be lazy and phoning in their performances.  But as it is, it just comes out as average.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

When the same ideas repeat over and over again in each episode and new characters are constantly being introduced, there is no chance or hope for continuity in this season.  There are no story arcs or character arcs.  We need to see what happens to these characters after their initial encounters, which is why it would have been great to have the characters from the first episode be the main focus of this series.  Yet the way it has been done is shallow and lazy, thus warranting no points here.

Conclusion

There’s nothing wrong with having Jesus intervene in everyday situations, but spitting out a whole bunch of episodes that are all basically the same doesn’t accomplish anything.  It’s easy to create a bunch of surface characters and then leave them; it takes true skill to craft meaningful characters that we can connect with.  It’s also a great idea to create a Christian series, but we need something better than this.  We need sustainable ideas that make people want to follow a set of characters across an arc.  PureFlix has the resources to do this, but will they?

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 14 points

 

Texas Rein {The Ride Home} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Cassie Roberts receives word that her father is having medical complications, she is forced to return to the small town of Texas she grew up in, the one she tried to get away from.  While back in town, she is reminded of her horse riding days and reluctantly agrees to help her father and his young trainer to train her old horse for a reining competition.  Will she be reminded of what she left behind and of the new life she can start anew?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

While Texas Rein has good standard production elements, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality, there are still some other issues to raise.  The soundtrack is very stock and uninspiring.  The sets and locations are quite limited to a few houses and outside areas and don’t even give off that small town feel.  Finally, the editing is quite poor and causes the film to be very choppy and confusing—just a collection of random scenes.  There are also too many musical montages.  In short, while this movie looks good on the surface, it’s really just an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

So a character returns to their hometown they don’t want to be in because of some extenuating circumstance and finds a reason to stay (usually a horse is involved) and meets a significant other and so on and so forth.  We’ve seen this plot before and this is a 2016 movie, so why are we seeing it again?  Besides the predictable plot structure, the characters therein are extremely juvenile and simplistic.  The dialogue is typical and full of small town statements.  Nothing really substantial happens as the passage of time is hard to follow.  We can’t feel like these people are real or are doing real things as their unrealistic high school dramas are resolved too easily.  Basically, there’s really nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This is really a very poor casting job.  The actors and actresses are awkward, wooden, and robotic in their line delivery.  They don’t express any believable feeling or emotions.  On the bright side, this is possibly Erin Bethea’s best role to date.  But otherwise, this is a big disappointment.

Conclusion

It’s great to want to make a movie, but sometimes you need to take a step back and see if it really is worth marking.  Texas Rein probably would have done better as a short film, to work as sort of a springboard for better things.  With no creative plot content and very weak characters, this was unfortunately not a story worth telling.  Also, it’s great to have production elements down, but having such a poorly coached cast is unacceptable.  Perhaps things will improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Divine Will [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Will Blessing got in too much trouble in the city, so his uncle, the famous rock star Dave Blessing, decides to take a job as a music minister in a church in the small town of Punkyville.  So along with Dave’s eccentric sister Jenny, Will and his uncle pack up and go to the weirdly eccentric, self-parody town of Punkyville and meet all sorts of zany off-the-wall characters that promise to make their life interesting.  Will’s also got this gift of fixing people’s problems or something.  So If you’re looking for a comedic musical sure to entertain, this is the film for you.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The one thing we can say for this diatribe is that they at least attempted an average production quality.  Video quality, audio quality, and camera work are on par.  However, the soundtrack obnoxious as characters randomly burst into song when they feel like it.  The sets and locations are also cheap looking and there are some cheesy special effects.  There is really no editing in this film as it seems like every possible stupid amount of content was included.  Basically, while some money was spent in this production, we have no idea why.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

What is this?  Seriously, what is this?  What do the writers take us for?  Is this film geared toward children?  Trust me, we tried to find some clarity, but found none.  Between the impromptu musicals, the zany characters, the bizarre dialogue, and generally random things just happening for no reason, there is no way to follow this madness.  It jumps from one thing to the next and has the feel of a cheap cable television show on a family-friendly channel.  There is no real plot to speak of and nothing to be gained from these empty-headed characters.  A lot of it is seemingly silly for the sake of silliness and sometimes seems to make fun of disabled people.  In short, there is no purpose to this story except for laughs.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Needless to say, this is not the way to cast a film.  While there was really nothing for these actors and actresses to work with, one has to wonder what exactly is going on here.  Do these people like to be portrayed in this way?  Do they watch themselves?  We really can’t say much beyond this, except that you have to watch it to understand what we’re talking about.

Conclusion

So you have some money for a film and you decide to not only rip off a worn out plot concept parodying a small town, but you do so in such an astronomically ridiculous fashion, that it makes Tommy Blaze look smart.  We even considered putting this film in the special category with The Rev; that’s how ridiculous it is.  Sigh.  There is nothing much left to do but finish another review for another stupidly embarrassing Christian movie and wonder what exactly it is that PureFlix turns away.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out 10 points

 

 

Full disclosure: We were provided by the creator with a copy of this film in exchange for a fair and honest review

 

I’m Not Ashamed: The Rachel Joy Scott Story (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rachel Joy Scott was an artistic free spirit who longed to change the world.  When her father left the family when she was young, it left her confused and searching for affirmation in her friends.  However, after a spiritual experience one summer while staying with her cousins, Rachel knew she would never be the same again.  But she still struggled with trying to hang out with her old friends, who always tempted her to be like them.  As Rachel tried to discover her true identity, she still felt like she needed to change the world.  In the end, as tragedy hit Columbine High School, she did change the world, and touched many lives in the process.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

This is obviously a talented and dedicated production team, as they went all out to make this movie as realistic as possible.  They stayed true to authenticity with the sets, locations, and props, demonstrating that this was not created lightly.  Video quality, audio quality, and camera work are obviously flawless.  The soundtrack is effective and thought-provoking.  The only detracting factor in this movie is a slight editing issue that is mostly due to having too much content to deal with.  But otherwise, this is a high quality production that shows both the commitment and the skill of those involved.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

We say this all the time—it’s almost always better to portray a real life story in a movie.  With guidance of real events and people, the Rachel Joy Scott story has been thoroughly and effectively brought to life in I’m Not Ashamed.  The characters are highly accessible and relatable, as are the circumstances they experience.  Rachel is a real person with real struggles and real problems, as are the other characters.  The dialogue is excellent and builds strong personalities for the characters.  The only caveat to raise here is the fact that since such a large story was taken on, some parts seem rushed through, but nothing bad enough to ruin this story’s overall point.  The message that is communicated through this plot comes across very well and challenges Christians to live out their faith without compromising.  This is a job well done.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Movies can be made or broken by their casting, but I’m Not Ashamed does not disappoint.  Each cast member fits their character exquisitely.  This is arguably Ben Davies’ best performance to date.  All emotions are realistic and lines are delivered effectively.  Costuming is realistic.  There are no errors here.

Conclusion

It might have been tempting for someone with less than pure intentions to portray Rachel Joy Scott as a perfect saint, but this was not done by this writing team.  She was a teenager who struggled to live out her Christianity, just as many of us do.  Yet though she was surrounded by confusion and turmoil, she made a difference with the short life she had.  Besides being a quality film, I’m Not Ashamed succeeds in communicating this important message.  This is what Christian film should be about, so things are certainly looking up.

 

Final Rating: 8 out of 10 points

 

The Apostle Peter: Redemption (Movie Review)

A creeper

Plot Summary

The Apostle Peter followed Jesus zealously once he was called, but when faced with the darkest hour in history, Peter fell away and denied that he even knew his Lord.  Yet after His Resurrection, Jesus forgave Peter and made him the head of His church.  All his life, Peter sought to never forsake Christ again, so when faced with martyrdom, he only wanted to please his Lord and witness to those around him—even a skeptical Roman soldier who was seeking the truth.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Productions PureFlix has had a hand in are usually average or above, as is the case with The Apostle Peter: Redemption.  However, we can’t help but feel that there could have been more here.  While all the typical elements—camera work, video quality, audio quality, and soundtrack—are okay for the most part, it feels like this production isn’t going the extra mile.  This is mostly demonstrated by fake looking sets and locations that are actually quite limited.  Some historical authenticity is present, but it seems too plastic.  The editing is fine, but leaves sometime to be desired.  In short, this is just a standard production that seems slapped together; it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

With themes similar to Apostle Peter and the Last Supper, this plot is very slow to develop and hard to follow.  Not much happens as unfeeling characters have boring and stiff conversations filled with stilted theatrical dialogue and discourses on obscure Roman politics.  We can’t feel like these characters are real or relatable people since they act like they stepped out of one of those horrid 1980s Bible movies.  They don’t really do anything except ramble on and pretend like things are happening.  The only redeeming qualities here are the okay use of flashbacks and the interesting end that is slightly meaningful if you make it that far.  Otherwise, this story is a big disappointment.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This film is poorly cast, and even though it stays away from the BRITISH errors, the cast members are still not historically authentic.  The costuming also seems fake and cheaply made.  The actors and actresses are stoic and robotic in their line delivery and unfeeling in their emotions.  John Rhys-Davies is the only exception here, as he is always the same in every movie he’s in.  As a side note, Stephen Baldwin seems like he’s in his natural habitat, since he’s as creepy as ever and exhibits random unwanted outbursts.  But basically, this is a mess.

Conclusion

It’s commendable to create Biblical films, but once again, this is not the way to do it.  This is an interesting look at the latter life of a Bible character, but the storyline simply does not hold the attention and seems disingenuous.  It’s hard to believe that this wasn’t just a movie thrown together for the sake of having a Bible movie.  We implore film makers to put effort into their work and to not create half-measures.  It is simply not worth it.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Forty Nights [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Before Jesus began His earthly ministry, He was baptized by His cousin John and then set out to fast in the desert wilderness for forty days and forty nights.  As He sought His Father’s will in the desert, Satan tempted Him in every way imaginable to try to derail His ministry before it started.  As Jesus grew weaker and weaker and the devil became more and more relentless, the fate of humanity hung in the balance.  Choices had to be made to bring the world back from the brink.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

It’s undeniable that time and money were spent to make Forty Nights a quality production.  Camera work and video quality are professional.  The audio quality is also on point, including an effective soundtrack.  Shooting on location is excellently executed as the sets and locations are realistic.  All of this is great, but it is detracted from by the glaring presence of cheap special effects, obvious CGI, and weird sound effects throughout.  Sometimes these conventions are used to be ‘dramatic’ or something, but it really gives the film a cheesy feel.  Overall, this is a fine production, but it would have been much better without the bizarre effects.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

What started out as an applaudable effort to create a unique Bible plot quickly became a trainwreck, unfortunately.  The story rushes through Biblical events and alters some of them for convenience sake so that sensational extra-Biblical content can be focused on.  Though the entire plot is based on dialogue, as it should be, it is too isolating and meandering.  Often, the dialogue is extremely formal and Shakespearean to the point of not feeling like these are real people talking.  Though there are some interesting philosophical conversations and ideas, they are not enough to outweigh the stoic and robotic nature of this plot.  Also, this story commits the unforced error of implying that Jesus doesn’t know certain things and that Satan knows more than Him, probably in an attempt to make things more climactic or something.  But it is unwise and irresponsible to insinuate such things and undermines the entire message.  Finally, though the ending is fine and there is an overall good point somewhere in this film, it’s not enough to overshadow the glaring errors present here.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

However, the acting is perhaps the biggest element that drags this movie down.  The only remotely good thing to say here is that the costuming is mostly realistic.  Otherwise, this acting is far too theatrical and practiced.  Line delivery is measured, stilted, and robotic.  Emotions are flat and lifeless.  Though the dialogue is a problem to begin with, we can’t even feel like these cast members are real people.  This in and of itself makes this film basically unwatchable.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, Forty Nights basically boils down to The Book of Ruth with more money behind it.  This was a really good idea that has been sadly wasted due to annoying acting and a thin plotline.  Yet there are also other issues to discuss.  These days, there seems to be an overdone effort to ‘humanize’ Jesus in film to the point that He is no longer omniscient.  While I am not one to nitpick over theology, I believe this is a dangerous position to take.  We know that Jesus certainly had physical limitations while on earth, but to believe that Satan ever knew more than He did is very dangerous.  While Jesus was absolutely tempted in every way and while this is great to portray in a film, this was unfortunately not the way to do it.  We realize that films need conflict and climax to be successful, but there is no human conflict within the person of Jesus Christ.  There is never a good excuse to create a new gospel for the sake of drama.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Full disclosure: We were provided by the creator with a copy of this film in exchange for a fair and honest review

Wildflower [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Chloe has a dark secret that haunts her, but she doesn’t quite know what it is.  She is plagued by nightmares and flashbacks of something that lurks below her consciousness, but she cannot quantify it.  She also does not want to talk to anyone about it except her trusted friend Rebecca.  Chloe has pushed everyone away, including her mother.  But when she is faced with something she cannot reconcile, she will have to reach out to someone before it’s too late.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The Faith Street Films team has consistently shown a commitment to quality productions—this is evident again in Wildflower.  Camera work is professional, as is video quality.  Audio quality is error-free and the soundtrack is superb and enhances the experience.  Sets and locations are good as well.  The only problem to point out here is editing.  Some scenes are unnecessarily long while others are cut too short.  As will be discussed next, too much of the same thing happens.  But overall, this is a great production that shows great promise.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Wildflower is a much-needed Christian psychological thriller, but it’s extremely frustrating to watch, knowing all that could have been.  For starters, the heavy-handed narration throughout doesn’t allow the plot to develop naturally.  Great issues are raised here, but the characters are stunted by too much narration and not enough dialogue.  Though there are excellent psychological elements and flashbacks, the plot is based too much on coincidences.  Overall, we know that the creators mean well and is was great to try something different, but without deeper development, the storyline and its characters are left only halfway finished.  We would love to see this concept remade in some way.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is relatively small, they do a fairly good job pulling this off.  They are mostly believable, but there are some underwhelming performances that seem to hold this film back from being all that it could be.  Emotions are mostly realistic, but there are some overdone elements that distract from the story.  In short, this is an above-average effort that had the ability to be better.

Conclusion

It is always disappointing to see a downgrade from Hall of Fame, especially since King’s Faith was enjoyable.  We love psychological thrillers, but Wildflower left us wanting for more.  The issues portrayed in this film are important and need to be discussed, we fear the way they are packaged in this film will turn people off.  We sincerely wish this plot could be reworked so that it could reach its full greatness.  Nonetheless, Nicholas DiBella and his team are certainly talented and we can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

  

Full disclosure: We were provided by the creator with a copy of this film in exchange for a fair and honest review

 

2016 Box Office Revolution Awards

Every year, movies are released and cast members show off their talents.  Writers and directors showcase their creativity.  Films are separated into roughly three groups: the truly talented, the potentially great, and the others.  At Box Office Revolution, we believe it is our prerogative to annually recognize those movie makers and players who have the ability to bring revolution to Christian entertainment.

 

Reader’s Choice Movie of the Year: Providence

Runners-up: God’s Not Dead 2, Priceless, Risen

 

Staff Choice Movie of the Year: Priceless

Runners-up: I’m Not Ashamed, Risen, Heaven Bound, The Matchbreaker

 

Staff Choice Actor of the Year: Joel Smallbone

Runners-up: Joseph Fiennes (Risen), Danny Vinson (Heaven Bound), Michael Joiner (Heaven Bound), Wesley Elder (The Matchbreaker)

 

 

Staff Choice Actress of the Year: Masey McLain

Runners-up: Bianca Santos (Priceless), Christina Grimmie (The Matchbreaker), Nancy Stafford (Heaven Bound), Karen Abercrombie (God’s Compass)

 

Staff Choice Director of the Year: Kevin Reynolds (Risen)

Runners-up: Ben Smallbone (Priceless), Adam Drake\Torry Martin (Heaven Bound), Wesley Elder\Torry Martin (The Matchbreaker)

 

Staff Choice Writers of the Year: Marshal Younger\Torry Martin (Heaven Bound\The Matchbreaker)

Runners-up: Chris Dowling\Tyler Poelle (Priceless), Kevin Reynolds\Paul Aiello (Risen), Rene Gutteridge (Heaven Bound), Wesley Elder (The Matchbreaker)

 

Staff Choice Soundtrack of the Year: Priceless

Runners-up: Risen, Heaven Bound, The Matchbreaker