Coffee with God (Movie Review)

Coffee With God' Breaks the Mold, Brings an Uplifting Message to TV|  National Catholic Register

Plot Summary

Apparently, Jack has a special connection with God wherein they have coffee together and God makes sarcastic comments about stuff. God also gives Jack random missions to do things, such as going to heal people. However, one day, Jack gets a basically impossible assignment or something, and things happen.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, Coffee with God has an average production with only a few assorted errors. Video quality and camera work are acceptable, but audio quality leaves something to be desired. Some portions of the soundtrack are quite loud, and lighting is fairly inconsistent. Sets, locations, and props are mostly cheap and inadequate. Editing is okay, but the mixed-bag nature of this section can only lead to an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

The writers of this film espouse an extremely bizarre view of God that includes irreverent sarcasm and general weirdness. The characters seem to go out of their way to be odd and use purposely crude humor. A strange theology undercuts the narrative, and the plot itself is full of wasted time and pointless scenes. Dialogue does nothing to build characters, and many conversations fill time by going in circles without accomplishing anything. With no clear purpose or themes, this story meanders around until it’s mercifully over, having no impact on the audience except an annoying one. Thus, due to the strange worldview, this aspect of the screenplay receives a negative rating.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite the other concerns in this movie, the acting is mostly average. Not all the performances are bad, but some are a bit over-the-top. Other cast members are bland. There’s not enough positive or negative in this section to warrant anything but an average score.

Conclusion

It’s extremely unclear why this film was even made. What’s to gain from such a strange view of God and miracles? What is the audience for this screenplay? It’s too cheaply made to be a cash grab. It’s too isolating for much of Christian entertainment. In the end, there’s literally no point to Coffee for God except to serve as yet another example of how not to do it.

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

The Furance [2019] (Movie Review)

Coming Soon: Darrell Roodt's Award Nominated Film, 'The Furnace' (2019) -  PopHorror

Plot Summary

Mary and Matt are recently married, and for their honeymoon, they want to complete The Furnace together, which is the most treacherous race in Africa. However, Matt’s untimely death delays these plans and sends Mary into a tailspin. Injured from the car accident that took her husband’s life, Mary feels like giving up until she meets a man who inspires her to fight. Then, Mary finds her second wind and decides to compete in The Furnace to prove that she can move on.

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the production of The Furnace is acceptable, including good video quality and an intriguing soundtrack. Other audio elements are also fine, but the visual special effects are quite poor. There are also some instances of shaky camera work for dramatic effect that become disorienting. However, sets, locations, and props are very professional. To round things out, the editing is fairly choppy, but some of this could be due to narrative presentation problems. Therefore, taking all this into account, this production section receives an above-average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The plot of The Furnace is all over the map and is mostly disorienting to the audience. The writers were clearly trying very hard to be mysterious and artistic in their story presentation, but this approach causes many scenes to go way over the viewers’ heads. Very abstract and ethereal at times, the narrative is difficult to follow as it jumps all over the place, full of coincidences and convenient turns that suit the creators’ means. Certain portions are rushed through with montages and time jumps, thus short-circuiting character development. It’s impossible to relate to the people in this plot due to the breakneck speed of the film. Expository dialogue fills in that gaps that are left by the time jumps, and many conversations are unsubstantial. Some parts feels like a dream sequence and carry a very odd tone that’s impossible to quantify. Despite some very interesting concepts that are not fully explored, there are realism errors in this screenplay, such as medical problems that are solved too easily and other lapses in logic. There’s actually a very good theme at the end of the movie, but not many audience members will make it that car. The writers tried to create big, pivotal moments, but these fall flat due to empty characters and lack of proper setup. Thus, only a meager rating can be offered here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Unfortunately, all throughout The Furnace, there are many instances of over-acting. Emotions are often too dramatic and overdriven to the point of being offensive. However, line delivery is mostly acceptable, and all performances improve as the film goes on. Some cast members are better than others. Hence, an average score is awarded for this section.

Conclusion

Many screenwriters mean well but lack proper execution in their offerings. However, in the case of The Furnace, it’s very unclear what the creators actually wanted to convey. The production, story, and acting are all over the map, making for a confusing viewing experience. In the end, this screenplay is an example of why proper planning is vital to the success of a movie.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The Perfect Race (Movie Review)

Watch The Perfect Race | Prime Video

Plot Summary

Courtney Smith-Donnelly is still teaching high school track-and-field, but when she gets the opportunity to fill in for a college track-and-field coach, which also involves coaching a former student, Courtney jumps at the chance. Much like her past experiences, Courtney faces heat for teaching basically conventional running techniques. Nobody thinks that Courtney knows what she’s doing although her advice is common-sense. Will they ever be able to run the perfect race?

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the production of The Perfect Race is acceptable. This includes good video quality, standard camera work, and passable audio quality. The soundtrack is generic, but sets, locations, and props are realistic and professional. Lighting is on par with industry standards. The biggest drawback in this section is the very choppy editing that makes for a confusing viewing experience. Nonetheless, the production is still above-average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Throughout this plot, many of the scenes are quite short and end prematurely, making for rushed conversations. It doesn’t help that much of the dialogue is full of boring and procedural information, thus leading to blank and empty characters. As meaningless scenes speed by one after another, the audience is subjected to proprietary sports content that involves characters who no one cares about due to lack of development. Much like the predecessor of The Perfect Race, Remember the Goal, this sequel film ridiculously shoe-horns Christian messaging into the sports elements, using empty platitudes to do so. Although the middle of this narrative explores some surprisingly interesting themes pertaining to self-esteem in relationships and Christians not liking death, it’s too little too late. These topics were not properly set up, and it doesn’t help that most of the Christian characters are basically perfect people who can fix everything really easily. In the end, there’s hardly any difference between The Perfect Race and Remember the Goal as both screenplays involve the same character being unrealistically persecuted for using basic cross-country running strategies that pretty much any sports professional would agree with. Because of these concerns, no points are awarded in this section.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, The Perfect Race continues the long-term Christiano tradition of poor acting. The line delivery is too quick, and emotions are quite robotic. Throughout the movie, it feels like that the cast members are simply going through the motions without conviction behind their performances. However, the acting is not all bad as the work of some actors and actresses is acceptable. Thus, a small score is merited here.

Conclusion

It’s very hard to believe that the Christiano team squeezed two full films out of this extremely limited and boring idea. There’s very little difference between The Perfect Race and Remember the Goal except that the sequel has a bit more potential. Nonetheless, this screenplay is still a relic leftover from the old era of Christian entertainment that we are hopefully transitioning away from.

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Timbertown (Movie Review)

Timbertown (2019) | Trailer | Eleanor Brown | Cory Kays | Adam Dufour -  YouTube

Plot Summary

There’s a murder mystery among the people of Timbertown, but most are too busy to care. However, when a logger accidentally discovers the body, an ambitious Natural Resources officer takes it upon himself to solve the case. Doing such leads him to unexpected places, and each character must determine how they will find purpose in a life that is sometimes meaningless.

Production Quality (2 points)

Timbertown has an acceptable production as a whole since it lacks glaring errors. Despite some inconsistent camera work, video quality and audio quality are on par with industry standards. The soundtrack is intriguing, and sets, props, and locations are authentic. Lighting is good, but there’s some lagging editing due to the nature of the story. Thus, in the end, an above-average rating is awarded to this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

In the beginning, Timbertown is quite boring and doesn’t accomplish very much, especially since a lot of the complicated dialogue doesn’t effectively build characters. In the first half of the plot, it’s hard to understand the point as it’s based on a vague idea that isn’t fully fleshed out. After wasting some time, the narrative suddenly changes into an anthology as if it’s a series. This element of the film is interesting because it lets the audience see the same scenes from other characters’ perspectives, thus fleshing them out and bringing more clarity to the situations. However, despite this creative aspect, the story is still a partial idea that lacks deep enough characters to carry the plot when the viewer is confused. In the final third of the movie, there’s actually a really good montage that lets the audience know the entire purpose of the screenplay, even if it’s a little too late. Working backwards to get to this point was commendable, but it left the viewer uninterested in the stakes, which begs the need for a better hook. The characters have tons of potential to be gray rather than black-and-white, so they just needed more development to fully achieve the goals that the writers had. Thus, with a good amount of prospect that wasn’t completely fleshed out, this aspect of the film receives one point.

Acting Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the acting in Timbertown is either average or slightly better. Some cast members are better and worse than others. As a while, line delivery and emotions are believable and on-point. The positive aspects, combined with the fact that some elements could be better, leads to a slightly above-average score for this section.

Conclusion

The core concept of this film would have worked much better as a series that involved more content and collaboration. Nonetheless, the creative team behind this movie has massive potential for the future as they could expand the long-neglected genre of suspense mystery in Christian entertainment. We need more faith-based mysterious that are actually engaging and unpredictable. Perhaps these creators can do this in the future.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Beyond the Vows (Movie Review)

Image result for beyond the vows movie

Plot Summary

A newly married couple loves each other and is trying to heal after their relationship began with a rocky start. However, situations continue to arise that complicate their marriage, which leaves both of them searching for answers. Will they find redemption under the grace of God before it’s too late?

Production Quality (1 point)

Despite being a 2019 production, Beyond the Vows has many pitfalls. These include inconsistent audio quality, with some lines not even being audible, little to no discernable soundtrack, and loud background sounds. Although video quality and camera are acceptable, the sets, locations, and props are very cheap and limited. Further, the editing is full of continuity errors and abrupt transitions that sometimes completely cut off scenes. As such, though there were some acceptable parts in this production, it can’t receive a very high score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2 points)

This film offers a strange mix of odd fundamentalist Christianity and unusually edgy content. Weird conversations both reinforce rigid gender stereotypes and fixate on questionable topics that do nothing to uplift the audience. Besides these obvious concerns, the dialogue fails to do anything for the characters except make them mindless, strawmen, or unrealistically perfect Christians. It’s hard to understand the actual point of this plot as it meanders around with no purpose except to explore weird relationships, demean women, force legalism upon the viewer, pass judgment on certain people, talk down to young adults, or make marriage all about having kids. Using wild time jumps, the story spins in circles, rehashing the same things over and over again and relying on ridiculous coincidences to keep the narrative going. Finally, when it’s mercifully over, nothing is accomplished save for the creation of an offensive project that warrants negative points in this section.

Acting Quality (1 point)

While the acting starts out as generic and average, it definitely gets worse as it goes. Some cast members are better than others, but a handful of them seem quite unsure due to poor coaching. Many of the emotions are either muted or forced. A couple of cast members seem uninterested in being on set, which can’t really be faulted given the low quality of this movie. In the end, this section does nothing but keep this screenplay from being negative points overall.

Conclusion

It’s commendable to try to create a plot that depicts the realistic struggles of married couples, but Beyond the Vows simply goes too far. It’s possible to be too realistic to point of turning off the audience, which prevents anything from being learned. Besides this, this film’s narrative isn’t even engaging, not to mention the fact that the production and acting are sub-par. All of these factors combined together spell a recipe for disaster, which is why this movie should have never been made.

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

Our Rose Garden (Movie Review)

Our Rose Garden - BMG-Global | Bridgestone Multimedia Group | Movie & TV  Distribution

Plot Summary

A married couple is struggling due to the wife’s psychosis, which makes their lives unpredictable. However, despite his son’s desire to place his mother in a mental health facility, the husband wants to remain faithful to his wife because she was there for him when he was unfaithful to her.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Because this production stays within its financial and logistical boundaries, it is very professional. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all on point, and the soundtrack is quite good. Sets, locations, and props are all well-utilized. The only slight concerns relate to some choppy editing and awkward transitions, but these aren’t enough to prevent his section from receiving a high score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Our Rose Garden uses a very creative story presentation that mixes past and present subplots to develop character motive. It’s an authentic look at realistic problems that many people face even if the dialogue is a little thin and under-developed. It was better to make a short film rather than long and drawn out movie with no meaning, but this didn’t leave much time to completely develop the characters to their fullest potentials. Also, the narrative could have had a stronger premise rather than a vague one as well as more concrete messaging. Throughout the screenplay, some scenes oddly mix with each other and cut off as another invades, which confuses the audience. The story concludes with a somewhat abrupt ending that seems to easily fix the problems at hand. Nonetheless, there was a enough potential in this plot to justify a meager rating.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The cast of Our Rose Garden definitely showed that they were trying hard in their performances as they acted in meaningful ways. Despite some very small moments of robotic emotions and line delivery, these cast members demonstrated good skills. Another drawback of this section was beyond their control: the fact that the past and present cast members didn’t really look like each other. However, as a whole, this area was above average, which rounds out a good effort.

Conclusion

This creative team obviously has tons of potential for the future due their knack for analyzing people without creating stereotypes or being too heavy-handed with message-pushing. They also avoid wasting resources on an unnecessarily long film. With a little more character and narrative depth, as well as slight acting upgrades, these creators will be well on their way to greater things.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Five Blocks Away (Movie Review)

Watch Five Blocks Away | Prime Video

Plot Summary

Anthony has a successful job and prides himself in being able to date whoever he wants. However, when he crosses paths with a childhood friend, she begins to make him see life in a different way. He’s reminded of his past and begins to want a different life. Nonetheless, changing isn’t as easy as Anthony first thought, and he’ll have to give up more than he bargained for.

Production Quality (.5 point)

This production exhibits many problems, including wildly shaky camera work, tight shots, and poor lighting. Despite acceptable video, audio is often covered up with a loud soundtrack. While the score isn’t bad, it’s clearly trying to hide sound problems, such as overdriven audio and distracting background noises. Despite fine sets, locations, and props, editing is extremely abrupt and choppy. Fadeouts plague the viewing experience, and transitions generally confuse the audience. In the end, all these problems only warrant a meager rating in this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From the get-go, this plot is marred with heavy-handed narration that short-circuits any potential for character development. As such, the characters become stereotypical through stock dialogue and vanilla conversations. Story occurrences only happen because the writers want them to, including actions that seem inconsistent with the characters’ tendencies. This causes the narrative to follow a predictable progression, sometimes at an unnaturally rapid pace. Some scenes bleed together, prompting the film to meander with no purpose or central theme. A lot of the time, it’s hard to quantify what the movie is actually about, and sometimes, things suddenly happen without warning. The rushed and vague ending leaves the screenplay’s messaging very empty and wanting, especially since narration tries to patch everything up without feeling. Due to these concerns, zero points can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Despite problems, the acting is actually the film’s strongest point. Nonetheless, there are still plenty of issues, including mumbled lines and inconsistent emotional delivery. Some cast members seem flippant about or overconfident in their abilities. However, slight improvement as the movie goes on prevents this section from being zero.

Conclusion

With no central purpose or focus, a screenplay can’t be good. Five Blocks Away is the perfect example of this rule. If you don’t know where you’re going, don’t make the entertainment. If the funding isn’t there, it may not be the right project. You can’t force something to happen that isn’t meant to be because, as we’ve seen time again, it only hurts the market.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

The Mysterious Note (Movie Review)

The Mysterious Note (2019) | Full Movie | Alex Aguilera | Natasha  Diaz-Potter | Peter Tumangday - YouTube

Plot Summary

The Vargas family doesn’t want to accompany their father to a small town for one of his business trips. However, due to various school incidents, the kids are forced to come along. Despite not liking the idea, the youngest accidentally discovers a mystery along with his new friends. Thus, they race to solve it before the vacation time runs out.

Production Quality (.5 point)

This film’s production is very sub-par, including odd video quality and muted audio quality. There are also bizarre echoes, weird sound effects, and background noises that interrupt the viewing experience. Also, the soundtrack is juvenile, and there are obvious overdubs. Lighting is inconsistent throughout, and there are many tight camera shots. Sets, locations, and props are acceptable, but the editing is just pedestrian. In the end, this section only garners a meager score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Using heavy-handed messaging, this narrative forces obvious themes upon the audience, which spills over into the dialogue. This in-your-face approach hurts character development as they become representations of issues rather than relatable people. The plot’s premise is also contrived due to the near-propaganda methods of communication. Christian characters are portrayed as extremely perfect while other characters are magically fixed after doing what the Christians tell them to do. Every conversation is so obviously tied back to the movie’s purpose that it feels like an extended instructional video. Because there’s nothing in this storyline to save it from itself, no points can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As if other elements in this screenplay weren’t bad, the acting is among the worst. Line delivery is extremely accentuated and forced like it’s being printed out. Emotions aren’t any better as each cast member behaves like a programmed android. It’s very hard to believe that performances like these were even approved. Overall, this conclude a very poor effort.

Conclusion

There’s nothing more to say about The Mysterious Note that hasn’t already been said many times over. If the budget isn’t satisfactory, don’t make it. Collaborate with people who know how to write good plots. Consider how your acting is coming off. If God wants you to make a film, He’ll send the right people. Anything else is just forcing something to happen that will do more harm than good.

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

The God Cafe (Movie Review)

Amazon.com: the God café: Steve Brown, Joe Herrera, Jorge Diaz, Clint  Patterson

Plot Summary

When a worship pastor is facing a crisis in his marriage and his career, he feels like he’s at the end of his rope. The minister wonders if his faith is even real, which is why he’s suddenly visited by mysterious men who claim to be from history. They show the pastor what the true meaning of Christmas is, but the minister will have to decide for himself.

Production Quality (.5 point)

Starting off with odd lighting and tinted filtering, the production quality of The God Cafe is quite low. Cheap special effects and overlays clutter the viewing experience despite acceptable video quality. Sub-par audio is accompanied by a generic soundtrack. Limited sets, locations, and props are supplemented by embarrassing fake backgrounds, and some odd camera angles further contribute to this section’s problems. Additionally, the editing is marred by sudden and abrupt flashes and transitions, which disorients the audience. In the end, only a very meager score can be awarded here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Despite the fact that this plot is centered around the inherent problems with celebrity worship pastors (a pertinent discussion that needs to be had), it’s unclear why certain apostles from church history have to visit the protagonist to clear things up. What’s more, the story is frequently interrupted with random, out-of-context songs just because it’s a Christmas musical, I guess. Dialogue is basically a general regurgitation of Bible reading, making the story a long informational diatribe. As such, character development is thrown out the window in favor of a constant stream of facts and references to offscreen content. In the end, besides being a an alternate redux of The Perfect Gift, The God Cafe accomplishes next to nothing, which is the reasoning for zero points in this section.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Between forceful line delivery and manufactured emotions, this section is overall subpar. It seems the cast members are trying to be too interesting, which just comes off as annoying. As a whole, the performances are too theatrical, but there are some bright spots that keep the acting from being a total loss. The amount of positive is enough to warrant a point in this area.

Conclusion

Films like The God Cafe don’t even begin with a sound plot structure, just a vague idea that could be interesting. This isn’t sufficient for a Christian movie, so it’s long past time for collaboration to be the norm in the field. No one can make a movie on their own, and everyone has different talents to bring to the table. If God wants you to make a screenplay, He’ll supply the team and the resources that you need, so you don’t have to try to force more films to happen that will likely fail.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

A Message Through Time (Movie Review)

A Message Through Time (2019)
The magic tree!

Plot Summary

After a girl is bullied at her new school and shunned by everyone for no particular reason, things get worse when her mom is late picking her up. Thus, the only thing the girl can do is walk into a random forest, write her troubles on a piece of notebook paper, tear out the page, wad it up, and throw it into a hollow tree. However, she’s shocked when a paper suddenly pops back out of the tree, which lets her know that a monk from centuries before her time received her crumpled note and sent one back to her! Will they be able to help each other even though they’re worlds apart???

Production Quality (.5 point)

In this extremely cheap production, audio quality is very poor, as shown by background echoes, invasive environmental sounds, annoying post-production sound effects, and a loud soundtrack that tries to cover up the problems. Even though video quality and camera work are okay, bad lighting is a consistent problem. Also, the sets, locations, and props don’t adequately represent what they’re supposed to depict. Further, the editing leaves much to be desired. Overall, this section barely registers any life, but it’s not the worst this movie has to offer.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-.5 points)

Besides the fact that the time travel tree portal premise is completely absurd, the characters couldn’t have less personality than they do. Due to blank and vanilla dialogue, they seem like they stepped out of poorly written children’s story. ‘Bad’ characters are total strawmen, and useless conversations contribute to the narrative’s futility. Lots of time is wasted on meaningless musings about who should have been the head of the medieval church, and the world presented in the plot lacks logical sense. Time travel in and off itself is totally nonsensical, but this story takes matters a step further by trying to connect two time periods that have absolutely nothing to do with one another. It’s utterly laughable that this idea was even made into a film, and it’s so ridiculous that this area earned an negative rating.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As if the plot isn’t bad enough, the acting is painfully awkward. Line delivery is quite unsure, and emotions are overly practiced. It’s clear that coaching is lacking for the cast, which isn’t entirely their fault. As a side note, historical accents are obviously incorrectly portrayed, but it really only contributes to an overall zero-point effort.

Conclusion

Movies like A Message Through Time are so detrimental for Christian entertainment efforts. They reinforce stereotypes of inexperienced creators making something laughably bad. Films like this one continue to turn potential audiences off to the concept of faith-based screenplays. However, all that can be done is for the creative teams who have actually been called by God to make movies and series to follow through and transform the market.

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

Ruth: The Musical (Movie Review)

Ruth the Musical (2019)
Just what you always wanted…a British musical rendition of Ruth!

Plot Summary

Imagine if Ruth was a British woman who liked to sing! What kinds of songs would she sing? What would other people around her sing about? Would they choreograph their lyrics and dances as if they had practiced them beforehand? Most importantly, would they be able to solve the age-old question of musicals: when a character is singing by themselves, are they really singing out loud, or are they just singing in their head?

Production Quality (-1 points)

The production of Ruth is among the worst, including very shaky camera work and inconsistent lighting. Despite acceptable video quality, the sets, locations, and props aren’t historically accurate if that’s what the creators were going for, which is highly unclear. If it matters, the music is out of place for the historical time period of the the real Ruth account. However, other aspects of audio contribute to the negativity, such as the loud background noises in outdoor locations, the invasive out-of-place nature of the soundtrack, the obvious lip-syncing, and the painful overdubs. The songs are just terrible, getting worse and worse as the experience drags on. Flashbacks have a blurry quality to them, and editing is a nightmare. In the end, there’s so much bad here that a negative score is warranted.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

The fact that the time period that’s supposed to be portrayed here is unclear also impacts the plot, depending on whether the story is supposed to portray a modern-day version of Ruth or a historical one. If historical, why are there obviously modern objects present? If modern, why do the farms used antiquated equipment? Besides this total confusion, the songs are surprisingly and awkwardly inserted into the narrative, and the impromptu dance routines don’t fit the film’s tone. These asides waste time and gloss over actual conversations. This lack of dialogue creates empty characters who can’t be related to despite the inclusion of flashbacks. Although there are few tiny nuggets of potential in this screenplay, such as the themes of foreigners and low-income individuals being discriminated against, there are just too many unusual aspects of this section that warrant a negative rating.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

Again, is the costuming intended to reflect the modern day, or is it supposed to be set in a historical time period? This lack of clarity confuses a section’s score once again. Is the movie supposed to be a British rendition of the biblical account, or is this just another in a long line of BRITISH BIBLE productions? Despite the acting beginning in a slightly acceptable fashion, it actually devolves as time goes on, mostly due to the interruptive musical sequences. Thus, this puts the lid on a terrible creation.

Conclusion

Another day, another embarrassing piece of Christian entertainment that’s based on a Scriptural narrative. What are audiences supposed to do with this utter nonsense? Can we really expect people to like this sort of thing? The days of mindlessly accepting a film just because it’s labeled Christian are long gone. There are much higher standards in the current market, which are helping to bring it back from the terrible position it was once in. Therefore, the best we can do is look forward to what future creators have in store that can help us to forget debacles like Ruth: The Musical.

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

End of the Trail [2019] (Movie Review)

End of the Trail | 2019 Movie | Drama | HD | Full Movie | English - YouTube

Plot Summary

When their father dies, three brothers are tasked with taking his ashes to their dad’s favorite place in the California wilderness. However, because each son knew their father at different stages in his checkered life, they all have different perspectives of him. As a result, each brother lives completely different lives. However, they will have to learn how to overcome their differences in order to face the future together.

Production Quality (.5 point)

End of the Trail has a surprisingly bad production for 2019. This includes poor lighting, odd camera angles, shaky camera work, and off-putting zooms. The video is a bit blurry at times, and while the audio is mostly acceptance, the soundtrack seems out of place and too loud. There are also some echoes, background noises, and extremely obvious overdubs. Flashbacks tend to have a weird quality to them. What’s more, the editing is incredibly choppy, sometimes cutting off scenes for no reason. Odd occasions of slow motion sometimes disrupt the viewing experience, and despite some very small improvements as the production does on, it’s just not enough to warrant a higher score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

From the very start, End of the Trail is guided by heavy-handed narration that comes and goes at will. It attempts to tie scenes together that seem randomly thrown together without continuity between them and out of place in the big picture. Besides being mostly boring and aimless, mindless conversations and unnecessary language produce empty characters, including strawmen depictions of non-Christians. Also, ‘bad’ characters have incredibly steep arcs and unrealistic conversions just for the sake of it. Despite this narrative’s tiny amount of potential, exploring broken family systems through intriguing flashbacks, it’s overshadowed by terrible storytelling. The plot finally crashes into a forced conclusion that lacks believable buildup and tries to claim unearned victories. In the end, this is just another one of those forgettable experiences.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Even with vanilla acting, this section is surprisingly the film’s best aspect. With nothing particularly special or horrible, the acting earns an average score. Through emotions are forced at times, there are enough good elements to justify this rating, yet it doesn’t help the movie’s overall abysmal performance.

Conclusion

As we’ve said over and over again, 2019 is not the time for such low-quality offerings. That year was particularly bloated with new screenplays, and a vast majority of them were extremely unnecessary. All they did was further contribute to the already-negative view of Christian entertainment. Hopefully, in the coming days, future creators can reverse this tide.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

The Crossroads of Hunter Wilde (Movie Review)

The Crossroads Of Hunter Wilde - Full Movie | Mike Norris, Abel ...

Plot Summary

In the aftermath of a world war that left mutants and ISIS rebels roaming the earth in search of their next victims, Hunter Wilde fights to survive and protect those close to him. However, when a new threat emerges that he has no idea how to fight, Hunter does what he typically does: run away. Will he be able to rekindle his faith before it’s too late?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Despite seemingly having adequate funding, this production fails to meet quality standards. This includes background noise that sometimes conflicts with spoken audio as well as a loud and generic soundtrack. The sets, locations, and props don’t effectively portray what they’re supposed to portray. Also, the camera work is wild, including poor shots in action sequences. The video quality is mostly stable throughout, however, and the editing is average. Despite some less-than-inspiring special effects, some elements of the production do improve as it goes on. Nonetheless, it’s only enough to earn a middle-of-the-road score for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Besides the fact that this film is based on a ridiculous premise and bizarre plot elements, it also contains a really bad and slightly incorrect portrayal of the spiritual dimension. The writers seemed to be obsessed with sensationalism, shock, and awe as well as fixated on pro-prepper messaging that seems to want the world to descend into chaos so that they can do whatever they want. Despite being a large-scale idea, the story is based on clunky narration and stock footage. It’s also full of forced drama and purposely creepy supernatural elements. In the character department, the so-called protagonist almost always saves the day via unrealistic action sequences. Other characters are built on forced cardboard dialogue and awkward conversations that make everything drag out. The villains are extremely cheesy, and the narrative decides what happens to the characters and what random things they’ll do without good reasons for doing them. Things only get more ridiculous as they go, mostly due to the fact that the movie confuses itself with wacky inter-dimensional subplots and terminology. The concepts of other realms are extremely difficult to grasp, and the screenplay’s questionable view of spirituality tends to play fast and loose with reality. In the end, this is a pointless storyline full of madness and nonsense.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Between overly theatrical emotions and forced line delivery, the cast was seemingly coached to be very serious for no good reason. Too often, tones and feelings don’t seem to appropriately fit the situations. Makeup is also an obvious problem, and the villain acting is laughably ridiculous. In the end, despite some okay moments that keep this section from being zero, the acting tends to worsen as it goes forward, which rounds out an overall absurd creation.

Conclusion

It’s difficult to understand what the makes of this film were really going for. Mixing a dystopian premise with muted political overtures, much like The Reliant, is basically a losing formula from the get-go. Combing this with poor production and acting aspects sends this movie down to the basement of Christian entertainment. However, the market is thankfully changing for the better, which will no longer allow screenplays like this to exist.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Root of the Problem (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Paul Campbell centers his life around making money. As a realtor, he’s always trying to make the best sales, but his life changes forever when he and his wife suddenly inherit a strange plant from her beloved uncle. This plant actually grows dollar bills on it, but after discovering this fact, Paul hides it from his wife and uses the new money for himself. However, it all comes to a head as his crazy spending finally catches up with him and forces him to come face-to-face with what he’s been running from the entire time.

Production Quality (2 points)

Root of the Problem sports a professional production, including good video quality and camera work. This involves some creatively comedic camera angles, and the sets, locations, and props are also good. However, the audio department isn’t quite enough up to par due to poor background audio, some obvious echoes, and a generic soundtrack. Also, while the editing begins as acceptable, it becomes more and more choppy as the film progresses. Nonetheless, despite these pitfalls, this section does enough to get past the average mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Surprisingly, Root of the Problem has instances of slightly funny dialogue and plot elements. There are a handful of truly comedic moments, and the characters are mostly believable. However, the story sometimes relies too much on the comedy and tends to waste time on silly montages. While the main characters are fairly well-developed, a few of the minor characters seem to do random things that lack logical basis. Also, besides the obvious issues with the money tree concept that this narrative is based on, the screenplay seems to lack solid basis in reality. There are just one too many coincidences that make it feel like a far-fetched dream sequence. Nonetheless, it’s realistic that some of the characters receive real consequences for their actions, but there are some gaping plot holes that are never explained, addressed, or rectified by the conclusion. Therefore, there’s enough good here to warrant a substantial score, but it holds itself back in nonsensical ways.

Acting Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the acting in this movie is pretty good and mostly professional. Sometimes, the acting is a bit disingenuous and unnatural, especially during comedy scenes, but it’s not all bad. Emotional delivery can be a bit forced at times, and some line delivery is breathy, but the acting overall gets better as it goes. Thus, it warrants a slightly above-average score.

Conclusion

Root of the Problem goes right down the middle of the scale as a run-of-the-mill effort. It has plenty to offer, but there are some befuddling aspects that keep it from being all that it could be. These types of films are frustrating because it’s easy to see what small changes needed to be made in order for it to attain a better level. Nonetheless, they can serve as learning experiences for the creators as well as for future makers.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

12 Days With God (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

When Devin Sherman undergoes surgery for cancer around his eye, he’s given a chance to reflect on all he’s recently done. This includes his mistakes and failures, which he still regrets yet cannot make up for. During the procedure and recovery, he looks back on where he’s been and where he is now. These reflections will determine what the future trajectory of his life will be.

Production Quality (2 points)

On the whole, the production of 12 Days With God is above average as it contains good video quality and an acceptable soundtrack, despite the fact that there are some noticeable background sounds and obvious overdubs. Though lighting can be inconsistent, the sets, locations, and props are professional. Also, some of the problem areas get better as the movie progresses, and the editing is at least above the halfway mark. Thus, this section earns a good enough score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

While it’s a little boring at first, the concept behind 12 Days With God is interesting and intriguing. Although there is unnecessary narration throughout, the effective use of psychological elements and flashbacks create a non-linear plot style and establish strong character motives. Despite the somewhat slow pace, the interconnections of characters is good, even if the meandering storyline can be a bit hard to follow sometimes. Also, character arcs come off as too steep at times, and the narrative’s timeline is difficult to comprehend in some instances as the presentation is often muted and confusing. Elsewhere, many of the comedy asides seem out of place and unnecessary, and there are annoying title cards between the days that transpire during the plot. Further, some scenes are fairly wasted as they’re not used like they could have been. Nonetheless, the epilogue stands out though the lead-up isn’t that great, which blunts the otherwise good message’s full impact. In the end, this section does enough to earn an average score but still could have been better.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While there are some situations of robotic line delivery, emotions are mostly okay despite some circumstances of over-acting. Many of the cast members come off as overly practiced while some are better than others. The good thing is that the acting overall improves as the movie goes on, which raised this section’s rating higher than it would have been.

Conclusion

Since the creative team behind 12 Days With God is committed to using real stories in their films, they already have great potential for the future. Once they’re able to work out the pesky concerns with production and acting, like many new film makers, they need to dedicate resources to people who know how to effectively write screenplays. This is perhaps the most pervasive issue of modern Christian entertainment, but once it’s rectified, the field will look completely different.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

A Walk With Grace (Movie Review)

Amazon.com: A Walk with Grace: Ashley Bratcher, David Lee Smith ...

Plot Summary

When Nate’s mother dies, he’s forced to return to his small hometown in Ohio to settle the estate, which involves deciding whether or not to sell the family business. This enterprise is a factor that’s the only thing keeping the town afloat, but Nate’s cousin insists that they take the cash from a shady businessman and get out. However, Nate is extremely wishy-washy about this for no particular reason except that the selloff deal is opposed by Nate’s former girlfriend, Grace. Will Nate make the right decision before it’s too late???

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the production quality of A Walk With Grace is professional with just a few problems. While video quality and audio quality are on par, there’s some inconsistent lighting throughout as well as some moments of shaky camera work. However, these concerns improve with time, and the sets, locations, and props are stable throughout. Elsewhere, the soundtrack is fairly cheesy, and there are a handful of editing problems to contend with. Nonetheless, this section does enough to earn an above-average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From the get-go, everything about A Walk With Grace screams “Return to Hometown Plot.” This is evident by the obvious expository dialogue that constantly reminds viewers of what the returning character used to do and by the stereotypical characters that are only supported by vanilla conversations and bland, repetitive statements that only center around the main plot points. As such, there’s no good reasons for why characters do what they do, and things only happen in the narrative so that they can fit into the predictable molds that were predetermined for this type of story. In this vein, the scenes are too carefully planned out and choreographed for certain events to happen at just the right times, including instances when characters perform actions that are opposite their previously stated intentions. It also goes without saying that there is simply a lot of content in this film, including stupid opinions about young people, nauseating references to small town vs big city concepts, and yes, tons and tons of lame romantic subplots. Because A Walk With Grace aims at nothing from the beginning, it only gets worse as it goes on and culminates in a ridiculous concluding sequences that fixes everything in every possible way and completes every possible romance it started. In short, there’s nothing that earns this section any points.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite the fact that many of this movie’s scenes are quite staged, which makes the acting a bit stiff and overly practiced, the performances aren’t as bad as they could be. Nonetheless, there’s definitely some improvement in the area of being more natural with line and emotional delivery. However, this cast does enough to receive an average score.

Conclusion

A Walk With Grace is basically just another installment of old news. Though it’s a given for new Christian films to possess respectable production quality (which is something that unfortunately took too long to achieve), storylines are still mightily suffering. It’s not acceptable to continually churn out the same old, worn-out narratives and hope something new will happen. However, since one category of Christian entertainment has shown elevated effort, perhaps the other elements will soon follow.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

The Dream Motel, Season 1 (Series Review)

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Plot Summary

Jesse and Matteo are angels who have been assigned to do various tasks on earth, one of which is to fix up an old motel in rural Georgia so that they can win the spiritual war of owning buildings around the world. If the angels can own enough buildings, they can apparently lead more people to salvation, but if the demons in disguise keep taking over God’s properties, they’ll somehow be able to bring more darkness to the earth. Can Jesse and Matteo stop them one motel guest at a time?

Production Quality (1 point)

Although the video quality and camera work are mostly fine in The Dream Motel, save for a few shaky action shots, there aren’t many other positives to point out here. Audio quality is too inconsistent, including annoying background sounds, and there’s basically no soundtrack at all. Also, outdoor lighting is fairly poor, and the sets, locations, and props are often cheap to the point of not even representing what they’re supposed to represent. Further, there’s no real editing or transitions throughout the season, and there some awkward fadeout moments. To top things off, there are bad special effects throughout, which rounds out a mediocre effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Besides the fact that The Dream Motel is a boring stock plot based on robotic dialogue and wooden characters, the world constructed in the premier and finale episodes makes no sense at all for a number of reasons. For one, it’s unclear from Scripture whether or not angels have emotions or free will to wrestle with various philosophical issues like these characters do. For another, why would God need magical locations around the world to do His bidding, and how could demons steal them without His allowance? How are atheism and secularism powerful enough to halt Christ’s will? Why would demons even have an interest in stealing magic buildings rather than actual people? These premise problems aside, the villain is stupidly obvious, some of the characters seem unnecessarily outraged at logical things, the narrative incorrectly portrays realistic circumstances involving HIPAA protection, and it’s downright creepy to have smiling angels tell humans private things about the people. It feels like this storyline exists outside of reality even though scenes drag on as lines are painfully dragged out of the characters, who talk in circles to fill the runtime, and although boring activities of daily living, expository dialogue, and off-screen content make The Dream Motel seem like most poorly crafted Christian entertainment. With basically no personality or motive for the characters and far too many coincidences to hold up the plot, this series is just a collection of disasters.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Having very stilted and overly practiced acting is almost a given when it comes to Rossetti Productions, and The Dream Motel doesn’t disappoint. Using the patented Rossetti style of basically reading lines for a church play, the cast members exhibit forced wooden emotions that make the viewers think that the actors and actresses don’t actually care about what they’re doing. Some cast members seem unnatural or even uncomfortable in their roles, and a portion of the theatrical annunciation is off-kilter. Many scenes feel like one-takes as some actors and actresses appear to forget their lines in some instances and awkwardly grasp for something to share that can fill the blank silence. Essentially, there’s nothing positive to note in this section.

Continuity Quality (1 point)

Following a predictably typical series model, The Dream Motel offers premier and finale episodes that depart from the norm while all the between episodes are standard recurring dramas that introduce characters only to discard them before the credits roll. Concepts explored in the pilot aren’t returned to until the last episode, which concludes with a cheesy cliffhanger ending. While this section isn’t all bad due to some recurring subplots among the main characters, it’s still a run-of-the-mill offering with missed opportunities for continuity.

Conclusion

There are just so many things wrong with The Dream Motel from the get-go. Basically a redux of The Encounter, only with angels, this Rossetti series is based on illogical and questionable concepts yet still commits errors beyond this. Even the best ideas can be easily derailed by poor storytelling, low production quality, and abysmal acting. With so much experience under their belt and a trailed of wasted opportunities, it’s hard to know where the Rossetti Productions team is headed at this point, but this series is definitely not worth your time.

Final Rating: 2 out of 14 points

The Cabin [2019] (Movie Review)

The Cabin (2019)

Plot Summary

Roy, a former pastor, has decided to go out to a secluded cabin in the woods to determine whether or not the spiritual realm exists. He’s determined to lock himself in until something spiritual manifests, which attracts the undue attention of various supernatural forces, both good and evil. In the end, Roy will have to battle for his soul, using homemade armor, against poorly animated demons!

Production Quality (.5 point)

Although the video quality of The Cabin is fine, this is the only positive production element. The camera work is very shaky, including some really wacky camera angles, and the audio leaves something to be desired due to its background sounds, constant generic soundtrack, and weird sound effects. Also, the sets, props, and locations are quite cheap, and it goes without saying that the special effects are terrible. Elsewhere, the flashbacks are unnecessarily black and white, and editing is sub-par. Essentially, this is an unacceptably bad production, but it’s not even the worst of what this awful film has to offer.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-3 points)

Although The Cabin‘s plot begins with boring sequences of activities of daily living and vanilla dialogue that produces cardboard characters, things quickly become much more outrageous. Through a combination of stupid jump scares, blank scenes where basically nothing happens, cheesy found footage sequences, and drug trip montages that are nearly impossible to quantify, this film successfully finds its way all the way down to the bottom of the barrel. Besides the forced drama that has no logical lead-up, the narrative is so vague that it’s barely even a story and completely lacks purpose. However, this doesn’t even though the fact that many of the plot points lack realistic support and that the spiritual elements of the story are either portrayed in juvenile ways or through very bizarre methods that cause the viewer to question whether or not the screenwriters actually comprehended the serious subject matter they wrote about. Basically, the movie’s second half is utter nonsense and full of over-the-top sensationalism such that it makes a laughingstock of otherwise important spiritual topics. It’s incredibly difficult to include all of the complete madness that’s contained within this one screenplay without asking the audience to see for themselves, but that would be a total waste of their time.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite other glaring problems in The Cabin, the acting is actually quite average, considering the fact that there’s not much for the cast members to work with. Not many lines are demanded of them due to the abysmal writing, but many of the performances contain forced emotions. Nonetheless, this section isn’t all bad, but it’s not enough to salve the utter disaster that is this film.

Conclusion

The Cabin puts the proverbial icing on the bad cake that JC Films made in 2019. Flooding the market with tons of sub-par movies is never the way to go, as we’ve previously stated. Doing such will inevitably lead to horrific disasters like this one that further tarnish the reputation of Christian entertainment. All that can really be learned from train wrecks like this are how not to do it and how important it is to continually produce more quality creations in the future.

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

Harriet [2019] (Movie Review)

Film review: All aboard the freedom train with “Harriet ...

Plot Summary

Harriet Tubman was a Civil War hero although many did not initially regard her in that way. While she was raised as a slave on a Maryland plantation, she heard God call her one day to leave and run to freedom. With the help of her pastor, Harriet persevered through perilous circumstances to reach the free state of Pennsylvania, but it was there where her real work began. She knew God had called her to free slaves on her own…starting with her family… even though the Philadelphia abolitionists were reluctant to help. In the end, Harriet’s obedience to God left a lasting mark on American history.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a well-funded, mainstream project, Harriet sports very high production quality with very few errors to note. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are exceptionally high, and the soundtrack is excellent at tying the movie together, including using real-life singing that was historically authentic. The sets, locations, and props are realistic and well-utilized, and the production overall has a gritty feel to it that shows attention to detail and care for accuracy. The only small concern to point out relates to some slightly choppy editing, but this also pertains to the storyline. As a whole, however, this is a highly professional offering.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The true story of Harriet Tubman was definitely one that was long overdue to be put into movie form. In this rendition, the characters are very well-developed through believable and accessible dialogue, and the high number of them is handled well as even the minor characters are given efficiently used scenes. Also, the major element of Harriet’s faith in and relationship with God is well-integrated throughout the narrative and is presented at face-value so that the viewers can decide for themselves. Other themes are creatively interwoven throughout the plot to tie together an epic biopic that was likely difficult to effectively condense. Moreover, the sheer amount of content covered in this movie does pose a problem that creates some choppiness in the storyline. It would have been better for Harriet to be presented in a non-linear style so that the story didn’t simply jump from one high point to another. Another pitfall of this section is the fact that some of the writing went out of its way to include unnecessarily edgy content (although some of it is unfortunately realistic) and slightly extreme language (though some is still authentic). Nevertheless, despite these shortcomings, this narrative is still high quality and leaves a lasting impact on the viewers.

Acting Quality (3 points)

With professional acting and directing, Harriet has virtually no flaws in this category. The costuming is period-accurate and reflects attention to detail. Line delivery is on point, and emotions are very accessible. Thus, this rounds out an encouraging effort and completes this film’s campaign for the Hall of Fame.

Conclusion

Harriet also receives an x-factor point for being re-watchable and for tackling a highly relevant topic in a memorable way. One thing to note is that this movie could have been even better in the hands of different directors who could have portrayed the story in a more Christian manner, but the current market was unfortunately not suitable for this to happen. Nonetheless, this creative team did enough to preserve Tubman’s Christian worldview and to make this a high-level screenplay, which caused it to earn a spot on the Hall of Fame. Therefore, we highly recommend it for appropriate audiences.

Final Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points

John Light [2019] (Movie Review)

John Light (2019)

Plot Summary

John Light is a prisoner nearing the end of his sentence, and he’s paired with Matt Garrett as a part of a prison ministry mentor program. Though Matt is ambivalent about the experience at first, he quickly becomes friends with John, who has no one else in life who cares about him. Thus, when John is released, Matt is there to help the ex-con get back on his feet. However, John has to face some dark elements of his past in order to move forward with his life.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

In the beginning, the production of John Light is as poor as those from other JC Films offerings. One example of this is inconsistent audio quality, including some background echoes and noises as well as a generic soundtrack that never stops playing. Also, some scenes obviously begin right after the camera starts rolling rather than already being in motion. However, on the bright side, sets, locations, and props are all acceptable, and video quality and camera work are both fine. While the editing is basically average, the good thing is that all production areas show concerted improvement as the film goes on, which is enough to warrant an even score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

From the get-go, John Light is one of the most noteworthy ideas put forward by the JC Films team, probably because it’s based on true events. However, in the beginning, the characters are a bit blank due to some rushed conversations and some unsubstantial dialogue that fails to properly develop them. This makes it difficult to grasp the overall flow of the plot as the narrative tends to meander without clear themes to guide it. In the first half of the movie, it feels like a bunch of random scenes were strung together, but somewhere in the middle, things suddenly take a turn for the better. While the central purpose is still unclear, there are some realistic attempts at family systems issues and some considerably adequate conversations that make the characters a bit better throughout the storyline’s second half. There is some slight focus on the latter parts of the film, and the characters become more accessible, but the plot’s beginning causes the entire experience to be disjointed. Nonetheless, there are enough noteworthy concepts explored after the midpoint of John Light for it to warrant a modest score.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Although some of the acting is a bit forced at first, including some unnatural line and emotional delivery, like other elements of this movie, these problems do improve with time. Throughout the screenplay, some cast members are better than others, but they all show good effort by the time it’s over. Also, the culturally diverse cast is commendable, so this rounds out a mostly average film effort.

Conclusion

John Light really does deserve a remake since it contains such an interesting true story. In reality, the JC Films team should have nixed all of the other movies they had planned for 2019 and instead put all their eggs in one basket for John Light. In doing so, it’s highly possible that it would have had enough funding (and maybe expanded collaboration) to propel John Light to the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, however, we’ll never know what could have been, yet it’s still an excellent lesson for all Christian entertainment creators: don’t rush to make more films just for the sake of making them; wait to make a quality offering that God actually wants you to make.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Jack Jonah (Movie Review)

Image result for jack jonah movie

Plot Summary

Each family member of Jack Jonah dealt in different ways with the teenager’s untimely death to opioid overdose. Kirk Jonah, his father, launched himself into a non-profit designed to provide anti-drug education to whomever will listen. Both of Jack’s parents believe they can still communicate with the dead boy, and this drives them in their efforts to save other lives from deadly overdoses. However, all of those close to Jack must ultimately come to the point where they trust that good can come out of tragedy.

Production Quality (.5 point)

While the video quality of Jack Jonah is acceptable, the camera work is often quite shaky, and the audio quality is quite poor, including loud background sounds, painfully obvious overdubs, some bouts of over driven audio, and a cheesy never-ending soundtrack that tries to cover up these problems. Additionally, lighting is inconsistent in both the outdoor locations and the indoor sets. Further, the special effects that are used are quite bad, and the editing is marred by abrupt cuts and transitions, which tops off an unacceptable level of production quality that should never be approved in the current entertainment field.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2.5 points)

There are a myriad of problems with this film’s plot, beginning with its heavy-handed message pushing, which is joined by endless, meandering conversations that are full of forced information-dump dialogue. This causes the characters to be cardboard cutouts who represent issues rather than real people. Also, the choppy story presentation makes the passage of time seem unclear to the viewer, especially since there are many random characters and spider-webbing subplots that only have loose connections with each other. Besides the fact that many of the scenes are blankly vague and hard to understand, the plot becomes more and more bizarre as it progresses due to its weird exploration of other dimensions wherein people who have passed away can come back and talk to those who are still alive. What begins as a typically vanilla story quickly becomes a wacky drug trip into the strange, and it’s laced with an unusual air of mystery that’s not well-explained. Then, the narrative suddenly ends with little to no purpose or clear message to offer to the audience. For all of these reasons, this section receives a negative score, which drags the overall movie below water.

Acting Quality (1 point)

To cap off the other issues in Jack Jonah, its acting leaves much to be desired since most of it is robotic and stilted. Emotions are difficult to believe, and line delivery is mostly vanilla. While some cast members are somewhat average in their performances, others are simply too poor to warrant any higher score than this.

Conclusion

In their race to make as many films as possible in 2019, the JC Films team produced indefensible projects like this one. This is unfortunately yet another example of why quantity over quality is never the way to go in Christian entertainment. Additionally, this may be the only lesson future creators can learn from Jack Jonah: how not to go about it.

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

The Islands [2019] (Movie Review)

Image result for the islands christian movie

Plot Summary

John Thornton felt called to be a missionary on the remote island of Hawaii in the early 1800s, so he took his wife, Mary, and went with their friend Hiram to the unknown place. Once there, the missionaries met Chiefess Kapiolani and those her were in her tribe. Although the chiefess was familiar with the English language and American customs, many of her people were suspicious of the Caucasian visitors and preferred to practice human sacrifice to their pagan gods. However, one fateful day, as the island’s volcano raged, they all came face to face with what it truly meant to believe in a god.

Production Quality (2 points)

Overall, it’s clear that this production was well-funded with money that was mostly responsibly spent. All the standard elements are up to par, including video quality, audio quality, sets, props, and locations. However, there are a few pesky issues that hold this section back from being perfect, such as some cheesy sound effects that were obviously added on top of the normal audio and a generic soundtrack that never stops playing. Further, the editing leaves something to be desired as there are some abrupt cuts and transitions that cause some scenes to end without natural conclusions. Nonetheless, this production does enough to stay above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

From the get-go, The Islands‘ plot is nearly crippled by immediate narration that continues throughout the narrative and is sometimes substituted with information dump dialogue, which seems to serve as some type of history lesson. To make matters worse, there are far too many characters for the viewer to keep up with much less for them to have time to be properly developed. Time jumps also complicate matters and make the story seem like just a collection of random scenes strung together as the film goes from one high point to the next and even seems to repeat itself on several occasions. Several interactions between characters feel like they’re on repeat and are simply designed to waste time until the climax. A lot of the conversations and situations seem very contrived just for the sake of the plot-line, and there are no clear or consistent themes that underlay the idea and give it true purpose. Nonetheless, all of these problems aside, Timothy Chey and his team did stumble upon a very intriguing true account that still shines through despite the poor storytelling. This fact is most evident in the famed final sequence that actually demonstrates some potential, which is why this section isn’t zero points. However, it’s too little too late and makes for a disappointing experience.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

One of The Islands‘ strongest points is its encouraging commitment to assembling a diverse and culturally accurate cast, even if the costuming is a bit cheesy at times. However, this main strength is slightly weakened by the fact that much of the acting is fairly robotic at times, and emotions are sometimes difficult to believe. While it’s good to see the proper foreign language being applied in this setting, there is a lot of fight-acting throughout the film that is poorly executed and coached. Moreover, in the end, there is enough positive in this section to keep in at the average mark.

Conclusion

The historical narrative behind The Islands appears to be a very interesting and potentially powerful story that could and should have received better treatment. It’s one thing to have a good idea, but it’s another to successfully execute it, and it’s definitely a difficult feat to accomplish. Nonetheless, the experience Chey and his team bring to the table is enough to ask more of them, and the amount of potential for engaging concepts and overarching themes that was left on the table in this film was simply unacceptable. However, Chey is still on an upward trend in his career when compared to his earlier days, so perhaps his true success is just around the corner.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The Power Couple, Season 1 [2019] (Series Review)

Image result for the power couple penavega

Plot Summary

Gabby and Vince Powers are both superheroes with the same goal of saving the people around them from certain evil. However, they can’t seem to keep their marriage out of trouble. Thus, in order to be ready for their toughest assignment, the couple decides to attend marriage counseling, but it only seems to make things worse. Will they be able to settle their differences before it’s too late?!?

Production Quality (1 point)

Although not all of the production qualities of The Power Couple are bad, such as okay video and audio, there are also quite a few other concerns to note. For instance, cheap special effects are used throughout the series, and camera work is inconsistent, including some unnecessarily tight shots. Similarly, the sets, locations, and props are fairly limited, and the soundtrack and its accompanying sound effects are beyond cheesy. It also goes without saying that many scenes seem like there aren’t enough people in the shot to adequately support the number of individuals the scene is supposed to represent. Further, the editing leaves much to be desired, which, along with the other problems, overall contributes to an underwhelming performance in this category.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Despite The Power Couple‘s childish premise, the dialogue is surprisingly not all bad as this story attempts to do something different and tries to present real issues. However, it’s simply not enough as the superficial nature of the narrative overtakes any small amount of potential there might have been. This is evidenced by too many very poor attempts to be funny and lots of surface conversations that prevent us from properly understanding who the characters are. Additionally, many biblical and possibly substantial concepts are awkwardly shoehorned into the plot; these ideas are improperly used to magically fix the characters’ problems in illogical and unrealistic ways. Then, before the viewer is prepared, the storyline abruptly ends and expects the audience to beg for another season. In short, though there was a very slight amount of potential in this idea, it wasn’t enough to rescue the narrative from triviality and lazy writing.

Acting Quality (1 point)

For the most part, the acting in The Power Couple is pedestrian and sometimes a bit worse. Emotions are usually forced in unrealistic ways even though line delivery is mostly fine. Some cast members are better than others, but all of the costuming is horrible. One positive note is that it’s good to see a husband and wife (Carlos and Alexa PenaVega) star alongside each other, but this section is overall a disappointment.

Continuity Quality (1.5 points)

While this series has a basic amount of continuity, as evidenced by continuations between episodes and consistent subplots being focused on, it’s still not as good as it could be. For one, each episode is extremely short, which raises the question of this even needing to be a series at all. Further, all character and story arcs are basically predictable and expected with no real twists and turns. Therefore, this rounds out a very underwhelming effort.

Conclusion

It’s very unclear how and why The Power Couple was made, but it’s unfortunately a squandered idea that could have been better in different hands. For one, this type of concept requires higher amounts of funding and a lot of writing collaboration to ensure cheesiness is avoided. In the end, it seems like whatever was spent on this series would have been better used in a different way, such as being saved for higher quality productions.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 14 points

Why We Breathe (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Carrie Hicks just wants to catch a country music break in Nashville, but her relationship with her current boyfriend consistently complicates things. However, things escalate when he inadvertently paralyzes Carrie’s daughter, leading the aspiring artist to flee town and seek shelter with her great uncle, who she’s barely spoken to in years. Carrie wants to get back on her feet and move on with her life, but her daughter’s new disability often halts her in her tracks. In the end, Carrie will have to not only come to grips with her new reality but with the faith she’s been running from all these years.

Production Quality (2 points)

Despite a limited budget, it’s obvious that great care was taken to maintain mostly good production quality in Why We Breathe. This is evidenced by acceptable video and audio elements. Though there are some random moments of shaky camera work and some obvious overdubs, there is enough positive in the film’s first half to keep this section above the average line. Sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-utilized throughout the movie. Unfortunately, however, the editing tends to become more choppy as things progress, which prevents this area of the movie from being all that it could be. Nonetheless, this is acceptable for a first-time effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

In the beginning of the narrative, the ideas are creatively presented without the use of narration and through the eyes of believable characters with realistic struggles. In the plot’s first half, the dialogue is authentic, and the use of subtlety is commendable. However, by the film’s middle point, things tend to become more abrupt as some montages waste valuable time while a handful of conversations reference off-screen content that would have been better to see. Not a few scenes feel like they’re unfinished or cut off as the storyline unnecessarily rushes to an inevitable conclusion that is fairly cheesy. Unfortunately, in this pursuit, the previously positive elements lose their value as the story’s progression becomes more and more rapid. In the end, since the movie’s premise was mostly typical with some predictable elements, it needed deep character development and a more natural conclusion instead of ending with unrealistic fixes and unfinished ideas. The effort is notable, but more fleshing out was needed before it went into production.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

As a whole, the acting in Why We Breathe is mostly professional. Line delivery and emotions appear natural as the cast members seem comfortable in their roles. Though there are some slight moments of robotic and awkward performances, for the most part, the actors and actresses are definitely working to be earnest. Thus, this rounds out an above-average attempt that could develop into better things in the future.

Conclusion

The creative team behind this film definitely had a lot going for them, and they began very strong. However, somewhere at the halfway point, it seems like the process became rushed in a possible desire to quickly release the movie. It’s a shame because with a little more collaboration and a slight amount of fleshing out, Why We Breathe could have scored much higher. Even so, it’s highly possible that the lessons learned from this project could lead to better things in the coming days.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Epiphany [2019] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ever since Luka’s mother died, she’s been raised by her uncle while her father seeks to drown away his emotional pain with gambling and other illicit ventures. Luka steals from people to get attention, but she really just wants to help her father and her uncle with their struggling sea sponge business. However, her community service assignment that’s intended to make restitution for her indiscretions sends her down a path she never anticipated that will help her reconnect with her Cyprian heritage.

Production Quality (2 points)

Despite being a small-time production, Epiphany possesses a mostly professional production, as evidenced by good video quality, adequate audio quality, and a mostly engaging soundtrack that’s culturally authentic. The sets, locations, and props are also well-utilized while the lighting is consistently on par. The only major concerns to highlight here are some editing issues and some odd camera angles, but on the whole, this is respectable for a first-time effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, it’s very difficult for the audience to follow Epiphany‘s storyline or to grasp what its actual purpose is. In between random sequences of narration, the plot is a scattering of many loose ends that never logically come together or demonstrate realistic connections with each other. Haphazard scenes come off as being patched together to create a long string of vague ideas that never come to anything significant. The inconsistent story presentation also harms character development by making conversations between them very abstract and unpredictable. While this could have been a more interesting exploration of broken family systems and the generational effects of ethnic prejudice, there’s too much edgy content to make things palatable, and there are too many aspects of the narrative that are difficult to grasp, such as the dreamscape elements and what seems to be historical flashbacks portrayed as visions (?). This short-circuits the viewer’s ability to properly connect with the characters, and the film’s overall feel is just too conjectured to have any real impact.

Acting Quality (2 points)

On the whole, the acting of Epiphany is mostly average with only a few concerns, such as some forced emotions and some slightly overdone line delivery at important moments. However, there are also some bright spots, such as the culturally authentic casting. Other aspects are basically pedestrian. In the end, this is an above-average section to round out a film that otherwise underachieved.

Conclusion

It’s great to explore little-referenced cultures and aspects of international Christianity that many audiences never think about, but this just isn’t the way. When the viewer can’t follow where the story is going to or coming from, even the best messages are lost in translation. Narratives have to possess core purposes that are clearly communicated and properly presented, and sometimes, this can only be effectively accomplished through collaboration.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Sweet Inspirations (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

When four women who feel like they aren’t making a difference through the church events they attend are inspired to somehow help a struggling women’s shelter, they begin an unanticipated journey that takes them to the unlikeliest of places. Their church has recently acquired a dilapidated restaurant, so the four friends take it upon themselves to renovate the establishment in order to use it to raise money for the domestic violence ministry that’s in financial straits. However, things don’t go as they planned, and they must each learn unique lessons about trusting God and not living in their own strength.

Production Quality (2 points)

Although there are some random moments of inadequate production in Sweet Inspirations, such as some instances of shaky camera work and some inconsistent lighting in certain scenes, the movie’s production quality does overall improve as the film progresses. The sets, locations, and props are mostly well-constructed throughout, and the video and audio qualities are up to industry standards. While the soundtrack is a bit generic and the editing sometimes uneven, this is a passable production albeit one that could have gone a bit further than it did.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Sweet Inspirations tries to do a lot in a limited amount of time, and it’s not all bad. It tries to present an interestingly complex storyline about relevant, real-life topics, but the many characters who are used to pull this off tend to crowd each other out and make the narrative go in many different directions at once. Some characters are downright unnecessary while others have relatable personalities and characteristics; the same critiques can be applied to the conversations among the characters as some of them are really meaningful and worthwhile while others are completely pointless and fruitless. Similarly, there are some great messages to embrace in Sweet Inspirations, such as no longer wasting time on useless church activities, waiting on God, not trying to do everything in your own strength, and doing too much ministry work to the point of exhaustion, but some of these are pushed too hard on the audience, and at times, they are undermined by illogical coincidences and unjustifiable character actions that seem condoned by the writers. In the end, the high number of romantic subplots, the desire to cover too many things in one story, and the generally wasted scenes overshadow the otherwise interesting and realistic ending that could have capped off a very good effort. There was a lot going for this movie, but there may have been too many proverbial cooks in the kitchen and not enough trimming before the project moved forward.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

For the most part, the acting of Sweet Inspirations is its strongest point as many of the cast members are comfortable in their roles and realistic in their performances. Though there are some who are trying a bit too hard, they are not as prominent as the better actors and actresses. Also, the emotions are a mixed bag but are overall acceptable. Thus, this rounds out a slightly above-average effort that could have been a bit better.

Conclusion

In the end, Sweet Inspirations would have benefited from taking its own advice that it gave to one of its main characters about not trying to do everything “good” at once and not attempting to accomplish things in their own strength. It’s clear the creators had a lot of intriguing ideas along with meaningful messages, but trying to include all of them alongside too much pedestrian content was this movie’s ultimate downfall. Nonetheless, there is enough positive here to keep many viewers interested, and some audiences will find it to be worth their while.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

The 3 [2019] (Movie Review)

Cylk Cozart, Tina Wesson, Chip Rossetti, Jessica Bell, Kate Kilcoyne, Jeff Armstrong, and Jonathan Plowman in The 3 (2019)

Plot Summary

After his daughter’s tragic death in a school shooting, Jimmy Collins retreats to his cabin in the woods to sulk and drink alcohol. He wants to be left alone in his misery, but he keeps being visited by mysterious characters, some of which he’s all too familiar with from the past. Nonetheless, each visitor keeps trying to steer him away from self-destruction and to the love of God that he’s forsaken. Will Jimmy turn around before it’s too late??

Production Quality (.5 point)

It’s unclear why Chip Rossetti and his team continually put out very low quality productions even in the new era of Christian entertainment. The 3 exhibits poor audio quality via annoying sound effects that punctuate actions, a stock soundtrack, background echoes, and obvious overdubs. While the video quality is passable, this is really the only acceptable production element. Sets, locations, and props are also quite cheap and limited, and there’s virtually no editing throughout the film. In the end, this level of production problems is simply unacceptable in our current market.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Essentially, The 3 is just a collection of very boring and brooding sequences that consistent either drawn-out scenes that lack dialogue or drab and meandering conversations that lack purpose or direction. Although the story explores some interesting psychological concepts centering around confronting family patterns, they are poorly executed and encased in horribly wooden and improperly constructed bouts of dialogue. When a narrative like this is so heavily character-based, conversations are all-important in crafting deep characters with strong motivations, but The 3 greatly drops the ball in this category. While there are some flashbacks throughout, they are improperly applied, and some darker issues, like suicide, are given too much screentime without being balanced by lighter concepts. As the storyline progresses, however, the psychological world that’s created by the plot becomes more and more confusion and ends up getting lost in its own head, much like that of Turbulent. Therefore, this is an effort that lacks any potential or purpose.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Throughout The 3, the cast members exhibit extremely forced emotions and pushy line delivery that overall come off as very robotic and stilted. Other acting is simply bland and vanilla although some of the supporting cast members are slightly better than the principle cast members. However, it’s simply not enough to register any life for this basically unnecessary film.

Conclusion

The era of Christian entertainment that once tolerated sub-par efforts like this movie is long over. Standards are higher now, so spitting out more low quality films that crowd the Christian market is unacceptable. Christian movie makers are being held to higher standards and can no longer simply make things just for the sake of making Christian creations. It’s high time for us to offer better things for all audiences.

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

2019 Box Office Revolution Entertainment Awards

Every year, movies and series are released, and cast members show off their talents.  Writers and directors showcase their creativity. Films and series 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 entertainment creators and players who have the ability to bring revolution to Christian entertainment.

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Staff Choice Movie of the Year: The World We Make

Runners-Up: The Least of These: The Graham Staines Story, Heavenly Deposit

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Reader’s Choice Movie of the Year: The World We Make

Runners-Up: Overcomer, Breakthrough, Unplanned

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Staff Choice Season of the Year: The Chosen, Season 1

Runners-Up: none

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Staff Choice Actor of the Year: Jonathan Roumie

Runners-Up: Shahar Isaac, Paras Patel, Erick Avari, Caleb Castille, Kevin Sizemore, Sharman Joshi

Elizabeth Tabish

Staff Choice Actress of the Year: Elizabeth “Liz” Tabish

Runners-Up: Lara Silva, Rose Reid, Ashley Bratcher

Staff Choice Director of the Year: Dallas Jenkins

Runners-Up: Brian Baugh, Aneesh Daniel


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Staff Choice Writers of the Year: Ryan Swanson and Tyler Thompson

Runners-Up: Chris Dowling, George D. Escobar, Rose Reid, Andrew E. Matthews

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Staff Choice Soundtrack of the Year: The Chosen, Season 1

Runners-Up: The World We Make, The Least of These: The Graham Staines Story

Following the Subplots of The Chosen (Season 1, Episodes 5-8)

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The Chosen has certainly already been a transformational series, and it’s barely gotten off the ground. It has grassroots appeal and will likely grow into a larger and larger movement as time goes on. As the first multi-season Bible series to be created, it has the potential reach beyond traditional Christian audiences and transform the culture both inside and outside the church. The series’ connections with real people in a Jewish cultural context as they encounter the Messiah are its biggest assets, so here’s a helpful guide to help keep up with the core subplots we’ve seen through episode eight of the first season.

***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***

Simon, Andrew, Eden, and Dasha

In the second half of Season 1, we saw Simon and his family taking more center-stage than they previously were. Simon consistently tried to assert himself as a protector of Jesus and a leader of the other disciples, including trying to be gatekeeper for who could and could not have access to his Rabbi. At the same time, Simon tried to hide the illness of Dasha, his mother-in-law, from Jesus. However, despite her mother’s sickness, Eden was glad for the turn of events in her husband’s life and formed a special connection with Jesus. Simon and Eden appear to have rekindled their romance with each other. Andrew continued to play a background role for his brother, his sister-in-law, and his new teacher; he wanted to protect Jesus as much as Simon did, but Andrew showed he was a faster learner than his brother was. In the end, Jesus healed Dasha’s malady, and Simon was forced to accept new things that were previously foreign to his culture, such as interacting with tax collectors and Samaritans.

Thus far, Simon, Andrew, Eden, and Dasha have either directly or indirectly crossed paths with Jesus and with all of the other current disciples and their families, with the exception of Matthew’s family. Simon and Andrew have additionally interacted with Jesus’ mother Mary and some of her close friends. Thus far, Eden and Dasha have only been seen in Galilee while the brothers have been seen there as well as Samaria.

Matthew, Gauis, Quintus, and Matthew’s parents

Matthew’s storyline and his related characters, including his parents, Gaius, and Quintus, have also been given more focus than before. Throughout the latter four episodes of Season 1, Matthew was consistently distracted and confused by the fish miracle he witnessed at the end of Episode 4, which was something that defied reality and could not be explained by his logical way of thinking. Thus, this drove him to seek answers from anyone who would listen; when his superiors passed it off as a trick, Matthew tried to get closer to Jesus and His disciples but had difficulty doing so. However, after witnessing the miracle of the walking paralytic and not receiving answers from a visit to his mother, Matthew made his decision and followed Jesus when the Messiah passed by his tax collector’s booth. The new disciple left his affluent lifestyle behind and began chronicling what he saw. Gaius, his former bodyguard, was stunned at this decision because he had developed an attachment to Matthew and had previously been awarded a military promotion due to the tax collector’s work. Gaius relayed Matthew’s desertion to his superior, Quintus; Gaius also took Matthew’s dog to Matthew’s parents since the former tax collector had asked that he take the pet there to protect his parents’ business from thieves. Upon hearing of Matthew’s resignation, Quintus became angry and made it his goal to find Jesus, especially since Quintus was already frustrated about Jesus drawing a crowd at Zebedee’s and Salome’s house, which disrupted the arrival of an important Roman official who was Quintus’ childhood rival. Before this, Quintus had assigned Nicodemus to meet with Jesus to find out His angle.

At this point, Matthew has encountered Jesus and all the current disciples besides interacting with his parents, Gaius, and Quintus. Gaius has also crossed paths with Matthew, Matthew’s parents, Quintus, and Jesus for a brief moment. Quintus has had contact with Matthew, Gaius, Nicodemus, and Zohora. Gaius and Quintus have only been seen around Galilee while Matthew has been in both Galilee and Samaria.

Nicodemus, Zohara, Shmuel, and Yussef

Nicodemus’ and Zohara’s subplot remained relatively stable throughout the second half of Season 1. Zohara consistently wanted to return home to Jerusalem in order to once again live their affluent lifestyle and to meet their new grandchild. However, Nicodemus was intent on remaining in Galilee until he had solved the mystery of Mary Magdalene’s transformation. In pursuit of this goal, he interviewed John the Baptizer and went to the areas around Zebedee’s and Salome’s house just in time to see Mary Magdalene and to witness the healing of the paralytic. This led to Nicodemus begging Mary for an audience with her Rabbi. Mary agreed to ask Jesus, and later, Quintus demanded that Nicodemus seek a meeting with the mysterious teacher. Jesus agreed to the rendezvous and gave Nicodemus earth-shattering teaching about being born again and about saving the world from sin rather than from Rome. Nicodemus appeared to be converted to Jesus’ cause, and the Rabbi told Nicodemus to follow Him by meeting Him at a designated well before they departed on their journey. However, as Nicodemus gave it some thought and as Zohara convinced him, the esteemed Pharisee decided against publicly aligning himself with the controversial teacher and instead provided money for their expedition. Elsewhere, Shmuel played a much larger role in the second half of this inaugural season as he developed a very legalistic stance on the enforcement of Jewish law in response to his mentor’s (Nicodemus) possible openness to seemingly new ideas espoused by Jesus. As the season progressed, Shmuel became a more extreme character who may play a larger role in future seasons, especially since he has already directly interacted with Jesus at the healing of the paralytic. After using Old Testament passages to argue that John the Baptizer and Jesus were advocating heresy, Shmuel informed Nicodemus that he intended to make his mark on Pharisaical history by specializing in studying false prophecy, possibly in Jerusalem. Further, Yussef continued to be a minor character throughout this season as he remained in the background during major events like the healing of the paralytic. His most major contribution was discovering that Jesus was having a dinner party at Matthew’s house.

Up to this point, Nicodemus has only interacted with Quintus, Shmuel, Yussef, John the Baptizer, Mary Magdalene, Andrew, and Jesus. Zohara has only had contact with Quintus and her husband. Shmuel has been seen with Nicodemus, Yussef, and Jesus. Yussef has interacted with Nicodemus, Shmuel, and Jesus. All of these characters have only been seen around Galilee up to this point.

James, John, Zebedee, and Salome

The second half of Season 1 also saw the expansion of focus on the Zebedee clan. James and John became more main characters, and the audience saw a new side of Zebedee, along with the introduction of his wife, Salome. James and John went with Jesus and the other disciples to the Cana wedding, where they witnessed Jesus’ first public miracle. Then, they returned to their own home to watch the miracle of the paralytic unfold before them. Later, John accompanied Andrew to protect Jesus while their Rabbi met with Nicodemus under the cover of darkness. Further, James and John accompanied Jesus and the other disciples on the journey to Samaria, where they witnessed the Lord’s interaction with Fortina at the well. Zebedee and Salome only interacted with Jesus and His disciples in their own home prior to seeing the paralyzed man healed after he was let down through their roof. Zebedee appears to have mended his relationship with Simon, which was previously tenuous after Simon’s underhanded plans. Also, Salome has already developed a special attachment to Jesus.

Zebedee, Salome, James, and John have interconnected with Jesus and all His current disciples. Zebedee and Salome have only been seen in Galilee while their sons have been seen in both Galilee and Samaria.

Mary Magdalene, Thaddeus, and James son of Alphaeus

After being set free by Jesus, Mary Magdalene became a slightly secondary character as she began following the Messiah along with two other secondary characters, Thaddeus and James son of Alphaeus (“Little James”). They all attended the wedding at Cana, where Mary revealed a little bit about her past while Thaddeus disclosed that he had met Jesus while working on a construction project. In a private conversation, Thaddeus told Mary that he became a stonemason even though his father was a smith because Thaddeus liked the fact that chiseling stone was more final and once the first cut was made, the block would never be the same. Later, Little James disclosed to Simon that he was originally going to sing in a temple choir before Jesus called him.

Thus far, Mary’s, Thaddeus’, and Little James’ storylines have all intersected with Jesus and with the other disciples. Mary has had personal contact with Nicodemus. Mary, Thaddeus, and Young James have all been seen in both Galilee and Samaria.

Thomas and Ramah

Thomas and Ramah were hired by Raphi and Dinah to oversee the preparation and distribution of food and wine at the Cana wedding. It seems to be implied that Thomas and Ramah are a couple and are running a business together. Once they arrived at the wedding, they discovered that there were far more guests than they had planned for and were soon running out of food and wine to keep everyone supplied. Thomas was extremely distraught at the situation since it would make him look bad. After dilution of the wine was a failed venture, Jesus’ mother Mary alerted the Messiah to the plight, and He came to the aid of Thomas and Ramah. Jesus told Thomas to follow him so that He could show Thomas a new way to count and a new way to view time. Jesus wanted Thomas to meet Him in Samaria in twelve days. Thomas was very skeptical until he saw the result of Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine. Thomas did not think Jesus’ directions would work, but Ramah was more than willing to supply the water for the miracle. When it was all over, Thomas told Ramah that he didn’t know what to think about Jesus’ offer, but Ramah told Thomas to not think for once.

Thomas and Ramah have only been seen in Galilee and have only directly interacted with Jesus, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Mary’s friends.

Mary the mother of Jesus and her friends

Raphi and Dinah were implied to be longtime friends of Mary the mother of Jesus, which is why Mary agreed to assist them with their son’s wedding in Cana. Mary had been previously introduced in the the Christmas pilot episode, and a flashback at the beginning of the Season 1’s second half revealed a special connection Mary had with her Son. After inviting Jesus and His disciples to be her guests at the Cana wedding, Mary asked her Son to prevent her friends’ embarrassment after the wine ran out.

Thus far, Mary and her friends have only been seen in Galilee, and they have only been seen with Jesus, Jesus’ current disciples, and Thomas and Rama.

Other Characters and Notes

Blind man in the Red Quarter: Although we never saw the blind man from the Red Quarter in the second half of Season 1, but he may still appear again when Jesus and His disciples return to the area in later seasons.

Barnaby, Shula, Rivka, and Mary Magdalene’s other friends: Barnaby, Shula, and Rivka had very small parts in Season 1’s latter half as they asked Jesus questions while He was at Zebedee’s and Salome’s house and appeared at Matthew’s dinner party. Abigail’s parents (Mara and Eliel) also brought questions to the Rabbi. They will likely all return for more seasons, with Shula and Rivka possibly playing larger roles in the future.

Photina, Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well: Photina was introduced right at the end of Season 1 as Jesus and His disciples came to her Samaritan village. Jesus revealed to her that He was the Messiah, which prompted her to go tell others even though she was a social outcast due to living with a man who was not her husband and due to having multiple marriages and relationships throughout her life. It’s implied that her story is not over yet, so she may be seen again in Season 2.

Abigail and friends: Abigail and her friend Joshua were seen outside of Zebedee’s and Salome’s home when they offered Matthew a front row seat to witnessing the miracle of the paralytic. It’s likely that they will return in future seasons.

Tamar of Heliopolis and her friends: Tamar witnessed Jesus healing the leper, which prompted her to bring her paralyzed friend to Him at Zebedee’s and Salome’s house. She and her friends fought to get to the Teacher and let him down through the roof so that Jesus could heal the paralytic. Jesus commended her for her faith and her perseverance. It’s highly possible that some people from this group of friends will be seen in other seasons.

Old Testament flashbacks: One of the arguably best elements of Season 1’s second half was the use of Old Testament flashbacks to enhance storytelling. Thus far, the viewers have been shown Moses and Joshua as Moses fashioned the bronze serpent on the pole and Jacob and some of his sons as they dug what was later known as Jacob’s Well. It’s highly likely that this Old Testament flashback trend will continue in all seasons of The Chosen.

The Beverlys, Season 1 (Series Review)

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Plot Summary

Tommy Blaze Beverly is running out of money, and his constant hustles for quick cash aren’t yielding what he needs to fund his extravagant California lifestyle. Thus, when he sees a news story about foster girls in need, he jumps at the chance to make some extra money by becoming an instant foster parent basically overnight. Thankfully, his racially stereotyped butler and personal assistant are always there to meet Tommy’s beck and call, and the foster girls basically turn his house into a giant dance studio designed to hold daily auditions for the next Disney role. What could go wrong?

Production Quality (1 point)
In keeping with PureFlix’s typical sitcom elements, the first season of The Beverlys is complete with a constant laugh track, an annoying soundtrack, and the same old sets, locations, and props. While some production elements, such as video quality, audio quality, and camera work, are fine, these limiting factors put a damper on whatever small potential it had. The editing is also littered with stock footage and corny transitions between scenes. Thus, this section only warrants a point, but this is just the tip of this season’s iceberg of problems.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2 points)
Essentially, The Beverlys appears to be designed as PureFlix’s own version of the Disney Channel. Its first season is full of mindless conversations, dance sequences, and cheesy so-called comedy routines that are all funny for the wrong reasons. This doesn’t even mention the constant stream of extremely forced comedic diatribes and painfully shoe-horned Christian messaging. What makes matters worse is that the storylines are not only pointless but that the dialogue is littered with cringe-worthy racial stereotyping, which causes this section to be negative. Besides this, the characters are very over the top and empty at the same time. The fact that stupid antidotes are forced on the viewer just after the audience sees thinly veiled racism is very disingenuous and offensive. Further, the premise of each episode is utterly pointless, and there’s nothing good going for this season, which is why the derogatory elements overcome this section to make it negative.

Acting Quality (-2 points)
Tommy Blaze departs from his usual corny performances to post a collection that’s in-your-face, bombastic, and annoyingly over the top. Most of the other cast members in this tiny cast are also trying way too hard as many emotions are basically screamed (or sang) at the audience. Line delivery is also very strained and forced. There is very little good to speak of, and the bad greatly outweighs anything positive, which is why this section also warrants negative points.

Continuity Quality (0 points)
The eight episodes of this first season are all literally the same thing over and over again. They all take the same page from the sitcom playbook and find different ways to package it: some silly escapade or scheme entangles the characters, and they have less than half an hour to quickly resolve it and prepare for the next round. This time, however, it’s just done with a Bible thought spin. Therefore, this copy-and-paste model of episode writing warrants no points for this section, which rounds out an overall embarrassing effort.

Conclusion

Another month, another pointless PureFlix original series. For some reason, the PureFlix executives are intent on spending their funds on throwaway concepts like The Beverlys. It’s unlikely they are getting any type of return from this kind of bizarre Blaze pet project, so why make it? It just further adds to the nonsense littering PureFlix’s checkered past and contributes to the already tenuous perception of Christian entertainment. Hopefully, however, things are beginning to look up outside of the PureFlix realm.

Final Rating: -3 out of 14 points

A Child of the King (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dr. Wesley King and his late wife were called to the jungles of South America to aid the needy and those who were considered to be hopeless. However, after his wife died, Wesley became lonely in his mission. In the states, a woman named Donna began following Wesley’s story via the letters he sent back to his home church. Then, Donna feels called to join Wesley in his overseas mission field, and God brings them together to minister to the least of those in South America.

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, there are virtually no good aspects to this production as the audio quality is poor, including echoes in the background, a random soundtrack that sometimes interrupts lines, and some invasive outside noises. Similarly, the video quality is not quite what it should be, and there is some very poor lighting throughout the cheap sets and locations. Props also leave something to be desired, and the camera work is inconsistent at best. To top things off, the special effects used therein are very bad, and the editing is extremely choppy as some scenes drag on while others awkwardly or abruptly end. In the end, any small positives in this production are outweighed by the very obvious negatives.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From beginning to end, the storyline of A Child of the King is very hard to follow since it’s filled with blank conversations between characters and lacks an overall focus or purpose. The stiff and awkward dialogue between characters makes it very difficult to relate to them as people, and the main character is basically perfect. The plot essentially meanders around without the viewer being able to easily follow its progression, and it’s really nothing more than an informational video or mock docu-drama about overseas missions. While there may be some good ideas lost in here somewhere, people who can relate these concepts to the real world are needed to bring them to life. Further, the narrative just randomly ends in an unexpected place without any warning or resolution because that would require something to resolve in the first place.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, the acting of A Child of the King is its strongest point even though it’s mostly pedestrian, generic, and boring. There’s neither anything special nor horrible about the cast members’ performances, despite the fact that they have little content to work with. One bright spot is that the cast, for the most part, is culturally accurate with real accents and dialects, which is unexpected based on the remainder of the movie. Nonetheless, this average section isn’t enough to save this failed effort from itself.

Conclusion

An international film should very rarely be made in conjunction with other projects due to the time and financial freedom it requires. However, 2019 was an indicator of how committed the JC Films team was to producing as much content as they possibly could. The result of this is even more low quality Christian films to crowd out the market. Hopefully, however, the tides are still turning since Christian audiences want and deserve better than half-baked ideas.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

A Promise to Astrid (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Astrid Nicosia lived in a small town and tries to do good to each person she comes in contact with. She freely gave the little money that she had to those who needed it. She also wanted to walk closely with the Lord and to make a difference with what time she had left. Those who were touched by her kindness and generosity made a promise to return her favors either to her or to other people who were also in need.

Production Quality (1 point)

As a 2019 production, A Promise to Astrid has no excuse to be as bad as it is. While the video quality and the camera work are okay, the audio quality throughout the film is quite bad, including loud background sounds, echoes inside of the sets, and an invasive soundtrack that sometimes interrupts dialogue and others times causes confusion since it doesn’t fit the mood of the scenes. In addition, the sets, props, and locations are quite cheap, and there are some obvious continuity errors between scenes. There are also other editing concerns, such as the quick and awkward cuts and transitions, the high number of fade-outs, and the fact that many scenes do not flow together and seem very disconnected from each other. In the end, this is an unacceptable effort with many unforced errors.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Even though it’s based on a book, A Promise to Astrid is not what it should be, mostly due to the lack of substantial characters. Although this is a heavily character-based plot, dialogue is usually a bit clunky and awkward and does not adequately develop character personality or motive. Additionally, it’s very difficult to understand the true purpose of this narrative beyond random people doing random things. The vague ideas behind the storyline might be interesting, but without effective connections with the audience, it really has nothing to show for its meager efforts. Essentially, the plot meanders around as a collection of random scenes before suddenly ending and leaving the viewer wondering why they just watched the movie, which is why this section warrants zero points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

While the acting of A Promise to Astrid is not entirely bad, it’s very marked by incompetent attempts at obviously fake accents. Also, some cast members seem unsure of their roles, even though there’s not much to work with in the beginning. Further, other cast members are either clearly overplaying their roles or half-heartedly trying. Throughout the film, line delivery and emotions are uneven but not all bad, which is enough to warrant at least a point out of this section. In the end, however, this is a very sub-par movie.

Conclusion

Based on their 2019 slate of films, it’s evident that it was the goal of the JC Films team to flood the market with as many movies as they could squeeze into their limited budget. This was an old model PureFlix used in the early 2000s and 2010s, and they had some success due to lack of many other options. However, as the calendar turns to 2020, times have changed in Christian entertainment, and higher quality is demanded. Thus, it’s better to save your funds to make one good film or series and then to see how you can build off of the success of one quality project rather than to get ahead of yourself and to over-extend your means.

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

The Chosen, Season 1.2 (Series Review)

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The Critically Acclaimed Hit Series Completes Its First Season

Plot Summary

After Jesus chose a majority of His followers, He began to slowly but surely reveal His nature to the world through public miracles and teachings. Though He mostly ministered in obscurity, His work drew the attention of multiple different spheres of influence: common people, powerful politicians, and power-hungry religious leaders. However, Christ never discriminated in who He chose to follow Him as He broke down social and cultural barriers in order to proclaim His love for all humanity.

Production Quality (2.5 points)
Much like the first half of Season 1, this season’s second half boasts a very high-quality production that both lives within its means and makes the most of what it has. Though camera work can be a bit shaky at times, much like the former half, there are virtually no other production flaws to note here. Video quality and audio quality are both flawless as the camera captures poignant scenes that feel like real life. Sets, locations, and props are incredibly authentic and demonstrate extreme care for historical accuracy and attention to detail. Perhaps the most impactful element of the production is the exquisite soundtrack that is creatively and artistically placed to enhance key moments and to draw the audience into the story’s emotional experiences. Further, editing is seamless and presents a well-crafted plot in a professional manner. In the end, Dallas Jenkins and his very talented creative team have once again showcased their God-given talents in a very responsible manner that has revolutionized Christian entertainment at a time when it was desperately needed.

Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)
However, there’s still more to say. It’s undeniable that the extreme humanity of The Chosen’s characters are what make the series more than a run-of-the-mill Bible drama. Tyler Thompson and the other writers clearly went great lengths, as prompted by the Holy Spirit, to not only ensure the accurate cultural profiles of the characters but to also make them very flawed and relatable to all audiences, which is something other Biblical productions have been allergic to. The Chosen doesn’t just show the viewers a collection of well-known miracles and stories: the lead-up and fallout of each important event is carefully crafted and woven together with other intriguing subplots. All of this is good enough without even mentioning the way some scenes are presented in artistic manners that are nearly flawless in their presentation. Dialogue and conversations between characters are very deep, meaningful, and even philosophical at times, which is something we rarely see in Christian entertainment. Basically, there are more positive qualities in this section than can be named, which has warranted a separate discussion on how the subplots interlock and interact. In the end, The Chosen creative team has transformed the development of series and characters in Christian entertainment, and there’s no going back from here.

Acting Quality (3 points)
With virtually the same cast from episodes one through four plus others who add more life than there already was, the acting of episodes five through eight does not waver from its previously perfect score. In fact, many of the cast members build off of their roles and become even more comfortable in their characters. Emotions are right on target such that they can be felt by the viewers, and line delivery is basically perfect. This cast is so heavily talented that it’s posing a good problem for Box Office Revolution’s upcoming Actor and Actress of the Year Awards, which is a type of dilemma we have unfortunately never been faced with in our reviewing experience.

Continuity Quality (3 points)
Continuity is where many Christian series completely drop the proverbial ball because the episode are often disconnected and self-contained. However, every episode of The Chosen that has been released so far are somehow able to be both self-consistent as well as connected to the bigger picture, which is an important component of a great series. One way the continuity is best demonstrated in through the use of flashbacks to cover both previously overlooked New Testament stories along with relevant Old Testament accounts, and this latter inclusion is one of the added bonuses of episodes five through eight. Finally, the ending of each episode is epic and demonstrates how much this creative knows what they’re doing and how much they have relied on God to get this project right.

Conclusion

The second half of The Chosen’s first season also receives two x-factor points for presenting the greatest stories of history in the ways they should have been portrayed all along as well as for being re-watchable and binge-able. There’s hardly anything we would want changed about The Chosen at this point except for an even bigger budget to do better things with since Jenkins and the rest have demonstrated an ability to responsibly steward the resources God’s given them. As a side note, we receive no compensation or reward for our reviews and advertising of this series, but we wholeheartedly support its full release and strongly encourage you to both watch Season 1 during this year’s holidays and to share it with as many people as you can. This is first time a season of a Christian series has been critically acclaimed and placed on the Box Office Revolution Hall of Fame. We believe The Chosen has a rare, God-given opportunity to change not only the Christian entertainment world but also Christian culture as a whole because it’s a fresh, high-quality look at well-known stories that are timelessly relevant for all people.

Final Rating: 13.5 out of 14 points

Tapestry [2019] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Ryan’s family is already in turmoil before he loses his job, so after he’s fired, things begin to unravel even more. His mother, his only emotional support, is dying of cancer, and his wife refuses to speak to him. As he grows more and more distant from his family and as life seems to crash down around him, Ryan will have to decide who he relies upon: himself or God?

Production Quality (-1 points)

Tapestry is likely the worst production of this year due to its myriad errors, beginning with the inconsistency of its camera work: sometimes shaky and sometimes unusually angled. Similarly, a lot of shots seem very tight. There are also many, many audio concerns, including annoying background sounds, erratic volume changes, noticeable echoes in the backgrounds of some sets, and some instances of severely over-driven audio. However, none of this even speaks of the predominantly poor video quality or the very bad lighting that accompanies many of the already-cheap sets, props, and locations. Nevertheless, perhaps the worst element of the production is the truly horrific editing job. A key example of this is the fact that there is sometimes zero continuity between scenes that are merely seconds apart…in these moments, it feels like several different movies were maniacally spliced together with no reason whatsoever. Further, these problems are paired with lagging fadeouts, quick and awkward cuts, and abrupt transitions to top off this dumpster fire of a production. For these reasons, this section warrants a negative score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

During the first ten minutes of the film, there’s absolutely no way to discern what is transpiring as tons of characters are introduced in a very short span of time using clunky narration and random, disconnected scenes. From there, the story proceeds with an unusual attitude like the whole thing is meant to be one big joke; this idea is only reinforced by the extremely dramatic narration style that tells the viewer what people are thinking and the very vague plot ideas that contribute to the confusing story presentation. Due to the sheer number of characters, there are too many random subplots and tangents to keep up with, which causes the focus to jump from one thing to the next and cuts some scenes painfully short. Some scenes just pop up very quickly without warning and disappear without leaving a significant impact, and there are also unannounced black and white flashbacks as well as weird asides that have no connection to the “main point,” whatever that really is. The viewer is left guessing not only what’s happening but what’s coming next, and things trend weirder and stranger as they progress, including a bizarre obsession with multiple characters committing infidelity. Besides the obviously inexplicable elements, there are also many completely laughable moments before it all culminates in a silly, patched-up conclusion that teaches the audience absolutely nothing. In short, there’s plenty of evidence that supports this section’s negative rating.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

Despite the need for most of the characters to have northeastern United States accents, many of them, most notably Stephen Baldwin, who is mostly his usual self, do not make the mark of inflection authenticity. However, this mistake isn’t the worst part of the acting section. There are plenty of screaming scenes and extreme emotional displays that really take the cake. Elsewhere, line delivery is often forced and very strained; it’s clear that no acting coaching was present since there are basically no good performances to note. Therefore, this category rounds out a comprehensively negative effort.

Conclusion

We repeat: negatively rated Christian entertainment has no place in the year 2019 and beyond. When all aspects of a movie are this bad, there needs to be some very serious rethinking of the creation process. The fact that utter disasters like this still make it to the public is disheartening, but hopefully, we have a growing group of Christian innovators who will transform the field into something that will help us forget that negatively rated Christian entertainment ever existed.

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

When Hope Calls, Season 1 (Series Review)

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It’s like When Calls the Heart on an obscure streaming service!

Plot Summary

When Lillian and Grace, two orphan siblings, agreed to travel to a new town to run an orphanage, they had no idea what would be in store for them. Of course, they probably could have made an educated guess since they went from Hope Valley to a basic copy of this fantastical borough. This new town has equally important aspects as Hope Valley, such as the obligatory town doctor, the expected general store, and of course, a predictably hair-gelled Mountie just waiting to get hitched. What else could fans of When Calls the Heart want besides another series on the cable channel rather than on a streaming service nobody uses?

Production Quality (1.5 points)
The budget for When Hope Calls (WHC) is clearly lower than When Calls the Heart (WCTH), and this is most strikingly obvious in the poorly constructed town set that looks like a bunch of clapboard buildings plopped in the middle of a mowed-over field. The structures’ false fronts are also too much. This aside, must like WCTH, WHC is limited to just a few select sets, props, and locations, and there are some cheap special effects on top of this. Nonetheless, the production is aided by typically fine video quality, audio quality, and camera work, even if the soundtrack is pedestrian and boring. The editing tends to lag at times, such as leaving scenes running too long, but this production is overall just average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)
Much like its parent show, not very significant happens throughout the course of the WHC “plot.” The only remotely interesting elements are used up by the third episode as the series devolves into typical small-town romance nonsense. If it’s possible, the characters are much more blank and cardboard in WHC than in WCTH even if they are less sappy in the former. This is created by a lot of stiff and awkward attempts at conversations as some characters seem to be mysteriously concealing things that are never revealed while others seem to wonder why they are even there. The dialogue is very stock and phoned-in, which creates wooden characters, and the so-called comedic elements are beyond cheesy. Any struggles the characters experience can’t be adequately related to because they seem so plastic and forced. Elsewhere, the town setup is shockingly unrealistic on a historical level, and the Christian themes are very shoehorned in. In the end, with no driving purpose or actual point, the first season’s story is basically just a lot of trumped-up drama with nothing substantial to back it up.

Acting Quality (1 point)
In keeping with Michael Landon Jr.’s common practices, the cast of WHC appears to be as fake as WCTH’s (except not as over the top). This includes how they interact with each other as well as what they look like. On appearances, none of them look historically accurate except for some slight attempts at realistic costuming. When it comes to acting, line delivery seems laborious for some cast members while others seem bored with their roles. Emotions overall seemed forced and unnatural. Some cast members show potential in different roles but don’t live up to their full potential. In the end, this section’s rating is basically expected.

Continuity Quality (.5 point)
As previously mentioned, the best potential for engaging continuity is quickly discarded in the beginning and replaced with drab procedural recurrences. In the middle and at the end of the season, many of the episodes run together and feel like the same thing is happening over and over again. Then, this is culminated with an awkwardly forced climax and alleged cliff-hanger ending in the final episode. Basically, this season doesn’t have much going for it.

Conclusion

What else is there to say? Shows like When Hope Calls have a specific purpose in mind and do whatever it takes to fulfill that purpose. The storylines are predetermined, the production is as cheap as possible, and the cast is as pageantry as expected. All of these criteria are tailor-made for a reason, so we have to commend MLJ and company for at least being consistent in their poor novel adaptations. Why not try to capitalize on the success of a series like When Calls the Heart? However, what is it ultimately accomplishing besides creating more sub-par Christian entertainment?

Final Rating: 3 out of 14 points

The Reliant (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

When the American dollar literally collapses overnight, a family is attacked by desperadoes and is forced to take their gun supply and survival gear into the woods behind their house in order to fend for themselves in the elements. However, the men who gunned their father down are still in pursuit (for some reason), which forces the family to either band together or tear each other apart as they try to defend themselves and survive in the brave new world of looting and living off the land. What will become of them all?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

It’s clear that the money that was donated by people (so that they could be listed as executive producers on the credits) was mostly well-used and not only spent on guns and weaponry. Video quality and audio quality are good, and since the film is mostly filmed in the outdoors, this definitely helps things. The soundtrack is also passable. However, much of the camera work is shaky and dizzy in the name of being action-oriented. Also, most of the indoor scenes are unnecessarily dark and poorly lit. Further, the editing is extremely choppy, which makes things hard to follow, but there are likely other factors to this problem, such as the plot.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

From the get-go, the story makes zero sense. There’s no reason why the world would immediately descend into chaos basically in one day due to the sudden collapse of the dollar. How did it happen? What led to this extreme result and knee-jerk looting? This idea is too big and expansive to focus ninety percent of the plot on a collection of characters wandering around in the woods with guns. Did we mention that this movie is OBSESSED with guns? It holds nothing back in being outright propaganda that’s desperate to both create further political divide and garner the attention of powerful lobbying organizations. These concerns aside, there are tons of characters in The Reliant, and while flashbacks are used throughout, it’s not enough to make up for other problems, such as awkward conversations about vague things that are occurring in the world outside the forest, shoehorned Christian concepts, cheesy survival concepts, and outright fundamentalist messaging. Much like Unplanned, there was much fake outrage about The Reliant‘s so-called undeserved MPAA rating, but once again, the rating was actually justified due to the high amount of needless violence without proper balance. Regardless of this, the characters of The Reliant have extremely steep arcs and lack proper motivation for their actions as things just randomly happen one after another, and the plot lacks clear direction or purpose other than to shove certain worldviews down viewers’ throats. Hence, this section’s negative rating is given due to propaganda and due to total pointlessness.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Throughout nearly every scene, the cast members of The Reliant are coached to exhibit extreme emotions, including a lot of yelling and screaming. Though there is some potential despite these annoyances, dramatic and tense scenes are totally butchered either with awkward line delivery, off-beat emotional delivery, or general uncomfortability with the given roles. In the end, there is little good to highlight in this movie.

Conclusion

After the screener was provided for this film, one of the creators strongly requested that they be given the chance to “approve” this review before it was publicly posted. Surprisingly, this was the first and only request we’ve ever received for this to happen. Moreover, it further shows the amount of control that’s surrounding this movie and reflects the mentality behind its creation. Films like The Reliant have a clear agenda to push on their audiences and purposely make themselves lightning rods for controversy with the hopes of garnering attention from certain groups. There were no attempts in this movie to craft a meaningful plot based on accessible characters, so even if the creative team had the best message in the world, it’s still not correctly packaged. In the end, there are just too many issues here to discern any amount of potential there might have been in this half-baked idea.

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

Be Still and Know (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Childhood friends CJ and Sophia have lost connection with each other due to various life circumstances, but they now have a chance to rekindle their friendship during a fall break getaway. Along with two other friends, they go off the grid in a family cabin in order to re-establish what they once had. However, things don’t go as planned, and their sort of vacation takes a turn for the worst, which forces them to rely on God for their help.

Production Quality (1 point)

After showing concerted production improvement in If You’re Gone, the Goodwin creative team has unfortunately gone backward in quality with Be Still and Know. This is due to many very dark indoor scenes and quite a few outdoor scenes that are dominated by background noises. Camera also tends to be shaky throughout, and some odd camera angles are used, likely for some type of dramatic effect. However, it doesn’t work, and the sets, locations, and props are fairly cheap. While video quality is one of the only bright spots of the production and although there are some good portions of this film’s presentation, there are many concerns as well, including a soundtrack that almost always plays in the background even though it doesn’t fit with the moods of the scenes. It goes without saying that many scenes are quite long and drawn out, which is due to random editing. In the end, while it’s not all bad in this section, it’s still a major letdown from a collaborative team that was headed in such a good direction.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unlike previous efforts from the Goodwin team, the plot of Be Still and Know unfortunately has no real potential since there’s barely anything to it. The characters are either blank or stereotypical, and the conflict in the story really makes no sense at all. Conversations and dialogue are very bland and uninspiring, which makes the viewing experience a drag. The premise is highly unrealistic and questionable as it tends to involve slightly illegal activity that’s nonsensically justified. Further, the Christian message feels extremely forced and contrived. In the end, there are either too many issues with this storyline or too much boredom to justify its creation; it’s rare to see a plot with no potential from a experienced creative team, but this is unfortunately the case with Be Still and Know.

Acting Quality (1 point)

In this small cast, errors are more obvious, and they tend to carry the weight of the movie on their shoulders. However, the cast members cannot be fully blamed for the lack of adequate lines to work with. Nonetheless, many of them come off as either bored or overplaying, yet they aren’t all bad. Most of the acting is very boring, unchallenging, and uneventful, and emotions are vanilla. Further, costuming is unusual at times, but this section isn’t completely lost, which rounds out a surprisingly low-quality attempt.

Conclusion

John and Brittany Goodwin definitely care about making an impact in Christian entertainment, and every creator must come to a crossroads in their career: will they choose to continue in mediocrity or step out with something even better than before? Some movie makers are better suited to be series makers (see Dallas Jenkins), so this may be the missing piece of the puzzle for the Goodwins. There’s also plenty of Christian fiction to explore, which can supply ample content for struggling screenwriters if permission is secured. In the end, one movie doesn’t define someone’s entire career, so Be Still and Know could be a rough patch before the breakthrough.

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Home-Schooled, Season 1 [2019] (Series Review)

Plot Summary

In just one moment, Sarah’s life is completely transformed and turned upside down. When she receives word that she has become the guardian of five of her youngest relatives–homeschooled kids in the Midwest–she has no idea how she will balance her big city life with her new, unexpected responsibilities. How will she manage this new lifestyle that has been chosen for her beyond her control?

Production Quality (.5 points)
Words cannot express how horrible this production is by 2019 standards. The only remotely positive element is the fine video quality, but otherwise, it’s a total wash. Even a $20,000 budget is no excuse for wildly shaky camera work, weird camera angles, and perspective that never stops moving around unless the cameraman sets the camera down in the most inconvenient locations, like behind a running sink. It goes without saying that the series intro sequence screams Windows Movie Maker. When it comes to sets, locations, and props, things are limited to the inside of a large, echo-filled house and blinding outdoor locations filled with incessant leaf-crunching. There are also plenty of loud background sounds, both inside and outside, and they aren’t mitigated by the extremely invasive soundtrack that’s meant to “balance” things out. Finally, the editing is as choppy as possible, including lagging scenes and abruptly cut-off sequences. Essentially, this is an awful experience.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)
What exactly is the purpose of this so-called plot? First of all, there’s hardly any content to speak of, but whatever amount is there is dominated by typical family member squabble storylines and the most cringeworthy dialogue possible. This creates robotic, programmed characters that easily fall into homeschooled stereotypes. All this alleged story really has to show for itself is a bunch of awkward people hanging around a large house none of them can pay for and engaging in a lot of childish coincidences, forced drama, convenient situations, and infantile conversations. Further, the screenwriters completely bungled their portrayal of the child custody process (lawyers NEVER make home visits to check on custody situations), which makes us wonder if they did any research at all on how this transpires in real life. In the end, this “plot” has nothing good going for it.

Acting Quality (0 points)
For one thing, the cast of Home-Schooled is quite small, so errors are more easily seen. For another, the cast members are not coached very well at all, and many of them are intended to play characters who are younger than they actually are, which makes things very odd. Besides this, the acting is just generally awkward and forcibly dramatic. Line delivery is very stilted, and emotions are quite wooden. There are also some bouts of annoying yelling and screaming. In the end, there’s nothing good to highlight here.

Continuity Quality (0 points)
With such short episodes (many of them are ten minutes or less), it’s extremely difficult to justify even making Home-Schooled into a series. If you must make it at all, why not just make it a regular movie? This aside, there are no prevalent themes or overarching storylines that are even able to create continuity between the episodes. With such short runtimes, there’s really nothing to write home about in this section. The only other thing to add here is to ask the creators to not make anymore seasons without some serious changes being made.

Conclusion

The rule of thumb in Christian entertainment is this: if the story and budget aren’t there, can the project or at least put it on hold until you’re sure Jesus wants you to make it. Putting out low-quality projects isn’t being a good steward of what you feel like He wants you to do. Instead of rushing forward and clamoring to make something just for the sake of making a Christian series, wait and see what He really wants you to create because He’ll provide the budget if it’s for real. Moving forward with half-measures (or less than half-measures) is always going to be a problem.

Final Rating: .5 out of 14 points

The Unlikely Good Samaritan (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Chris Jennings is a new pastor in a small Colorado town, and he’s desperate to prove himself to the people in the church because of his young age. However, this leads him to take drastic measures, including shunning an unwanted member of the church whom the other members don’t feel fits in with their demographic. Nevertheless, Chris is battling his own demons, and once he’s exposed, the religious people turn on him as well. Now that he’s down and out, will Chris ever discover God’s true call on his life?

Production Quality (.5 point)

As a 2019 production, it’s kind of hard to believe that this lower level of quality is still being tolerated. One of the most distracting part of this film is the shaky camera work that hardly ever stops moving and even goes diagonal at times. There are also a lot of weird camera angles and even some blurry video. Sets, locations, and props tend to be cheap, and lighting is fairly inconsistent. Audio quality is okay except for the background sounds. Further, the editing is poor as there are quite a few very abrupt and awkward cuts. In the end, though there’s some slight improvement throughout the film, this production is unfortunately very low quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The Unlikely Good Samaritan contains concepts similar to that of Confessions of a Prodigal Son, which was Clarkson’s freshman film, yet the sophomore effort surprisingly has more concerns than the first. In this second installment, there is a lot of blank and stale dialogue throughout the first three-fourths of the movie, which leads to a glaring lack of character development. At first, hardly anything happens except for wasted scenes that take up time but accomplish nothing; the interactions among characters seem unnatural and overly scripted. While this storyline is a commendable look at real issues plaguing the church, it loses most of its audience in the first half hour due to general boredom and unrealistic portrayals of life. However, by the last fourth of the plot, there’s actually some great flawed characters and a lot of potential in the central idea behind the story, but it’s all presented in the wrong way. The ending is actually fairly realistic and comes from a unique plot twist, but hardly anyone will make it this far into the film. In the end, this concept would have likely worked better either as a short film or as a series.

Acting Quality (1 point)

In the beginning of the movie, similar to other elements, the acting is fairly awkward and unnatural, but they also don’t have many good lines to work with. Some cast members are fine and would have been better with improved development and coaching. Many emotions throughout are very wooden and forced, yet the acting overall tends to get better as it goes, in keeping with the themes of this film. However, since there’s fairly significant improvement by the conclusion, it begs the question why it was so bad in the beginning. In the end, The Unlikely Good Samaritan is a mixed bag that doesn’t do enough to pull itself up from the mud.

Conclusion

There’s no doubt that Nathan Clarkson has a lot of good ideas. This fact is evident in his two films, but in this era of Christian entertainment, we need to see more. Collaboration is likely the only path forward for lone ranger creators; we can no longer afford to make movies on our own. God admonishes Christians to work together and to have each other’s backs, so if we accept feedback and ideas from others as well as ourselves, something great can happen. Clarkson’s concepts are creative enough to warrant remakes, so perhaps series-making is in his future once he’s able to work in a team approach. Many entertainment makers have the world at their fingertips if they will reach out and work together.

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Decision of Faith {365 Decision Time} (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

On the surface, the Miller family is the model of success in Caucasian American culture, but behind the scenes, they’re coming undone. The parents are divorced yet maintain a tenuous relationship in order to aid their grown children. Their daughter is married to a successful political staffer who has his own secrets to hide. Their son is involved with a questionable crowd of people and suddenly has a child on the way with a girlfriend they’ve never met. In the midst of all the turmoil, the Millers have a chance to find the true peace they’ve never had if they will ask for help from the right people.

Production Quality (2 points)

At first, the production of Decision of Faith is somewhat rough, including weird, unnatural lighting, dark sets, and slightly random camera work. The audio quality is also quite inconsistent at first, along with the editing, which includes some abrupt cuts and transitions between scenes. However, the good thing is that the production improves as the runtime progresses, which suggests better funding was provided later on in the process. It gets better to the point that video quality, audio quality, camera work, sets, props, and locations are all passable and even respectable in some parts. The editing remains somewhat inconsistent throughout, but this section overall does enough to go past the average mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

In the beginning of the storyline, many disjointed subplots tend to come out of nowhere and meander around, but once things settle down, the subplot overlaying slightly improves even though it’s still somewhat poorly presented. By the middle of the film, one of the most interesting things about the plot is its exploration of realistic hidden issues in affluent Caucasian lifestyles. Before this point, the characters are extreme: either perfect, platitude-spouting Christians or horribly bad non-Christians. However, once things begin to change in the middle, the characters actually become authentic and believable with obvious flaws and issues that can be accessed by many people. One drawback is that large time jumps in the story are marked by time subtitles, and another concern is the unnecessary use of explicit language and edgy content in attempts to be realistic. Also, as the plot continues on past the middle, random things keep happening that have forced connections to previously highlighted elements, and in a seeming rush for time, there are quite a few very sudden conversations that seem programmed to happen at certain moments in order for the story to hit the high points it wants to hit. These types of dialogue devices create very steep and unrealistic character arcs so that things are fixed very rapidly by the time the credits come around. Overall, despite the intriguing themes that show good potential for future screenwriting, Decision of Faith tries to cover too much time and too many issues at once. Thus, it may have been better to present this story in series form to allow for better character refinement and plot organization.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Unfortunately, there is some poor makeup work throughout this film, and at first, the emotional performances are quite forced and un-earnest. However, like other elements of the movie, the acting tends to improve with time, which suggests a shift in leadership mentalities partway through the process. Nothing significantly dynamic occurs as a result, but the improvement is refreshing. Overall, the acting does enough to be average by the conclusion, which rounds off a mostly middle-of-the-road film.

Conclusion

First-time films like Decision of Faith are tricky because it’s difficult to get things started, but in the new wave of Christian entertainment we’ve seen over the past few years, standards are higher, which makes it harder for new voices to stand out. Thus, the planning process is key. Are you meant to make this film at this time? Has God given you the adequate funding to make it professional? Would it work better as a series? Should you collaborate with other creators? These are all great questions to ask that will help you rise above the fray.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Overcomer [2019] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

A random small town is apparently falling apart due to the local factory closing down, and this decimates a Christian private school’s basketball team and sends the coach spiraling. When he already doesn’t even know what he’s going to do about a team, his superior, the principal, forces him to coach a one-girl cross-country team even though she has asthma! Along the way, he stumbles into a random hospital room containing someone who has surprising connections to the plot! Will he ever learn who he really is in Christ beyond just being a coach?

Production Quality (2 points)

Okay, so, what exactly was this $5 million budget spent on? Much of the production is fairly uninspiring. As usual for the Kendricks, it’s fine and mostly professional-looking, but for reals…all we get from this dollar amount is a bunch of vanilla sets, props, and locations mostly pertaining to people’s houses, a school campus, and lots of running\training footage? The decade-plus career of the brothers who brought Christian film out of the dark ages culminates with this? Besides the overall blah-ness of the layout, tons of time is wasted on nothing special in this film, and the editing seems very disjointed and disorganized. However, much of this could be due to the lack of any substantial plot content…

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

…which makes us wonder what the story actually is here. What are we supposed to focus on? The less than half-an-hour treatise on small towns falling apart? Five minutes of basketball footage? Alex Kendrick getting angry and throwing things? A runner with asthma? A random guy in a hospital? In all actuality, the blind man in the hospital bed is the most worthwhile subplot of the entire film, and it keeps this section from being abysmal, yet we only hear this part of the story through spoken word rather than via effective flashbacks. The only way to fix this film would be the focus entirely on this part of the story (the past and present narratives of the blind man and his interactions with other side characters) through a non-linear plot style. However, we don’t get this in Overcomer as we’re instead left with a very disjointed and disorganized storyline that gives us no opportunity to get to know the characters except that Alex Kendrick’s character is an almost-perfect white guy who has to save a non-white girl. Therein, there are many disturbing themes, such as the white family being overly good as they help the ‘bad’ African American girl; it goes without saying that a very disturbing plot point involves the school principal telling the coach to aid said minority minor in going around and lying to her legal guardian in basically illegal fashions. These actions are painted as good and never receive any consequences because the white characters can do no wrong. It’s too bad that the cross-country athlete character never stood a chance with the poor dialogue written for her character…she’s essentially programmed to respond to the prompts of her Caucasian helpers with little thought of her own. Elsewhere, old Kendrick humor is dying a slow and painful death as cringe-worthy attempts at comedy litter the already-confusing landscape of this storyline. In the end, it’s very difficult to think this plot had any other goals besides pushing propaganda and some kind of weird suburban version of Christianity.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The Kendricks can choose literally anyone to be in their films; some cast members would do it for free, yet Alex insists on continually casting himself in lead roles he can’t pull off. He and Shari Rigby crowd out the runtime of Overcomer with bland and forgettable performances that drown out better skills from supporting (non-white) cast members who are barely given a chance to do anything. For instance, Priscilla Shirer and Cameron Arnett have plenty of acting skills, but we don’t see them as often as we see awkward white people. Aryn Wright-Thompson probably has something to offer if she was ever given a shot to do something besides robotically repeat stale lines. In the end, this section is fine, but it punctuates a surprisingly bad effort from the Kendricks.

Conclusion

Minus the unusual racial undertones and the bizarre condoning of illegal actions, Overcomer is basically a run-of-the-mill church film with a sports twist. Even without the glaring issues, however, this still wouldn’t be acceptable based on where the Kendricks are in the careers. They are basically at the pinnacle of success, coming off their most successful film (War Room), so their budget and advertising resources are clearly vast. They can hire and cast whoever they wish, including actual screenwriters, yet they decided to settle for a well-produced version of Flywheel combined with the worst racial stereotypes found in Courageous to create a blandly vague idea that focuses on forcing messages down the audience’s throats. In the end, it appears as though their refusal to reach out and try different collaborations is causing them to fade into the background of an industry they helped save from the brink.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Vindication, Season 1 [2019] (Series Review)

Plot Summary

Detective Travis always wants to bring the criminals of his small Texas town to justice. However, he’s not always right, and he can’t do it all on his own, despite what he believes about himself. Through every twist and turn of each case, the detective learns something new about himself and about life, but the ultimate challenge of his work and life involves his daughter and her checkered past. Thus, when she comes to stay with him and his wife, he’s sure she’s got something to hide. However, he could have never foreseen the end result of this.

Production Quality (1.5 points)
For a relatively low-budget series, Vindication is definitely trying when it comes to production. The video quality is great throughout, and the camera work is respectable. Sets, locations, and props are mostly fine, but the audio is sometimes too quiet. At first, there’s basically no soundtrack, but this tends to improve as the series goes on. While there are some creative story overlays and plot criss-crossing throughout, the editing can be fairly choppy at times. Sometimes, scenes start and stop at awkward places, and some portions seem unnecessary. However, this element also tends to improve with time. In the end, this is an average production that shows commendable effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)
What an absolute roller coaster of a storyline. It’s difficult to know where to begin with this; in the first two-thirds of the series, many of the cases are either fairly unrealistic or extremely simplistic. Some contain improbable circumstances just for the sake, it seems, of being unique and tricky. Others contain lots of coincidences and convenient turns; many of them include partially or mostly inappropriate content seemingly just because. While being edgy and realistic is a good quality to have in Christian entertainment (rather than white-washing humanity), there’s a fine line to walk between authentic and trashy. As a side note, some of the ‘crimes’ that are actually ‘twists’ are substantially questionable and borderline ‘vindicate’ the wrong types of behavior. Elsewhere, the suspense elements don’t seem to jive with reality even though there are some interesting psychological elements throughout. Besides the head-scratching partially objectionable content included, the treatment of police ethics and criminal procedure throughout the series would be offensive to many real police officers. Rules are callously broken with no resource, and while it would be one thing to portray a rogue cop in a negative light for the purpose of being realistic, it’s another thing to downright condone unethical practices in the name of doing the right thing, including mixing personal vendettas against certain people and in favor of family members with police work. The detectives’ time is spent on petty misunderstandings that would likely draw the attention of higher authorities due to their frivolous use of resources and questionable methods of arresting people with little reasonable suspicion. These two major problem areas (inappropriate content and offensive portrayal of procedure) are almost enough to totally derail the series from the get-go, especially when these issues are combined with a lot of blank and empty dialogue and cheap Christian messaging throughout the first two-thirds of the season. Odd portrayals of women and minorities throughout the series are also concerns to contend with, but the recurring subplot between the main character and his daughter keep the narrative on life support long enough to get to the final two episodes of the season, which almost save the writers from themselves. It’s clear that the entire series was made for this storyline, and the daughter is the only notably interesting character in the entire creation. The last two episodes are so starkly different from the other ones (except for the disregard for jurisdiction and other questionable practices in the name of being police with agendas) that it seems like an entirely different idea, yet the thinly-developed characters still shine through due to their lack of depth in the first eight episodes. Had they been properly built in the first two-thirds of the season via real cases and authentic circumstances, we would be looking at a totally different concept. As they are, the last two installments include very effective flashbacks that take a good look at hard issues effecting many people. In doing so, the final ‘villain’ is fairly realistic, and the partial conclusion of the subplot between the father and daughter is mostly authentic and believable. Nevertheless, despite the acceptable ending, it doesn’t cover over the multitude of sins committed by the rest of the storyline.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)
Acting isn’t a glaring problem throughout the series even if many cast members come off as very robotic and overly practiced. However, this is likely not a talent problem or a coaching issue because the lines they are given are usually uninspiring. This is evident since acting seems to improve as dialogue gets a slight upgrade in the latter third of the season. Although makeup is terrible at first, this seems to get better too. The key standout performance from every episode she’s in comes from Emma Elle Roberts as she sets herself apart as a truly talented actress with potential beyond this series. In the end, this is neither the best nor the worst acting from a Christian season.

Continuity Quality (1.5 points)
As previously mentioned, the only significant continuity throughout season one of Vindication involves the storylines of the central character’s family, especially his interactions with his daughter and her checkered past. However, these recurring subplots are fairly good in the midst of a mostly typical recurring crime drama style. Still, it would have been preferable to see some other interwoven subplots that were worthwhile to follow.

Conclusion

The creators of Vindication are trying to do something, but there are too many elements of season one that are way off base. The use of edgy content is commendable for a crime series, but it would be nice to see better standards of propriety when it comes to dealing with sensitive topics. For another, a lot of significant research needs to be conducted before anyone creates a drama centered around criminal procedure and police work because it can be easy to make careless mistakes. Further, there needs to be a better look at mental and behavioral health issues beyond simplifying them and reducing them to trite Christian sayings and prayers. In the end, this concept may work better as a larger-scale federal investigative storyline rather than confining it to a small town with unusual half-mysteries. To summarize, the creators have potential somewhere in here, but there’s too much blocking out the light.

Final Rating: 5 out of 14 points

A Murder of Innocence (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

When Albert and Aimee Anderson move to a small town to pastor the local church, they expect all the typical things of a small town church, but nothing in their lives ever prepared them for what happened soon after they arrived. After discovering the dead bodies of their two newest and closest friends, the Andersons are left reeling in the aftermath as they entire church turns to them for guidance during this dark time. However, answers escape them as the culprit seems elusive and the townspeople grow restless and anxious. Will evil ever be brought to justice? Will they be able to recover a sense of normalcy?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, A Murder of Innocence has a mostly fine production, including good video quality and fine sets, locations, and props, even if they are a bit limited in scope. A lot of the time, the audio is extremely quiet and muffled, and the soundtrack is either lacking or overpowering. Also, camera work is inconsistent–sometimes shaky and sometimes fine. Further, the editing is a concern as there are many awkward fadeouts throughout after scenes have gone on too long while some scenes have very quick transitions that cut things off. It seems like there was more content or some that wasn’t usable, so a lot of it appears to relate to post-production issues. Overall, this is just an average production, which isn’t quite up to modern standards.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Although it initially was a good idea to use a true story to try something a bit different, yet much time is wasted on silent montages and clunky dialogue as everything feels very scripted and robotic, especially the ‘perfect’ Christian characters. Instead of actual character development, we’re just left with offensive gender stereotypes that paint women as less intelligent than men. Besides this, the plot is largely based on very shallow concepts and doesn’t appear to comprehend reality very well. Throughout the story, there’s a mysteriously odd tone like it’s concealing some great secret, but it all comes to nothing substantial. If you’re going to write mystery plot, you need to make sure you’ve done your homework to make criminal investigations realistic and believable. It feels like there’s too much going on here that the writers don’t quite understand, which creates the odd mysticism. Besides this, a vast majority of the scenes are slow and dour without much balance or adequate character engagement as the plot drags on and on and chases fruitless rabbit trails. After using up over an hour teasing a possibly forthcoming purpose via dramatic dialogue and randomly extra subplots, there’s little to show for the effort. While it’s commendable to try a suspense plot centered around mental health in rural areas, the very steep character arcs and magical fixes in the final minutes really do the film in, especially since there’s nothing to hold the audience’s interest or make the film worthwhile. Without a central focus, the movie meanders and flounders until a conclusion.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Much like the other elements of the film, the acting is a bit stifled and lifeless as it comes off as over-practiced. In conjunction with the audio problems, the line delivery itself is very soft and almost muted most of the time. However, the acting is at least average in most places without any majorly glaring errors or standout performances. Though there is some unnecessary drama, this section rounds out a basically vanilla effort.

Conclusion

The good thing is that Christian entertainment is becoming broader and braver as time goes on. There was a time when mystery suspense dramas like A Murder of Innocence would have been unthinkable in some Christian circles, but thankfully, there are at least attempts to be more creative and diverse. However, there are still things to work on, most notably plot and character content. This was based on a true story, so it’s not really acceptable to have such poor characters, along with an aimless storyline. Next time, before making a Christian film, it would be better to count the cost and make sure there’s enough creativity and purpose behind it. The only stories that will be transformative are the ones that feel like real life.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Heavens to Betsy 2 (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

After Betsy had a unique experience in which God allowed her to live in an alternate version of her life due to her pleadings, she was able to return to her normal life and chronicle her journey under the guise of a fictional work. Her novel made her moderately famous overnight and even attracted unexpected attention from publishers and media outlets. However, this new popularity will come at a price as Betsy will have to decide if she’s going to come clean about the true origins of her story.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Although it’s a 2019 production and should be higher quality than this, Heavens to Betsy 2 is a mostly average one. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine and standard, but the soundtrack is generic and cheesy. The sets, locations, and props are fairly limited and come off as cheap. The editing is very basic as it presents the content at face value without any complex techniques. As a whole, it’s a very pedestrian offering that is neither good nor bad, yet it really doesn’t have a place in the current entertainment field. To top things off, silly magical elements really put the nail in the coffin for this plot that was really doomed from the start.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

After a long rehashing of the previous film many people don’t know about, this unnecessary sequel launches into expectedly cringeworthy comedic sequences very similar to the ones we saw in the first one. Much of the dialogue is trying way too hard to be funny, and many of the scenes are downright pointless. As if it doesn’t have anything better to do, this installment decides to go down a localized media persecution rabbit hole in order to keep the story on life support. However, this idea comes off all wrong as the ‘villain’ character is actually remotely funny for the right reasons. It’s commendable for a Christian creator to want to create a universe of characters, but are these the ones people really want to know better? There are too many coincidences in this story-world as everyone knows about the main character’s book, and lot of the conversations feel dragged out and inflated for runtime purposes. The storyline is overall aimless and lacks substantial themes as it just presents a random collection of scenes that don’t seem fully rooted in reality. In a somewhat bizarre concluding sequence, the screenwriters appear to address the logical problems of the first film, but the explanations only create more questions and inconsistencies.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like the production, the acting of Heavens to Betsy 2 is very run-of-the-mill and expected. Some cast members tend to overdo their roles and overplay their emotions while others appear unsure of what they’re doing. In the end, with no dynamic performances or standout roles either good or bad, this section also gets an average rating.

Conclusion

One big question we have to ask about this film is why it was even made. Rarely is a sequel justified, especially when the original film was so low-key. Sequels should be about exploring new horizons with characters who are already well-developed and deserve further screentime. Unfortunately, films like Heavens to Betsy 1 and 2 don’t rally have much to offer and will easily be forgotten as time goes on. If screenwriters are interested in trying to develop characters over time, a series would likely be a better forum for this venture.

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

The World We Make (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

The Grove family has had their share of heartache over the past few years, but family friend Jordan Bishop has always been a constant support for them. However, the dynamics begin to shift when Jordan and Lee begin to develop a relationship after the grief seems to settle. Many discourage them from getting involved, and the small town seemingly works against their being together. Together, they experience unexpected prejudice and bias while discovering that they had more hiding below the surface than they previously realized.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a 2019 film, The World We Make is the type of respectable production we should be seeing time and again. There are very few flaws to point out here save for the slightly awkward editing near the end of the film (likely due to large story scope). Camera work, video quality, and audio quality are all basically flawless even though most scenes are filmed outdoors. The sets, locations, and props are extremely authentic and well-utilized; on-location shooting is definitely a big plus. Although the soundtrack could be a bit more than it is, this is a very high-level effort for a partially low-budget film, which goes to show what a little experience and proper collaboration can do for a movie.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Brian Baugh has always been committed to developing raw and real storylines based on accessible characters (I’m Not Ashamed). While The World We Make is one of his calmer tales, it’s nonetheless refreshing and believable. While the scope of this story may be a bit narrow, it’s nonetheless true-to-life and demonstrates great understanding of real people. The central romance is deeper than what we usually see in these types of films because it feels more believable and everyday. There are some very important themes explored, including grief avoidance, small town prejudice, and racial ostracizing. Characters make realistic decisions based on personality and motive rather than on plot necessity, and the storyline has a few slightly unexpected turns. As a whole, this is a very enjoyable plot to witness, and while it could have been a bit better since the ending is fairly rushed and somewhat cutoff, it’s still great as it is, which is enough to push this film over the top and onto the Hall of Fame.

Acting Quality (3 points)

There are virtually no flaws in the acting department. Caleb Castille owns another starring role, and Kevin Sizemore adapts a unique character that suits him. Gunnar Sizemore is a supporting role, but he could be a new rising star. Further, Gregory Alan Williams demonstrates a much more effective role than he’s played in the past. Overall, there is clear acting coaching present here as emotions and lines are authentically delivered, which rounds out a very commendable effort.

Conclusion

Although The World We Make could have been a bit more dynamic than this, it mostly reaches its fullest potential as a film. There are a few nitpicks, but in the grand scheme of things, Brian Baugh is continually setting himself apart as a master of characters, which seems to give him a better proclivity for series writing rather than movie writing. Indeed, not counting this year, we’ve had a longstanding drought in Christian series, so with new opportunities coming available (VidAngel), we may be poised to seeing a breakout in creators like Baugh directing their talents toward series rather than only films. Regardless of what happens, The World We Make is another good addition to the Hall of Fame and is one you’ll definitely want to make time for.

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

When Calls the Heart, Season 6 (Series Review)

We don’t speak of her anymore

Plot Summary

And once again we return to the fake small town known as Hope Valley for another fruitless season of people living in the dream world crafted by the series creators. Hardly anybody remembers Jack the Mountie anymore except for the fact that he and Elizabeth were married long enough to produce an instant child who’s coincidentally named after him. While Daniel Lissing willingly left the show, which was last season’s biggest news, Lori Loughlin was literally handcuffed, removed, and totally scrubbed from the show. The shadow of her scandal looms over the sixth season, especially with how Hallmark mishandled the whole ordeal and drew unnecessary attention to the problems. As a whole, Abigail’s awkward exit from the show and the subsequent complete rewrite of the show is the most interesting things that happened, but why are we not surprised? Michael Landon Jr. always planned to subject Erin Krakow to his favorite young-widow-starts-sort-of-dating-again treatment as he always has, so there’s nothing left to do but once again point out the same old flaws this series commits and count down the minutes for the Hearties to descend on my little blog post to vehemently defend all things wholesome in the face of such heartless (lol) criticism.

Production Quality (2 points)
What’s a Hallmark production without the same carbon-copy lineup of good camera work and video quality, acceptable audio quality, and that predictable, nauseatingly bubbly soundtrack? When Calls the Heart part VI checks all the proverbial boxes in this category, and it’s getting very difficult to differentiate any of the seasons from each other (except for the first two). Hope Valley still consists of the same old sets, locations, and props that are no doubt re-purposed for other Hallmark productions and are designed to make the audience believe this is a real Western town. Also, there’s still that tiny forest area Bill goes to dramatically reveal another part of his vastly complex yet noticeably cagey backstory. The only complaint for this section (besides their doing the same thing with no noticeable changes or improvements) is that we still don’t have a set for the beauty salon where the female characters get their hair done (although we might have gotten a quick glimpse at it in the finale).

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)
As we’ve said before, ever Hamilton took over Hope Valley, nothing has ever been the same. We just get the same old helium-infused characters spinning in circles as they retrace old plots steps over and over again. The only chances we have to get outside of the Hope Valley crossroads are Bill’s forest trips to tell us another part of his ever-fluctuating history, but now that we have a new Mountie, I guess we’ll have some trips to that bridge or something. Elsewhere, Elizabeth keeps us wondering why she’s even still in the series as her heart (lol) is passed around like a football and only exists for Michael Landon Jr. and company to continue their fetish of pairing a woman with a law enforcement character just long enough for her to get pregnant before killing said man near the end of the movie\series or even in between installments. Seriously, how is Elizabeth and Lucas vs Nathan any different from Charles vs Jack (except that Marcus Rosner was an essential addition to the show yet was stolen from us)? Elsewhere, the town is littered with many empty-minded side romances that they desperately want us to care about (although Aren Buchholz is quickly becoming one of the most important aspects of the entire series). Even Rosemary is losing her luster as a satirical comic relief who reminds us how un-serious the whole ordeal is as the writers are muting her character to go all dark and brooding because of [WHOOPS SPOILER]. And then there’s that whole situation with Abigail. Ironically, just before Lori Loughlin was led away by the police, her character made a hilariously funny reference to how Bill needed to bring some random bad guy to justice, and this is definitely the defining moment of the entire season. Loughlin’s scandalous shadow looms large over the poor town; even after the writers awkwardly tried to erase her from the universe’s memories, everything was clunky following the hiatus. Subplots awkwardly start and stop with no real conclusions. Scenes between Elizabeth and Lucas seem directly copied from Beauty and the Beast (yes, he gave her a library). Gowen is as uneven as ever (seriously, what do the writers expect from him at this point?). They all seem lost without Abigail to guide them in their everyday lives, but alas, she and Cody (awwww he left too!) has bigger fish to fry in court “back east.” Thus, with nothing really new to say here besides the same garbage we’ve seen from the past two indiscernible seasons, Hearties only have this incoherent stream of consciousness to parse through as they rush from Facebook to “own” the author of this post with zingers better suited for a clickbait news site.

Acting Quality (0 points)
For the most part, the acting of this season is as sappy as ever, but there are a handful of instances, especially near the end, that feel very muted and more scripted than usual. This is no doubt that this is due to some of the redone footage after Loughlin’s untimely exit, and the cast members were likely just emotionally distraught over her absence. Overall, there’s really nothing new to write home about (although Elizabeth does quite a bit of writing these days), and this section is award no points because we expect better than this after six seasons.

Continuity Quality (0 points)
As previously mentioned, some of this season’s subplots seem to disappear from the writing with no warning, which is a likely byproduct of the rework done following Loughlin’s arrest. Otherwise, it’s just typical plug and play romances as the writers introduce one after another to the point where you can’t hardly tell the different between them. Also, as a side note, at least a third of the subplots in season six relate in some way to the upcoming summer spinoff show When Hope Calls, which is possibly where many characters will escape to once When Calls the Heart finally runs out of steam.

Conclusion

Oh yeah, so there’s a seventh season coming up. MLJ has at least two more seasons to use Elizabeth’s indecisiveness and lack of personality as a carrot to dangle in front of his rabid fans, but sooner or later, they’ll get tired of this song and dance. With Loughlin’s scandal-ridden exit, this series is already running on fumes and has only been sustained by constant romance bait-and-switch. I mean, is anybody the least bit annoyed with how they treat Elizabeth? Anyhow, this has been another WCTH review from your favorite reviewer in which I didn’t talk about much substantial and just sort of rambled on about random things I thought of while I binge-watched this season. Begin commenting now……………………….

Final Rating: 2 out of 14 points

Blackbear {Submission} [2019] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Blackbear was a covert military operative tasked with secretly taking out terrorists in the Middle East, but an unexpected turn of events led to his unit’s capture. While a prisoner of war, they were subjected to cruel torture, and even though they were able to escape, they were each left with serious health consequences due to the drugs that were forced upon them. Back the US, their minds are still at war as they each try to find ways to cope with the pain. Blackbear decides he needs to take up boxing again under his old coach, but he never anticipated the journey he would have to go on to find healing.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For a first-time, slightly underfunded production, Blackbear (formerly known as Submission) has some positive aspects but also some negative elements. For one, the attempts are constructing realistic sets, locations, and props, especially in the war scenes, are commendable and feel authentic. However, audio is sometimes unbalanced, and at times, the camera work is quite dizzying due to dramatic effect. While the video quality is very crisp throughout, a lot of spoken lines are obviously overdubbed, and there are some loud background noises throughout. Despite some cheap and disorienting special effects and one too many dark scenes, the soundtrack is quite good as it includes relevant NF songs. Moreover, the biggest drawback to this production is the poor editing; there are a lot of quick cuts and awkward transitions that make the viewer feel like things are rushing too quickly. For these reasons, the story comes off as choppy, but there are other concerns there as well. As a whole, while this is just an average production, there is potential here, and the complexity of the subject matter is definitely taken into consideration.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

All around, Blackbear is one big mixed bag. It’s clear that the creators really wanted to do something creative with this plot, but it got lost in its own head, so to speak. For one, the dialogue includes authentic military lingo that speaks to good expertise and research on the topic, but the plot itself moves forward too quickly as events occur without good reasons and as storytelling is overall disorganized. It seems like things happen because the writers need them to happen rather than natural events unfolding or characters making choices based on personality and motive. Moreover, there are still good things to note here, such as a good exploration of how self medication of military trauma comes to be and how secret government operations mistreat and abuse people for their own purposes. Nonetheless, all of these themes are just thrown into the proverbial pile since there aren’t any central purposes or focuses that keep the story grounded, which allows it to meander around various topics, like unethical value imposition in the medical field, cheesy portrayals of non-American characters, obscure boxing events, strawman sports villains, and vague references to abstract medical treatments that go over the audience’s heads. Throughout all of this spider-webbing, the dialogue isn’t enough to build believable characters, which is a shame due to the empty sequences of staring that waste precious time, not to mention some of the vague and understated subplots that need to be either integrated better or edited out. All of these issues are rolled in with typical sports movie tropes: training montages, impossible sports feat conversations, random local news reports, and unrealistic looks at heroin recovery; as a side note, this is the most addictive substance known to man, and nobody can just quit it cold turkey. Nonetheless, despite all of these complex issues, there is a surprisingly interesting and actually realistic twist at the end of the film that tries to tie things together in some fashion. The conclusion is very non-typical in most ways, but the monologue by one of the characters at the end isn’t enough to fix what could have been an interesting story. Characters all of a sudden become more interesting at the end, but it’s too late at this point; it would have been better to showcase the creative concepts throughout the movie rather than putting it all at the end. Even so, the way it ends still shows potential for future projects.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While a lot of the acting in Blackbear leaves something to be desired due to quite a bit of forceful and unnatural delivery styles, there are some good attempts at culturally authentic casting. Although there are a lot of blank and emotionless performances at key moments in the film, at least some of them can be explained by the psychological torture the protagonist underwent. In this vein, Scott Pryor is definitely good at playing a mind control victim. Elsewhere, some line delivery is very quick, and Eric Roberts is poorly cast as an incongruous character, but there are enough good performances throughout to keep this section average, which aligns nicely with the other sections of the movie.

Conclusion

No matter how convoluted it seems at times, on the whole, Christian entertainment is getting braver. New film makers are trying different things, and this is encouraging to see because it’s what we desperately need. The final sequences of Blackbear demonstrate creative ideas that can be used in more efficient ways, such as a series collaboration. This forum would allow the good concepts to be packaged in better ways that would reach audiences and get their messaging out there. The concept behind this film needs some type of redo, so hopefully, we’ll see more from this creative team in the coming days.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Heavenly Deposit (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Peter Ranos has always tried to make the big break in Hollywood, but lately, nothing seems to be working out for him and his wife. They’ve hit every financial bump possible, and no one wants to cut them a break. When they just about exhaust all of their options and almost get by, something else hits them from the blind side. Peter is eventually brought to his knees as he realizes he can’t do it on his own anymore, which forces him to return to his childhood faith that he abandoned when his father suddenly died.

Production Quality (2 points)

For a first-time, low-funded production, Heavenly Deposit is able to at least breach the average line, which is something we’re seeing more of in more modern Christian entertainment. Though it begins a little rough with some roving camera work and abrupt cuts, it overall improves as the film progresses. The soundtrack is a bit inconsistent at times, and the sets, props, and locations are somewhat limited in the beginning, but it becomes clear by the middle of the movie that the creators did have something better in mind. They do the best with what they have, and the video quality is stable throughout as well as the audio quality. The camera work and the editing calms down, and the sets become better utilized in the second half. Though it does begin a bit rough, it’s encouraging to see that this production team can improve as the film goes on, which shows good potential for future projects. In the end, this production makes enough improvements to warrant an above-average rating, and this isn’t bad considering the budget and experience of the creators.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

From the get-go, the protagonist forces unnecessary narration on the audience, but it thankfully subsides until the epilogue. It’s great that the writers were able to base this story off of true events because, for the most part, it does feel like realistic circumstances everyday people would experience. This gives the plot a non-linear and non-typical feel, and the premise is down-to-earth. However, in the first half of the film, the dialogue comes off as a bit generic as it doesn’t do quite enough to deepen the characters beyond stereotypical roles. Since this is a character-based story with a handful of characters, we needed deeper personalities and motives for them rather than run-of-the-mill placeholders that feel swept along by the plot. Granted, we do see more authenticity from the characters in the second half of the film as the creators’ true intentions are revealed, but it’s difficult for most viewers to stick with it that long without something substantial to hold onto. Because the first 30-45 minutes tends to meander without major themes, the good messages and understanding of real struggles depicted in the remainder of the runtime may be lost to many people. In a similar vein, though the story does become more focused as it goes, there are a few too many slightly silly coincidences and head-scratching magical elements that tend to put a damper on things. Also, the last 10 minutes rush through a lot of content with the aim of fixing things, but as a whole, this story is good enough to make the film average.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Like other elements in the film, the acting does get better with time. It does feel like this cast really cares about doing their best, and they are willing to be coached in some ways. There’s nothing dynamic happening here, but it’s refreshing to see a cast that’s not trying to flaunt something. The main drawback to highlight here is some weird hair and makeup work in the beginning, but as usual, this gets better later in the movie. As a whole, Heavenly Deposit is a good place to start for film makers who have potential to do even better.

Conclusion

Some entertainment creators are better with series than movies (see Dallas Jenkins and company). It’s highly possible that George Vincent and his crew fit into this category as well, and with the growth of Christian streaming services like PureFlix and VidAngel, creative teams have a lot more options than they once did. Thus, with more time and better budgeting, we have high hopes for what Vincent and his team can produce next.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Breakthrough [2019] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

When Joyce Smith’s adopted son John falls through the ice one fateful winter day, she feels like she’s lost him forever. However, after praying over him in the intensive care unit, she witnesses a seeming miracle as her son is able to be stabilized into a coma rather than be on death’s door. Afterward, a battle for healing begins as Joyce faces perceived opposition on every side of her as her son keeps fighting for his life.

Production Quality (2 points)

Breakthrough falls in line with other inspirational productions DeVon Franklin has been involved with, such as Heaven is For Real and Miracles From Heaven. As such, Breakthrough hits all the right proverbial notes, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality. While the soundtrack is sometimes too loud and invasive, for the most part, the sets, props, and locations are fine. This film is really just a by-the-book, run-of-the-mill inspirational production with nothing to set it apart either good or bad. The biggest glaring error therein is the poor editing, but this is mainly due to its plot problems. As a whole, Breakthrough is a safe, non-dynamic film through and through.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

On the surface, the message of the plot is fine as it blatantly panders to an inspirational audience, yet Breakthrough sets itself apart by portraying the main character in unusually perfect and un-flawed ways even though she has plenty of issues in her behavior. This premise is likely due to the original book’s content, but empowering someone who seemingly believes she never really did anything wrong and feels like everyone else in the world needs to change except for her is very suspect. The storyline and characters are required to change according to her (sometimes judgmental) standards, and she never really learns anything as she continues to live in her own little world. This is the real hidden problem with Breakthrough besides the typical spoon-feeding of inspirational messages to a hand-picked audience. While there were some interesting psychological elements in this film that had the potential to make an interesting story about the miracles of God, we are instead left with the miracles of Joyce Smith; in doing so, prayer is mis-handled and poorly portrayed as people deciding what’s doing to happen. Elsewhere, random subplots are thrown together that cause a lot of story confusion and disorganization. In the midst of the swirl, there aren’t any substantial characters to relate to because dialogue is bland and pedestrian. Even though this was a small, focused time frame, we don’t really know who these people are beyond the molds the main character puts them into. Had this story been more about miracles and prayer, we would have had another Miracles From Heaven, which was safe, standard inspirational movie designed to target a specific audience. Breakthrough tries to follow in its footsteps, yet the dictates of the main character decide otherwise.

Acting Quality (2 points)

It’s understandable that this mainly Hollywood cast is professional and appears to know what they’re doing. However, some cast members who have more potential, like Josh Lucas, come off as underwhelming and downplayed, which suggests they’ve been cast wrong. It feels like more could have been done with this cast even though there aren’t any glaring problems. With the money and expertise behind the film, the acting needed to be more dynamic than this, but it overall rounds out a mediocre effort designed as a quick cash grab.

Conclusion

DeVon Franklin loves to make money off of the inspirational audience, and he’s clearly good at it. He’s found something that works, so good for him. Nonetheless, with all the marketing and fluff of this film, there’s no real substance to back it up. We were promised a movie about a miracle, yet we can’t connect with the real story due to tainted views of the main character. What’s more, the disjointed subplots make for a confusing viewing experience as it mostly just boils down to a collection of platitudes you could find in a generic white Christian book for sale at Lifeway. There’s nothing special here, but then again, Franklin never intended to do anything further, so he’s sticking with his business model, which is at least upfront and honest. Regardless, Christian entertainment can do better than this.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

The Chosen, Season 1.1 (Series Review)

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Plot Summary

When Jesus first began His earthly ministry, He had already chosen those He would minister to and use to transform the world around them. They came from all walks of life: lower class fishermen, upper class religious leaders, well-to-do tax collectors, and lowly street prostitutes. Regardless of background or belief, Christ determined to use regular people to carry out His work…however, it couldn’t happen until they had life-altering experiences with Him.

Production Quality (2.5 points)
The highest independently crowdfunded effort in entertainment history has certainly paid off. There’s no question that a lot of hard work was put into making this first season, and it shows in nearly every aspect of it. Though the perspective camera work is a bit rough at first, it definitely gets better and isn’t noticeable at all in later episodes. Similarly, the lighting is realistically dark in many scenes, which was hard to perfect at first, but again, it greatly improves as it goes on. Other than the poorly animated opening sequence that has a great idea behind it, there are no other problems to point out in this nearly flawless production. The sets, locations, and props feel very realistic and authentic as the series creators demonstrate a clear commitment to looking at the characters in accurate cultural contexts. Video quality is crisp throughout, and audio quality is seamless, including a very engaging and creative soundtrack that reflects historical themes. As a whole, this production is a reflection of how this series is a much-needed breath of fresh air in the industry, and thankfully, the positive qualities didn’t stop with just this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)
It would’ve been very easy to spend all the time on making the production worthwhile after all the money and time that was invested in it, but Dallas Jenkins and company refused to settle, yet the storyline is a major reason why this series will transform Christian culture and even reach outside the church. The reason why it’s so transformative is because it demonstrates a profound understanding of the real people who encountered Jesus and portrays them in very accessible, down-to-earth ways. These Bible characters are no longer “heroes of the faith”–they are imperfect people with backstories, motives, flashbacks, and personality tendencies just like us. Not only do they feel like everyday people, but the writers also wisely chose to focus on them in their cultural contexts as a heavy emphasis on Jewish tradition is subtly explored. The use of flashbacks to build character motive and backstory is also highly effective in helping us understand where they’re coming from and why they do what they do; this is often a missing ingredient in most depictions of Bible characters. Besides the characters being so well-developed, their subplots are interwoven very well as their stories realistically cross back and forth and creatively weave together to prepare for the next steps. Further, the psychological themes and artistic concepts of the series are presented in very natural ways without forcing too much on the audience while still being creative. In the end, there are many more positive aspects to highlight about this season (more than can be listed here), which is a very surprising feat in Christian entertainment. There’s no doubt that this is the best Christian series season to date, and it’s the first one to be inaugurated into the Hall of Fame.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)
The casting and acting of The Chosen show a commitment to cultural authenticity in more ways than one…where a fully cultural cast member couldn’t be used, correct accents were taught and coached, which adopted a model similar to the one used in Nativity Story. No matter what, dedication to effective coaching is evident as the cast members showcase subtle talent in their line delivery and emotional portrayals. While there are some minor costuming issues, it’s nothing much to write home about, and we can’t wait see how these recurring cast members will continue to shine in future seasons.

Continuity Quality (3 points)
Never before have we seen a Christian series (other than some parts of A.D.) that actually tries hard to interweave its subplots in ways that make them cross at appropriate times and keep the audience engaged in what may happen next. These are actually storylines you want to follow as the character arcs bend at realistic times and flow dynamically into each other. While it can be difficult to interest a Christian audience with familiar Biblical accounts, The Chosen sets up great backstories for well-known stories and provides great reasons for why things happen the way they do. In the end, there’s no question that this is the best Christian season to date.

Conclusion

Hence, The Chosen, Season 1 wins two x-factor points for re-watchability and for presenting important content in very audience-friendly ways. Dallas Jenkins and his team have established themselves as the future of Christian small screen entertainment, so your support of VidAngel is greatly appreciated (go to the link to watch the first season)! The more we support Christian entertainment that’s actually worthwhile and worthy of promoting to the people we know, the more likely it is we will see a real change in both the field and the culture as a whole. If you’ve already supported this first season, make sure to tell a friend that it’s well worth their time and money. We expect great things from this crew in the coming days.

Final Rating: 13 out of 14 points