Miles Between Us {Four Days Alone in a Car} (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Scott Dauer is a successful Hollywood agent, but an untimely accident prevents his ex-wife from driving their daughter across the country to the Christian college she wants to attend. Thus, Scott is forced to reconnect with the young woman he’s been estranged from for many years as they make the four-day journey across the nation. However, little does either one of them know that their time together will forever alter their lives.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Especially in the beginning, the sets, locations, and props of Miles Between Us are fairly cheap and not well-thought-out. This include some sets that echo a lot of audio, yet most of the scenes have fine lighting and video quality. Camera work is acceptable for the most part, except for the shaky moments and the odd camera angles that sometimes appear. Audio quality is mostly okay, but the soundtrack leaves something to be desired. Finally, there’s virtually no editing in this film as many of the scenes are long and drawn out without proper cuts. In the end, though there’s some improvement as the movie progresses, the production still ends up average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

At the start of this heavily character-based plot, the characters seem to be grasping for things to say in order to fill time while the story moves along. Many of the conversations seem unnatural and don’t do what they need to do with character development even though this plot line heavily depends on them and their personalities due to its limited scope. On top of this, the Christian characters are both perfect and condescending, and many lines spoken by all characters are sterile and clinical, like they were crafted by AI. The progression of time is also unrealistic, no doubt confused by the riveting driving montages and clouded by sequences of sermonizing. One of the only ways to save this plot would have been to transform the memory-based dialogue (“I remember when you did that!”) into actual flashbacks that integrate into a non-linear storyline; this would have done something to breathe life into the dead characters therein. This would have especially helped the fact that an important concept is explored in the last quarter of the film that, while it’s kind of out of left field for the movie’s context, really does need to be discussed in Christian entertainment. However, many viewers will never make it that far due to absolute boredom of the story’s first three quarters. It’s too bad this intriguing idea was wasted, along with the somewhat ambiguous ending, but perhaps, one day, it can be re-purposed in a better way.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Throughout a majority of the film, the cast members seem understandably bored with their lot and sometimes awkward around each other. We can’t blame them since they were given such poor lines to work with. However, their delivery of them is still overly practiced and stilted even though there are some fine performances. Emotions are a bit lame at times, and hair and makeup is strange. Nonetheless, there’s some improvement in these areas as the movie goes on, which is enough to warrant and average rating for this section.

Conclusion

The creative team behind Miles Between Us is almost onto something, but they would do well to make sure their screenwriting is up to industry standards. With the growth of Christian entertainment and the collective improvement of productions, the bar has been raised, and there’s little room for vanilla or basement-level creations anymore. Thus, this can be a learning experience for them; in the near future, they may be able to redo this film or at least use some of its concepts with better characters. Overall, film making is always a learning process, so it will be interesting to see what they produce next.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

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The Shack (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Mackenzie Phillips never really trusted God after the abuse he underwent at the hands of his father, but he really felt abandoned by Jesus when his youngest daughter was kidnapped, raped, and left for dead by a twisted man. Floundering in his faith, Mack receives a mysterious note signed by God telling him to return to the place where his daughter was found dead: a shack in the mountainous woods. Mack decides to return, thinking he can avenge his daughter’s death, but instead, he experiences an encounter with God beyond his wildest dreams.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a mainstream production, The Shack hits all the right notes en route to a nearly perfect score. This is due to great camera work, video quality, and audio quality. The sets, locations, and props are effectively utilized and authentic. Also, the soundtrack is very poignant and accessible. One minor nitpick to point out with this production pertains to the editing concerns, but this is mainly a plot issue that inadvertently affects this section. Overall, this is almost as good as it gets for a production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Based on William Paul Young’s slightly controversial novel, the film is actually a step above the book as it takes time to explain more about the characters and their motivations. Even still, there are still some issues that hold The Shack back from being all that it could be. For one, the narration right out of the gate from Tim McGraw’s mysteriously omniscient character is completely unnecessary and calls into question why his subplot even exists. This brief, irrelevant storyline, in conjunction with some rushed and confusing scenes revolving around law enforcement, waste precious time at the beginning of the film and make the movie feel like it’s two different ones put together. This squandered time at the beginning hurts this section and likely keeps it from the Hall of Fame, but once the middle of the film arrives, it’s definitely worth a watch. At this point in the movie, The Shack isn’t afraid to tackle very realistic and raw issues we rarely see discussed in Christian film, including child abuse in the name of Christianity and incorrect views of God as well as the connections between these two concepts. Sometimes, flashbacks are used in very effective ways to present the plot and the character motivations, but it would have been better if all narration and early plot points were replaced with flashbacks to make it more of a non-linear style. However, despite a slightly incomplete view of God, The Shack does an excellent job with showing how God will relate to people on a very personal level via good philosophical discussions about life and power emotional experiences. Although it could have gone just a bit further with theological grounding (but not too much), this is a good place for a lot of people to start if they have a warped view of God. Basically, from the halfway point until the part before the end, The Shack is a nearly perfect film. The beginning and the epilogue that fixes things too easily detract from this section and keep it from being all that it could be. Nonetheless, this movie is definitely worth your time and can be a great tool to use to introduce people to God if they are closed to Him for one reason or another.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Another major detractor that keeps The Shack from being Hall of Fame is Sam Worthington’s accent-suppressing. If you’re going to cast a British-Australian actor for an American role, either train him with a better accent or just make the character British or Australian. As it is, the way he delivers his line is very distracting and comes off as breathy and insincere because of the accent clashing. This really puts a damper on things as it makes his emotions seem otherworldly and causes unsure line delivery, which is difficult to watch since he takes up so much screentime. However, other cast members, most notably Octavia Spencer, work overtime to make up for Worthington’s shortfalls and overall post very professional and noteworthy performances. In the end, this section is above average and rounds out a very commendable effort.

Conclusion

Though many theologically astute individuals like to “debunk” The Shack for its inaccuracies (there are a few small ones), the film as a whole demonstrates just how out of touch many Christian thought leaders are with everyday people. The movie does a much better job of relating to everyone on a personal level than any theological debate ever will, and it shows that God really wants with people: a relationship. While it could have use just a hair more theological grounding, The Shack is a great place for many people to start who have been hurt by Christianity or who may have invalid views of God. It’s unfortunate that it just misses the mark of being Hall of Fame, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a watch. Hopefully, in the future, we’ll see more films that walk the delicate balance of being personal-emotional and grounded at the same time. Once Christian entertainment as a whole learns how to relate to everyone personally, the industry will be unstoppable.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

Daily Bread [2017] (Series Review)

Plot Summary

When a solar flare passes through the earth’s atmosphere, all electricity and electronic devices cease to work, which throws the entire planet into chaos. The cast and crew of a famous cooking show are stranded in a mansion in the middle of nowhere, a group of isolated preppers, and a homeschool colony are all forced to cross paths in unlikely ways as they fight for survival with guns and MRE’s. In the end, who will survive the deadly new world that’s been created since the power went off?

Production Quality (1 point)

On the bright side of this season, a lot of good time and money was spent on the video quality and drone shots in the episodes. Thus, for the most part, camera work is acceptable. The same can be said for the sets, locations, and props, even if some of them are overused (liked num-chucks). One of the most glaring issues to point out in this production relates to audio quality, as there are a lot of loud background sounds in outdoor scenes and echoes in indoor scenes. The audio as a whole is very uneven as many scenes are full of clattering noises and as the soundtrack is all over the map since many songs are not situation-appropriate and since the music often overpowers spoken dialogue. It goes without saying that the introductory sequence is arguably better than the rest of the series, mostly due to the fact that the editing throughout the season is horrific with many cut-off scenes and many choppy transitions that throw scenes at the audience one after the other with little organization. As a whole, unfortunately, while there could have been something here, it just didn’t pan out.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Needless to say, it gets worse too. The most glaring issue with the plot is obviously the 48340982 characters that have to be kept up with due to the sheer number of subplots that this season forces upon the viewer. For the first half of the season, every episode is constantly introducing new characters to the point of embarrassment. Thus, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with the sheer number of subplots throughout the course of this season, and this causes many subplots and storylines to become ‘extra’ and easily discard-able. Even if these subplots were the best in the world, it’s very difficult to understand the actual point of people randomly wandering around and acquiring guns and possessions in violent ways immediately after the power grid collapses. What are the characters defending themselves from? How are we supposed to know who they are as people? What does any of it have to do with a cooking show? Any hope or time there was for real content was frivolously used on trivial scenes and utterly purposeless asides. Narration randomly pops up throughout the course of the season, and flashbacks are used inconsistently where they should have been a focal point. A more consistent use of them would have been one of the only ways to fix this mess, along with eliminating nearly half of the characters and coming up with a real central focus other than prepping for an unknown and unseen apocalypse. What’s going on in the world outside of these characters? What is the government’s response? These are all unanswered questions that would be pertinent in this genre rather than sequences of forced drama, conversations depicting off-screen content that seems way more interesting than the actual season, cooking montages, and literal recitations of the Constitution and other forced Christian content. Basically, it’s better luck next time with trying a different genre.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Due to the high number of characters, this obviously leads to the assembling of a giant cast. One would think this would mask the minor weaknesses of some cast members, but that’s not the case as there are many acting errors, including overly practiced line delivery and stiff emotions. Some line delivery is half-hearted, unsure, and slightly mistaken at times, and many scenes depict cast members awkwardly standing around talking to each other like they’re not really filming a scene because it seems impromptu. Besides this portion of acting, the costuming is extremely random, and the hair and makeup do not jive with the notion that these people have been trying to survive an apocalypse away from civilization for days. Basically, this is just another mistake-prone aspect of this season.

Continuity Quality (1 point)

As previously mentioned, there are many, many storylines to contend with here, but despite this, there is actually some continuity between the episodes. However, the story and character arcs aren’t any good since there are no substantial instances of character growth or dynamic storytelling. There are, of course, the usual instances of romantic subplots and villain plans, but other than that, there’s not much continuity to mention here.

Conclusion

There’s no doubt in the world that Christian entertainment is starved for new genres and new concepts, and we have to commend this creative team for sticking their necks out there to try something unique, but this isn’t the way to do it. Regardless of genre, characters have to always be deep because audiences want to connect with real, accessible people. Science fiction stories can be difficult to write and even more difficult to produce professionally, which is why proper planning and truly creative writing are essential. The budget may not be there, but if the storyline is dynamic, it shows that the creator is ready for bigger and better things. If you’re faithful with the little God’s provided you, He will give you the bigger budget down the road.

Final Rating: 3 out of 14 points


Spent [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Eve believes her husband is going to die soon, so she and her son Lonnie are planning on inheriting his million dollar fortune, so they think. They’ve grown tired of his constantly cheap lifestyle that he forces them to go along with, and with the brain tumor advancing, they feel like their freedom is close at hand. However, when something unexpected doesn’t go quite their way, they are forced to come up with a new plan.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For an indie film, there are several good production elements to note, such as the great video quality and the professional camera work. The sets and locations are also fine and mostly well-utilized. While the soundtrack can be intriguing and creative at times and while the audio quality is mostly fine, there are also instances where the music covers up spoken words and where background sounds can overpower the scene. Also, there is some weirdly soft lighting at times, and some scenes are randomly in black and white for no particular reason. Perhaps the oddest part of this production is the usage of cheesy props from different time periods that creates a lot of confusion as to when this film is supposed to take place. Further, some scenes are strangely drawn out in unnatural ways, which speaks to somewhat of an editing problem. As a whole, this is basically an average indie production that could have been slightly better than it was and seemed to get in its own way.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Even more so, the plot certainly gets in its own way. In a quest to be creative and artistic (the effort is definitely noted), this story comes off in a very strange way with a weird sarcastic tone that’s not explained very well and with a collection of bizarre and slightly inappropriate scenes. It’s very difficult to discern what this film is actually going for without having the confusion about the time period. The attempts at artistic psychological elements fall flat, and a lot of the dialogue is basically cringe-worthy. It’s unfortunately a collection of odd cardboard scenes of nonsensical recitations that is very purposeless and aimless. To top it off, the ending is very strange and leaves a strange flavor in your mouth, which rounds out a section that basically confused itself along with the audience.

Acting Quality (.5 acting)

Indie film acting is fairly difficult to pull off, and while there was a slight amount of potential with this cast, a lot of it is very awkward and forced. The eccentric portions would work better if that’s what these characters were intended to be, but again, it’s very unclear what the film is even going for. This fact is also reflected in the weirdly inconsistent costuming efforts. As a whole, line and emotional delivery are stilted, which doesn’t leave much positive to state about this indie effort.

Conclusion

It’s great to want to try to create an original indie film, but Spent either takes things a step too far or a step too short. It’s a mystery what sort of Christian message is meant to be conveyed by this ‘dark comedy,’ and it’s unfortunately a waste of time due to its jumbled and confusing elements. The best an indie film maker with a small budget can do is to present a masterful plot, but this was unfortunately not done in this film.

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Christmas Princess (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Donaly Marquez is glad her foster family adopted her and her siblings, but she will carries inside of her the stigma of being a foster kid, and she still can’t shake the painful memories of her drug-addicted mother that continually make her feel inadequate. However, she’s always wanted to try out to be a Rose Bowl Parade Princess, so when she gets the opportunity, she jumps at the chance. Will she be able to overcome the past that wasn’t her fault or will she not allow herself to shine?

Production Quality (3 points)

In keeping with most UP Entertainment films, Christmas Princess exhibits a highly professional production, starting with great video quality and camera work. The audio quality is also on-point, and the soundtrack is effectively composed. Also, the sets, locations, and props are very much well-constructed and well-utilized, which contributes further to the professional of the film. Further, the editing is flawless, which rounds out a basically perfect production that should be the standard for made-for-TV inspirational films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

It’s always clear that using source material from true stories that allow the audience to connect with believable and realistic characters is the key to having a good plot. Christmas Princess, though the title suggests otherwise, is a great example of what can be done when real-life events are depicted in the context of a movie that seeks to build accessible characters through great dialogue and an exquisite use of flashbacks and other psychological elements. The conversations do a lot to build character motive and personality, which in turn makes them feel like actual people that audiences can relate to. It’s rare to see such a consistent use of flashbacks to build the storyline in this type of film, but it’s extremely refreshing, especially in a Christmas film about a topic that could potentially be very sappy. Instead of this, however, the writers took the professional and realistic route that allows many different people to relate to this true story, so it’s definitely worth your time. The only drawbacks to mention here relate to some slow parts and montages, but as a whole, this is the best that could have been done with this story, which is all we ever ask.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Though this is not a ‘blockbuster’ cast, each cast member does a great job assuming his or her respective character role, and the cultural authenticity is refreshing. For the most part, line delivery is on point, and emotions are believable, even though there are a few weak moments. Even so, this acting and casting work is very professional and rounds out a very surprisingly worthwhile Christmas film.

Conclusion

Sometimes good films come from the most unexpected of places, but it still remains that true stories make some of the best films. When the writing is left to a talented writer or to real life, the production team can focus on maximizing the other elements of the film, and it’s clear the UP TV is outpacing other inspirational channels with quality content like this film. As this Christmas season comes to a close, this is another movie to add to your collection.

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

Maggie’s Christmas Miracle (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Maggie has always hated Christmas ever since her father left the family during the holiday season.  Ever since then, she’s sought to control everything around her, especially her young son’s life.  However, when his grades begin dropping, she is forced to entrust him to the care of an after-school tutor, but Maggie soon finds that she isn’t like what she expected from a tutor.  Will she decide to open up her heart over the holiday season to love again?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As expected, Maggie’s Christmas Miracle is a typically fine Hallmark production with good video quality and camera, as well as good audio quality.  The soundtrack is predictably generic but not as bad as usual.  The sets, locations, and props are fine, but the Christmas decor is expectedly overwhelming and beyond belief.  Further, the editing is average, and thus, everything in this production is standard and expected from the Hallmark assembly line of Christmas films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though Hallmark movies are always better when using source material, especially from authors like Karen Kingsbury, there are still plenty of typical elements in Maggie’s Christmas Miracle.  While Karen Kingsbury characters run circles around typical Hallmark fare, there are still a lot of cheesy feel-good elements throughout this plot.  However, the dialogue is mostly good enough to develop character motive and personality, even if the plot is extremely predictable with a cookie-cutter romance plot where two people who don’t like each other at first are thrown together at Christmastime.  The story includes all the expected turns and conventions, and all of the stereotypes are too easily fallen into.  Since this is a character-based plot, we needed to see deeper character growth than this, and we also would have liked to see relationship twists and turns that were more based on past and present personality and behavior issues rather than on unrealistically stupid miscommunication problems (see The Bridge).  Unfortunately, the story gets worse as it goes on as cheap Christian messages are awkwardly inserted and end up hurting any good portions of dialogue there may be.  Essentially, the source material is helping this plot to be more than it would otherwise be, but there’s still a lot more that could have been accomplished here.

Acting Quality (2 points)

As expected, the casting and acting of this film is mostly professional with typical Hallmark elements, such as some overdone makeup.  For the most part, the line delivery and the emotions are natural, but there are some portions that are a bit too sappy.  However, as a whole, this cast is professional enough to know what they’re doing and to produce an above-average performance.

Conclusion

If Hallmark only used books and true stories as source material from here until eternity, the channel would be a much better place for it.  However, this is highly unlikely to happen.  Even still, there is enough good in Maggie’s Christmas Miracle to make it a passable holiday film to watch if you want a safe, benign movie that’s not too old and not too cheesy.  Also, if you like Karen Kingsbury novels, this film is definitely for you.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

My Broken Horse Christmas (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

John always likes to go with his father to pick out a new horse every year, and he knows his father is good at picking out the best horses.  However, this year, his father acquires a crazed unruly mare and decides that she belongs to John so that he can train her.  John is dejected at this prospect because he feels like he’ll never be able to fix his new broken horse.  Nevertheless, this father persists in forcing him to train it, which leads to surprising results.

Production Quality (3 points)

John Lyde and his Covenant Communications and Mainstay Productions teams are consistently committed to quality productions even though their films are not traditional length.  This commitment to good quality is evident in crisp video quality, professional camera work, and good audio quality.  The soundtrack is interesting and engaging, and the sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-utilized for the historical time period.  In the end, though the editing is a bit average, this production doesn’t have any major problems, which warrants a perfect score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Lyde and his team always prize shorter stories over long and drawn out films that have no interest, and basing this short film off of a Christian novella was definitely a good idea to acquire source material.  Because of this source material, the plot is slightly more creative and different than most Christmas films, but it seems to contain a lot of odd messaging that appears to glorify patriarchal attitudes.  The father character is likely realistic in his portrayal, but the story seems to pass along messaging that he is a wise and all-knowing character.  Other characters need better development through more substantial dialogue, which one would think would come from basing a short film off of a novella.  Since it’s so short, we needed to see very streamlined character development, but the plot instead lags behind and chooses to focus on pushing lessons on the audience that really don’t make much sense and on forced Christian messages that don’t seem to apply to the characters’ situations.  Some portions don’t appear to be very rooted in reality, and the abrupt and rushed ending causes the story to be over before much happens.  In short, while this could have been an honest and raw character biopic, it was reduced to a quasi-sermonizing piece that pushes messages that are hard to comprehend.

Acting Quality (2 points)

As a whole, there aren’t many acting problems in this film, which is a consistent component in John Lyde’s creations.  The casting and coaching appear to be professional, and for the most part, emotions and line delivery are natural.  However, this section isn’t perfect before of some slightly 
over-dramatized parts and some weak child acting, but in the end, this rounds out an another above average film for the Mainstay\Covenant team.

Conclusion

It’s absolutely a great idea to use Christian novels and novellas as source material for Christian films, especially since there are so many options to choose from.  This high number of selection opportunities makes it odd when obscure novellas like this one was chosen, especially when it’s not clear what My Broken Horse Christmas actually wants us to learn.  It’s a visually appealing yet substantially vague experience that will likely and unfortunately be easily forgotten.  John Lyde has always been right on the cusp of greatness, so it’s time for him to take the next step into dynamic creations.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Clara’s Ultimate Christmas (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Clara wants to have the ultimate Christmas or something, but her dad is always working on ‘projects’ and ‘contracts’; he even has to fly out to finish a project in NEW YORK on CHRISTMAS EVE!!!!!!  Thankfully, Clara has plenty to keep her busy with her VLOG and her dog, which keeps getting lost.  She also hangs out with her awkward cousin, uncle, and aunt while her mother sees how bored she can be with this movie.  The real question with this film is can it get any less creative?

Production Quality (1 point)

As Clara’s Ultimate Christmas is basically an enhanced collection of home videos, production is greatly lacking.  This is manifested in random and off-the-wall camera angles and shaky camera work.  While video quality is fine, audio quality is inconsistent as there is basically no soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are severely limited for good reason since the entire movie basically takes place in one house.  In keeping with the home video theme, editing is virtually non-existent, which rounds out a very poor production score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The home video theme continues with basically no plot content as Clara’s Ultimate Christmas is essentially Clara’s and her family’s activities of daily living (ADL’s), including eating breakfast, playing with dolls, walking the dog, crafting, cooking, vlogging, and talking on the phone.  I don’t know about you, but one-sided phone conversations aren’t what Christmas is all about.  In pursuit of ADL’s, characters and dialogue fall flat as we don’t really know these characters as real people but as pawns in the chess game played by the Hallmark Holiday Syndicate.  Granted, this isn’t a Hallmark movie, but the plot might as well be.  Every scene is squeezed and stretch to manufacture any possible content out of it, and the Christian messages are extremely vague and forced.  Essentially, there’s nothing good to say here since there’s nothing to this ‘plot’ at all.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The horrific child acting in this film is almost enough on its own to make this section negative, but the vanilla acting from other cast members just makes it zero.  Since this cast is so small, errors are greatly pronounced, especially when the child acting is forced through a strainer.  The adult cast members come off as very awkward and uncomfortable in their interactions with each other, and some cast members seem very bored with the film.  Emotions are either over the top or too bland, and line delivery is mostly lazy.  As a whole, there’s really very little good to say about this ‘film.’


Conclusion

It’s great that Bridgestone gives independent Christian film makers chances to get their content out there, and it’s been helpful for films like Altar Egos that people disregard for no reason, but movies like Clara’s Ultimate Christmas have literally nothing going for them.  There’s no purpose or point to them, and they just used worn-out and recycled ideas that nobody cares to see again.  Maybe we will see fewer and fewer of these sorts of films moving forward.

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

Only God Can {Heaven’s Grace} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sara, Coley, Patrice, Glen, and Gracie were close college sorority sisters, but now that they have grown into their middle ages, they have each taken different paths in life.  Sara is weary of going to the annual get-together of the girls because of her newfound faith, but her pastor encourages her to go to witness to her friends.  However, the weekend getaway does not turn out as plan as each woman is hiding their own secrets, which lead to intense conflicts between them.  To cap things off, tragedy strikes the group of friends in a way they never expected.  Will they be able to pick up the pieces and change their ways?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though on the surface Only God Can seems like a good production, there are a handful of hiden problems that keep it from being all that it could be.  For example, the audio is strangely quiet except for the blaring and generic soundtrack.  Video quality and camera work are standard caliber, but the sets, locations, and props, though they are professional-looking, are fairly limited and underused.  Further, the editing is very disorienting and choppy, but this is likely primarily due to the poor plot structure.  However, as a whole, this production is good enough to be average, even though it could have been more.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Only God Can follows a story-telling style similar to that of Do You Believe? as it juggles many under-developed and hard-to-fully-grasp subplots and tries to make nearly every scene a dramatic climax.  The presentation of the many subplots is dizzying for this reason, and flashbacks are used very poorly.  Each character is developed as a representation of an issue rather than a real person, and this is done through very forced and stilted dialogue that is designed to push a certain agenda rather than to create relatable characters.  The back stories of the characters are therefore flat and empty, and scenes that could have been used to develop them better are instead used for empty and mindless montages.  Sometimes it’s hard to understand what’s happening from scene to scene, but it all comes down to a predictable and forced conclusion that fixes everything.  In short, this plot unfortunately had no potential from the get-go.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, many of the cast members in this film appear to be overly made-up and overly fake.  Emotional delivery comes off as plastic and unrealistic as many cast members don’t appear comfortable with their lines or their respective roles.  However, there are a handful of cast members that are okay and thus prevent this section from being null.  Nevertheless, this film is overall a disappointment and doesn’t really have much to offer.

Conclusion

Overall, Only God Can is another moderately-funded, partially-marketed inspirational film from PureFlix that falls flat and doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.  On the surface, it has good production qualities, but there are hidden issues that undermine this.  The plot is very empty and wanting as it tries to push typical agendas, and the acting missed the mark as well.  It’s very predictable and formulaic, yet this is the type of Christian film that no longer needs to be seen in the market.  The reputation of Christian movies is bad enough as it is, so we don’t need anymore examples of ineptitude.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Sense of Urgency [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Izzy already has a strained relationship with her parents, but when she finds out that they have lied to her all her life about her being adopted, she decides to take a road trip to see her biological mother without them knowing.  However, she quickly finds out that her road trip is not what it seems as things go from bad to worse.  A nightmare scenario suddenly unfolds as she finds herself a hostage in a desperate situation.  Though she has resisted the Christian faith for years now, she begins to change her mind when faced with death.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Sense of Urgency is unfortunately a fairly cheap small time production that had some obvious funding shortfalls.  This is evidenced by a weird light filter that plagues the film and gives the video quality a bizarre gray look.  The soundtrack is also generic and fairly loud at times.  The sets, locations, and props are mostly pedestrian, and audio quality is somewhat inconsistent.  While the camera work is fine most of the time, there is some weird lighting in some scenes.  There are also cheesy special effects to contend with, and the editing is choppy in some places.  Overall, while there was some effort here, this production needs a lot of work.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The surprising thing about Sense of Urgency is that the core idea of the film is actually slightly interesting.  While the beginning of the movie is hard to understand since random things seemingly happen, there is some potential for the development of flawed and accessible characters with slightly complex back stories that cannot be typically found in the inspirational world.  However, a lot of this potential never comes to fruition.  Nevertheless, this plot idea is interesting enough as a suspense idea and would probably benefit from some sort of remake.  Even so, this good effort is unfortunately not enough as some of the characters are too cheesy, such as the villain and the Christian characters, and some dialogue is too forced and expository for the moment.  The conversations need to build characters better, and the circumstances need to occur more naturally rather than out of necessity for the plot.  Further, the Christian message needs to be less childish, and the ending doesn’t need to try to fix everything.  Overall, this was a nice effort, and it offers some slight hope for future projects.

Acting Quality (1 point)

As this cast is mostly composed of inexperienced members, the acting is unfortunately pedestrian and basically below average.  This is due to forced emotional performances and line delivery that needs some work.  At times, the cast members are not very convincing in their roles, but there are also moments of potential and more natural performances.  Perhaps they can continue to improve their craft with better coaching.

Conclusion

Overall, Sense of Urgency does what we ask of struggling film makers: when the budget is low, focus on the plot.  While this storyline is not the most creative in the world, it demonstrates potential and is definitely something to build off of.  It’s almost always better to depart from the average inspirational fare that crowds the market, so trying a different type of suspense plot can help you stand out.  However, what is much better is learning to portray real people in more natural ways without the message pushing.  If you get this right, God will send the funding at the right time.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Love, Kennedy (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jason Hansen has a seemingly perfect family life, but tragedy strikes when his oldest teenage daughter Kennedy is diagnosed with terminal juvenile Batten disease.  As their family grapples with this new reality, they soon find that there is hope even in the hurt and that God does have a plan for Kennedy even if her life will be shorter than usual.  Together, they find that God’s plans are always greater than people’s plans.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

T. C. Christensen has always had a commitment to professional productions, and Love, Kennedy demonstrates this commitment by having good video quality, above-average camera work, and fine audio quality.  However, there are one too many musical montages as a lot of the film is saturated with music.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and appropriate, however.  The main thing that keeps this production from being all that it could be is the choppy editing that contributes to an awkward story-telling style, but for the most part, this production is above average and professional.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though it’s basically obvious the T. C. Christensen pushes Mormon messages in his films, at least he tends to craft films about real life stories and events.  Regardless, the true story of Love, Kennedy is unfortunately stifled by unnecessary heavy-handed narration, which also stunts character development.  Since these characters are based on real people, we need a chance to get to know the characters better, but this chance does not materialize.  Unfortunately, this makes the slight Mormon message-pushing more noticeable since the dialogue is rushed and empty.  It seems like the characters get swept along in the predictable plot progression without any choice of their own.  Elsewhere, Christensen includes his typical magical elements that are a bit much.  As a whole, Love, Kennedy is a nice try but not quite good enough.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Overall, the acting of this film is mostly fine with no obvious glaring errors.  However, the acting is not dynamic either, and there are a handful of minor issues that add up over the course of the film, such as some half-hearted performances and some odd portrayals of cast members.  Moreover, as a whole, this section is mostly above average and is better than a lot of films on par with it.

Conclusion

Christensen and his team outpace many other Christian groups in film making when they make clear efforts to build professional productions and to coach above-average acting performances.  The Mormon message-pushing may be off-putting and not much better than other Christian message-pushing (see: Christiano Brothers), but at least it’s packaged in a semi-acceptable way.  Nevertheless, this still isn’t good enough to get past the halfway mark, so maybe it will be better luck next time for the Excel Entertainment team.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

One Stop Away (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Richard and Eddie became close friends while in college, and they have maintained their close relationship even though life has taken them each in different directions.  Eddie is battling a terminal illness in the hospital while Richard struggles as a young teacher in the school he was raised in.  Richard tries to do what he can to help Eddie and his family, but Eddie’s brother is having struggles of his own in the school where Richard teaches.  They will each have to return to the faith they were raised in to find a way forward.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

On the surface, the strangely-titled One Stop Away (there’s never any explanation for that title) has a fairly professional production, as evidenced by good video quality and camera work.  Lighting is mostly good except for a few instances of unnecessary darkness.  The soundtrack is a bit generic, however, and the flashbacks have a purposely odd quality about them.  As for audio, there are too many obvious voice-overs and unnatural sound tricks.  Sets, locations, and props are professional-looking, but the editing poses a substantial problem as it is somewhat disorienting due to a lot of choppy and cut-off scenes.  Overall, this is mainly an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The choppiness bleeds over into the plot, unfortunately, as the storyline is very disorganized.  It depicts random characters doing random things without any clear continuity; it is very difficult to discern which character is which due to the confusing use of flashbacks.  The random time jumps that happen with no warning certainly don’t help things.  Usually, non-linear and out-of-order plots using flashbacks are great ideas, but in this case, One Stop Away is presented very poorly, which seems to indicate that the intended plot is fairly unsubstantial and the premise is too thin.  Elsewhere, dialogue is too empty and expositional, which leads to wooden characters.  Thus, it is very difficult to see the point or purpose of this story as it has one too many boring, lagging, and pointless scenes.  In short, whatever was trying to be conveyed in this film is totally lost on the audience.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, the acting of this film is mostly okay, but there are one too many awkward moments.  Line delivery is fine, but the emotional is a bit flat, and there are a lot of scenes that come off as overly practiced.  Costuming is better than usual for this sort of film, but this section is unfortunately not more than average.

Conclusion

Basically, while the effort may be commendable in films like One Stop Away, they will unfortunately be easily forgotten and overlooked.  Their messaging is too vague and confusing to each most audiences, even if there was a good idea in here somewhere.  Non-linear, flashback-based plots need deep character development through poignant dialogue and realistic scenes that demonstrate character motive and accessibility.  This is something we have been talking about for a while, but Christian films continue to show a lack of understanding of real people.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Wraith [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The Lukens family is tired of living in their old, creepy house, so they want to downsize.  However, an unexpected addition to the family throws them for a loop, as does a disturbing presence their daughter keeps seeing and hearing in her room.  As they must make difficult decisions regarding the life of their future child, the evil presence seems to tighten its grip on their lives, pushing them to the breaking point.  Will they be able to survive the onslaught of the paranormal force?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For another independent Christian horror film, Wraith doesn’t have that bad of a production, but it is still mostly average on the whole.  Video quality is mostly fine, but there is some poor lighting throughout, perhaps by design.  A lot of the dark scenes appear to be for dramatic effect, but there are other typically cheesy elements that seem to always come with a cheap horror production, such as wild camera work and dizzying cuts.  Though the sets and locations are somewhat limited, also by design, the props are fine, and there appear to be attempts to create authenticity throughout.  The editing is mostly fine, but there are too many issues with this indie effort to give the production anything more than an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Making a pro-life Christian horror film is an interesting endeavor, and it is not one without potential, but Wraith has too many problems in the plot department to reach this possible potential.  When setting out to make a Christian horror film, it’s like it’s a requirement to totally disregard character development.  This film is no exception as the characters are extremely bland and empty due to cheap and stilted dialogue.  Though there are some interesting attempts at flashbacks and creative psychological elements, they are too muted and downplayed in the midst of wasted time that is mostly filled with stupid jump scares and incoherent moments that are meant to be ‘thrilling’ or ‘scary’ but really just end up being stupid.  Randomly vague things just happen as opportunities to build real characters are squandered by kicking the proverbial can down the road just to get to the ending.  Unfortunately, this storyline gets worse and worse as it goes as it slowly reveals a very ill-advised approach to dealing with demonic entities until it finishes with an extremely cheesy climax that endorses dangerous practices.  Overall, this plot is just a mess and really needed to be completely reworked.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While some of the more experienced cast members, such as Ali Hillis, are mostly fine in their performances, some of the younger cast members, particularly the younger female lead, are quite bad at acting.  Some line delivery is painfully forced, and emotions are uneven throughout.  Other moments are far too dramatic, which is an unfortunate byproduct of the difficult horror genre.  In summary, this film squandered whatever potential it may have had.

Conclusion

Christian horror films desperately need a better basis.  It is important that the core concepts of psychological thrillers are well-thought-out and have some logical basis before they are thrown into a movie.  Pro-life themes are great, but this consistently has been one of the worst sub-genres in Christian film.  Besides the fact that the basis for the horror elements in Wraith are difficult for most audiences to grasp, the practices that are seemingly endorsed (trying to cast demons out of houses) are extremely dangerous to practice in real-life and should be heavily discouraged.  Unfortunately, this is just another awful attempt at Christian genre-busting.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Extraordinary [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dr. David Horton is known as a great professor in Lynchburg, and his ‘running’ class is extremely popular.  His reputation is that he helps all of his students by connecting with them on a personal level.  Dr. Horton is also a marathon enthusiast, but his passion often takes away his time from his family, which is something his wife greatly struggles with.  Much to her chagrin, David embarks on a dangerous cross-country marathon for two months, even though he is secretly battling health problems.  Will his health and their marriage survive the trek?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Liberty University has all of the toys and resources an independent film maker could dream of, yet they consistently settle for just above average productions.  There’s no doubt that Extraordinary has some great cinematography, even if it’s mostly a collection of American landmark shots.  Nevertheless, camera work is excellent, and video quality is great.  Sets, locations, and props also make this production a mostly good experience.  Editing is standard, and on the surface, this is a well-produced film.  However, beneath the surface, there are some head-scratching inclusions, such as silly production gimmicks and weirdly bad special effects.  These elements are reminiscent of film school professors playing around to see what they can do with what they have.  However, most audiences will likely look past these issues and see the above-average production that it is.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Based on a true story, the Liberty University team had a lot to work with, even though they have struggled in the past with storylines.  However, in Extraordinary, the Curlee\Schultze team continued their issues with very thin and empty plots and characters.  Though this is based on real people, they clearly had no idea how to craft realistic characters as the story does not translate well at all.  The characters are empty due to dialogue that is full of title-dropping, pedestrian platitude-pushing, and repeated content.  Many scenes are basically filler with no substantial contribution to the overall plot.  There are one too many ‘funny’ scenes, and the majority of the movie is packed with musical montages and dramatic moments that have no meaning.  In the end, though the basic idea behind this story was great, the film version leaves the audience with no real focus or purpose as it tried so hard to drive the point home that it fell flat.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Acting coaching and casting is another area the Curlee\Schultze team struggles in, which is a shame since they claim to be prodigies of the Kendricks.  The lead actor of this film is particularly weak and awkward, and several supporting cast members are annoying.  Kirk Cameron is beyond obnoxious, and Shari Rigby struggles without better directing.  However, there are enough good areas here to make this section at least average; one has to consider that this cast didn’t have many substantial lines to work with.  Nonetheless, the Liberty University team continues to disappoint.

Conclusion

Scotty Curlee and Stephan Schultze have the film world at their fingertips, yet they constantly settle for half-measure and expect you to deal with it because at least it’s a Christian movie or something.  Unfortunately, they are consistently wasting the time and money of Christian audiences as all of their marketing is for nothing but a quick cash grab.  Extraordinary is another example of a squandered opportunity because Curlee and Schultze refuse to retain a truly talented screenwriter (like Sean Morgan) and have demonstrated time and again their lack of regard for improvement.  Now we can just wait with bated breath for their upcoming Trump film.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Saving Faith [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Faith Scott and her uncle Donny live in the struggling small town of Clifton, Tennessee.  Everything’s closing down in town, and people are either strapped for cash or leaving the area.  Thus, the theater that has been in their family for years is on the brink of foreclosure, which is the delight of the evil local businessman Peter Marsh.  Thus, Faith and Donny decide to schedule a desperation attempt to save the theater: a Christmas in June show featuring big names in Christian music.  Will it be enough to save the theater and even the town from extinction?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The good thing for Chip Rossetti is that he has shown great production improvement over his movie career.  This fact is also evident in Saving Faith, as evidenced by great video quality and camera work.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly fine, if not a little quaint.  However, the soundtrack can be too loud at times, and there are a handful of unnecessary background sounds, as well as some cheesy sound effects and special effects.  Moreover, the editing is pretty good, thus rounding out a slightly above-average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, there is little to nothing creative about the plot of Saving Faith as it follows a stereotypical save the _____ with a holiday show plotline.  The progression of the story is very predictable, as are the characters involved.  A good portion of the characters are also cheesy and generally eccentric, such as the head-scratching Elvis character (no, it’s not The Rev).  The villain is also ridiculous and over the top; each character fits into a predetermined small-town mold: the local eccentric, the local business owner, and the local evil bank guy.  While there are some attempts to have a good Christian message, all the problems are very easily solved in the end.  The romantic subplot is also awkwardly predictable.  In short, there aren’t many positives to note here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

For the most part, the acting of this film is awkward and overplayed.  It is at least good to see Jenn Gotzon and Jim Chandler star opposite each other as a couple.  There are some good moments in this cast, but for the most part, unfortunately, it is mostly bland or silly.  Thus, this rounds out an unfortunately disappointing and pedestrian film.

Conclusion

There truly is little point in constantly perpetuating this same small-town narrative over and over and over again.  If we need more of that, we can always watch Hallmark.  There is no creativity or authenticity in this concept, unless a film maker wants to explore some legitimate reasons behind collapsing small towns.  Constantly making movies about the ‘good old days’ in the name of Christian film is disingenuous and worn out.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Colors of Emily (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Kate Montgomery is a big city art dealer who travels to a quaint small town to purchase some mysterious paints from a mysterious artist whom no one in the art dealing world knows the true identity of.  However, she is also on the run from her psychologist and her dark past.  While running away, she will have to end up facing everything she’s trying to hide from in the most unlikely ways.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

While there are some positive elements in this production, there are also some negative ones.  For instance, video quality and camera work are mostly fine, but there is some poor audio quality throughout.  The soundtrack is also a bit generic.  Lighting can be a problem at times, and the sets, locations, and props are somewhat limited in some areas.  For the most part, editing is fine, even though there are a few too many lagging scenes.  Thus, as a whole, this production is basically average and has some room for improvement.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The Colors of Emily is mostly a departure for the Rossetti group.  This story tries to delve into the psychological\suspense\mystery genre, and it contains interesting attempts at psychological elements, but there is too much wasted time before getting to the substantial mystery elements.  This wasted time mostly consists of tongue-in-cheek dialogue about predictable fish-out-of-water concepts, as well as a seemingly vague premise and loose grip on reality.  At times, the storyline seems very unfinished, and the characters come off as too understated and under-developed.  Further, the villain is fairly cheesy, especially in the ‘climax’ scene that’s full of monologuing.  In short, while there is some potential in this story idea, its final product is too vague and undeveloped.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, most of the acting in The Colors of Emily is very awkward and not well-coached.  A lot of the cast members come off as too unnatural, although Jenn Gotzon posts a more authentic performance than usual.  Moreover, there are some other strange characters in this cast, and there are too many sequences of yelling and screaming, especially in the suspense scenes.  Overall, there are too many forced lines and emotions to warrant any more than half of point here.

Conclusion

The Colors of Emily has a good idea behind it, but its effort is basically half-cocked and incomplete.  On the whole, the production needs an upgrade, as does the acting.  The storyline needs more clarification and deepening, as do the characters and dialogue.  This film appears to be an example of the importance of taking time to make quality films rather than just making another movie most people are going to forget about.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

My Daddy’s in Heaven (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Becca Smith suddenly loses her husband in a tragic car accident, she feels like her world is falling apart.  Then she meets an old friend from the past who decides to introduce her to a new lifestyle of partying and drinking to help drown her sorrows away.  However, Becca is unable to fill the void.  Will she come back to the faith she was always taught before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

On the surface, My Daddy’s in Heaven has a fairly good production, as evidenced by some great outdoor scenes and good video quality.  For the most part, camera work is good, except for some weird camera angles.  Audio quality is sometimes too echoed, especially in indoor sets.  Lighting is somewhat inconsistent, including some odd sequences of soft lighting.  There are also some sequences of disorienting sound effects and special effects, but there is some slight production improvement shown throughout, thus warranting an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, though this film is based on a book and tries to have a good point, the storyline is quite thin.  There seem to be a lot of scenes grasping for substantial content as the plot meanders aimlessly and purposelessly for nearly sixty minutes.  During this time frame, a good portion of the time is spent on the main two characters getting drunk.  Dialogue is all over the place, including too many instances of forced comedy.  Though this film is billed as a family movie, there is a lot of embarrassing content within, including long and pointless bar scenes.  However, the last ten to fifteen minutes of the film take a slightly interesting turn based on some intriguing ideas.  Unfortunately, with no buildup to this point and no support from the rest of the film, these ideas are wasted, and there are too many quick fixes employed.  Thus, only half a point can be awarded for this section.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The two female leads of this cast, outside of a few good moments, do their best to make fools of themselves.  Most of the acting in this film is oddly forced and awkward, but it’s likely that the cast members didn’t have much good to work with in the first place.  There are also some mumbled and whispered lines that make for a frustrating experience.  Overall, unfortunately, there is little good to mention about this film.

Conclusion

While the effort and the heart behind this film might have been there, the good intentions were terribly misplaced.  Production was almost passable, but it’s unsure what the intention of this plot was.  Audiences who are expecting a family-friendly film will likely be disappointed at the number of drunken scenes of this film.  While it great to show the struggles of real people in film, there is a way to do this without being so embarrassing.  Unfortunately, the interesting pivotal scene near the end of the film is out of place and could have been used in a better film.  Better luck next time, I guess.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

2017 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.

 

Staff Choice Movie of the Year: The Case for Christ

Runners-up: Altar Egos, Because of Gracia, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone

 

Reader’s Choice Movie of the Year: A Question of Faith

Runners-up: The Case for Christ, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, Let There Be Light

 

Staff Choice Actor of the Year: Robert Amaya (Altar Egos)

Runners-up: Mike Vogel (The Case for Christ), Max Morgan (Altar Egos), Brett Dalton (The Resurrection of Gavin Stone)

 

Staff Choice Actress of the Year: Moriah Peters (Because of Gracia)

Runners-up: Erika Christensen (The Cast for Christ), Anjelah Johnson-Reyes (The Resurrection of Gavin Stone), L. Scott Caldwell (The Case for Christ)

 

Staff Choice Director of the Year: Jon Gunn (The Case for Christ)

Runners-up: Dallas Jenkins (The Resurrection of Gavin Stone), Tom Simes (Because of Gracia), Sean Morgan (Altar Egos)

 

Staff Choice Writer of the Year: Andrea Gyertson Nasfell (The Resurrection of Gavin Stone)

Runners-up: Sean Morgan (Altar Egos), Brian Bird\Lee Strobel (The Case for Christ), Tom Simes (Because of Gracia)

 

Staff Choice Soundtrack of the Year: The Case for Christ

Runners-up: Because of Gracia, Altar Egos, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone

 

Same Kind of Different As Me (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ron Hall is a successful art dealer who has it all—except for a successful marriage.  He and his wife Debbie have grown apart from each other, and he has been looking in the wrong directions for love.  His marital conflict has now come to a head, so Debbie decides to make Ron exit his safe, affluent world to come volunteer with her at the local homeless shelter.  While there, though his heart is not in the work at all, Ron forms an unlikely relationship with a violent homeless man whose story captivates Ron in a way he never expected.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a clearly well-funded and well-marketed production, Same Kind of Different As Me had a lot going for it from the get-go.  This production is obviously high quality in a lot of ways, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also very intriguing.  Sets, locations, and props are very well-constructed and utilized appropriately, especially the historical components in the flashbacks.  The only minor nitpick to note here pertains to some small editing issues, such as lagging scenes and awkward transitions.  Otherwise, this production is top-notch.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As Same Kind of Different As Me is based on a book and a true story, sometimes it seems like it’s too much like a book turned into a movie.  This is evident in unnecessary narration and obvious dialogue that tends to spoon-feed the story to the viewer.  Some of the characters tend to be portrayed too perfectly, yet this is a great true story despite these flaws.  The flashbacks are used in highly effective ways and are actually the highlights of the film because of the story they tell.  There are a lot of great messages and lessons to learn from this story, but we would have liked it if this film indulged less in drama and more in the opportunity it had to portray an epic story full of realistic, flawed, and accessible characters.  As mentioned before, there are too many lagging and choppy scenes that hurt this goal from coming to fruition.  However, there is enough good to make this at least an interesting movie to watch.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this movie is mostly professionally cast, there are a few issues that keep this section from being all that it could be.  For one, the lead actor and actress sometimes seem to be phoning in their performances, and at times they are too dramatic.  However, Djimon Hounsou and Jon Voight are particularly well-cast and well-acted; these two almost save this cast on their own.  Moreover, other cast members outside of Greg Kinnear and Renée Zellweger are also fine and post good performances.  In the end, this punctuates an above average film that could have gone further.

Conclusion

Same Kind of Different As Me had everything going for it, but it stopped just short of greatness.  The excellent true story and high amount of funding almost forced this film to be above-average from the beginning, but the pedestrian nature of its presentation and its over-indulgence in drama apart from character development tripped it up.  In the end, we can’t help but wonder if this was another one of those movies designed to make a quick cash grab at the theaters rather than make a real difference, which seems like the original intent of the book’s authors.  We may never know, but this is at least a fine film that most audiences will enjoy.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Saving the Tin Man (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

As one teenager lies in a hospital bed waiting for a heart transplant, the lives of several families around the small town are impacted in different ways.  One family waits for the father to return home from prison, while another prays for their son to live.  The pastor’s family wants to know why he is rarely home, but all of them want to know where God is in all of the pain as they try to medicate their hurts with many different things that will not satisfy.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The opening sequence of Saving the Tin Man is interesting, but it’s still a bit confusing.  However, the soundtrack is definitely creative, even if there is a lot of shaky camera work and poor lighting in the beginning of this production.  There are also some weird sound effects and some moments of randomly bad audio and loud background noises.  Flashbacks are also of an odd quality, and the editing has a strange penchant for cutting to the characters being talked about.  There are also quite of few awkward and even abrupt cuts and transitions.  Nonetheless, there is definite improvement throughout in all production areas, which is enough to earn this section an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this story tends to be a bit vague and artistic, it portrays the realistic struggles of the characters, even if they are a bit hard to access at times due to the fact that there are many of them.  In fact, this plot has a hard time deciding on which character to wants to focus on, and thus elects to present their stories in an odd overlapping fashion.  This makes the film very fractured and disjointed, and the sheer number of subplots hurts character development and makes dialogue too shallow.  Also, the Christian message is a bit too trite at times.  However, there is plenty of potential in this plot, and the ending is fairly though-provoking.  With a bit more organization, this could have been a great film.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Portions of this section show an amateur nature, such as strange makeup work and some out of place line delivery.  Other lines seem like they were done in only one take, while others are overly robotic and practiced.  However, most mistakes are near the beginning and are mostly ironed out as the film proceeds.  Thus, the acting becomes much better in the second half of the film, thus earning it an above-average score.

Conclusion

Movies like Saving the Tin Man are frustrating because it seems like they have the potential to go further than they do.  Most of the time, movies like this one appear to be rushed, which prevents them from being all that they could be.  With some improved production quality and a more focused plot, this film could have gone further.  However, it will be interesting to see what this team does next.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Hilton Head Island, Season 1 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

The powerful Trisk family funs the influence ISLE News Network, and they are headed up by the patriarch Daniel Trisk.  However, when he has a sudden stroke on air, the entire empire is threatened.  Victoria Trisk, wife of Daniel, wields her power over the family while her husband lays in a coma.  Everyone in the family has a secret to guard, and each one of them wants the upper hand in the ISLE News Network business.  Will they remember their Christian faith and learn what really matters in the midst of all their conspiracies?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though there are attempts at making this ‘hope opera’ series a good production, many of them fall flat.  Beginning with a disorienting opening sequence and continuing with time and location captions, this series commits quite a few errors.  Though location footage is excellent, we never see the characters go to any of those places and instead are forced to watch them awkwardly stand around in cheap and limited indoor sets and in front of painfully obvious green screens.  Issues like these seem to suggest the PureFlix team didn’t know what they were doing with this series, even though video quality, camera work, and audio quality are fine.  The soundtrack is mostly generic, and there is a lot of awkward editing throughout, including lingering scenes and fadeouts.  Unfortunately, a lot of this series’ production is a cover for shortcuts and cheaply done work.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This ‘hope opera’ also commits pretty much all of the clichés that exist in the severely limited genre of soap operas.  Everything is overly dramatic for no reason, and every conflict seems forced and trumped up, as well as the premise itself.  It feels like this series exists in some alternate world, like a child’s play world, rather than the real world.  Most, if not all, of the characters are annoying and impressed with themselves as most of their dialogue is filled with information dumps of things that happened off screen.  For that matter, there is a lot of talk about these characters doing media work, but we rarely see any of it.  The Christian themes therein are extremely forced and plastic; however, near the end of this season, things take a sudden turn towards remotely interesting rather than the previous fingernails-in-the-chalkboard style they were going for.  Unfortunately, this is too little too late as too many loose ends and unnecessary subplots are introduced in the latter half of the season.  Though there are some interesting attempts at creating flawed characters, it’s just not enough to save this series from itself.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The cast of Hilton Head Island is perhaps among the most plastic-looking and fake-looking we have ever seen, including Hallmark casts.  The makeup work in this film is freakishly awful and out of place.  Besides this pageantry, as previously mentioned, cast members stand around awkwardly like they don’t know what to do.  Their line delivery is unnatural and stilted, while emotions are very wooden and forced.  A lot of the time, they are trying way too hard, especially in scenes that are supposed to have high emotion.  However, there is some improvement noted throughout that keeps this section from being zero.  As a side note, why did Bradley Dorsey choose this mess to restart his acting career with?

Continuity Quality (1 point)

Most of the time, episodes break and transition in the oddest ways.  Also, the same old transition sequences are used over and over again between scenes.  Though there are some attempts at character backstory, many concepts tend to recycle and repeat themselves throughout this series.  There are also way too many subplots going on for any hope of organization to exist.

Conclusion

Once again, PureFlix tries to breach new territory in the Christian entertainment world, and once again, it’s a swing and a miss.  We definitely need a series that has intrigue, conspiracy, and flawed characters with no clear heroes, but this is not the way to do it.  The soap opera mentality is doomed to failure from the start, and the plastic Christian message of this series is laughable, not to mention the utter pageantry embarrassment that this cast is.  Better luck next time, PureFlix.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 14 points

 

Unbridled [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sarah Miller hates her life and wants to escape the clutches of her mother’s abusive boyfriend, but she has no way out.  However, a concerned friend and her fellow college student intervene when she acts strange in class, and they are able to rescue her and help her to start a new life at a shelter.  Sarah is also introduced to Unbridled, a horse therapy center for troubled girls, where she bonds with a stubborn horse.  However, when he mother’s boyfriend comes back for revenge, will she be able to survive?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though the production of Unbridled begins somewhat rough, it definitely demonstrates care and effort.  There is some shaky camera work throughout the film, likely for dramatic effect.  However, video quality is fine, and audio quality gets better as the film goes on.  Sets, locations, and props are excellently constructed and utilized.  There are some slight ministry ‘product placements’ throughout, but it means well.  One caveat to raise in this production is the very awkward editing throughout.  Some scenes lag on too long, while others are cut short.  Still other scenes appear to be unneeded.  However, despite the issues, this is a great beginning production for the Moving Visions team.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As this storyline is based on true events of real people’s struggles, it definitely has its share of positives.  One of these is its excellent use of underlying philosophy that is manifested in well-crafted dialogue.  Thus, this creates believable characters who have unfortunately realistic struggles.  There is also a great portrayal of trauma and mental health in this film, as well good research on the under-explored world of horse therapy.  However, this plot also has its share of drawbacks.  These include some cheesy horse story elements and a lot of unnecessary sidebars and rabbit trails that are underdeveloped.  There are also some concerning plot holes and a lot of scenes that have been read into very much in order to be fully understood.  Thus, some organization of this otherwise good content was definitely in order.  However, it is still likely worth your time to see if only for the good cause of the film.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The acting and casting of this film is somewhat of a mixed bag, as it contains many familiar faces of Christian film.  For one, Eric Roberts is just too much, even though he is appropriately cast as a creeper.  Jenn Gotzon-Chandler is awkward at first, but she gets better as she goes; the same can be said for Rachel Hendrix.  T. C. Stallings is always good, but he has his moments of over-playing.  Tea McKay is a great lead and has a lot of promise for the future.  On the whole, this is an above-average effort that shows great potential for the future.

Conclusion

Unbridled is a rare caused-based film that is worth recommending because it presents a real issue in a way that is not extremely obvious. The creators of this film clearly knew how to portray real people and their struggles.  However, a series of rookie errors kept this film from being all that it could be.  Nonetheless, this is certainly not something that will hold them back in the future, as we believe they will get better as they continue on.  With a few production tweaks and an improved story presentation, the Moving Visions team is going to go great places in the future.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Heavens to Betsy [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Betsy Simon is a struggling children’s author who wants more out of life.  After her work is rejected again, she complains to God that He never answers the prayers she wants Him to answer.  However, this complaint triggers some unforeseen and unwanted consequences as Betsy suddenly finds herself in a world where God answered every prayer she ever prayed.  While it seems good at first, Betsy soon finds that not all is as it seems and quickly looks for a way out, but finds none.  Will she be able to return to the life God has for her before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a newer production, Heavens to Betsy is an improvement over the previous effort in Angels in Our Midst.  This includes good video quality and camera work.  However, there are some cheesy sound effects, as well as a generic ‘silly’ soundtrack.  There are also some odd background sounds in some scenes, as well as randomly cutoff audio at random times.  Nonetheless, sets, locations, and props are great and appropriate.  The editing is mostly okay, but this story basically writes itself, so not much effort is needed.  On the whole, this is, for the most part, what a modern Christian production should look like.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

In the beginning, Heavens to Betsy is a ridiculously forced comedy that is trying way too hard to be funny.  This is evident in the very cheesy comedy elements and the forced dialogue that causes the characters to be one-dimensional and even mindless at times.  Besides this, the premise is based on the predictable wish-comes-true-in-alternate-reality-to-remind-protaganist-they-don’t-like-that-idea-anymore storyline.  This predictable convention is coupled with a cheap Christian message in the beginning, yet it becomes more meaningful as the movie progresses and even ends with a slightly interesting lesson that is based on a partially creative idea.  Though this story gets better in the end due to some unexpected turns, it is still too little too late as the beginning of the film is likely to lose a lot of viewers before they get to this point.  However, the effort is commendable.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like the plot, the acting begins as awkward, unsure, and trying way too hard to be funny.  Lines and emotions come off as overly practiced in the beginning.  However, there is improvement after the middle point of the film as there are some better, more well-acted moments.  Thus, this rounds out an almost-average film.

Conclusion

Believe it or not, Heavens to Betsy, especially the second half, is an idea that is worth remaking or redoing in some way.  While the premise has been used before, transposing unanswered prayers into it gives it more than just a ‘Christian spin,’ even though it can come off that way at times.  This is a pertinent issue that needs to be explored in a far better forum, preferably not in a comedy.  Regardless, Christian film makers need to continue to shed their ‘silly’ or ‘cute’ image, and this film doesn’t really do its part on this front.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The UnMiracle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a group of teens, under the prompting of a college student, becomes involved in illegial drug use, the community is rocked after one of them overdoses herself into a coma.  The police are pressured to find the culprit, but the kids run and hide, except for one brave Christian boy (who was at the drug party that night for some reason) who wants to help his friends (?).  As family is being torn apart by destructive choices, only the power of God can save them from themselves.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The UnMiracle (strange title indeed) is an extremely unique film in many ways.  For starters, the beginning of this film is a different sort of experience, mostly due to some strange and dizzying special effects.  There is also some shaky camera work for drama’s sake.  Also, at first, there is some weird audio quality and odd sound effects, as well as some strange lighting in some scenes.  However, for the most part, these quirks improve throughout to make for a mostly average production.  Video quality is relatively stable throughout, and the soundtrack is at least creative in some ways.  Though the editing can be confusing at times, this production is basically fine and just needs a little tune-up.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

From the get go, The UnMiracle has a clear agenda that is pushed through obvious dialogue and messaging.  While there are many pertinent and realistic issues portrayed here, they are not presented very well.  The characters are very flawed, which is great, but they tend to only be one-dimensional in order to represent the issues that are being pushed here.  At first, there are some strange undertones to the film that are mostly driven by the creepy Stephen Baldwin narration.  It seems like sometimes this film is trying to tell us something deeper that it never quite conveys properly.  Yet these cryptic factors are not all bad, as they also include some intriguing psychological elements, as well as a relatively fair portrayal of mental health issues, even though it could use a little deepening.  But this does not make up for the confusing and disorienting sequences throughout, as well as the trite and simplistic approach to problems and the very easy fixing of characters’ struggles by throwing Bible verses at them.  There are also tons of characters and subplots here with very little focus.  Thus, there is too much going on that needs severe organization, yet there it still potential even in all of the confusion.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With Kevin Sorbo and Stephen Baldwin pulling Eric Roberts roles (very brief and small appearances) in this film, the remainder of the cast is hard to figure.  For one, there is a lot of strange and loud makeup throughout.  At first, a lot of the acting is unsure and amateurish and even lethargic and passive at times.  The drug acting is odd and needs work.  However, emotions are mostly realistic, and there is concerted improvement throughout, which is enough to make this an average score.

Conclusion

This film is mostly a hot mess and needs a major remake or rework.  It could potentially be a series if done properly.  But this would mean serious acting coaching (and possible re-casting), way more focus in the storyline, fewer ‘fancy’ production tricks, and some education and research on mental health and substance abuse issues.  In the end, it could be done, and this creative team has some potential, so it will be interesting to see what they come up with next.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Coming Home [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

John works too hard as a doctor and never leaves time to be with his family, but the sudden death of his father at Christmastime forces him and his family, along with his extended family, to slow down and focus on what’s really important.  But getting back together also brings back old memories and reopens old wounds from the past.  John will have to wrestle with his old bitterness in order to face the future in a better way.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

From the dizzying opening sequence to the end of the film, this production uses a strange amount of skycam footage as the camera constantly moves around, even during scenes.  While video quality is okay, it is really the only good element of this film.  Many of the scenes utilize extremely natural lighting, and the sets are strange and filled with tons of Christmas decorations and prominently displayed Catholic imagery.  There aren’t really any locations to speak of.  Audio quality, for the most part, is overdriven, and the soundtrack is a generic holiday one.  Basically this is a very poor production, but unfortunately, the negative does not stop there.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Filled with trite Christian dialogue, Coming Home is extremely shallow yet still is very heavy with message-pushing.  This is not a good combination.  The characters are either very flat or bizarre, thus creating a lot of unintentional comedy.  Besides these obvious errors, there are plenty of Christmas clichés throughout this plot, and it really does not have a clear purpose.  It is a character-driven plot, yet the characters totally drop the ball due to very bad dialogue.  While there might be a good idea in here somewhere, it really does not come through at all.  The presentation is all wrong, which causes this section to not produce any points.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Much like the plot and characters, the cast members also come off as very bland and dry.  Lines are very robotic and are at times mumbled.  Emotions are blank and stone-faced.  Also, a lot of the makeup is poor throughout.  In the end, there is really very little good to say about this movie.

Conclusion

First-time films are hard to pull off most times, but there are definitely ways to make the job easier for yourself.  One way to do this is to make the plot very engaging through realistic characters and accessible dialogue.  You can also do this by having a really good background idea that drives the movie and by making sure it is presented well.  You can also work on assisting your cast to not come off so boring.  Yet unfortunately, Coming Home does none of this, thus leaving us with a poorly created film.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

The Open Door [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Madison’s mother dies tragically, she is left with the custody of her special needs brother, Sam.  She had tried to escape from him by striking out of her own because she felt jealous of the attention he received, but now they are forced to live together.  However, Madison’s landlord takes an interest in Sam and takes him under his wing.  Together, the three of them learn about God’s love for every person, regardless of their needs.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Much like their freshman project The Return, Salty Earth Productions appears to mean well with most things they do.  This is a mostly average production, and it sports good video quality.  However, there is some odd lighting in parts, especially in the flashbacks.  Sometimes camera work is too stationary, and sets, props, and locations tend to be limited and cheap-looking.  However, there is production improvement throughout, especially with the outside scenes.  Yet the soundtrack is sometimes too loud and there one too many musical montages.  Also, there are unnecessary fades and cumbersome transitions sprinkled throughout.  However, this production is overall good enough to be average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Much like The Return, The Open Door is based on a good, well-meaning idea that doesn’t really follow through or completely deliver.  Most of the time, the storyline is too vague and underwhelming.  The plot is too muted, slow, and drab.  It is also extremely simplistic—concepts are portrayed in slightly juvenile fashions at times.  Since this is a character-based plot, and since there are few characters, they need to be developed through more meaningful dialogue.  However, the flashbacks and psychological elements utilized throughout are interesting, yet they are not enough to really hold the attention.  In the end, this is another nice try, but not good enough.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With a similar cast to The Return, these cast members in this film appear to mean well, even though they tend to be awkward.  Too many lines are forced and too many emotions come off as very unnatural.  Yet there are enough good moments here to make this an average contribution.

Conclusion

The Salty Earth team is showing some improvement, and they do continue to show attempts to portray real people.  It’s possible that this cast could be better with more upgraded coaching, yet they need some way better lines to work with.  A character-based plot like this one needs to contain very deep and complex characters, especially since there are so few of them.  But unfortunately, this sort of film is hard to come by in the Christian industry.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

https://vimeo.com/191292401

The Tree [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dorothy Thorp is an 88-year-old widow who is tired of just existing in her home and waiting to die while the doctors slowly prescribe more pills for her.  Thus, she decides it’s time for her to take a road trip back to her hometown to make peace with her past.  Though her worried neighbors and daughter try to deter her, Doroth stubbornly decides to go ahead with the trip.  She knows God is with her no matter what and she is surprised about the people she is able to meet along the way.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s clear from beginning to end that the Pruitts and their team are committed to high quality production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The soundtrack is also appropriate and intriguing.  Sets, locations, and props are also well-constructed and used.  The only issue to raise here, as is common in independent films, pertains to some small editing concerns due to some lagging scenes.  However, regardless of this, The Tree has a very respectable production that shows great promise for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Since this story is based on true events, it is obvious that care was taken to make these characters realistic and believable.  Though things start off a bit slow, time is taken to establish things without the use of narration, so this is a plus.  Similarly, there is not much dialogue throughout, but the small amount therein is quite good and shows that effort has been put into it.  However, there are a few too many asides that go under-developed, and the story overall needs more scope and deepening.  Yet this is a great start and demonstrates an ability to connect with the lives of real people and to depict this on screen.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Though this is an ‘amateur’ cast, there are virtually no errors present here, which speaks to good acting coaching.  There are no flaws to point out as emotions are all believable and authentic.  Line delivery is on point as less is more.  Overall, this rounds out a job well done.

Conclusion

The Pruitts and their team have already set themselves apart in the indie landscape by being committed to quality and by doing the best they can with what they have.  These are the types of film makers that should and can receive better funding when the time is right.  When that time comes, it will be exciting to see what they can do, because being able to depict real-life people properly in a film is very difficult yet worthwhile to do.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

The Fix it Boys (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ben and Cricket and their friends make up The Fix It Boys, a group of boys determined to make things that were once broken working again—at least over the summer break.  Together, they hide in their forest getaway and think up ways to make the world better.  However, when a friend of theirs asks them to make her parents’ marriage fixed again, they don’t have any answers for her, and they also don’t know what to think about the faith that she never lets go of.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a 2017 production, this is an understandably professional production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The soundtrack is a bit underwhelming at times.  Sets, locations, and props are all well-constructed and appropriate for the film.  Though there are some minor editing concerns, this is still a great production and is of a type of quality that we need to see more of consistently in all Christian films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

However, the good production does nothing to help the floundering plot quality.  The first half is dominated by narration that stunts character growth and leaves nothing to chance.  But even after this is over, nothing useful as accomplished as the impossible-to-access characters wander around in the forest and sit around and talk with quirky dialogue.  With no clear direction or purpose, this film boils down to a silly kids so-called comedy that’s full of awkward and forced humor that falls flat.  The premise is too juvenile and under-developed to go anywhere.  In the end, it’s very unclear what is meant by this film, but it’s hard to believe it was even made.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With a cast composed mostly of child\teenager actors and actresses, the performances are inconsistent.  There are some bright spots, but there is also a lot of forced line delivery and emotional delivery.  Some cast members seem bored and appeared to be phoning in their performances.  However, there is improvement throughout, making this section at least average.

Conclusion

It’s great to be able to pull off a professional production and halfway decent acting, but if you have no real idea to work with in your plot, then what’s the point?  Films like this one look good on the surface, but they will have zero impact because they have no purpose or direction.  Unfortunately, this is basically just another silly ‘nice try’ Christian movie that will be forgotten in roughly six months.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Redemption Way (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jenny and Autumn were best friends growing up, but life took them different directions.  Jenny is now a Christian, working as a hospice nurse.  One day, her path once again crosses with Autumn’s as she is assigned her as a hospice case, which she had to refuse.  However, Jenny still goes to visit Autumn since she feels guilty about leaving her behind.  Jenny wants to save Autumn before it’s too late, but she will have to learn that only God can save people.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

It’s probably not the best idea to make two movies in one year.  This puts a strain on the creative team, and it shows up in the production.  Though video quality, camera work, and audio quality are okay in Redemption Way, the soundtrack is basically pedestrian and the lighting is too inconsistent.  Sets and locations are quite limited as well.  Furthermore, the editing is quite bad as there are some very long and lagging scenes that pump the film’s run time.  It is extremely difficult for this movie to hold the attention for this reason.  However, this is a first-time production shows some slight potential for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While there is a good idea behind this film, it is certainly not communicated well at all.  Everything is too drab and dour.  I would say it’s melodramatic, but then again, it’s just not dramatic at all.  The messaging is too dry and simplistic as the story plays out like a long funeral.  It is difficult to relate to the struggles of the characters because they are so one-dimensional and because the plot is so narrow-minded.  The dialogue is also very dour and pedestrian; thus, it is not inspiring.  There are no twists and turns—just one long and sad story that fails to connect with the audience.  In the future, this team needs to work on making their plots more engaging.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though the acting shows potential and though the cast members are certainly trying, their performances are just too overly practiced and robotic to be dynamic.  Some care was given to line delivery, but believable emotions are almost non-existent.  Basically, the acting is too textbook and not natural enough, but there are enough good moments to keep this section average.

Conclusion

This film really contains an incomplete idea that needs deepening, especially since grief plots are already quite hard to do.  It can be easy for plots like this one to fall into the slog that it fell into.  In order to understand what the characters of this plot are going through, we need to be able to connect with them as people.  Also, the cast members need to be coached to be more interesting, yet they also need better lines to help them out.  In the end, this film is mostly just a rough start, so it is possible that this team could improve down the road.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Sunday Morning Rapture (Movie Review)

It’s Final The Rapture all over again

Plot Summary

You never know when the Rapture might happen…it might just happen on a Sunday morning when a long-winded pastor is preaching about how Christians can escape all the current and coming evil.  This story follows a whole bunch of random people that go to this particular church as some of them live for the Lord while others pretend to.  When that moment comes…some of them will be…left behind (oops wrong movie).

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, this awful film has a somewhat decent production, certainly a better one than its cousin Final: The Rapture.  The production of Sunday Morning Rapture is mostly average, with fine video quality and camera work.  However, the soundtrack is quite overpowering at times, as are weird sound effects.  There are also some bizarre special effects, even though the sets, locations, and props are mostly okay.  Furthermore, the editing is very disorienting and off-putting, but one can’t expect much from another strange apocalyptic concept.  Yet all of this aside, the remainder of the film’s elements are just awful.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Besides this ‘plot’ being a random collection of schizophrenically presented scenes that have little to no relation to one another, the film is chock-full of very heavy-handed juvenile message-pushing about obvious Rapture beliefs and apocalyptic concepts.  Dialogue is very in-your-face as it feels like the characters are just reading lines from a John Hagee book.  If this wasn’t bad enough, this movie progressively more insane as it goes on, jumping from Latin American and South Korean media coverage of sudden Rapture-induced natural disasters to people who were left behind literally screeching and rolling around on the floor of the church (without Benny Hinn even present).  Basically, it’s an experience you have to see to believe.  What we can’t believe is how these sorts of drug-laced Christian films are continually generated.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

As you can expect, the acting that accompanies to sheer madness is extreme and over the top in every way.  Line delivery is very forced and eventually just becomes screeching, yelling, and wailing.  Thus, the performances are extremely theatrical and overly dramatic, and cap off an overall embarrassing experience.

Conclusion

This is 2017, and Christian moves like this are still FUNDED and created.  What was the pitch for this film?  ‘Our church needs to make a movie about a Rapture that takes place on a Sunday.’ It sounds okay on its face…if we need another apocalyptic film, that is.  But then to couple this with downright insanity is highly unacceptable.  You have to try to make a film this bad, hence the negative rating.

 

Final Rating: -.5 out of 10 points

 

Let There Be Light [2017] (Movie Review)

Image result for let there be light movie

Plot Summary

Dr. Solomon Harkins is the rising atheist star bent on destroying the faith of many because of a personal tragedy he endured that tore his family apart.  However, one night while driving drunk, he wrecks his car and has a near-death experience that rocks his worldview and alters his life’s course.  Will he be able to grapple with the new reality he has experienced or will he turn his back on God forever?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Because Sean Hannity has put his money behind this film, its production quality is almost automatically professional.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all flawless.  However, the original soundtrack is a bit much at times.  Nonetheless, sets, locations, and props are all realistic, adequate, and appropriate.  Everything demonstrates great funding and execution—the only nitpicks to raise here pertain to some minor editing concerns, as the film is presented in a choppy fashion.  But in the end, this film goes to show what funding can do to even the worst of Christian films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, big money from a Fox News personality means big message-pushing from that personality’s unusual worldview.  Though there is a tiny amount of potential in this film, it is quickly squashed by Sean Hannity’s ego and his attempts to combat ISIS with a cellphone app.  Dialogue is mostly absurd as characters are required to make a certain number of ISIS references, not to mention advertise Sean Hannity’s ratings.  Besides this, there is too much of a strawman-atheist-has-a-conversion feel to this film and the character arcs are way too steep for reality.  Though there could have been something to this, it just boils down to a hair-brained idea thought up in the Fox News echo chamber.  This is pandering at its finest.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this cast is mostly professional, it is hurt by over the top theatrics and forced emotional sequences, especially Kevin Sorbo doing his best David A. R. White as an atheist impression.  Granted, some of these lines leave the cast members hamstrung with no hope of making anything good out of it (“Like a selfie for God”).  Overall, the Sorbos do a decent job with this, and it’s great to see them star opposite each other for once.

Conclusion

What is one to do with Sean Hannity?  Struggling film makers need his money to make their films great again, but with money comes long strings attached.  We believe that the original idea of this film meant well—before Fox News product-placed it to death.  This is the age-old dilemma of Christian films (and ministries for that matter).  But money or no money, an idea as absurd as a cellphone app that hijacks your phone’s flashlight feature in order to combat ISIS (even in North Korea!) should never, ever be placed on the big screen.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Generational Sins (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

As Sarah is dying of cancer, she makes her oldest son, Drew, promise to take his younger brother back to the hometown they had once escaped from.  Drew reluctantly agrees and is forced to reconnect with the brother he doesn’t know very well in order to return and find what his mother wanted him to look for: redemption.  The problem is, once he’s back home, Drew begins to remember everything he wanted to forget—especially the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father.  Will he be able to grapple with his past in order to find hope for the future?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As production newcomers on the Christian film scene, Spencer T. Folmar and the Third Brother Films team are already making waves.  In Generational Sins, they have demonstrated that they definitely know what they are doing.  Video quality is crisp and camera work is creative.  Audio quality has no issues and the soundtrack is very intriguing and thought-provoking.  Sets, locations, and props are well-invested in and well-constructed.  The only errors in this production pertain to some small editing issues, but on the whole, this is a top-notch effort that should continually yield great results in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

It’s clear that the Third Brother team wanted to do something different with this movie, and it’s completely fine to create ‘edgy’ content in Christian movies for the purpose of demonstrating true redemption.  However, it’s another matter to jump head-long into a typical secular film script and completely overuse profanity and expletives.  While it’s true that this is realistic for the people portrayed, it doesn’t exactly convey the message that I think the writers are trying to convey here.  The characters are definitely realistic—maybe too realistic—yet the dialogue suffers for creativity.  The circumstances portrayed in this film can definitely be related to by an unfortunate amount of people, yet they are not entirely handled well.  There is too much brooding darkness in this movie with very little redemption.  Even the redemption that is offered seems cheap and just for the sake of tacking it on at the end.  On the whole, this plot is somewhat predictable, and it’s not helped by the free-flowing expletives, yet there is a ton of potential here if it’s honed properly.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Though this cast is made of people not well known in most circles, they do a fine job with what they have been given.  Most of them assume their roles appropriately and deliver their lines adequately.  The only issues to point out here pertain to some extreme emotions that seem to be overplaying a lot.  However, this section contributes to a respectable effort.

Conclusion

The last thing we needed was a cheap Christian movie about happy plastic white people, so at least Folmar and crew steered clear of that mold.  But perhaps in reaction to this caricature, they have gone too far in the opposite direction.  Yet despite this movie’s too-honest raw nature, there is still a lot of potential here that, if used in a healthy and redemptive way, could take the Christian movie field by storm.  If we have honest, raw, edgy films like this one that have a palatable amount of ‘realistic’ content, then Christian film makers can change the world.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

A Question of Faith [2017] (Movie Review)

Have you donated your organs today?

Plot Summary

When David Newman’s son dies tragically from a texting and driving accident, the doctors come around looking for his son’s organs to harvest so they can save a dying white girl who has a budding musical career ahead of her.  David is trying to take over head pastor duties from his Scripture-reading-robot father, but the pressure is too much, especially when his wife fully embraces advocating for organ donation in the schools.  Kate Hernandez feels like she has no hope left when her daughter is thrown into jail for texting and driving, but somehow, all of these characters come together in the end in an underserved church sing-off so they can feel good about themselves again.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Despite past production snafus, Kevan Otto has found himself more financially successful in A Question of Faith due to PureFlix’s assistance.  This newfound funding has paid off, as there are very few errors in this production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all professional.  The soundtrack leaves something to be desired, but it’s not that significant.  Sets, locations, and props are all appropriate and well-constructed.  The biggest issues to point out here are some small editing issues due to the confusing plot presentation.  Yet when you compare this great production with the plot that accompanies it, it’s like daylight and dark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Kevan Otto has not lost his unusual storylines of old, yet A Question of Faith manages to somehow be worse than WWJD, Lukewarm, Online, and Decision.  Even though it seems like on its face that this movie is going to be a ninety-minute public service announcement on the dangers of texting and driving, the plot actually has a very sick and twisted obsession with organ donation.  Don’t get me wrong—organ donation is fine if you want to do that, but trying to force the issue like this is downright strange and off-putting.  Combine that with the plastic and empty portrayal of Christians (as usual) and basically no substantial dialogue, this plot is a real doozy.  Time is wasted on meandering ideas that have no real purpose or focus except to be threaded together by that annoying guy who’s always slapping Bible verses on everyone’s problems.  Tragedies are treated very lightly and callously, thus warranting some of the characters to ask other characters if they even care, which is a valid point.  In the end, the only purpose to this film is to push public service announcements and strange causes and culminates in a ridiculously endless sermonizing concert sequences that rivals God’s Not Dead.  Needless to say, Kevan Otto still hasn’t learned anything.

Acting Quality (1 point)

A lot of these cast members are fearfully lifeless, but then again, they really don’t have much to work with in the line department.  Emotions are bland and most performances are very stock.  T. C. Stallings always posts above average performances, but everyone else seems lost and confused.  It seems like the idea here was to paste a bunch of ‘big name’ cast members into this movie and hope it stuck.  It didn’t work.

Conclusion

These days, all you have to do to get a large budget signed off on your film is a random cause, some recognizable cast members, and maybe a big musical number.  Don’t get us wrong—it’s extremely important to promote great causes in films—but this isn’t the way.  Even if this was a palatable cause, it’s not presented well at all.  None of these characters are able to be related to as people; they’re just pawns in an obvious money-making game.  Any opening weekend hype surrounding this film is sure to die away as Christian audiences once again quietly wonder where all the good Christian movies are.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

A Time for Heaven (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ronald Mitchell lays dying in his own bed as his organs are shutting down, so home healthcare nurse Julie is called upon to make him comfortable as he passes into the next life.  However, she doesn’t just want to make her patients comfortable—she wants to leave a lasting difference on their lives.  Ron is all alone, so Julie sets out to find his long-lost children, whom he gave up for adoption.  Little does she know that the search will lead her to surprising results.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As usual for Faith House’s newer productions, there are a few good production elements, but not enough.  Video quality is fine, as is audio quality, yet there is some randomly shaky camera work, and the soundtrack is Faith House’s usual silliness.  Sets, locations, and props are okay, but they are very limited and cheap.  Lighting is also sometimes an issue.  Furthermore, the editing is poor, including lagging scenes and awkward fade-outs.  Basically, at the rate that Faith House puts out these dumb movies, there’s no way they can be quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It never fails that the Faith House team can come with a childish, silly story that’s based on a flimsy premise and unrealistic occurrences.  Do they even research the situations they want to portray in film before making them?  Their stories are based too much on coincidences and leaps in logic, not to mention the fact that the characters therein are ridiculous.  Faith House also writes the strangest dialogue, and all of these goofy elements are present in A Time for Heaven.  There is no sense of reality in the pursuit of forcing a childish conclusion with a cheap Christian message.  Basically, much like Before All Others and their other wonders, A Time for Heaven is another pointless film that never needed to be made.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Constantly casting Mitch Etter and Julie Van Lith in your films is not a good idea if you want to have a good cast.  Not only is this cast very small, but it’s not really any good.  Every cast member just does their own thing with no much direction.  There are quite a few obvious line errors and emotions are laughable.  In the end, this is once again a newer film that had no reason to be released.

Conclusion

Though we know that outfits like The Asylum are purposely creating parody films, it’s very difficult to know if companies like Faith House, Stronger Foundation, Tender Shoot, etc., are actually serious.  Films like this one are funny for all the wrong reasons and only further serve to continually muddy the waters of the Christian film market.  Whoever is funding these nonsense films needs to seriously stop and demand some quality.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

The Taker’s Crown (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When the legendary King Wiglaf becomes stuck in a time period not his own, he is tasked with finding the Titan thief Tome and procuring the Taker’s Crown before Tome can get to it.  It’s said that whoever holds the Taker’s Crown has immense power, but in order to get to it, Wiglaf must find his old friend the Maverick.  Along the way, he is accosted by the two troubled children of Tome, one of whom he tries to befriend.  Will Wiglaf be able to find the Crown before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a first-time production, The Taker’s Crown is an ambitious project that appears to have bitten off more than it can chew.  Video quality is fine, and the soundtrack is okay, yet the positives are limited to those two elements.  Camera work is much too shaky and there are a lot of weird camera angles.  Audio quality is inconsistent, with some overdubs and overdriven audio.  Sets and locations are fairly limited for the idea that is trying to be conveyed here, and props are downright laughable.  Finally, editing is quite bad as the film is very hard to understand and extremely difficult to follow.  Unfortunately, though a commendable effort was here, a successful follow-through was not.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The Taker’s Crown is intended to be the first in a series, and it’s trying to portray a large-scale fantasy idea.  This basic idea is the only thing that keeps this story from being zero, because while it’s a good idea, the intended epic nature of it does not come across in any way.  It was touched on in the production critique, yet setting this fantasy\sci-fi idea in some random woods, a street corner, somebody’s house, a random field, and a playground does not convey what the writers want to convey.  Besides this, the characters are extremely thin and one-dimensional.  Who are these people and how do they fit into this vague fantasy universe?  What is this universe and how does it work?  Is it an alternate world, a parallel universe, or a time travel concept?  These unanswered questions don’t even touch the fact that the dialogue is ridiculous and the plot progression is forced and predictable.  This film was basically written for the prologue and the epilogue and kills time in between them.  Maybe there’s a great idea in store for this series, but it’s certainly not evident in this installment.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Casting a collection of Crystal Creek Media retreads is not exactly the way to create a winning acting formula.  Tim Kaiser, Jared Withrow, and Tiffany Burns need some serious pointers when it comes to emotions and line delivery.  Elsewhere, this cast is very lacking in direction, though it’s not like they had any lines to work with.  Overall, this movie is a mess and needs a total rework.

Conclusion

We will air on the side of believing that Whiteshore Films has better things in store for this series, even though this is not entirely evident right now.  Wherever this series is going, hopefully it can only get better.  As it is, this film is predominantly a wreck and doesn’t have much going for it.  If this idea is going to succeed in the future, the premise needs to be explained way better, the production needs to be improved, and the cast needs to be revamped.  Perhaps then it will be a worthwhile series.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

Two Steps from Hope (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rebecca and her family have always lived a so-called perfect life and have all the money and success they could want, but when tragedy strikes their family one night, they immediately turn against each other in their pain.  Rebecca, mistreated by her mother, turns to alcohol and contemplates suicide, but she is stopped by a childhood friend who won’t give up on her.  He invites her to a Christian camp, where her life is changed forever.  Will her family be able to work through their pain and find hope as well?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Although this is a 2017 production and although there were plenty of people working on this project, the production is still low quality.  Resources were not as limited as most independent films are, yet there are still a lot of issues, such as shaky camera work and odd lighting.  Video quality is fine, but this is really the only good element to point out here.  The soundtrack is uninspiring.  Sets, locations, and props are too cheap and limited.  Finally, there is no editing to speak of since the story appears to be presented at face value with no real twists or turns.  In the end, with the amount of people that were involved here, the quality should have been higher.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The same principle goes for the plot—when there are more than five screenwriters on the film, the plot should be high quality and complex.  Yet once again, this is not the case for Two Steps from Hope.  Though the story has a good message and seems to mean well, it has too much forceful and heavy-handed messaging.  It is too melodramatic and it unfolds one tragedy after another, even though it does deal with some unfortunately realistic issues and circumstances.  Dialogue is okay throughout, but it needs more development and less drama.  Thus, the characters are also unfinished.  Furthermore, there is one too many montages in this film and the ending leaves something to be desired.  In summary, this creative team definitely has the tools to succeed, now they just need to apply them better.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The acting is the biggest detractor in this film.  It’s painfully obvious that no coaching was present here as there are a lot of truly awful performances.  Emotions are very forceful and over the top.  Line delivery is sometimes whiny and unsure, and other times it is stilted.  Essentially, this cast needed a lot more assistance.

Conclusion

It’s commendable to make a project like this utilizing the skills of a lot of different people, yet their skills are not completely manifested because the talent is not fully tapped.  What they likely would have benefitted from was a lot of consultation and mentorship from more experienced film makers.  In order to make a great film, there is no shame in asking for help from the more experienced.  The finished product being quality is always worth it in the end.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

We Are Stronger (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Victor Raphael returns home from his final deployment, he is not the same as he was.  Though he insists nothing is wrong, his wife knows that he has been profoundly affected by the traumatic experience he had while in the service, especially the recent vehicle explosion that has left him temporarily paralyzed.  Yet their relationship is strained as Victor refuses to get help and as his wife reaches out for comfort in the wrong places.  Will they be able to reconcile before God and let Him heal them and their relationship?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a first-time production, We Are Stronger has a handful of minor errors, yet it is overall a very impressive effort, considering the limited resources.  Video quality is great, as is camera work.  There are some minor audio errors pertaining to some background noises picked up, but the soundtrack is appropriate and interesting.  Sets, locations, and props, though slightly limited, are utilized quite well and are realistic.  Finally, there are a few small editing errors pertaining to some lagging scenes and dead sequences, but otherwise, this is a very good production to begin with.  This production team definitely put a lot of work into this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Since We Are Stronger is based on the true stories of real people, it gives a very realistic and honest look at life and the struggles people go through.  Though there is some expositional dialogue, it is mostly good and serves the build believable characters that the viewers can relate with.  This story has a very strong and meaningful message—yet sometimes it is a little flat and linear.  The plot presentation is at times a bit too straightforward and simplistic, yet nonetheless, refining screenwriting always comes with time.  In the end, this creative team shows a lot of potential and hope for the future.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Though this cast consists entirely of ‘amateurs’, they all post very good performances, especially since they are each playing a character that reflects their true-life story.  Though there are some minor emotional errors, these performances are nearly flawless as each cast member plays out their real-life story on the big screen.  Casting inexperienced people is often a challenge for new independent films, but this one is a slam dunk.

Conclusion

With the constant flow of Christian films being created, one has to stand out in the market by producing quality content.  This has been done with We Are Stronger has real-life stories have been brought to the movie, along with great production quality and a nearly perfect casting job.  This film is definitely worth a watch and is a great start to a movie career.  You can never go wrong by adapting true stories along with the quality presented here.  It will be interesting see what this creative team has planned next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

All Saints [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Michael Spurlock leaves the sales world under less than honest circumstances, he decides the most natural thing for him to do is become a pastor so he can have more time for his family and so he can give back to the world rather than take from it.  Thus, he is assigned by the parish to head up a dying church in small town Tennessee as a training ground under the church closes up.  Then Michael is promised to move on to better things.  However, the longer he is at the small church, the more Michael sees that there is purpose for it, especially since it is serving hundreds of Burmese refugees who have no one to turn to.  With God’s intervention, they begin to see miracles happen right before their eyes.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In keeping with the traditions of Affirm Films, All Saints is a good production on the surface and has no obvious errors.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all on the professional standards they should be on.  The soundtrack is effective and is culturally relevant.  The sets, locations, and props are all well-constructed and realistic.  However, this film needs some serious editing work.  Time is spent on all the wrong things and the plot overall lacks flow and continuity.  However, Affirm has likely done enough to meet minimum market standards.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this is a very intriguing true story that had a lot of potential, this potential is not reached.  There are so many things that could have gone into this film that did not finish developing.  The story is too dominated by the whining, unsure main character.  Unfortunately, there is very little focus or purpose to this plot, even though there were plenty of opportunities to have this.  There are a lot of disjointed and unrelated sequences that fill up the runtime and stunt character development by crowding out any scenes of meaningful dialogue, of which there are few.  In the end, it’s sad to see how this story turned out because it had so much going for it.

Acting Quality (2 points)

John Corbett really puts a damper on this cast since he comes off as very fake and unsure of himself at the same time.  Yet if you can look past him, the other cast members post some good performances.  There is especially good multicultural casting and acting, even if we don’t get to see enough of them.  Overall, this is a good section and makes this movie at least palatable.

Conclusion

Most people will probably be fine with this film, but it’s still a very disappointing experience.  Why can’t we at least see some flashbacks of the Karen people in Burma?  Their subplots are barely developed or explored as John Corbett dominates the runtime with his awkwardness.  In short, though there was a chance for some interesting stories here, it barely materializes and wastes an amazing opportunity.  We believe it’s time for Affirm Films to step out in faith and take a chance on a new genre of Christian film rather than churning out run-of-the-mill films like this one.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

In God’s Time (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Everyone’s lives are intertwined in some way, and everyone lives according to the timing God has given us.  We have no idea what God’s plan is, but our job is to trust Him no matter what.  This film follows the interconnected lives of a desperate doctor and his cancer-ridden wife, a belligerent homeless man with a past he wants to forget, a struggling military vet trying to move on with his life, and a pregnant girl who feels like she has no one to turn to.  As their lives converge together, they discover that God’s timing really is perfect.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a first-time production effort, this film isn’t half bad.  Video quality is good, even though the camera work is randomly shaky at times.  Sometimes audio quality isn’t what it should be, but it’s mostly fine.  The soundtrack is very creative and intriguing.  Sets, locations, and props are all well-constructed and appropriate.  Yet the editing is not very well thought out as a lot of the subplots seemed to be tossed together like a salad, as we will discuss further in a moment.  But overall, it’s clear that effort was put into this film, and with some small improvements, this team will go a long way.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Storylines that depict intertwining yet seemingly unrelated subplots are hard to execute properly.  Much like Do You Believe?, In God’s Time is sometimes too much of a tangled web that comes off as disjointed rather than smooth.  However, it is interesting and realistic to show how people’s lives are connected to one another, yet this story needs more organization to be effective.  Nonetheless, realistic issues are explored throughout this plot in the context of believable and accessible characters.  Dialogue is good, but it could be a little deeper.  There are also a lot of confusing psychological elements throughout the movie that seem interesting but need more explanation and exploration in order to be understood fully.  Due to these confusions, it’s sometimes hard to know what’s going on, even though there is a meaningful message presented here.  The ‘magical’ plot device utilized throughout this story is a bit cheesy and tends to fix problems too easily, but at least audiences can make realistic connections to the people presented here.  In the end, this plot shows a lot of creative potential that needs organization and clarity to make it great.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is semi-amateurish, they post some professional performances.  They are mostly believable in assuming the roles of their characters, yet there are some overdone emotions throughout.  Some performances tend to be underwhelming, but on the whole, this is an above-average section.

Conclusion

In a field crowded out by tons of small groups making movies designed to dip into the inspirational market, writing a good plot that contains realistic characters is the key to success in standing out.  This creative team has a lot of the tools and talents they need for success—now they just need some refinement and organization skills.  They would do well to consult some seasoned film makers in how they can go about this, because they are on the precipice of greatness.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Faith’s Song (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Faith and her parents love each other, and they all knows that Faith has a gift for singing, which uses in her local church.  However, one tragic evening, on their anniversary, Faith’s parents are suddenly killed in a car accident, thus leaving Faith an orphan.  As her life is turned upside down, she will have to do some soul searching to see what she really believes.  Will she be able to pick the pieces back up and start again?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Even though this is a 2017 film with a modest budget, it is still quite underwhelming.  Video quality and camera work are fine, but audio quality is laughable.  The film is dominated by a cringeworthy homemade soundtrack which is unfortunately very memorable.  Sets, locations, and props are okay, but they are somewhat limited.  Finally, there isn’t really any editing present in this film.  In short, this is a disappointing production not only because it’s so new but also because it has a decent enough budget that many people would love to have.  A better allocation of resources is definitely in order.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, there is no real guiding purpose to this plot.  It is way too aimless and melodramatic while at the same time being very surface and plastic.  The struggles of the characters cannot be appreciated because dialogue does nothing to build them up, thus leaving them as cardboard people.  Lack of plot content is filled in with a lot of sermon exposition, not to mention the cringing ‘original’ soundtrack.  Any attempts to develop subplots are disjointed and confusing.  Finally, the portrayal of Christians and Christianity is too goody-two-shoes to be realistic.  Overall, this story needed a serious rethink before this film went into production.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast is obviously amateurish, yet they are not all bad.  However, a lot of their performances are forceful and overly practiced, thus making them seem unnatural.  Emotions don’t seem very honest.  In the end, this tops off a disappointing effort.

Conclusion

With films like this, it’s likely that money was raised before a plot was even written.  This church decided they needed to make a film and went into the process half-cocked and aimlessly.  This always shows up in the final product.  It’s very prudent to receive consultation and advice when undertaking such a difficult venture as making a feature-length film.  It always pays off to not rush into things but to take time to make a quality film.  We hope that future film makers begin adopting this practice more and more.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Guided by the Word (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Right before Steven’s wife dies, her dying wish is for him to reconcile with their estranged daughter by taking her the Bible she used to use in Sunday school.  Though reluctant at first, after his wife dies, Steven honors her wishes and makes a trek across the country to find his long-lost daughter in order to give her the Bible.  Along the way, he reconnects with the faith he forgot he still had.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though this is a 2017 production, it is still relatively underwhelming.  Video quality and camera work are really the only good elements that can be highlighted here.  Audio quality is too inconsistent, including loud outside sounds and an overbearing soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are too limited and are obviously cheap.  There is also some randomly poor lighting.  Editing is basically non-existent as one long diatribe is presented here.  In the end, it’s hard to see a justification for this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Much like Almost Home, Guided by the Word us another half-baked idea that is better suited as a short film rather than a feature-length film.  The story wastes tons of time in an attempt to be longer and is full of empty dialogue and one-dimensional characters.  There’s probably a good message in here somewhere, but it feels too plastic and childish.  It also suggests a lot of quick fixes to problems.  It’s very hard to connect to these characters and their circumstances when they don’t even seem like they are real.  Unfortunately, it’s very hard to justify the existence of films like this.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Much like Almost Home, this cast is overly practiced and stilted in their line delivery.  They are also not very good at showing any emotions as they come off as monotone and lifeless.  It is unclear that John Lina should be in a lead role.  In the end, this film is just another disappointment that will be forgotten.

Conclusion

It’s sad that movies that have well-intentioned motives behind them like this will be washed away in the ever-increasing tide of Christian films being made.  In order to stand out, you absolutely must have professional production quality.  You need at least a marginally realistic plot that contains accessible characters.  Finally, you need a cast that can carry the film by becoming the characters.  Movies like this will only find themselves as thrift store fodder.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Chasing the Star (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Prompted by the celestial sign of the star, three Magi set out from their homeland to the land of Israel to discover the promised Messiah.  Each of them had their own backstory and struggles and they faced many trials and roadblocks along the way, mostly the attempted sabotage of the evil King Herod.  They also experienced spiritual warfare and spiritual awakening as a result of their journey across the desert, and they were never the same again.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though there are a lot of attempts in Chasing the Star to be a professional production, there are also some issues that hold it back from being all that it could be.  Video quality and outdoor lighting are great, but there is some random shaky cam for dramatic effect that puts a damper on things.  However, audio quality is fine and the soundtrack is intriguing.  Outdoor locations are very well constructed and utilized, yet indoor sets and props are cheap-looking and limited.  Finally, the editing makes the film very disorienting and confusing as the plot jumps all around.  In the end, this is a good effort, but it seems like more could have been done.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As previously mentioned, this story tends to jump all over the place in a very confusing fashion that leaves the audiences isolated.  There is also a lot of cryptic, archaic, and even cumbersome dialogue that causes the characters to come off as stuffy and Shakespearean.  A lot of content is also very vague and hard to understand, although there are some interesting psychological elements.  This story tends to be overly artistic, but the use of spiritual elements is better than that of Forty Nights, even if they are still portrayed as too dramatic and sensational.  It’s great to explore spiritual warfare, but not enough time is spent on real and meaningful content, although there are some good attempts to develop the Magi through flashbacks.  Yet it’s still hard to access them as people due to their dialogue.  However, the last ten minutes of this film improve a lot and almost make the experience worthwhile.  Nonetheless, there are still a lot of improvements to be made here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Similar to Forty Nights, some of these cast members act downright creepy, while others are simply too dramatic or too stuffy in their delivery.  There are too many reminders of a Bible play in this film, yet there is sometimes okay acting, especially from Garry Nation.  The costuming is a bit unusual at times, but it tends to work.  Overall, much of this movie is a mixed bag.

Conclusion

Chasing the Star is another unfortunate waste of an interesting idea.  We desperately need creative Bible stories that are focused on spiritual and psychological elements, but not like this.  They need to have slightly improved production and deeper character development in order to be worthwhile.  Yet DJ Perry and his team appear to be improving with each film they make, so it’s possible that they are on the verge of something great.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Altar Egos (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Pastor John Bridges inherits his father’s church, he is given huge expectations by the congregation, who is led by his suspicious and controlling stepmother, Mary Margaret.  John’s wife Betsy wants him to look for a better opportunity, but John wants to follow in his father’s footsteps.  However, when Mary Margaret leads a church revolt against John, he decides to take matters into his own hands and enlists the help of his theatre-guru son to help him create an alter ego to convince his stepmother to reconcile.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

For the obviously low budget that was provided here and other limited resources, this is a highly impressive production.  This is a key example of what we want first-time film makers to do: use everything you have to the fullest potential, even if it’s small.  Every aspect of the production of Altar Egos is highly professional and there are no errors here.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all flawless, even though there are both indoor and outdoor scenes.  The soundtrack is a little goofy but it works for the comedy genre.  Sets, locations, and props are all realistic and authentic and demonstrate care.  Finally, the editing is good, although there is only a small amount of plot content to work with.  In the end, this production could have easily been another Flywheel, but it wasn’t.  New film makers are raising the standard for the market.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As with most church comedies (and Christmas comedies for that matter), the plot of Altar Egos is fairly limited in scope.  It follows a predictable progression and isn’t really all that creative.  However, the characters are highly believable since the dialogue is well-written.  The comedy is subtle instead of obvious and is actually truly funny.  Yet the comedy does run its course.  Though the message presented in this film is good, this movie tends to overstay its welcome with one too many extended sequences and montages.  As previously mentioned, you can see the ending from the beginning, but nevertheless, like all comedies, the characters make this movie what it is, thus making it worth your time.

Acting Quality (3 points)

You can hardly ask for a better casting and acting job than this for a first-time film maker.  Robert Amaya assume his first lead role very well, and even Erin Bethea is good as a quirky side character.  Victoria Jackson is always hilarious when she’s cast as an unserious and goofy character.  The new cast members also add a lot to this film as each of them assume their characters very well.  Basically, comedy is made or broken by the acting, and this cast passed the test.

Conclusion

Once listed in the Box Office Revolution Movie Purgatory, Altar Egos has made a comeback and has risen to the top of the market, leaving behind other 2017 films that were better funded and marketed.  This just goes to show you what can happen when a film maker really cares about the movie they are making and takes time and effort to make it happen the right way rather than just any way.  Altar Egos demonstrates top-notch production, despite low funding, as well as superb casting and acting.  Though the plot is a little thin at times, effort is put into dialogue and character development.  All of this spells a bright future for Sean Morgan and his team—so far, he’s the best Liberty University has to offer in the writing and directing department.  They should consider using him for their future projects.  Regardless, this film is certainly worth your time.

 

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

 

The Case for Christ [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Lee Strobel was an acclaimed newspaper reporter who had seemingly reached a new level in his career with his in-depth research pieces.  Everything in his life seemed perfect, until his wife Leslie began talking to a Christian nurse who saved the life of their daughter and became a Christian herself.  Lee’s staunch atheism was immediately challenged by his wife’s beliefs, even though she had become a better person as a result.  Thus, Lee set out to disprove the faith of his wife by attacking the core tenets of Christianity and skeptically investigating the truth behind them.  However, the deeper he went into his investigation, the less faith he had in atheism.  He would eventually have to come to grips with what he really believed and make a decision that would change his life forever.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

After years of wandering in the proverbial wilderness, Jon Gunn and his team, aided by the new standards of PureFlix, have finally found the promised land.  The Case for Christ is a flawless production in every aspect and is an example of what we should see in every film.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are error free.  The soundtrack is highly authentic and appropriate for the time.  Sets, locations, and props are exquisite and demonstrate great care for historical accuracy.  Finally, editing is excellent as montages are kept to a minimum and each scene transitions seamlessly.  Basically, this is your textbook perfect production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

What better plot to use than a real-life story that many audiences can relate to for multiple different reasons?  Not only is this film about real people, but they are actually portrayed as real people through meaningful dialogue and realistic circumstances.  This film could have easily descended into an information-saturated and message-heavy dump that tried too hard to push its point, but that is not the case here.  Both the atheist and the Christian characters are portrayed extremely well and the highly relevant message is presented in such a way that it is both clearly understood and easily received without being pushed in your face.  In the hands of a different writer, this idea could have gone south very easily.  Yet it did not, and Brian Bird proves that with good content, he can go great things.  The only nitpick to raise here is some slight choppiness, but it’s not a big deal.  The bottom line is that this is an excellent plot and one well worth your time.

Acting Quality (3 points)

You can hardly ask for a better cast than this, as each member fits their character excellently.  There are zero acting errors to point out as every performance is executed with near perfection.  Emotions are highly believable and line delivery is on point.  This rounds out an excellent film.

Conclusion

In conjunction with Brian Bird, Jon Gunn has finally discovered his true talent and has struck gold.  He put previous disappointments behind him and found a way to become a great film maker.  All we ask of film makers is to show steady and consistent improvement, and Jon Gunn has done just that.  He was also afforded a great opportunity to tell the amazing true story of Lee Strobel and to have better funding due to the better decisions made by the PureFlix leadership.  This film gives Jon Gunn, Brian Bird, and the rest a platform to build off of to do even greater things.

 

Final Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points

 

Camp Cool Kids (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Spence’s older brother Zach never wants him around because he embarrasses him, but their mother wants them to stick together now that their father has died.  Zach is headed to summer camp and Spence is supposed to go with him, but Spence is afraid.  However, Spence’s grandfather convinces him to go and Spence soon finds out that there’s a whole world out there if he will face his fears and not let his overactive imagination get the best of him.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a new production, there are obviously a lot of positive elements here.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all on standard.  The soundtrack is a little silly and it is quite excessive as it dominates the film, especially with the many montages that make up this movie.  Sets, locations, and props, however, are professional and appropriate.  Yet there are some unnecessary ‘silly’ special effects that cloud things, not to mention the fact that there’s really no editing in this film.  In the end, this is a typical new baseline production; it’s good to have a new baseline, but production isn’t the only thing you need.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s unclear what the true purpose or intention of this movie is supposed to be.  Is it a kids’ movie?  It sure seems like one.  Characters are very lazily presented through lame attempts at dialogue and comedy.  There is really no plot to speak of, as the story mostly consists of a lot of silliness, quirkiness, and montages to fill time.  The Christian message presented is very plastic and forced.  In the end, there is little overarching or driving purpose to anything that happens in this film, so it’s hard to understand why it was made or what audience it is intended to reach.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Lisa Arnold and company are reliable in putting together a good cast that mostly knows and cares about what they are doing.  There are no glaring errors among this cast—just some uninspiring and seemingly uninterested performances.  Then again, the cast members really didn’t have much to work with.  The whole film seems like an afterthought.

Conclusion

In the not-too-distant past, a film would have been a basement dweller due to low production quality and unprofessional acting.  Yet the new professional industry standards of Christian film have been raised, and thus raise films like this from the ash heap.  But that doesn’t mean that they are any more justified—it just means more money was spent on them.  Thus, we have to ask why.  We know Lisa Arnold and her team mean well and are capable of great things, so why did they make this film?  It seems like the money could have been spent better on a different idea.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Because of Gracia (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Chase Morgan is going to be a senior in high school, but he never feels like he’s been able to make a difference in life.  He is content to just hang out with his best friend OB and not really be noticed by anyone, but when a new girl, Gracia, comes to school, she turns his world upside down and he feels like he has to get to know her, even though he is terrified.  But as they grow closer and become friends, they discover that they have the ability, through their faith in God, to change their world together.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

The collaboration of Film Incito, Check the Gate Productions, and Five Stones Films is a lethal combination in crafting a flawless production.  Because of Gracia demonstrates exactly what a modern Christian production should be, from excellent video quality to professional camera work to seamless audio quality.  The soundtrack is also very well-constructed and appropriate for the genre.  Sets, locations, and props are also without flaw.  The editing is nearly perfect as well as the story is presented in an inviting fashion.  In the end, Lisa Arnold and her production team have finally struck gold with this film, and the sky is the limit from here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

New screenwriter Tom Simes has debuted his skills with a worthwhile plot.  Though the story is somewhat limited and tends to be a stereotypical high school romance, the characters carry the story very well and make it enjoyable.  Dialogue is mostly creative and complex, thus serving to build the characters.  The biggest issues to point out here are a lot of unnecessary heavy-handed narration and quite a few ‘silly’ sequences that keep some characters and subplots from being further explored.  It’s great that we know the main characters well and that they are not black-and-white in their construction, but we would like to get to know the supporting characters just as well.  Also, the epilogue that is tacked onto the end of this film really puts a damper on an otherwise excellent point that is shared at the end.  Nonetheless, Because of Gracia isn’t afraid to deal with some very real and serious topics in a realistic fashion, so the creative team must be applauded for this.  In the end, this is definitely a good plot to start out with since it shows further potential for the future, and it is still enjoyable as it is.

Acting Quality (3 points)

You can hardly ask for a better cast than this.  Moriah Peters and Chris Massoglia are excellent in their roles, as are Ben Davis, Masey McClain, and the rest.  The collective minds behind this film really hit a home run with this cast, as each cast member assumes their character flawlessly and even improves upon what is written for them.  Emotions are very believable and line delivery is excellent, which demonstrate the presence of acting coaching.  In the end, this section punctuates a very worthwhile film.

Conclusion

We should be seeing movies like Because of Gracia come out every month from Christian film makers.  This proves that with time, adequate funding, effort, and care, any film can be Hall of Fame.  With the right combination of producers, directors, and writers, greatness can happen.  Movie making, more often than not, should be a team approach, and hopefully Christian film makers are learning this now.  When it releases to the public, this film is definitely worth everyone seeing.  It lends great encouragement to the slow but sure turnaround and upward trend of Christian film.

 

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

 

The King’s Messengers, Season 1 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

Anwaar Osem and David Sutherland are on the run from the powerful force that has taken over the American government and has sent its enforcers to capture and kill those who resist their anti-Christian rule.  As they hide in the woods, they decide to record the truth about Christianity for all the world to see, even though the enforcement tries to stamp it out.  Will they be able to spread the truth and save people’s lives before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Despite a somewhat strong beginning and several years of production experience, this Crystal Creek series is not what it should be.  Camera work is very shaky throughout, like a camcorder is being used.  Video quality is fine, but there are way too many scenes filmed in the dark.  Audio quality is also below standard as sound effects that sound like they came from Final: The Rapture are included.  The soundtrack is also underwhelming.  Sets, locations, and props are severely limited and cheap-looking.  Finally, editing in this series is very poor a lot of unnecessary scenes and sequences are included, seemingly just to make the ‘episodes’ longer.  In short, a 2017 production should be much higher quality than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Though there are plenty of potentially interesting and creative ideas at the heart of this series, they are never properly developed.  This season overall lacks focus as it relies on a very vague and unexplained dystopian premise and stock suspense dialogue.  There are far too many unrelated and empty characters that are put through unrealistic circumstances.  The subplots are overall disjointed and any ‘twists’ that are employed are actually quite cheesy.  Finally, the end of this season is very confusing and really doesn’t inspire one to want a second season.  It’s very difficult to see the justification for this so-called series.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Can someone explain to us why Daniel Knudsen consistency uses an obviously fake British accent?  It’s very off-putting and annoying.  Elsewhere, this is a typical Crystal Creek cast with a few new additions that have some talent.  However, acting coaching is still lacking as a lot of the line delivery in this series is monotone and phoned in.  Emotions are difficult to grasp.  It’s possible that this cast could do better with coaching, however.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

Each so-called ‘episode’ is basically just the same plot over and over again.  Thus, there are no character arcs or real plot twists, as previously mentioned.  The format this ‘series’ is placed in makes it more like a movie than a season, since the breaks between the episodes are totally arbitrary and unnecessary.  They all run together, thus creating zero continuity.

Conclusion

We are certain that the Crystal Creek Media team means well, so we hope they will accept constructive criticism and use it improve in the future.  They have the drive to make movies and series, which is good, and they have the means to consistently produce them, though not very well.  They definitely like to build strong messages in their stories, but they need to build strong stories to hold their message properly.  They need to pool their resources to make one good production rather than a collection of bad ones.  Finally, their acting pool is limited, but they can be worked with if better coaching is employed.  We know all of this is easier said than done, but it’s so worth it in the end.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 14 points

 

The Turnaround [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Marquise tragically loses both of his parents, he is raised by a family friend and tries to find his way through life.  His parents had always taught him the Christian faith and how to live, but he is confused about Christianity since he feels like God took them away from him.  He is tempted to get involved in drugs with a friend since he cannot seem to find stable income elsewhere.  But he is also in love with a pastor’s daughter, and the pastor sees great potential in Marquise and wants to disciple him.  Which path will Marquise ultimately choose?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Turnaround has a better production than you might expect, but it still commits some rookie errors.  Video quality and camera work are fine.  The audio quality is good except for the awkward soundtrack that sometimes overpowers the scenes.  Sets, locations, and props are average but demonstrate effort.  The biggest problem with this production, besides the useless time subtitles, is the extremely choppy editing that leaves the audience very disoriented and confused.  Scenes jump from one thing to the next with no warning, which hampers the experience.  Overall, this is an average production that has clear areas for improvement.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As previously mentioned, the scenes cut back and forth so quickly and jump all over the place so much that the story is next to impossible to follow.  It is difficult to see how the characters and their situations relate to each other, except for some loose associations.   There is probably an interesting story in here somewhere if it were ordered and organized better.  In the aftermath of the confusion, characters are left under-developed due to empty and wanting dialogue.  There are too many unrelated subplots interspersed with random narration.  It feels like there were too many people writing these ideas and not enough people organizing them in a way that would help the audience appreciate them.  Essentially, this is a nice try but no success.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The acting is actually the strongest element of The Turnaround and keeps it from being in the complete basement of Christian entertainment.  The only real problem to point out with the acting is the fact that there are too many scenes that have people talking over each other.  Otherwise, emotions are mostly believable and line delivery is acceptable.

Conclusion

The Turnaround, though it has some good elements, is one of those films that will easily be forgotten due to otherwise avoidable errors.  We believe that the creators of this film meant well, but in order to make this sort of plot work, the characters have to be realistic and accessible by the audience.  The characters are what make audiences interested in the movie, so without them being properly developed, little interest is generated for the film.  Perhaps the creators will heed this advice in the future.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Slamma Jamma (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Michael Diggs was a college basketball star before he was dragged into a crime and framed for the murder.  After spending six years in prison, he has come back home to find his brother wayward and his mother in poor health.  His former girlfriend has also moved on.  Thus, Michael sets out to make an honest living and try to put his family back together, but he meets a group of street basketball players who convince him to try out for a slam dunk competition.  Michael decides to go for it, especially when a crisis hits home that forces him to rely on his faith to make it through.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In a shocking break from Timothy Chey’s past production disasters, Slamma Jamma, though less funded that train wrecks like Final: The Rapture or David and Goliath, is on par with industry standards.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all professional.  The soundtrack is effective, though it is sometimes too in-your-face.  Sets, locations, and props are highly realistic.  The only real issue holding this production back is the terrible editing.  There are too many disconnected scenes and sequences that make for a very choppy viewing experience.  Sometimes scenes abruptly and unnecessarily transition to another, even if it seems unfinished.  Needless to say, some editing kinks still need to be worked out, but this is a huge improvement for Chey and makes us wonder how this even happened, given his history.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Slamma Jamma is a typical marketable true story sports plot where all of the characters fit into perfect molds and follow predictable trajectories.  While this is a pedestrian idea for the market, it is an extreme departure for Chey, which suggests a need for funding.  Gone are constant bizarre and manic references to Chey’s wacky worldview as they are replaced with stereotypical inspirational sports constructs.  However, it is an interesting and engaging true story, even though its large amount of content is crammed into a confining runtime that likely does not do the original story justice.  While the characters are somewhat accessible, they are not developed enough as time speeds by.  The whole storyline is too neat and pre-planned, which is completely uncharacteristic of Chey.  But hey, everybody’s gotta start somewhere.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Unlike past psychotic casts (see Suing the Devil), this cast is actually semi-professional and seems to know what they are doing.  Some acting coaching is present, even though there are still a handful of very over-acted sequences.  But on the whole, emotional and line delivery are very respectable.  One thing is for sure: you never know what’s going to happen next with Chey.

Conclusion

When compared to past Chey works, Slamma Jamma is a major improvement, which shows just how bad it was for him at one point.  Now he needs to move away from market predictability and flex those creative muscles he claims to have.  It’s time to do something different, only the right way, and without blowing millions of dollars on north African field trips.  If Chey can harness his creativity responsibility, mute his worldview, and surround himself with a good team as he did in Slamma Jamma, he might become the most surprising film maker yet.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

He Sends Rain (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When David Conrad and his newlywed wife receive word that David’s father is close to dying, they are forced to return to David’s hometown to put things in order, even though David and his father are not on speaking terms.  David refuses to see his father as he tries to get the house ready to sell and figure out what to do with the adopted brother he never knew he had.  While David wallows in his anger and drinking, his wife decides to get to the bottom of the family secrets and begins her own investigation into the matter.  What she finds is pain and hurt, yet she believes that God’s forgiveness and grace can mend the brokenness.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As Silverwave Entertainment’s first major production, He Sends Rain starts off a little bit rough with some poor lighting and other shortcuts.  Editing is also choppy at first and the soundtrack too loud at times, yet as the movie goes on, the production gradually improves and becomes quite respectable.  While there are still a lot of drawn out scenes, video quality and camera work are totally nailed.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and appropriate.  Audio quality improves as it goes.  By the end of the film, there are not many errors to speak of, thus making this production above average.  In the end, it is understandable to wrestle with some production elements early on, so the good thing is that improvement is shown over time.  This shows great potential for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though on its face He Sends Rain looks like a stereotypical return-to-small-town plot, it is not what you might think.  It takes a good, honest look at unfortunately realistically broken family systems and why they are broken.  Though things are slow to develop at first, the story improves as it goes.  The characters are realistic and accessible, but we feel like they could have been developed a little further.  A little more complexity and plot and character deepening, as well as some flashbacks, would have really made this film soar.  The happenings therein are realistic, even though the ending is a bit too rushed and easily patched up.  This storyline really shows a lot of potential for the future, especially since it demonstrates insight into the lives of real people, which is one of the biggest things we look for in films.  Once this creativity is fully harnessed, this creative team will be going places.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Like other elements to this film, though the acting starts out somewhat half-hearted, it definitely improves as the movie progresses.  Emotions become more realistic as cast members appear to become more comfortable in their characters.  Line delivery is almost always on point.  Even though this is a slightly ‘unknown’ cast, it is refreshing to see a job well done.

Conclusion

It’s possible that He Sends Rain would have worked better as a series that allowed for deeper character and story development, but we realize the budgetary constraints of independent Christian entertainment.  The good news is that freshman and sophomore films from Christian film makers are overall improving, which is raising the market standards.  Once the Silverwave Entertainment team works out some of the minor production kinks and deepens their plots, they are really going to leave their mark on the industry.  We can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points